Alfred Lord Tennyson

(6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892 / Lincoln / England)

The Lady of Shalott (1832)


PART I
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
The yellow-leaved waterlily
The green-sheathed daffodilly
Tremble in the water chilly
Round about Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens shiver.
The sunbeam showers break and quiver
In the stream that runneth ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

Underneath the bearded barley,
The reaper, reaping late and early,
Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
Like an angel, singing clearly,
O'er the stream of Camelot.
Piling the sheaves in furrows airy,
Beneath the moon, the reaper weary
Listening whispers, ' 'Tis the fairy,
Lady of Shalott.'

The little isle is all inrail'd
With a rose-fence, and overtrail'd
With roses: by the marge unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken sail'd,
Skimming down to Camelot.
A pearl garland winds her head:
She leaneth on a velvet bed,
Full royally apparelled,
The Lady of Shalott.
PART II

No time hath she to sport and play:
A charmed web she weaves alway.
A curse is on her, if she stay
Her weaving, either night or day,
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be;
Therefore she weaveth steadily,
Therefore no other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

She lives with little joy or fear.
Over the water, running near,
The sheepbell tinkles in her ear.
Before her hangs a mirror clear,
Reflecting tower'd Camelot.
And as the mazy web she whirls,
She sees the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower'd Camelot:
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, came from Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead
Came two young lovers lately wed;
`I am half sick of shadows,' said
The Lady of Shalott.PART III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flam'd upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down from Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his arm our rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down from Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over green Shalott.


His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
'Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:'
Sang Sir Lancelot.


She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro' the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
The Lady of Shalott.PART IV


In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Outside the isle a shallow boat
Beneath a willow lay afloat,
Below the carven stern she wrote,
The Lady of Shalott.


A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight,
All raimented in snowy white
That loosely flew (her zone in sight
Clasp'd with one blinding diamond bright)
Her wide eyes fix'd on Camelot,
Though the squally east-wind keenly
Blew, with folded arms serenely
By the water stood the queenly
Lady of Shalott.


With a steady stony glance--
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Beholding all his own mischance,
Mute, with a glassy countenance--
She look'd down to Camelot.
It was the closing of the day:
She loos'd the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.


As when to sailors while they roam,
By creeks and outfalls far from home,
Rising and dropping with the foam,
From dying swans wild warblings come,
Blown shoreward; so to Camelot
Still as the boathead wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her chanting her deathsong,
The Lady of Shalott.


A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,
She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her eyes were darken'd wholly,
And her smooth face sharpen'd slowly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot:
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.


Under tower and balcony,
By garden wall and gallery,
A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
Deadcold, between the houses high,
Dead into tower'd Camelot.
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
To the planked wharfage came:
Below the stern they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.


They cross'd themselves, their stars they blest,
Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest.
There lay a parchment on her breast,
That puzzled more than all the rest,
The wellfed wits at Camelot.
'The web was woven curiously,
The charm is broken utterly,
Draw near and fear not,--this is I,
The Lady of Shalott.'

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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  • Terence George Craddock (10/27/2012 1:38:00 AM)

    The Lady Of Shallot: Mirror Mind Exposed

    interesting no one ever sees
    our Lady of Shallot mystery
    is spoken of like a fairy lady
    even her name unknown remains

    woman sitting in looming isolation cloistered
    view casement window is even near untouched
    veil prototype Mona Lisa not pictured framed
    not seen at her window looking out landscaped

    the Lady of Shallot never sees direct world near at hand
    from cloistered distance what is felt smelt touched real
    her mirror hangs upon a wall events it tells yearly small
    shadows of life reversed seen mirrored move are framed...

    within her mirror within in mind
    upon her loom in still frozen time
    she weaves life distant glimpsed
    when passions rise fate will chime

    she threads scenes
    life she never knows
    through casement window closed
    allowed seen only shadow world

    she threads her season passing scenes
    ordinary exquisite life she never knows
    reflections through casement window closed
    to see puppet shows shift shadow cast world...

    looking out through mirror the mirror image is the world
    still life tapestry fascinating she is weaving mirror imaged
    do we also see only mirror images as life rivers flow past?
    upon what fleeting moments will our own life die be cast?

    the Lady of Shallot suffers from a mysterious curse
    she must continually weave her loom images shadows
    without ever looking directly out at world dangers
    what strange change daily scenes her mirror reflects

    by her island the busy road the people of Camelot pass
    what is her looming curse she avoids but never knows?
    dangers lurk looking out near window Yes? No? Yes?
    Is it...? Love? Love or risk of love? Love slays souls? ...

    Is love a danger that foul may slay a young maiden's heart?
    What light ignites eyes at first sight a love for Sir Lancelot?
    Love is a swooning fascinating risk can it kill young heart?
    Love kills young innocence that first love the first love lost?

    a tower secluded by water and height may well fall at night
    a shield sparkled on the long yellow field a red-cross knight
    an illicit love affair like a silver bugle calls blue purple night
    a constellation of stars is offset by path bearded meteor bright

    red yellow silver, blue purple coal-black curls, peacock colours
    maiden cheeks flaming as in arrayed display Sir Lancelot poses
    mist siren song ‘Tirra lirra’ come embrace be my lover entices
    out flew her web floated wide caught she be in traps love tides...

    her mirror crack’d from side to side run meet lover at river side
    to run meet in woods Sir Lancelot maidenhood cannot survive...
    floating downstream with wedding dreams snowy white robed
    heard her singing her last maid song life broken barely alive...

    heard was carol mournful holy chanted loudly chanted lowly
    her blood love impaled frozen slowly eyes darken'd wholly...
    ere she reach'd Camelot upon the tide first house at water-side
    sweet tender enchanting; singing maiden; in her song she died...

    dressed in cloud-white crown death pearl shroud she will delight
    her wide eyes fixed on Camelot this night survive she will not...
    bewitched sight steady stony glance love she be a seer in a trance
    behold mischance cast love lance a wax mute glassy countenance...

    She left the web, she left the loom;
    She made three paces thro' the room, ...
    Out flew the web and floated wide;
    The mirror crack'd from side to side; ...

    The curse is come upon me, cried
    The Lady of Shalott caught in passion tide...
    virgin magic strung weaved glitters entices all
    comes illicit consummation then comes the fall...

    And round the prow they read her name
    'The Lady of Shalott' won undying fame...
    Who is this? and what is here?
    And in the lighted palace near

    Died the sound of royal cheer;
    And they cross'd themselves for fear, ...
    But Lancelot mused a little space;
    He said, She has a lovely face;

    God in his mercy lend her grace,
    The Lady of Shalott twas embowered chase...

    Only reapers, reaping early
    In among the bearded barley,
    Hear a song that echoes cheerly
    From the river winding clearly, ...

    And by the moon the reaper weary,
    Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
    Listening, whispers 'Tis the fairy
    Lady of Shalott singing ghostly merry...

    once she lived alone loom tapestry embowered
    now a constellation of stars haunting flowered...


    Quotations from 'The Lady Of Shallot' by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
    Dedicated to the memory of Alfred Lord Tennyson.
    Copyright © Terence George Craddock (Report) Reply

  • Warrior Bard (8/26/2005 5:09:00 PM)

    It's quite different from the later version. I think the newer one is better, but this one is interesting to read as well because it is so very different from the alter text. (Report) Reply

  • Roberta Rizzo (12/7/2004 1:24:00 PM)

    narrative ballad. you'll understand it better knowing some background of the knights and king arthur. rich flowing language with archaic spelling. contrast of apearance Vs reality Life Vs death. a deep sense of mystery in d poem (Report) Reply

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