Treasure Island

Alfred Lord Tennyson

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

The Lady of Shalott (1842)


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;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for 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.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower'd Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."PART II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro' a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there 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, went to 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 flamed 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 to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour 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 to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still 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 to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.


She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily 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;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.


And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seër in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance--
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.


Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right--
The leaves upon her falling light--
Thro' the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.


Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken'd wholly,
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 gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.


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,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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Comments about this poem (The Lady of Shalott (1842) by Alfred Lord Tennyson )

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  • Peggy Latham (1/6/2013 6:46:00 PM)

    This is the poem that the book is opened to at the end of the video of country music song If I Die Young by The Band Perry (Report) Reply

  • Terence George Craddock (10/27/2012 1:39:00 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

Read all 2 comments »

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