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Alfred Tennyson, 1809-1892

"The Lady of Shalott"
from Poems (London: Moxon, 1833 [1832]).

ON either side the river lie Long fields of barley and of rye, That clothe the world and meet the sky. And thro' the field the road runs by To manytowered Camelot. The yellowleavèd waterlily, The greensheathèd daffodilly, Tremble in the water chilly, Round about Shalott. Willows whiten, aspens shiver, 10 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, 20 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 inrailed With a rose-fence, and overtrailed With roses: by the marge unhailed 30 The shallop flitteth silkensailed, Skimming down to Camelot. A pearlgarland winds her head: She leaneth on a velvet bed, Full royally apparellèd, The Lady of Shalott.
No time hath she to sport and play: A charmèd web she weaves alway. A curse is on her, if she stay Her weaving, either night or day, 40 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 towered Camelot. 50 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 longhaired page in crimson clad, Goes by to towered Camelot. And sometimes thro' the mirror blue, 60 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: 70 "I am half sick of shadows," said The Lady of Shalott.
A bowshot from her bower-eaves. He rode between the barleysheaves: The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves, And flamed upon the brazen greaves Of bold Sir Lancelot. A redcross knight for ever kneeled To a lady in his shield, That sparkled on the yellow field, 80 Beside remote Shalott. The gemmy bridle glittered 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 blazoned baldric slung, A mighty silver bugle hung, And, as he rode, his arm our rung, Beside remote Shalott. 90 All in the blue unclouded weather, Thickjewelled shone the saddle-leather. The helmet, and the helmet-feather Burned 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 glowed. 100 On burnished hooves his war-horse trode. From underneath his helmet flowed His coalblack curls as on he rode, As he rode down from Camelot. From the bank and from the river, He flashed 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: 110 She saw the waterflower bloom: She saw the helmet and the plume: She look'd down to Camelot. Out flew the web, and floated wide, The mirror cracked from side to side, "The curse is come upon me," cried The Lady of Shalott.
In the stormy eastwind straining The pale-yellow woods were waning, The broad stream in his banks complaining, 120 Heavily the low sky raining Over towered 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, Clasped with one blinding diamond bright,) 130 Her wide eyes fixed 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 looked down to Camelot. 140 It was the closing of the day, She loosed 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 150 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 darkened wholly, And her smooth face sharpened slowly Turned to towered Camelot: For ere she reached upon the tide The first house by the waterside, 160 Singing in her song she died, The Lady of Shalott. Under tower and balcony, By gardenwall and gallery, A pale, pale corpse she floated by, Deadcold, between the houses high, Dead into towered Camelot. Knight and burgher, lord and dame, To the planked wharfage came: Below the stern they read her name, 170 "The Lady of Shalott." They crossed 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." 180

Note that Tennyson made significant changes to this poem for its republication in the 1842 two-volume edition of the Poems. Of particular note are the reactions of the inhabitants of Camelot at the end of the poem who cross themselves not out veneration for the departed Lady of Shalott but out of "fear." Lancelot is singled out, though, is set apart from the others, musing that she has "a lovely face." It is the revised version of 1842 rather than the original here that is typically found in anthologies today.

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Updated 2 August 1999 by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
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