The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I wonder how many of you out there remember this poem – you’d have to be a very mature person (like me). I’m sure it’s not on any school syllabus today. But it was great fun to read and study, especially (obviously) for teenage girls. It’s a great story, and a love story too. I really enjoyed all those old, narrative poems. I’ll write down a few verses here to give a flavour of the words and the rhythm of this long poem.

“Four gray walls, and four gray towers,

Overlook a space of flowers,

And the silent isle imbowers

The Lady of Shalott.

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

The story tells of this poor lady who has been cursed. If she looks out of her window, down to Camelot, a curse will fall upon her; she doesn’t know what the curse is, and so she continues to sit in her room and weave.

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.

Well, gentle reader, the inevitable happened –

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.

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.

When she goes down to Camelot she finds a boat and floats down the river singing to her self, and as she sings she dies. When she was found, no one knew who she was, but the knight was moved to comment.

But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, She has a lovely face;

God in his mercy lend her grace.

The Lady of Shalott.

No one knows why this lady was cursed. According to google, it wasn’t important! I wish I could write it all down here but it is indeed very long. I’m glad to have read it again myself – after so many years!

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From Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti | an excerpt

I am always interested to know where sayings and quotes come from so I was delighted to come across this verse in Goblin Market. The poem is sixteen pages long and tells the story of Laura, who, led astray by the Goblins, eats their fruit and thereafter pines away until she is almost dead. Her sister, Lizzie, braves the Goblin Market and acquires the antidote. Laura recovers and they both live long, happy lives.

One may lead a horse to water,

Twenty cannot make him drink.

Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,

Coaxed and fought her,

Bullied and besought her,

Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,

Kicked and knocked her,

Mauled and mocked her,

Lizzie uttered not a word;

Would not open lip from lip

Lest they should cram a mouthful in:

But laughed in heart to feel the drip

Of juice that syrupped all her face,

And lodged in dimples of her chin,

And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.

At last the evil people

Worn out by her resistance

Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit

Along whichever road they took,

Not leaving root or stone or shoot;

Some writhed into the ground,

Some dived into the brook

With ring and ripple,

Some scudded on the gale without a sound,

Some vanished in the distance.

I enjoyed reading the whole poem; I loved the imagery and the sounds – I read it aloud. There’s something so luscious about it.