The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott

by Alfred Tennyson

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.”

Summary of The Lady of Shalott

  • Popularity of “The Lady of Shalott”: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a great British poet, wrote ‘The Lady of Shalott’, a ballad known for its themes of melancholy and death. It was first published in 1833. The poem unfolds the story of a lady who is mysteriously imprisoned in a tall building of Camelot. It then illustrates how magic plays a significant role in one’s life.
  • “The Lady of Shalott” As a Representative of Death: The poem narrates the tragic story of a lady who is imprisoned on an island. No one can see her except the farmers who listen to her song while working in their fields. Everything around her is gloomy and colorless. She is not allowed to look outside through the window. Rather, she sees the outside world through a mirror. To her, the reality is confined to the images she perceives through that mirror. The poem also provides a detailed description of the place around her and the movement of the people in Camelot. One day, she sees a knight coming from the fields of Barley. He grabs her attention, and she sees the Camelot through the window. As a punishment, she writes her name on the boat, signs her last song, and dies.
  • Major Themes in “The Lady of Shalott”: Isolation, detachment, and the supernatural elements are the major themes of this poem. The text revolves around the mystery of the Lady of Shalott, who is trapped. She accepts it as her fate and is emotionally and physically detached from the real world. She sees the world only through the mirror. Ironically, she dies when she gets out of that building and when the mirror breaks.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “The Lady of Shalott”

Literary devices are modes that represent the writer’s idea, feelings, and emotions. Alfred has also used some literary devices in this poem to discuss the phenomenon of isolation and magic. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “The willowy hills and fields among”.
  2. Parallelism: Parallelism is the use of components in a sentence that is grammatically the same, or similar in their construction, sound, meaning, or meter. This device is used in part three where “She left the web” is paralleling “she left the loom.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ in “Till her eyes were darken’d wholly” and /l/ sound in “His coal-black curls as on he rode”.
  4. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /th/ in “They cross’d themselves, their stars they blest” and the sound of /w/ in “he pale yellow woods were waning”.
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “There lay a parchment on her breast”; “She loos’d the chain, and down she lay” and “The pale yellow woods were waning”.
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism means to use symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. “Camelot” is the symbol of a fantasy world for the lady, “the Island” and “mirror” symbolizes isolation.
  7. Simile: A simile is a figure of speech used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example, “The gemmy bridle glitter’d free, Like to some branch of stars we see Hung in the golden Galaxy”. Here the horse’ bridle is compared to a star constellation.
  8. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “She saw” is repeated in the last stanza of Part Three to emphasize the point.

“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.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it moves over the next line. For example,

“Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “The Lady of Shalott”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. The poem is a ballet having twenty stanzas. Each stanza comprises of nine lines.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows AAAABCCCB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues till the end.
  3. Iambic Trimeter: It is a type of meter having three iambs per line. The poem follows iambic trimeter such as, “The island of Shal
  4. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse, “The Lady of Shalott which has created a musical quality in the poem
  5. Refrain: The lines that are repeated in the poem at some distance are called refrain. The line, “The Lady of Shalott, is repeated with the same words, it has become refrain as it is repeated in all stanzas of the poem.

 Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used by the traveler to describe the magnificent beauty of the place he/she has just visited.

“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.”