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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The Lady of Shalott (1832)

Part I
              1On either side the river lie
              2Long fields of barley and of rye,
              3That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
              4And thro' the field the road runs by
              5     To many-tower'd Camelot;
              6The yellow-leaved waterlily
              7The green-sheathed daffodilly
              8Tremble in the water chilly
              9     Round about Shalott.

            10Willows whiten, aspens shiver.
            11The sunbeam showers break and quiver
            12In the stream that runneth ever
            13By the island in the river
            14     Flowing down to Camelot.
            15Four gray walls, and four gray towers
            16Overlook a space of flowers,
            17And the silent isle imbowers
            18     The Lady of Shalott.

            19Underneath the bearded barley,
            20The reaper, reaping late and early,
            21Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
            22Like an angel, singing clearly,
            23     O'er the stream of Camelot.
            24Piling the sheaves in furrows airy,
            25Beneath the moon, the reaper weary
            26Listening whispers, ' 'Tis the fairy,
            27     Lady of Shalott.'

            28The little isle is all inrail'd
            29With a rose-fence, and overtrail'd
            30With roses: by the marge unhail'd
            31The shallop flitteth silken sail'd,
            32     Skimming down to Camelot.
            33A pearl garland winds her head:
            34She leaneth on a velvet bed,
            35Full royally apparelled,
            36     The Lady of Shalott.

Part II
            37No time hath she to sport and play:
            38A charmed web she weaves alway.
            39A curse is on her, if she stay
            40Her weaving, either night or day,
            41     To look down to Camelot.
            42She knows not what the curse may be;
            43Therefore she weaveth steadily,
            44Therefore no other care hath she,
            45     The Lady of Shalott.

            46She lives with little joy or fear.
            47Over the water, running near,
            48The sheepbell tinkles in her ear.
            49Before her hangs a mirror clear,
            50     Reflecting tower'd Camelot.
            51And as the mazy web she whirls,
            52She sees the surly village churls,
            53And the red cloaks of market girls
            54     Pass onward from Shalott.

            55Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
            56An abbot on an ambling pad,
            57Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
            58Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
            59     Goes by to tower'd Camelot:
            60And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
            61The knights come riding two and two:
            62She hath no loyal knight and true,
            63     The Lady of Shalott.

            64But in her web she still delights
            65To weave the mirror's magic sights,
            66For often thro' the silent nights
            67A funeral, with plumes and lights
            68     And music, came from Camelot:
            69Or when the moon was overhead
            70Came two young lovers lately wed;
            71`I am half sick of shadows,' said
            72     The Lady of Shalott.

Part III
            73A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
            74He rode between the barley-sheaves,
            75The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
            76And flam'd upon the brazen greaves
            77     Of bold Sir Lancelot.
            78A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
            79To a lady in his shield,
            80That sparkled on the yellow field,
            81     Beside remote Shalott.

            82The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
            83Like to some branch of stars we see
            84Hung in the golden Galaxy.
            85The bridle bells rang merrily
            86     As he rode down from Camelot:
            87And from his blazon'd baldric slung
            88A mighty silver bugle hung,
            89And as he rode his arm our rung,
            90     Beside remote Shalott.

            91All in the blue unclouded weather
            92Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
            93The helmet and the helmet-feather
            94Burn'd like one burning flame together,
            95     As he rode down from Camelot.
            96As often thro' the purple night,
            97Below the starry clusters bright,
            98Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
            99     Moves over green Shalott.

          100His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
          101On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
          102From underneath his helmet flow'd
          103His coal-black curls as on he rode,
          104     As he rode down from Camelot.
          105From the bank and from the river
          106He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
          107'Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:'
          108     Sang Sir Lancelot.

          109She left the web, she left the loom
          110She made three paces thro' the room
          111She saw the water-flower bloom,
          112She saw the helmet and the plume,
          113     She look'd down to Camelot.
          114Out flew the web and floated wide;
          115The mirror crack'd from side to side;
          116'The curse is come upon me,' cried
          117     The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV
          118In the stormy east-wind straining,
          119The pale yellow woods were waning,
          120The broad stream in his banks complaining,
          121Heavily the low sky raining
          122     Over tower'd Camelot;
          123Outside the isle a shallow boat
          124Beneath a willow lay afloat,
          125Below the carven stern she wrote,
          126     The Lady of Shalott.

          127A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight,
          128All raimented in snowy white
          129That loosely flew (her zone in sight
          130Clasp'd with one blinding diamond bright)
          131     Her wide eyes fix'd on Camelot,
          132Though the squally east-wind keenly
          133Blew, with folded arms serenely
          134By the water stood the queenly
          135     Lady of Shalott.

          136With a steady stony glance--
          137Like some bold seer in a trance,
          138Beholding all his own mischance,
          139Mute, with a glassy countenance--
          140     She look'd down to Camelot.
          141It was the closing of the day:
          142She loos'd the chain, and down she lay;
          143The broad stream bore her far away,
          144     The Lady of Shalott.

          145As when to sailors while they roam,
          146By creeks and outfalls far from home,
          147Rising and dropping with the foam,
          148From dying swans wild warblings come,
          149     Blown shoreward; so to Camelot
          150Still as the boathead wound along
          151The willowy hills and fields among,
          152They heard her chanting her deathsong,
          153     The Lady of Shalott.

          154A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,
          155She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
          156Till her eyes were darken'd wholly,
          157And her smooth face sharpen'd slowly,
          158     Turn'd to tower'd Camelot:
          159For ere she reach'd upon the tide
          160The first house by the water-side,
          161Singing in her song she died,
          162     The Lady of Shalott.

          163Under tower and balcony,
          164By garden wall and gallery,
          165A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
          166Deadcold, between the houses high,
          167     Dead into tower'd Camelot.
          168Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
          169To the planked wharfage came:
          170Below the stern they read her name,
          171     The Lady of Shalott.

          172They cross'd themselves, their stars they blest,
          173Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest.
          174There lay a parchment on her breast,
          175That puzzled more than all the rest,
          176     The wellfed wits at Camelot.
          177'The web was woven curiously,
          178The charm is broken utterly,
          179Draw near and fear not,--this is I,
          180     The Lady of Shalott.'


1] First published in Poems, 1833, but much altered in 1842, as a comparison of the two versions given will show. This poem is Tennyson's earliest published use of the Arthurian theory and legend. In 1859 his "Lancelot and Elaine" retells the story. The name Shalott is the Astolat of the old romances. Tennyson is said to have got the name he uses in this poem from an Italian tale, La Donna di Scalotta, in which Camelot is located near the sea, contrary to the Celtic tradition. (The following notes refer to the 1842 version.)

5] Camelot: the capital of Arthur's kingdom. Caxton puts it in Wales.

56] pad: an easy-paced horse.

69-72] Tennyson noted later: "The new-born love for something, for someone in the wide world from which she has been so long secluded, takes her out of the region of shadows into that of realities" (Memoir, I, 116-17).

84] Galaxy: the Milky Way.

107] Tirra lirra: Shakespeare speaks of "The lark that tirra-lirra chants" (Winter's Tale, IV, ii, 9). Here it indicates Lancelot's light-heartedness.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Alfred lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (London: E. Moxon, 1850). PR 5562 A1 1850 Victoria College Library (Toronto). Alfred lord Tennyson, Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1832
RPO poem editor: H. M. McLuhan
RP edition: 3RP 3.25.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/28

Rhyme: aabbcdddc

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson