Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Lady of Shalott
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

ON either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road runs by
        To many-towered Camelot:        5
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,        10
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
        Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,        15
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle embowers
        The Lady of Shalott.
By the margin, willow-veiled,
Slide the heavy barges trailed        20
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallop flitteth silken-sailed
        Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?        25
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        30
From the river winding clearly,
        Down to towered Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “’Tis the fairy        35
        Lady of Shalott.”

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colors gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay        40
        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.        45
And moving through 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;        50
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,        55
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
        Goes by towered Camelot;
And sometimes through 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:        65
For often through 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:        70
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
        The Lady of Shalott.

A bowshot from her bower eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves;
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,        75
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
        Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross 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        85
        As he rode down to Camelot;
And from his blazoned baldric slung,
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung,
        Beside remote Shalott.        90
All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jeweled shone the saddle leather;
The helmet and the helmet feather
Burned like one burning flame together,
        As he rode down to Camelot:        95
As often through the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
        Moves over still Shalott.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed;        100
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
        As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river        105
He flashed into the crystal mirror;
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
        Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room;        110
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
        She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side:        115
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
        The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,        120
Heavily the low sky raining
        Over towered Camelot:
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote—        125
        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        130
        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.        135
Lying robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right—
The leaves upon her falling light—
Through the noises of the night
        She floated down to Camelot;        140
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,        145
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
        Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide        150
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,        155
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,        160
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;        165
And they crossed 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,        170
        The Lady of Shalott.”

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