John William Waterhouse, "The Lady of Shallot" (1888)

John William Waterhouse, “The Lady of Shallot” (1888)

“The Lady of Shalott,” by Alfred, Lord 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;

The yellow-leaved waterlily

The green-sheathed daffodilly

Tremble in the water chilly

       Round about Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens shiver.

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,

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 inrail’d

With a rose-fence, and overtrail’d

With roses: by the marge unhail’d

The shallop flitteth silken sail’d,

       Skimming down to Camelot.

A pearl garland winds her head:

She leaneth on a velvet bed,

Full royally apparelled,

       The Lady of Shalott.

Part II

No time hath she to sport and play:

A charmed web she weaves alway.

A curse is on her, if she stay

Her weaving, either night or day,

       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 tower’d Camelot.

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 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, came from 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 flam’d 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 from 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 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 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 from Camelot.

From the bank and from the river

He flash’d 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

She saw the water-flower 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;

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

Clasp’d with one blinding diamond bright)

       Her wide eyes fix’d 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 look’d down to Camelot.

It was the closing of the day:

She loos’d 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

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 darken’d wholly,

And her smooth face sharpen’d slowly,

       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 pale, pale corpse she floated by,

Deadcold, between the houses high,

       Dead into tower’d Camelot.

Knight and burgher, lord and dame,

To the planked wharfage came:

Below the stern they read her name,

       The Lady of Shalott.

They cross’d 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.’


Bat for Lashes, “Moon and Moon”


Image—Text—Music: Shi Tao, John Clare, The Magnetic Fields, 03.30.15

Shi Tao (石濤), a page from the album Returning Home 歸棹, ca. 1695

Shi Tao (石濤), a page from the album Returning Home 歸棹, ca. 1695

“I feel I am…,” by John Clare

I feel I am, I only know I am,

And plod upon the earth as dull and void:

Earth’s prison chilled my body with its dram

Of dullness, and my soaring thoughts destroyed.

I fled to solitudes from passion’s dream,

But strife pursued—I only know I am.

I was a being created in the race

Of men, disdaining bounds of place and time,

A spirit that could travel o’er the space

Of earth and heaven, like a thought sublime—

Tracing creation, like my Maker free,–

A soul unshackled—like eternity:

Spurning earth’s vain and soul debasing thrall—

But now I only I am,–that’s all.


The Magnetic Fields, “I Was Born”


Image—Text—Music: Joseph Turner, Linda Gregg, Grace Chang, 03.29.15

J.M.W. Turner, Landscape with Distant River and Bay c. 1840-50

J.M.W. Turner, Landscape with Distant River and Bay c. 1840-50

“The River Again and Again,” by Linda Gregg
If we stayed together long enough to see
the seasons return, to see the young animals
and the opening of peonies and summer heat,
then we could make sense of the hawk’s calm
or the deer. I could show you how repetition
helps us to understand the truth.
And we would know one another sometimes
with a love that touches indifference.

Image—Text—Music: Gustave Courbet, George Oppen, Charles Ives, 03.28.1

Courbet, "The Deer"

Gustave Courbet, “The Deer” (ca. 1865)“Psalm,” by George Oppen

“Psalm,” by George Oppen
Veritas sequitur …
In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down—
That they are there!
                              Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass
                              The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.
                              Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
Of sun
                              The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.

Charles Ives, “Psalm 67: ‘God Be Merciful Unto Us’”


Image-Text-Music: Anna Atkins, Louise Glück, SOAK

Papaver rhoeas

Anna Atkins, Papaver rhoeas. Paper watermarked 1845. Cyanotype from the Atkins-Dixon album presented by Anne Dixon to her nephew in 1861.

Field Flowers,” by Louise Glück

What are you saying? That you want

eternal life? Are your thoughts really

as compelling as all that? Certainly

you don’t look at us, don’t listen to us,

on your skin

stain of sun, dust

of yellow buttercups: I’m talking

to you, you staring through

bars of high grass shaking

your little rattle—- O

the soul! the soul! Is it enough

only to look inward? Contempt

for humanity is one thing, but why

disdain the expansive

field, your gaze rising over the clear heads

of the wild buttercups into what? Your poor

idea of heaven: absence

of change. Better than earth? How

would you know, who are neither

here nor there, standing in our midst?


SOAK, “Sea Creatures”:


Image-Text-Music, 11.6.14 — Arkhip Kuindzhi, Emily Dickinson, Lucinda Williams

“Moonlight on the Dnieper,” by Arkhip Kuindzhi (1880)

“Moonlight on the Dnieper,” by Arkhip Kuindzhi (1880)

“From Blank to Blank–,” by Emily Dickinson (J# 761, Fr# 484)

From Blank to Blank—-

A Threadless Way

I pushed Mechanic feet—-

To stop—-or perish—-or advance—-

Alike indifferent—-

If end I gained

It ends beyond

Indefinite disclosed—-

I shut my eyes—-and groped as well

‘Twas lighter—-to be Blind—-


Lucinda Williams, “I Envy the Wind


Image-Text-Music, 11.5.14 — John Adams Whipple, Sylvia Plath, the Waterboys

“The Moon and the Yew Tree,” by Sylvia Plath

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness –
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness – blackness and silence.


The Waterboys, “The Whole of the Moon