When I was in my high school, I came across this famous and magical poem for the first time. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot”. And ever since, it had become my favourite poem, indefinitely. Ever so gracefully, it remained on my mind, too gracefully though.
Still I do remember those days, of my classroom where I used to sit on my desk, so attentive, in excited and radiant smile, reciting the poem. If I’m not wrong, this is the first time I fell in love with English literature and of course started liking my English teacher.
This is one poem that I held dear, and its lines, I knew by heart. Again and again I would read the poem. To put it precisely, it’s crafted in perfect words and emulates overpoweringly breathtaking images that one would never forget in life.
And the way Tennyson starts out the poem is simply splendid. I can’t help myself from pulling out those starting lines and putting down here,
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 poet portrays the scenes so magically. And it made my heart lurch, all the more. This is the only poem that I read not for the exams, but out of the pleasure of words. In fact, that’s the time I realized the power of words, what the black and white letters can be.
Above all, it’s the protagonist of the poem that had absolutely hypnotized me. The Lady of Shalott. She is described as an absolute angel, “lovely face”, “fairy”, pure, and beauty who “weaves by night and day/A magic web with colours gay” in a four-towered castle. She is like…ah as if I had met the love of my life, my soul mate. The more I read it, the deeper I fell in love.
Moreover, I felt hugely heartened when I had the opportunity to learn the poem once more when I joined Sherubtse College in 2005. We read the nineteen century literature and we analyzed this poem too. However, the analysis shocked me; left me shaken.
The poem suddenly turned dark. The Lady of Shalott is restricted and imprisoned in the tower under a terrible curse. Subjugated and lonely, she is considered as an invisible object, ghostly. Second half of the poem becomes bloody and mournful. The Lady is doomed for going against the norm. She cries. She dies.
I couldn’t believe that the love of my heart, the Lady’s life is one long unspoken sadness and accursed. It’s unthinkable; it penetrated me deeply. I couldn’t take it. It aroused such sorrow and grief of the loss of the Lady that I almost burst into tears in the classroom. I was angry at the poet, I started hating my lecturer, and I grew disinterested in learning literature.
After almost a decade, today, I read the poem once more. To tell you…it was a decade of my life filled with difficult obstacles and decisions, unthinkable loss and fear, and countless tears and anxiety. But it was also a decade of humbling realizations and experiences – of love, of joy, of emotional growth, of mental maturity, of understanding the true essence of life.
As I am already halfway to this bumpy ride of life; and today, as I read the poem, I have come to understand it. Its true essence, its beauty, its purpose and the love and grace in the poem. This world, this human life is all temporary. Vulnerability figures large all time, and that falling apart happens continually. Accept it or not, all is not fair or perfect in this world, similarly this favourite poem of mine.
I am excited here that I may understand the poem further as I grow older, in my old age. Learning never ends, and this poem never stops giving me new lessons. “The Lady of Shalott” is a poem for lifetime.
Photo courtesy: google
Photo courtesy: google