Friday, September 4, 2015

Exponential Enjoyment ~ "The Lady of Shalott"

(great thing) x (great thing) x (great thing) = (great thing)3 = exponential enjoyment
Poor mathematics, I know, given that what I describe in the following post is more like addition than multiplication... but surely you understand my sentiment. :]

Great Thing #1
I was first exposed to Lord Alfred Tennyson's poetic narrative "The Lady of Shalott" as a little girl watching Anne of Green Gables. One part of the movie that always stood out to me was Anne Shirley's dramatic reenactment of the voyage of the Lily-Maid. You know, the part where she drifts across the pond in an oarless skiff, encounters a major leak, clings to a bridge support for dear life, and inadvertently traumatizes her friends by her apparent untimely death until returning to them unharmed, having been rescued by Gilbert Blythe... that part. ;] Being immersed in the reenactment-gone-awry, I never took much note of the original poem being acted out, but very much enjoyed this humorous scene. That being said, in more recent times I have read several of Tennyson's other poems and have felt an immediate fondness for them. Tennyson's skill in the crafting of words is enthralling.

Great Thing #2
I've long loved the artwork of John William Waterhouse, particularly "Miranda - The Tempest" and "Windflowers". Though I've been intrigued by his painting "The Lady of Shalott" since first seeing it in a pocket-sized art book, it was only this week that I learned Waterhouse had painted not one, not two, but three scenes from Tennyson's poem. Oddly enough, the title figure's appearance is not consistent within this trio - her hair color and clothing styles change drastically between scenes, and her facial features are altered so far as to indicate the portraits being of entirely different maidens. Still, each one of Waterhouse's paintings is beautifully detailed and full of feeling - very much a pleasure to view and to contemplate.
[Note: my current favorite Waterhouse painting, "'I am half sick of shadows,' said the Lady of Shalott", concludes this post for your further viewing enjoyment.]

Great Thing #3
I've been listening to the music of Loreena McKennitt for as long as I can remember - and, in all likelihood, longer still. :] Her album The Book of Secrets is a favorite of mine, though it was comparatively recently that I began to appreciate the poetry of "The Highwayman" and ceased to be disquieted by the melancholy tale it presents. Loreena McKennitt's singing style is a magical blend of dulcet clarity and shadowed mystery; her music is a realm of bittersweet visions brought to life by haunting melodies and entrancing vocalizations. I'll leave you to deduce whether I'm fond of her recordings. :]

Three long-time favorites.
Lord Alfred Tennyson - a potent poet.
John William Waterhouse - a poignant painter.
Loreena McKennitt - a superlative singer.
Years after being introduced to each of these artists individually, I've happened upon a lovely combination of some of their finest works. Words do not do justice to my delight. :]

Disclaimer: a characteristic common to several of the paintings used in this slideshow is apparel made of semi-transparent material and/or with wide drooping shoulder lines.
As in all things, viewer discretion is advised.

The Lady of Shalott
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

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;             
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              
Through the wave that runs for ever              
By the island in the river             
            Flowing down to Camelot.             
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,              
Overlook a space of flowers,             
And the silent isle imbowers              
            The Lady of Shalott.             

By the margin, willow-veiled,             
Slide the heavy barges trailed              
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?
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 towered Camelot:              
And by the moon the reaper weary,             
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,             
Listening, whispers “ ’Tis the fairy              
            Lady of Shalott.”      

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 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:             
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-haired page in crimson clad,              
            Goes by to towered Camelot;              
And sometimes through 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 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;             
“I am half sick of shadows,” said             
            The Lady of Shalott.             

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,              
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,             
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,             
            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               
            As he rode down to Camelot:              
And from his blazoned baldric slung              
A mighty silver bugle hung,              
And as he rode his armour rung,              
            Beside remote Shalott.             
All in the blue unclouded weather             
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather             
Burned like one burning flame together,              
            As he rode down to Camelot.             
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;             
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              
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,
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;              
“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,
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              
            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 –
Through 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 darkened wholly,              
            Turned to towered Camelot.               
For ere she reached 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 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,              
            The Lady of Shalott.”

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