Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Nicole Surginer writes


I felt her desperation as 
she slipped suddenly away.
I sought her in trail of
her fleeting frenzy heat,
where earth freshly
showered in dew slipped
of sleepy rose led.
Her beat echoed through
patchy forest brush.
Light rained through
darkness kissing shadow.
Enchanting tree clustered
in wooded embrace
swayed rustling branch
to whistling wind.
The early morning moon
intoxicated a black velvet sky.
Stillness fell as beauty
spoke the whisperings of
wisdom in the silent language 
of my searching heart.
She listens as her hollows
are filled with the clarity
and peace of home. 
 I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Said the Lady of
 "I Am Half-Sick of Shadows," Said the Lady of Shalott --John William Waterhouse,


  1. The Lady of Shalott (1832)
    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.'

  5. At 24, Alfred Tennyson published his second book of poetry, rather cleverly entitled "Poems," which included "The Lady of Shalott." It was badly received, and Tennyson ceased publication for a decade. The poem is loosely based on the story of Elaine of Astolat (Elaine the White, Elaine the Fair) from a 13th-century Italian novella, "Donna di Scalotta." She also appeared in the early 13th-century "Mort Artu" and in Thomas Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur" (1485). (Tennyson wrote two versions: the 20-stanza one from 1833 was closer to the original than the 19-stanza on from 1842. He redid the subject in "Lancelot and Elaine" in his "Idylls of the King" [1859], which relied more on Malory's version.)
    According to Malory, Sir Lancelot visited Bernard of Astolat in advance of a jousting tournament, and Bernard's daughter Elaine begged him to wear her token at the tourney. Knowing that queen Guinevere, his secret lover, will be there, Lancelot decided he would wear a disguise, and he borrowed the plain white shield of her brother Sir Torre. He defeated 40 knights but was wounded by Sir Bors and taken to the cave of a hermit to recuperate. Elaine pesuaded Bernard to let her nurse him back to health in her own chambers. When he rrecovered, he retrieved his shield and left; 10 days later, Elaine died of heartbreak. She was put in a boat, with a lily in one hand and a letter n the other. When the boat arrived at Camelot, Lancelot had the letter read to him and paid for a rich funeral.
    In the "Idylls of the King" Arthur found the skeletons of two warring brothers; one of them wore a crown of nine diamonds. Arthur subsequently held annual tourneys and awarded a diamond to the wnner (Lancelot in every case). Lancelot planned to present all nine to Guinevere but decided to refrain from participating after he lerned Guinevere would not appear. She berated him for his carelessness in giving the court grounds to suspect their relationship, and Lancelot agreed to enter the contest in disguise. He borrowed the Lord of Astolat's armor and agreed to wear Elaine's token. She dreamed that she could not hold onto the slippery diamond and it fell into the water. As Lancelot was presenting all nine gems to Guinevere, the queen threw them all into the river just as the boat with Elaine's body and her note to Lamcelot and Guinivere passed below. When the letter was read to them, Arthur told Lancelot that it was a pity he had not married her to relieve his loneliness. Guinevere privately asked Lancelot's forgiveness, but he mused about his sins and infidelity to Arthur and worried that Guinever's love had deteriorated into jealousy. Tennyson had Arthur speak with unknowing irony:
    Free love, so bound, were freëst...
    Let love be free; free love is for the best.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?