Loreena McKennitt - The Lady of Shalott

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And trho' the field the road run 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 disk and shiver
Thro' 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

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the beared barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listing, whispers "'tis the fairy
The 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;
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 with lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am, half sick of shadow," she said,
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed 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.

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 to Camelot.
And 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 thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily 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 -- photo
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 tower'd Camelot; -- photo
Down she cam and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

Down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance -
With a glassy countenance
She looked to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and shown she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted slowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
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 gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
And 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;
They crossed themselves for fear,
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

 
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?


Music by Loreena McKennitt
Lyrics by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
From: The visit (1991).

A live version appears on Troubadours on the Rhine (2012).

The four lines in italics at the end of the poem are printed in the CD-booklet next to the song, but are not sung by Loreena. The indentations in the stanzas is as printed in the CD-booklet.
Note furthermore that the text as Loreena sings it is not the complete poem: Loreena omits some five stanzas throughout the poem.
===> Alfred Lord Tennyson: biography, works (with the full text of "The Lady of Shalott" and background info about this poem), etc., at the The Victorian Web

 
Live versions appear on Live in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts (1995) and on Live in Paris and Toronto (1999).
 
Robert Bock pointed out to me something I had failed to notice myself: the version on Live in Paris and Toronto has some stanzas missing (5, 12, 13) and it is with its 9:05 minutes two minutes shorter than the original on The Visit. The version of Live in San Francisco is with 8:50 minutes similar to the Live in Paris and Toronto version.
 
The song can also be found on The journey so far - The Best of Loreena McKennitt (2014).
 
I have a Dutch book about Mediaeval charachters in literature (Van Aiol tot de Zwaanridder -- eds. Gerritsen & Van Melle) that says about Tennyson's poem:
The text refers to Elaine, "the lily maid of Astolat". She is known from the Old-French Mort le roi Artu and from Malory's Morte d'Artur, where she dies because of her unanswered love for Lancelot. With Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" (1832) and "Lancelot and Elaine" (in The Idylls of the King, 1859) Elaine became a symbol of the Victorian view on women: young, beautiful, innocent and sacrificing herself for the male dominion. Often Elaine is portrayed in a tower chamber where she withdrew herself with Lancelot's shield, while she observes the outside world through a mirror and weaves it into a carpet ("web"). Elaine's trip - in most cases the trip of her body - by boat to Camelot returns in many of the pictures made about her.
There seems to be some confusion about the name "Elaine", however, since in Morte d'Artur there is another Elaine who also dies because of unrequited love for Lancelot, hence "The Lady of Shalott" and "Elaine" are not referring to the same person.

[photo] "The curse is come upon me," cried / The Lady of Shalott
JPEG version of this photo (15 kb)       GIF version of this photo (59 kb)

[photo] Over tower'd Camelot
JPEG version of this photo (14 kb)       GIF version of this photo (60 kb)

 
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last modified: 25 January 2014