The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Part IV

Stanza 14

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;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

Summary

We are now entering the last part of this poem. Stanza fourteen begins with stormy weather, portraying to the reader the circumstances of the situation. There is now a “stormy” wind, the yellow leaves of the forest seem to be disappearing, the river is complaining and heavy rain begins to fall. The lady of Shalott finally leaves her abode to find a boat floating under a willow tree. She gets in the boat and carves “The Lady of Shalott” on the front of the boat.

Analysis

The stormy weather represents the chaos we create for ourselves and our environment when we let the curse (our doubts) become a reality, when it really doesn’t have to. In the story the lady loses hope in retaining any normalcy in her life and that pushes her to leave her comfort zone that she has never left before. Sometimes you need that fear of doubt and failure to push you into taking the steps you need to be forced out of your comfort zone and into a place where you can easily reach your Camelot in search of your Lancelot.

 

Stanza 15

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.

Summary

Stanza fifteen continues the Lady of Shalott’s journey outside her normal domain. Before she actually gets in the boat, she looks down the river at Camelot like a fortuneteller who is in a “trance” once he realizes his own misfortunes that await him. At the end of the day she eventually loosens the chain that is tying the boat to land, and lays down in it. The boat then starts to take her “far away”.

Analysis

In this stanza, The lady anticipated the curse to befall her and basically froze her attempts to gain anything out of the risk that she took when she glanced at Camelot. Most of us can relate to this situation, as we feel like eminent inevitable doom awaits those who take big chances to get their “Lancelot”. As the lady lay in the boat she was basically preparing her grave waiting for the curse to befall her. What we learn is that sometimes we are bringing hardships upon ourselves, for no reason but our fear of a doubtful unfamiliar future.

 

Stanza 16

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right—
The leaves upon her falling light—
Thro’ 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.

Summary

This stanza is illustrating an image that is most popular amongst the art that is very commonly available for the poem. The Lady of Shalott dressed in white, as she lay at the bottom of the boat with her garments moving in the wind, and leaves lightly falling on her as the boat travels through the river at night towards Camelot. Everything that surrounded the boat, including the willows, and fields were witnesses of the last song that the lady of Shalott sang as she drifted by.

Analysis

This depiction is the perfect romanticized vision of a person who has lost their battle in an attempt to earn freedom from their ritualistic daily routine. The only problem is, the lady has inflicted this upon herself almost like a need to punish herself for stepping out of line from the way she used to live. We must not punish ourselves for pursuing the goals in our lives. Doing so will only bring unnecessary rifts on your journey to Camelot, once you are brave enough to start it.

 

Stanza 17

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken’d 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.

Summary

Stanza seventeen is highlighting the dramatic event that the lady of Shalott is suffering and it emphasizes that through the vivid imagery of mourning, chants, sacredness and carols. The lady of Shalott continues to sing as she drifts in the river towards Camelot, until her blood slowly freezes and the light from her eyes had “darkened”. This is either happening as a consequence of the weather, or the curse that she was so afraid of her entire life. As the boat has a chance to reach the first house in Camelot, the lady dies along with her song.

Analysis

Here we witness what self-inflicted punishment can do to a person. The lady sang until she breathed her last breath. Until then, she was singing to mask the horror she was experiencing as her blood froze and the light literally left her eyes. This is important because this is portrayed as the curse, however we as readers know that she chose to do this to herself, there was no one forcing her to act this way. Only her guilt and fear of the curse left her to curse herself to a terrible death. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves unknowingly because we are afraid of the possibility of creating a new reality for ourselves. We become so comfortable in our daily routines that even the thought of following our greatest desires makes us feel insecure.

 

Stanza 18

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.

Summary

This stanza is quite simple as it describes the manner in which her body finally reaches Camelot and how it travels within. The boat carrying her body passes under the towers and balconies, past the gardens, galleries, and houses in the very Camelot that the lady was never to see. Everyone (those of nobility and good social ranks) came out and crowded around the waterfront to come and see the boat and read her name clearly written on the front of the boat: The Lady of Shalott.

Analysis

The lady finally makes it to Camelot, the one she wanted to see. Unfortunately it was her dead body that got the opportunity to tour Camelot. The interesting thing to note is that even out of Shalott, she brought the silence with her to Camelot, because she was too afraid to risk a chance at a new reality. As the people of Camelot (who by the way are successful, which fits nicely with the interpretation that they are those who took risks to get their Camelot”) came to view the sight of a person who cursed themselves to a death for trying to step out of their comfort zone.

 

Stanza 19

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d 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.”

Summary

Stanza nineteen concludes this poem with the voices of the people of Camelot as they asked the many questions they had at the sight of a lady frozen to death in a boat floating down the river. They were quite shaken by the sight and “crossed themselves” because they were afraid. Lancelot then steps forward and after seeing her declares that she was beautiful and prays for God’s mercy and grace to be with her. This stanza is important not only because it concludes the poem, but because our two characters finally meet in person, but this time unbeknownst to the lady of Shalott.

Analysis

As the poem finally concludes we see that fate did have a meeting planned for the lady of Shalott to be in Camelot and meet her Lancelot, but unfortunately because of her own insecurities she could not enjoy the scene. Interestingly enough, Lancelot found her beautiful, if only he knew how much was riding on his shoulders as he rode into Camelot the other day. Let this be a lesson to those who hesitate to take chances and easily become nervous about the consequences and cause more harm than good anticipating failure. You will not have success in achieving your greatest goals and making it to your dream life, if you carry the curse of doubt with you.

This analysis of The Lady of Shalott contains all four parts to the poem. Click the below links to read any parts of the poem with summaries and analysis.


Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV


Feel free to also view more of Alfred Tennyson’s poems analysed.

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  • Avatar ms Angela Grunsell says:

    Noir I enjoyed this literary journey and clear analysis.Thank you very much.It was thought provoking…I didn’t agree with all of it but much of it I did.

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Thank you for your feedback. Out of interest, what points did you disagree on? I love a bit of literary debate!

  • Avatar Noor says:

    What is the hidden meaning of the poem

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      I think it is poking fun at the traditional feminine role.

  • A nicely done poem. To me, it is quite Victorian in suggesting women ought to stay safe at home in their tower observing the world only indirectly (through a mirror). If they go out and try to join bustling society, they could end up, like the Lady, frozen dead. Stay at home, women. Be beautiful and don’t let yourself be tarnished by the world. I also see it secondarily as a allegory for the artist and what can happen to the artist if, in this case, they stop weaving and enter the busy world. The poem affords many readings, thus stimulating our minds and imaginations.

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      That makes perfect sense as Tennyson was the poet Laureate during the majority of Victoria’s reign. So it would make sense that his poetry largely espoused her ideas and sensibilities.

    • Avatar Clive Halliday says:

      Did not see that interpretation “women ought to stay safe at home in their tower observing the world only indirectly”, Chuck., and I tend to agree. I had always vaguely wondered how she came to be in that room under that restriction. Was it a punishment?

      • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

        I don’t know enough about the context of the poem to answer. And I couldn’t see any clues in the text itself. It’s an interesting question though.

  • Avatar generalfreezexd says:

    very helpful its helping me a lot for my final exams

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Glad to hear it. Good luck with them.

  • Avatar gautam says:

    this is seriously a great analysis. loved it 🙂

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Thank you kindly. We do our best.

    • Avatar Local Cowboy says:

      yeehaw partner

      • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

        Howdy. There’s a snake in my boots!

  • Avatar Simon Lyon says:

    This is a wonderful analysis of my favourite poem that’s given me some new insights – thank you.
    Simon

    • Emma Baldwin Emma Baldwin says:

      We’re glad you enjoyed it, Simon!

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