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Thursday, August 2, 2012

East and West meet.......

in this poetry selection dealing with unrequited love. The first piece is Alfred Lord Tennyson's famous Arthurian ballad about an enchanted lady who is cursed for her love of a gallant knight. The second is a meditative lament written by Lebonese poet, Kahlil Gibran, in the voice of a woman whose soul mate is far away. I find both of these hauntingly beautiful, and I hope you do as well.

The Lady of Shalott 

Part I

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."        

Part II              

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.             

Part III

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.             
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 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."         

A Lover's Call

Where are you, my beloved? Are you in that little
Paradise, watering the flowers who look upon you
As infants look upon the breast of their mothers?

Or are you in your chamber where the shrine of
Virtue has been placed in your honor, and upon
Which you offer my heart and soul as sacrifice?

Or amongst the books, seeking human knowledge,
While you are replete with heavenly wisdom?

Oh companion of my soul, where are you? Are you
Praying in the temple? Or calling Nature in the
Field, haven of your dreams?

Are you in the huts of the poor, consoling the
Broken-hearted with the sweetness of your soul, and
Filling their hands with your bounty?

You are God's spirit everywhere;
You are stronger than the ages.
Do you have memory of the day we met, when the halo of
You spirit surrounded us, and the Angels of Love
Floated about, singing the praise of the soul's deed?

Do you recollect our sitting in the shade of the
Branches, sheltering ourselves from Humanity, as the ribs
Protect the divine secret of the heart from injury?

Remember you the trails and forest we walked, with hands
Joined, and our heads leaning against each other, as if
We were hiding ourselves within ourselves?

Recall you the hour I bade you farewell,
And the Maritime kiss you placed on my lips?
That kiss taught me that joining of lips in Love
Reveals heavenly secrets which the tongue cannot utter!

That kiss was introduction to a great sigh,
Like the Almighty's breath that turned earth into man.

That sigh led my way into the spiritual world,
Announcing the glory of my soul; and there
It shall perpetuate until again we meet.

I remember when you kissed me and kissed me,
With tears coursing your cheeks, and you said,
"Earthly bodies must often separate for earthly purpose,
And must live apart impelled by worldly intent.

"But the spirit remains joined safely in the hands of
Love, until death arrives and takes joined souls to God.

"Go, my beloved; Love has chosen you her delegate;
Over her, for she is Beauty who offers to her follower
The cup of the sweetness of life.
As for my own empty arms, your love shall remain my
Comforting groom; you memory, my Eternal wedding."

Where are you now, my other self? Are you awake in
The silence of the night? Let the clean breeze convey
To you my heart's every beat and affection.

Are you fondling my face in your memory? That image
Is no longer my own, for Sorrow has dropped his
Shadow on my happy countenance of the past.

Sobs have withered my eyes which reflected your beauty
And dried my lips which you sweetened with kisses.

Where are you, my beloved? Do you hear my weeping
From beyond the ocean? Do you understand my need?
Do you know the greatness of my patience?

Is there any spirit in the air capable of conveying
To you the breath of this dying youth? Is there any
Secret communication between angels that will carry to
You my complaint?

Where are you, my beautiful star? The obscurity of life
Has cast me upon its bosom; sorrow has conquered me.

Sail your smile into the air; it will reach and enliven me!
Breathe your fragrance into the air; it will sustain me!

Where are you, my beloved?
Oh, how great is Love!
And how little am I!

"She loosed the chain and down she lay....The Lady of Shalott."

"Where are you, my beloved?"


  1. Most Excellent Pearl,

    Thank you for the Tennyson!

    -- Mack

  2. "The Lady of Shalott" is both a lovely poem and a lovely painting. A marvelous combination.

  3. You're most welcome for this taste of Tennyson, gentlemen! Do you have any other favorite poems from him or any other classical poets?

  4. An Anglo-Saxon poem called "The Wanderer" perhaps? ( There is a note worth mentioning at the bottom.

    Supplementary information from the Venerable Bede:

    “The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in
    comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the
    swift flight of a sparrow through mead-hall where you sit
    at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes,
    while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed,
    but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad.
    The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out
    at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry
    tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he im-
    mediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter
    to winter again. So this life of man appears for a
    little while, but of what is to follow or what went before
    we know nothing at all. If, therefore, this new doctrine
    tells us something more certain, it seems
    justly to be followed in our kingdom.”

    It all ties together quite well.