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About this poet

Born on August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, Alfred Tennyson is one of the most well-loved Victorian poets. Tennyson, the fourth of twelve children, showed an early talent for writing. At the age of twelve he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages. In the 1820s, however, Tennyson's father began to suffer frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. One of Tennyson's brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict.

Tennyson escaped home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. In that same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. Although the poems in the book were mostly juvenilia, they attracted the attention of the "Apostles," an undergraduate literary club led by Arthur Hallam. The "Apostles" provided Tennyson, who was tremendously shy, with much needed friendship and confidence as a poet. Hallam and Tennyson became the best of friends; they toured Europe together in 1830 and again in 1832. Hallam's sudden death in 1833 greatly affected the young poet. The long elegy In Memoriam and many of Tennyson's other poems are tributes to Hallam.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply Poems. Some reviewers condemned these books as "affected" and "obscure." Tennyson, stung by the reviews, would not publish another book for nine years. In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood. When he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood's family called off the engagement. In 1842, however, Tennyson's Poems in two volumes was a tremendous critical and popular success. In 1850, with the publication of In Memoriam, Tennyson became one of Britain's most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. In that same year, he married Emily Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. His appearance—a large and bearded man, he regularly wore a cloak and a broad brimmed hat—enhanced his notoriety. He read his poetry with a booming voice, often compared to that of Dylan Thomas. In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Lady of Shalott

Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1809 - 1892
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."               
              

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Lord Alfred Tennyson

Lord Alfred Tennyson

Born in 1809, Alfred Tennyson is one of the most well-loved Victorian poets.

by this poet

poem
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have
poem
Half a league, half a league,  
  Half a league onward,  
All in the valley of Death  
  Rode the six hundred.  
"Forward, the Light Brigade!  
Charge for the guns!" he said:  
Into the valley of Death  
  Rode the six hundred.  
  
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"  
Was there a man dismay’d?    
Not tho’ the
poem
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming