The Lady of Shallot

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was known for his pictorial poetry, characterizes as “painterly,” “picturesque” with visual detail and images that represent mood, situation and carry emotion” (ENG 103 Lecture on Victorian Age and Literature). The imagery of emotion is especially evident in the poet’s depiction of nature, in the form of melancholy. In examining “The Lady of Shallot,” the sense of eminent gloom of destiny is illustrated.

Through the personification of nature, a vivid glimpse into a lady doomed by her fate. A picture is illuminated in the description 0f where the lady dwells. The reader gets a feel for the separation of the lady and her threatening destiny, in the imagery of her natural surroundings. This can be seen with “Willows whiten, aspens whiten, aspens quiver, /little breezes dusk and shiver” (The Longman Anthology Of British Literature, p.1913, LL. 10-11). The fear brought on by “quiver” and “Shiver”, suggests the nature elements know what lies ahead, which is Camelot. The fearful destiny of the lady can be visualized with the description of her isolation on an island, in which the river is “flowing down to Camelot.”

The melancholy brought about by the personification of nature is echoed in the constant imagery of death. The picture of the bringer of death preparing for funeral projects the melancholy associated with death. Nobody can see the lady, yet a few can her song. The few include a foreshadowing of a funeral attendant, a “Willow-veil and nature’s influence with “by the moon the reaper weary” (19,33).

Emotions develop through imagery of the changing weather. As the lady sees Lancelot, the sky is “All in the blue unclouded weather” (91). This may depict a happy attraction of the lady sees him likened by nature with “His broad clear brow in sunlight glow” (100). However the weather shifts with emotion after the lady discoveries her curse is a melancholic death, when she decides to leave Shallot in pursuit of Lancelot. The imagery, mournful of her destined death with heaven waiting in “The pale yellow woods were waning, /The broad streaming his banks complaining, /Heavily the low sky raining.”

“The Lady of Shallot” is an excellent example of Tennyson’s use of nature delicately woven into human emotions. Both visual and soulful, the poem produces beautiful images how nature can effectively portrays those emotions. . Tennyson was a master at bringing sensitivity towards human bonds with nature otherwise often overlooked. The picturesque elements of this Victorian Poem help to unravel the complexities of emotion and nature are intertwined.

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