Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The Lady of Shalott (1832) (1842)

The red text on the left, written for the 1832 version of the poem, was replaced by the red text on the right, which is the 1842 version. The black text stays the same in both versions. In most cases, parts of lines, individual lines, or groups of lines have been altered in an obvious way. There are other cases where parts of the old version show up in the new, and here I have added an arrow on the left to show where the black (unaltered) part of the 1832 version ended up in the 1842 version.

Tennyson interchanged stanzas 3 and 4 of Part I, as well as making extensive changes to them. He mostly deleted the second stanza of Part IV, but a small a part of it reappeared in the altered form of the fourth stanza, which became the third stanza of the new version.

These two texts give a tutorial in creative writing, since Tennyson undertook the difficult task of extensive revision of a completed work. In my view the changes were an extraordiary success, representing in most cases big improvements, turning a very good poem into a great one.

First Version: 1832Revised Version: 1842
               Part I
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
     To many-tower'd Camelot; 
The yellow-leaved waterlily 
The green-sheathed daffodilly 
Tremble in the water chilly 
     Round about Shalott.
                                      ___  ___
Willows whiten, aspens shiver.           \/   >
The sunbeam showers break and quiver  ___/\___>
In the stream that runneth ever
By the island in the river 
     Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
     The Lady of Shalott. 

Underneath the bearded barley,      ----+
The reaper, reaping late and early,     |  +-->
Hears her ever chanting cheerly,        |  |
Like an angel, singing clearly,         |  |
     O'er the stream of Camelot.        |  |
Piling the sheaves in furrows airy,     |  |
Beneath the moon, the reaper weary      |  |
Listening whispers, " 'Tis the fairy,   |  |
     Lady of Shalott."                  |  |
                                        |  |
The little isle is all inrail'd         +--|-->
With a rose-fence, and overtrail'd   ------+
With roses: by the marge unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken sail'd, 
     Skimming down to Camelot.
A pearl garland winds her head:
She leaneth on a velvet bed, 
Full royally apparelled,
     The Lady of Shalott.

               Part II
No time hath she to sport and play:
A charmed web she weaves alway.
A curse is on her, if she stay
Her weaving, either night or day,
     To look down to Camelot. 
She knows not what the curse may be; 
Therefore she weaveth steadily,
Therefore no other care hath she,
     The Lady of Shalott.

She lives with little joy or fear.
Over the water, running near, 
The sheepbell tinkles in her ear.
Before her hangs a mirror clear, 
     Reflecting tower'd Camelot.
And as the mazy web she whirls,
She sees 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-hair'd page in crimson clad, 
     Goes by to tower'd 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 lights 
     And music, came from 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 thro' the leaves, 
And flam'd 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. 

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free, 
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy. 
The bridle bells rang merrily 
     As he rode down from Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung, 
And as he rode his armour rung,
     Beside remote Shalott. 

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather, 
The helmet and the helmet-feather 
Burn'd like one burning flame together, 
     As he rode down from Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night, 
Below the starry clusters bright, 
Some bearded meteor, trailing light, 
     Moves over green 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 from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river 
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
'Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:'
     Sang Sir Lancelot. 

She left the web, she left the loom 
She made three paces thro' the room 
She saw the water-flower 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
     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 tower'd Camelot; 
Outside the isle a shallow boat
Beneath a willow lay afloat,
Below the carven stern she wrote,
     The Lady of Shalott.

A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight,
All raimented in snowy white            ----+
That loosely flew (her zone in sight        |
Clasp'd with one blinding diamond bright)   |
     Her wide eyes fix'd on Camelot,        |
Though the squally east-wind keenly         |
Blew, with folded arms serenely             |
By the water stood the queenly              |
     Lady of Shalott.                       |
                                            |
With a steady stony glance--                |
Like some bold seer in a trance,            |
Beholding all his own mischance,            |
Mute, with a glassy countenance--           |
     She look'd down to Camelot.            |
It was the closing of the day:              |
She loos'd the chain, and down she lay;     |
The broad stream bore her far away,         |
     The Lady of Shalott.                   |
                                            |
As when to sailors while they roam,         +-->
By creeks and outfalls far from home,
Rising and dropping with the foam, 
From dying swans wild warblings come, 
     Blown shoreward; so to Camelot
Still as the boathead wound along
The willowy hills and fields among, 
They heard her chanting her deathsong,
     The Lady of Shalott.

A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,
She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her eyes were darken'd wholly, 
And her smooth face sharpen'd slowly,
     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 pale, pale corpse she floated by,
Deadcold, between the houses high,
     Dead into tower'd Camelot.
Knight and burgher, lord and dame, 
To the planked wharfage came:
Below the stern they read her name,
     The Lady of Shalott. 

They cross'd themselves, their stars they blest,
Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest.
There lay a parchment on her breast,
That puzzled more than all the rest,
     The wellfed wits at Camelot.
'The web was woven curiously,
The charm is broken utterly, 
Draw near and fear not,--this is I, 
     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 thro' the field the road runs by 
     To many-tower'd 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
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river 
     Flowing down to Camelot. 
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers 
     The Lady of Shalott. 

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd 
     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 tower'd 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 thro' 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-hair'd page in crimson clad, 
     Goes by to tower'd 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 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 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. 

The gemmy bridle glitter'd 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 blazon'd baldric slung 
A mighty silver bugle hung, 
And as he rode his armour rung, 
     Beside remote Shalott. 

All in the blue unclouded weather 
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather, 
The helmet and the helmet-feather 
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
     As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night, 
Below the starry clusters bright, 
Some bearded meteor, trailing light, 
     Moves over still 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.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd 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 
     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 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. 











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-- 
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. 

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.

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 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." 

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