May 03, 2013

"I thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound"

I went to an exhibit on pre-Raphaelite art at the National Gallery of Art and saw two paintings done from scenes in Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott."  I was already familiar with John William Waterhouse's painting of the lady in the boat looking rather doomed and tragic.  In this exhibit's paintings, the lady is weaving.  One of the looms has a round frame, a peculiar setup.  You can see it on page 43 of the exhibition booklet.  The booklet also shows a Morris & Co. tapestry on page 38.

I got an anthology of Tennyson out of the library and read the poem.  It is rather fantastical.  I can see a normal person staying up late to weave but not weaving night and day; it makes the point that the lady of Shalott is not a normal person in ordinary circumstances.  I noticed she is cut off from the population yet somehow never runs out of yarn.  Odd, that.  If you like fairy tales, there is a tower and a knight and a mirror.  The story comes from the Arthurian legends.

I also read The Princess and came across a couple of lines I recognized.  A Handbook to Literature gives them as an example in its definition of alliteration.  The Handbook cites the poem's author but no title.  When I read the definition I'd been curious and wanted to see the lines in context, but never looked them up.  I found the lines at the end of this segment:
Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height....
So waste not thou, but come; for all the vales
Await thee; azure pillars of the hearth
Arise to thee; the children call, and I
Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro' the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.
–Tennyson, The Princess, part seventh 

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