Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Lady of Shalott

Several weeks ago at a library sale we found this 1882 edition of The Poetical Works of Alfred Tennyson, beautifully bound with detailed florals on the front (and a snail shell intertwined with the T in Tennyson), and detailed engraved ilustrations throughout all 843 pages.

The endpapers are a tiny precise brown floral, and each of the poems starts with an elaborate engraved capital letter that morphs into a work of art.

On the front loose endpaper, a previous owner has made a notation that they acquired this volume when it was "Bot at sale of A.W. Carmike, Dec. 1912". Eight months after the Titanic sank, which has nothing to do with this volume, I just enjoy placing items within their time.

At the time of this volume's publication, Lord Alfred Tennyson was still alive and writing. Two years later, in 1894, he would be created a baron by the Crown, and eight years follwoing, in 1892, he would be buried in the Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey.

No artist is listed for the engraved illustrations, but they include forest paths, full-rigged ships sailing stormy oceans, ravens soaring between Gothic arches, medieval beggars and maids and other flights of artistic fancy.

My favorite Tennyson, from page 83, and possibly Mr. Edgar Allan Poe's judging from his allusion to it in the December 1844 Democratic Review: "Why do some persons fatigue themselves in endeavours to unravel such phantasy pieces as the 'Lady of Shallot'? As well unweave the ventum textilem":

The 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely gorgeous find! Do enjoy it a few extra moments for me!