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The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott


by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Part 1, Lines 23-41 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 24-27

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?

  • Basically, lots of people pass up and down the river, traveling on it and using the path beside it.
  • But has anyone, the speaker wonders, seen the Lady of Shalott wave her hand, or seen her standing at her window ("casement" is just an old-fashioned word for window)? In fact, he wonders, does anyone in the land know her at all? Apparently she's an invisible mystery, this lady.

Lines 28-32

Only reapers, reaping early In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to towered Camelot:

  • It seems that only the people who gather the grain in the fields ("the reapers") notice a sign of the Lady. They hear her singing a song that echoes happily down the river to Camelot.
  • Can you feel how everything pulls down toward Camelot? The fifth line in every stanza is (almost) always about something or someone going toward Camelot, like it was a magnet.

Lines 33-36

And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers "'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

  • When the reapers are working at night, piling up "sheaves" (big bundles of cut grain), they hear the Lady singing. They seem a little enchanted/creeped out by her song, and call her "the fairy Lady of Shalott" as if she was a ghost or magical spirit.
  • The first part ends, and we've still only heard about the Lady from a distance.

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