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