Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.
- What does she see on the highway in the mirror? For one thing, there's a spot in the river where the current makes a little whirlpool ("the river eddy whirls"). Mostly though, she sees a parade of people.
- The first people the speaker introduces to us are some rough peasants from the town ("surly village-churls") and some girls from the market in red cloaks.
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot;
- The parade of passers-by continues. We see a group of happy young women ("damsels glad"), then an abbot (the head of a monastery) on a lazy old horse ("an ambling pad"). Young men too, a shepherd with curly hair maybe, or a page (a young servant to a knight) with long hair and red clothes.
- We get lots of fun little details here, but these aren't really characters in the poem. They are meant to represent the outside world, the place where the Lady can't go.
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.
- Sometimes, she sees knights in the mirror. This is a big deal because we know that knights are a major part of the Camelot story.
- The speaker notes that the Lady doesn't have a "loyal knight" of her own, and you can begin to feel her loneliness and longing. This is definitely a set-up for the rest of the poem.