Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
- Here it comes – the big turn in this poem.
- Someone's coming, although in these lines, he's only identified as "He." He shows up riding through the barley just a "bow-shot" (as far as you could shoot an arrow) from the Lady's little prison.
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
- Tennyson really ratchets up the effects for this big entrance. If it were a movie, this moment would definitely be in slow motion. The sun is dazzling and bright, and it sparkles off his greaves (that's a piece of armor, like metal shin-guards for a knight).
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
- Then he drops the name. This isn't just any knight; it's Sir Lancelot, the toughest and most famous (and, we imagine, the best-looking) of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table.
- Here's a note for all you poetry nerds: this is the only stanza where the fifth line doesn't end with the word "Camelot." Here it's "Lancelot," which is a sneaky but also maybe a really powerful way of showing how important he is.
A red-cross knight for ever kneeled
To a lady in his shield,
- Literally these lines mean that Lancelot's shield has a picture on it of a knight kneeling before his lady.
- Like in many spots in this poem, there's a lot more going on under the surface. The Redcross Knight is a character in The Faerie Queene, a famous epic poem by Edmund Spenser. The red cross is also the sign of St. George, the patron saint of England. Basically that picture on the shield is a symbol of courage, chivalry, and the political and literary history of England. You don't have to wrestle with all that stuff at once, but it's good to know that it's there.
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.
- Check out how often the speaker reminds us where we are. Here he mentions the field of barley again, and the "remote" island of Shalott.
- It's pretty unlikely that you forgot about these natural details, so we think this has more to do with how Tennyson gives the poem its rhythm.