Descriptive Language and The Lady of Shallot

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Descriptive Language and The Lady of Shallot

In any piece of lyrical poetry, authors must masterfully use the language of the poem to covey the intended meaning. In order to ensure the meaning is not lost, it is imperative that the author incorporates various aspects of the narrative to escalate the poem past its face value. Alfred Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shallot” is no exception to the rule. From lines like “blue unclouded weather” and “the gemmy bridle glitter’d free”, one can draw that descriptive language is Tennyson’s tool to revealing the underlying meaning (Griffith 334). In each of the four parts of “The Lady of Shallot”, Tennyson uses descriptive language to convey his intended meaning to the audience.

Tennyson uses Part I to show the setting of the poem, and introduces the Lady of Shallot to the audience. Part I starts off with a description of “Long fields of barley and…rye that clothe the wold (hilly, open country)” (Griffith 332). From this line in the opening stanza, the reader already gets a sense of where the poem takes place, a gently rolling countryside of utmost beauty. In the second stanza, lines like “Willows whiten, aspens quiver, little breezes dusk and shiver” further our mental picture of the setting (Griffith 332). Later in the stanza, we learn of “four gray walls, and four gray towers” and that “the silent isle imbowers the Lady of Shallot” (Griffith 332).

Tennyson’s description in the last couple of lines of this stanza introduces the Lady of Shallot and gives a feeling of her isolation (which is quite important toward the poem’s meaning, and will be built on later in the piece). The final stanza in Part I tells how early morning workers “hear a song that echoes cheerly ...

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...tiful and powerful. As soon as the Lady of Shallot decides to leave the tower, she knows her fate. And after she dies, the people of Camelot finally learn of the “fairy Lady of Shallot” (Griffith 332).

Tennyson’s descriptive language in “The Lady of Shallot” is beautiful, and drastically enhances the meaning of the poem. The description of everything in the outside world is so vivid that it brings the Lady of Shallot to loose everything she has ever known. She is willing to give up her life to experience the brilliant things seen in her mirror…even if it is only for a few moments. Without Tennyson’s eloquent descriptiveness, “The Lady of Shallot” is much more than mere words.


Work Cited

Griffith, Kelley. “The Lady of Shallot” Narrative Fiction. Ed. Ted Buchholz. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers. 1994. 332-336.
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