In honour of National poetry day…

Ok, so I know that this post is a day late (national poetry day was yesterday) but hey, better late than never..

I think it’s pretty cool that people in government deemed poetry important enough to get a national day, so before I share my favourite one of my favourite poems, a little background info on national poetry day. It’s a pretty recent creation, it was only created in 1994, under John Major’s government. Interestingly, Major studied both English language and lit for his O levels, so it’s cool that he enjoyed English enough to make a national poetry day.

“On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.” -The Lady of Shalott

I enjoy reading many different types of poems, currently my favourite style of poetry has to be the classical older poems by writers such as Tennyson and Keats. Thus, it should come as no surprise that one of my all time favourite poems is The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson. I remember searching musty second hand book stores for  hours in Hay on Wye just to find a Tennyson anthology containing that poem. It’s just something about the language and the rhyming couplets that’s so beautiful, the words resonate with me in a way I’m yet to find with many other poems. Some people I’ve spoken to claim the rhyming couplets are far too ‘cliche’, but for me they evoke such beauty, rolling off the tongue, trapping you in the poem to make you read until the tragic end. The rhyme traps you in the poem like the Lady of Shalott is bound to her fate. I feel that the juxtaposition between the elegance of the language and the Lady of Shalott’s fate, makes the ending so depressing.

“She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.”

The structured verses emphasise how trapped by the ‘curse’ she is; taken as a metaphor her imprisonment applies to our society today. Being trapped by social convention and unable to break free for fear of what might occur as a result. In a way, the final stanza is the saddest, as until she died no-one knew she even existed, and even in death the people shun her. Thus, the Lady of Shalott’s true curse is loneliness.

“Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace.
The Lady of Shalott.”

I love poetry and this is just one example of why. There are so many different styles out there, what are some of your favourites?

image credits


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