People I love

Friday, 13 April 2012

Verse 19 "The Lady of Shalott"..."She has a lovely face"

Now be honest....was this the face you were expecting to see today?The point behind this series of pictures was to break the stereo-typing of heroines in literature, as part of Magaly's "Sexy,Dark and Bloody" challenge over at Pagan Culture

For the last 2 weeks I have been posting portraits inspired by the verses from Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott", and everyone I asked(who had heard of or read the poem) described the Lady as a beautiful young white woman with flowing blonde hair, and probably blue eyes.

Here is the final verse, which contains the ONLY description of the Lady herself...
"Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed 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."

And that's it....."She has a lovely face"....not "beautiful" or "stunning" or "angelic", just lovely. I think my mum has a lovely face, she is 72, short and a little round, but she still has a lovely face!

No where in the poem does it say what colour her skin is..."dead-pale" is an emphasis on the dead bit, not that she had particularly pale skin.

All we actually know about her is that she has a mellow singing voice..."chanted loudly, chanted lowly" made me think of the "Blues"singers my dad used to listen too, which in turn made me think she may have been black. One of my offspring said "that's a bit controversial mum! It's not like there would have been many black people in England in those days." Which is probably not true. Black and Asian merchants would have been around. Why couldn't she be the daughter/sister/widow of some rich merchant? She is weaving a grand tapestry....maybe she was Turkish?

No where in the poem does it say she is young! Her skill at the loom would suggest a talent of more mature years.

And no where does it say she went to Camelot to find Sir Lancelot! or that she loves him! It is the sight of the "two young lovers lately wed" that seems to be the point she decides to risk the curse for a change of scenery.

All in all, I read this literary epic as a "mysterious death" rather than a romance. Unidentified female washes up on the banks of Camelot. The only clue to her identity is the name of the boat "The Lady of Shalott". The rest would appear to be purely speculation by today's standards.
I really love the imagery of this poem, and highly recommend you read it, but read it with your own eyes...not through the eyes of the thousands of other story tellers.

What does the Lady look like in your head?

To me she is a 30 something black woman, experienced in life, who picked the wrong(stormy) night to go out in a boat on the river.

Why not pop over to Pagan Culture, and join Magaly in challenging Stereo-type in literature.

And my utmost gratitude to ALFRED LORD TENNYSON, for writing this stunningly brilliant masterpiece of a poem :D
Blessed Be :D XXX


  1. Ooh, I love this! Both the face and your theory - think you're on to something.
    I've enjoyed exploring this poem with you and love your illustrations.
    Hugs xx

  2. I think the poet who brought Ulysses back to Ithaca would grin at your interpretation. I feel about The Lady looks, the same way I feel about the way people see other icons in myth whose descriptions have been that vague: I think they take the shape our eyes and heart give them.

    I love how you see and relate. She is precious, and so are your words and colors.

  3. Good work, but a bit creeeeeeeeeeeepy! I love the poem, too, we had to learn it by heart at school! Valerie

    1. Hahaha...course it's creepy, it's about a dead woman lol

  4. That beautiful castle. I love the lips of this beautiful lady.

  5. I don't know it by heart, but I know the poem well, and I think you're on to something with your theory about her. I have to say, my first reaction when you said about the part with a description of her appearance was, "what? I don't remember any description of her appearance." I don't ever remember thinking anything other than that she was beautiful. As you pointed out though, there are several forms of beauty. And beautiful could mean anything from a fair young maiden to a dark old woman, and everything in between.

  6. As they say Gina beauty is in the eye of the beholder. All your depictions are beautiful and therefore in their own right they are lovely. As for the poem, depending on our own experiences we will interpret it differently to one another. Its easy to show the physical things in terms of the description but you have taken us deeper than that and I commend you for it. Thank you for a fantastic few days, sharing the poem, the view seen through your eyes and the twist at the end.
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    hugs {brenda} xox

    1. Thank you Brenda, glad you enjoyed it :D

  7. What a brilliant piece of art and an excellent post to give us food for thought. Love what you have done here Gina
    hugs June x

  8. She seems so at peace - something we could all use now and then. I think she is wonderful. Great job!

  9. love your creative thinking ;) and for me she is absolutely beautiful: she has smooth skin, big eyes and lushious lips ♥

  10. Gina, you are so right, about everything! And, you know, I think it's great that the writer, wrote, she has a lovely face. In my eyes, the face you painted is lovely and strong! I love the face! I feel, these days, we put too many labels on things, instead of truly describing someone. Like, they have a great laugh. Fantastic Gina!!!!! A+++

  11. Oh my gosh, Gina! First, your artistic abilities are stunning! Second, you've put SO much heart and soul into not only the sketch but the written interpretation! I love it!

  12. Gina, I LOVE your interpretation, you have turned around a stereotype by looking at something written all those years ago & realising it was tainted by misrepresentation... lovely face, no age, no colour, wonderful post :)

  13. This is amazing! I have read this poem many times but never with "your" eyes. Thank you for encouraging me to see beyond the common art that is connected to it and to delve a bit deeper into the soul. "A lovely face." Ah yes.

  14. Love the background behind the lady.