The Lady of Shalott
For, dear brothers, you have been given freedom: not freedom to do wrong, but freedom to love and serve each other.
Galatians 5:13 (TLB)
We were introduced to poetry in one or two of our English classes when I was at school. One of the poems I remember was The Lady of Shalott. It’s a well-known and much loved poem by Tennyson, based on an Arthurian legend. It’s a ballad about a woman who lives in isolation on an island near Camelot and who spends her days singing and weaving pictures on her loom. The problem is she can only see the world outside through a mirror. She’s under a mysterious and unexplained curse and cannot look directly at it. She watches the busy road outside through this mirror.
Then one day Sir Lancelot rides by, splendidly handsome and beautifully dressed, on a magnificent horse. At that point she’s had enough. She is ‘half sick of shadows’. She leaves her loom and goes to look out. The curse hits her immediately, her weaving floats away and the mirror cracks from side to side. She gets in a boat and floats down to Camelot, and dies.
Tennyson’s poem has great rhythmic beauty, but it’s an odd story. People have seen different analogies and meaning in the fable. However it did strike me that we may have felt a bit ‘Lady of Shalott-ish’. Like her, during lockdown we’ve had to sing to ourselves. We’ve had Zoom instead of the mirror through which she had to see the world. And like her, we may have got a bit tired of seeing each other in pictures. And we’ve probably had enough of being cooped up for so long.
Now our restrictions are being gradually lifted and for that, much thanks. However whilst emerging from lockdown may not be as dangerous as it was for the Lady of Shalott, and whilst some may take advantage of it, for everyone’s sake, let us remember our responsibilities to each other.
Our Father, though we are one, united in Christ, we’ve been isolated from one another. We give you thanks that through technology we have been able to stay in touch, but great thanks too that we are now starting to be able to see each other face to face. May we remember, in our joy to see each other, to take care, out of love for each other. Amen
Study by Hilary Buck
About the writer:
Hilary Buck is a Minister and pastors the Lewes congregation of Grace Communion International.
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