Shalott

(Lady of). A poem by Tennyson, the tale of which is similar to that of Elaine the “fair maid of Astolat” (q.v.). Part I. describes the island of Shalott, and tells us that the lady passed her life so secluded there that only the farm-labourers knew her. Part II. tells us that the lady passed her time in weaving a magic web, and that a curse would light on her if she looked down the river towards Camelot. Part III. describes how Sir Lancelot, in all his bravery, rode to Camelot, and the lady looked at him as he rode along. Part IV. says that the lady entered a boat, having first written her name on the prow, and floated down the river to Camelot, but died on the way. When the boat reached Camelot, Sir Lancelot, with all the inmates of the palace, came to look at it. They read the name on the prow, and Sir Lancelot exclaimed, “She has a lovely face, and may God have mercy on the lady of Shalott!”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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