Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The meaning of art...

Do you remember moments when something of intense beauty touched you very deeply? Do you find it travels with your very person and does not let you go? That is to me what great art is all about whether a painting or a poem. As a girl, I remember watching Anne of Green Gables and hearing Anne recite the famous Tennyson poem The Lady of Shalott. Years later, 18 years ago to be exact, I was visiting my neighbor for tea one afternoon and she told me I had to listen to a CD her husband just bought her as she was sure it was something for me. There is was! The poem set to the most beautiful music. It was a song by Loreena McKennitt which is now playing on my songlist. I have loved Loreena McKennitt's music ever since.


Around this same time, I had started to discover the Pre-Raphaelite movement. I love all things William Morris and found there were so many more like him in his philosophy. It was then that I first saw the Waterhouse paintings of The Lady of Shalott. He painted three over a number of years. Each is moving in its own right. Yesterday at the Groningen Museum, I finally got to see two of these huge canvases up close. To say they took my breath away would be an understatement! I was walking in one room and saw the third and last of his paintings of this subject from a distance. I stopped and left the room I was in drawn to that painting. You have never really seen it until you see the actual painting. It is amazing! It is so real that you can see, smell and feel all in this great work. I noticed things about the painting I had never seen before. I felt as though I could reach out and touch the water and it would move with my fingers. It was so real. I wanted to reach out and keep the third candle protected from going out so the Lady would live longer and see her Lancelot. I wanted to shed a tear for her and yet rejoice with her in the curse that now no longer had hold of as she left the tower and entered the boat which was to become her deathbed.

Enjoy the three paintings this master Waterhouse created while listening to the moving music or reading the poem by Tennyson. Enjoy and escape for a little while to Camelot...


On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road run 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
Through 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.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
The Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.


She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through 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.


In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

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."


12 comments:

Tam said...

Oh Heidi this is beautiful, I am so glad you shared and so glad you were able to see and experience these beautiful paintings at the museum.

Nancy said...

I love the weaving in the first picture. How beautiful. They are all three wonderful, I can see why you love them. You need to buy prints so you can have them in your sewing room.
Glad you and Enny had a good day out.
Love you, Mom

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

Lovely... I've never read it before. But listen to it sung by Loreena McKennitt, I can not... Her voice is simply heartbreaking for me. :-)

You saw the third painting. But did you see the first {red} or the second {white} one also?

And they're huge... How interesting because one doesn't know, the actual size of a painting, until seeing it.

What a wonderful, wonderful day! As another lady said, thank you for sharing.

Aunt Amelia

Mary said...

Oh Heidi - first so glad you can now get out and about - and second what a wonderful experience to see those Waterhouse paintings up close. I love them too - all the pre-Raphaelite artists created beautiful work and I think we romantics just love them all.

I've been unable to get much done on the computer since late last week - so many problems before we took it to a tech guy - and even more since we brought it home again!! So frustrating.

Anyway dear, glad Spring is finally making an effort to visit you - your flowers look lovely. I know your little table and chair will look geat with a new coat of paint. Love the little heart bench too.

I'm now starting my Spring cleaning - today I had my carpets cleaned - what a job that is having to move so much stuff around in a small house! Luckily it was sunny and dry so much of it went out on the porch and deck!

Hope your throat pain is better and that you will now get back to living knowing that you have a great chance of a complete cure. I'm fine and am just trying not to worry about my throat problem too!!

Enjoy the sunshine - thinking of you with love.
Mary.

P.S. Bet Jos and Dagi are happy now they can cuddle with you again!!

Carolien said...

Hi Heidi,

Congratulations on your mother's birthday! She was a darling little girl and she still is, isn't it?!

We love the music of Loreena McKennitt too. I heard it first on the table of my fysiotherapist. She cave me a copy (ahum) the next time I had an appointment and we're hooked since then!

Have a nice day! Hugs, Carolien

Elizabethd said...

My mother used to read me The lady of Shalott when I was a litle girl. I have always loved the poem.

Andylynne said...

I am so grateful for a wonderful break in my day. I have all of these paintings on my computer along with all of Lorerna McKennitt albums. I can slip away to Camelot, or the house with green gables. Or even to the library where I first read poetry. It is enough that I can enjoy these things. Thank you again.

Tone said...

Hi Heidi!!
How are you!!!
BIRK, our puppy ate the wire to our compputer - and we had to wait a week to get a new one ordred!! - makes me nuts!!
But Ill blog tomorrow - just passing by to wish you a good nights sleep!
Tone

Joanne said...

Heidi ~ I loved this post. Jacquelyn is a huge fan of everything you mentioned, and we attended a traveling exhibit of many of the Pre-Raphaelites at our art gallery here in San Antonio two years ago. The paintings were absolutely beautiful and I fell in love with the colors used in them... the greens, blues and reds were just gorgeous. She even did her senior thesis in college on Christina Rosetti and her brother Dante, one of the founders of the pre-Raphaelite movement. Hope you're feeling better now that your treatment is over, and I'm still praying for you :)
Hugs, Joanne

SimplyStitchingintheGarden said...

Hi Heidi, glad you were able to go to the museum with your friend.

The music, pictures and poem are lovely - thank you for sharing.

Roberta

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