Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

things around them, but to whom these things appear, not as they are in themselves, but as reflections in a mirror which, while it registers faithfully enough some few outside aspects, hides altogether the living soul by which those aspects are produced and governed. Urged by a necessity of nature, the Lady of Shalott has found a task in the execution of which her mind is occupied and her hours are spent.

There she weaves by night and day

A magic web with colours gay, a web which symbolizes that daily work which is the natural lot of all; not work in the restricted sense of physical labour, but including all the conscious energies of soul and mind and body,—all the strivings of conscience, all the outgoings of affection, all the exercises of intellect, all the trivial tasks, the little conflicts which make the woven web of every life. The things seen in the mirror—things which are but the reflections of the unknown true—form the materials of the web's fantastic design : in other words, her life is in harmony with the conventional, unreal world in which she lives. Her thoughts and feelings, her words and actions, are all outlined and coloured by the influence of the phantasmal panorama which daily passes before her eyes. In this matter she is but a representative of thousands of men and women whose life in the world is an external affair altogether ; who live from the surface, not from the centre of their being; men and women who gaze into each other's eyes and merely mark variations of light and colour, not knowing, nor caring to know, any. thing of the soul behind. It is for these people that what we call conventionalities exist, those laws and customs which neither rise out of, nor are founded on, the inherent nature of things; but on those artificial conditions which must necessarily come into being when the deeper side of life is ignored. But just because these conventional laws are unnatural and arbitrarybecause they have no foundation in the central truth of things—they must needs be enforced by imposing sanctions and vague threats of portentous penalties.

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.

But the Lady of Shalott has something within her which cannot always be satisfied with a mirror world. She is an Undine, with a soul which is not yet hers, but is waiting to be born within her when the moment

Of this coming the poem gives plain forewarnings. We are told how

comes.

sometimes through the mirror blue The knights came riding two and two;

.

and then we have the line

had no loyal knight and true ; which seems as if it might be the inarticulate cry of the unborn soul, put by the poet into articulate form. In the next verse. the indication grows even clearer still.

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.

The two walking under the moon rouse something that has not been roused before; and then, just when she is ready for it, comes the one event of her existence : for Sir Lancelot rides by, and with him ride love, life, and death; the first two together, the last close behind.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed,
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode,
From underneath his helmet flowed
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,
“ Tirrà 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 looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side ;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried

The Lady of Shalott. Yes, the curse is come upon her,—come irrevocably; for the Lady of Shalott is one of those whose aspirations are larger than their capacities; who have yearnings which are too great for them,-yearnings which prompt them to break the chains with which they are bound, only to find that what they thought were fetters were supports as well, without which they fall helplessly, to be trodden to death unpitied and unheeded. There are thousands who are living in what they dimly feel to be a world of reflections not of substances, of appearances not of realities; but ever and anon they feel that this is not all there is of life, and they, like the Lady of Shalott, are half sick of shadows. Still, , the illusions gather round them again as the moment of illumination passes away, until something comes, most probably in the shape of a supreme passion, which 'sweeps the old world's illusions away for ever, and reveals the new world of realities lying all round them. Then is the testing time. Have they courage to meet as foes the conventional phantoms they have spurned as friends ? Have they limbs with which they can stand and work alone? Have they lungs

that can breathe the sharp, new air ? Have they hearts that can sustain the pressure of the larger life? If they have these things,-well : if not, there is nothing for them but the terrible failure of those who enter upon a warfare at their own charges, unarmed and unprepared. Tired of weary walking in a world of shadows they have tried to soar into a world of light ; but their wings have failed them like the wings of Icarus, and, falling headlong, they can even walk no more. They can only die ; and on their grave-stone the world writes its brief, scornful epitaph, ve victis.

To enliven the pages of the Target, which, in spite of the undoubted genius of all our archers, were at times somewhat dull, Pelican produced numberless humorous sketches; but almost all of them had some temporary or local application, and were, moreover, hastily and carelessly written to fill some unexpected vacancy. I never was enthusiastic about them, and their author held them in profound contempt, destroying them ruthlessly whenever he could lay hands upon them. Indeed, Pelican's humour-and I think this is characteristic of the humour of all essentially meditative people—manifested itself rather in his talk than in his writing. It was the foam and spray of his mind, which was only brought into being by the storm of debate or the brisk breeze of social chat. If I may change my figure, I will say that the scintillant spark flashed most frequently

« НазадПродовжити »