When I saw this photo, I immediately recalled the scene in Anne of Green Gables when Anne convinces her friends to act out Lady of Shalott by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Anne was Lady Shalott of course, commanding her friends to send her off down the river in a rowboat, all the while playing dead and reciting the poem aloud. She eventually floats much farther and faster than expected, there is a hole in the boat, and her friend Diana despairs of losing her forever.

Oh, the drama!

As you might imagine, I LOVED Anne with an “e”–this is how she insisted her name be spelled–and her captivating life story set in the beautiful locale of Prince Edward Island.

Anne, who was meant to be a boy. Anne, who referred to the local lake as the “Lake of Shining Waters.” Anne, who accidentally gave her best friend raspberry cordial instead of juice (rendering her drunk in short order and forbidden from seeing Anne for a long time.) Anne, the orphan girl with bright red hair and a short fuse who caused scandal after scandal, yet won the hearts of everyone in Avonlea, especially those of her adoptive parents and of one splendid boy. Anne, who loved reciting poetry (the more dramatic, the better.)

If you have a daughter or niece or granddaughter or goddaughter, you will not regret sharing this delightful story with her. A wonderful experience is awaiting if you read the books aloud together–it’s a trilogy written by Lucy Maud Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island–and watch the delightful TV series afterward. Megan Follows is perfectly cast as Anne and the series actually does the books justice. You will not be disappointed, and you don’t even need a child to give you an excuse to enjoy this story.

My grandmother Sylvia, my mother Jeanne, my sister Amy and I all enjoyed watching this series over and over (mom owns the movies.) It was especially fun to watch Grandma get all nervous at the same crisis points in the plot, no matter how many times she had seen the films. We also read the books, of course. And I need to do so again. They are classics in Canada and I began reading them when very young.

Anne’s very dramatic way of expressing herself was entirely relevant for my young girl self, living in small town Canada. Can’t you see me solemnly reading these lines and committing them to memory, nodding knowingly at the pages as if I had found my kindred spirit, or as Anne says, “a bosom friend?”

My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. That’s a sentence I read once and I say it over to comfort myself in these times that try the soul.

Mrs. Hammond told me that God made my hair red on purpose and I’ve never cared for Him since.

And people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?
You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair. People who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is.

Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.

Thanks, Lucy Maud, for giving me Anne. I don’t know what I would have done without her. Now, back to the very dramatic (and very long!) Lady of Shalott.

The Lady of Shalott
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs 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
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray 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
Lady of Shalott.”

Part II

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 thro’ 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 thro’ 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 thro’ 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.

Part III

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 armour 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, trailing light,
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 flash’d into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ 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.

Part IV

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 round 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 darken’d 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 round 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 cross’d 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.