Stephen Robertson

Slanting Lines

The Lady’s Maid

Under a gray and lowering sky

The fields that by the river lie

Are rough and unkempt.  Buzzards fly

Above the weedy hedgerows, by

      The once-proud towers of Camelot.

Few people walk the brambled way

And fewer still will pause or stay

To gaze down on the ruins gray

      That scar remote Shalott.

In the duck-weed-smothered edges

Skinny rats sniff out the ledges,

While between the stream-floor ridges

Now a bottom-feeder dredges

      Through the silt of Camelot.

But what is this small beaten path

Between two beds of clean-raked earth

Where tender shoots may venture forth

      On weed-o’er-run Shalott?

She who hath this garden laid

—Nurturing the wayward seed,

Planting out this cabbage-bed—

She was once a lady’s maid

      In gracious, towered Camelot.

Then, as winds of fortune blow,

It was arranged that she should go

And take her place in service to

      The Lady of Shalott.

Working all day at her loom,

Her mistress never left the womb

That was the fastness of her room.

Only through the mirror’s gloam

      Dared she look to Camelot.

Not until the fateful day

When, gleaming in his knight’s array

And gaily singing on his way

      Rode bold Sir Lancelot.

Years have passed.  The winter’s chill

Lies fast upon the land so ill.

Seldom now the skylark’s trill;

No longer do the people fill

      The wharfs and ways of Camelot.

Only one remains to shiver

On the island in the river,

Tending her cabbage patch forever,

      The hermit of Shalott.