In The Lady of Shalott, the poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson encapsulates a story of a woman and her ill-awaited fate. The thirteenth stanza reads almost like a nursery rhyme and is what I deem the climax of the story.
“She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro’ the room
She saw the water-flower 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”
Many interesting gems are hidden in this stanza. First, the usage of anaphora and the repetition and emphasis of “she”, not only brings attention to the end of the sentence, like what poems usually do, but it also brings attention to the beginning of the sentence. This creates a theatrical and powerful effect and sets the tone and tension for how the next stanzas would read.
An example of a similar poem is “Humpty Dumpty” written by Samuel Arnold
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.”
Humpty Dumpty now is known as a children’s nursery rhyme, but it is only because of its addictive repetition that it can be so. The use of anaphora can create a subconscious rhythm that gives it a childish and youthful flow to the poem and a similar effect is shown in the 13th stanza.
This stanza is also the first time the word “me” is mentioned as the Lady of Shalott is speaking for the first time. Right before she does so, “the mirror crack’d from side to side”. There is nothing good about this line. Whether it is an egg or a mirror, something breaking or cracking is significant at any given moment. The poem could end right after this stanza, and it could be easy for anyone to predict what would happen to the Lady of Shalott.
The way this stanza was structured and written is significant because it shows the kind of person the Lady of Shalott is, childish and ignorant. It is said that Humpty Dumpty was rumored to be an egg because no sane person would be stupid enough to fall off a wall that would send you to death. In the same way, the crack of the mirror signifies not only her death but the ignorant actions that brought her to her own death that no one would be able to save, not even eighty men.