Before the Mirror

Print

Before the Mirror

from: Poems (Pp. 53 - 55)  1895

NOW like the Lady of Shalott,
      I dwell within an empty room,
And through the day and through the night
      I sit before an ancient loom.

And like the Lady of Shalott
      I look into a mirror wide,
Where shadows come, and shadows go,
      And ply my shuttle as they glide.

Not as she wove the yellow wool,
      Ulysses' wife, Penelope;
By day a queen among her maids,
      But in the night a woman, she,

Who, creeping from her lonely couch,
      Unraveled all the slender woof
Or, with a torch, she climbed the towers,
      To fire the fagots on the roof!

But weaving with a steady hand
      The shadows, whether false or true
I put aside a doubt which asks
      "Among these phantoms what are you?"

For not with altar, tomb, or urn,
      Or long-haired Greek with hollow shield,
Or dark-prowed ship with banks of oars,
      Or banquet in the tented field;

Or Norman knight in armor clad,
      Waiting a foe where four roads meet
Or hawk and hound in bosky dell,
      Where dame and page in secret greet;

Or rose and lily, bud and flower,
      My web is broidered. Nothing bright
Is woven here: the shadows grow
      Still darker in the mirror's light!

And as my web grows darker too,
      Accursed seems this empty room;
For still I must forever weave
      These phantoms by this ancient loom.