Bound & Chained, Yet Somehow Free

The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt inspired the following poem, written in response to my poetry group’s December prompt: “Write a poem about a picture or photo that speaks to you.” I fell in love with Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott when I first saw it at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT, where it is on permanent display. During a little pre-writing research I learned that this painting was inspired by Tennyson’s ballad of the same name.

It was the colors
And the hair
The wildness
That made me stare

The way the canvas
Still, but moves
Lady bound
In chaos loosed

How flaming shadows
Crown her head
While feet dance
In light instead

I’ll write a poem
Then, I thought,
Remembering
Her of Shalott

But as Hunt creates
A window
To a room
Inside a window

Where a mirror cursed
With magic
Reflects that
Window tragic

So my words devise
A poem
Of a picture
Of a poem

Enduring art, a
Clumsy rhyme,
Both by Tennyson
Inspired

Until today, I
Knew her not
The Lord’s Lady
of Shalott

Now, knowing what I
Know of both
I still like
The painting most

To gaze upon her
Fiery hair
Tangle in
Her web-like lair

To let his pallete
Color me
Bound and chained
Yet somehow free

©️ Nichole Q Perreault

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