Once upon a time,
When the world was full of knights and princes
And ladies living in ivory towers,
One such lady’s tower stood all alone
On an island in the river.
Poets and painters knew of this island
Since time immemorial,
Or at least since the first of them told the story
Of the lady in her tower;
And they all rushed to re-tell it in their own way,
Because it was so very sad.
As well as salutary.
But I digress.
Being all alone - servants didn’t count in those days -,
The lady sat at her loom,
Weaving by day and by night.
She wove a wondrous web of many colours,
And while she wove she sang,
But no one heard her – servants not counting, of course.
It so happened
That one of the contractual conditions
On the tower’s lease was
That the lady must not look upon
The beautiful landscape surrounding
The island in the river
When she ran out of subjects for her web
She installed a mirror,
In which were reflected
Shadows of all the world surrounding her,
Rivers and fields and woods, hills and dales,
Highways and byways,
Girls and boys, men and women,
It kept her busy for a long time.
It couldn’t last, idylls never do.
One day a handsome,
Nay, gloriously beautiful knight,
A veritable hunk,
Rode by on the riverbank,
Tirra lirra, he sang.
His song rang over hill and dale,
And reached the lady in her tower.
Overcome by the strains wafting across the river
The lady forgot the rules,
Rushed to the window.
Smitten at first glance, her senses awakened,
Her desire stirred, she leaned over,
Stretching out her arms in eager anticipation.
O, woe, o woe,
She had broken the terms of her lease,
Mirror and idyll shattered into a thousand pieces.
The Mirror cracked from side to side;
"The Curse is come upon me", cried
The Lady of Shallots.
The handsome, nay, gloriously beautiful knight,
Who was, in fact, none other than Sir Chancealot,
Heard the commotion above him.
Just then, as he looked up, the lady,
Having overreached herself,
Came flying out.
Gallantly, he spread his arms wide to catch her.
The Lady breathed at him in ecstasy.
“Mine, all mine”, she cried, kissing him deeply.
Came the reply of Chancealot's:
“I’ll gladly save your life my dear,
But marry you, I won’t, I fear.
There would be no tiny tots,
‘cause I’d never get the hots,
I’d be put off by the odour of shallots",