Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Yesterday I did my second lecture of my short tour of Wirral Libraries. This was at Hoylake. Many of you may recognise the name as this was the place that the Open Golf Championship of 2006 took place. With a slightly smaller audience I presented my talk on the background to CTF.

The question and answer session at the end was, as usual, very stimulating with me learning as much as the audience. I always find it so heartening how people swiftly take on board the concept of CTF and become as enthusiastic as me about it. What was particularly interesting this time was that one member of the audience was, I recall, a lecturer in English literature. In the presentation I discuss in very general terms the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson and how his writing acts as a clue to his temporal lobe epilepsy - particularly his preoccupation with deja vu. Now although I know the poem from a wonderful sung version by the Canadian singer Loreena McKennett, I had made now particular links between Tennyson's poem The Lady of Shalott and CTF. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that the central theme of the poem is that the 'Lady' perceives the world through a mirror and when the mirror cracks she knows she has to die. I was then myself recalled of the philosophical concept of Plato's Cave. Could it be that Tennyson was tring to explain in poetic form the illusion-like nature of perception? As a TLE person he would have been all too aware of such an idea as his every-day experience presented such a possibility to him. Another member of the audience then mentioned David Bohm and his theories with regard to the holographic (and therefore reflective) nature of 'reality'. All fascinating stuff.

As a synchronicity you may be interested to to know that the painting above is called The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse. This can be seen at The Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight. This is no more than a ten minute walk from where I am typing these words.

And this is how Tennyson poetically describes The Bohmian IMAX:

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.


SM Kovalinsky said...

This stanza is indeed beautiful as an expression of the phenomenom you have called the Bohmian IMAX - thank you for posting it.

Anthony Peake said...

A similar poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti describes both deja vu and The Eternal Return. It is entitled 'First Light':

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before,
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow's soar
Your neck turn'd so,
Some veil did fall, I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

If nothing else for me this is a simply wonderful love poem.

SM Kovalinsky said...

What a beautiful poem, and how stunning the parallels to eternal recurrence and deja vu as set forth in ITLAD. As I said in my prior comment to you (under Jung above) I felt strongly when first coming upon your work that I was in the presence of someone who resonated strongly in spirit and intuition with a whole range of wrting and research. How much this is bearing out never ceases to stun and amaze me. . .

Lisa Museums said...

Gald you enjoyed the Lady Lever Art Gallery - if any readers want to find out more abuot the gallery, you can visit our website:National Museums Liverpool

Anthony Peake said...


Good to hear from you. As you know I am very keen on synchronicity. On the 29th I took my lunch break at the Tea Rooms in the Gallery - I was meeting up with somebody on book business. Wonderful environment and I agree totally with your suggestion. If any members of this blog are on the Wirral let me know and I will give them a guided tour of the Gallery!!!