copyright Charlie Holt

The Resurrection of the Lady of Shalott, and What She Did Next

in Authors & Books/Esotericism/Magick/Revelation/Spotlight

When I was younger I was stressed. Emotionally. Horrifically.

I would get colds at the drop of the hat, brought on by arguments, by the unfairness of the world, by the daily insults to my idealism. I was passionate.

I think colds were my body’s way of telling me to shut my mind down for a bit. I had to step back from the ideas of responsibility that were giving me so much pain. Yugh. Gross solution body, thanks for sputum, green and dark and sometimes yellow, piles of tissues round my coughing jerky face. Colds are not so much virus as they are response to the virus. If so, my immune system is too active. Like an allergy.

But away from this disgusting image of my teenage years. If only my mind could bring my body to a beautiful death. I could lie, like the Lady of Shalott and drift off into narcotic bliss.

I have lost friends who did just that. Who went a bit too far with their use of chemical inhibitors. Friends who went too far in applying the salve of those softeners, calmers, those powder palliatives to their aching heart.

Hide those helpers, conceal them, be careful. Damping your neuraltransmitters is all very well to say this, but it’s very addictive. But what do I know? What do old people know. There’s a survey and a website somewhere to point out that patronising does more harm than good. We don’t have reverse psychology for no reason.

Pain is part of being young. The Goths and the Heavy Metal tribes, the Emo nerds know it. I hated their fashion but I knew the pain. You can be in pain on a sunny day too, I wanted to tell them. Wearing a rainbow dress, with flowers slung about your neck, you can be in torment in the sun, lying in a meadow staring up at the cloud-animals skittling across a blue, true sky.

But the news I bring from the other side of the divide is wait. Because, for some of us, getting older brings a kind of peacefulness that just wasn’t there to hand in my youth. That’s why I say, old age is better than narcotics, maybe.

I don’t need surveys and number-crunching websites and psychiatric reports buffed up as popular science to patronise to know that older people can seem more chill about things that drive younger people crazy. Have they become early zombies? Are they the walking dead, no longer plagued by the troubles that hurt young hearts.

Worthlessness, guilt, thoughts of suicide it can happen at any time. The menopause. Middle-aged men. The abandoned elderly. We live with it. But as I write this I’m thinking about any peacefulness I’ve found getting older. Have I acquired acceptance of my own limitations? Well, a bit. A bit better than before. The lack of confusions as age naturally reduces my options. The realisation that I had just better get on with it and that success won’t come to me and that success is a spectre that has no business on my doorstep. A hollow shadow in a top hat toothlessly shaking a pearl necklace.

The common-sense values of my folks echo in my ears these days. Just get on with it. Stop talking and do it. Least said, soonest mended. It all seems so obvious, not like in the days when they just didn’t understand me.

When the young Lady, eager for the world, saw that gorgeous guy Sir Lancelot pass by, she knew nothing else would do but to leave the web, the loom, pace through the room and crack the mirror, like a witch casting a spell on herself. The curse has come upon me, she cried, and oh, doesn’t that sound like her period coming. As my French friend Anne-Marie taught me to say, Les Anglais arrivent. The bloodbath is upon us.

She cried because she could not cope with being tied up in the tower and she had to break free. She had to leave. Ah, if only she had waited and just sat there sewing. The urge would have past, she could have looked at the mirror (her TV screen) and remembered-imagined that beautiful man riding past on his horse. She could have been content with the mirror’s magic sights. But we know that’s no good for the young. They have to feel their own pain, even if it means throwing themselves out of the tower. She knows what she is doing is suicide. That she is going to begin chanting her own deathsong, with the dying swans’ wild warblings.

Lancelot is oblivious, he is merely the subject of the female gaze of longing. Ridiculously and foolishly and beautifully he sings, ‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra’ which probably was as silly in mediaeval times as it sounds now, the big buffoon.

I’m writing myself into a Stevie Smith imaginative space now, she who reappropriated the myths of Camelot for her modern life. They feed a young woman’s fantasies, even generations after Malory, after Spenser, after Tennyson. Ah, the peace of beauty and the pain of living in the same story. A fixed tableau of loveliness. That’s perfect poetry.

But only if she’d lived on and not taken a trip in the boat of death. What may life bring, naturally? A dullness. But is dullness so bad, is it not feathery and beautiful like the pillows on which I imagine the self-killing lady-girl lays herself as she gets into a boat she finds and writes her name on before pushing herself off down the river. Is it not the softness of clouds?




Loving yourself as you drift down the river.

Or, sit in your tower and knit, or whatever Arthurian mystical heroines do, and watch your magic mirror.

It’s comfort, get yourself comfortable for the rollercoaster of life. Just when you start to enjoy it, someone will say, and that’s Shalott. Then you’ll be sorry you aren’t about to see what else may have happened. For that is the best TV of all. Life.

I’m watching it now, in my head, and frankly, Lancelot looks a bit of a twit.

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