Painting by J.W. Waterhouse

Painting by J.W. Waterhouse (1849-1917)

Please click on the image above to go to the poem.


The classic poem, 'The Lady of Shalott' by Alfred Lord Tennyson is renowned in English literature. It is a legend retold from ancient Celtic and other European legends. What is the theme of the poem of the Lady of Shalott? Just what is this haunting story all about?

One of the gifts our patriarch Joseph had was that inner guidance that comes by the Holy Spirit. Joseph knew the God of his fathers. He came to comprehend His divine character. With that came wisdom and understanding. He perceived the meaning and purpose of events in the lives and histories of God's people. And so it was in this devotion that Joseph came to perceive the hidden meaning of dreams.

This is not unusual. We see many examples of this throughout the scriptures. The Holy Spirit has not changed. He still does this same work today. It is called "discernment of spirits". This is one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit were laid out for us by the Apostle Paul. (1Cor.12:10)

Much music, art, and literature are dreamscapes. They are passed down through the generations and through the centuries. These stories and legends carry some rich and potent themes. Within this poem of the Lady of Shalott are embedded some very important spiritual messages. Some of these messages are beautiful and true. Others are gnostic cover stories. They have been sent to "cloak" a deeper hidden truth. Many holy themes are woven into profane threads to produce popular myths for the masses. Many of the tales of men are deceptions. They are diversions and obfuscations of the truth. In these stories dark angels are at work. They are trying to express themselves through the artist. By twisting the story around they are offering another message. Oftentimes it is a message of dissinformation. Their mission and their agenda is well known. They are trying to turn human hearts away from the Light.

Stories and legends change with the passage of time. Myths and fables are re-engineered and embellished as they are passed down the generations. All this brings up an important point. A spiritual war is always being waged in the arts. Different spirits are warring with each other. Each one is struggling to capture the storyline, and the send out their message to draw away the souls of men. Many holy truths are often twisted in their passage through time. They are dragged out of the Light and submerged in the subconscious realms of human darkness. These are the gnostic spirits that operate in our culture. They do their work on the beautiful side of evil.

Many literary themes were originally holy eternal truths. They were derived from sacred sources. They had special meaning in past times. When these stories are untangled the real story can often be discerned. They can then be seen for what they really are. Then, and only then, will they find their real interpretation and have meaning for us. Many stories and themes in Holy Scripture and in common literature will have meaning for us again in times to come. The woman we see showcased in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is a classic example. So to is the ever popular literary theme of 'Beauty and the Beast'. These themes can speak to us again in reality and in truth if we can discern the eternal truth in the original pattern. As we shall discover, it is very helpful and instructive for us to discern the theme hidden in this haunting English poem, the Lady of Shalott.

The artists,generally speaking, work in the hidden realms of the subconscious. They do not know who the spirits are that they are actually dealing with as they work in their art. They are transcendentalists. They channel spirits into and out of the realms of the inner mind. They are quite unaware of what they are doing. And they do not really know the spirits that inspire and possess them and work through them. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden we have lost access to our own subconscious mind. But this is the realm of artists. So artists are unable to operate in a rational and reasoned way as we do in the conscious realm. They work in the existential realm. They sense things and feel things subjectively rather than observing and working with concrete realities in an objective way. Even when they deal in these potent and powerful themes artists are often completely unaware of their true origin. Nor do they know the deeper meaning behind the messages they bring out in their words, their art, or their music.

Many popular and recurring literary themes come from holy sources. The Arthurian grail legends are a case in point. All of them are derived from the communion cup of Christ. This was the original meaning. But gnostic spirits see the blood of Christ as their nemesis. The blood of Atonement is their ultimate undoing. So they have changed the story. In the grail legends they have turned the energy of the true communion into a myth and a magic show. Gnostic diversions and "bait and switch" substitutions of holy themes are quite common in literature. All sorts of stories of a profane and perverse nature come in to take over the story. They cloak the truth that was there in the original account. And so they bring in a new story, often a myth, that appeals to the baser instincts of the people.

So when it comes to the spiritual dimension to art the artists are not in the loop. They are just artists. They follow beauty, even if it leads to the beautiful side of evil. They download dream fragments from their subconscious that came into their mind from the spirit realm. But the spirits they work with are usually completely unknown to them. As artists they perceive and deal in the beauty of the story without asking too many questions. But that is all. They do not know the holy eternal truth behind the beauty. Nor are they aware of the true origin of the stories they are working with.

The present age we live in is an evil one. So the intermingling of the holy and the profane are quite common. Beauty is twisted and profaned and so is truth. And then they are torn apart from one another. Because of the fall of man beauty and truth are in a broken state of disconnection. Occasionally an artist will discover the connection. It was Keats who said,

Beauty is truth, truth, beauty.
That is all you know on earth.
And all you need to know.
So is there a valid interpretation of the theme of the Lady of Shalott? What is the message in the poem? Is it merely telling a story of a lost princess in medieval times? Or is it telling an epic story of western civilization that is yet to fully unfold? Many lessons can be derived from this poem. And these can certainly have personal application. But is it more than this? Could the theme of the poem of the Lady of Shalott be a wider prophecy for the English speaking people?

If there is a message in this poem then what is it? Is it a warning to a group mof people as they approach the threshold of an epic history? Is this poem a warning to the English speaking people concerning a great and hidden danger that lies out there in our future?

There are many messages coming at us from the culture in which we live. Much of it is meaningless "noise". But some messages come through the generations loud and clear. There is a message in the story for those who have ears to hear. These messages pass on down through the generations with the people. The messages can be found in their oral traditions, in their written literature and in their music. The dreams and their underlying messages are carried along with the peoples in their migrations through various geographical places and through time. These spiritual lessons are woven into the cultural matrix. They are expressed in many artistic forms. Do these stories have special significance as western Christendom comes to the climax of this age?

The classic themes in this famous poem, the Lady of Shalott, are ancient. They extend back into the mists of time. How far back? Is this poem merely showcasing a medieval theme of a woman as she makes a fatal encounter with chivalry? Is it just another Arthurian legend? Or might the story go back to the Celts. Is it a story they told during their wanderings westward through the forests of Europe and through time? Could the themes within the Lady of Shalott go back even further? Could they be traced even further back to the ancient idolatry, the banishment, and the subsequent wanderings of the lost ten tribes of Israel?

If the Europeans are from ancient Israel then they don't know about it. They would have amnesia. All they would have left would be some half buried memories. Vague and shifting stories of a lost people keep appearing out of a mists of Celtic mythology. What lies beneath all this?

We know that Europeans came to call themselves 'Caucasians'. But what does this mean? Did they come west into Europe in a series of ancient migrations by way of the Caucasus Mountains? They don't know. Neither do their historians or their anthropologists it seems. Their theologians are even more lost. The Holy Scriptures are loaded with information that might give some answers. But they are content to remain willingly ignorant. They do not even study the scriptures for clues as to what might have happened. They could soon find out that the northern ten tribes of Israel were taken captive up into Assyria and never came home. What happened to these people. Are they still lost, like the Lady of Shalott?

It is a sad state of affairs. Many modern Church leaders refuse to look at the Bible as history. Nor do they consider what has been written in Bible prophecy. They have lost contact with the God of Israel. Some of them even think God is dead. They have said as much. They are spiritually lost and in a state of disconnected narcissism. Just like the Lady of Shalott.

And here in the west we have a people who are lost.
They are half asleep, drifting aimlessly along the rivers of life.
They are self absorbed souls, stopping to stare at the narcissus flowers.
They stare at the image of their own face in the waters.
And yet they don't know their real name.
They have amnesia.
Is this not unlike the Lady of Shalott?

This poem emerged in the Victorian era. For over a hundred years it has been taught in school literature classes. It is now well known throughout the English speaking world. This lady is trying to play it safe. She is secure there in her castle. But in her heart and soul she is lost and alone. The days are evil and she is unsatisfied. In this state of insecurity she is especially vulnerable. She weaves her tapestry. And she muses about the one who has gone from her. Will he return? Will he really be coming back for her? And here is the real question.
Can she wait for him? In the poem we see that even in the waiting the Lady of Shalott has lost contact with someone very important. Even the waiting has become conflicted and oppressive. And so she takes shelter in her castle between the rivers.

As we pursue the theme of the Lady of Shalott the poem is painting a picture. A woman, apparently in accordance with her own will, is held in a place of rigid confinement. She lives alone within the walls of a castle of stone. It has been built for her. And that is now where she lives. She lives her live in her lonely reveries, surrounded by cold masonic walls. Around her castle flows the river, on both sides. There she is in her lonely tower, weaving her tapestry and singing a song to herself. She is not really contented there. Deep in her soul she is restless. She wants to get out in the world. Her heart longs for a champion. The tapestries and her dreams will not satisfy her. She longs for a man of flesh and blood.

What sort of trouble is she in? Why is she barricaded away like this?
Where is her Father, her brothers and sisters, and the rest of her Family?
And where is her Betrothed?

In the poem we see her longings. She seems to be estranged from others and isolated from meaningful social contact. And out of this state of disconnection comes her loneliness and her confusion. She wants someone she can reach out and touch. She longs for an earthy worldly protector. Someone of flesh and material substance. Someone who will be her defender. She has become impatient and restless. This is her state of mind when Sir Lancelot passes by.

What is this piece of literature? Is it a condensation of medieval dreams (and nightmares) carried with the European peoples as they have gone through their histories? What has happened to this girl? We get the sense that we have not heard the full story here. Does she know where she came from. What are her family connections? Can she remember?

Someone, whom she once cared deeply for, is out there somewhere. He is the big story in her past. But where is he? Where is the one who is supposed to be her protector and friend?

The Lady of Shalott is a woman of mystery. Who is she? What is her story? And how did she get this way? As the story comes to its tragic ending we see the young lady in a swoon. Even as she leaves her castle and makes her way toward her final lover the curse is upon her. She is seen drifting down the river towards Camelot. Or is it really Babylon? She has abandoned herself to her earthy champion. And as she sings her last mournful song her life is swiftly fading from her.

Haven't we seen this picture before? Is this not the story of the quintessential lost women? And isn't this the story of the lost northern kingdom of Israel? Is this not a retelling of that great Biblical saga of Gomer, the lost wife of the prophet Hosea? And was this not in turn a parable of the covenant people of God in their estranged relationship with the God of Israel Himself?


As we seek the interpretation of the main theme of the Lady of Shalott we soon come to realize that we have seen this woman before. We look at the worldly western church and see just how far she has drifted from her First Love. In the book of Revelation the Saviour brings a warning and exhortation to each of the seven churches in Asia Minor. (Rev. 3) Like the modern ecumenical church and today's post-modern church many of them were in danger of losing contact with the Christ they once knew and loved. In various ways they had become estranged from their true Betrothed. There is a deep romantic and spiritual need within each of us for an intimate relationship with God. So when the church becomes estranged from Christ and they become restless their heart begins to turn. Their eyes turn to gaze upon the flesh and to the sights and sounds of this world. The modern ecumenical and post modern church has done this. She has discounted the Word and Message their Betrothed brings concerning His return. They are willingly ignorant of His Second Coming. And so in forgetting Him and His future return they begin to make other plans for their security. They settle for an earthy human substitute. Their eyes wander and they gaze out the window, looking for man of flesh and blood. They want someone in their here and now. He must take the place of the true Beloved they have lost contact with. Their heart desire has undergone a change. And so the church is now operating on the carnal side of her nature. The ecumenical church begins to long for, even lust after, a god-man, even a politico-religious strongman. They want someone of flesh and blood, just like the kings and princes they are beholden to. They want a champion that they can see! And he will become their lover.

Our Lady muses and slumbers in her cathedral of stone. She dreams of an ultimate worldly sort of savior. Is this the dreaming of that section of the western church who posed the question "Is God dead"?

The Lady of Shalott is a lady in waiting. But where is her heart. And what of the One to whom she is betrothed. Is she preparing herself and her garments for His return? Or has she grown tired of waiting for Him?


Here in this poem we see a woman of destiny.
But where is her first Love?
Will she keep the faith?
Or will she seek after another?

This is where the main theme of the Lady of Shalott becomes prophetic. In a future world crisis, a worldly global covenant maker is prophesied to come onto the scene. (Dan.9:27) Like Zeuss with Europa he will present himself as someone who will deliver for her. He will present himself as a peacemaker, a mega-dealer, and the temporal savior of the world. But will he come in God's name? No he will not. He will come "in his own name"? (John 5:43)

Jesus Himself prophesied that his people would forsake Him. They would turn their back on Him and follow after another man. This coming prince would not come in the Father's name. He will be a self centered humanistic person. He will come in his own name. See John 5:43

This is an exceedingly important storyline. It is, in fact, the basis of the end-time drama. The Bible prophesies a general apostasy. There will be a 'great falling away' from the faith as this age comes to its climax. Through it all the God of Israel will be sifting the nations and calling His people out once again.

A usurper and a false messiah is destined to arise on the world scene. This is the theme of 'beauty and the beast'. The coming peacemaker will try to imitate, outstage, and pre-empt the coming true Messiah. As a global mega-dealer and covenant maker this other prince is out to deceive, seduce, and to waylay the woman of Biblical fame. She is the woman who has been promised to the true Prince of Peace. The true Messiah will return at the end of the story. And what will He find?


Meanwhile, our heroine is locked up in a castle. Who built the castle for her? Apparently it has been provided for her by her worldly lovers. She is locked away in a castle established in the world, even a castle between two rivers. Might this be a veiled reference to the Mesopotamian city of Babylon, a city of which it was said "a river runs through it".

Babylon was that ancient city back in the cradle of civilization. The word "Mesopotamia" means "between the rivers". Is Camelot a literary allusion to that first city of mankind, the city of Babylon? The Northern ten tribes had been taken captive in 722 B.C. and taken to Assyria. They were then scattered into the other nations. The captives of Judah were taken captive to Babylon in 605 B.C. and 586 B.C.. During the time of their captivity they were asked to provide a song. But they were unable to sing the songs of Zion in a strange land. They hung their harps in the willows by the rivers of Babylon. They were cut off from their true home. And they had lost their desire to sing.

Image by 19th century German painter Gustave Dore.
The Lady of Shalott is a woman enclosed. Why is she locked up and estranged from her "significant other"? This is certainly an unnatural state for her. Unless she is lost Israel.

Israel as a people were betrothed to YHVH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Israel. The covenant people of God were born of Sarah, the free woman, Bondage is not her normal state. So why did Israel, both houses, go into captivity? Is lost Israel an epic legend told in days of old? And is her story pictured in the constellations of the stars? Andromeda was seen by the ancient patriarchs, even in the centuries before the flood. And so was the Lesser Sheepfold. These became part of the oral traditions handed down before the Torah was written. So who is this Andromeda, this chained woman of starry legend? And who made her a prisoner before the sea of nations, even before a beast that comes out of the sea?

These themes of a woman held captive and awaiting deliverance are ubiquitous. They are very common throughout the world. These stories keep recurring down through time. We even see the same theme of a damsel in distress in modern movies such as Star Wars and Titanic.

We return to the theme the Lady of Shalott. There she is, enclosed in all this imposing and constricting structure. It is a lonely place. But it is almost as if she has barricaded herself there. Is this her final home? These cold damp walls of masonry. Does she really want to remain in this place forever? Is this where her trust really lies?

This is a woman who longs for true freedom. But it is a freedom that can only exist within the bonds of love. But where is her true lover? And where is the Spirit and the Life that once coursed within her breast? Surely the tapestries woven from her human reveries are just shadows of the real Person of her dreams. What about the cold earthly masonry and all the imposing architectural form that surrounds her? Will this be always sufficient to inspire her? Is this castle of men her final choice? Will this be her eternal dwelling place? Is she to be buried here like Egyptian royalty? Buried in tombs of stone? Is this the only destiny she has available to her? Or has she been promised something better, even a place of her own in mansions in glory? (John 14:2)

As we search out the theme of the Lady of Shalott we sense that here is a person and a heart who was born free. Her subsequent actions demonstrate this. What will she do? Will she leave her place of earthly security? And if she does, where will she go, and to whom? Will she pass up along a Highway towards the Holy City, a city of living stones not made with hands? (1Pet.2:5) Or will she seek out an earthly champion? Will she find her boat by the river and drift down to Camelot/Babylon?

The lady of Shalott is in a bind. She is in a quandary. It is a love triangle. And yes, it involves "choice". What will she do? Two princes are calling to her heart. Which one will she choose? Will her "choice" be the coming "Prince of Peace". Or will she choose the ultimate prince of this world? If she chooses the latter then what will become of her? Does the poem tell us? Perhaps it does.

In the poem we see the Lady of Shalott at the threshold. She is a lady in waiting. And she is waiting for Someone it seems. Is she waiting expectantly for the return of her Betrothed? Or is she growing tired of waiting? Are her eyes now wandering towards someone else?

It seems that the Lady of Shalott has become bored. She is impatient in her waiting. "I'm half sick of shadows." she says. And then we see her casting her eye on another prince. Sir Lancelot is passing by. What is happening here? And why has she lost interest with the One to whom she was betrothed? Why has she forgotten her life in former times?

These sorts of stories are woven all through our culture. The themes and legends in medieval Arthurian romances vary from the usual love triangles to the narcissism of the "gay" goddess spirit Gaia. Theater and movies showcase the tortured earthy affairs of hedonism in all its depravity. Is the Lady of Shalott another variation of the archtypical story of Beauty and the Beast?

Like Gomer, the unfaithful wife of Hosea, the Lady of Shalott has wandered off. She is far away from home in a far off land. She is out there with her lovers. Has she lost contact with, even forgotten, her true Husband? Will her desires for perverse carnal thrills turn out to be her ultimate nightmare? This is the story. And this is the prophecy of one of the two women we see in the Book of Revelation. One of them takes the high road. She becomes the woman of glory and destiny we see in Revelation 12. The other woman is the harlot of Revelation 17 and 18.

The "woman" of Holy Scripture, is Israel, the covenant people of God from both houses. The Church is in the loop here. She is indeed approaching an epic and climactic crisis. It will be crisis of choice. She must choose her prince. And this is the drama of the end time. The wrong choice will lead to her undoing. If she allows herself to be seduced by this worldly prince then the story will turn nasty, even tragic. He will not be lauding her beauty forever. The earthy prince she has chosen will be revealed in the end. And he will turn out to be a beast.

The Apostle John saw the woman of destiny as she was being threatened by the Dragon. This prophecy is given in Revelation 12. When she is delivered of the man-child the woman of glory is carried away on the wings of a great eagle. She is taken to a place of safety where she can be nurtured for three and a half years, the exact time of the prophesied 'Great Tribulation'.

In Revelation 17 John saw a different woman. He saw a woman who had become a harlot. He saw her ride a beast with ten horns. Then he saw the harlot come to her dreadful end. The prince she has chosen will ultimately bring her to her death. He will turn on her. The end-time Beast will rise up. And he will destroy her. (Rev.17:16)

Could the story we see here in this poem have had a different, happier ending? The prophet Hosea offers one to us. Gomer, the wayward wife of Israel's prophet Hosea finally came out of her hedge of thorns. She finally rediscovers her Beloved once again. Oh yes, she is in deep trouble and tribulation. She ends up in a slave market being offered up for sale. And as we read the story in Hosea 2 a drama of great wonder unfolds. The Husband she left behind turns up. He is the one who purchases her. And He redeems her with silver.

We see a similar story in the Song of Solomon. The Shulamite has a dream, actually a nightmare. She has washed and is comfortable in her bed. Her Beloved comes and knocks at the door. He calls to her but she is comfortable and not inclined to respond. Her heart is moved and eventually she does arise. But she finds that her beloved has gone. She seeks him but cannot find him. She is found by the watchmen of the city who strike her and wound her. They take her veil and her mantle from her. Through all of this tribulation she testifies that she is sick with love. (Song of Songs 5:2-8)

Who shall wear the starry crown?
Click on the image to go to
'the rest of the story'.

Art used by permission of
Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
Visit her 'Revelation Illustrated' website.

Here we see the woman of wonder is also a woman in travail.
She testifies of her love with this profession,

"Set me like a seal over your heart,
As a seal upon your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
And jealousy is as cruel as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,
A most vehement flame,
The very fire of the Lord"

-Song of Songs 8:6

Finally, at the end of Solomon's Song those watching are amazed and ask,

"Who is this who comes up out of the wilderness,
leaning upon her Beloved?"
-Song of Solomon 8:5
Will the woman discover love, even the divine romance? Will she discover her Beloved in the Valley of Achor, the Valley of trouble and tribulation? (Hos.2:14-17)

If this is the drama, the adventure and the romance ahead for the church then the dream with its spiritual story all revolves around one critical question. Just who will this woman end up loving? Who will be her "prince" as the end-time drama comes to its climax?

With all this in mind, here is the poem, the 'Lady of Shalott'. It offers us a picture of a dark outcome to the story. The woman in question comes to a sad and tragic ending. Like the wayward heroine in the recent movie "Titanic" she has her fling with her prince. Then at the end she is seen singing her last mournful song as she is surrounded by the waters of death.

Is this poem a warning? Is there a lesson for us here? We are the people of Christendom. We have come through many epic histories to arrive at where we now stand. This poem is the literature of our culture is it not? It is the dreaming, the secret fears and desires, if you will, of the people of Christendom?

These themes are endemic in our culture. They must reflect the subconscious yearnings of European people. Our literature is driven by some holy prophetic themes to be sure. But a quick scan through the local video store will quickly reveal that it is also driven by a host of profane and perverse Gnostic fantasies. Why do we have a host of videos in the 'horror' section? Why is there no 'glory' section? Do our literary dreams have something to tell us about ourselves? Do they reveal the nature of our heart? Are they reflect our disposition to the destinies which are laid out for us up ahead?

From Bible prophecy we know that there is big fork in the road up ahead. Two roads lie before us. Which of these two roads shall we choose?
And who will be our prince?

Here in this poem we are seeing just one part of a love triangle. It is a story of a woman. As the saga unfolds she is enticed by one of two princes. The Lady of Shalott responds to the dark prince. And there are consequences. She dies.

The other Prince, the One to whom she is betrothed, is no longer in the picture. He is lost to her view. She sees Him dimly as though a glass mirror. But He is just a memory she weaves into her tapestries. And in that wicked woven work the original and genuine One is twisted amongst the other threads. And so he is lost.

There is a true and genuine Prince in this story. But he is strangely absent. Just who is He? And where is He? What has happened to her love for him? Why is she separated from Him? And why is she locked up in a knight's castle between the rivers? Who put her there by the Rivers of Babylon/Camelot?
We are not told.

Her true Prince is forgotten.
But let's not worry. Look! Here comes a knight in shining armor!
He is a man who takes dominion, a prince of solid flesh, fully armed, with shield and sword.
Will she become his woman, a woman of worldly dominion?

As Sir Lancelot rides by her window she is intrigued. Then she finds herself captivated and entranced by him. Her moment of "choice" has come. Oh yes, she is 'pro-choice'. She is deceived, but she has full insight into what she is doing. She has been told that to go with this prince will mean the death of her soul. See John 5:43. What will she do?

This the adventure and the drama, the triumph and the tragedy of the end-time. This is the choice presented to all, as holy history comes to its appointed climax. The Bible, with the interlinking story of the Woman of Revelation Chapter 12, tells us the "rest of the story". This story is from a holy source. Oh yes, there will be great tribulation. But this story has a wonderful ending. The woman of destiny finds her true love at the end. And who shall wear the starry crown?

That will be revealed at the end of the story.
And at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Please click on the image above or the textlink following to go to the poem 'The Lady of Shalott'.

Grace and shalom to all who love the appearing of Messiah.