Elizabeth Stoddard



Before The Mirror

by Elizabeth Stoddard

Now like the Lady of Shalott,
I dwell within an empty room,
And through the day and through the night
I sit before an ancient loom.

And like the Lady of Shalott
I look into a mirror wide,
Where shadows come, and shadows go,
And ply my shuttle as they glide.

Not as she wove the yellow wool,
Ulysses' wife, Penelope;
By day a queen among her maids,
But in the night a woman, she,

Who, creeping from her lonely couch,
Unraveled all the slender woof
Or, with a torch, she climbed the towers,
To fire the fagots on the roof!

But weaving with a steady hand
The shadows, whether false or true
I put aside a doubt which asks
Among these phantoms what are you?

For not with altar, tomb, or urn,
Or long-haired Greek with hollow shield,
Or dark-prowed ship with banks of oars,
Or banquet in the tented field;

Or Norman knight in armor clad,
Waiting a foe where four roads meet;
Or hawk and hound in bosky dell,
Where dame and page in secret greet;

Or rose and lily, bud and flower,
My web is broidered. Nothing bright
Is woven here: the shadows grow
Still darker in the mirror's light!

And as my web grows darker too,
Accursed seems this empty room;
For still I must forever weave
These phantoms by this ancient loom.


Copyright 1895
Houghton, Mifflin And Company, Boston And New York