by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Image from the University of Rochester Camelot Project http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/image/pyle-lady-of-shalott
This is a reread for me. Every few years I revisit these poems about chivalry, love, and the heartbreak of broken trust. Every time a different story catches my attention, and they all break my heart. It is hard to see the actual poetry, buried as it is under many layers of other images, movies, musicals, and illustrations from childhood readings. This time through, it was the story of Elaine and her death from unrequited love for Sir Lancelot. She was so young and fair, and her heart broke because the object of her love, Lancelot, is not free to return her love.
Hearts can and do ‘break’ from grief. For decades it was thought that this was a metaphor, but recent research confirms that the chemicals released into the bloodstream by severe, unrelenting emotion can have a harmful effect on the heart muscle. Sometimes these old bits of folk wisdom are wiser than we think.