Overall structure of The Lady of the Pool

What DJ is trying to do in this long section is to paint a picture, a collage, of the Pool of London, a busy port in the 16th century; and to relate some of the themes to wider themes of Christianity. It is a celebration of tales of the sea and seafaring, of ships, of voyages and ports, and of their wider connotations. He centres this celebration on the figure of a landside working lass, a lavender seller, a girl who in the course of her profession would have heard many such tales. I think that this is a wonderful choice; of course there would have been many such girls in many such ports, but their voice is never heard and their face never seen. But DJ is not a historical ethnographer; he is not constrained by historic or social verisimilitude, so he can provide his creation with far more knowlege and experience and wisdom than she would in reality have had, and so make her a sign of wider scope and more universal significance.

There is no sense of chronological order or simultaneity in these pages, though DJ thinks of the general timescale as being at the end of the middle ages. One interpretation of internal evidence would date the Lady of the Pool to the second half of the sixteenth century, though her knowledge is obviously anachronistic at times.

DJ’s source for London in the middle ages is Stow’s Survey Of London, 1598 (available online in its 1603 edition).

page 124 A sea captain berths his ship in the Pool of London.
125 He is accosted by a lavender seller (whose name, we later learn, is Elen Monica). It is the day before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September).
126-128 She starts by telling him about the various churches in London.
128-129 Elen remembers a former lover, a young scholar, and wonders where he is now.
130-135 She remembers another former lover, a mason, and their lovemaking.
135-136 She recalls a skipper, the captain of the Margaron,
137-143 and another skipper, the master of the Mary, a very weather-beaten and damaged ship. She tells of the perils it encountered on its voyage
143-146 including sirens/mermaids, who she maintains were real, not imagined. She pretends to be a mermaid herself.
147 Elen continues with her story of the Mary,
149-156 and describes the crew, including a very voluble Welsh boatswain.
156-160 She recalls the passion of Jesus, prays for the seafaring dead, and fondly remembers the time the mason left her for ever.
161-165 Elen resumes her catalogue of the London churches and praises the city of London and its legendary dead guardians.
166-168 She advises the captain it is time to set sail if he wants to be back in the Mediterranean before winter approaches. Seeing a small negro boy, she gives him some lavender, commends him to the captain, and goes on her way.