Camelot in the Nineteenth Century: Arthurian Characters in the Poems of Tennyson, Arnold, Morris, and Swinburne

By Laura Cooner Lambdin; Robert Thomas Lambdin | Go to book overview

earth. These individuals also gain an everlasting and exalted position in the collective memory of mankind.


NOTES
1.
The only book-length study of Swinburne's medieval works, Swinburne's Medievalism: A Study in Victorian Love Poetry ( 1988) by Antony H. Harrison , includes a comparison of Swinburne's medievalism with his Hellenism (135-48).
2.
In Swinburne: The Poet in His World ( 1979), Donald Thomas harshly describes Swinburne's debt to Morris and the overall effect of the poem: "It's ["Queen Yseult"'s] debt to William Morris was embarrassingly evident, though the embarrassment might have been as much Morris's as Swinburne's. Like a parody, its verses show the worst of the Pre-Raphaelite style and little of the best" (43-44). This reading can be questioned if we view the poem's devices and meanings as a prelude to the epic masterpiece Tristram of Lyonesse. Although Swinburne became an expert parodist, and "Queen Yseult" does extend some Pre-Raphaelite devices to their furthest limits, the poet still seems to have been sincere in this early attempt to recast the Tristram and Iseult legend.
3.
Gitter's fascinating discussion concerning the literary tradition of golden-haired ladies that "gathered particular force and intensity in the latter half of the nineteenth century" (936), further notes that "the more abundant the hair, the more potent the sexual invitation implied by its display, for folk, literary, and psychoanalytic traditions agree that the luxuriance of the hair is an index of vigorous sexuality, even of wantonness" (938).
4.
Harrison makes much of this aesthetic form in his discussion of Queen Yseult finding that "it demonstrates the potential of song to reveal high-truths" (95). While the song lyrics in this poem are not especially philosophical, Swinburne's intellectual depth and ideological concerns are made manifest in the songs included in his more mature work, Tristram of Lyonesse.
5.
Although Tristram's role in the poem is greater, Swinburne apparently named his work "Queen Yseult" because Yseult's fate is more dismal than Tristram's. Another possible reason for this title is that there are two Queen Yseults in the poem, although Yseult of Cornwall is more frequently discussed.
6.
Staines finds that particularly with this final soliloquy, Swinburne "King Ban" becomes "a study similar to the many portraits of isolated, sad individuals in Morris' first volume of poetry" ( "Swinburne's" 57).
7.
In "Joyeuse Garde," Swinburne's Tristram refers to the incident depicted in Morris's painting as evidence of his certainty of his lover's fidelity:

-139-

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Camelot in the Nineteenth Century: Arthurian Characters in the Poems of Tennyson, Arnold, Morris, and Swinburne
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of World Literature ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chapter 1 Arthurian Legends: Origins to the Nineteenth Century 1
  • Notes 11
  • Chapter 2 Alfred Tennyson 13
  • Notes 47
  • Chapter 3 Matthew Arnold 51
  • Notes 68
  • Chapter 4 William Morris 71
  • Notes 103
  • Chapter 5 Algernon Swinburne 107
  • Notes 139
  • Chapter 6 Final Remarks 143
  • Selected Bibliography 147
  • Index 155
  • About the Authors *
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