The Arthur of the English Poets

By Howard Maynadier | Go to book overview

VII
LANCELOT

THOUGH the Lancelot story was not at first so closely connected with the Arthur hero-legend as the Merlin story, it influenced it in the end far more. In the principal English versions of the legend-- Malory Morte Darthur and Tennyson Idylls of the King --the guilty love of Lancelot and Guinevere has become the centre of interest.

The first literary mention of Lancelot is in Chré- tien's Érec,1 where the poet tells us that Lancelot was the third best knight of the Round Table--surpassed only by Gawain, who was the first and Erec, who was the second. This is equivalent to saying that Lancelot was the second, if not the first; for Gawain's supremacy does not militate against Lancelot's; Gawain was always the first knight in Chrétien's time; and always next to him was the hero of the particular romance in which Gawain had been introduced. We should expect Gawain and Erec, therefore, both to be classed ahead of Lancelot in Érec et Énide; his position just after them is as high as could be expected. Lancelot is mentioned again in Chrétien Cligès,2 where it is recounted that he was overthrown by the hero of the romance. This, again, is not at all to Lancelot's discredit, for Chrétien's heroes regularly

____________________
1
Professor W. Foerster's edition, 1. 1694.
Between 1. 4765 and 1. 4799.

-84-

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The Arthur of the English Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • The Arthur of English Poets I the Vigor of the Arthurian Legends 1
  • Iii the Arthur of Popular Story 32
  • Iv the Chronicles and the Lais 50
  • Vi Merlin 79
  • Vii Lancelot 84
  • Viii the Holy Grail 106
  • Ix the Grail and the Swan-Knight 143
  • X Tristram and Iseult 153
  • Xi the Moulding of the Legends 175
  • Xiii Sir Thomas Malory 197
  • Xiv Caxton and the Transition 247
  • Xvi from Spenser to Milton 278
  • Xvii the Age of Prose and Reason 295
  • Xviii the Later Eighteenth Century 314
  • Xix the Early Nineteenth Century 335
  • Xx the High Tide of MediÆvalism 344
  • Xxi the Newer Spirit 378
  • Xxii Tennyson 410
  • Index 439
  • Index 441
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