The Arthur of the English Poets

By Howard Maynadier | Go to book overview

IX
THE GRAIL AND THE SWAN-KNIGHT

IN less than a hundred lines at the end of his Parzival Wolfram tells briefly, even sketchily, the story of Parzival's son, the famous Grail Knight, Loherangrin, as Wolfram spells the name, who has himself been the hero of long romances. This story of Lohengrin, the Swan-Knight, never more than slenderly connected with the Arthurian legends, is probably the best known tale of non-Celtic origin that became attached to that ever-growing cycle. The part played by the swan, a favorite bird of Germanic mythology, points to a Germanic origin; and so does the localisation of the story. The scene of action is generally in Low German territory, most often somewhere in the Netherlands, but sometimes as high up the Rhine as the city of Mainz. In its simplest form the story tells of a man, young, handsome, brave, who comes in a boat drawn by a swan to a strange land, where he releases from danger the lady of the country. He marries her; but on her asking a forbidden question, he is obliged to go to his own land again as mysteriously as he came, leaving her widowed, with a child from whom is to descend an illustrious race.

From various allusions to some such story as this, it is evident that it was well known in France in the second half of the twelfth century, where it probably

-143-

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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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