The Arthur of the English Poets

By Howard Maynadier | Go to book overview

X
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT

THE Tristram legend, the last of the chief stories of the romances to be closely connected with the Arthur story proper, is, with its overpowering passionate love, and its wild, sea-washed Celtic lands, the most poetical of them all. Unlike the other principal legends, it comes to us in three literary forms; it is the subject of three lais, and of metrical and prose romances both.

The earliest extant Tristram narrative is from the pen of an Anglo-Norman, or Norman, Béroul, who wrote early in the second half of the twelfth century.1 Only fragments of his poem exist. The lost Tristan of Chrétien de Troies, written shortly before 1160, is thought to have followed the same version of the

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1
For the date and the composition of the so-called Béroul fragments, see Ernest Muret, Le Roman de Tristan, Paris, 1903, pp. lxiii-lxxii. M. Muret thinks that the fragmentary poem preserved in MS. 2171 of the Bibliothéque Nationale was composed partly by Béroul, between 1165 and 1170, and partly by an anonymous jongleur (not unacquainted with Béroul, perhaps, though considerably younger), who composed the latter part of the poem in the last decade of the twelfth century. M. Muret is of the opinion that the authors may have got their knowledge of Great Britain from their sources or from hearsay; it is possible that neither of them was ever in England. A. Bossert , on the contrary, Tristan et Iseult, Paris, 1902, p. 173, thinks that if Béroul was not a native of Great Britain, he passed most of his life there. Cf. also W. H. Schofield, English Literature from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer, New York and London, 1906, pp. 201 ff.

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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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