Chapter Seven
THE NEW ARTHURIAD

I

LAYAMON was the first Arthurian poet to write in English.1 He translated Wace Brut, but altered it in a number of passages and added some new incidents. His alterations and additions2 are of great interest: they reflect his attitude towards the Arthur story, an attitude which is characteristic of all the English Arthurian tradition, including Malory.

If Wace's romantic chronicle was a contribution to the polite literature of the Normans, Layamon has transformed it into a primitive epic with a distinct national flavour. Not only has he added a long series of 'historical' details: wars, rebellions, treasons, hunts, combats, and flights, but he gives his story considerable directness of action and clarity of narrative.3 It possesses all the weight and solidity of early epic,4 without the epic 'indifference'. It is, above all, a chronicle of the national past of England. Layamon's Arthur is no international knight errant, but a patriotic and practical Saxon chieftain, almost entirely unaffected by the romantic tradition. Wace had made him into a figure resembling an Anglo-Norman king, and Layamon transformed him into a king in whose veins pulsed much English blood. In the story of the foundation of the Round Table Layamon expands Wace's few

____________________
1
Written between 1189 and 1207, edited by Sir Frederick Madden under the title: Laʒamon's Brut or Chronicle of Britain, a poetical semi- Saxon paraphrase of the Brut of Wace, 3 vols., London, 1847. There are two MSS.: Cotton Caligula A IX and Cotton Otho C XIII (c. 1250-75). The latter is, according to Madden (vol. i, p. xxxvi), 'an abbreviated recension of Layamon's work'.
2
A list of all the most remarkable additions of Layamon is given by Madden, op. cit., pp. xiv-xv.
3
Cf. the description of the murder of Constantin (MS. Cotton Otho C. xiii, ll. 12950-67; Madden's edition, vol. ii, pp. 116-17).
4
Cf. W. P. Ker, Epic and Romance, p. 4.

-85-

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Malory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations x
  • Chapter One - Sir Thomas Malory and His Printer 1
  • Chapter Two - the Genesis of Arthurian Romance 14
  • Chapter Three - Narrative Technique 29
  • Chapter Four - Romance and Realism 43
  • Chapter Five - the Genius of Chivalry 55
  • Chapter Six - Camelot and Corbenic 70
  • Chapter Seven - the New Arthuriad 85
  • Chapter Eight Translation and Style 100
  • Conclusion 109
  • Appendix One Materials for Malory's Biography 115
  • Appendix Two the Sources of the Mort Darthur 128
  • Appendix Three 155
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 199
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