‘An Arthurian Journey’, unsigned essay, Atlantic Monthly
65 (June 1890), 811-29
This essay begins with an account of the writer’s visits to Arthurian localities with descriptions of such sites as Tintagel and Glastonbury interspersed with chunks of Malory’s narrative. In the extract which follows, however, the writer has shifted to an appreciation of the Morte Darthur; despite the effusiveness of the style, the writer manages to suggest that Malory uses a variety of descriptive details and that he moves deliberately from the lighter tone of the beginning episodes to the darker tragedy of the conclusion, although the writer finds the construction faulty along the way. Much plot summary has been omitted, along with the descriptions of Arthurian sites.
…The earlier portion of the Arthuriad, after the preliminary incidents are disposed of and the leading personages have been introduced, is pervaded by a bright freshness as of the breeze and sunshine of morning. The knights and ladies are young; the swords are unworn though not unproved, the shields untarnished; love, faith, hope, ambition, and belief in life are warming the veins and lifting the hearts. There are bursts of joy and recklessness, born of animal spirits and the exuberance of youth. There are springs of tenderness in these dauntless souls, not yet dried by the length and drought of the day. Even King Mark, the meanest and most abject of the throng, finding the bodies of an Irish knight, killed in combat by Balin, and of his lady-love, who stabbed herself on seeing him fall, lays them together in a rich tomb within a beautiful church. The friendship of the brute creation and its part in the life of man give rise to many touching incidents. The most important of them is the adventure of the lady of the white hart and her knight, who kills Gawaine’s hounds to avenge the pet creature’s death. ‘Why have ye slain my hounds?’ said Sir Gawaine. ‘They did but after their kind, and lever had I ye had wroken your anger upon