The Arthur of the English Poets

By Howard Maynadier | Go to book overview

IV
THE CHRONICLES AND THE LAIS

WE, have seen that Geoffrey, whose so-called history is the first extensive literary treatment of any part of the Arthurian stories, by no means invented the fame of Arthur and his knights. What he did was to give the stories literary dignity and consideration which they bad not enjoyed before. When William of Malmesbury mentions the stories, writing some ten years before Geoffrey, he speaks of them as tales old wives might tell. Ten years after Geoffrey's history appeared they were above such scorn; and by the end of the century they bad become, as they were to remain, the greatest mediæval hero-saga. So important were they that you will find some mention of Arthur in the pages of almost every chronicler down to the Elizabethan Holinshed, who gives, much abbreviated, what is substantially the same account as Geoffrey's. Of all these pseudo-historians, only two contributed materially to the development of the Arthurian stories; in the works of the others, virtually nothing new appears. The two important chroniclers are Wace, a Norman, who wrote within twenty years of Geoffrey, and Layamon, an Englishman, who wrote fifty years after Wace.

Wace, born in the island of Jersey about 1100, seems to have entered the church, and to have been interested early in literature. He decided to translate Geoffrey's history into Norman-French, and completed

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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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