The Arthur of the English Poets

By Howard Maynadier | Go to book overview

XI
THE MOULDING OF THE LEGENDS

THUS there are five stories which make up the great mass of Arthurian romance as we to-day know it-- the hero-story of Arthur himself in the pseudo-chronicles; the story of Mage Merlin, "assotted" at last and doating on a damsel of the lake;1 the story of Lancelot, "the truest lover . . . that ever loved woman; "2 the story of the Grail, illumined with mystic, holy light; and the story of Tristram and Iseult, the first great love-story of the world. We have seen that these and tales of lesser import clustered about a British chieftain of the fifth and sixth centuries, who, becoming a national hero, attracted to himself stories from all sources, but chiefly from British or Irish, till he was known over Europe as the greatest king of romance. We have seen that Geoffrey of Monmouth was the first to tell at length in literature the story of the great King. But we have not seen why men of letters told it first in the twelfth century rather than in the eleventh or the thirteenth; nor have we considered how much we are indebted to the French for fixing the Arthurian legends in the permanent literature of the world.

One great reason why these became popular with poets just when they did was the Norman Conquest,

____________________
1
Malory, bk. iv, ch. 1.
2
Ibid., bk. xxi, ch. 13.

-175-

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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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