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,____________________