THE NEW ARTHURIAD
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____________________