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who gathered to see the barge which came floating down the river with the dead but beautiful Elaine, the Lady of Shalot, and hear Sir Launcelot tell her sad tale. The river may be seen by the bodily eye, and in the light of summer day; and so may Glastonbury and Avalon, no longer, indeed, an island on the one hand, and the site at least of the nunnery of Almesbury on the other. But now the vision rises before me of the twofold story of Malory and Tennyson, of that parting, solemn to awfulness, of Arthur and Guenever, when he rode out through the mist, without looking back, to the battle which he knew was to be his last; of the battle, and of the coming of that barge with the weeping ladies who bore away the dying king to Avalon. Then, again, those last laments of Launcelot over Arthur and Guenever, and of Ector over Launcelot himself. These actions are very real to me; and yet, as I speak, I know, like Prospero, that they are melting into air, into thin air.

Foster. My sympathies are all with you, squire, but yet forgive me if I ask, as I heard your little grandson ask the other day when you were telling him a story, "Is it true? Tell me something real." And I should be glad to think that the fabric of your vision is not altogether baseless.

Squire. Yes, and no. And first, yes. Camelot itself, call it castle, or fortress, or camp, as you will, stands there with its smaller outlying forts in the forefront of my answer. It stands in the very place where you would draw the line at which the onward progress of the English towards the southwest was stopped for one hundred years after they had won the battle of Deorham in 577, and taken the cities of Sarum and Bath. Is it not clear, so far as reasonable inference can supply the lack of direct historical record, that it was this Camelot which stayed their advance,—a fortress formed and held by Freedom's hands? And if Arthur was a king of Britain or of the

British during part of that hundred years, it is not unreasonable to believe that it was at Camelot that he held his camp, if not his court.

Foster. But was there an Arthur at all? Milton, with all his admiration for Arthur and his knights as heroes of romance, did not believe in his historical existence; so you will hardly expect me to satisfy my doubts by the historical arguments by which Caxton tells us that many noble and divers gentlemen satisfied his doubts, nor even by the evidence which they called in of Gawain's skull, Cradock's mantle, and Launcelot's sword.

Squire. Though you took his word for it that Camelot was Winchester. But I can give you better authority than that of Caxton, or Milton, or any one else. Here (opening a drawer, and taking out a letter) is the last letter which I received from my old friend Edward Freeman. He writes:

"Guest taught me to believe in Arthur, and there is a notice of him which, if not history, is at best very early legend, in the Life of Gildas. It proves a good bit, anyhow. Then R seemed to disbelieve in him, and now he seems to have taken to him again. I tell R- that I live much too near to Avalon, which is Glastonbury, to give him up altogether, and that I can't part with him to them of Strathclyde."

But it is a very slight and dim existence at best. You just now compared the story of Arthur to that of Agamemnon; and I might add that Camelot is to

Malory's Morte Darthur what Dr. Schliemann's Troy is to the Iliad. Foster. Your answer to my question was to be "no" as well as "yes."

Squire. But I cannot say "no," after all. Those knights and ladies do live to me, as I trust that they will live to many an English-speaking boy and girl yet unborn. But I will answer your question in the best Dryasdust fashion that I can. I do not attempt to follow

up the old legends to those pre-Christian and even prehistoric sources of which some learned writers believe that they can get occasional glimpses. I am content to believe that in the ages in which war was more to men than peace, and imagination more than cool reason, the legends somehow grew up. The British bards termed the actual losses of their countrymen glorious gain and triumphs of poetry; and when they were driven back into Cornwall and Wales and Scotland, they found everywhere new Camelots and Round Tables at Tintagel, Caerleon, and Carlisle, and across the sea in Brittany. Mr. Symonds tells us that in the Middle Ages the legends of Arthur were greater favorites with the educated classes in Italy than the earlier ones of Charlemagne, which were left to the common people. And it is a curious fact that Gervase of Tilbury, writing early in the thirteenth century, gives a story of the discovery in the woods of Mount Etna, in Sicily, of King Arthur, there biding his time in solemn seclusion, which exactly corresponds with the like story which has been told of the Somersetshire Camelot by a peasant girl to a lady now living. The minstrel, or troubadour, wandered far; and he carried everywhere with him not only the name, but the local habitation of his hero.

Foster. Were not the Chivalry romances chiefly French?

Squire. If you except the greatest of all, that of Sir Thomas Malory, perhaps they were. He says there were in Welsh many, and in French many; and he also makes use of old English romances. But the Curate found in Don Quixote's library a pretty good number of Spanish romances. And you must remember that French was the language of the English Norman lords and ladies, and that England was first of the lands of chivalry, whatever was its chief language.

Foster. I think Southey says, in the preface either to his Amadis or Palmerin, that the Spanish and Portuguese ro

mances bear evidence, in their references to England, that this was so.

Squire. I like to see significance in the fact, pointed out by Frederick Maurice, that the man whom the Germans, the French, the Italians, and the Spaniards honored as ritter, chevalier, cavaliere, caballero, the rider of the war horse, was to the English the knight, the knecht, the servant of all men.

Foster. Is not Amadis of Gaul the most perfect embodiment of the ideal of knighthood? He is as pure as Perceval or even Galahad, without their monklike asceticism; and as true and ardent a lover as Launcelot, without his guilty "honor rooted in dishonor," as Tennyson calls it.

Squire. The loves of Amadis and Oriana are, indeed, charming. There is nothing in Malory like that description of them in Southey's translation:

“Oriana was about ten years old, the fairest creature that ever was seen; therefore she was called the one without a peer.' The Child of the Sea (that is, Amadis) was now twelve years old, but in stature and size he seemed fifteen, and he served the queen; but now that Oriana was there, the queen gave her the Child of the Sea, that he should serve her, and Oriana said that 'it pleased her; and that word which she said the Child kept in his heart, so that he never lost it from his memory, and in all his life he was never weary of serving her, and his heart was surrendered to her; and this love lasted as long as they lasted, for as well as he loved her did she also love him. the Child of the Sea, who knew nothing of her love, thought himself presumptuous to have placed his thoughts on her, and dared not speak to her; and she, who loved him in her heart, was careful not to speak more with him than with another; but their eyes delighted to reveal to the heart what was the thing on earth that they loved best, and now the time came that he thought he could take


arms if he were knighted; and this he greatly desired, thinking that he would do such things that, if he lived, his mistress should esteem him."

I often feel the force of the arguments of the worthy Ascham against the tales of chivalry, and wish that Malory had made Amadis, and not Launcelot, his principal hero. But then I recur to what Caxton had written long before, as if in anticipation of the charge, and how Tennyson has brought out, in full life and proportion as well as with the linea ments of the noblest poetry, this contrast between good and evil, and triumph of good over evil, which Caxton eulogizes in Malory's story.

Foster. Milton, too, while he expresses a pious and thankful wonder that his youthful footsteps should have been directed in the paths of chastity by the tales of chivalry, among which Malory's Morte Darthur no doubt found a chief place, seems to recognize that the moral effect on his young mind had been good, and not evil.

Squire. The growth and progress of moral life are as marked and worthy of notice in our tales of chivalry as in any other form of our civilization. And it was our happy lot that, just at the right time, a William Caxton was ready to print and publish the great national epic which he had found and encouraged a Sir Thomas Malory to write. Like the Iliad, it is partly of that lofty and serious kind in which the imagination can believe and find enjoyment. A little later, the old tales of chivalry could only have supplied the material for a moral allegory like that of the Faerie Queene, or a genial burlesque like that of Don Quixote, or a hard, cynical, political satire like that of Hudibras.

Foster. You have said nothing of Tennyson's revival, may I say, of the old faith in the old poems. It is true, they are idyls, little pictures, and you call Sir Thomas Malory's romance epic. Do you hold to that eulogistic


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Squire. So it is, and must be. I have the sincerest respect for a learning, industry, and generous self-devotion to the cause of letters such as I can make little pretension to. But while I know enough of these things to appreciate what these scholars have done for us, I see no proofs that I ought to submit myself to their authority on a question on which it contradicts my own literary judgment. Look at this book of Malory's Morte Darthur as it actually is, and not as the critics say it ought to have been, if he had properly followed his sources. You will find on every page the marks of a work of true though early and somewhat rude art; and then, if you will look again with your own eyes, and not with those of the critics, you will see that his art is all his own, and not to be found in the older legends which he has used as materials. I do not know whether Malory had acquaintance with any of what have been called the masterpieces of antiquity, nor whether he was conscious at all that he was himself creating one of such masterpieces. But his work itself lies before us. He has taken the legends of an old national hero and fashioned them into a work of art, with the main characteristic features of the epic, or the drama, of all ages and countries. It is what Carlyle would have called the perennial battle between God and the devil, the contest between man's free will and his circumstances; the Nemesis which attends his way during that contest, and his triumph by help of a higher power than his own. Auòs d'éreλeiero Bovλý. Arthur is born

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into a world of anarchy, for which the lawlessness of his father is more or less responsible; Merlin watches over him, and, by help of his counsels, Arthur, on reaching manhood, is able to establish and consolidate his kingdom, and even to extend it over that of the Emperor of Rome; and the Round Table at which he sat as the centre and head of his knights was the sign and token of this world under kingship. But there was a canker at the root of all this glory. After many years of prosperity and of great deeds, both good and evil, the coming of the Holy Grail brought a test which could not be escaped; the fellowship of the Round Table was broken up, and Mordred, the child of the guilty loves of Arthur and Morgan le Fay long years before, became the instrument of divine judgment and retribution. Thus the personages of the story, through whose action its several threads are woven or unwound, are as artistically varied and distinguished as are the events. Both these points of the story and the characters are discussed at some length in the Introduction to the Globe Edition of Morte Darthur, to which I may refer you, if you care for more. Only for the humor of it, do read me the account of the Bishop of Canterbury's excommunication of Mordred. You will find a mark

at the page.

Foster. "And then came the Bishop of Canterbury, the which was a noble clerk and an holy man, and thus he said to Sir Mordred: Sir, what will ye do, will ye first displease God, and sithen shame yourself and all knighthood? Is not King Arthur your Uncle, no further but your mother's brother, and are not ye his son, therefore how may ye wed your father's wife? Sir, saith the noble clerk, leave this opinion, or else I shall curse you with book, and bell, and candle. Do thy worst, said Sir Mordred, wit thou well I shall defy thee. Sir, said the Bishop, and wit you well I shall not fear me to do that me ought to do.


where ye noise where my lord Arthur is slain, and that is not so, and therefore ye will make a foul work in this land. Peace, thou false priest, said Sir Mordred, for and thou chafe me any more, I shall strike off thy head. So the Bishop departed, and did the curse in the most orgulous wise that might be done. And then Sir Mordred sought the Bishop of Canterbury for to have slain him. Then the Bishop fled, and took part of his goods with him, and went nigh unto Glastonbury, and there he was as priest hermit in a chapel, and lived in poverty and in holy prayers: for well he understood that mischievous war was at hand."

Squire. That touch of the bishop escaping into a humble and quiet hermitage, but prudently taking some of his goods with him, after he had done the cursing in the most orgulous manner, always strikes me as very happy. Sir Thomas Malory was a humorist; and his pathos is greater than his humor. Let us hear those last words of Sir Launcelot and Sir Ector. One can never be weary of them.

Foster (reads). "Truly, said Sir Launcelot, I trust I do not displease God, for He knoweth mine intent, for my sorrow was not, nor is not, for any rejoicing of sin, but my sorrow may never have end. For when I remember of her beauty and of her noblesse, that was both with her King and with her; so when I saw his corpse and her corpse so lie together, truly mine heart would not serve to sustain my careful body. Also when I remember me how, by my default, mine orgule, and my pride, that they were both laid full low, that were peerless that ever was living of Christian people, wit you well, said Sir Launcelot, this remembered, of their kindness and mine unkindness, sank so to my heart, that I might not sustain myself."

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Launcelot, there thou liest, that thou were never matched of earthly knight's hand; and thou were the courtiest knight that ever bare shield; and thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrode horse, and thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman; and thou were kindest man that ever strake with sword; and thou were the goodliest person ever came among press of knights; and thou was the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.”

Squire. Here again I would refer you to the Globe Introduction for proof that in these and other instances the passages are either Malory's own, or have been converted by him into poetry out of mere prosaic materials. In his twenty-first, or last book, in which I think his art is at its highest, he frequently alters or changes the incidents from those in the French books which he is always quoting; and in each case it seems to me that the variation has been made for the sake of artistic effect.

of making lines of ten syllables with or without rhymes at the end.

Squire. One characteristic — I had almost said the characteristic of verse, in the highest meaning of the word, is its reticence. It was said of the great linguist, Cardinal Mezzofanti, that he could keep silence in forty languages; and the poet is a man who can and does keep silence in the midst of his wealth of rushing thoughts and words; and it is in this accomplishment of verse that he finds that the limitations of verse make this silence both proper and profitable. His words must be few while and because every one of them must be a creation, a cosmos, in itself, pregnant with life and meaning. Tennyson evidently saw and understood this in the formation of his style, in part cultivated his poet's art which makes his style, in the highest sense of the word, and in which it has been well said to be the man himself. Mr. Knowles tells us that he said "Wordsworth would have been much finer if he had written much less; " and he told Browning in my presence that "if he had got rid of two thirds, the


Foster. You call Morte Darthur a remaining third would be much finer." poem, then, and Malory a poet?

Squire. He has the poet's eye to see into the life of things, and the poet's power to endow what he sees with outward form and color, but he wanted that essential qualification of the proper poet which Wordsworth calls the accomplishment of verse.

Foster. Did not Carlyle say that poetry would be better if it were written in prose instead of in verse, and that it might be hoped that the poetry of the future would be so written?

Squire. I suppose we are all more ready to justify than to confess our mental deficiencies; and though Carlyle had much poetic insight, he had not the poet's proper faculty of expression.

Foster. How would you define this poetical mode of expression? It is something more or other than the skillful art

After saying that, and when Browning had left us, he enlarged on the imperative necessity of restraint in art. "It is necessary to respect the limits," he said. "An artist is one who recognizes bounds to his work as a necessity, and does not overflow illimitably to all extent about a matter. I soon found that if I meant to make any mark at all it must be by shortness, for all the men before me had been so diffuse, and all the big things had been done. To get the workmanship as nearly perfect as possible is the best chance for going down the stream of time. A small vessel on fine lines is likely to float further than a great raft.”

Foster. And so you contrast these small vessels, the Idylls, with Malory's great raft of Le Morte Darthur?

Squire. Yes. And if you like to shift 1 Nineteenth Century for January, 1893.

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