Idylls of the King
‘At twenty-four I meant to write an epic or a drama of King Arthur’, Tennyson told his son Hallam; he alludes to the former in ‘The Epic’, and the seasonal cycle of the whole is implicit in ‘Morte d’Arthur’, to which it supplies the narrational setting. On the other hand, to say as he did, that the Arthur he drew came to him when he read Malory in his late boyhood is an oversimplification. The hero’s union of manliness and gentleness is a quality he admired in Arthur Hallam, and an earnest of the higher race foreshadowed in The Princess. That Hallam contributed more than anyone to Tennyson’s conception of ideal manhood is clear from In Memoriam; his association with the King in ‘Morte d’Arthur’ is acknowledged in ‘Merlin and the Gleam’: ‘Clouds and darkness Closed on Camelot; Arthur had vanished I knew not whither, The King who loved me, And cannot die …’ Discouraged by reviews of ‘Morte d’Arthur’, especially that of John Sterling, who thought the subject too remote from contemporary life, Tennyson laid aside the work which he had expected to occupy him for twenty years.17 Epic or drama, it remained largely notional in design, without the full significance of the Idylls, the development of which undoubtedly attests a gradual, cumulative planning, not a work designed, or satisfactorily concluded, as a whole.
KeywordsBurning Dust Gall Smoke Bors
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