Anthony Scopatz

I think, therefore I amino acid.

If you aren’t my LJ friend, this one’s to you!

So I made a post which you don’t get to read, world. As much as I love you Google, perhaps I don’t want to be in the middle of your three-way with Yahoo! and Microsoft with absolutely all of my thoughts.

But no worries! Here is some keen information that you totally need to know about me, like for sure man/dude/guy/hypno-toad.

A couple of sleepless knights ago, I was wanting to read something as I crawled into bed. However, I was in the rare mood of not wanting to read any GRRM before I went to sleep. So I picked up my copy of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” and took a stab at it once more.

For some reason, this time it clicked. This time through everything makes sense and I am able to read it unhitched. And it is amazing. First off, I noticed keenly that it is not “The Idylls of the King”, but rather Tennyson’s idles about King Aurthur. Tennyson himself is in possession of the idylls, not Aurthur. A mistaken presumption that I was under before.

Secondly, it took him about 40 yeas to write, a Virgil-ent feat.

Thirdly, there are portions of the epic that just jump out at me as some of the most beautiful examples of English that I have ever seen. Considering it is on a chiefly British fairy tale, such examples are all the more native to the tongue.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

In the Tennyson retelling, though Aurthur sees Guinevere once before he marries her, he never speaks to her. Moreover, as Aurthur was simply dressed when he saw her, Guinevere has never even seen the good King before the marriage. Their vows are magnificent.

And Aurthur said, “Behold, thy doom is mine.
Let chance what will, I love thee to the death!”
To whom the Queen replied with drooping eyes,
“King and my lord, I love thee to the death!”

Wow! “Thy doom is mine!” typically forebears someone getting their ass handed to them in battle, but it is *somehow* more powerful as wedding words. On the one hand this is the sort of sappy love-at-first sight mumbo that one would expect from a Romatic poet. On the other hand, you might think that whenever someone professes so strongly like this it can only end badly, like Romeo and Juliet. And then you remember, “Hey, this is King Aurthur. That is Queen Guinevere. This DOES end badly! Al, I see what you did there…”

Which brings me to an important point. Does anyone else think that Aurthur in these legends is curiously indifferent to his wife’s infidelity? This has always bothered me, but I think that in retrospect, it sort of doesn’t matter to him. I mean he is trying to drive out heathens and find the Holy Grail and much more important works than the love of one woman and the dishonor of one knight. Moreover, he keeps his initial vow to the letter. Later after he has failed in his greater tasks he comes back and besieges Lancelot, and fails. Lancelot is allowed to live out life as a hermit and Guinevere becomes a nun, light penance compared to being burned to death (Ser Mordred’s initial sentence). Isn’t that kinda weird? I mean we stress fidelity a lot in this culture. Everyone else makes much a-do about the adultery, except for Aurthur. Strange…

My other favorite quote is about Ser Gareth (Arthur’s nephew) being forced to work in the Camelot kitchens (by his mother) for a year and a day before he may ascend to knighthood.

So Gareth all for glory underwent
The sooty yoke of kitchen-vassalage,

So awesome. Gareth is kind of a puss so I am not a huge fan, but the brother knows how to take a sooty yoke in stride!

Personally, I have always been much more of a Homeric fan than Arthurian. I have read the Iliad enough to call it an old friend and the Odyssey a shameful amount rarely rereading a translation. Yes, even more times than my current seven run-throughs of “A Song of Ice and Fire”.

There is something about the libertine attitudes of Homer that make everything more adventurous and dangerous than the stiff hierarchy of a medieval court. In Homer, people go places, do things, and die. In Arthurian tales, they walk around England spoiling for unbelievers to kill (good) and a cup (meh) and the Queen takes a consort and everyone gets real upset except for the King who says “Meh, I am busy looking for this cup right now.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like the King Aurthur stories as much as anyone (especially Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). But they lack the independent streak of Robin Hood and the supernatural badass of Beowulf. Rather they are cool like Faust. (Does this make Malory hot like Goethe?)

But for whatever reason, for now Tennyson has rekindled my feudal passions knightly!

Comments