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A strong, vigorous, stern man, he was yet intensely loved by his friends, and he loved them with an intensity rare among men. Indeed, the death of his most intimate friend, Arthur Hallam, came near wrecking his own mind, but it produced that incomparable poem, In Memoriam, intended both as an expression of the poet's own feelings, and as a comfort to other mourners. But some of his lyrical poems and his narrative poems are more generally known. Perhaps chief among these is the series grouped about King Arthur and his Round Table, ending with the noblest of them, Morte d'Arthur.
THE COMING OF ARTHUR
From the legends of King Arthur told by Malory, Tennyson gathered material for his noble series of poems, The Idylls of the King. Of these the most significant are the two that deal with the king himself, The Coming of Arthur and The Passing of Arthur. The Coming of Arthur accepts his kingship as quoted from Malory in this book, and tells in particular how his royal blood was made clear to the father of his beloved Guinevere, and how he won his bride.
Leodogran, the King of Cameliard,
1 Cameliard, one of the mythical kingdoms of the story.
For many a petty king, ere Arthur came, Ruled in this isle and, ever waging war Each upon other, wasted all the land; And still from time to time the heathen host Swarm'd overseas, and harried what was left. And so there grew great tracts of wilderness, Wherein the beast was ever more and more, But man was less and less, till Arthur came. For first Aurelius lived and fought, and died, And after him King Uther fought and died, But either failed to make the kingdom one. And after these King Arthur for a space, And thro' the puissance of his Table Round, 2 Drew all their petty princedoms under him, Their King and head, and made a realm and reign'd.
And thus the land of Cameliard was waste,
And King Leodogran
1 Puissance, might.
2 Table Round, the famous group of knights who gathered about King Arthur and fought his battles.
3 Roman legions. The Romans under Cæsar had conquered southern England and, while holding it in subjugation, had also
And Cæsar's eagle:1 then his brother king,
Urien, assail'd him: last, a heathen horde, 30 Brake on him, till, amazed,
He knew not whither he should turn for aid.
But — for he heard of Arthur newly crown'd,
the King 35 Sent to him, saying, “Arise, and help us thou !
For here between the man and beast we die."
And Arthur yet had done no deed of arms,
Stood by the castle walls to watch him pass; 40 But since he neither wore on helm or shield
The golden symbol of his kinglihood,
She saw him not, or mark'd not, if she saw, 45 One among many, tho' his face was bare.
But Arthur, looking downward as he past,
protected it from its savage neighbors. The British, relying on their conquerors for protection, had ceased to be warlike, so that when the Roman armies were at length withdrawn, they were easy victims of marauders from within and without.
1 Eagle. A brazen eagle was the standard of the Roman armies. Possibly the American eagle was suggested by that.
The heathen; after, slew the beasts, and felld
For while he linger'd there,
And Arthur, passing thence to battle, felt Travail,' and throes and agonies of the life, Desiring to be joined with Guinevere,
Thereafter — as he speaks who tells the tale –
2 Pavilions, tents.
And, even in the high day, the morning star. 75 So when the King had set his banner broad,
At once from either side, with trumpet blast,
And now the barons and the kings prevail'd,
Went swaying; but the Powers who walk the world
And mightier of his hands by every blow, 85 And leading all his knighthood, threw? the kings.
Then, before a voice
And all the world asleep, they swerved and brake 90 Flying, and Arthur call’d to stay the brands
That hack'd among the flyers, “Ho! they yield !”
And in the heart of Arthur joy was lord.
And honor'd most. “Thou dost not doubt me King,
1 Battle, battalion, knights. 2 Threw, overthrew.