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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.


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,
Had one fair daughter, and none other child;
And she was fairest of all flesh on earth,
Guinevere, and in her his one delight.

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.




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And thus the land of Cameliard was waste,
Thick with wet woods, and many a beast therein,
And none or few to scare or chase the beast;
So that wild dog and wolf and boar and bear
Came night and day, and rooted in the fields,
And wallow'd in the gardens of the King.


And King Leodogran
Groan'd for the Roman legions 3 here again,

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,
Tho' not without an uproar made by those
Who cried, “He is not Uther's son”

the King 35 Sent to him, saying, “Arise, and help us thou !

For here between the man and beast we die."

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And Arthur yet had done no deed of arms,
But heard the call and came: and Guinevere

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,
But rode a simple knight among his knights,
And many of these in richer arms than he,

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,
Feit the light of her eyes into his life
Smite on the sudden, yet rode on, and pitch'd
His tents beside the forest. Then he drave


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
The forest, letting in the sun, and made
Broad pathways for the hunter and the knight,
And so return’d.


For while he linger'd there,
A doubt that ever smolder'd in the hearts
Of those great lords and barons of his realm
Flash'd forth and into war; for most of these,
Colleaguing with a score of petty kings,
Made head against him, crying: "Who is he
That he should rule us? who hath proven him
King Uther's son? — For lo! we look at him,

And find nor face nor bearing, limbs nor voice,
Are like to those of Uther whom we knew.
This is the son of Gorlöis, not the King;
This is the son of Anton, not the King."


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And Arthur, passing thence to battle, felt Travail,' and throes and agonies of the life, Desiring to be joined with Guinevere,

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Thereafter — as he speaks who tells the tale –
When Arthur reached a field of battle bright
With pitch'd pavilions of his foe, the world
Was all so clear about him that he saw
The smallest rock far on the faintest hill,
1 Travail, suffering.

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 shouts, and clarions shrilling unto blood,
The long lanced battle 1 let their horses run.

And now the barons and the kings prevail'd,
80 And now the King, as here and there that war

Went swaying; but the Powers who walk the world
Made lightnings and great thunders over him,
And dazed all eyes, till Arthur by main might,

And mightier of his hands by every blow, 85 And leading all his knighthood, threw? the kings.






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Then, before a voice
As dreadful as the shout of one who sees
To one who sins, and deems himself alone

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 !”
So, like a painted battle the war stood
Silenced, the living quiet as the dead,

And in the heart of Arthur joy was lord.
95 He laughed upon his warrior whom he loved

And honor'd most. “Thou dost not doubt me King,
So well thine arm hath wrought for me today.”
“Sir, and my liege,” he cried, “the fire of God
Descends upon thee in the battlefield:

1 Battle, battalion, knights. 2 Threw, overthrew.

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