Edited by Margaret Lourie
Editorial Note on Text
The present text follows the first edition of 1858 but incorporates substantive variants which appear to be authorial and spelling corrections from the Kelmscott Press edition of 1892. Misprints which either seemed indisputable or were acknowledged on the errata slip in the first edition have been silently corrected. The textual apparatus records: 1) substantive variants in the two and a half surviving manuscripts and the five poems printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine during 1856, 2) readings from the first edition not accepted in the edited text, and 3) substantive variants in the Kelmscott Press edition which have been rejected from the text as probably nauthoritative. The appendix preserves an opening section for 'The Defence of Guenevere," a scene from "Sir Peter Harpdon's nd," and changes Morris contemplated for the 1875 reprint, none f which was ever published by the poet.
As to accidentals, I have almost always retained those of he first edition, even its frequent comma splices and missing question marks, without noting variants except in spelling. The only exception is that I have changed several mid-sentence periods to the punctuation of the Kelmscott edition, noting the original reading in the apparatus. Morris was particularly cavlier in matters of punctuation, as the extremely light and phazard punctuation in the surviving manuscripts indicates. May Morris testifies that her "father was notoriously careless in spelling common words, and he did not trouble himself much about stops" (CW I, p. xxxj). Nor was he, as his daughter elsewhere confesses, a good proofreader (CW III, p. xxviij). For accidentals, then, Morris seems to have been content to rely the judgment of his compositors. Hence, no edition seems likely to have more authoritative punctuation than any other. I have chosen to follow the first edition simply because it is closest to Morris' manuscript and, for consistency and readability, follow it even where the manuscript punctuation is known. Since I also assume that the many accidental variants in the Kelmscott Press edition are compositorial rather than [p. 32] authorial, I do not note them even when they improve on the punctuation of the first edition.
Below is a description of the six significant Guenevere texts and a summary of the major differences among them. The three other editions mentioned are important mainly for their annotations. See Buxton Forman's The Books of William Morris Described (London: Hollings, 1897) and Temple Scott's A Bibliography of the Works of William Morris (London: Bell, 1897) for fuller bibliographical descriptions of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine and the 1858, 1875, and 1892 editions.
Manuscripts. Morris apparently celebrated the March 1858 publication of The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems by burning all the manuscripts of his early poems he could find (Mackail I, pp. 52-53). The unhappy result is that manuscripts survive for only two and a half of the poems in this volume. The Huntington Library has a manuscript for the last half of "Golden Wings," labeled pages "7" through "13" and beginning in the text at line 120. Internal evidence indicates that this was the printer's copy: line 132, which opens page 209 in the first edition, is bracketed in the manuscript and the number "209" inserted marginally. The first half of the manuscript has been lost. The British Museum has a complete six-page holograph of "The Haystack in the Floods" (Ashley Manuscript 3680). Both these manuscripts are fair copies and differ from the printed versions mainly in accidentals. Finally, Volume I of the May Morris Bequest to the British Museum (Additional Manuscript 45,298A) contains an early three-page draft of "Riding Together," then titled "The Captive," which underwent significant substantive revision before it came to print.
The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. Five of the poems in this famous volume had appeared in various issues of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine during 1856. This literary journal began as a joint venture by Morris and his Oxford friends. After demonstrating his own editorial inadequacies in the first number, Morris turned over the editorship to his friend William Fulford but retained sole financial responsibility himself. Between January and December 1856 the group produced twelve monthly numbers, largely--and not always fortunately--supplied from their own pens. By December the small group of original enthusiasts was dissolving, and Morris, who had lost both interest and money in the project, decided to give it up. Over the year he had contributed essays, tales, and poems to ten of the twelve issues. Among them, "In Prison" (embedded in the prose tale "Frank's Sealed Letter") appeared in April, "Riding Together" in May, "Hands" (which became the Prince's song in [p. 33] "Rapunzel") in July, "The Chapel in Lyoness" in September, and "Summer Dawn" (untitled in this first appearance) in October. In the 1858 volume "In Prison," "Riding Together," and "Summer Dawn" remain unrevised while "Hands" and "The Chapel in Lyoness" undergo slight alterations.
The first edition.
THE / DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE, / AND OTHER POEMS. / BY WILLIAM MORRIS. / LONDON: / BELL AND DALDY, 186, FLEET STREET. / 1858.
The five misprints listed on the errata slip of this edition were not all corrected until the May Morris edition for The Collected Works. Along with the five poems published in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, the first edition contains twenty-five poems which had never before been printed. There is an eighteen-page foolscap octavo of "Sir Galahad, A Christmas Mystery" bearing the imprint of Bell and Daldy, 1858. But a letter from Robert G. C. Proctor in the January 22, 1898, Athenaeum and a section in John Carter and Graham Pollard's Enquiry Into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets (London: Constable, 1934, pp. 207-210) prove conclusively that it is a Thomas J. Wise forgery, probably printed in the 1890's.
The 1875 reprint.
THE / DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE, / AND OTHER POEMS. / BY WILLIAM MORRIS. / (Reprinted without alteration from the edition of 1858.) / LONDON: / ELLIS & WHITE, 29, NEW BOND STREET. / 1875.
Besides three corrections and the inevitable printer's errors, the 1875 reprint introduced three substantive variants Which were retained in the Kelmscott Press edition: "the" was omitted from line 70 of "The Defence of Guenevere;" in "King Arthur's Tomb" "Didst ever think that queens held their truth dear" (line 264) read "Didst ever think queens held their truth for dear;" and "her" became "the" in line 311 of "Rapunzel." Because all three variants markedly improve the text and in the absence of solid evidence to the contrary, I have assumed that these revisions were authorial and admitted them to the edited text. The 1875 edition is interesting mainly because Morris meant to revise "The Chapel in Lyoness" substantially and "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" slightly before allowing the volume to be reprinted. Although the poet changed his mind about these reisions, May Morris preserves them in her introduction (CW I, p. xxij-xxv), and they appear in the appendix of this edition.
The Kelmscott Press edition.
THE DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE, / AND OTHER POEMS. BY WILLIAM /
[Colophon:] HERE ends The Defence of Guenevere, and / other Poems, written by William Morris; and / printed by him at the Kelmscott Press, 14, Upper Mall, Hammersmith, in the County of / Middlesex; & finished on the 2nd day of April, / of the Year 1892. / Sold by Reeves & Turner, 196, Strand, London.
The Kelmscott Press edition offers six more corrections than the 1875 reprint but introduces seven new printer's errors. Of the nineteen substantive variants in this edition, May Morris (CW I, pp. xxv-xxvi) maintains that the author was definitely responsible for two: in "King Arthur's Tomb" he tried to regularize the meter by canceling "pray to" from line 381, and in "Summer Dawn" he rewrote line 11 to avoid a cockney rhyme. Among the remaining seventeen, I have rejected two from the edited text as patently compositorial: In "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" omission of "yet" from line 402 destroys the meter and weakens the sense, while omission of the stage direction to line 448 seems an easy oversight for a compositor and in no way strength-ens the poem. The fifteen other substantive variants, which include those carried over from the 1875 reprint, either scarcely affect the poetry or improve it slightly. For want of contrary arguments, I have admitted them all to the text in spite of my suspicion that some of them must be compositorial.
But accidentals account for far the greatest number of variants between the first and Kelmscott editions. In many in-stances these differences are more interesting for what they signify about the policy of the Kelmscott Press than for any literary implications. The type, paper, layout, and binding of all Kelmscott books were quite consciously archaic. Before making up the Golden type used in the Kelmscott Guenevere, for instance, Morris pored over the Roman characters of the fifteenth-century Venetian printer Nicholas Jenson. The same self-conscious archaism dictated several punctuation policies: diacritical marks were omitted; ampersands occasionally replaced "and's" in long lines; alternate punctuation, most often a colon, always replaced the dash; quotation marks, single rather than double, and parentheses were used sparingly. Nothing was printed in italics. And each line began flush with the left margin.
Several other differences also proceed from the fifteenth-century format of the Kelmscott Guenevere but have more interesting literary consequences. First, the full borders around the openings of "The Defence of Guenevere" and "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" isolate the four Arthurian poems as a unit. The half-border around the opening of "Rapunzel" suggests, perhaps less insistently, that this poem begins a third section of the book. Secondly, the opening stanzas of "King Arthur's Tomb" [p. 35] appear on the last page of "The Defence of Guenevere," a strong indication that these two poems constitute a pair--especially since all other poems in the Kelmscott edition begin on a separate page. Thirdly, "The Defence of Guenevere" is broken in-to five sections (beginning at lines 1, 11, 49, 61, and 287) with ornamented initials instead of into three-line stanzas. Fourthly, each hexameter line of "The Wind" is printed as two trimeter half-lines. Finally, ornamented initials and paragraph marks occur throughout the volume to cue the reader to change of focus or speaker, as well as to structural division.
The May Morris edition.
THE COLLECTED WORKS / OF WILLIAM MORRIS / WITH INTRODUCTIONS BY / HIS DAUGHTER MAY MORRIS / VOLUME 1 / THE DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE / THE HOLLOW LAND / LONGMANS GREEN AND COMPANY / PATERNOSTER ROW LONDON / NEW YORK BOMBAY CALCUTTA / MDCCCCX.
Reprinted in 1966 by Russell and Russell of New York, the May Morris edition has become the source for most modern re-printings of the Guenevere poems. Besides providing invaluable biographical and textual information in her introduction, Morris' daughter edited her text carefully, introducing only one Substantive error (omission of the second "you" from line 41 of "Father John's War-song") and regularizing punctuation. May Morris is, however, misleading in one respect. While claiming to follow the first edition exclusively, she surreptitiously, .if tastefully, intrudes three substantive variants from the Kelmscott edition: "there was" in line 96 of "The Defence of Guenevere," "Didst ever think queens held their truth for dear" as line 264 of "King Arthur's Tomb," and "of her" in line 2 of "Two Red Roses Across the Moon."
Other editions. Although not textually significant, three other twentieth-century editions deserve mention. Robert Steele's edition for the King's Classics (London: Chatto and Windus, 904; Boston: John W. Luce, 1907) offers a substantial introduction and twelve pages of textual and explanatory notes. More recently, Cecil Y. Lang's edition for The Pre-Raphaelites And Their Circle (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968; 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975) has provided an invaluable overview of Pre-Raphaelitism as well as scant but suggestive explanatory notes. Peter Faulkner's edition of the Early Romances in Prose and Verse (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1973) includes brief, factual annotations and an introduction to Morris' early life and work.
All thirty Guenevere poems demand of their reader the intimacy with medieval and nineteenth-century literature which Morris shared with his original audience, the close friends who participated in his college experience and literary tastes. The explanatory notes in the present edition seek primarily to bridge the gap in living and reading between those Oxford friends and the modern reader. Thus, they are intended, insofar as possible, to be informative rather than interpretive. Specifically, the commentary on each poem consists of a general introductory note followed by notes to particular lines. Introductory notes supply four kinds of information:
Dating and composition. In general, there are only vague indications of composition dates for most of this volume. Mackail maintains that Morris wrote his first poem in 1855 (I, p. 51), but the May Morris Bequest to the British Museum contains one poem dated 1853. It appears from its manuscript that "Riding Together" was one of these very early poems. The four other poems printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine were probably written during 1856. As for the others, Mackail simply says that in the few months before Morris published the Guenevere volume in March 1858, he "had been producing very fast" (I, p. 134). Presumably, then, nearly all the other poems were written in late 1857 or early 1858. Whatever dating and manuscript specifics are known for each poem appear in the introductory note.
Reading guide. For several poems with elusive patterns or structures, I give some indication of how the poem seems to progress. For most of the poems in this volume, however, such an explanation seemed both unnecessary and cumbersome.
Sources and influences. Sources for or parallels with the narrative of each poem are broadly outlined in the introductory note, along with prosodic ancestors or influences. More detailed analogues and echoes appear in the notes to particular lines.
Critical studies. Critical articles focused on the poem in question are outlined and sometimes evaluated in the introductory note. Allusions to these articles sometimes recur in the line notes. These studies and those which throw light on the volume as a whole are listed in the bibliography at the end of the editorial introduction.
Notes to particular lines complement and further specify the introductory notes. Their functions are four-fold:
(1) To document sources and analogues. The greatest number of line notes cite narrative sources, as often as possible by direct quotation from the editions Morris read. Some of these notes merely explain historical allusions. Others suggest analogues to earlier literary forms or folk tales. A final group records echoes or suggestions of other English poets whom Morris had read. For reliable information on works Morris certainly read before 1858, I have consulted only Mackail (passim), May Morris (AWS I, pp. 383-390), and Morris' own list of books he felt had influenced him most (reprinted in CW XXII, pp. xiijxvj).
It has been, however, impossible to discover exactly where Morris acquired his broad knowledge of medieval lyrics and border ballads. Since he spent a great deal of time scrutinizing illuminated manuscripts during his Oxford years, I assume that he knew the Balliol and Bodleian manuscript collections, as well as the collections in the British Museum and the London Guildhall. With respect to ballads, he definitely knew Scott's Minstrelsy and undoubtedly scanned a number of other collections published during the early nineteenth-century ballad revival. To indicate the wide range of Morris' reading in both medieval lyrics and border ballads, the notes often quote samples from standard modern collections. These and Morris' major sources are enumerated in the "Short Titles" section of the abbreviations.
(2) To suggest biographical antecedents. Wherever an incident or attitude from Morris' life until 1858 seems to illuminate a passage, it is recounted in a note to the appropriate line.
On rare occasions, these biographical data seemed primary enough to merit inclusion in the introductory note.
(3) To gloss difficult words or passages. Words defined or translated in standard reference works are only glossed when a book Morris read contains a parallel occurrence. Explanations of difficult passages have also been kept to a minimum.
(4) To specify critical interpretations. When critics have rendered interpretations that comment importantly on certain lines or passages, their arguments are summarized in the apropriate notes.
The bibliography below includes only published books and titles which deal with one or more of the poems in Morris' first volume and which take a literary rather than a biographal stance. Several works which seem to stress Morris' later [p. 38] poems have been excluded. William Morris: The Critical Heritage, edited by Peter Faulkner (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), reprints a useful selection of early reviews. William E. Fredeman's sections on Morris in Pre-Raphaelitism: A Bibliocritical Study (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965) and in The Victorian Poets: A Guide to Research (ed. Frederic E. Faverty, 2nd ed., Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968) supply bibliographical references for further study of Morris' literary career. Essays by Fredeman (1974) and, since 1977, by Allan R. Life in "Guide to the Year's Work in Victorian Poetry" (published in Victorian Poetry) update the earlier bibliographies.
1. Balch, Dennis R. "Guenevere's Fidelity to Arthur in 'The Defence of Guenevere' and 'King Arthur's Tomb.'" Victorian Poetry, 13, iii-iv (1975), 61-70.
2. Berry, Ralph. "A Defence of Guenevere," Victorian Poetry, 9 (1971), 271-286.
3. Bledsoe, Audrey Shaw. "The Seasons of Camelot: William Morris' Arthurian Poems," South Atlantic Bulletin, 42, iv (1977), 114-122.
4. Bratlinger, Patrick. "A Reading of Morris' The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems," Victorian Newsletter, no. 44 (Fall 1973), 18-24.
5. Brooke, Stopford A. A Study of Clough, Arnold, Rossetti, and Morris, with an Introduction on the Course of Poetry from 1822-1852. London: Pitman, 1908.
6. Carson, Mother Angela. "Morris' Guenevere: A Further Note," Philological Quarterly, 42 (1963), 131-134.
8. Davies, Frank. "William Morris's Sir Peter Harpdon's End," Philological Quarterly, 11 (1932), 314-317.
9. Denton, Ramona. "William Morris and Rapunzel; or, What Was She Doing in Rouen?" Notes and Queries, 24 (1977),
10. Dewsnap, Terence. "Symmetry in the Early Poetry of William Morris," Notes and Queries, n.s. 4 (1957), 132-133.
[p. 39] 11. Drinkwater, John. William Morris: A Critical Study. Lon don: Secker, 1912.
12. Evans, B. Ifor. William Morris and His Poetry (Poetry and Life Series, ed. W. H. Hudson). London: Harrap, 1925.
13. Fontana, Ernest L. "Memory and Character in William Morris' 'The Judgment of God,"' Pre-Raphaelite Review, 1, ii (1978), 104-109.
14. Ford, George H. "Morris, Swinburne, and Some Others," Keats and the Victorians: A Study of His Influence and Rise to Fame, 1821-1895. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944.
15. Galyon, Aubrey E. "William Morris: The Past as Standard," Philological Quarterly, 56 (1977), 245-249.
16. Gent, Margaret. "'To Flinch From Modern Varnish': The Appeal of the Past to the Victorian Imagination," Victorian Poetry (Stratford-Upon-Avon Studies 15). London: Edward Arnold, 1972.
17. Hazen, James. "Morris' 'Haystack': The Fate of Vision," Pre-Raphaelite Review, 1, i (1977), 49-56
18. Hearn, Lafcadio. "William Morris," Pre-Raphaelite and Other Poets: Lectures. Selected and edited with an Introduction by John Erskine. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1922.
19. Hollow, John. "William Morris and the Judgment of God," PMLA, 86 (1971), 446-451.
21. Hough, Graham. "William Morris," The Last Romantics. London: Duckworth, 1949.
22. Lindsay, Jack. William Morris, Writer. London: William Morris Society, 1961.
23. Long, Littleton. "Morris and Timekeeping," Victorian Newsletter, no. 35 (Spring 1969), 25-28.
24. Lourie, Margaret A. "The Embodiment of Dreams: William Morris' 'Blue Closet' Group," Victorian Poetry, 15 (1977), 193-206.
[p. 40] 25. MacEachen, Dougald B. "Trial by Water in William Morris' 'The Haystack in the Floods,'" Victorian Poetry, 6 (1968),
26. Morris, May. "Introduction," The Collected Works of William Morris, I. London: Longmans, 1910.
27. __________, ed. William Morris: Artist, Writer, Socialist, I. Oxford: Blackwell's, 1936.
28. Noyes, Alfred. William Morris (English Men of Letters Series). London: Macmillan, .
29. Oberg, Charlotte H. "Youthful Dreams of Doom: Morris as a Pre-Raphaelite," A Pagan Prophet: William Morris. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978.
30. Pater, Walter H. "Aesthetic Poetry," Appreciations. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916.
31. Patrick, John M. "Morris and Froissart Again: 'Sir Peter Harpdon's End,'" Notes and Queries, n.s. 6 (1959), 331-333.
32. "Morris and Froissart: 'Geffray Teste Noire' and 'The Haystack in the Floods,'" Notes and Queries, n.s. 5 (1958), 425-427.
33. Perrine, Laurence. "Morris's Guenevere: An Interpretation," Philological Quarterly, 39 (1960), 196-200.
34. Post, Jonathan F. "Guenevere's Critical Performance," Victorian Poetry, 17 (1979), 317-327.
35. Raymond, Meredith B. "The Arthurian Group in The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems," Victorian Poetry, 4 (1966),
36. Reed, Michael D. "Morris' 'Rapunzel' as an Oedipal Fantasy," American Imago, 30 (1973), 313-322.
37. Sadoff, Dianne F. "Erotic Murders: Structural and Rhetorical Irony in William Morris' Froissart Poems," Victorian Poetry, 13, iii-iv (1975), 11-26.
38. "Imaginative Transformation in William Morris' 'Rapunzel,'" Victorian Poetry, 12 (1974), 153-164.
[p. 41] 39. Scott, W. Dixon. "The First Morris," Men of Letters, intro. Max Beerbohm. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916.
40. Short, Clarice. "William Morris and Keats," PMLA, 59 (1944), 513-523.
41. Silver, Carole G. "'The Defence of Guenevere': A Further Interpretation," Studies in English Literature, 9 (1969), 695-702.
42. Spatt, Hartley S. "William Morris and the Uses of the Past," Victorian Poetry, 13, iii-iv (1975), 1-9.
43. Staines, David. "Morris' Treatment of His Medieval Sources in The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems," Studies in Philology, 70 (1973), 439-464.
44. Stallman, Robert L. "'Rapunzel' Unraveled," Victorian Poetry, 7 (1969), 221-232.
45. ___________. "The Lovers' Progress: An Investigation of William Morris' 'The Defence of Guenevere' and 'King Arthur's Tomb,'" Studies in English Literature, 15 (1975), 657-670.
46. Stevenson, Lionel. The Pre-Raphaelite Poets. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.
47. Thompson, E. P. William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. Rev. ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977.
48. Thompson, Francis. "Pre-Raphaelite Morris," Literary Criticisms. Newly Discovered and Collected by the Rev. Terence L.
49. Connolly, S.J. New York: Dutton, 1948.
50. Thompson, Paul. The Work of William Morris. London: Heinemann; New York: Viking, 1967.
Tinker, Chauncey B. "William Morris as Poet," Essays in Retrospect: Collected Articles and Addresses. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948.
51. Tompkins, J. M. S. "The Work of William Morris: A Cord of Triple Strand," Dalhousie Review, 50 (1970), 97-111.
52. Welby, T. Earle. The Victorian Romantics, 1850-1870: The Early Work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Burne-Jones, Swinburne, Simeon Solomon and Their Associates. London: Howe, 1929
[p. 42] 53. Wolff, Lucien. "Le Sentiment medieval en Angleterre au XIXe siecle et la premiere poesie de William Morris," Revue Anglo-Americaine, 1 (Augus 1924), 491-504; 2 (October 1924), 29-38.
[p. 180] (blank)
Stimulated by Malory's Morte d'Arthur, which he read in Robert Southey's 1817 edition of the Caxton text, Morris intended to write a full cycle of Arthurian poems (Mackail I, p. 134, and CW I, p. xix). The only surviving fruits of that intention are the first four poems of this volume and three fragments preserved by May Morris: "The Maying of Guenevere" (CW I, p. xix) portrays Mellyagraunce perched on his castle roof and grumbling about his lust for Guenevere sometime before the incidents recounted in lines 168-221 of "The Defence;" "St. Agnes' Convent" (CW XXIV, pp. 68-69) depicts Iseult of Brittany, her conventual calm ruined by her unconsummated marriage to Tristram; "Palomydes' Quest" (CW XXIV, pp. 70-71) has Palomydes pursuing his ridiculous Beast Glatysaunt and lamenting his unrequited love for La Belle Iseult.
"The Defence of Guenevere" follows Malory more closely than any of Morris' other poems on Arthurian themes. The situation as Malory gives it is that Arthur's Queen Guenevere has been caught in adultery with Launcelot, the most prominent knight of the Round Table. Her punishment is to burn at the stake. The action of this poem occurs just before the fire is kindled. Guenevere structures a complicated self-defense, hoping to mark time until Launcelot, here as in Malory, can ride to her rescue. Morris elaborated this incident from Guenevere's silent humility in Malory:
. . . and thene the quene was led forth withoute Carleil, and there she was despoylled in to her smok. And soo thenne her ghoostly fader was broughte to her to be shryuen of her mysdedes. Thenne was there wepynge & waylynge and wryngynge of handes of many lordes and ladyes. But there were but fewe in comparyson that wold bere ony armour for to strengthe the dethe of the quene. (Book XX, Ch. 8)
Several articles on this poem probe the Queen's guilt or innocence. Laurence Perrine's "Morris' Guenevere: An Interpretation" (33) inaugurated this line of inquiry and was followed by Mother Angela Carson's "Morris' Guenevere: A Further Note" (6) and Carole G. Silver's "'The Defence of Guenevere': [p. 182] A Further Interpretation" (41). Jonathan F. S. Post in "Guenevere's Critical Performance" (34) summarizes these views and argues that, as the type of the verbal artist, Guenevere constructs her own imaginative universe of values. Other articles examine the connections between this and Morris' other Arthurian poems. Meredith Raymond in "The Arthurian Group in The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems" (35) sets "The Defence" and "King Arthur's Tomb," which explore earthly love, against "Sir Gala-had, A Christmas Mystery" and "The Chapel in Lyoness," which take up spiritual love. Robert Stallman's "The Lovers' Progress: An Investigation of William Morris' 'The Defence of Guenevere' and 'King Arthur's Tomb'" (45) maintains that the stages of Guenevere's Defence enact "springtime triumphant" while "Tomb" rehearses a winter victory. Similarly, Audrey Shaw Bledsoe's "The Seasons of Camelot: William Morris' Arthurian Poems" (3) links the four Arthurian poems, beginning in summer with "The Defence," to the four seasons and Northrop Frye's corresponding narrative categories. Hartley S. Spatt in "William Morris and the Uses of the Past" (42) comments on Morris' transformation of the historic and personal past in the first two poems.
Morris has chosen the difficult terza rima as the vehicle ''for this poem. Ultimately, this form goes back to Dante's Divine Comedy (see note for lines 104 ff.), but a poem like Browning's "The Statue and the Bust" might have been Morris' more immediate inspiration. In his 1856 review of Browning's Men and Women, Morris remarked the effectiveness of Browning's verse form in this poem: "the rhythm so wonderfully suited to the story, it draws you along through the days and years that the lovers passed in delay, so quietly, swiftly, smoothly" (CW I, p. 344). Moreover, the dramatic confrontation and intense emotion of "The Defence" combine with its headlong meter and insistent self-justification to make it one of the most Browningesque of the poems in this volume.
2. Guenevere's hair may be wet because she has undergone trial by cold water to determine her guilt. See introductory note to "The Haystack in the Floods." Malory, however, specifies no such ordeal for Guenevere.
22. Although Morris does not seem to have taken the idea of "choosing cloths" directly from any literary source, this kind of treacherous choice situation would have been familiar to him from old stories such as Paris and the golden apple or Portia's three caskets in The Merchant of Venice. Freud's essay "The Theme of the Three Caskets" (Imago, 1913) maintains that one of the possible choices is always death or, as Guenevere puts it [p. 183] here, "hell." Dennis Balch (1) argues that Guenevere's choice of the blue cloth adumbrates her eventual choice of Arthur over Launcelot in "King Arthur's Tomb."
46. In Malory it is Agravaine, Gauwaine's brother, who brings the charge of adultery against the Queen. In Malory, Gauwaine refuses to participate in disgracing Guenevere (Book XX, Ch. 8). But Morris' choice of Gauwaine rather than Agravaine as the object of Guenevere's plea seems apt for several reasons: (1) Agravaine was already dead by this point in Malory's narrative. (2) For the most part, Malory's Gauwaine is a courteous and strong knight while his brother Agravaine never wins a single battle and closes his inglorious career by betraying the Queen. Morris has added psychological and moral complexity to his dramatic situation by giving Guenevere a relatively respected opponent. (3) Morris elsewhere (see note for line 186) compresses and thereby distorts events from Malory. When Malory's Launcelot rode in to save the Queen, he unwittingly slew Gauwaine's two noble brothers Gaheris and Gareth. Gauwaine was sorely grieved over the loss of these two brothers (see note for lines 280-281) and swore to avenge the deaths on Launcelot. Morris has simply placed Gauwaine's righteous indignation before the Queen's rescue rather than after.
61. Malory omits the details of Launcelot's arrival in Camelot and first few encounters with the Queen. These are recorded in the thirteenth-century Vulgate Lancelot, with which Morris may not have been directly acquainted. But the incidents of Launcelot's courtship with Guenevere appeared so often in medieval literature that Morris would surely have encountered them somewhere. In the earlier version, Launcelot arrives at Arthur's court at the Feast of St. John (Midsummer).
64. Malory does not directly give Launcelot's lineage except to say that one of his ancestors was Joseph of Arimathea. But clearly he recalls the story of Launcelot's origins given in the Vulgate Lancelot when he has Launcelot identify himself as King Ban's son of Benwick in Book VI, Ch. 8.
67. A possible source for Guenevere's catalog of the seasons is Malory's opening of Book XX, the book which chronicles all the events alluded to in this poem: "In May whan euery lusty herte floryssheth and burgeneth, For as the season is lusty to beholde and comfortable, Soo man and woman reioycen and gladen of somer comynge with hys fresshe floures, for wynter with his rouz wyndes and blastes causeth a lusty man and woman to coure, and sytte fast by the fyre."
[p. 184] 75. Littleton Long in "Morris and Timekeeping" (23) points to the clock as one of Morris' few anachronisms. But Malory also speaks of clocks. See, for instance, the opening of Book XIV, Ch. 3.
104 ff. This scene leading up to Launcelot and Guenevere's first kiss is absent from Malory but provides one of the most charming interludes in the Vulgate Lancelot. In the thirteenth-century version, the lovers meet in a meadow, not a garden, and Guenevere brings three of her ladies. Launcelot is so timid that Guenevere must offer the first kiss. If by no other means, Morris undoubtedly knew the story of the first kiss from Dante (Inferno V, lines 127 ff.), where it is mentioned in the Paolo and Francesca episode. In 1855 Rossetti had painted a water-color of these immortal lovers embracing with the book recording Launcelot's first kiss open on their laps.
149. Just after the Grail episode, Guenevere sent Launcelot away to divert suspicion about their dalliance, then gave a dinner party for twenty-four other knights. When an innocent knight died of poison intended for Gauwaine, the Queen was wrongly accused (Book XVIII, Chs. 3 and 4). Readers of Malory would realize that the Queen had been falsely accused on that occasion and might more seriously consider whether the present charge were not also false.
153 ff. This is the second detail (see note for line 46) on which Morris departs from Malory. In Le Morte d'Arthur the noble Gaheris, not Agravaine, beheaded their mother Margawse upon finding her in bed with Lamorak (Book X, Ch. 24). But to elicit Gauwaine's pity for his mother's horrible death and for her own analogous situation, Guenevere makes the matricide seem more heinous than it did in Malory by attributing it to the ignoble Agravaine.
165. dress me to the fight cf. Malory's "How syr Launcelot cam the same tyme that syr mellagrauce abode hym in the felde and dressyd hym to bataylle" (Book XIX, Ch. 9).
169. Men might have called Mellyagraunce's castle la Fausse Garde either because of his unknightly conduct toward the Queen (see note for line 173) or because of the trap he set there for Launcelot (see note for line 190).
173 ff. While the Queen sojourned at Mellyagraunce's castle, Launcelot had broken the bars at her window in order to enter her chamber. In so doing, he cut his hand and left his blood on Guenevere's bed. The next morning Mellyagraunce impolitely [p. 185] drew aside Guenevere's bed curtain, saw the blood on her bed, and wrongly accused her of sleeping with one of the wounded knights in attendance in her chamber. Here is another false accustion in support of the Queen's present defense (Book XIX, Ch. 6).
186. Morris again compresses events from Malory. Actually, Mellyagraunce challenged Launcelot to defend Guenevere's honor. It was not until a week later on the field that he showed signs of terror (Book XIX, Ch. 9).
189. Slayer of unarm'ed men alludes to the incident that brought Guenevere to Mellyagraunce's castle. The Queen had taken ten unarmed knights a-maying. Mellyagraunce, long lusting for the Queen, took advantage of these festivities to kidnap her, wounding, rather than slaying, all of her companions in the process (Book XIX, Chs. 1 and 2).
190. Setter of traps refers to another of Mellyagraunce's base deeds. Afraid to meeet Launcelot in the field after he had challenged him, Mellyagraunce invited Launcelot on a tour of his castle, then contrived to have his guest fall through a trap door into a dungeon (Book XIX, Ch. 7).
196 ff. Thou not clear from Morris' account, in Malory all this activity occurs at Arthur's court when the two knights meet in battle a week after the initial accusation. Mellyagraunce is first unhorsed, then begs for mercy. Launcelot offers to fight with his head and left side uncovered and his left hand tied behind him. On these terms Mellyagraunce eagerly agrees to continue (Book XIX, Ch. 9).
205. stake and pen, where Guenevere would be burened if Mellyagraunce won his point.
209 ff. cf. Malory's strikingly similar description of the encounter: "Thenne syre Mellyagraunce came with his suerd all on hygh, and sire launcelot shewed him openly his bare hede and the bare lyfte syde, and whan he wende to haue smyten hym vpon the bare heded, thenne lyghtly he auoyded the lyfte legge & the lyfte syde, & put his ryght hand and his suerd to that stroke, and soo putte it on syde with grete sleyghte, and thenne with grete force syr launcelot smote hym on the helmet suche a buffet that the stroke kerued the hede in two partyes, thenne there was no more to doo, but he was drawn oute of the felde" (Book XIX, Ch. 9).
220-221. For the appeal to divine judgment in trials by battle, [p. 186] see introductory note to "The Judgment of God."
222. blent might mean either "blinded by" or "mixed with."
241. On the medieval idea that beauty manifests the mind of God and is hence intrinsically virtuous, see D. W. Robertson's A Preface to Chaucer (Princeton, 1962), especially pp. 114-137. The Pre-Raphaelites carried this notion to the extreme of exonerating criminals on grounds of their personal beauty. Oswald Doughty in A Victorian Romantic: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Lon-don, 1949) relates the following anecdote: "Gabriel protested one day to his disciples, against the execution of a beautiful murderess, and when Hill ventured to suggest the supremacy of moral law even over feminine beauty, his shocked associates, really scandalized, overbore him with horrified cries of: 'Oh Hill, you would never hang a stunner!'" (p. 233).
242 ff. In Malory, Agravaine suggests that the King stay out all night hunting so that Mordred, Agravaine, and the other knights can take Launcelot and Guenevere in the act of adultery. Their plan goes off perfectly. The lovers are discovered together in Guenevere's bedroom (Book XX, Chs. 3 and 4). In 1857 Rossetti did a pen and ink sketch entitled Launcelot found in Guenevere's Chamber.
243. Ironically, it is Gauwaine in Malory who suggests these innocent possibilities for the interaction between Launcelot and Guenevere: "though it were so that sir Launcelot were fonde in the quenes chamber, yet it myghte be soo that he came thyder for none euylle, for ye knowe my lord said syr gawayne that the quene is moche beholden vnto syr launcelot" (Book XX, Ch. 7).
269. Launcelot had trustingly gone to the Queen's chamber unarmed and even in Malory seems a little nonplussed at the idea of facing fourteen armed knights (Book XX, Ch. 3).
280-281. Gauwaine's "mad fit" occurred later in Malory, after the deaths of his brothers Gaheris and Gareth. See note for line 46. In Malory, Launcelot departed from his men "and rode westerl & there he sought a vii or viii dayes, & atte last he cam to a nonnerye" (Book XXI, Ch. 9).
[p. 187] 288-289. Guenevere has good reason to expect her deliverer. Malory provides this earlier exchange: "And yf ye see that as to morne they wylle put me vnto the dethe, thenne may ye rescowe me as ye thynke best. I wyll wel sayd sir launcelot, for haue ye no doubte whyle I am lyuynge, I shalle rescowe yow" (Book XX, Ch. 4).
King Arthur's Tomb
Mackail mentions that "King Arthur's Tomb" was first read aloud by Morris to a group of friends on October 30, 1857 (I, p. 126). Of the poems which take their titles from the Rossetti watercolors Morris owned, "King Arthur's Tomb" is closest in subject to Rossetti's painting. The 1855 watercolor (now owned by E. W. Huddart with a replica in the Tate Gallery) has Launcelot leaning passionately over Arthur's tomb, hoping to kiss Guenevere, who kneels piously on the other side and fends him off. The carving on the tomb is of Arthur and Guenevere bestowing knighthood on Launcelot, and of the knights of the Round Table beholding the dove of the Holy Grail--both scenes in contrast to Launcelot's present fleshly passion but appropriate to the Queen's newly acquired piety. The Glastonbury thorn takes up the right foreground.
"King Arthur's Tomb" is clearly a pendant piece to "The Defence of Guenevere" and also draws, although less faithfully, on Malory. Le Morte d'Arthur describes a last encounter betweet Launcelot and Guenevere, but it occurs at Almesbury, not at Arthur's tomb in Glastonbury. A possible inspiration, however, for the setting of both Morris' poem and Rossetti's painting occurs in Malory after the King and Queen are both dead and Launcelot himself is dying: "daye & nyghte he prayed, but nedefully as nature requyred somtyme he slombred a broken slepe, and euer he was lyenge grouelynge on kynge Arthurs & quene Gweneuers tombe" (Book XXI, Ch. 12).
[p. 188] 7-8. cf. Sir Ecter's eulogy of Launcelot in Malory: "thou were neuer matched of none erthly knyghtes handes. And thou were the curtoyste knyghte that euer bare shelde . . . And thou were the Kyndest man that euer stroke wyth swerde" (Book XXI, Ch. 13).
10. In Malory, Guenevere had secluded herself in a convent at Almesbury, not Glastonbury. But Glastonbury was where Arthur was buried--and where his wife was later laid to rest beside him. So Morris had to relocate Guenevere to make the scenario of this poem work. The towers of Glastonbury were probably never gilded, but Morris says in "The Churches of Northern France" (CW I) that the spires of Amiens had once been.
33-35. In Malory, Gareth and Dinadan are friends and often joust in the same tournament. In one encounter, Launcelot disguised himself as a damosel, unhorsed Dinadan, then put a woman's garment on his victim: "And whanne Quene Gueneuer sawe sir Dynadan brought soo amonge them alle, thenne she lough that she fylle doune" (Book X, Ch. 49).
50-52. cf. Genesis 5:24: "Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." The Book of the Secrets of Enoch from the Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament elaborates Enoch's translation into heaven: "When Enoch had talked to the people, the Lord sent out darkness on to the earth, and there was darkness, and it covered those men standing and talking with Enoch, and they took Enoch up on the highest heaven, where the Lord is" (67: 1-2).
64 ff. Reminiscent of the situation of Rossetti's "Blessed Damozel."
79. A red lily or hyacinth is used as a symbol of martyred innocence in the classical story of Apollo and Hyacinthus.
80. Maiden Margaret is St. Margaret of Antioch, a virgin martyr who refused either to marry or to give up her Christianity even under the most extreme torture. Her story appears in Caxton's Golden Legend, which Morris reprinted at Kelmscott in 1892. Neither scarlet nor white lilies are usually associated with her, though they would be appropriate to a virgin martyr. Morris admits that his knowledge of iconography is limited (CW I, p. 355), so perhaps he has simply assigned this saint a likely symbol.
87-88. cf. Keats' "The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound, / Flutter'd in the besieging wind's uproar" ("The Eve of St. Agnes," lines 358-359).
[p. 189] 120. Arthur, according to Malory, had died in battle against Mordred near Salisbury. Launcelot was told of Arthur's death as soon as he arrived in England (see note for line 1).
121-124. According to the thirteenth-century History of the Holy Grail, Joseph of Arimathea, who took Christ's body from the cross and buried it, brought the Holy Grail to England where he and his descendants were missionaries. Not until the fourteenth century was Joseph associated with Glastonbury. Later legends assert that he planted his staff there and it blossomed. Morris' Launcelot, enthralled by a sensuous vision, is oblivious to the signs of holiness about him.
Apple-trees are also linked, if less directly, with Glastonbury. William of Malmesbury, whom Morris read, associates Glastonbury with Avalon, which he calls the Isle of Apples or Apple-trees. For Avalon, see note to line 537 of "Sir Peter Harpdon's End."
127. In Malory, Guenevere notices Launcelot walking in the cloister and swoons. Rather than going out to him, she asks that he be brought to her (Book XXI, Ch. 9). According to Malory, Arthur's spirit certainly infects the interview, even though his tomb is not in sight. When Launcelot is brought in, Guenevere's first words to her ladies are these: "thorowe this man & me hath al this warre be wrought, & the deth of the moost noblest knyghtes of the world, for thorugh our loue that we haue loued to gyder is my moost noble lord slayn" (Book XXI, Ch. 9).
129-130. cf. Malory's "Now leue we quene Gueneuer in Almesburye a nonne in whyte clothes & blacke" (Book XXI, Ch. 7).
137. There are two possible sources for the many golden-haired women in this volume: (1) Lizzie Siddal, Rossetti's model and fiancee, had red-gold hair and was the reigning Pre-Raphaelite image of woman until Jane Burden usurped her place. (2) Ladies in medieval romance almost invariably have golden hair.
161 ff. cf. Psalm 130:3: "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand?" Also compare Malory, whose Guenevere expresses her hope of forgiveness in these words: "& yet I truste thorugh goddes grace that after my deth to haue a syght of the blessyd face of cryst, and at domes day to sytte on his ryght syde, for as synful as euer I was are sayntes in heuen" (Book XXI, Ch. 9).
169. Even in her present state of penitent humility, Guenevere cannot escape the idea that beauty can be excused anything. See note for line 242 of "The Defence." Or Guenevere might be [p. 190] alluding to the Pauline contention that all men are made in God's image. See, for instance, 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory."
181-182. Guenevere identifies herself with Mary Magdalene, who in Luke 7:37-38 wept and kissed Christ's feet. See note for line 314.
194 ff. cf. Malory: "wyt thou wel I am sette in suche a plyte to gete my soule hele . . . therfore syr Launcelot I requyre the & beseche the hertelye for al the loue that euer was betwyxte vs that thou neuer see me more in the vysage" (Book XXI, Ch. 9).
198. cf. Launcelot's different response in Malory: "the same desteny that ye haue taken you to I wyl take me vnto for to please god, and for you I cast me specially to praye" (Book XXI, Ch. 9).
203 ff. cf. Launcelot's more devout resolve in Malory: "But sythen I fynde you thus disposed, I ensure you feythfully that I wil take me to penaunce, & praye whyle my lyf lasteth, yf I may fynde any good heremyte eyther graye or whyte that will receyue me. Wherfor madame I praye you kysse me once and neuer more" (Book XXI, Ch. 10).
207 ff. cf. Malory's Guenevere, who replies: "Nay . . . that shal I neuer doo, but abstayne yow from suche thynges" (Book XXI, Ch. 10).
209. i.e., across the carved head of Arthur on the tomb.
210-212. A "V" was supposed to distinguish a poisonous snake. In the left foreground of Rossetti's watercolor (see introductory note) a serpent coils through the grass.
218 ff. At the end of Book V, which recounts Arthur's exploits against Emperor Lucius, Malory has: "And thus [Arthur] came ouer the see and londed at sandwyche, ageynste whome Quene Gweneuer his wyf came and mette hym" (Book V, Ch. 12).
224. No torches or tapers accompany Lucius' bier in Malory, but both Launcelot and Guenevere have a hundred torches constantly burning around their own funeral processions.
225 ff. cf. Malory's account of how Arthur treated Emperor Lucius and the other slain kings "whome the kynge dyd do bawme [p. 191] and gomme with many good gommes aromatyk, and after dyd do cere them in syxty fold of cered clothe of Sendale" (Book V, Ch. 8). But in Malory the bodies were then taken to Rome, not Camelot.
229. In Malory, Lucius is killed by Arthur, not Launcelot.
259. Breuse is Malory's Sir Breuse Saunce Pitie, the felon knight. His only appearances in Le Morte d'Arthur are to kidnap children, slay ladies, and flee from battle with an equal. Launcelot did have one encounter with Breuse who, as ever, managed to escape. One of Rossetti's watercolors in Morris' collection was called The Death of Breuse sans Pitie, an event which Malory unfortunately does not record.
265 ff. Malory's Guenevere discharges her jealous wrath upon Launcelot at several points in Le Morte d'Arthur.
283-284. The "two spots" are Guenevere's garden (cf. "The Defence," where the thrushes also sing in Guenevere's garden), usually associated with love but now lonely, and the battlefield where Launcelot is instead.
287 ff. cf. Malory: "they loued to gyder more hotter than they did to fore hand, and had suche preuy draughtes to gyder that many in the Courte spak of hit" (Book XVIII, Ch. 1).
294. Iseult from the West or La Belle Iseult is the partner of Sir Tristram's ill-fated romance. The two drink a love potion intended for Iseult and King Mark, her husband-to-be. The love triangle among Tristram, Iseult, and Mark is a clear parallel to the one formed by Guenevere, Launcelot, and Arthur.
295. Iseult of Brittany or Iseult of the White Hands is the lady Tristram wed. But, still pining for La Belle Iseult, he never consummated the marriage. Morris' early fragment "St. Agnes' Convent" (CW XXIV, pp. 68-69) pictures this Iseult, love-lorn and deserted.
305 ff. cf. Rossetti's "The Bride's Prelude," lines 571-575:
Yet I grew curious of my shame,
And sometimes in the church,
On hearing such a sin rebuked,
Have held my girdle-glass unhooked
To see how such a woman looked.
309. e.g. 2 Peter 2:9-10: "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the [p. 192] day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government."
310. strange sins, probably the sexual offenses enumerated in some detail in Leviticus 20 and 21.
311. In Daniel 5, Daniel is brought before Belshazzar to interpret the mysterious writing on the wall and reveals that it prophesies the downfall of Belshazzar's kingdom from overindulgence in sensual pleasures.
313. In John 4:7 ff. Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink at Jacob's well. She knows him for a prophet when he tells her she has had five husbands "and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband."
314. Luke 7 and 8 recount the stories of the woman who was a sinner and Mary Magdalene. Both probably refer to the same woman, who was a harlot forgiven by Jesus for her sin because of her humble repentance. All the Biblical allusions in these lines refer to sins of the flesh and nearly all to adultery, naturally the sin most in Guenevere's mind.
330. Gauwaine never "scowls" in Malory, but parts of his career might have given him good reason to. During one of his first exploits he accidentally slew a lady with a stroke intended for her lover (Book III, Ch. 7). The grief this incident provoked followed him for several chapters. See also note to line 46 of "The Defence."
331. Malory describes Gareth upon his first appearance at court as "the goodlyest yong man & the fairest that euer they al sawe, & he was large and long and brode in the sholders & wel vysaged, and the fayrest and the largest handed that euer man sawe" (Book VII, Ch. 1). He is therefore called Beaumains or "Fair Hands."
333. cf. Malory's description of Dinadan as "the meryest knyght among felauship that was that tyme lyuynge. And he hadde suche a customme that he loued euery good knyghte, and euery good knyght loued hym ageyne" (Book X, Ch. 47).
335. Tristram is one of the greatest knights of Malory's Round Table, probably second only to Launcelot. See notes for lines 294 and 295 on the subject of his love life.
337. Palomydes was a brave Saracen knight whose unrequited love for La Belle Iseult made him a constant, though admiring, [p. 193] adversary of Sir Tristram. In Malory he never fights with his helmet off. But compare this description of Palomydes with Morris' 1856 description of Arnald in "The Hollow Land:" "Afterwards we tightened our saddlegirths, shook our great pots of helmets on, except Arnald, whose rusty-red hair had been his only headpiece in battle for years and years" (CW I, pp. 269-270).
A fragment called "Palomydes' Quest" was written about the time of the poems in this volume (CW XXIV, pp. 70-71). In 1857, the year this poem was written, Morris was engaged with Rossetti and a group of other artists in decorating the walls of the Oxford Union with frescoes on Arthurian themes. Morris' painting, long since faded beyond recognition, was called How Sir Palomydes loved La Belle Iseult with exceeding great love out of measure, and how she loved not him again but rather Sir Tristram.
344. Beast Glatysaunt--with its serpent's head, leopard's body, lion's hindquarters, and deer's feet--was the pagan Palomydes' bathetic version of the Holy Grail. He pursued it with an almost religious zeal, invested it with all the frustrated love he felt for Iseult, and, naturally, never quite caught up with it.
349. In the later books of Malory when Gareth is only a minor character, he is often overcome in jousts.
353-354. When Gareth first came to court, he served as kitchen boy under Sir Kay the Seneschal and patiently suffered Kay's gibes. When Gareth was finally granted his first adventure, Kay teasingly rode out after him, thinking him incapable of knightly strength. Gareth easily overthrew him (Book VII, Ch. 4).
356. 'Iseult!' is Tristram's battle cry. He often defeats Dinadan in Malory.
357-360. 'Iseult' and 'Guenevere' would be the cries of Tristram and Launcelot, who join battle in these lines. The thought of Launcelot's jousting brings Guenevere back to the reality of her present encounter with him.
368-369. In heraldry a bend-sinister is two parallel lines from the upper left to the lower right corner of a coat-of-arms. It is one of the marks of bastardy. Morris probably intends a pun on the word "sinister," which also describes Guenevere's view of her relations with Launcelot. Furthermore, Mordred, who was Arthur's son in incest and who finally directly caused Arthur's death, actually did bear Arthur's shield with a black [p. 194] bend-sinister across it. Guenevere may be identifying Launcelot, Arthur's spiritual son and indirect undoing, with his actual son and direct destroyer.
368, 371. Guenevere alludes back to line 248.
374. Twisted Malay's crease, a curved sword. cf. Tennyson's "The cursed Malayan crease" (The Princess, line 21).
375. See note for line 149 of "The Defence." The item Guenevere was accused of poisoning was a piece of fruit.
388. Launcelot falls cf. Malory's: "ther was a lamentacyon as though they had ben stongen wyth speres & many tymes they sowned, & the ladyes bare the quene to her chambre" (Book XXI, Ch. 10).
396. cf. Malory: "and syr Launcelot awoke & wente and toke hys hors & rode alle that daye and alle that nyghte in a foreste wepynge. And at the last he was ware of an hermytage . . . & than he herd a lytel belle rynge to masse" (Book XXI, Ch. 10).
Sir Galahad, A Christmas Mystery
On December 18, 1856, Rossetti wrote to William Allingham that he and Morris had painted the back of a chair in green, red, and blue (Henderson, p. 39). At about this time, the two artists decorated one chair back with Guendolen in the witch tower and another with the arming of a knight from "Sir Galahad" (Mackail I, p. 114). Thus, it seems safe to assume that the chair back decorated with the arming of the knight was completed sometime during the winter of 1856-1857. This would place the composition of "Sir Galahad, A Christmas Mystery" in 1856, possibly around Christmas time.
The genesis of this poem is a complicated literary and biographical one. Galahad, the virgin knight, is a character out of Malory who, like Morris' hero, is granted a vision of the Grail. But the specific incident of this poem never occurs in Malory, nor does Morris' Galahad bear much resemblance to his Malorian ancestor. A more immediate source of Morris' Galahad was undoubtedly Tennyson's "Sir Galahad" (1842), whose protagonist Morris censured as "rather a mild youth" (Mackail I, p. 45). Perhaps the doubts and hardships of Morris' hero in the first part of this poem are best understood as a reaction against the easy and enthusiastic acceptance of chastity by Tennyson's knight. See note for lines 49 ff.
Morris had personal reasons for finding Tennyson's Galahad distasteful or improbable. Only three years before, he had considered [p. 195] devoting his entire inheritance to the foundation of a monastery dedicated to art and religion. Edward Burne-Jones, co-author of the idea, wrote on May 1, 1853, "I have set my heart on founding a Brotherhood. Learn 'Sir Galahad' by heart; he is to be the patron of our Order" (Henderson, p. 22). For one as addicted to a secular world of action and romance as the young Morris, this cannot have been an easy decision. What Tennyson's Galahad takes for granted Morris and Burne-Jones knew had to be achieved through struggle. It was this struggle that sparked Burne-Jones' 1857 painting of Sir Galahad armed and solemnly riding alone while in the background knights dally comfortably with their ladies. And it is this struggle that animates Morris' "Sir Galahad."
In The Pre-Raphaelite Poets (46) Lionel Stevenson points out that the medieval mystery play or folk drama, made up of set speeches in lyric rhythms, determined the form of this poem and perhaps of "The Chapel in Lyoness," "Rapunzel," "A Good Knight in Prison," and "The Blue Closet" as well.
2. cf. Tennyson's "Sir Galahad," lines 51-52: "The cock crows ere the Christmas morn, / The streets are dumb with snow." Both poets identify Galahad with Christ and make use of snow as a symbol of purity.
8. Raymond (35) points out that the bell--perhaps the sacring bell rung to indicate Christ's presence in the host--ties this poem to the last line of "King Arthur's Tomb."
10 ff. Galahad's drowsiness during this encounter with Christ is nowhere indicated in Malory. But Launcelot can only see the Grail "half wakynge and slepyng" (Book XIII, Ch. 18) because of his sin. Unsatisfied with utter purity, Morris seems eager to attribute to Galahad some of the moral and psychic tension that in Malory belongs rather to Launcelot.
25. See note for line 337 of "King Arthur's Tomb."
27. the questing beast is Glatysaunt. See note for line 344 of "King Arthur's Tomb." "Questing" and "glatysaunt" both meant "barking" and referred to the dreadful noise this beast uttered continually. Morris was probably aware of the pun on "quest."
35-38. cf. Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," lines 17-20:
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
[p. 196] 41. Galahad was Launcelot's son by King Pelles' daughter Elaine le Blank. To King Pelles, a descendant of Joseph of Arimathea (see note for lines 121-124 of "King Arthur's Tomb"), was entrusted the keeping of the Holy Grail. Galahad was hence a kind of Launcelot without the taint of earthly faults.
49 ff. cf. Tennyson's Galahad, who comes by his chastity without struggle (lines 19-24):
I never felt the kiss of love, Nor maiden's hand in mine.
More bounteous aspects on me beam,
Me mightier transports move and thrill;
So keep I fair through faith and prayer
A virgin heart in work and will.
52. Candlemas, February 2, is, significantly, the feast day of the Virgin.
57-58. Sleeves were separate garments in medieval dress and so more prominent than they are today. Minstrels were known by their brightly colored clothing.
67. Malory devotes Books XIII through XVII to the quest for the Sangreal or Holy Grail, the legendary vessel reputed to preserve some drops of Christ's blood and brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea. See note for line 41. Malory also describes the farewell between lovers before the quest, explaining that many of the ladies would have accompanied their knights had not an old hermit warned them to stay home because only sinless knights could see the Grail (Book XIII, Ch. 8).
74. Mador de la porte, in Malory always an adversary of Guenevere and Launcelot, hence no very likable character. Since he was one of those who discovered Launcelot in Guenevere's chamber, his sinister presence may be meant to contrast with Galahad's holy presence in the next line. Both quell love's enthusiasm.
82. cf. "no touch of awe," line 16.
88. Red and white represent Christ's passion and purity or the wine and bread of the Eucharist.
92. When Galahad and his companions see the Grail at the castle of Carbonek in Malory, their reaction is described thus: "And they sette hem at the table in grete drede and made their prayers" (Book XVII, Ch. 20). cf. Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
[p. 197] 94 ff. In Malory, Christ makes no such mundanely reassuring speech to his knights. Rather, he reveals the mystery of His holy vessel and instructs them to follow the Grail to the city of Sarras (Book XVII, Ch. 20).
98. cf. Matthew 28:20: "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
101. Launcelot is finally the servant of Christ when he becomes a monk right before his death.
102 ff. Christ points out Launcelot's duplicity and deceit of Arthur, who first knighted him and still trusts him. This is the unfortunate facet of Launcelot's love for Arthur's queen.
107 ff. Malory's description of Launcelot's quest for the Holy Grail is a particularly moving one in which the knight's innumerable virtues constantly join battle with his one weakness, love for Guenevere, the single sin that bars him from a total vision of the Grail.
121. Palomydes in Malory is christened at the end of Book XII just before the quest for the Holy Grail begins in Book XIII.
123. cf. Malory: "But euer sire Palomydes faded and morned that alle men had merueylle wherfore he faded soo aweye" (Book X, Ch. 86).
132 ff. In Malory Christ promised that when Galahad should wish, he might pass out of the life of this world into the life of the soul. A year later he "made his prayers, and thenne sodenly his soule departed to Jhesu Crist and a grete multitude of Angels bare his soule vp to heuen" (Book XVII, Ch. 22).
139-141. In Malory four angels accompany the Sangreal on its first appearance to Galahad (Book XVII, Ch. 20). In Tennyson "Three angels bear the holy Grail: / With folded feet, in stoles of white" (lines 42-43).
151. As the actual presence of Christ approaches Galahad, the sacring bell is rung. See note for line 8.
152,153. a surcoat of white, with a red cross. In Book XIII, Chs. 9, 10, and 11, Malory recounts how Galahad secured his shield. It was a white shield stained with a red cross by the blood of Joseph of Arimathea and destined only to be used by Galahad, the last of Joseph's line.
157-158. According to Malory's version, Solomon's wife had three spindles carved out of a tree first planted by Eve. One was white in token of prelapsarian innocence, one was the green of the first birth, and one the red of the first murder. The spindles were then placed in the ship of "feythe & byleue" (Book XVII, Ch. 7) and set adrift. Only Galahad and his companions Bors, Percival, and Percival's sister would ever be worthy to enter it.
159-160. The sword, found on the same ship which contains the spindles, bears the following inscription in Malory: "lete see who shall assaye to drawe me oute of my shethe, but yf he be more hardyer than ony other, & who that draweth me, wete ye wel that he shalle neuer fayle of shame of his body or to be wounded to the dethe" (Book XVII, Ch. 3). Only Galahad can draw it. Morris' cryptic allusions to the spindles and the sword lend an air of religious mystery to Galahad's quest.
161-162. The ship in which Galahad found his father Launcelot was not the same ship that contained the sword and the spindles, according to Malory. Rather, it was the ship that contained the body of Percival's dead sister (Book XVII, Ch. 11). It is probably no coincidence that Percival's sister, then, becomes prominent in Morris' next two lines.
164-165. Percival, his sister, Bors, and Galahad are the only Grail seekers in Malory pure enough to achieve their end. Unfortunately, Percival's sister dies in an act of maiden charity before they reach their goal.
168. For Margaret of Antioch, see note to line 80 of "King Arthur's Tomb."
170. St. Cecily was married to Valerian but persuaded him to join her in a chaste life devoted to Christ. Both were martyred. For the 1857 Moxon edition of Tennyson, Rossetti drew St. Cecily at the organ, leaning backward toward a lover who kisses her forehead--a rendition more Pre-Raphaelite than chaste.
173. St. Lucy gave away her inheritance to the poor, causing her betrothed to bring her to judgment. Unnerved by Lucy's chastity, the Emperor turned her over to ribalds who found her miraculously too heavy to move. She was martyred at Syracuse.
175. Katherine, Queen of Alexandria, refused every bridegroom suggested to her and was mystically married to Christ. Like the others, she was martyred when she refused to convert to paganism. In 1857 Rossetti painted a St. Catherine. All four [p. 199] saints share with Galahad their purity in Christ.
183. In Malory, Galahad is also constantly concerned for his father's welfare. Besides spending six months with him on the ship (see note for lines 161-162), Galahad twice asks to be re-membered to his father, once of several knights going toward Camelot and again of Sir Bors just before dying.
188. cf. Malory's description of the appearance of the Grail at Arthur's court: "In the myddes of this blast [of thunder] entred a sonne beaume more clerer by seuen tymes than euer they sawe daye" (Book XIII, Ch. 7).
191 ff. Morris borrows Malory's very words to describe Dinadan, who was "the meryest knyght," "but he was a scoffer, and a japer" (Book X, Ch. 47). Morris elaborates Malory's brief prediction of Dinadan's death, Book X, Ch. 25: "And after in the quest of the Sancgreal cowardly and felloynsly they [Mordred and Agravaine] slewe Dynadan."
193-194. The details of Lionel and Gauwaine's shame are given in Malory. Riding in search of the Grail, Sir Bors saw his brother Lionel being beaten at the same time that he saw a maiden in distress. He quickly rescued the maiden before riding to his brother's aid. Lionel was so outraged by this lapse of fraternal devotion that he tried to kill Bors and did gratuitously slay a religious hermit (Book XVI). Gauwaine much more innocently jousted with and slew Uwaine, a knight also in search of the Grail, without recognizing him. Uwaine's last words were: "& now forgyue it the god, for hit shal euer be sayd that the one sworn broder hath slayne thother" (Book XVI, Ch. 2).
195. Malory, too, stresses the shame which accrued to every knight but Galahad, Bors, and Percival in their search for the Sangreal: "Sir sayd Gawayne hit semeth me by your wordes that for oure synnes it wylle not auaylle vs to trauaylle in this quest. Truly sayd the good man, there ben an honderd suche as ye be, that neuer shalle preuayle, but to haue shame" (Book XVI, Ch. 5).
195-198. In Malory, Launcelot does not meet Lauvaine until after the Holy Grail episode, when Lauvaine becomes Launcelot's fast friend and helper.
199-200. The desperate end of the Grail quest that Morris envisions agrees with Malory's description of Launcelot's return to court, where he found that "many of the knyghtes of the round table were slayne, and destroyed more than half." (Book XVII, Ch. 17).
The Chapel in Lyoness
"The Chapel in Lyoness" first appeared in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine for September of 1856. Its source is once again Malory. But, although it preserves something of the aura of Malory's quest for the Grail, Morris draws on no specific incident in his source.
Curtis Dahl's "Morris's 'The Chapel in Lyoness': An Interpretation" (7) points to the way Morris used his Malory, suggests possible influences from the Vulgate cycle of the Arthurian romances, and documents the symbolism used in the poem. For Dahl, Ozana--the chivalric version of a repentant Everyman--undergoes the traditional fasting before Whit-Sunday and lies beneath a cloth of white and red--the colors of the Eucharist. Galahad bestows on Ozana the mystic rose of salvation and the kiss of absolution for one dying in a state of grace. It is this gift of grace that Ozana can "begin to fathom" as he dies.
Lyoness is a name first used by Malory to designate a mythical country, since submerged, supposed to have existed south of Cornwall. Malory identifies it as Tristram's birthplace. It seems particularly suitable to locate a poem so otherworldly in a land known only to romance.
Sir Ozana. This typical knight of the Round Table appears in Malory several times but never performs individually. He fights, gets beaten, guards Guenevere when she goes a-maying, is imprisoned.
2. Whit-Sunday, or Pentacost, occurs forty-nine days after Easter when the Holy Ghost is supposed to have descended upon the disciples of Christ. Ozana has apparently been lying in the chapel for about six months.
8. In Book XIII, Ch. 13 of Malory, Galahad takes the knight Melyas, wounded for his sins, to a nearby abbey. Melyas then "asked his saueour. And whanne he had receyued hym he said vnto syr galahad, syr lete deth come whan it pleasyd hym. And there with he drewe oute the truncheon of the spere oute of his body. And thenne he swouned." Dahl (7) considers this episode in Malory close enough to the situation of this poem to be a partial source.
15. white and red are intimately tied to Whit- (or "white") Sunday when the Holy Ghost (often represented as a white dove) [p. 201] descended in red tongues of flame. See also note for line 88 of "Sir Galahad, A Christmas Mystery."
34. Note the parallel stanza pattern and subject matter of Ozana's and Galahad's first speeches.
40. Ozana's fallen state reminds Galahad of the precarious condition of his own father's soul, a concern never far from his mind throughout his search for the Grail. Mention or presence of Launcelot ties together all four of Morris' Arthurian poems.
46-49. The rose and lily carry out the red and white imagery (see note for line 15). In Malory, King Mordrayns, whom Galahad brings to grace, thus addresses his savior: "for thou arte a clene vyrgyn aboue all Knyghtes as the floure of the lely, in whose vyrgynyte is sygnefyed, & thou art the rose the whiche is the floure of all good vertues, & in coloure of fyre" (Book XVII, Ch. 18).
53. Ozana keeps a lock of hair from his mistress. The implication may be that he was wounded in defending her.
Sir Bors was Galahad's kinsman and companion in the quest for the Grail and one of the three knights pure enough to find his goal.
Sir Peter Harpdon's End
Froissart's Chronicles, which Morris read in Berners' 1523 translation, record events in France, England, and Spain during the first half of the Hundred Years' War. After initial victories in France, the English weakened when the Black Prince and his father King Edward III died in 1376 and 1377. For the rest of the century, the history of the English cause in France was one of defeat relieved by intermittent victories. Morris has set his poem right at the turning of England's tide. Memories of English strength still fresh in their minds, many Frenchmen yet held with the English. Gascony, Sir Peter's home, was the most faithful to England of all the French territories and remained English the longest.
The title role in "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" is one of the few in this poem Morris did not cast with a character taken directly from the pages of Froissart. The chronicler identifies a John Harpedon whose career is similar but certainly not identical with Sir Peter's. Sir John is a Poictevin, not a Gascon knight, and Froissart does not mention his death. But he is a French knight in the English service and does seem to get involved [p. 202] in losing causes. When Froissart introduces him, John Harpedon is accompanying the Earl of Pembroke on a burning and pillaging escapade through Poictou and Anjou. The French overtake them in a Poictevin town named Puiernon. As in Morris' poem, the English are valiant but poorly fortified, "so they defeded theselfe merueylously, and cast downe stones on the pauesses and bassenettes, and ouerthrue, slewe, and hurt dyuers, and dyde suche dedes of armes, ye neuer herde of so feble a place so well defeded with so fewe people, agaynst so many good knightes and squyers as were ther" (Vol. I, Ch. CCLXV). Pembroke dispatches a courier to John Chandos, who arrives in time to save the situation. All this took place in 1369. Later that year, Chandos was killed at Lusac Bridge. And by the time of Morris' poem, probably 1378, few valiant English captains remained to rescue anyone. The difference in outcome between Sir John's battle and Sir Peter's might reflect mainly this passage of time.
Later, as Seneschal of Rochelle, Froissart's Sir John fails to muster support for the Earl of Pembroke, who is sorely set upon by the Spanish. Because of Harpedon's failure, Pembroke--as Morris mentions--is taken prisoner. On this scant evidence, Frank Davies in "William Morris's Sir Peter Harpdon's End" (8) suggests that Morris chose this name because of its Froissartian association with failure. It seems more likely that Morris selected from Froissart quite at random the name of a French knight serving England during the 1370's. The story of a Poictevin castle lost to the French is common enough in Froissart to allow of no specific incident as direct source. But see John M. Patrick's "Morris and Froissart Again: 'Sir Peter Harpdon's End'" (31) for suggested analogues to the incidents in this poem. In the best interpretive essay on the Froissartian poems, Dianne F. Sadoff argues that in these poems "violence and death displace and destroy frail human desires for sexual and inter-personal fulfillment" (37, p. 26).
The blank verse and some of the dramatic devices of this short play show Shakespeare's influence. Morris had seen a performance of Richard II in 1857, and it remained his special favorite among Shakespeare's histories (Mackail I, p. 116). Note that Richard II had been crowned just before the action of Morris' poem begins. See note for line 588.
John Curzon's name, like his master's, was chosen randomly from Froissart but this time without altering the first name. "Sir Johan Cursone" is one of the English knights in Pembroke's company taken at Rochelle. It may be more than coincidence that Curzon's name in Froissart appears in the same chapter (Vol. I, Ch. CCLXXXXVIII) as Harpedon's and that both are associated with [p. 203] the English fiasco at Rochelle.
2. St. John's might refer to Saint Jean d'Angely, a town in southern Poictou often mentioned by Froissart.
5-6. Jacques Aquadent, and Peter Plombiere are both names which play on the business of plumbing. Opening a scene with the subject of common people is reminiscent of Shakespeare's opening of Julius Caesar, in which a carpenter and a cobbler banter.
12 ff. Curzon, the dogged literalist, unable to appreciate the complexities either of Sir Peter or of the political situation, resembles a cross between Horatio and Polonius in Hamlet. Like Shakespeare, Morris is using supporting characters as foils to the sensibility of the tragic hero.
31-32. Froissart records numerous instances of arbitrary allegiance to whoever held a particular fortress. Sir Peter is saying that his men know the French superiority and would rather yield themselves peacefully than be slain in battle.
Clisson was a Breton knight and brother in arms of Guesclin, the Constable of France. He himself became Constable in 1380. Sanxere was the Marshal of France at the time of the poem and became Constable in 1397. Clisson, Sanxere, and Guesclin were the strongest knights of France in the 1370's and did win numerous Poictevin castles from the English.
37-39. Sir John Chandos was the chief English knight until his death in 1369 at Lusac Bridge. At various points in his career he had been regent over all English possessions in France, Con-stable of Guienne, and finally Seneschal of Poictou. Unfortunately, his death failed to match the glory of his life. During a skirmish with the French he lost his footing on the wet grass, and as he rose, a mere squire struck him under his blind eye: "the stroke was rude and entred into his brayne, the whiche stroke greued him so sore, that he ouerthrue to the erthe, and tourned for payne two tymes vp so downe, as he that was wouded to dethe" (Vol. I, Ch. CCLXX).
40. Pembroke was taken at Rochelle in the presence of Sir John Harpedon. See introductory note. Morris apparently overlooked the fact that Pembroke died in prison in 1374, hence would have been dead by the time of this poem.
Thomas Phelton, an Englishman, was the Seneschal of Bordeaux in 1377, a post later held by Sir John Harpedon. He was taken prisoner by the French during the siege of Bergerath (see note for line 115).
41. Walter Manny had saved Brittany for the English in 1342. See note for line 681. After innumberable other heroic feats in behalf of Britain, he died quietly in London in 1372; "he was buryed with great solempnyte in the monastery of the charterhouse, besyde London" (Vol. I, Ch. CCLXXXXVI).
42. When Brittany had been disputed between French and English claimants, Oliver Clisson had fought on the English side in 1364 at the siege of Alroy. But a year later when the French King restored his holdings in Brittany, Clisson "turn'd" to France and remained loyal for the rest of his life (Vol. I, Ch. CCXXIX).
43. Captal refers to the Captal of Buch and is an inherited title roughtly equivalent to "count." By the fourteenth century this tiltle had fallen into disuse so that only the captals of Buch and Franc still retained it. As Constable of Acquitaine in the British service, the Captal was imprisoned by the French in 1372. The King of France would only agree to his ransom on condition that he never again bear arms against the crown. The Captal refused this condition and died in prison in 1377 (Vol. I, Ch. CCCXV).
44. Edward the Black Prince died in 1376. During the 1350's he had greatly increased the English holdings in France by leading expeditions out of Aquitaine across southern France.
45. King Edward III barely survived his son to die in 1377. He had initiated the Hundred Years' War by claiming the French crown in 1337. English military superiority earned Edward decided victories during the first decades of the war. But he lived to see his fortunes reversed. His death brought to the throne the child Richard II. Lack of a strong successor further weakened the English position.
46. Morris had undoubtedly seen the tomb of Edward III at Westminster Abbey. It bears a reclining image of the King, complete with flowing beard. Sicne the carvers are still at work on his tomb, Edward must be only recently dead at the time of the poem.
59. Constable of France from 1370, Bertram du Guesclin recouped many prevous French losses and was France's chief warrior until his death in 1380.
60. Peter refers to Aquadent and Plombiere, whom he knows from his youth in Gascony.
75. An atmosphere of failure also hangs over Froissart's de- [p. 205] scription of the incident at Lusac Bridge. Not only was John Chandos' death ignoble (see note for lines 37-39), but the entire encounter was predicated on a series of bungles. Originally, John Chandos had set out to recapture Saint Salvyn from the French. At midnight when Chandos' troops were about to scale the walls of Saint Salvyn, the watchman sounded his horn for some arriving Frenchmen. Mistakenly thinking they had been discovered, the English retreated. Sulking the next day over his failure, Chandos dismised many of his troops and let those under Percy go on ahead in search of adventure. In fact, Percy was just the other side of Lusac Bridge during Chandos' skirmish there. Had he seen what was happening, Percy could easily have turned the affair into an English victory. But he noticed only that the French ceased pursuing him and gratefully resumed his way. Like Morris' Sir Peter, Froissart's Percy failed Chandos in his hour of need.
83. As punishment for Peter's rumored French leanings, an English captain has sent him off to defend a hopeless English castle, probably rightly predicting he would be killed. Peter understands this treachery and yet refuses to betray the English.
112-113. Davies (8) connects Peter's failure to succor his mistress with Sir John Harpedon's absence when his wife's castle was captured in Froissart (Vol. I, Ch. CCCV).
114. Malory's Balen is a brave and well-meaning knight whose deeds are somehow always turned against him. First he beheads the Lady of the Lake, who had caused his mother's death. Arthur reproves him and sends Lanceor out to challenge him. Balen nobly meets and slays Lanceor only to watch Lanceor's lover then impale hereslf for grief upon his sword. Still well-intentioned, Balen slays the brother of King Pelles, not knowing whom he kills. When Pelles sets upon his brother's killer, Balen deals him the dolorous stroke, which puts a blight on all the surrounding country and remains open until Galahad heals it in his quest for the Grail. To end his hapless career, Balen unwittingly fights and slays his brother, then dies of his wounds.
115. Since Bergerath is only a few miles from Bordeaux, Lady Alice might reasonably have expected help from her nearby knight. When Phelton and the chief Gascon knights were taken and a fearful engine of war set up before Bergerath, the villagers were disheartened enough to surrender to the French, who "set therin a capitayne and men of war to kepe it" (Vol. I, Ch. CCCXX). Peter's contention is that these men of war made it impossible for him to leave the town.
[p. 206] 118-119. Struggling in a marish, or marsh, half a day and arriving too late fits the general tenor of events surrounding the Lusac Bridge incident. See note for line 75. "Marish" is a word Morris probably got from Froissart, e.g. "syr Vauflart de la Croyse, who was in the marysshe" (Vol. I, Ch. LVIII).
121. Whether or not the Lady Alice could be expected to know how heavy armor was, Morris himself had it at first hand. As a child, he had played in a little suit of armor (Mackail I, p. 9). Years later when the subjects of the Oxford Union murals required a knowledge of armor, Morris easily and accurately de-signed a suit and had a local blacksmith make it up (Mackail I, p. 120).
125. Morris hints throughout the poem that Lambert attempted to secure Lady Alice's affections by maligning his cousin.
142-143. Morris has probably invented Lambert's coat-of-arms, although several families--English and Scottish as well as French--bore them. In heraldry, rings were often gem rings and hence associated with material wealth. Lambert's pecuniary self-interest soon becomes apparent.
150. St. Ives is a popular French saint and often appears in Froissart as the French battle cry.
163. St. George is the patron saint of England and the invariable cry of English knights in battle.
176 ff. See introductory note and note to line 45 for a brief account of the shift in military strength from England to France. The description of the English as "order'd" and "orderly led on" by the King and the Black Prince is possibly an allusion to the Battle of Crecy (Froissart I, Chs. CXXX-CXXXII) which the English won by calm discipline against the hot-headed and disorganized French.
186. Guesclin had observed the ordered style of English fighting for long enough that he and other French captains could now imitate it flawlessly. The English thereby lost their strategical advantage.
192 ff. Peter reflects Morris' interest in Hector and the Trojan War. The next poem Morris planned after this volume was to be [p. 207] Scenes from the Fall of Troy. Of the twelve projected scenes, nearly eight were completed and are preserved by May Morris (CW XXIV, pp. 3-52). Like Morris' Froissartian poems, these scenes emphasize the dark side of battle but maintain the dignity of the individual hero. Morris viewed Hector as a hero braver because he suspected his own doom and yet fought on.
225. cf. Shakespeare's imagery for the desperate but valiant Macbeth: "They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly, / But, bear-like, I must fight the course" (Act V, scene vii, lines 1-2).
236. Since Bordeaux was an English town, Lambert would have been an ambassador for the French. It was probably during his tenure as ambassador that he plied Lady Alice with his suspicions of Peter. See lines 74 ff.
240. Patrick (31) suggests that Lambert's treachery has several precedents in Froissart. For example, the French Earl of Foiz sent for his cousin Peter Arnaut de Bearn who, to the great displeasure of the Duke of Anjou, held the fortress of Lourde for the English. The Earl demanded that Peter give up the fortress; Peter refused: "Whan the erle of Foyz herde that answere, his blode chafed for yre, and sayd, drawyng out his daggar, A treatour, sayest thou nay? By my heed thou hast nat sayd that for nought." He wounds Peter in five places and casts him into prison to die (Vol. II, Ch. XXIII).
241. St. Denis is the patron saint of France, hence a popular French battle cry in Froissart. There are several St. Lamberts, one of whom this Lambert must regard as his personal patron.
243. Guienne was one name for the English section of France which included Gascony, Sir Peter's native soil. It was natural for a Gascon knight fighting for England to append the name of his home province to the traditional English battle cry. In Froissart English knights typically went to battle "and cryed with a hygh voyce, saynt George guyen" (Vol. I, Ch. CCXXXVIII).
248. In Froissart prisoners were usually put to ransom and seldom executed. Still more seldom were they mutilated.
250. on the hip cf. Shakespeare's usage, e.g. "Now, infidel, I you on the hip" (Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene i, line
274. Beheading was the usual punishment for a traitor of high degree. Hanging was reserved for humbler people like the peasants [p. 208] who revolted in 1381 in England. Occasionally, an especially egregious traitor was dismembered before he was beheaded. Froissart describes some of these gruesome executions, e.g. the vivisection of Hugh Spencer (Vol. I, Ch. XIII). For Peter to cut off Lambert's ears is a devastating and perhaps ignoble insult. It was a kind of mutilation even in the Middle Ages usually reserved for commoners, often female adulterers. Perhaps this is Peter's way of punishing Lambert's lust for Lady Alice.
307-308. Job 2:4: "And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life."
312. "Would rather die" refers back to Lambert's speech, line 289.
349. serried, meaning "pressed close together" or "in close or-der," cf. Walter Scott's "Shield compact and serried spear" ("The Lord of the Isles," Canto V, stanza xv).
353 ff. Peter speaks of the days before Clisson turned to the French. See note for line 42.
359. Morris has reversed the character of Clisson from that found in Froissart, where "he had no pyte nor mercy of any englysshman that fell in his daunger" (Vol. I, Ch. CCCVIII). The poet, at pains to show that nobility of character was not limited to one cause or the other, represents one highly moral Frenchman to compensate for the ignoble Lambert. Froissart was famous for a similar impartiality.
363. the Garonne river runs through Bordeaux into Gascony.
365-366. grey monks, Cistercians who, since they had large holdings in England, tended to support the English, who recognized Pope Urban VI. Clement VII was the French anti-pope, elected in 1378. Clisson is saying that these particular Cistercians are, however, on the French side. 1378 is the latest date referred to in this poem and places its action sometime during that year.
379 ff. Lambert gloatingly echoes Sir Peter's former words to him, lines 275-277.
381. Laurence, whose martyrdom stands out in Christian hagiography, was ordered to be grilled slowly on a gridiron. To Christians his face seemed to be surrounded by a lovely halo .and his body to give off a sweet odor. He is supposed to have asserted wrily from the flames, "Behold, wretch, thou hast well [p. 209] cooked one side! Turn the other, and eat!"
421. The gabelle tax on salt was extended to all France in 1355.
445. In fact, the beard stroking and hand holding that Lambert inflicts on Peter grotesquely parody Peter's previous fantasies about Alice, lines 100-133.
The Hotel de la Barde, Bordeaux. Froissart mentions two knights de la Barde. The elder, Geraud, is mentioned as defending Bordeaux and dies in 1352. His son Jean is a Gascon knight first in the French and then, like Sir Peter, in the English service. He lives until 1398 and could easily be either Lady Alice's father or her brother.
509. foul play, probably Guesclin's hanging Sir Peter instead of putting him to ransom. But since Peter is hanged to avenge his cousin's ears, the whole ambiance of foul play thickens.
514. Lady Alice is apparently sending troops to Peter's aid. But, like Peter at Lusac Bridge, they will arrive too late.
521. That thief is Lambert. In line 242 Peter also calls him thief. Lambert's monetary greed is continually stressed as his motive for turning French.
Lying in the window-seat. Lady Alice now appears in the window-seat, where Peter had imagined her, line 88.
537. Avalon is a mythical location sometimes identified with Glastonbury. According to Malory (Book XXI, Chs. 6-7) Arthur was taken there after his last battle but may someday return to the land of the living.
571. This explains the telegraphic "Five thousand men-at-arms" in line 512.
575 ff. According to Froissart, the Englishmen at Puiernon de-fended themselves in a similarly commendable fashion in spite of their weakening walls. The English fought "with speares and swerdes in their handes, and soo fought with the frenchmen hand to hande, and caused them to discende downe faster than they came vp, and suche archers as were within shotte so fiersly, that the frenchmen drue abacke" (Vol. I, Ch. CCLXV).
588. Lady Alice seems to have trouble keeping focused on the conversation. It may be significant that her lapse places a stress on the phrase "base-court"—the lower or outer courtyard [p. 210] of a medieval castle. One of the most famous passages in Morris' favorite Shakespeare history Richard II also fixes attention on this phrase and draws out its double meaning:
King Richard. Down, down I come; like glist'ring Phaethon,
Wanting the manage of unruly jades.
In the base court? Base court, where kings grow base,
To come at traitors' calls and do them grace.
In the base court? Come down? Down, court! down, king!
(Act III, scene iii, lines 178-182)
The baseness of the activities surrounding Sir Peter Harpdon's end has already been suggested. See notes for lines 274, 509.
606. Lady Alice here predicts the usual route to death in the pages of Froissart. If a knight was not killed in battle, the honorable alternative was to put him to ransom, certainly not to hang him.
680-681. In Froissart, Walter Manny is the recipient of the Countess of Mountfort's grateful kiss (Vol. I, Ch. LXXXI). But for the Lady Alice a more important aspect of the Countess' career was her warrior-like activity in defense of her castle. When the French attacked, she armed herself and rode around the fortress encouraging her soldiers and urging other women to fight. Noticing from the tower that the French had vacated their camp in order to attack her castle, the Countess with three hundred men rode out at an unassailed gate, fired the French tents and, barred from re-entry into Hennebon, rode to the nearby castle of Brest. The French followed in hot pursuit, cutting down some of the slower English riders. Undaunted, the Countess garnered five hundred more troops at Brest, then re-turned to Hennebon under cover of night (Froissart I, Ch. LXXX). What Alice laments is that--with sensational exceptions like Countess Mountfort--fortitude and action were forbidden at least to the Froissartian if not to the medieval woman.
688. red crosses, the arms of St. George, patron saint of England. Lady Alice imagines a host of English knights avenging Sir Peter's death on the French.
711-712. In nearly identical words, Linet mocks Gareth in Malory: "for were thou as wyzte as euer was Wade or Lancelot . . . thou shalt not passe a paas here that is called the paas perillous" (Book VII, Ch. 9).
716. cf. The Iliad, in which Helen laments that "hereafter we shall be made into things of song for the men of the future" (Book VI, lines 357-358).
720 ff. cf. Shakespeare's concluding Twelfth Night with an old song. By focusing on Launcelot's heroic failure, Morris dignifies Sir Peter's ill fortune.
The stanza form of this song is that of several fourteenth-century metrical romances which deal with the Arthurian matter. The Avowing of Arthur, Sir Degravant, and Sir Perceval of Galles are all written in triplets of approximately equal length and identical rhyme with a fourth line differing in length and rhyme. Morris reprinted the latter two in Kelmscott editions.
735. life-days, an archaism which traces its descent from the Old English "lifdages" in Beowulf through the Early Modern English of both Malory and Berners' Froissart.
744 ff. The last stanza of a metrical romance was also characteristically a prayer, but Morris' minstrel is unlike his earlier counterparts in begging special consideration for himself. For comparison, here is the close of Sir Perceval of Galles:
Now Ihesu Criste, heuens Kyng,
Als he es lorde of all thyng,
Grante vs all His blyssyng!
Amen, for charyte!
745. Some metrical romances, like Sir Degravant, were divided into "fits" or cantos. Chaucer's Sir Topas, a truncated parody of the metrical romance, also bears this division, as does the last part of Morris' prose tale of 1856 "The Hollow Land." Morris implies here that he has only provided the end of a much longer narrative.
"Rapunzel" can be quite precisely dated. The Prince's song (beginning at line 287) was published separately in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine for July of 1856. The entire poem must have been either completed or in progress at that time since Burne-Jones wrote in August that Morris "has written several poems, exceedingly dramatic . . . Rossetti thinks one called 'Rapunzel' is equal to Tennyson" (quoted in Mackail I, p. 108). So enamored of this poem was Rossetti that during the winter of 1856-1857 he painted a panel for the back of a chair "representing Guendolen in the witch-tower and the Prince below kissing her long golden hair" (Mackail I, p. 114).
It is easy to imagine that what drew both Morris and Rossetti to this particular Grimm fairy tale was its focus on the abundant golden hair that was almost a fetish with the Pre-Raphaelites. [p. 212] Whatever his attraction, Morris chose to model his entire narrative on Grimm, merely omitting elements of strenuous activity or jarring pain. If in the Arthurian and Froissartian poems Morris preserves mood and detail of his source but changes plot, he reverses his tactic with Grimm and softens the familiar story into one of mist and dream.
Since the poet did not read German, he must have discovered "Rapunzel" in one of the two English translations of the Marchen published in the 1850's. Edgar Taylor had translated some of the tales as early as 1823, but "Rapunzel" was not among them. The only two English editions before 1858 that include "Rapunzel" are Household Stories Collected by the Brothers Grimm, illus. E. H. Wehnert (London, 1853), and Home Stories, trans. M. L. Davis (London, 1855). Textual evidence suggests that Morris read the Wehnert edition, which calls Rapunzel's keeper "witch," just as Morris does, while Davis resorts to the less sinister "magician." Furthermore, the Wehnert edition, like the Morris version, sets off "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! / Let down your hair" as an incantatory couplet; Davis simply includes the words as part of the prose text.
As to criticism of this poem, "'Rapunzel' Unravelled" by Robert Stallman (44) argues that the poem registers a rite of passage from a childish world view in which the ego is undifferentiated from its surroundings to the realistic world of adult individuality. In an absurd psychological reading, Michael D. Reed's "Morris' 'Rapunzel' as an Oedipal Fantasy" (36) ignores the ages and sexes of the fairy tale's characters and sets out the Oedipal triangle thus: "The Prince (the son) is separated from Rapunzel (the mother) by the Witch (the father), and the reason for this separation is the father's sexual activity [i.e. hair climbing] with the mother" (pp. 315-316). In "Imaginative Transformation in William Morris' 'Rapunzel'" (38) Dianne F. Sadoff intelligently interprets the poem as a Romantic transformation: dream becomes reality and former reality fades into a dream, all through the power of the human imagination (p. 164).
Prosodically, "Rapunzel" is the most complicated poem in this volume. Different stanza forms emphasize the separation of the lovers in the first two scenes. Changing stages of awareness from scene to scene are also reflected in changing stanza forms. And the parallel between the opening and closing scenes emerges both in diction and in stanza form.
5-6. These lines are lifted unchanged from the 1853 Wehnert edition of Grimm.
9. Scarlet cloaks also appear in ballads, e.g. "And I'll give [p. 213] to thee my scarlet cloak" ("Hynd Horn," stanza x, Child 17B).
10. The Wehnert Grimm describes Rapunzel's hair as "fine as spun gold."
13. The hero in Wehnert's Grimm is also called a "King's son" rather than a prince.
17. See note for line 163.
51-52. cf. Genesis 28:10 ff. in which Jacob "dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it."
55-58. cf. Revelation 21, which describes the new Jerusalem whose walls are adorned with every jewel and whose gates, although not diamond, are pearl. Revelation 21:27 warns that "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie."
80 ff. cf. the tower in Grimm: "[It] had neither stairs nor door, and only one little window just at the top."
87. Morris would have discovered from his reading of the Heimskringla that for northern kings one popular way of dispatching enemies was to roast them in their castles.
91-92. cf. the Prince in Tennyson's The Princess who also inhabits a world of dream and shadow until he wins his lady: "I seemed to move among a world of ghosts, / And feel myself the shadow of a dream" (I, lines 17-18).
94. Chief among the fighting angels is the archangel Michael, often depicted in armor by medieval artists. Rapunzel's "gold Michael" (line 178) is apparently identified with the Prince, who does, in fact, bring her a kiss. Since Michael is usually represented in the act of vanquishing the powers of evil in the shape of serpent or dragon, Morris undoubtedly associates him with St. George, who like Prince Sebald overcomes the forces of darkness--though a dragon rather than a witch--in order to rescue a captive maiden.
95. cf. Rossetti's "Blessed Damozel" in which those newly arrived in heaven are spoken of as "just born, being dead" (line 114).
118. witches' sabbaths, midnight gatherings of witches led by [p. 214] the Devil. Morris would have encountered graphic accounts of their pranks in Thorpe's Northern Mythology. In his summary
of North German traditions Thorpe records that witches are supposed to assemble on St. John's Eve and on the first of May. They first drink beer and eat gluttonously. "Then the dancing begins, when each witch dances with a devil, while an old woman sings and two kettles are beaten. On the surrounding mountains fires shine forth. Whoever approaches is drawn into the circle and whirled about till he sinks down breathless. When day dawns they all vanish" (III, p. 21).
121. In Grimm, Rapunzel unfastens her braided tresses.
129. The dimmed vision in Morris' Prince corresponds to the actual blindness of his counterpart in Grimm. Upon discovering that Rapunzel had been receiving the Prince, the witch banished the maiden to a desert and received the Prince in her stead. Overcome with disappointment and grief, the Prince leapt from the tower and was blinded by the thorns below.
136. In the Grimm version, it was Rapunzel's singing that first attracted the Prince.
136-139. George H. Ford in Keats and the Victorians (14, p. 155) hears in these lines an echo of stanza vi from "Ode to a Nightingale:"
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
140. According to Grimm, the blinded Prince wandered about the forest, surviving on berries and roots for some years. Finally, he stumbled upon the desert where Rapunzel had been secreted. Two tears of joy from her eyes restored his.
162. Morris models the prayers Rapunzel learned from her mother on actual medieval prayers. This line closely resembles two lines from Richard de Caistre's Hymn, which had wide circulation in the fifteenth century and might have been discovered by Morris in manuscript at the Bodleian: "Ihu, for bi blyssyd blode, / Bryng tho soules in-to blys" (Brown, XV, no. 64).
163. withouten wem, meaning "without blemish," a common expression in early English prayers to the Virgin. One excellent ex-ample (Brown, XV, no. 16) even has the stanza form that Rapunzel used in the opening scene:
Marie, modur wyt-oute wemme,
Brytur ban be sonne-bem, be has taken wyt hym
ad celi palacia.
(MS. in Balliol Library)
178-179. The Portail des Libraires, which opens into the north transcept of the cathedral at Rouen, has St. Michael trampling a dragon as its pinnacle. See also note for line 94.
Ramona Denton (9) maintains that Rapunzel's visit to Rouen associates her with the Christian martyrdom of Joan of Arc, who was burned there.
243. A similar incident occurs in Froissart just before the Battle of Poictiers. John Chandos (see note for lines 37-39 of "Sir Peter Harpdon's End") rides out to assess the French troops while one of the French marshals, the Lord of Cleremont, advances to observe the English strength. As their paths cross, they notice that they bear the same device, "a blewe lady enbraudred in a sone beame aboue on their apayrell" (Vol. I, Ch. CLXI). Both men vow a reckoning, and the next day Cleremont is killed in battle.
The story of brothers slaying one another also brings to mind Malory's account of Balen and Balin. See note for line 114 of "Sir Peter Harpdon's End."
256. In Browning's Pippa Passes, Part I, "the German Sebald" kills his lover's husband. Morris' early prose romance "Gertha's Lovers" (CW I, pp. 176-225) also had a character named Sebald, this time a fierce and spiteful soldier. Its first installment appeared in the same number of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine that contained "Hands" (which became the Prince's song, lines 287 ff.).
259. The tower in Grimm has no stair. The maiden urges the Prince to bring her a skein of silk every time he comes. She will then weave a silken ladder for them to descend together. But in the original fairy tale the lovers never get to leave the tower together.
261-262. This conjunction of hair and sword recalls "the sword that no man draweth without sin" (line 159 of "Sir Galahad, A Christmas Mystery") in Malory. Sir Percival's sister made a girdle of her hair and with it fastened the sword about Galahad': waist (Book XVII, Ch. 7).
275-277. In a practical sense, it was necessary for Morris to shift names in order to make the previously written song [p. 216] (beginning at line 287) fit into the next scene.
284. Only here--and then in the most oblique fashion--does Morris allude to the beginning of Grimm's tale and the meaning of the name "Rapunzel." The name is the German word for rampion, the edible root craved by Rapunzel's mother and obtained by her father from the witch's garden at the forfeit of their daughter. Above the roots, the rampion is a European bellflower of the same genus and appearance as the harebell.
309 ff. cf. Grimm: "Then he led her away to his kingdom where he was received with great demonstrations of joy, and where they lived long, contented, and happy."
Concerning Geffray Teste Noire
Morris is unusually faithful to Froissart in the Teste Noire sections of this poem. And in general the detail, if not the spirit, of this monologue is closer to Froissart than "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" is.
In the 1370's a number of outlaws took advantage of the French weakness from war with the English to plunder French villages and take over fortresses. The strongest and the cruelest of these bandits was Geffray Teste Noire, who in Froissart is a Breton, not a Gascon thief. Here is Froissart's Geffray:
this was a cruell man, and had pytie of no man; for as soone he wolde put to dethe a knight or a squyer as a vyllayne, for he sette by no body . . . he helde the countre about hym in peace and in subiectyon; none durst ryde in his countre, he was so feared and douted. (Vol. I, Ch. CCCCXL)
The Froissartian sources of this dramatic monologue are competently cited by John M. Patrick in "Morris and Froissart: 'Concerning Geffray Teste Noire' and 'The Haystack in the Floods'" (32). Patrick sees the influence of the ballad stanza in this poem's abab quatrains. As this volume's most frequent verse form, the ballad stanza is also the vehicle for "King Arthur's Tomb," "Old Love," "The Judgment of God," "Spell-bound," "Riding Together," and "Near Avalon."
Yet the Froissartian part of this poem provides only a frame and a context for a narrative that scarcely concerns Geffray Teste Noire at all. The poem is primarily a Browningesque monologue by John of Castel Neuf about his discovery of lovers' bones in the woods and about what of his own experience those bones recall. These stories belong to the realm of romance and lyric more than chronicle. The poem exists as if in three layers:
[p. 217] 1) the hard, objective outer shell of political history; 2) the transitional layer of romantic history--at once older and more immediate than the first--; and 3) the tender core of private reminiscence which shapes the first two and makes all three simultaneous.
1. John Froissart was the Canon of Chimay in Hainault.
2. In 1388 Froissart visited the Earl of Foiz at Ortaise in southern France and "met at Ortays two squyers of Englande, called Johan of Newecastell, and Johan of Cauteron" (Vol. II, Ch. CXLII).
3. In Froissart John of Castel Neuf or Newcastle was, like Morris' Peter Harpdon, a Gascon knight who fought for England. He accompanied the Earl of Cambridge on his campaign into Portugal in 1381, followed the Bishop of Norwich into France to do battle with the supporters of the French anti-pope in 1383 (see note for lines 365-366 of "Sir Peter Harpdon's End"), and was taken prisoner by the Scots at the Battle of Otterbourne in 1388. Later that year he met Froissart at Ortaise and revealed details of the battle, his capture, fair treatment, and subsequent ransom. Morris has Castel Neuf serving the French.
5-6. Teste Noire (see description in introductory note), though a Breton, feigned allegiance to the English cause to justify ravaging the French countryside.
7. Pilled, meaning "pillaged," cf. Froissart: "how in the meane season the white hattes pylled and brente" (Vol. I, Ch. CCCLI).
8. King Charles was probably Charles VI, who came to the throne of France in 1380 and reigned through the rest of the period documented by Froissart. Charles V would still have been reigning when Geffray first captured Ventadour. St. Denis is the patron saint of France.
10. In Froissart the Duke of Berry ordered four hundred men-at-arms to besiege Ventadour. He put Sir William of Lynac and Sir John Bonne Lance at their head (Vol. II, Ch. CXVI).
13. cf. Froissart: "these men of armes and knyghtes, as nere as they myght, layde siege to Vandachor, and made bastydes in four places" (Vol. II, Ch. CXVI).
14-15. Froissart says of Geffray that he "kepte the estate of a greate lorde" and of Ventadour that "the castell stode in so [p. 218] strong a place vpon a rocke, that it coude take no domage for any assawte" (Vol. II, Ch. CXVI).
18. Ventadour was actually in Lymosyn but the outlaws ravaged the neighboring province of Auvergne as well.
20. cf. Froissart: "durynge the siege many feates of armes were done, and dyuers hurt on bothe partes" (Vol. II, Ch. CLI).
25. Froissart's Alleyne Roux was Geffray's nephew and the man he designated to succeed him as captain of the castle of Ventadour.
27. In 1389, Alleyne Roux and his brother Peter decided to deceive the Duke of Berry into buying Ventadour, then capture their conquerors rather than turning over the castle. The plot was discovered and the brothers Roux beheaded and quartered (Vol. II, Ch. CLXVII).
30-31. cf. Froissart: "and for all this siege and bastydes, they within wolde oftentymes issue out by a preuy posterne, whiche opened bytwene two rockes, so that they wolde issue out vnder couerte and ryde abrode in the countrey, and toke prisoners" (Vol. II, Ch. CXVI).
33-36. According to Froissart, the villagers were indeed caught between Teste Noire and the Duke of Berry's men. While Geffray sallied forth to rob and pillage, the Duke collected taxes from them to outfit the knights who were trying to recapture the castle.
37-40. Froissart's Geffray extorted money from the villagers, who "were glad to be delyuered of these people: for otherwise they coude nat labour the erthe, nor occupy their feate of marchaundise, nor do any thyng for feare of these pyllers" (Vol. II, Ch. CX).
47. Carcassonne was one of the strongest of medieval cities, high on a rock and well protected by walls and towers. It was a short ride south of Ventadour near the Mediterranean.
52-53. Job 39:24-25: "He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting."
54. The red lion was not Castel Neuf's bearing. Perhaps Morris [p. 219] alludes here to the arms of England, which were three gold lions on a red ground. But more probably he has simply invented an appropriately valiant device.
74 ff. Patrick (32) suggests that Morris' source for this story of the aging bones may be in Froissart's Duchess of Lancaster, who had her father's bones exhumed from the battlefield of Montiel and reburied in the cathedral at Seville (Vol. II, Ch. CLV). The connection seems at best remote. Margaret Gent (16) traces the relics instead to Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris with its final "tableau of the embracing skeletons of Quasimodo and La Esmeralda" (p. 24).
90. Scott's The Betrothed has a character named Father Aldrovand.
91. cf. John Donne's "A bracelet of bright haire about the bone" ("The Relique").
98-99. The Jacquerie was a large group of patriotic French peasants who rose in bloody rebellion when their noblemen disgraced them by losing the Battle of Poictiers to the English in 1356. Their aim was to destroy the French nobility and to this end, their numbers constantly increasing, they roamed the country, slaying knights, ravaging [raping] ladies, and burning castles. Froissart explains that their leader was called "kyng Jacques Goodman" and his followers were therefore "called companyons of the Jaquery" (Vol. I, Ch. CLXXXII). Since Froissart last mentions Castel Neuf at the Battle of Otterbourne in 1388, he might well have been fifteen years old at the time of the Jacquerie.
100. fell, meaning "cruel," an archaism Morris had also used in the early poem "Once My Fell Foe" (CW XXIV, pp. 52-57).
Froissart's depiction of the Jacquerie includes some particularly gruesome detail. Among the deeds "not fit now to be told" must surely have been the following: "amonge other they slewe a knight and after dyd put hym on a broche and rosted hym at the fyre in the syght of the lady his wyfe and his chyldren; and after the lady had ben enforced and rauisshed with a x. or xii. thei made her perforce to eate of her husband, and after made her to dy an yuell deth and all her chyldren" (Vol. I, Ch. CLXXXII).
101. Morris may be confusing Beauvosyn, center of activities for the Jacquerie, with Beauvais, the cathedral town he visited in 1854 and 1855.
103. According to Froissart, in 1358 the Earl of Foiz and the Captal of Buch slew seven thousand of the Jacquerie at Meaux.
[p. 220] The rebels had come there upon hearing of the large number of women and children who had taken refuge in the town. Before they could penetrate the stronghold where the ladies were secured, they were overwhelmed by the superior arms of the Earl and Captal (Vol. I, Ch. CLXXXIIII).
105-106. Froissart provides no record of churches defiled by the Jacquerie. But this would have been a particularly loathesome form of desecration to Morris, whose great admiration for the churches of northern France led him to project a series of long descriptive articles on them for The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine.
111. Morris seemed to be fascinated by the particular atrocity of incinerating women in a church. Witness the following from the early prose romance "Svend and His Brethren" (The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, August 1856): "our forefathers . . . once mad with rage at some defeat from their enemies, fired a church, and burned therein many women who had fled thither for refuge; and from that time a curse cleaves to us" (CW I, p. 231).
146. cf. Froissart's description of the tournament hosted by Richard II at London in 1390: "euery lady ledde a knight with a cheyne of syluer, which knightes were apparelled to iust" (Vol. II, Ch. CLXXIII).
149-152. Castel Neuf now modulates from his imaginative reconstruction of the dead lovers' story into a lyric memory of his own past love. His language in this stanza harks back to the Romantic poets, especially Keats. La Belle Dame Sans Merci leaves her pale knight looking at "pale kings and princes too, / Pale warriors, death-pale were they all" (stanza x). Similarly, the joy which carries the seeds of sorrow is reminiscent of the last stanza of "Ode on Melancholy." The harp of line 152 recalls, of course, Coleridge's "Aeolean Harp," especially if "overwinded" is read with a short "i."
161-164. The italics seem to register the most interior level of Castel Neuf's monologue. He has progressed by association from Teste Noire to the bones discovered while in ambush for the outlaw, to the tale those bones engendered, to the memory that the tale called up, and, finally, to what is apparently a fantasy that Sir John associates with that memory.
163-164. cf. Rossetti's "The Blessed Damozel:" "her hair / Fell all about my face" (lines 21-22).
186-189. cf. Froissart's Geffray, who "was striken through the [p. 221] bassenet into the heed with a quarell, so that he was fayne to kepe his bedde . . . of this hurt, if he had ben well kept, he might sone haue ben hole; but he kept hymselfe but yuell, and specially fro lechery, the whiche he derely bought, for it cost hym his lyfe" (Vol. II, Ch. CLI).
193. new castle puns on Castel Neuf. There was a Chateau Neuf near the Eure in northern France at this time.
194 ff. Stories like this are not uncommon in medieval legend. Malory, for example, observes that King Mark found the bodies of a knight and his mistress, sought out a suitable church in which to bury them, and erected a tomb with their names on it (Book II, Ch. 7).
199-200. There were two French engravers named Jaques Picard I and II who flourished 1608-1628 and 1658-1668. Although Morris may be remembering their name, his artist would have been a sculptor and lived about three centuries earlier. Compare Browning's invented Claus of Innsbruck in the last line of "My Last Duchess." Also compare the last line of his "A Toccata of Galuppi's:" "I feel chilly and grown old."
A Good Knight in Prison
This astonishingly buoyant tale of prison life, which may be set against the darker accounts in "Riding Together" and "In Prison," has perhaps no direct source other than the medievalist ardor of Morris' youth. At best, there are several remote indications that Morris had metrical romances in the back of his mind when he came to write "A Good Knight in Prison." First, the prose romance "Golden Wings" (The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, December 1856) has a similar cast of invented names: King Gilbert, Guy the good knight, and the rose-land (cf. "the Valley of the Rose," line 6). Morris' epigraph for this early romance is the opening stanza of the metrical romance Sir Perceval of Galles. Moreover, the hero of the prose "Golden Wings" compares himself to Sir Perceval and hears a minstrel sing a metrical romance about "Guy the good knight" (cf. line 102).
Second, Morris undoubtedly knew the popular metrical romance Guy of Warwick. Besides sharing the name of Morris' hero, Guy of Warwick pursued a substantial portion of his exploits in the Holy Land--even though none of them led to prison. For the plight of prisoners on the crusades, Morris could easily have been relying on his memory of Joinville (see introductory note for "Riding Together").
Third, Morris' versification in "A Good Knight in Prison" [p. 222] resembles the metrical romance in its heavily rhymed tetrameter. But this connection, too, is remote since metrical romances were never in dramatic form or first person.
Except for the names "Launcelot" and "Camelot," the relation of this poem to Malory is just as tenuous. One of Launcelot's early adventures has him slaying Sir Turquine in order to deliver sixty-four knights (Book VI, Chs. 7-9), but neither Launcelot nor any other of Malory's important knights ventures to the Holy Land. Similarly, although Launcelot, Guy, Gilbert, and Miles are all characters in Malory, none of their actions resemble those of their counterparts in this poem. Perhaps the closest parallel between Malory and this poem is the incident of Tristram's imprisonment by King Mark, who could justly be called a "bad king" and whose rival affection for Iseult had no more chance of success than had Guilbert's for Mary. Tristram was finally freed by a knight of nearly equal stature with Launcelot--Percival (Book X, Chs. 50-51).
5. cf. Tennyson's "And murmuring of innumerable bees" (The Princess VII, line 207).
40 ff. Especially in the traditions of northern countries, dragons often survived their pagan popularity to represent the Christian Devil. Hence, illuminated religious manuscripts frequently depict them meeting their doom at the hands of Christian heroes like St. Michael or St. George.
Morris' minute description of an illuminated missal-book grows out of his careful study and imitation of illuminated manuscripts. In 1856 Rossetti wrote of him: "In all illumination and work of that kind, he is quite unrivalled by anything modern that I know" (quoted in Mackail I, p. 114).
59. Morris apparently thinks of sunflowers as the appropriate setting for a dreary action. For the Oxford Union mural project (see note to line 337 of "King Arthur's Tomb") he painted the loveless Palomydes and covered the foreground--as well as some of his artistic inadequacies--with sunflowers.
91. Mahound, a form of "Mohammed," also occurs in Guy of Warwick.
104. Fighting with the stone-hurling perriere is common in Joinville and Froissart but would be out of place in Malory, where hand-to-hand combat dominates.
From the mention of Constantinople's impending fall in line 25, the action of this poem can be placed in or just before 1453, at the end of the Hundred Years' War and a good half century after the death of Froissart. Thus, the decline in the personal history of the poem's speaker matches a similar decline in the public history of Europe. The Roman Empire was suffering its dying gasps (Morris would have read Gibbon's lengthy description of the siege of Constantinople in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire). Chivalric encounters between French and English had degenerated into inheritance squabbles among French dukes, famine, and the desolation following long years of war. Historiography had lapsed from the brilliant impartiality and keen narrative sense of Froissart to the pedestrian and often unfocused account in Monstrelet's Chronicles, which Morris read in the Thomas Johnes translation.
Although Morris finds the historical setting for "Old Love" in the pages of Monstrelet, Sir John's interior monologue is surely an offspring of Browning characters like the speaker in"Cristina," who also contemplates his former passion for a royal lady. The specific situation of this poem Morris apparently invented.
5-6. In the early fifteenth century the old pointed helmet called a basnet gave way to the rounded and simplified salade. 19-22. As merchants and mariners, the Venetians had large holdings in Constantinople and were constantly harassed by the Turks. According to Monstrelet, "the plunder the Turks made in Constantinople amounted to four thousand millions of ducats: the loss of the Venetians alone was said to be fifty thousand ducats" (II, p. 232).
23-25. cf. Monstrelet, who records the account given to the Duke of Burgundy "that the Grand Turk, with a numerous army of Saracens, had invaded Christendom; that he had already conquered the noble city of Constantinople, and almost all Greece; that he had captured the emperor of Greece, had caused him to be inhumanly beheaded, had violated the empress, and had dragged through the streets of Constantinople the precious body of our Lord, had burnt the magnificent church of St. Sophia, and murdered men, women, and children of the Christians without number, and was daily adding to his conquests in Christendom" (II, p. 222).
30. Probably, Morris modeled his noble pair on the Duke and [p. 224] Duchess of Burgundy, whose wars and feasts comprise the main substance of Monstrelet's Chronicles and who by 1453 had been married twenty-four years.
32. Monstrelet regales his readers with frequent descriptions of the pomp and splendor accruing to the Duke of Burgundy, as in this depiction of the Duke's entry into Paris: "He was completely armed except the head, and mounted on a beautiful horse, and handsomely dressed and equipped, followed by seven or eight pages on excellent coursers" (I, p. 564).
35. Monstrelet briefly indicates the enfeeblement of the Duchess of Burgundy: "As her health was but indifferent, she was carried in a litter" (II, p. 110).
53. All the important dukes mentioned in Monstrelet were related to the King of France and therefore bore some version of the royal fleur-de-lys, not green apples. But Morris manifests his knowledge of heraldry by choosing this device; in heraldry, green roundels or circles are designated "pomeys" from the French word for apple.
The Gilliflower of Gold
Gilliflowers are common to both the heraldry and the poetry of the Middle Ages. In writing "The Gilliflower of Gold" Morris undoubtedly had in mind a number of coats-of-arms bearing this device as well as numerous ballads which mention gilliflowers, as for instance:
Their beds are made in the heavens high,
Down at the foot of our good Lord's knee,
Neel set about wi' gillyflowers;
I wot sweet company for to see.
("Clerk Saunders," stanza xxiii, Scott)
To the latter mention of "gillyflowers" Scott appends the note, "from whatever source the popular ideas of heaven be derived, the mention of gillyflowers is not uncommon."
In subject and structure, Morris recreates without imitating his medieval sources. Tournaments similar to the one narrated here appeared in nearly every medieval storybook Morris might have looked at: Scott, Malory, Froissart, Monstrelet. As to verse form, the French refrain of both "The Gilliflower of Gold" and "The Eve of Crecy" suggests a French ancestor.
And indeed, the chansons de toile, sung by women at their sewing, have precisely such refrains--although sometimes two lines rather than one--often following on a monorhymed stanza. Here is [p. 225] one example among many:
An halte tour se siet belle Yzabel,
son bial chief blonc mist fuers per un crenel.
de larmes moillent li lais di son mantel.
por medissans seus fors de mon pals.
(Abbott, no. 3)
Furthermore, the chanson de toile shares its stanza pat-tern with the French dance song called a carole, which in turn gave rise to the English carol. Carols typically begin with a two-line burden which is repeated after every stanza. In this respect, the carol does not precisely resemble Morris' "Gilliflower." But it is noteworthy that the aaab of "The Gilliflower" is by far the most frequent stanza form of the early English carol. It is as if Morris adopts the carol stanza but omits its burden. In creating a stanza for "The Gilliflower of Gold" and "The Eve of Crecy," then, Morris looks to the chanson de toile and its cousin the English carol without enslaving him-self to the exact metrics of either.
Yet the subject matter and flower refrain (see introductory note to "The Eve of Crecy") are not traceable to these early songs. Carols ranged over many subjects but, when they narrated anything, the incident was usually one as familiar as the Nativity or the Passion. The chansons de toile covered a much narrower range of topics, confined to domestic love intrigues seen from a female point of view. For the spirit, if not the form, of "The Gilliflower of Gold" and "The Eve of Crecy" Morris is indebted here, as in so much of the present volume, to the early English ballads.
2. During tournaments knights wore on their helmets their ladies' tokens, not their own devices. The gilliflower is thus probably the lady's insignia rather than the speaker's.
9 ff. Spear, sword, and battle-axe were among the usual weapons brandished in a tournament. In a challenge to the King of England, the Duke of Orleans specified "the usual arms; that is to say, lance, battle-axe, sword and dagger" (Monstrelet I, p. 16)
25. In the Johnes translation, Monstrelet remarks that at jousts "men always cry out, 'The sons of the brave!' (Aux fits des preux!) after the deaths of their fathers. For no knight can be judged preux (valiant, or brave) till after his death" (I, p. 70). Johnes supplies a lengthy footnote explaining this phrase. It concludes with: "The exclamation was sometimes [p. 226] varied--'Honneur aux filz des preux!' which seems to be the original expression."
30-31. In heraldry, hearts are often portrayed flammant. The Heart family of Scotland, for example, bears such a coat-of-arms.
54. The crown is "the prize of this tourney" mentioned in line 3. Crowns were frequent tourney prizes, e.g., "and to the best doer of the out syde shulde be gyuen hym for a price a riche crowne of golde" (Froissart II, Ch. CLXXIII).
Although the subject of "Shameful Death" is not Arthurian, its sense of chivalry seems to come as much from Malory as any-where. The idea was that a knight, even a criminal knight, de-served an honorable death by the sword. Hanging was reserved for commoners. When Gareth and Linet approached the castle of the Red Knight of the Red Launds, Gareth noticed forty knights fully armed and hanging by the neck. Linet explained that "all these knyghtes came hyder to this sege to rescowe my syster Dame lyones, and whanne the reede knyghte of the reed laund hadde ouercome hem, he putte them to this shameful dethe" (Book VII, Ch. 15). Moreover, in 1857 Morris had purchased a Rossetti watercolor called The Death of Breuse sans Pitie (see note for line 259 of "King Arthur's Tomb"), which depicts two knights fighting in the foreground and in the background a dead man hanging from a tree while his lady waits with a halter around her neck.
Prosodically, Morris has extended the usual four-line stanza of the ballad to six lines. This extension represents a stretching rather than a revision of ballad convention since occasional six-line stanzas are found interspersed in early ballads made up primarily of four-line stanzas (see, for example, "Lord Ingram and Chiel Wyet," stanzas xiii-xv, Child 66A).
7-9. Here and in the opening lines of the next stanza Morris employs a familiar ballad formula: he emphasizes what actually happened by first eliminating what did not. Here is a random example from an early ballad:
She put not on her black clothing,
She put not on her brown,
But she put on the glistering gold,
To shine thro Edinburgh town.
("Mary Hamilton," stanza ix, Child 173B)
[p. 227] 21. Hornbeams had always a special fascination for Morris, who spent hours of his early youth rambling through Epping Forest, which he later described: "It was certainly the biggest horn-beam wood in these islands, and I suppose in the world. . . . Nothing could be more interesting and romantic than the effect of the long poles of the hornbeams rising from the trunks and seen against the mass of the wood behind. It has a peculiar charm of its own not to be found in any other forest" (quoted in Mackail I, p. 7).
27. Morris seems to have invented the names of his villains, but they have parallels in Malory, e.g. Ablamer of the Marsh.
28. cf. Malory, who has both the "dolorous stroke" (Book II, Ch. 16) and the "Dolorous Gard" (Book XX, Ch. 17). Rossetti uses "blast" similarly three times in "Sister Helen," e.g. "For I know the white plume on the blast" (line 129).
43 ff. Ballads, as well as hymns, sometimes end with such exhortations. "The Battle of Otterbourne," for instance, ends:
Now let vs all for the Perssy praye
To Jhesu most of myght,
To bryng hys sowlle to the blysse of heven,
For he was a gentyll knyght. (Child 161A)
But such prayers only conclude long ballads of heroic events. Perhaps, then, Morris takes up this narrative near its close and means to imply that a recital of Sir Hugh's deeds of knightly prowess preceded the conclusion he supplies.
Val Prinsep wrote that Morris read "The Eve of Crecy" aloud in the autumn of 1857 (Georgina Burne-Jones, Memorials [London, 1904], vol. I, pp. 161-162). For a medieval historian the poem turns on a dramatic irony inaccessible to other modern readers: this eager and optimistic French banneret is about to participate in the first decisive English victory of the Hundred Years' War (1346). And since the English killed rather than captured all their victims in this encounter, there is every likelihood that another twenty-four hours will find Sir Lambert not prosperous but dead.
For the stanza and French refrain of this poem, see introductory note for its companion piece "The Gilliflower of Gold." With respect to the refrains in "The Gilliflower of Gold," "Two Red Roses across the Moon," and "The Eve of Crecy," it may be more than coincidence that each refrain line centers on a flower [p. 228] ("Marguerite" is not only the French for Lambert's love Margaret but also the French word for "daisy"). Early English ballad refrains also frequently named flowers--perhaps vestiges of older ritual incantations to ward off evil--as witness:
He has taen a knife, baith lang and sharp,
With a hey ho and a lillie gay
And stabbd that bonny bride to the heart.
As the primrose spreads so sweetly
("The Cruel Brother," stanza xvii, Child 11A)
But whereas the flower refrain of the folk ballad bears no relation to the unfolding narrative, Morris makes every effort to integrate his refrain with his plot line.
14. arriere-ban, or proclamation by the French King calling his vassals to arms. This term is used by Froissart, although slightly corrupted in Berners' translation: "and so he hadde with hym out of the towne a ten thousande men in harnes for the arerebande" (Vol. I, Ch. CCCCXVIII).
15. Lambert is already revealing the poverty that prevents him from touching Margaret's hand. A banneret, the lowest ranking nobleman to head a group of knights, normally commanded at least ten vassals.
18-19. Benjamin Thorpe's Yule-tide Stories (London, 1853), a favorite book of Morris' at Oxford (Mackail I, p. 205), contains one tale called "The Ness King" in which a poor esquire named Ebbe overcomes his richer rivals to win the hand of a wealthy maiden. "The poverty of this esquire was become proverbial among the people of that time; they had made a lampoon on him, in which it was said:-
'Ebbe from Nebbe, with all his men good,
Has neither food nor fire-wood.'"
39. Philip of France is Philip VI, who reigned from 1328 to 1350. What King Philip actually beheld on this occasion was anything but a "right fair measure." Even on the Eve of Crecy the French "war-dance," as reported to Froissart, looked some-thing like this:
they that were behynde wolde nat tary, but rode forthe, and sayd, howe they wolde in no wyse abyde, tyll they were as ferr forward as 9 formast: and whan they be-fore sawe them come on behynde, than they rode forward agayne, so that the kyng nor his marshals coude nat rule the; so they rode without order or good aray, [p. 229] tyll they came in sight of their ennemyes; and assone as the formast sawe them, they reculed than abacke tout good aray. (Vol. I, Ch. CXXIX)
Rested and well-disciplined, the English had no trouble decimating such frenzied troops in the morning.
51. St. Ives is second only to "St. Denis" as a popular French battle cry.
Val Prinsep remembered hearing Morris read "The Judgment of God" aloud in the autumn of 1857 (Georgina Burne-Jones, Memorials [London, 1904], vol. I, pp. 161-162). It is a poem a-bout trial by battle, a legal process widely acknowledged in the Middle Ages as the readiest method of ascertaining the judgment of God between two disputants. Although originally used throughout Europe to decide both civil and criminal suits, by the mid-fourteenth century in France wager of battle was usually reserved for capital offenses in which the crime was notorious, the defendant probably guilty, and no other evidence available. Morris' Roger seems to fit all the criteria.
Morris would have encountered trial by battle in so much of his reading that attempting to specify one source would be futile. Scott's Ivanhoe and Browning's Count Gismond engage in such battles, as do characters in Malory, Froissart, and La Chanson de Roland. Yet most of those earlier disputes involve the honor of a lady defended by a worthy champion rather than the dishonor of a knight justly accused of a shameful murder. Morris' originality is in assuming the viewpoint of the guilty party, conscious of his guilt but conscious also that no question of moral rectitude can be decided simply--a situation reminiscent of Browning poems like "The Bishop Orders His Tomb."
John Hollow in "William Morris and the Judgment of God" contends that "the situation is too complex to be settled by combat" and "men should not attempt to know the judgment of God" (19, p. 447). It seems rather that Morris' Roger concedes the victory to the stronger, more righteous side, that the battle will uphold not only God's judgment but Roger's. Moreover, this interpretation squares with Morris' medieval sources, which nearly all portray the triumph of justice in cases of trial by battle. In "Memory and Character in William Morris' 'The Judgment of God'" (13, p. 104) Ernest L. Fontana maintains that its sudden leaps in chronology and its emphasis on self-definition "suggest that the poem is to be read as an interior rather than as a spoken monologue."
[p. 230] 5. Morris' inspiration for this device may have been that he and Burne-Jones shared their rooms at Red Lion Square with an owl at about the time of the poem's composition (Mackail I, p. 116). Owls adorn the crests of several English families--including that of Morris' brother-in-law Joseph Oldham--but in no case are the birds blue.
5-6. cf. Browning's "Count Gismond" in which the Countess interrupts her monologue of the Count's victorious trial by battle in her behalf (lines 46-48):
. . . there, 'twill last
No long time . . . the old mist again
Blinds me as then it did. How vain!
20. This kind of mutilation would have been particularly humiliating since hands were severed to punish perjury or false witness.
26-27. The Hainaults were among the most powerful peers in France, were intermarried with both the French and English royal houses, and were instrumental in beginning the hostilities that resulted in the Hundred Years' War. Froissart reports no Oliver of Hainault, but the names of Oliver and Roger both belong to important paladins in the Charlemagne cycle.
37 ff. Roger's image of Ellayne seems to hark back to Malory's Elaine of Astolat, who lovingly nursed the wounds received by Launcelot in a tournament at Camelot (Book XVIII, Ch. 15).
Where Malory's Elaine suffers death for her love, Roger imagines that his Ellayne would undergo torture for him.
65 ff. Roger's rescue of Ellayne again brings Launcelot to mind, this time in his similar salvation of Guenevere (see "The Defence of Guenevere" and Malory, Book XX, Ch. 8). The context of the poem suggests that Ellayne, like Guenevere, might have been guilty of the sin which brought her to the stake.
The exuberant, though fugitive, knight of "The Little Tower" resembles Robert Marny of "The Haystack in the Floods" in his chivalric optimism. But for this knight the autumn floods are turned to advantage in his defiant flight from the king. According to Charlotte Oberg (29, p. 136) "the fenland setting, the defiance of the king, and the intimation of witchcraft all suggest that this poem may have been inspired by the historical [p. 231] episode when Hereward the Wake held out against William I on the then island of Ely." Morris could have encountered Hereward in Thomas Wright's "Adventures of Hereward the Saxon" in his Essays on Subjects Connected with the Literature, Popular Superstitions, and History of England in the Middle Ages (1846).
6. As they arm for the long ride, the knight suggests that his companions exchange the ceremonial scabbard for the more practical, lighter leather sheath.
37. spire, the point at the top of a basnet. Occasionally, knights wore basnets surmounted by crowns. In this case, the paper crown is a sign of mockery, like Christ',s crown of thorns. Perhaps the knight of the Little Tower has assumed some power that the king considers his own.
56 ff. cf. Morris' youthful poem "The Banners" (AWS I, p. 531), which describes an old house "Where the banners used to wave, / Telling tales about the grave."
56-57. In heraldry, "the Lady" is only represented with the Christ child and then only on the devices of religious establishments and a few Scottish burghs. Heads of virgins, though not the Virgin, are common enough, however. A bar is a horizontal strip across a field. Presumably, the Lady's head would be emblazoned on this strip.
In "The Sailing of the Sword" Morris borrows many of the trappings of the folk ballad but translates them into a poetry quite distinct from the ballad tradition. Where the folk ballad has a sparse and vigorous narrative line, Morris' poem instead works by juxtaposition of colors and phrases superimposed on the thinnest of plots.
None of the early ballads exactly parallels Morris' poem in subject. "The Cruel Brother" recounts the wooing of three sisters, the last of whom meets a sorry fate:
There was three ladys in a ha,
Fine flowers i the valley
There came three lords amang them a',
Wi the red, green, and the yellow
The first of them was clad in red:
'0 lady fair, will you be my bride?'
[p. 232] The second of them was clad in green:
'0 lady fair, will you be my queen?'
The third of them was clad in yellow:
'0 lady fair, will you be my marrow?'
(stanzas i-iv, Child 11G)
The matching of three ladies with three knights, the association of each maid with a different color, and the repeated refrain interspersed with stanza lines all agree with Morris' ballad. But there the similarity ends. In the older ballad, the maid in yellow neglects to solicit her brother's permission to marry. In a fit of fraternal pique, he stabs the new bride to death.
Lovers sailing away on ships only to find rival mistresses appear in "Fair Annie" (Child 62) and "Thomas 0 Yonderdale" (Child 253). But in both cases the original mistress finally wins back her man. For the six-line ballad stanza, see introductory note to "Shameful Death."
7. To reinforce the aura of the Scottish border, Morris has chosen the names of his women from Scott's novels. There is a Sister Ursula in Castle Dangerous and an Alicia Fitzurse in Ivanhoe. The names Robert, Roland, and Miles all appear elsewhere in this volume and seem to be drawn from a stock of names Morris considered medieval.
13. holly, appropriate here not because of its green leaves but because of its red berries, which match Alicia's "scarlet gown" and the "ruby red" that Sir Robert brings her. Holly and oak also occur in early ballads, as for instance:
Hee see a lady where shee sate
Betwixt an oke and a greene hollen;
She was cladd in red scarlett.
("The Marriage of Sir Gawain," stanza xv, Child 31)
17. Wands appear in several ballads. In "Hind Horn" (Child 17) a silver wand is a love token, while in "The Brown Girl" (Child 295) a white wand signifies a broken troth. Morris may mean "wand" simply as a synonym for "twig;" the maiden would then have no leaves on her twig, no color in her gown, and finally, no lover.
This spell-bound knight, separated from the woman who faithfully seeks him through the world, has several analogues in Grimm. Five tales--"The Soaring Lark," "The True Bride," "The [p. 233] Drummer," "The Two Kings' Children," and "The Iron Stove"--open with various adventures but close with slight variations on the same trial. Just as the lovers are about to be united, some-thing compels the prince to forget his affianced bride. The remainder of the tale recounts the forgotten woman's misery and steadfast search for her departed lover. In all these tales, the wandering heroine overtakes the prince and jogs his memory just in time to prevent his marriage to the wrong woman.
But it is impossible to trace to one source the theme of lovers separated by a spell. Such tales abound in the folk literature of all Europe. For instance, Ruggiero in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso is snatched from his love Bradamante by the witch Alcina who casts a spell on him. Legends of passions dammed up by enchantment held a particular attraction for both Keats and Tennyson (see Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" and "Lamia" or Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott," "The Day-Dream," and "Tithonus"), and it may be more through their influence than from the legends themselves that Morris came to write "Spell-bound."
1 ff. Morris' description of the deserted bride recalls Tennyson's "Mariana," in which the word "aweary" occurs fourteen times. In "William Morris and Keats" (40, p. 519) Clarice Short finds that Morris' opening stanza echoes lines 307-310 from Keats' "Isabella:"
'Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,
'While little sounds of life are round me knelling,
'And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
'And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
6-8. Morris here uses the famous "corn-forlorn" rhyme of Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale." In Keats and the Victorians (14, p. 153) George Ford mentions that these lines of Keats' were among the best loved by both Tennyson and Burne-Jones. It seems to be one of Keats' "faery lands forlorn" that Morris' "Spell-bound" describes.
12. In ballads wands seem to betoken plighted troth. See note for line 17 of "The Sailing of the Sword."
49-52. Clarice Short (40, p. 519) finds these lines reminiscent of Keats' Endymion, Book I, lines 698-701:
If an innocent bird
Before my heedless footsteps stirr'd, and stirr'd
In little journeys, I beheld in it
A disguis'd demon . . .
[p. 234] 72. In Grimm, young men are more often bewitched by witches than by wizards.
73. cf. Tennyson's "Rosalind," line 49: "We'll bind you fast in silken cords."
The aging armorer of "The Wind" naps in a chair draped with a green material on which rests a gashed orange. The green drapery and hacked orange seem to shape the old man's dream--whether of an imagined or an actual past event. In the dream the lady lying in a green gown on a green hillside--the daffodils cast on the folds of her dress--seems to mimic both the color and posture of drapery and orange in the armorer's waking world. The gash in the orange rind predicts the mysterious wound which ends the woman's life. Her blood in the dream frightens the dreamer back to the oozing orange in his present reality. The ghosts of dead soldiers that then enter seem to mediate between dream and reality. Their violent deaths connect them with the maiden in the distant past; but the old man also thinks of some who went only "last month to the war."
The reference in line 84 to "Olaf, king and saint" is the only indication this poem offers of an historical setting. Morris would have encountered King Olaf briefly in Thorpe's Northern Mythology, but the extended story of Olaf and his military and religious exploits occurs in the Heimskringla, which includes the "Saga of Olaf Heraldson." This saga is, however, a straightforward account of Olaf's many battles, the murder of his enemies, and the spread of Christianity in Scandinavia. Dreams only prognosticate future political events. Aside from an occasional witch, the saga details nothing of the fantastic or nightmarish. Rather, the mood of vague, inscrutable horror which pervades "The Wind" may best be traced to Poe--just as May Morris (AWS I, p. 384) sees "a streak of Edgar Allan Poe" in several of her father's early romances. This poem's mid-night watcher, haunted by wind and memories of a dead lover, combines with its long poetic line to recall Poe's "The Raven."
"The Wind," like "The Blue Closet" in its three-line burden, resembles an early English carol, broadly adapted (see introductory notes to "The Blue Closet" and "The Gilliflower of Gold"). Unlike "The Blue Closet," this poem maintains an unchanging burden, whose relation to the narrative is perhaps even more difficult to discern. The Bodleian Library has the manuscript of one early carol which also builds its burden out of the wind:
[p. 235] There blows a colde wynd todaye, todaye,
The wynd blows cold todaye;
Cryst sufferyd his passyon for manys salvacyon,
To kype the cold wynd awaye. (Greene, no. 170)
1-2. cf. Poe's "The Raven," line 36: "'Tis the wind and nothing more!"
10. Among the furniture which Morris designed in 1856 for his rooms at Red Lion Square were several heavy, carved chairs "such as," in Rossetti's words, "Barbarossa might have sat in" (Mackail I, p. 113). Rossetti helped Morris decorate the chair backs, not with dragons but with subjects from Morris' poems.
30, 34. In an early unpublished poem called "The Three Flowers" (British Museum Additional Manuscript 45,298A) Morris associates the unrequited lover with daffodils, the lady with white lilies, and the successful rival with tiger lilies. The maiden of that earlier poem also brings a book to a daffodil-studded hillside and later dies of grief.
For Morris' interest in illuminated manuscripts, see note to lines 40 ff. of "A Good Knight in Prison."
82. The early prose romance "Svend and His Brethren" (The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, August 1856) has a sculptor-armorer as one of its main characters.
84. Olaf II Haroldson (995-1030) ruled in Norway from 1015 to 1030. He brought various Norwegian chiefs under his control, maintained political unity within his country, and continued the Christian missionary work begun by Olaf I. His harsh repression of paganism and severity with pirates finally led his subjects to revolt and kill Olaf II in the Battle of Striklestad. When repression increased after the death of Olaf, his people soon realized his virtues and dubbed him patron saint of Norway.
Thorpe's Northern Mythology describes a banner "on which is the figure of St. Olaf, in complete armour, treading on a dragon" (II, p. 38n).
Morris derives the disposition of his figures, his title, and much of his color sense in this poem from the Rossetti watercolor The Blue Closet, now in the Tate Gallery. The painting, which was executed for Morris' collection, bears the date [p. 236] 1857, but a letter postmarked 18 December 1856 from Rossetti to William Allingham suggests that both painting and poem were completed before the close of 1856: "To one of my water-colours called 'The Blue Closet,'" wrote Rossetti, "[Morris] has written a stunning poem" (Letters of D. G. Rossetti, ed. O. Doughty and J. R. Wahl [Oxford, 1965], vol. I, p. 312). The picture represents two ladies, the one on the left with green sleeves and the one on the right in scarlet and grey with a gold crown. They play on opposite sides of a carved and inlaid keyboard instrument. Behind them stand a lady in purple and a lady in green, both singing from sheet music. The walls and floor are tiled in blue and at the top is a blue shield. In the fore-ground a tiger lily grows out of a patch of brown earth.
The characters of Morris' "The Blue Closet" seem to inhabit a kind of middle kingdom between life and death. The untended tower where the ladies are kept, the constant death knell of the burden, and the recurring images of snow, blue, and rime all contribute to the sense that the damsels are already dead to ordinary life. Yet they must wait in a wearying limbo for Arthur's return. Once a year on Christmas Eve they vent their restless spirits in a song (lines 37-59) which recalls Arthur's first visit to the tower long ago and prays for his return. As the song describes him, Arthur, too, inhabits this transitional realm between life and death. The baptism of snow he bestowed on Louise during his first visit seems to promise easeful death, a promise he cannot keep until he himself has passed beyond the middle kingdom. The red lily in line 60 appears in answer to the song's prayer as a sign that this year Arthur dwells in the land of the dead and can thus at last return for the ladies. In the final stanza Arthur and the ladies leave the limbo of the Blue Closet together, crossing from the middle kingdom to the land of the dead. In "The Embodiment of Dreams: William Morris' 'Blue Closet' Group" (24) I argue that the poem operates on pre-rational dream principles and documents the dissolution of the body that accompanies ultimate inwardness. Charlotte Oberg (29), on the other hand, views Arthur's function as re-generative and links him to the Arthurs of Tennyson's "Morte d'Arthur" and In Memoriam.
The fairy tale atmosphere diffused throughout "The Blue Closet" seems an outgrowth of Morris' reading in Grimm and Thorpe. Grimm has several tales of women locked up in towers--either young women, like Rapunzel, locked away from the world or older women imprisoned for displeasing their husbands. "The Pink" contains an instance of the latter category: a king believes that his queen has allowed their infant son to be carried off by wild beasts. As a punishment, he walls her up in a high tower where she is expected to die of hunger.
Although the blue tiles in Rossetti's painting undoubtedly [p. 237] suggested the underwater locus reflected in "the sea-salt oozes through / The chinks of the tiles of the Closet Blue," several of Thorpe's stories may have reinforced Morris' vision. According to Thorpe (I, p. 288), the depths of the water were equated in Germanic tradition with the nether world. He traces several of his stories of sunken towns and castles to this tradition. One of Thorpe's stories called "The Sunken Mansion" (II, p. 214) directly inspired Morris' "Lindenborg Pool" (The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, September 1856). Another of Thorpe's stories, "The Bell-Pond," seems closer to "The Blue Closet:" "It is related that every year at Christmas, from the hour of twelve till one, a bell is heard tolling from its depth" (III, p. 118). Specters in Thorpe also hold their masses between twelve and one.
Morris experiments with a variety of stanza forms in "The Blue Closet." The recurrent three-line burden is reminiscent of early English carols. And Morris' first two stanzas, mono-rhymed with a shorter closing line out of rhyme, also recall the carol (see introductory note for "The Gilliflower of Gold"). Yet, if the poet meant to write a carol, he has understood that designation in the broadest possible terms. Traditionally, carols change neither the wording of their burdens nor their stanza forms. Still, it is tempting to suppose that Morris intended to compose an eerie variation on the Christmas carol.
5. Laudate pueri ("Praise, 0 ye servants"), the opening words of Psalm CXII in the Latin Psalter. Morris would have come upon psalters in his study of illuminated manuscripts.
6. In Rossetti's The Blue Closet the damsel in the left fore-ground pulls a cord to ring three small bells.
17. John Hollow infers from Morris' "The Hollow Land" that purple and green are the colors of heaven (19, p. 447).
23-24. cf. Grimm's tale "The Pink" (see introductory note) in which the king supposed his wife dead of starvation but never bothered to find out whether or when she died.
25. A bough of Christmas holly falls across the right top of the musical instrument in Rossetti's painting.
30. The lady in the right foreground of Rossetti's picture plucks a stringed instrument with one hand while the long fingers of her other hand touch a keyboard.
37 ff. Morris showed an early affinity for the subject of long-parted phantom lovers in "A Dream" (The Oxford and Cambridge [p. 238] Magazine, March 1856). In that early prose romance the lovers meet only every hundred years. Their final meeting occurs at the tolling of the bells on New Year's Eve.
43-46. In Thorpe's Yule-tide Stories (see note for lines 18-19 of "The Eve of Crecy") one cluster of legends involves a mermaid who imprisons a young man under the sea, forcing him to perform certain tasks before he can be united with his beloved.
55. Since the right front lady in the Rossetti picture wears a partly scarlet dress, the scarlet scarf is probably her token, worn by Arthur in battle. How and whether Arthur died (drowning? strangulation on the battlefield?) remains eerily unclear.
60-61. cf. Thorpe: "From the grave of one unjustly executed white lilies spring as a token of his innocence" (I, p. 290n).
63 ff. Clarice Short (40, pp. 519-520) finds an analogue for this ghoulish description in the dead lover of Keats' "Isabella," who is bodied forth in such phrases as these: "the forest tomb / Had marr'd his glossy hair" "and put cold doom / Upon his lips;" "Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;" "Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright / With love" (stanzas xxxv-xxxvii).
According to Thorpe (III, p. 10), the drowned were supposed to appear to loved ones and apprise them of the misfortune. The spectral appearances are often as graphic as Morris'.
The Seven Towers was the name of a fortress in Constantinople where Arabs imprisoned Europeans. But Morris' poem takes only the aura of exotic danger from the historical Seven Towers. His more immediate inspiration was Rossetti's watercolor The Tune of Seven Towers, executed in 1857 and soon after acquired by Morris. The painting, now in the Tate Gallery, depicts a woman in her chamber seated on a high oaken chair and playing a flat stringed instrument on her knees. Sitting in another chair next to her, a man in a green doublet leans on her chair arm and gazes pensively at her instrument. Behind the woman stands a maid. All three figures look sadly resigned. At the upper left is a pennon hanging from a pole which cuts diagonally across the entire picture. As might be expected, the pennon bears seven towers, three in the center and one at each corner of a green ground with a blue border. Morris' poem moves into the landscape of what is presumably the lady's heraldic bearing in Rossetti's painting.
[p. 239] Two features stand out in Morris' rendition of the situation he adapts from Rossetti. First, his Seven Towers are certainly not habitable or even approachable by living men. Second, Yoland's tune is a sinister one at best: she knowingly urges her knight to ride toward that haunted region on the flimsy pretext of fetching her clothes. Her secrecy in the last stanza confirms her evil intentions. Apparently, she plans that a new grave will soon lengthen that grey row. Morris had earlier explored a similar interaction between a lady and her lover ("A Dream," The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, March 1856). In that early romance the woman complains petulantly that her knight risks death only from his notion of duty, not for the more romantic motives of passion. She asks him to spend the night in the cavern of the red pike, whence they both know men never return alive.
In form, this seven-stanza poem closely resembles what Abbott classifies as a chanson de toile (see introductory note for "The Gilliflower of Gold"). He provides two such songs (nos. 4 and 5) whose heroine is "Bele Yolanz" or the fair Yoland. Both have a four-line stanza followed by a fixed refrain. Both songs introduce the fair Yoland at her sewing. In one her mother scolds her for being unfaithful to her husband; in the other--which has a rhymed couplet for a refrain--her lover enters and they go to bed. The setting in both songs greatly resembles that in the watercolor by Rossetti, whose young woman simply substitutes an instrument for the sewing on her knees. Perhaps this resemblance led Morris to adopt the similar stanza and identical heroine's name.
For the macabre innuendos surrounding the tower and the loneliness of the knight who must ride toward it, Morris is clearly indebted to Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," which he lauded in 1856: "In my own heart I think I love this poem the best of all in [Men and Women]" (CW I, p. 340). And behind both Browning and Morris may be La Chanson de Roland, which finds the namesakes of both Browning's Childe Roland and Morris' Oliver doomed to certain death in the pass at Roncevaux.
1 ff. Ruined castles had a persistent fascination for the young Morris, as for so many enthusiasts of the Gothic revival. Among his juvenilia, "The Abbey and the Palace," "The Banners" (AWS I, pp. 523, 531), and an unpublished fragment called "The Ruined Castle" (British Museum Additional Manuscript 45,298A) all mention toppled fortresses.
8. The moon shines ominously over several of Morris' earlier poems. "The Ruined Castle" mentions a tale told of:
How an ancient lord of gloomy cheer
[p. 240] Slew his lovely lady bright
And buried her under the turret stair
In the winter moon's ghastly light.
14. The blue border around a green ground in Rossetti's pennon (see introductory note) might have suggested the moat to Morris.
20. Morris queries readers of "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came:" "Do you not feel as you read, a strange sympathy for the lonely knight, so very, very lonely, not allowed even the fellowship of kindly memories" (CW I, p. 339).
34. Morris believes of Browning's Childe Roland: "he will be slain certainly, who knows by what unheard-of death" (CW I, p. 339).
Morris' source in "Golden Wings" seems to be vaguely Arthurian. Since the names of his characters are French, he might have been looking to Chretien de Troyes' treatment of this material rather than Malory's. Chretien's death cut short his Perceval in the midst of Gauwaine's adventures at the Castle of Ladies. This splendid castle could only be reached by crossing a wide river. The castle itself was built of dark marble with five hundred open windows, each with a damsel gazing from it. Five hundred retainers protected these ladies. Colors abound in Chrdtien's description of the palace just as they do in Morris': the doors carved from ebony and ivory and illuminated with gold, the pavement green and scarlet, turquoise and blue. Once Gauwaine had proved himself, the palace yielded him delightful and devoted company, ermine robes, and sumptuous meals. Tension arose only when he wished to pursue adventure beyond the castle walls. The combination of seclusion, sensual gratification, and uneasy captivity is directly analogous to the atmosphere at Morris' Ladies' Gard. In fact, some such kingdom of sequestered maidens is common in medieval romance: in Malory it is called the Castle of Maidens (Book XIII, Ch. 14); in Sir Perceval of Galles, Maidenland.
While Chretien might provide a backdrop for "Golden Wings," Tennyson unquestionably influenced the framing of its love-lorn heroine. Henderson sums up the influence flatly: "such a poem as 'Golden Wings' derives from Tennyson's 'Mariana'" (p. 54).
And indeed, Morris' poem corresponds to Tennyson's in landscape detail as well as character delineation. Both poems transpire among poplar trees, mosses, rust, moats, cold winds, and flitting bats, even though for Tennyson these props correspond to [p. 241] the desolate mood of the heroine, while Morris' Jehane comes into conflict with her glittering surroundings. As to character, both Mariana and Jehane constantly expect yet secretly despair of the arrival of their lovers. But what for Mariana is only a final death wish, for Jehane becomes actual suicide. In addition to "Mariana," Morris may have had in mind Tennyson's Lady of Shalott, who also sacrificed her charmed existence to love and death.
Although Morris certainly deserves credit for reviving the four-foot ballad line, it should further be noted that "Golden Wings" is written in the abba stanza of Tennyson's In Memoriam.
1 ff. W. Dixon Scott in "The First Morris" (39) suggests that Morris retained visual images rather than verbal echoes from other poets. On this basis, he compares (p. 284) the setting of "Golden Wings" with lines 286-290 of Rossetti's "The Bride's Prelude:"
But else, 'twas at the dead of noon
Absolute silence; all,
From the raised bridge and guarded sconce
To green-clad places of pleasaunce
Where the long lake was white with swans.
7. On the connection between apples and Avalon, see note to lines 121-124 of "King Arthur's Tomb." See also the mention of Avalon in line 88 of the present poem and the note to that line.
13. The moat and even the enchanted castle may have a biographical source for Morris. Mackail recalls that behind Water House, Walthamstow, where Morris lived as a boy, was "a moat of some forty feet in breadth, surrounding an island planted with a grove of aspens . . . The island, rough and thickly wooded, and fringed with a growth of hollies, hawthorns, and chestnuts, was a sort of fairy land for all the children, who almost lived on it" (I, pp. 18-19).
16. A boat and boatman play an important part in conveying Gauwaine safely to the Castle of Ladies in Perceval (see introductory note). This boatman speaks on behalf of the damsels and might be identified with Morris' old warden in line 4.
40. Provence rose, a misnomer for a rose brought by crusaders to the northern French city of Provins.
67-68. Contrast Mariana's "She only said, 'My life is dreary, / He cometh not,' she said" (lines 9-10).
[p. 242] 75. "Golden Wings" was also the title of a prose romance by Morris published in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, December 1856. That narrative bears no special relation to the present one except that in the prose story the hero dresses in arms with a crest of golden wings. Hence, the golden wings of this poem might be the device of the flown lover.
83-85. cf. Rossetti's Sonnet LXXI from The House of Life:
. . . that I
May pour for thee this golden wine, brim-high,
Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
88. Avallon, where King Arthur was taken after his last battle and from whence, according to Malory, he may return (Book XXI, Chs. 6-7), appeals to Morris as an imagined setting. See "Near Avalon." Since only ladies bore the dying Arthur to Avalon, it may not be amiss to associate that salubrious location with Ladies' Gard.
178. cf. John 16:16: "A little while, and ye shall not see me."
As the most frequently anthologized of poems in this volume, "Haystack" has inspired several articles. Dougald B. MacEachen in "Trial by Water in William Morris' 'The Haystack in the Floods'" (25) faults anthologists for misrepresenting trial by water in their notes for this poem. Most editors explain that the innocent drown and the guilty who survive the trial are burned. MacEachen discovers that in historical trial by cold water a rope was attached to victims so that those who sank--and were thus proved innocent--could be rescued. John Hollow in "William Morris' 'The Haystack in the Floods'" (20) rightly accuses MacEachen of missing the poetic, if not the historic, point: in Morris' rendition Jehane is bound to die by the sham alternatives of drowning or burning if she goes to Paris. Hollow might have added that the rain-soaked action of this poem is, in fact, an analogue for Morris' version of trial by water, for Jehane's possible choices amount to no choice at all: suicide with Godmar or death in Paris. Dianne F. Sadoff in "Erotic Murders: Structural and Rhetorical Irony in William Morris' Froissart Poems" (37) argues that murder replaces desired sexual experience in this poem and that even Robert's murder has erotic overtones. Focusing on Jehane rather than Robert, James Hazen in "Morris' 'Haystack': The Fate of Vision" (17) views the heroine as at once provocatively sexual and innocently visionary.
[p. 243] Historically, this poem can be placed quite precisely. The murder occurs just east of Gascony in southwestern France when the Battle of Poictiers (September 22, 1356) is a recent memory. There is considerable evidence that Godmar and Robert of Marny also have historical counterparts. The most conspicuous Godmar in Froissart is Godmar du Fay, whose name alone suggests a sacrilege. This knight was French, like the Godmar of the poem, and was also accused of treachery. The French King blamed him for the defeat at Crecy (1346) and could barely sup-press the impulse to have him beheaded as a traitor (Vol. I, Ch. CXXXIIII). Although Morris' Godmar is in southern France ten years later and betrays Englishmen rather than Frenchmen, Froissart and Morris' similar attitudes toward the two Godmars are sufficient to justify association.
More convincing yet is the connection between Morris' hero and the historical Robert of Marney, an Englishman who flourished, like Morris' Marny, during the reign of Edward III. In another analysis of source, Patrick (32) points out that a (French) Lord of Marney, an ambush in the hay, and a fight caused by a woman all occur within two chapters in Froissart (Vol. I, Chs. XXIX-XXX).
Finally, Hollow (20) sees a possible germ for Jehane's dilemma in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, which portrays Isabella's choice between accepting an unwanted lover and sending a loved one to death. Indeed, Henderson (p. 18) cites Canon Dixon's memory of Morris reading the scene between Claudio and Isabella: "He suddenly raised his voice to a loud and horrified cry at the word 'Isobel,' and declaimed the awful following speech, 'Aye, but to die, and go we know not where' in the same pitch. I never heard anything more overpowering." W. Holman Hunt's Claudio and Isabella (1850) testifies further to the general Pre-Raphaelite interest in this theme.
The initial questions undercutting narrative suspense, the tetrameter couplet (also used by Scott in his narrative poems), and the occasional refrain line all place this poem within the ballad tradition.
9. cf. "Janet has kilted her green kirtle / A little abune her knee" ("The Young Tamlane," stanza v, Scott).
34-35. Perhaps Godmar is called Judas because he bears the arms of England but clearly serves the French. The English royal arms are three gold lions passant on a red ground. Passant means "walking with one fore-paw raised." To the casual observer the lions would appear to be running.
45-46. The English owed their victory at Poictiers to superior [p. 244] tactics and unflagging courage, not to numbers. Had Robert finished his sentence, he would have recalled that the odds at Poictiers were seven to one in favor of the French.
47. Gascony was held by the English throughout the Hundred Years' War and would therefore have been safe territory for the escaping lovers.
51-52. Chatelet was the name both of the large Paris prison in which malefactors from the pages of Froissart were often incarcerated and of the court held within its walls. The court had jurisdiction over quarrels between individuals, assaults, re-volts, and improper conduct in general. The number of judges who convened there varied, but by 1343 as many as thirteen would sit at once.
53-56. Jehane predicts that she will undergo trial by cold water, an ordeal that by the fourteenth century was reserved for suspected witches. See introductory note for a description of the ordeal. MacEachen (25) comments that its victims were trussed and thus unable to attempt swimming.
105. Jehane's prevision of trial by cold water suggests that Godmar would accuse her of witchcraft before the eager Paris crowd. In earlier times, however, trial by cold water had been used to determine perjury of any kind. On this analysis, the trial would simply be one of Godmar's word against Jehane's regardless of the issue.
107. Jehane and the subject of "Praise of My Lady" are the only brunettes in this volume. The lady praised in unquestionably Jane Burden. Since "Jehane" is the medieval spelling of "Jane," the dark-haired Jane Burden was probably also the model for the heroine of this poem. On the poetic level, Jehane's brown hair conspires with the other dark colors in the poem to reinforce its dreary inevitability. Only Godmar is consistently associated with a vivid color; and his color is blood red.
149-151. The running and grinning in these lines recall Godmar's ominous pennon, lines 34-36.
153. With the word "fitte" Godmar predicts Morris by turning a real event into a literary one. Compare line 745 of "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" and the note for that line. Use of the word "fitte" helps connect this poem with early English ballads. "The Ancient Ballad of Chevy Chase," for instance, is divided into fits. Furthermore, it was customary for the balladeer to refer to this division at the end of the first fit: "That day, [p. 245] that day, that dredfull day!/The first fit here I fynde" ("The Ancient Ballad of Chevy Chase," stanza xxiv, Child 162A).
Asked in later years what he meant by the refrain "Two red roses across the moon," Morris is said to have replied with characteristic elan, "But it's the knight's coat-of-arms of course!" (W. Dixon Scott, 39, pp. 199-200). Although critics may argue that the line serves a more complicated function than Morris admits (e.g. Paul Thompson, 49, p. 168), this bit of color and fantasy is at least what Morris makes it out to be. Both roses and crescent moons abound in heraldry, and even their conjunction is not uncommon.
"Two Red Roses across the Moon" resembles the early English ballad, especially in its formulaic opening (see note for line 1) and flower refrain (see introductory note for "The Eve of Crecy"). What mainly distinguishes this ballad as literary rather than folk is the attempted integration of refrain with narrative line. Rossetti's "Sister Helen" and Tennyson's "Oriana" represent similar modifications of the ballad tradition. Still, there were those who questioned the success and even the sense of these latter-day balladeers. C. S. Calverley's parody summarizes the doubts of these detractors. Here are several selected stanzas:
The auld wife sat at her ivied door,
(Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese)
A thing she had frequently done before;
And her spectacles lay on her aproned knees
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The farmer he strove through the square farmyard;
(Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese)
His last brew of ale was a trifle hard-
The connexion of which with the plot one sees.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The farmer's daughter hath soft brown hair;
(Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese)
And I met with a ballad, I can't say where,
Which wholly consisted of lines like these.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
She sat, with her hands 'neath her crimson cheeks,
(Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese)
And gazed at the piper for thirteen weeks;
Then she followed him out o'er the misty leas.
1. cf. "The Two Sisters:" "There were three sisters lived in a hall" (line 1, Child 10H).
[p. 246] 5. Scott's version of "The Two Sisters," called "The Cruel Sister," introduces the wooer similarly: "There came a knight to be their wooer" (line 3).
In tenor, style, and diction "Welland River" is remarkably close to those early English ballads which Scott in Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border called "Romantic." Its narrative, like its language, cannot be traced to a single source but approximates a number of ballads. The occurrence of both "burd" (line 57) and "Ellayne" associates this poem with a group of ballads about a lady variously styled Burd Helen, Burd Ellen, or Burd Alone. In spite of considerable differences in narrative de-tail, these ballads all share a heroine whose lover has impregnated and then threatened to leave her. The stories always end with the lovers reconciled--though only after the lady has displayed her steadfast devotion: she serves as her lover's page in "Child Waters," which was sketched by Rossetti in 1846 and has variants including "Burd Helen," "Burd Alone," and "Burd Ellen" (Child 63); or she prepares the house for his new wife in "Fair Annie," which was sketched by Rossetti several times during 1854 and 1855 and has one variant called "Burd Helen" (Child 62).
Morris' Ellayne is more passive and wistful than any of her earlier counterparts. But even her inactivity might take its cue from the Burd Helen group. "Burd Alone" is not only one variant of a lady's name; it is also a phrase used in border ballads to mean "all alone," as in: "And this was seen o' King Henrie, / For he lay burd alane" ("King Henrie," stanza ii, Scott). Probably, the existence of the phrase "burd alone" reinforced the frequent use of Ellen and its variants as the name to follow "burd." Morris was aware of the possible pun since he later used "burd-alone" in The Earthly Paradise: "When thou a maiden burd-alone / Hadst eighteen summers!" (CW VI, p. 22). Moreover, this pun would have been especially attractive for Morris, whose "Golden Wings," "The Sailing of the Sword," and "Spell-bound" all attest his interest in deserted or lonely women.
Rossetti's oil painting of 1861 called Burd Alane could easily be a rendition both of this pun and of Morris' Ellayne. It shows a woman gazing yearningly over a brick wall which separates her from the object of her desire. White flowers surround her and one is in her hand. Both Morris and Rossetti may have been inspired by W. L. Windus, who exhibited his painting Burd Helen at the Royal Academy in 1856. Rossetti was so struck by the Windus painting that he persuaded Ruskin to add a postscript [p. 247] praising it to his "Academy Notes" for that year.
In geographical reality, just as in Morris' poem, Welland River comes in from the Wash over the marshland and through Stamford, where there is a bridge. Although the action of this poem does not seem to require a Stamford setting, Morris may have had in mind Tennyson's 1842 ballad "The Lord of Burleigh," which celebrates Stamford's most illustrious citizen and mentions the town by name.
1. Fair Ellayne cf. Scott's border ballad "Fair Helen of Kirconnell," which, like those mentioned in the introductory note, contains the phrase "burd Helen."
18. Morris avoids direct allusion to Ellayne's pregnancy. In-stead, he uses formulaic language which any ballad reader will understand. Fair Janet, pregnant by Tamlane, displays a similar syndrome: "She looked pale and wan" ("The Young Tamlane," stanza xii, Scott); later, "And out there came the fair Janet, / As green as any grass" (stanza xv). To be "both pale and green," then, is conventional for the state Morris describes. James Kinsley in The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford, 1969, p. 150n) notes that green is a mark of defloration.
19-20. cf. fair Ellen in "Child Waters," who announces her pregnancy to her lover in language remarkably similar to Morris' Ellayne: "My girdle of gold, which was too longe, / Is now to short ffor :nee" (stanza ii).
21. "Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane" (Child 28) has Ellen "twisting the red silk and the blue."
21-28. In these stanzas Morris uses an intensifying repetition which repeats an idea in slightly different language. Compare:
'Gin my seven sons were seven young rats,
Running on the castle wa,
And I were a grey cat mysell,
I soon would worry them a'.
'Gin my seven sons were seven young hares,
Running oer yon lilly lee,
And I were a grey hound mysell,
Soon worried they a' should be.'
("Fair Annie," stanzas xxiii-xxiv, Scott)
27-28. As if to recant his previous delicacy, Morris brandishes the word "maidenhead." At least he is protected against an offended readership by the frequent appearance of the word in [p. 248] early ballads, e.g. "But, gin ye lose your maidenheid, / Ye'll ne'er get that agen" ("The Young Tamlane," stanza iii, Scott).
29. cf. "Burd Ellen sits in her bower windowe" ("Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane," stanza i, Child 28).
30. Hair-combing is a frequent activity in early ballads, e.g. "She didna comb her yellow hair" ("The Young Tamlane," stanza xiii, Scott).
33. Again, Ellayne exhibits typical signs of pregnancy. Fair Janet (see note for line 18) suffers similarly: "They thought she'd dreed some sair sickness" (stanza xii).
34. Shoes, though not gold ones, are common ballad props: "It's hosen and shoon, and gown alone, / She climb'd the wall, and follow'd him" ("Clerk Saunders," stanza xxvii, Scott).
37. cf. "Of redd gold shone their weedes" ("King Estmere," stanza xlii, Child 60).
39. cf. "Wyth swordes of fyne collayne" ("The Battle of Otter-bourne," stanza 1, Child 161A).
52. tene, an archaic word meaning "grief" cf. Chaucer: "jalousie or any oother tene" ("The Knight's Tale," line 3106). In another early ballad, Morris wrote, "He bodeth us treie and tene" ("Ballad," CW XXIV, p. 72).
57. burd: see introductory note.
62. cf. "And on his head a cap of steel" ("Graeme and Bewick," stanza xviii, Scott).
63 ff. Since many ballads touch on hunting, hounds often populate them, e.g. "The gude graie hounds he lay amang" ("Johnie of Breadislee," stanza xiii, Scott).
83. For this construction cf. "And whiles she twisted, and whiles she twan" ("Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane," stanza ii, Child 28).
85. Ballads often use the perfect tense where modern English speakers would expect the simple past, e.g. "He's taen her by the milk-white hand" ("The Young Tamlane," stanza x, Scott).
First published in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine for May 1856, "Riding Together" must have been among the first five poems written for the Guenevere volume. But there is further evidence that this ballad of the crusades might antedate all the other poems published in 1858. Volume I of the May Morris Bequest to the British Museum (Additional Manuscript 45,298A) contains manuscripts for this poem and a number of Morris' other first poetic attempts, one composed as early as 1853. Although May Morris published most of them after her father's death (CW XXIV, pp. 76-83, and AWS I, pp. 517-531), Morris himself brought only two of these early poems to press: "The Midnight Tilt" and "The Captive," which he retitled, respectively, "Winter Weather" (see note for lines 5-7 below) and "Riding Together" for the substantially revised versions printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. It seems reasonable to infer that this group of poems was Morris' earliest and that he salvaged "Riding Together" as the best for inclusion in the present volume.
Internal evidence also points to early composition. According to his daughter, Morris wrote his first poem "The Dedication of the Temple" in 1853. This rambling and undistinguished poem is interesting mainly because it mentions the crusades in language very like that of "The Captive," thus suggesting the two poems were written about the same time. Here are several lines of each juxtaposed:
Shout, for the crash as we met together!
Shout, for the splintering of the spears!
For the swords leaping up in the bright, bright weather!
For the turban that the straight sword tears.
Shout as the swords clash on the parapet
And fall in shivers underneath the wall,
Shout for the brave knight raising well his knee
Amid the glimmer of the scimetars:
Shout as the sword rises above his head
And falls again amidst the turbaned ones.
("The Dedication of the Temple")
As to source, Morris clearly came upon the crusades in much of his medieval reading. Yet May Morris hints at a specific source in discussing his poems from this period: "he produced scenes set, it may be in the background of Froissart or St Louis" (AWS I, p. 383). "St. Louis" probably refers to Jean de Joinville's Life of St. Louis. Morris might have read Joinville in any of the French redactions published between 1547 and 1761 or the 1840 edition in the twentieth volume of [p. 250] Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France. But most probably he read the 1807 Thomas Johnes translation, reprinted by Bohn in the 1848 volume of Chronicles of the Crusades.
Jean de Joinville, whose mastery of immediate detail would have attracted Morris, recounts his own experience of the disastrous seventh crusade undertaken in 1248. By early 1250 the crusaders had made their way to Egypt and were marching toward Cairo under constant and telling Saracen siege. In early February Joinville held a small bridge during the Battle of Mansura and was subsequently taken prisoner. This incident is among the most dramatic in Joinville's memoirs and seems a probable germ for "Riding Together."
4. Lady's Day is March 25, which tallies with line 47.
5-7. cf. "Winter Weather" (CW XXIV, pp. 81-83), which Mackail (I, p. 93) suspects was omitted from this volume because it was "thought too like the famous 'Riding Together.'" It is, in fact, the winter pendant to the present poem and opens with these lines: "We rode together / In the winter weather."
14. Joinville's march through Egypt proceeded along the Nile and its smaller branches. Much military energy was spent in attempts to cross these streams.
19. According to Joinville, night watches had to be secure enough to prevent the Saracens from stealing into the camp and murdering the French in their sleep (pp. 398-399).
37. cf. "Winter Weather," lines 25-26: "We met together / In the winter weather."
41-44. Just before Joinville decided to hold the bridge, he noticed "the extreme heat of the weather. As we descended the river, we saw it covered with lances, pikes, shields, men and horses, unable to save themselves from death" (p. 415).
44. Joinville describes the Nile covering low-lying ground at flood time (p. 401).
48. In one footnote to his translation of Joinville, Johnes mentions that the Saracens of Africa march "attended by their naccaires, drums, cymbals, flutes, and shoutings" (p. 389).
As this singular war-song opens, Father John has brought his land to harvest but not his daughter. His reapers remind him that he needs a "son" to save his daughter from the temptations of maidenhood and bring her to sanctioned fruition. Maid en Mary appears on cue to introduce the son-to-be. She suggest the coming union by asking Roland to lay his sword on the corn. It is unclear whether Knight Roland won Mary by fighting for his own home or by dragging her away from the river bank. What is clear is that his battle has cost him his house (though happily not his corn), and the betrothed pair then sets out with Father John to win themselves a home. Thus, Father John wages war on behalf of the marriage hearth. By gaining a son, the patriarch completes the connection between his daughter and his corn: both are now legitimate symbols of fecundity.
The archetypal undertone of "Father John's War-song" sets it apart from the dramatic or painterly quality of most of the rest of this volume. The poem might better be described as a fertility rite than as a war-song. The ripe corn is associated with the ripe maiden so persistently that it is difficult not to attribute the association to conscious poetic intent. Morris could have made such a connection from his reading in Thorpe's Northern Mythology, which recounts and expounds the myth of love between Frey, god of the year, and Gerd, goddess of agriculture or the earth. According to this analysis, when Gerd "is described as a beautiful girl, with bright, shining arms, the image is without doubt borrowed from the seed, the bright, yellow corn, so beneficial to man . . . When the god of fruitfulness [Frey] embraces the seed, it shoots forth" (I, p. 198). Morris seems to be quite consciously scaling down thi: myth of fertility from the dimensions of the gods to the dimensions of men.
7 ff. In northern myth rivers are dangerous places for young women to frequent. Water sprites were infamous for seducing maidens, and the spirit of a river often required its yearly human offering (Thorpe I, pp. 248-249).
9. Kingfishers fly in pairs and consequently often symbolize fidelity or conjugal bliss. Ralph Berry in "A Defence of Guenevere" (2, p. 281) tantalizingly suggests tying this poem to the Fisher King of the Grail legend. The Fisher King, whom Morris would have met in his reading of romances, is always an older man--like the present Father John. A younger man, here Knight Roland, arrives either to revivify or rejuvenate him. Since the blight of the older man coincides with a blight on [p. 252] the land he rules, the Fisher King may have originally represented the death of the earth in winter. The questing knight then represents the fructifying spring, the earth's renewal.
27. Thorpe connects Frey's sword with his fertilizing power (I, p. 198).
42. The implication is not necessarily that Roland is superhumanly tall. The basnet, fashionable until the early fifteenth century, was pointed on top and would add several inches to a man's height.
43. Pennon and banner, not strictly synonymous. A pennon was swallow-tailed and borne by a knight. Banners were rectangular and reserved for the higher ranks from banneret to king. Father John and Knight Roland, then, seem to enjoy the same relationship that existed between King Charlemagne and his paladin Roland.
44. By choosing a star as her insignia, Morris relates his Maiden Mary to the Virgin Mary. The connection of star and Virgin is made in the famous Latin hymn "Ave maris stella dei Mater Alma," which Morris would have seen in at least one of its free translations into medieval English hymns to the Virgin.
The hero of "Sir Giles' War-song," like Sir Peter Harpdon, is a French knight in the English service during the early decades of the Hundred Years' War. He once bested the renowned French knight Oliver Clisson (see note to lines 31-32 of "Sir Peter Harpdon's End") in a barrier skirmish and thus merits the epithet "Ze bon des barrires."
Into this Froissartian setting Morris introduces the aura and form of Browning's "Cavalier Tunes" from the Dramatic Lyrics of 1842. Although Browning writes of the English during their civil wars instead of their earlier forays into France, both he and Morris maintain an inspiriting martial measure. Both singers rely on their battle cries (Browning's "God for King Charles" and Morris' "St. George Guienne") to urge upon their companions the exhilaration of battle. And both poets begin their songs with a refrain which is repeated after every stanza. There may have been a note of self-recognition in what Browning wrote to Morris after reading the first volume of The Earthly Paradise: "It is a double delight to me to read such poetry, and know you of all the world wrote it,--you whose songs I used to sing while galloping by Fiesole in old days,--'Ho, is there any will ride [p. 253] with me?'" (quoted in Mackail I, p. 133).
7. Before Edward III of England initiated his campaign in France, he bore the three gold leopards (or lions) of his predecessors. But Edward had invaded France to regain what he considered his due inheritance and, thus, in 1339 quartered the English leopards with the French fleur-de-lys to represent his claim to both kingdoms (Froissart I, Ch. XLIII).
8. See note for line 243 of "Sir Peter Harpdon's End."
The words "Avalon" (see note for line 88 of "Golden Wings" and "Guenevere" tie this poem to the Arthurian cycle, but the parallel portraits of maidens and knights are entirely Morris' own. At most, the poet seems to agree with Malory that Avalon is a land where ladies thrive (witness the queens who accompany King Arthur in Malory, Book XX, Ch. 6) but where men only come dying.
"Praise of My Lady" was written in October 1857 at Manchester, where Morris had come to see the Art Treasures Exhibition (Mackail I, p. 115). Just a few months earlier during the Long Vacation he had met Jane Burden in Oxford. Early the next year they were engaged and married on 26 April 1859. The "Beata mea Domina"--or "My Blessed Lady"--of this poem is a faithful rendering not only of Janey's features as they were later painted in Morris' Queen Guenevere and in the numerous portraits of her by Rossetti but also of Morris' life-long attitude toward the woman he married.
The poet cloaked the intensity of his own feeling in medieval trappings. For its form and Latin burden "Praise of My Lady" is indebted to fifteenth-century hymns to the Virgin Mary Often these hymns consisted of tetrameter triplets followed by the Latin refrain. A good example is the Bodleian Library's "Alma Redemtoris Mater," which begins:
Swete lady, now 3e wys,
As ye bene quene of heuen blys,
Why bat yowre name callyd ys
(Brown, XV, no. 71)
[p. 254] The roots of such hymns are bound up inextricably with the popular carols which also flourished in the fifteenth century. Many of these take up religious subjects, especially the Nativity, and have final stanza lines rhyming with the burden rather than the other stanza lines, thus:
Mary is a lady bryght;
Sche haght a Sone of meche myght;
Ouer al this word the is hyght
A, a, a, a,
Nu[n]c gaudet Maria. (Greene, no. 188)
Morris has chosen to link the final line of his stanza to the burden in just this way. The burden itself Morris apparently synthesized from Middle English hymns with Latin refrains like "Beata Mater" and "Ave Domina Angelorum."
It may seem distasteful to the modern reader that Morris praises a woman as substantial as Jane Burden in a stanza traditionally reserved for the Blessed Virgin. But in medieval lyrics earthly mistresses were often praised in terms nearly identical with those predicated of the Mistress of heaven and vice-versa. At its best, the shared language of divine and secular lyrics could inject a sense of religious awe into the fifteenth-century courtly love lyric. One such lyric by Thomas Hoccleve is headed "La commendacion de ma dame" (Robbins, no. 210), which can be translated "Praise of my lady."
1. Morris pored over the carved ivories at the Art Treasures Exhibition, which he attended while writing this poem (Mackail I, p. 115).
Showing his further debt to the courtly love lyric, Morris structures his entire poem around the catalogue of charms common to Renaissance poetry.
31. With curious prescience, Morris looks forward to his own marital situation. By the late 1860's Rossetti rather than Morris was escorting Janey to studio parties and portraying her continually in his paintings and sonnets. In 1871 Morris took Kelmscott Manor in joint tenancy with Rossetti and Janey. Gallant certainly to a fault, he split his time between his factory in London and visits to Iceland, leaving Rossetti and Jane to loaf in the suburbs. This singular domestic arrangement continued off and on until the collapse of Rossetti's mental health required his permanent departure from Kelmscott in 1874.
81 ff. Conventionally, the fifteenth-century hymn to the Virgin ends with a prayer addressed by the speaker to the Virgin, e.g.:
[p. 255] Pray we to bys lady bry3th,
In be worshyp of be trinite,
To brynge vs alle to heuen ly3th-
Amen, say we, for charyte. (Brown, XV, no. 48)
Morris' injunction to his fellow men departs slightly from thi: private plea but stays well within the tradition of the less formal carol, which typically closes with exhortations like the following:
Good men that stondyn and syttyn in this halle,
I prey you, bothe on and alle,
That wykkyd tunges fro you falle,
That ye mowun to hefne go. (Greene, no. 341)
"Summer Dawn" first appeared, with no title, in The Oxfora and Cambridge Magazine for October 1856. If the chief criteria for a sonnet are fourteen lines and a final couplet, then this poem qualifies. But its rhyme scheme, enjambment, and four stressed anapests--not to mention the extra phrase added to lin 4--put this poem quite outside either the Italian or the Englis sonnet tradition.
"Summer Dawn" might also be related to the Provencal alba, which was usually a daybreak dialogue between two lovers but in some later versions was addressed to the Virgin Mary. The only prosodic requirement for an alba is that each of its stanzas end with the word "alba," which means "dawn." Note that Morris ends lines 5 and 11 (in the original version) with "dawn."
4. cloud-bars, cf. "barred clouds," Keats' "To Autumn," line 25.
Originally, Morris inserted "In Prison" into the narrative of "Frank's Sealed Letter," his decidedly unsuccessful tale of a crippled Victorian suitor, rejected by the object of his life-long affection (The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, April 1856). In that context the poem is cast as a childhood melody, sung by the protagonist's carefree, if heartless, beloved. Although inappropriate to the character who utters it, the song is nevertheless consistent with the failed and futile mood of the whole story.
Although not a popular medieval form, a prisoner's complaint does occur in the Liber de Antiquis Legibus at the London [p. 256] Guildhall (Brown, XIII, no. 5). Since music accompanies this manuscript, the complaint was clearly meant to be sung, just as Morris' poem was in its original context. The dimeter line is infrequent in Middle English verse except in virelays, a number of which are also laments (e.g. Robbins, nos. 137, 173). If Morris did have virelays in mind, he has chosen to avoid their monotonously repetitive rhyme scheme.
May Morris (CW I, p. xx) preserves an original opening for this poem and maintains that her father discarded it in favor of the one printed. W. Dixon Scott (39) and Paul Thompson (49) suggest, however, that the poem's brilliant in medias res opening was due to the printer's accidental omission of the first page of manuscript.
That summer morning out in the green fields
Along the Itchen, sat King Arthur's knights
Long robed and solemn, their brave battle shields
Hung in the canopies, to see such sights
As might be seen that morning, and to hear
Such strange grim words fiercer than many fights,
That on that morn 'twixt anger and great fear
Brave lips and beautiful might writhe to say.
High up in wooden galleries anear
That solemn court of judgment dames sat--gay
With many coloured kirtles, yea, but some
Were sick and white with much fear on that day;
For now take notice, Launcelot was not come;
The lordly minstrel Tristram, nigh to death
From King Mark's glaive, sat brooding at his home;
Gareth was riding fearful of men's breath
Since he was Gawaine's brother; through the trees
And over many a mountain and bare heath
The questing beast, wings spread out to the breeze,
Trailed Palomydes, wearied feet and sore,
And ever Lawaine was at Launcelot's knees,
[p. 258] So he was missed too; ever more and more
Grew Gawaine's nets round Guenevere the Queen.
Look round about what knights were there that wore
Sir Launcelot's colours, the great snake of green
That twisted on the quartered white and red--
According to May Morris, the poet meant to revise this poem before allowing it to be reprinted in 1875. He began to make the revisions in an interleaved copy of the first edition but finally decided not to include them in the 1875 reprint. They appear, however, in CW I, pp. xxij-xxiv:
16. on] by
35. his madness] dreams and madness
38. All my singing] I sung, my singing
39. As I sung] I held my peace;
40. About the quest and Launcelot
44. In] Amid
46-51. There in my rest I plucked a rose
Where neath the lime a garden blows
And winds run through the trembling rows
Of lilies slim and tall.
I bore him water for his drouth,
I laid the flower beside his mouth,
57. him soon will] draws anigh to
58-65. The western door wide open lay
About the time when we grew sad,
And close beside the door there lay
The red crossed shield of Galahad.
I entered, and despite of fear,
My sword lay quiet in its sheath,
Across the rood-screen gilded clear
I heard the sound of deep-drawn breath.
I said: "If all be found and lost?"
And pushed the doors and raised my head,
And o'er the marble threshold crossed
And saw the seeker nowise dead.
[p. 259] 67. The King of many hopes he seemed,
69. And triumph in his eyen gleamed.
81. sits] gazeth
82-83. On wondrous things his eyes may see Amidst the air 'twixt him and me—Sir Peter H
For this poem, May Morris reproduces an omitted scene which was to follow line 319 and conjectures that Morris left it out of the printed version because he "thought it weighted it too much" in favor of Sir Peter (CW I, p. xxvi).
In the Castle on the walls.
And yet their hammering is grown fainter now;
An hour might be something, Sir.
But they'll be ready by the daylight, John.
Far better let this matter have its way;
Don't think of it, your heart grows heavy so.
Sir, truly? Well, I know not, just as if
I were a builder and knew what would strain
And yet not break, or perhaps might not break.
Just so, you see, Sir, do I hold this; as for death
It makes my heart jump when I say the word,
But otherwise my thoughts keep off from it
Without much driving.
John, where were you born?
You never told me yet, whose son were you.
At Goring by the Thames, a pleasant place:
So many sluices on from lock to lock,
All manner of slim trees--'tis now ten years
Since I was there, and I was young that time,
For I look older than I am, fair Sir.
[p. 260] My father holds a little manor there,
He's alive still: I mind once--pardon me,
I trouble you.
No, Curzon, on my word.
I mind once when my sister Anne was wed--
And she has children now: Why, what's to-day?
Tenth of November--we shall mind it long
Hereafter when we sit at home in peace-
The tenth to-day then, or to-morrow--which is it?
I never could keep these things in my mind--
Is poor Anne's birthday--hope it is to-day,
I shouldn't like them to be holding feast
While--God, Sir Peter, those men are in shot.
I'll fetch some archers, hold you still the while
The Green Tower men will be the least tired out
And John of Waltham draws the stronger bow.
No noise, Sir, I'll be back soon. [He goes.
That man now,
His thoughts go back in such a simple way,
Without much pain, I think, while mine--I feel
As if I were shut up in [a] close room
Steaming and stifling with no hope to reach
The free air outside--0 if I had lived
To think of all the many happy days
I should have had, the pleasant quiet things,
Counted as little then, but each one now
Like lost salvation--Say I see her head
Turned round to smile at cheery word of mine;
I see her in the dance her gown held up
To free her feet, going to take my hand,
I see her in some crowded place bend down,
She is so tall, lay her hand flat upon
My breast beneath my chin as who should say,
Come here and talk apart: I see her pale,
Her mouth half open, looking on in fear
As the great tilt-yard fills; I see her, say,
Beside me on the dais; by my hearth
And in my bed who should have been my wife;
Day after day I see the French draw on;
Hold after hold falls as this one will fall,
Knight after knight hangs gibbeted like me,
Pennon on pennon do they drain us out
[p. 261] And I not there to let them. Lambert too,
I know what things he'll say--ah well,
God grant That he gets slain by these same arrows here
That come up now.
Enter John Curzon.
So, Curzon; little noise,
Wind the big perriere that they call Torte Bouche.
I think we shall just reach them there: see now,
You mark their beffroi by the loose ox-skins
If you strain hard your eyes; now aim well up
To the windward and you'll hit the midmost.
Set the staff--So, another inch this way of it,
Hands to the winch all ready. Now, Long Wat,
Stand with your six well on the right side
And aim about the little red bombard,
I mark them gathering there; you'll see them too
Within a little, when your eyelashes
Are well freed, so no hurry. By the Lord!
Here John of Waltham on [the] left, see here!
About the chestnut perriere I saw
The fellow with the red Montauban hat
Who did so well the first day--bend this way,
Lend me your arrow, there by the eightbarb
Yea, fair Sir, I see right well.
Curzon, all's over; they're quite ready now--
Are going to assault, I think, at once,
Here in the dark. [ Aloud.
Yea, draw the catch when I
Cry out aloud whatever cry comes first.
Lads, draw to the barb points for the King's sake. --
St. Edward for Lord Richard of Bordeaux!
Broad arrows for the King!--Shout, boys, hurrah!
The beffroy's down.
The Red Montauban hat
Hath got a token not a lady's, Sir.
By God they're moving though, their cries, Curzon--
"Our Lady for the Constable of France,"
"Sanxere, Sanxere," "the Marshal for King Charles,"
[p. 262] "St. Ives for Clisson--" Curzon, did you hear?
Yea, Sir, and felt; a good round ton, I doubt,
Has fallen from the wall. I'm ready.
Among the men then, by Lord Clisson's tent.
St. George Guienne!
Long Wat and all you Shoot all you may.
St. George! Why again there,
It comes away like dried mud; at this rate
They will not need the beffroi. By daybreak
May God have mercy on our souls, fair Sir!
They have made a breach--hark there, they know it too.
Morris also intended to revise "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" slightly before allowing it to be reprinted in 1875. Never published by the poet, the intended revisions are reported in CW I, p. xxiv:
211. talk, you know,] talk of us
212-215. 'Twixt talk of Hector dead so long agone;
Will talk of us long dead, and how we clung
To what we loved; perchance of how one died
Hoping for naught, doing some desperate deed
346. Then] For
350. Fear not death so;] Nor fear--so;