The Earthly Paradise

General Introduction, by Florence S. Boos

[3] The Earthly Paradise is one of the great poems of an era which saw the emergence of many long poetic narratives of enduring resonance and linguistic beauty. Like Alfred Tennyson's The Idylls of The King, Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh, The Earthly Paradise expressed its author's considered response to contemporary social issues and poetic tastes. In Morris's case, this response carried with it a romantic and anti-puritanical view of heterosexuality, a deep attachment to "historicist" evocations of past legends, and an equally deep belief in the reenactment of "popular" or recurrent emotional truths which he believed were embodied in them.

Twentieth-century counterparts and descendants of such historicism have suffered various forms of critical deflation. For Morris, however, these convictions prefigured the "secular religion" of socialism which he practiced and preached with great vigor in middle age, and he refashioned and reexpressed emotionally charged legends and ancient literary motifs with an unusual sense of purpose and tolerance for complexity and moral ambiguity. His "historicist" sympathies and interests therefore served him well as the inspiration(s) for the monumental poem of his early middle age, and for the lifework which followed. The Earthly Paradise's great invitation to assess no fewer than twenty-five searches for an "earthly paradise" evokes no false unities. It (re)enacts instead a compelling need to seek better lives on earth, and suggests that journeys toward such "paradises" rather than arrivals matter.

For its own reasons, then, The Earthly Paradise shares with many other long Victorian narrative poems a preoccupation with [4] transience and incompletion, an excited sense of the beauty of older forms and rhythms, and a paradoxical intermixture of idealized historicism with bitter commentary on the corruptions of the present. It also brought to its readers serious explorations of secular myth; an attempt to consider the "popular" implications of folk art; a fascination with the "silences" of quotidian aspirations and unrecorded history; and sophisticated appeals to a narrative framework of multiple audiences and creators.

Like all great poetry, Morris's work moved back into a "wordhoard" to evoke archetypal motifs and emotionally charged realities. But its designs of plot and stanzaic sequence were also distinguished for their experimentalism and their reflections of pragmatic and egalitarian impulses. These frame-structures suggested that art might be no less "socially constructed" than consciousness itself, and subject to creation and recreation by its auditors and audience, as tellers of tales from several cultures and chronological periods listen to other tellers of other tales, and contemporary and future hearers share emotions of empathetic recognition. To appreciate Morris's great cycle—and its reenactments within recessive cycles of lesser scope—one must understand the underlying ambition of his understated claim that these simple tales of lust, phobias, and courage are part of an unending metanarrative which is at once immediate, receding, and prophetic.

Readers of Morris's poem will more straightforwardly need to know a few of the remarkable features of his life, something of the emotional and conceptual assumptions which underlay his preoccupation with myth, the biographical and literary contexts for the individual tales and poem as a whole, and the place of the latter among its author's works. Not surprisingly, for a long poem in the romantic tradition published over a three-year period, the frame and tales of The Earthly Paradise evolved somewhat in tone and purpose over time, and readers of the work will also benefit from some sense for the poem's organization and the significance of these changes. Further resonances will emerge from an acquaintance with the poem's complex provenance—in classical and [5] medieval histories and legends; other Victorian long poems; and contemporary ethnographies, histories, and conceptions of history. Finally, it will be appropriate to survey something of the reactions of the poem's readers and critics in the hundred and thirty years which have passed since it appeared.

This general introduction will briefly treat all these topics, and they will again be taken up to some extent in the head- and footnotes to the separate tales. It will also provide an account of the poem's composition, early drafts and various printed editions, a defense of this edition's editorial procedures, and a brief review of some of Morris's own editorial and printing practices at the Kelmscott Press.

The Earthly Paradise Among Morris's Works:

One of the most versatile, creative, and farsighted of the Victorians, William Morris was a pioneer in the history of the decorative arts and book design; founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings; translator of Icelandic sagas; and a leader for several years of one of the major branches of early British socialism. He was also the author of essays on politics and art; a series of prose romances, including the utopian-socialist News from Nowhere and A Dream of John Ball; many short poems and personal lyrics; and several long narrative poems which were among the most popular of their time.

Three pauses in Morris's literary career preceded major shifts in his style and choice of subjects. The first such pause marked the transition in the late 1850s from his juvenile poems and prose romances to The Defence of Guenevere. The third, in the late 1870s and early 80s, separated his long narrative poems from the later political essays and prose romances of the late 1880s and 90s. The most radical shift, however, was the second, from The Defence of Guenevere (published in 1858, when he was 24) to two much longer narratives: The Life and Death of Jason (1867) and The Earthly Paradise (1868-70).

[6] In the brief dramatic scenes and lyrical reveries of the self­consciously medieval Defence, the twenty-four year old Morris recorded the sexual frustration and death of figures of Froissartian chronicle and Arthurian legend, and its imagery, patterned refrains, and varied stanzaic forms exploited a variety of syntactic discontinuities and narrative leaps. In Jason, originally cast as a single tale of The Earthly Paradise and nearly twice the length of the whole Defence, Morris recreated the voyages of the Argonauts in narrative couplets. In Jason, and still more in the Prologue to The Earthly Paradise, he also widened the shutter of his attention, to take in characters, landscapes, and descriptions from several societies, cultures, and social classes. He infused both works, finally, with a variety of meditations on the nature of time, fate, and failed endeavor.

However little read it has been in the past century, The Earthly Paradise was in several significant respects Morris's greatest poetic achievement. Roughly modelled on the prototype of Boccaccio's Decameron or Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Earthly Paradise's 42,000 lines interweave a complex narrative and lyrical metastructure of outer lyrics, inset descriptions of interrelated audiences and narrators, and twenty-four classical and medieval tales, two for each month. The poem is rich in philosophical parallels, tonal progressions, and extended portrayals of intense emotional states. Its sophisticated use of narrators and audiences reflects Morris's belief in the culturally shared nature of identity, and wide-ranging literary evocations, incidents, and settings embody his most intricate poetic defense of human effort and secular communal faith. At its deepest the poem becomes a sustained meditation on the creation of identity through shared grief, memory, and love.

As the poem begins, an ironically self-described "idle singer" asks whether the psychological recognitions and linguistic delights of poetry can subserve something more than mere escape from unresolvable problems, and whether he himself can write something of significance. Many poets have expressed a sense of unworthiness at the beginning of great epics—Wordsworth at the [7] opening of The Prelude, for example, and Milton at the onset of Paradise Lost—but Victorians seem to have felt especially oppressed by a conscious ideology of "belatedness," a sense of displaced religious and economic order which exacerbated the usual anxieties of authorship and due expressions of respect for honored predecessors.

To some extent, at least, this sense also seems to have spanned otherwise-disparate poetic ideologies: The speaker of Matthew Arnold's "Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse" believes that those of his era are stranded between faiths, "one dead, the other waiting to be born." The speaker of the "Apology" of The Earthly Paradise avers that he is "born out of my due time" (which suggests at least that such a "time" may once have existed, and may someday return).

This sense of displacement may also contribute to Morris's choice of frames for The Earthly Paradise, and explain in part why he embedded its legends of markedly different cultural pasts—introduced by a troubled contemporary speaker, and recalled by a heterogeneous group of fourteenth-century refugees—so deeply in the narrative structure(s) of the work.

The poem's prefatory poems, at any rate, ask several lingering questions. Can one genuinely reenter (in effect) the "cultural unconscious" of a literary past? And if so, can such acts of hermeneutic understanding enlighten or benefit the present? Can they provide reasons for belief that forgotten human accomplishments have created any forms of enduring significance? Can we tell ourselves "where all the past years are?" Are the demands of our inner and outer lives ever reconciled, however briefly? In the poem's final tales and its "Envoi," Morris struggled to express his complexly affirmative answer that the effort to recreate past emotions is the only cyclical "paradise" which has ever endured.

Throughout his literary career, Morris himself alternated between the two poles of a dichotomy between inner conflict and outer action. His next long poem, Love Is Enough, is one of his most introspective and troubled examinations of several different [8] levels of fidelity and their complex motivations. Next in succession followed Sigurd the Volsung, his most elaborate poetic celebration of 'heroic' action. Such action often fails in The Earthly Paradise, however, and its only resolution may be the remembrance of it which we bear.

All of this suggests that Morris's view of art was always more communal and historically reflective than that of most of his contemporaries, and that anticipations of his later egalitarian socialism may be found in his most 'romantic' and visionary poetry: an intense appreciation of folk-culture(s), for example; his consistent sympathy with protagonists under stress; and his desire to subsume past sorrow in future hope.

Presentations of romantic love in The Earthly Paradise were also surprisingly probing and honest, and the work's implicit social values stubbornly negated several forms of aesthetic as well as religious orthodoxy. Eclectic in design, the poem's language and motifs interwove sensuous beauty with historical and material detail, and harmonious and fluid patterns of language with themes of opposition and struggle.

To close this small narrative cycle, then, The Earthly Paradise was indeed one of the major poetic achievements of Morris's life. He focused intense literary and emotional concentration on its composition for almost a decade, and his attempts to find historical meaning in literature of grief, shared memory, and renewal were rewarded with lyrics and narratives of great eloquence and haunting beauty.

We turn now to a brief examination of the social and critical environment of the work's creation, and a sketch of Morris's life from 1858 to 1870.

The Biographical and Critical Genesis of The Earthly Paradise, 1858-70:

[9] William Morris's publication in 1858 of The Defence of Guenevere was an anomalously bold act for a twenty-four year old with no prominent connections in the literary world. The volume's abrupt and archaic language and highly symbolic narratives carried Browningesque dramatic monologues even further towards the evocation of passionately inward psychological states, especially painful and romantic ones—sexual yearning, loneliness, disillusion, and the fear of failure. The volume's dedication to Dante Gabriel Rossetti publicly identified it with the Archimago of Pre-Raphaelitism, however. Critics eager to attack Pre-Raphaelite art ignored the volume's impressive originality and haunting eloquence, and savaged it for "medievalism," and for its alleged affectation, morbidity, obscurity, and abruptness of style.

Morris said little about the reviews, then or later—a lifelong habit—but public mockery of his artistic tastes must have discouraged a young writer who lacked a fixed career, and sought for some measure of reassurance as he probed his abilities' directions and limits. Morris's later poetry continued to express his deepest anxieties and most probing questions, and he never abandoned his preference for medieval antecedents, but he may tacitly have credited something of his critics' distaste for 'excessive' artifice and indirection. In the end, Morris's deepest values also inclined him toward stylistic immediacy, use of folk rather than courtly sources, and a poetic counterpart of the "popular" art he later praised. These attitudes, at any rate, rather clearly underlie several aspects of the design and language of The Earthly Paradise.

Initially, at least, the reviewers may also have inclined Morris to approach with greater caution the publication of poetry on medieval themes. Publication of the more conventional, "classical" poem on The Life and Death of Jason may have provided a useful transition in this respect. By 1862, Morris had planned The Earthly Paradise in outline—including its alternations of "classical" [10] and "medieval" tales—and written drafts for a prologue tale about medieval mariners; two medieval tales ("The Watching of the Falcon" and "The Proud King"); and one classical one ("The Story of Cupid and Psyche"). By 1867, he had filled six notebooks with drafts. The first two tales he actually finished, however, were both classical: "The Story of Cupid and Psyche," and The Life and Death of Jason (originally titled "The Deeds of Jason" and scheduled for inclusion in the projected longer work).

The plot of Jason was also widely familiar from textbook use of the Argonautica in the schools. Morris's poem was enthusiastically, even effusively received, in any case, and Morris swiftly completed and published parts I and II of The Earthly Paradise in 1868, and parts III and IV in 1870. Unlike the medieval tales of The Defence, the new ones drew on carefully documented folk-sources rather than aristocratic Malorian and Froissartian motifs, and their style evinced a clear desire to evoke durable medieval and romantic traditions. The Defence had shown marked affinities with the work of Morris's contemporaries Robert Browning, Robert Bulwer-Lytton, and Dante Rossetti. Echoes of Browning and Bulwer-Lytton vanished altogether from Jason and The Earthly Paradise, and only a few traces of Rossetti's influence remained; the romantic narratives of Spenser and Keats and more general example of Chaucer provided more significant models for Jason and the early tales of The Earthly Paradise. The Defence was dedicated to "My Friend/ Dante Gabriel Rossetti/ Painter." The Earthly Paradise was simply inscribed "To My Wife."

The shift from the style of the Defence to that of Jason and The Earthly Paradise remained the most substantial of Morris's immensely varied career. There is some evidence that this major shift in Morris's writing style may also have reflected significant readjustments in his private life as well. The twelve years between the composition of The Defence of Guenevere and the publication of the final parts of the Earthly Paradise witnessed several new beginnings, and some abandonments and conclusions. Among the former were Morris's marriage in 1859 to Jane Burden and establishment of Red House, his idealized country home in Kent; [11] the birth of two daughters, Jenny and May; an attempt to form an artistic brotherhood with Edward Burne-Jones and other close friends; the expansion of his literary and artistic endeavors in several directions; and finally, the founding of the "Firm"—Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, and Company—in 1862. Subsequent defeats and disruptions eventually included ill-health, both of himself and his wife; a marked decline in income; serious rifts among his friends and collaborators; the (essentially) forced sale of his beloved Red House and return to London; and a gradually deepening estrangement from his wife.

Little is recorded of Morris's inner life for much of this period. His friends' later recollections were largely anecdotal, and of the ten letters preserved from 1857 to 1863 which are reprinted in Norman Kelvin's edition of the Letters, only one—an announcement of Jane Alice (Jenny)'s birth—concerns his private life. What little evidence is extant suggests that the years 1860-65, especially the first years of his marriage, were happy. The establishment of the cooperative Firm and use of Red House as a gathering place for its members were early embodiments of his Oxford ideal of a working brotherhood of kindred artists. Among other things, Red House also represented a safe retreat from London, and more particularly, a refuge in which he could entertain and even—in the case of Philip Webb—employ his friends, and turn with them wholeheartedly to assorted forms of non-poetic communal endeavor.

When Morris's lifelong friend Ned Jones was unable to join him at Red House in 1864 as he had hoped, Morris lost one of his most cherished hopes for artistic and emotional collaboration. Morris's subsequent letter to Burne-Jones is one of his most painful:

As to our palace of art, I confess your letter was a blow to me at first, though hardly an unexpected one: in short I cried, but I have got over it now. . . . when you come back from Hastings come and stay with me for a month or two, there is plenty of room for everybody and everything. ... I would give £5 down to see you old chap; wouldn't it be safe for you to come down here one day before you go to Hastings?1

[12] Morris clearly yearned for companionship beyond his marriage. After moving to Queen Square, London, Morris visited the Burne-Joneses weekly and kept up frequent visits with Faulkner and Webb, but the original intensity of collaboration and cooperation began inevitably to fade into middle-class social routine.

Red House, moreover, had simply proved too expensive to maintain. It also became clear that as the manager of the Firm, Morris would have to live closer to its place of manufacture in central London. When Morris sold the house in 1865, he seemed quite literally to have felt he had lost an "earthly paradise," and this loss so affected him that he could never bear to visit the house again.2 Its eventual substitute, however—Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire—came to occupy a similar place in his heart, and even appeared in the frontispiece of News from Nowhere.

Much more ominous for Morris's personal future was an attack of rheumatic fever, which temporarily crippled him in 1864 at the age of thirty, and restricted his commutation at that point from Red House to London. Morris suffered sporadic and crippling attacks of "gout" for the rest of his life. These were probably arthritic aftermaths of this earlier rheumatic disease, and though Morris maintained astounding levels of activity and accomplishment throughout his life, his subsequent letters record many minor illnesses and acute responses to dampness, wind, and pollution.

At some point around 1865 or 1866, moreover, Jane Morris's health also began a decline which clouded her life until middle age. It may be that the aftereffects of the birth of her second daughter in 1862 had left Jane Morris's health somewhat impaired, and Georgiana Burne-Jones states that Jane's health worsened soon after the Morrises arrived in Queen Square in 1865. Both Morris daughters seem to have been happy children, and William and Jane were companionable and/or dutiful parents in later life, so it may be significant that no expressions of special pleasure in the girls' [13] infancy or early childhood have survived. An undiagnosed, publicly undiscussed illness might well have prompted Jane Morris's fear of a third pregnancy, and perhaps deepened the depression and sexual indifference which William came to accept as a mark of personal failure.

All these changes, but especially the move to an apartment above the Firm in Queen Square, thus represented curtailments of Morris's initial high hopes: social ties, finances, physical environment, and health all suddenly seemed to contract. His first, financially well-favored efforts at an "earthly paradise" had obviously failed, but he gradually began to write poetry once again in the several hours freed daily from commutation, and slowly began to redirect his phenomenal energies in other ways as well.

After a period of steady application to decorative work, Morris apparently felt also a desire to give literary form to his carefully sublimated sense of personal disappointment. Several Earthly Paradise tales seem to suggest that security and contentment are difficult for perceptive and ardent human beings, even if they are as fortunate as Morris was in life. Given this pedal-point of The Earthly Paradise tales, it is all the more surprising that, with some partial exceptions, the reviewers of these tales so relentlessly overinterpreted their more cheerful aspects, and ignored so resolutely their melodic representations of futility and loss.

Morris's relationship with his wife, moreover, continued to worsen during the nine years in which he composed The Earthly Paradise. He gave clear expression to frustration and sorrow in various ways in parts II, III, and IV of the poem, and more directly in shorter unpublished lyrics and tales of the period, but only the most perceptive reviewers publicly observed the growing incongruence between the emotional burden and narrative content of the later tales. Shifts in tone within the narrative frame marked more than an evolution in skill or choice of subjects: they reflected Morris's desire to find some sustained artistic and ethical purpose in a growing sense of emotional loss. The Earthly Paradise provides a partial resolution in several of its individual tales, but the best of these reflect the work's larger belief in healing cycles of [14] shared labor and historical memory, and self-consciously restrained responses to complex views of fate.

The Poem's Message and Design:

The Earthly Paradise's narrative personae are a lyric 'outer' poet ("singer") and two sets of 'inner' storytellers, twelve "Wanderers" and twelve "Elders." The poem is first introduced by the ironically self-identified "idle singer," who recites the "Apology," "Epilogue," and lyrics of the outer frame. The twelve Wanderers then appear in the "Prologue," and try to describe the gradually emerging insights of their flight from the Black Death. The larger chorus of twenty-four assembled Elders and Wanderers, finally, attempt to evaluate their lives and prepare for death as they respond to each others' tales. The tales themselves also undergo a progression, from relatively simplistic interpretations of success and failure, to conscious espousal of a much deeper and more sustained ethic of self-sacrificial love.

The three levels of narrative are effectively interrelated, moreover, and the two outer frames temper and channel the poem's ultimate response(s) to the inner tales. The singer's apology and lyrics provide a complex defense of the need for narrative art, "The Wanderers Prologue" an attempt to vindicate human effort, and the Wanderers' and Elders' evolving responses to the cycle of tales a kind of extended chorus of self-recognition and psychic renewal.

The "Wanderers" are the survivors of a group of fourteenth-century Europeans who have fled the Bubonic Plague, and travelled the seas for many years in search of a fabled world of immortal life, and failing that, a peaceful environment in which to end their days. After many bitter struggles and pathetic failures, they are shipwrecked and washed ashore in the Adriatic Sea, where to their immense relief they are welcomed by a group of hospitable "city-fathers" descended from ancient Greeks. The two groups agree to exchange tales they have learned from their ancestors; the city-fathers tell twelve medieval-classical tales, and the Wanderers [15] twelve stories derived from the folklore and travel narratives of "medieval" England, Germany, Brittany, Persia, and Scandinavia. Morris pairs the "classical" and medieval tales, and identifies each pair with a specific month of the year, starting with March (as in Chaucer's "Prologue"). Eventually, The Earthly Paradise's involved intermixture of cultures, seasons, and narrators allows for contrasts and parallels in near-unlimited permutation.

Each of the work's three levels of narration also traces a near-parallel emotional progression, from unresolved anxiety, to historical contemplation, identification, and acceptance. The outermost lyrical sequence takes place in the present and the immediate past; the inner narrators relate their tales in the recent past; and the tales themselves derive from still more personal and collective history. The outer frame is personal, almost spoken in Morris's own confessional voice. The narrators of the inner tales, the Elders and Wanderers, are aged members of a carefully reconstructed medieval cosmopolitan society.

The shadow audience of the poem is also multi-leveled. The singer addresses himself, his Victorian audience, and those within his poem, and mingles these shadow-galleries when he admonishes us all to praise Chaucer. The Wanderers and Elders address each other, and they and their youthful auditors provide antiphonal responses of youth and age. This imbrication of audience-within-audience also extends outward to include the poem's readers, who are enjoined to grant sympathy, receive consolation, and return with (the original of) the singer to face the outer world. Within the poem, the singer vindicates the Wanderers' claim to remembrance, and they in turn commemorate their protagonists. By implication, the reader is expected to recognize the singer's emotional significance, and feel impelled to identify with and rework each cycle in its turn.

The elderly narrators and the lyric singer do eventually find consolation in their joint cycle of twenty-four tales. The singer, in particular, has emulated his mentor, Chaucer, and has strengthened bonds of respect between himself and his friends. His desire to regain the past has extended and deepened his awareness [16] of reality, and he offers his work as a gift to the future, a celebration of the unillusioned love he finds in the collective moral of the frame and the tales.

The narrators within the poem also reflect this belief in the restorative power of human understanding. As the year progresses, they feel a growing sense of self-worth, and gradually move toward a closer rapport with their audience. Their dignified acceptance of the interrelation of happiness and loss eventually clarifies for themselves and for each other the transient and partial nature of both. The tales themselves also thus memorialize their protagonists' deeds and emotions, and serve as miniature emblems for emulation in their turn, by the narrators, the "idle" singer, and us.

This tripartite view of the past is not antiquarian or narrowly historical. In some non-traditional and utopian sense, it is communitarian. Singer, narrators, and protagonists become emblems of a common cultural consciousness, as they lessen their isolation, commemorate each other, and retrace some intense patterns of human emotion. They sense their limitations, but strive at every level to deepen a sense of community through their elaborate polyphony of language and poetic form.

These cycles of restoration in The Earthly Paradise do not run simultaneously but seriatim. The Wanderers' initial depression and lethargy are reflected in the external calm of the early tales; later, when they have become more reflective and detached, their tales describe cases of emotional failure and estrangement. Finally, the outer singer's sense of loss, expressed in the lyrics throughout the cycle, is more acute and personal than anything the Wanderers express. It reaches its greatest intensity in November, December, and January, when the Wanderers have begun to reach an accommodation with their fate. Nor does the singer's anguish correspond with the period of the most harrowing tales, which roughly extend from May to November. The Wanderers and protagonists of the tales experience fluctuating emotions and mixed fates, but the singer's sense of loss recurs, and his expression of hope for love in the last month of the narrative cycle is the most [17] tenuous and qualified resolution of the poem. Finally, the tales of the inner frame also evolve, from relatively simplistic exempla of chastisement and reward, to more complex, near-stoic accounts of self-sufficient altruism and love.

The first stage of the audience's response occurs as they hear the relatively moralistic spring tales for March and April: "Atalanta's Race," "The Man Born to be King," "The Doom of King Acrisius," and "The Proud King," which dwell on attempts to avoid arbitrary prescriptions of law, oracle, royal ukase, and parental decree. Youthful physical love and desire are nominally successful epiphenomena of a brutal world of sudden death, unjust hatred, and despotic force, and the auditors respond to this world with dissatisfaction and melancholy. They meditate on vanitas vanitatum, and grieve for their past selves.

To these auditors, the facile conclusion of "Atalanta's Race" understandably seems almost burdensome: "Yea, on their hearts a weight had seemed to fall, / As unto the scarce-hoped felicity / The tale grew round—the end of life so nigh, / The aim so little, and the joy so vain." By contrast the early tales of evil monarchs rebuked inspire some pride in the freer customs of their homelands, and the first tale of active heroism (in April, of Perseus in "The Doom of King Acrisius"), rekindles a measure of desire to accomplish what they can before the night. They also begin to experience more fellow-feeling with the Elders, as both groups reflect that their idealized past may have been no less bleak than their exhausted present.

As the season shifts, other motifs of the spring tales also begin to fade, especially those which involve disinherited royal heroes and near-magical release of entrapped female sexuality. In May and June, the Wanderers are stirred by the narratives of failure ("The Writing on the Image," "The Lady of the Land") and bittersweet spirituality ("The Story of Cupid and Psyche," "The Love of Alcestis," "Ogier the Dane") to confess their own inadequacies in greater detail.

Some new elements of their experience also emerge in late spring. Descriptions of the surrounding landscape gradually [18] become more restful, and the feasts more ceremonial, as the old compare their responses with those of the young, and become interested in the latter's love-making and plans for the future. The Wanderers and Elders see themselves once again as men well-acquainted with human nature, and begin to hope that their inchoate efforts may help ensure that the human race will survive.

By now, of course, the meetings themselves also have a history. The Wanderers and the Elders have become intimate friends, as their lives together endure at least one more change of seasons. First signs of a kind of communal inspiration occur in June, when they are drawn for the first time to sympathize with Alcestis, across obvious barriers of rank, sex, and time: "And scarce their own lives seemed to touch them more / Than that dead Queen's beside Boebis's shore."

Gradually, the Wanderers' invocations of submerged grief have also become more detached, and their resolutions to accept what remains more self-evident. They now regret life's brevity more than its failures; they would try again if they could. Failures abound in the tales of May and June, but the tales have begun to shift thematically from reproof of arrogance, false curiosity, and the like, to a need for erotic devotion, the theme of "The Story of Cupid and Psyche" and "The Love of Alcestis," and an intense preoccupation of Morris's poetry in this period.

By late summer, desire and ambition are expressed more often on a recognizably human scale, and are less governed by extrinsic and malevolent forces. Character, more than supernatural machinery, begins to determine fate, and the workings-out of such character acquire some slightly closer analogy with justice. The August tale, "Pygmalion and the Image," for example, is both more cheerful and more psychologically plausible than the earlier "Atalanta's Race"—no failed early suitors, no competitive chase, and no sudden reversals of character. Sexual union with an immortal being does not destroy the protagonist of "Ogier the Dane" in August, as it had in "The Watching of the Falcon" in July. Instead, it provides a sort of equable, Elysian happiness as a reward for several lives of heroic struggle.

[19] A few general remarks can be made about the women of the early (spring and summer) tales. "Good" women in The Earthly Paradise seek rhapsodic heterosexual union, and invariably achieve their aim, but as my choice of adjectives suggests, they are more aggressively sexual than one would expect from their conventional mien and Victorian context. Occasional supernatural variants on this pattern also appear: Morgan le Fay in "Ogier" is content that her mortal partner love others, and the fairy lady in "The Watching of the Falcon" is a sincerely affectionate but harmful variant of Keats's "Lamia."

Male protagonists, predictably and correlatively, find love to some extent in loyal male friendship, but seldom in parental affection. Its most compelling form is assumed to be sudden, heterosexual response to an ideal female form. Once the protagonist has determined the identity of his beloved, he should seek her with all his strength, even if it costs him his life. In general, fewer and fewer tales confer mythical immortality on the protagonists as the year progresses. The classical tales of late summer present more earthbound conclusions, as in July's tale, "The Son of Croesus," and August's "Pygmalion and the Image." Supernatural realms in the corresponding medieval tales are simply states of suspension, beyond human time and geography, which provide still another venue for their protagonists' experiences.

The frame poems also reinforce this growing tendency toward secularization: after "Ogier," for example, the Wanderers explicitly deny any hope of the immortality they had originally sought. They have begun to accept the finality of their lives, and their personal grief has also entered a final stage of acceptance and tempered affirmation. They have begun, moreover, to formulate a code of values which reflects Morris's nascent tenet that love—not curiosity, not desire for power, longevity, or even descendants—should motivate one's central choices.

The intensity of this doctrine moves it beyond its conventional form, and it eventually becomes an appeal to unillusioned effort in service to forms of 'love' which are more and more widely defined as the poem draws to a close. Such love is sometimes reciprocated [20] in forthright and gratifying ways; but even if it is not, faithful love under stress is its own moral victory. It justifies and gives universality to life, even if it remains unrewarded, and more strikingly, perhaps—even if no public expression of it is ever recognized or known. Heroic love can be created within the self, without the aid or favor of fate. Such creation, in fact, becomes for Morris a moral imperative, and the record and celebration of this creation finally justify the poet's immense efforts, when the singer gently asserts in the poem's epilogue that:

"No little part it was for me to play
The idle singer of an empty day."

Victorian Historicism and Morris's Use of the Past:

Students of the Victorian period quickly encounter the all-pervasiveness of historical models and recreations in architecture, music, theology, the arts, and other aspects of its cultural and intellectual life. Late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century historians bequeathed to their Victorian descendants a remarkable collection of narratives and other compendia, which often focused on lost elements of European culture, and the societies of the territories their ancestors had seized and conquered. Morris was unimpressed by exploits of subjugation, but deeply influenced by the implicit values and modes of narration of those who preserved surviving artifacts of earlier cultures, physical as well as literary, mythical as well as artistic; for he shared with them the assumption that such remains provided recognizable traces of the thoughts of their creators.

His interest in the vestiges of medieval English culture was also aroused by its swift obliteration under the "snorting pistons" of nineteenth-century industrialization. Seven years after he finished The Earthly Paradise, Morris became the principal founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and many other aspects of Morris's work manifested his lifelong attention to medieval precedents. He designed stained glass windows, textiles, and wallpapers from medieval models, for example, and studied the early printed books of William Caxton [21] and other late medieval printers for principles to be emulated in his work as a pioneer of modern book-design and founder of the Kelmscott Press. Even in his essays on socialism and popular art, he remained preoccupied with the need to recreate and reinterpret the past.

All the major Victorian poets exploited historical and quasi-historical subjects in various ways: Tennyson in The Idylls of the King, Browning in his monologues of fifteenth century prelates, Arnold in "Tristram and Iseult," Swinburne in Tristram of Lyonesse, Dante Gabriel Rossetti in "Dante at Verona," Christina Rossetti in "The Prince's Progress," Elizabeth Barrett Browning in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," and Hopkins in "Duns Scotus's Oxford." In "Tristram and Iseult," moreover, Arnold presented the distress caused by medieval extra-marital love as a comment on private discontents in his own time, and in "The Princess" and "Idylls" Tennyson evoked what the poet conceived to be a more chivalric social order in order to advocate recreation of a modernized version of its values in the present.

Even in this company of historical portraitists, however, Morris was distinctive for the sustained consistency and passion with which he drew on histories, chronicles, and past literatures. More remarkable still was the intensity of Morris's programmatic belief in the redemptive power for the present and future of an identification with past emotions:

I suppose the best art to be the pictured representation of men's imaginings; what they have thought has happened to the world before their time, or what they have seen with the eyes of the body or the soul.
("Some Hints on Pattern-Designing")

Nay, with the dead I deal not; this man lives,
(prefatory poem to his co-translation of Grettis saga)

For your teachers, they must be Nature and History. . .
("The Lesser Arts," 15)

Almost all his prose romances are set in the Middle Ages, and most of his poetry—The Defence of Guenevere, Love Is Enough [22] (1873), Sigurd the Volsung (1876), and the frame and tales of The Earthly Paradise—reflected his readings in medieval European literatures and history.
Less elliptically, he remarked in a letter to Thomas Horsfall, a Manchester art patron, who wrote to ask what kind of art he should support, that

I have studied the subject enough to know that since the dawn of history mankind has invented no typal new stories. Think now: the same story which Herodotus has heard from an Egyptian priest was told in our fathers' days by a Swabian peasant to Grimm, and two years ago by a Hindoo nurse to an English child: surely this language must be more universal than the contemporary tales of the squabbles of two bewildered clans.3 You may be sure that as long as art exists people will consciously or unconsciously go on telling the same stories, though doubtless when art is real they will do it in their own way.

Notice that none of Morris's statements implies a belief in the relative superiority of either past or present. Rather, they are testimonials to the inherent value of the continuity and recurrence he saw in human emotion and language. Such "conscious or unconscious" retelling of old tales is valued not only by The Earthly Paradise's "idle singer," but also by the would-be lover in The Defence of Guenevere's "Concerning Geoffray Teste Noire," who asks that his memories be conveyed to the historian Jean Froissart; by the reflective time-traveller of A Dream of John Ball; and by Morris's most famous alter ego, Guest in News From Nowhere, who returns from his dream of the future with renewed insight for the present.

Morris's belief in a counterfactual communion of identities across time became in effect a private secular religion, and he later blended it with the (equally secular) "religion of socialism." Two years after he finished The Earthly Paradise he undertook the most physically arduous therapeutic journey of his life, and experienced an epiphanic moment of this private religion. On the windswept Icelandic farmstead (Hliðarendakot) which still overlooks the plain beneath, Morris imagined an encounter with the spirit of Gunnar Gunnarsson from the Njáls saga in "At Gunnar's Howe: [23] Above the House at Lithend." A witness within the saga reported that the murdered hero Gunnar had been singing in his grave—that is, in his "howe," or haugur in Icelandic; a small, sloping unmarked mound can still be seen nearby. Looking over the plain below, Morris recognized an emblem of his deepest hope for artistic and emotional bonding across time:

O young is the world yet meseemeth and the hope of it flourishing green,
When the words of a man unremembered so bridge all the days that have been.

In The Earthly Paradise, Morris's near-mystical beliefs in historical empathy become the deep structure of the "singer'"s great endeavor. They underlay the poem's recreations of legend, and provided Morris with an effective way to bear the decrement of time which so troubled Rossetti and Tennyson, and the infinite recessions and displacements of lost Romantic "selves."

All poets are drawn to recreate and reorder inner consciousness as they struggle to allay its dissolution, but the specifically retrospective focus of this emotion in Morris also recalls kindred impulses in Wilhelm Dilthey, the nineteenth-century hermeneutician and philosopher of "Verstehen." Dilthey wrote in "The Understanding of Other Persons and Their Life Expressions" that

In this reliving [of the life of the individual and mankind in general and its creations] lies an important part of the spiritual gains for which we have to thank the historian and poet. The course of life exercizes a determining influence on every man, by which the possibilities which lie within him are narrowed down. . . . The possibility of having religious experience is circumscribed for me, as it is for most people today. . . . But I can relive it. ... Man, who is bound and determined by the realities of life, is not only liberated by art—this has often been said—but also by the understanding of history.4

An understanding of these fiercely ethical, meditative, and autonomous aspects of Morris's historicism clarifies its departures [24] from contemporary antiquarianism, literary history, and popularized mythology. These departures are clearly embodied in A Dream of John Ball and News from Nowhere, but they are also present in his early creative endeavors, most self-consciously in The Earthly Paradise. In the end, Morris's most characteristically pointed remark about the use of written sources was probably his 1888 comment to his daughter May: "When retelling an old story, shut the book, and tell it again in your own way."5 Through his identification with the past Morris paradoxically liberated himself from it.

Harold Bloom has postulated a well-known "anxiety of influence" as a basic motivation for poetic endeavor. One might also say that Morris's poetry resolved an opposite anxiety—of lack of influence, of temporal immurement and dissociation from his forebears and the deepest sources of forgotten human experience. Morris assumed a largely Romantic doctrine of artistic independence and originality, and an ability to create "in one's own way," so that his conscious choices of past models often expressed a sense of shared "sending" rather than a simple fidelity to past details. As the headnotes to this edition show, Morris varied, recast and completely transformed earlier literary motifs again and again, but always in ways which embodied his belief that truly great anthems should be varied.

In his doctrine of the poet as historian, then, Morris created a powerful model of a community of artists, living and dead, who together have borne and will continue to bear the immense responsibility of narration and creation. He thus offers his poem as a form of homage and thanks to his psychic ancestors, and an open-ended gift to his descendants, who will refashion his interpretations in their turn, after they have "shut [his] book."

In his concern to bridge saecula saeculorum, Morris also made a quiet but persistent claim for the social value of his art, and may have forecast something of the future of his own poem. The generational divides and reversals which made The Earthly [25] Paradise one of the least attractive of Morris's works to his modernist descendants, may yet reinstate his works as honored refugees in the changed cultural environment of the present. Readers who value amplitude, fantasy, generously audience-centered views of interpretation, plurality of genres, structures and poetic voices, openness and dreamlike discontinuity of narrative plots, conscious "intertextuality," and reflexiveness and reflectiveness of speakers, may yet find The Earthly Paradise a "recuperable" remnant of the poetic past, poised for more retellings in the twenty-first century and beyond.

The Reception of The Earthly Paradise:

As we have seen, strongly favorable critical response to The Life and Death of Jason encouraged Morris to publish the longer and more ambitious Earthly Paradise. Critics praised Jason for its narrative clarity, pictorial qualities, and swift evocation of psychological depth. Joseph Knight called the work "musical, clear, and flowing, strangely imaginative and suggestive, presenting pictures of almost incomparable beauty; it is a work of which an epoch may be proud" (Sunday Times, June 1867). More effusively, Swinburne praised it as "... a poem sown of itself, sprung from no alien seed, cut after no alien model; fresh as wind, bright as light, full of the spring and the sun" (July 1867, Fortnightly Review). Charles Norton added, with considerable exaggeration, that "It is a great merit of his work that, in this period of self-consciousness, or morbid introversion, of exaggeration of the interest of individual feeling and experience, he has told his story, with but very slight exception, with simple regard to its own development, and with indirect expression of the emotions or thoughts its course awoke in himself' (Nation, August 1867).

What Morris's work actually offered was a blend of painterly imagery, narrative adroitness, and introspective intensity—swift action and elegiac sentiment. Morris's wider readership quickly came to associate his narrative poetry with its more accessible features, and reacted with dissatisfaction when its darker preoccupations eventually overpowered its formal grace.

[26] Morris's critics also praised both Jason and The Earthly Paradise for their alleged resemblances to The Canterbury Tales. E. C. Stedman characterized Morris as "... the most notable raconteur since the time of his avowed master, Geoffrey Chaucer" (Victorian Poets, 1875). Swinburne made the same claim with characteristic hyperbole: "In all the noble roll of our poets there has been since Chaucer no second teller of tales, no second rhapsode comparable to the first, till the advent of this one" (July 1867, Fortnightly Review).

This critical linkage with Chaucer was reasonable enough, as we have seen, for it reflected Morris's own invocations and some of his poetic goals. Critics might have drawn a more precise and appropriate connection with the Chaucer of Troilus and the dream poems, however, than with the poet of The Canterbury Tales. The Earthly Paradise employs a frame structure which is roughly comparable to that of Chaucer's tales, but Morris never emulates Chaucer's satiric or dramatic effects. The timbre of his narrative voice in The Earthly Paradise suggests rather the brooding, meditative quality of many shorter medieval lyrics, or Romantic narratives such as Endymion or "Alastor," and a quality Walter Pater accurately characterized in a Westminster Review article as "the sense of death and the desire of beauty; the desire of beauty quickened by the sense of death" (October 1869, 90: 309).

Readers' associations of Morris's narratives with facile imagery and Chaucerian detachment inevitably blurred somewhat when they faced the troubling tales of volumes II and III. Most reviews were favorable, but the terms of approbation were sometimes a bit forced. G. M. Cox continued to claim that "Probably none have sought more earnestly to relate these stories simply as stories, and certainly none have imparted to them a more touching charm. ..." (Edinburgh Review, January 1871). More ambiguously, the writer for the Westminster Review remarked that "His purpose is rather to watch the movements or the calm on the surface of the waters, without an answer to the question of that inner life which swells beneath it" (April, 1871). Rossetti responded more accurately, and with surprising private generosity, when he wrote to John Skelton [27] in 1869 that "In some parts of it the poet goes deeper in the treatment of intense personal passion than he has yet done." Others among the poem's public reviewers also got this point, but did not like it: "Doubt and fear as to the future," claimed the Athenaeum reviewer of Part IV, "is among other moods natural to man, and . . . may be permitted some brief lyrical expression in poetry; but that it should be dominant in such a book as this is truly unfortunate" (December, 1870). More perceptively, G. A. Simcox remarked of "Acontius and Cydippe," that "we have a poem which is mystical without a single miracle; for the atmosphere of the story impresses us more than the figures which move through it" (Academy, February, 1870). Only in Love Is Enough, three years later, did the beauty of Morris's language cease to reconcile reviewers to his growing shift toward lyric and introspective modes of poetic expression.

The Earthly Paradise's serial publication in three parts also discouraged critical attempts to assess the work as a whole. In the eyes of Victorian reviewers, at least, The Canterbury Tales were an episodic series of disconnected tales—and other, more recent compendia of narrative poetry (Henry Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn, for example) did not follow any clear evolving pattern. Understandably, then, few of Morris's readers tried to reflect on the tales as a sequence, or to consider underlying meanings which might emerge in the comments of the "singer," or the structure of the framing poems.

In part at least from simple inertia, most later readers have heeded the disclaimers of the "Apology," rather than the quiet self-examination and recognition of the transition from the "Apology" to the "Envoi." The merits of Morris's frame and narrative poems were also out of favor among most early-twentieth-century critics, who preferred sparseness, allusive indirection, and artistic detachment from active social roles.

More than a hundred years have elapsed since Morris's death, and one can now see a rough arc of twentieth-century critical response to his narrative poetry, with obvious allowance for exceptional acuity and independent fluctuations of individual taste. One of Morris's [28] best critics, of any generation, was George Saintsbury, whose History of English Prosody (1908) includes an excellent analysis of the metrical innovations of The Earthly Paradise. Saintsbury was an individual exception, however, who might be dismissed as a Victorian (slightly) "out of [his] due time." Most early twentieth-century critics praised the one work of Morris (besides Love Is Enough) which their intellectual grandparents and great-grandparents rejected: The Defence of Guenevere. Dixon Scott, for example, one of the first to praise the Defence in this century, depreciated The Earthly Paradise's "prolonged sleepy lapping of a meter that flows like a lullaby" in 1923 (Men of Letters, 265). Dorothy Hoare, in The Works of Morris and Yeats in Relation to Early Saga Literature (1937) used Morris as an easy foil for Yeats: "Yeats, a greater artist than Morris, does not indulge so much in too-easy feeling" (147). In his survey of Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Literature, published the same year, Douglas Bush acerbically remarked that if bulk were his criterion, the chapter on Morris would be the longest in his book, but "[i]f written solely from the critical standpoint of the present, it would probably be the shortest" (297).

During the same period, Morris's reputation as a consequent utopian socialist also receded into the middle distance, though generations which witnessed assorted Labor governments and the atrocities of two world wars continued to read News from Nowhere, and (less often) Morris's political essays. Ironically, a partial reevaluation of Morris's work was then set in motion by an influential mid-century biographer and left-wing political activist who also disliked all of Morris's poetry except The Defence. E. P. Thompson's William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary (1955; reprinted with significant revisions in 1977) considered Morris's socialism England's most significant expression of indigenous revolutionary politics—a less doctrinaire analogue, in effect, of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels—and argued vigorously for the influence and durability of Morris's political views, their radicality, their pragmatic immediacy, and their relation to his other endeavors.

[29] Thompson completely shared his generation's preference for Morris's earlier poetry, however. He even managed to prefer the crude first version of "Prologue: The Wanderers" to the more complex final version. More strikingly, he expressed distaste for the Romantic and introspective qualities of all of Morris's poetry and prose romances (though he buffered somewhat his harsh judgments of Morris's later utopian writings in the 1977 revision of the book, finding in them elements of a "politics of desire").

Throughout the century, moreover, Morris had continued to be recognized in other contexts as one of his generation's more admirable figures (as a brilliant designer, for example, and an unquestioned pioneer in the creation of fine books). So Thompson's political defense, later reinforced by the rise of "green" movements and the collapse of supposedly more tough-minded and "scientific" conceptions of socialism, helped clear a small ground in which a younger generation of literary critics could begin to ask some obvious questions. Did such an unconventional thinker and activist really bring so little to his poetry after the age of 24? Did he try to address or resolve any issues which were side­stepped or avoided by his literary contemporaries? Did he adumbrate any alternative responses to human problems of enduring interest?

Until the 1970s, most of Morris's critics and biographers continued to divide roughly into two different camps: J. W. Mackail and Philip Henderson were drawn more to his poetry, for example, and E. P. Thompson and Jack Lindsay to his politics. In the last few decades, however, several students of Morris's poetry—prompted, perhaps, by questions such as the ones posed in the last paragraph—have tried to be more responsive to both aspects of his life and writing.

In 1982, Gary Aho's William Morris: A Reference Guide provided a diachronic assessment of prior views of biographers and critics, and charted a rising gradient of interest in Morris's work which finally began to encompass his narrative poetry. One of the first to express such interest had been Jessie Kocmanová, a critic with socialist convictions and romantic sympathies, whose study of [30] The Poetic Maturing of William Morris: From the 'Earthly Paradise' to 'The Pilgrims of Hope' (1964) offered the first extended treatment of The Earthly Paradise in this century. Kocmanová's work was largely ignored in its decade, but the 1970s and 1980s saw a gradual growth of critical interest in almost all aspects of Victorian Romanticism, Pre-Raphaelitism, and Victorian narrative art, and this eventually encouraged a more receptive response to Victorian experiments of the sort Morris undertook in The Earthly Paradise. All of the English-language books on Morris's poetry in the 1970s, for example—among them Blue Calhoun's The Pastoral Vision of William Morris (1975), Charlotte Oberg's A Pagan Prophet (1978), and Frederick Kirchhoff's William Morris (1979)—offered more sympathetic readings of The Earthly Paradise.

Most of the books which have appeared since 1980 have also attempted to compare Morris's narrative poetry and prose romances in some way. Some also reflect a certain tolerance or even preference for varied and loosely structured narrative(s), multiplicity of tonal voices, open-ended poetic forms, and utopian and politically committed ("postmodernist"?) elements of Morris's writing. Among these more recent works are Carole Silver's The Romance of William Morris (1981); Amanda Hodgson's briefer and more schematic The Romances of William Morris (1987); Joyce Tompkins's extended and somewhat more traditional study of William Morris: An Approach to the Poetry (1987); Frederick Kirchhoff's psychobiographical treatise, William Morris: The Making of a Male Self (1989); my appreciative assessment of qualities such as the ones just mentioned, in The Design of William Morris' 'Earthly Paradise' (1991); and Jeffrey Skoblow's Paradise Dislocated: Morris, Politics, Art (1993).

Most of these books also share a renewed respect for the utopian or affirmative aspects of the prose romances; greater interest in evaluating Morris's relatively enlightened views on sexuality, women, and the formation of gender identity; and some degree of appreciation for various unorthodox and populist (Morris would have said "popular") aspects of his work: its psychological [31] directness, conscious attention to historical antecedents, and creative superpositions of left-environmental politics with late-nineteenth-century conceptions of history and art. Earlier critical assumptions that a "major" poet "must" work in detachment from other pursuits—in a Yeatsian citadel of art, for example, or a Joycean refuge of "silence, exile, and cunning"—seem partially sublated, at least for the moment. If so, Morris may merit greater interest for his knowledgeable attention to his "lifeworld," and ability to represent and respond to many of the issues of his time, and ours.

The Earthly Paradise, of course, reverberates with allusions to classical and folk literatures which are less accessible now than they were to most of Morris's readers. But his language is clear and direct, and the emotional and intellectual relevance of his allusions bears out, once again, his assertion that there are "no typal new stories." It is the purpose of the edition's notes to make these allusions accessible for the future, or at least as transparent as possible, so that The Earthly Paradise's flowing musical verse, vivid word-pictures, compelling use of myth and legend, and moving evocations of universal dilemmas may attract an audience once again, drawn not only by the poem's reflections of nineteenth-century culture, but also by its inherent narrative substance, emotional gravity, and prosodic charm.

History of the Publication of The Earthly Paradise and Explanation of Editorial Procedures for this Edition:

[32] William Morris and his lifelong friend Edward ("Ned") Jones (later Edward Burne-Jones) worked together at various times in 1865-1867 on a joint plan to publish a sequence of narrative poems by Morris tentatively called The Earthly Paradise. They planned to illustrate this work lavishly with woodcuts prepared by Morris and others from original designs by Burne-Jones.

Joseph Dunlap reconstructed this project in The Book That Never Was (1971) and first put foward the persuasive hypothesis that a variety of lists and marginal crosses in early drafts of "The Wanderers," "The Story of Cupid and Psyche," "The Hill of Venus" and other tales correlate with the three hundred and twenty-odd illustrations Morris and Burne-Jones may have planned. Burne-Jones apparently completed sometime between 1865 and 1869 over ninety of these sketches and designs, seventy for early versions of "The Story of Cupid and Psyche," and twelve each for "The Hill of Venus" and "Pygmalion and the Image."

Modified versions of these designs also surfaced later in Burne-Jones's paintings—in the frieze of twelve paintings of the Cupid and Psyche legend Burne-Jones executed between 1872 and 1887 for George Howard's Kensington Dining Room, for example; and in eight paintings of the Perseus cycle drawn from twenty-eight sketches intended for "The Doom of King Acrisius." Forty-eight more or less finished designs now rest in the Ashmolean Museum, and forty-four engraved blocks for "Cupid and Psyche" and three other woodcuts can be found in various other museums and libraries.

Sydney Cockerell recorded that Morris engraved thirty-five of the completed woodblocks for "Cupid and Psyche," and George Campfield, George Wardle, Charles Faulkner, Elizabeth Burden (Morris's sister-in-law), and an unrecorded engraver prepared the rest. Dunlap further suggests that Morris may also have designed and/or engraved the print of three women musicians which appeared on all the title pages of the subsequent completed work.6

[33] Morris and Burne-Jones's "Earthly Paradise" project was clearly a collective labor of love, but it apparently proved too elaborate and ambitious to realize on the scale of The Earthly Paradise in its final form. Their efforts and those of their friends and collaborators anticipated later projects and achievements of the Kelmscott Press, however, and they inspired the two friends and others to attempt subsequent works on parallel motifs.

The original of the final version of The Earthly Paradise in Morris's hand is in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California; though a fair copy for the printer, it contains a few corrections and excised lines. A fuller account of manuscripts, their locations, and their contents appears in the checklist under "List of All Morris's Poems" (/listdrafts.html). Morris's fair copy for The Earthly Paradise is sparsely punctuated, and the printer of the first edition seems to have been responsible for its elaborate use of semicolons, dashes, and exclamation points ("fell;—" ; "wind! -").

The most complete early review of nineteenth-century publications of Morris's works was H. Buxton Forman's The Books of William Morris Described (London, 1897), which is now overshadowed by discovery of Forman's complicity in the forgeries of T. J. Wise. Despite The Earthly Paradise's complicated publication history and several "editions," the text of the first edition (1868-70) remained unchanged until the 1890 edition; the latter was then revised again for the Kelmscott Press edition of 1896.

The details of this publication history are indeed complex. According to Forman, F. S. Ellis printed the first six months of the Earthly Paradise tales (March-August) in April, 1868, in 25 large two-volume copies on demy octavo paper, and 1000 smaller, single-volume copies on crown octavo. Second, third, and fourth "editions" of these early tales (with new title pages) then appeared in the summer of 1868 (2000 copies in all), and a fifth such "edition" of 1000 copies in November, 1869. Unfortunately, the spring and summer tales of this last "edition" were put out in two volumes ("Parts I and II"), which created confusion, for when 2000 octavo copies of the new autumn tales appeared in [34] November, 1869 (dated 1870), these were then labelled Part III. Ellis also printed again 25 large-paper companion copies of these autumn tales in two volumes (presumably to match the twenty-five large copies of the tales for spring and summer), and another 500 octavo copies appeared in August of 1870. The winter tales finally followed "well before Christmas" of 1870 (Forman). These were again divided into 25 large two-volume copies and 1500 smaller ones, and were followed by second and third printings of 500 and 1500, respectively, in December, 1870 and January, 1871. The entire poem then appeared in a ten-part 'popular edition' in 1872, and a new publisher (Reeves and Turner) printed this edition in five volumes in 1884.

Even this account represents only a partial outline of the many recyclings and changes which may have been occasioned by the book's serial appearance, as the contents of Sanford Berger's collection of Morris's editions (now in the Huntington Library) make clear. Mr. Berger catalogued several printings of The Earthly Paradise, for example, which are absent from Forman's account. Several of these are U. S. editions, brought out by Roberts Brothers in Boston, Massachusetts: an 1868 edition of the March-August tales; 1870 editions of volumes I and II, and volumes I, II, and III; and an 1871 edition of all four volumes, subsequently reissued in 1874, 1878, 1891 (with volume III dated 1870), and 1893. Mr. Berger's collection (now in the Huntington Library) also includes a London edition by Ellis in 1880 (with volume III dated 1874) and two hybrid reissues of the 'popular edition' by Ellis in 1886 and 1893, which used parts of the earlier editions printed by Reeves and Turner (from 1872 for the 1886 issue; from 1872, 1887, 1889, and 1893 for that of 1893). No exact account of these reissues and reprintings need be made for the purposes of this edition, but the fullest account thus far appears in Eugene Le Mire's A Bibliography of William Morris (Oak Knoll Press, 2006).

Morris apparently reviewed the text of The Earthly Paradise for the first single-volume edition by Reeves and Turner in 1890, for May Morris refers in her introduction to Volume III of the Collected Works to "the one volume edition which was revised by my father." Morris also designed an ornate cover for the 1890 [35] edition's three alternate bindings—some in white cloth, some in olive, and some in red—and made a number of changes in wording from the 1868-70 edition (twenty-two such changes, for example, in the brief "The Story of Rhodope"). He also deleted many dashes and instances of double punctuation, strengthened commas to semi-colons and semi-colons to colons, and added acute accents to clarify scansion. Reeves and Turner continued to reprint this 1890 edition for many years, as did Longmans, who reissued it in 1890, 1896, 1900, 1905, 1910, and 1923. Between 1896 and 1905 Longmans and Co. also reissued some version of the earlier (pre-1890) text several more times, in three and four volume editions; the National Union Catalogue lists issues for 1896, 1896-97, 1896-1902, 1897-1903, 1900, 1900-1903, 1902-1903, 1902-1904, and 1905.

The edition of The Earthly Paradise which most closely embodies Morris's own principles of punctuation and design is the 1896 Kelmscott edition, in press at the time of his death. This was issued in Golden Type, and bound in eight vellum volumes with squarish pages sized between a demy and a royal (16.5cm x 23.4-23.5 cm). Forman remarks that "this revised text [of the 1890] was all ready for the sumptuous Kelmscott edition." There are, indeed, relatively few changes in wording from the already-revised 1890 edition (none at all, for example, in "The Story of Rhodope"). But Morris continued to make substantial and consistent changes in punctuation. In accordance with his principles of book-design he eliminated quotation marks, removed more double punctuation, replaced dashes with ellipses, decreased the number of sections, and reduced the blank spaces between those which remained. He also began paragraphs with large initial capitals, used ampersands to compress lines, replaced smaller breaks and indentations with leaves, and substituted these leaves for periods within lines of verse. Colons and semi-colons often link what had been separate sentences in earlier versions of the text, and they also serve, followed by double space and capitalization, as marks of quotation (He said: Yea, certes. . . . ). A few of these quotations also appear in red type—for example, the text of [36] Philonoe's letter to Bellerophon in "Bellerophon in Lycia." The Routledge edition preserves most of Morris's highly individual conventions and preferences, with the exception of the red type, his use of ampersands, and his use of leaves to mark periods.

After Morris's death, as I mentioned earlier, Longmans and other presses reprinted the multi-volume "Library" and "Popular" editions and their one-volume 1890 revision several times, but only one significant new edition appeared—volumes III-VI of May Morris's The Collected Works of William Morris (Longmans, 1910-11), which has since served as the standard scholarly edition of The Earthly Paradise. May Morris's introduction to volume III makes no comment about variations from the versions published in Morris's lifetime, but the 1910-11 edition in fact makes thousands of changes in punctuation and capitalization from Morris's editions of 1890 and 1896 (167 changes in "The Story of Rhodope," for example, from the 1896 Kelmscott text). Many of these reinstate an 1890 reading, and a few return to the 1868-70 text. Some, moreover, introduce entirely new forms. Through his life, for example, Morris often wrote "god" or "gods" in lower case. One of the most significant changes of his daughter's 1910 edition is a uniform elevation of these entities to "God" and "Gods." The 1910-11 edition also reinserts quotation marks and some dashes, and systematically omits commas before "and"'s. Otherwise, however, its thousands of changes seem to follow no clear pattern. It seems to me unlikely that May Morris would deliberately have suspended her father's carefully imposed punctuation scheme(s) so drastically, and without providing any explanation. A more likely hypothesis is that many of these changes were the work of the publisher and/or printer(s).

That May Morris herself intended no drastic departures from earlier editions seems confirmed by her correspondence with the publishers and Sydney Cockerell in 1909-10, the period in which she prepared the volumes of the Collected Works which included The Earthly Paradise. This has been preserved by the William Morris Society, and includes many references to the enormous [37] labor of correcting drafts and reading proof, and a bit of haggling with the publishers over reimbursement for her labors. She never mentions any decision to change the punctuation or orthography of the 1890 or 1896 editions, however, so the number and arbitrary nature of such changes remain a puzzle. From her correspondence and the resulting text, it seems likely that she proofread galleys primarily against the 1890 edition, but made occasional reference to the Kelmscott edition as she worked. In her preparation and verification of the 1910-11 text, she also seems to have concerned herself primarily with gross printing errors and other distortions of her father's wording, and may simply have ignored issues of punctuation and other accidentals.

In a September 21st, 1909 letter to Morris's executor Sydney Cockerell, the publisher Robert Longmans describes the publishers' original plans for this edition. Since May Morris will be in America from September, 1909 to April, 1910, Longmans writes, "we should propose to set up the first six volumes from existing editions and have them ready for Miss Morris on her return. Miss Morris, and Mr Walker are of the opinion that the alterations which would be necessary will be of such a slight character as to justify us in setting up in this way, and it would also enable Miss Morris on her return home to collate the text with the "Kelmscott" and "Golden Type" editions without delay, and without unnecessary trouble. / It has been arranged that Mr Kelk, our manager, shall read the proofs for Miss Morris on the terms suggested, namely, One guinea per hundred pages: this to include the reading of one first proof and one revised." In the event, the early stages of printing actually seem to have been farmed out by Longmans, for a letter from G. W. Bourne of the Arden Press, Letchworth, Hertsfordshire on July 13th, 1910 confirms that his press has "prepared various made-ready proofs of the Works of William Morris in accordance with Messrs. Longmans's instructions."

May Morris's letter of September 19th to Sydney Cockerell confirms the arrangment outlined in Longmans's letter, but it also suggests that she thought in terms of reprinting the Kelmscott [38] edition, rather than "collating" it (presumably with the 1890 edition for comparison): "They want to have the first 5 volumes arranged for before I leave, and propose to set up the type and have proofs ready for my return. Some will want careful overlooking, and others they will do from the best reading (yours etc) Hollow Land will be all right, will it not, and E. P. from K. P.?" (emphasis mine).

On June 30th, 1910, in any case, May was still at work on volume one. What seems then to be the next letter in the sequence, to Sydney Cockerell and dated only "Wednesday," shows her at work on the introductions for the first half of The Earthly Paradise (volumes III and IV of The Collected Works): "Of course what you say confirms my remembrance, and in fact I had already put down Lemprière (plus Ovid) for sources of the classical things. / I have taken the trouble to hunt up Ogier, and have been repaid. But oh how long it all takes for a person who hasn't references [etc ?] at her fingers' ends." On July 20th she wrote a Mr. Hornby, presumably associated with Longmans, to complain that she had not been sufficiently consulted about the edition's layout, and that "Jason [had been] set up before I had seen a sheet or two of it first." Could this have occurred with The Earthly Paradise as well?

Rather amazingly, May Morris also requested from Hornby a first edition of the 1868-70 Earthly Paradise, but her letter seems to indicate that this is only one of several editions which she wished to consult: "I am rather bothered not having all the editions round me to collate, and refer to. I have the M. S. of The Earthly Paradise, which is invaluable." She made a similar request of Sydney Cockerell on July 13th, three days later: "I am asking everywhere for a 1st edition (4 vol: E. P.). . . . C. F. Murray will have it, and I am hoping day by day to hear from him."

At this point, in any case, May Morris seems to have been genuinely uncertain which editorial principles she might eventually apply. By far the greater part of her letters and comments on the edition focus on her anxieties about the material to be included in each volume, and the drafting of her introductions. In the letter of July 13th just quoted, she asks Sydney to look over the latter, and [39] remarks with regret that "I would make much more of them if I might have had more time."

Only two other letters to Cockerell survive from the period in which she was preparing The Earthly Paradise. In one, dated August 4th, she refers again to her desire to bring him the introduction to volume one, and explains her intention to defer inclusion of the shorter poems, and exclude them from her introductions, since "they do not 'hang on' anything."

The other letter is the only one which throws any specific light on her day-to-day procedures as she edited The Earthly Paradise's text. It is a note to Sydney Cockerell headed only "Tuesday," which reads: "I am puzzled at a passage in E. P. and wonder if you can throw any light on it. The Watching of the Falcon K. P. vol. IV p. 42. the phrase / Oh. hapless man,/ Depart! ..." down to the end of her speech/ "And all men curse thee for this thing." This speech gives thou throughout: in the M. S., the 1st edition, the one vol. edition (that I am going by) we have you: and I take it to be intentional—an intensification and solemnity. Again (K. P.) p. 50 line 9 Within the folk, folk is troops in all the others. The alteration occurs also in Longman's cheap reprint. I wonder if you can tell me anything about this? Do you happen to know if my father went to Apollodorus's Biblioteca direct for any of the classical stories? For instance Alcestis—Or Ovid's Art of Love (or Loving, which is it?)? Lemprière is meagre over 'Alcestis' and 'Admetus.'"

If one dates this last note to Cockerell somewhere between Aguust 4th and early October, it would appear that May Morris may have been able to devote only two or three months to preparation both of the text of The Earthly Paradise, and of her introductions to all the four separate volumes. If so, the conjectural timing and documental content of the notes would seem to suggest that she did not apply any uniform editorial methodology to the "collation" of her texts(s), though she read proof conscientiously for printing errors and gross deviations from the wording (but not the punctuation) of some rough composite of the 1890 and 1896 texts.

[40] By October 1st, 1910, in any case, there is evidence that she had begun to prepare the next volume: her letter to Cockerell of that date asks him to comment on Magnússon's corrections for Morris's translation of Grettis saga, to be included in volume VII. In a letter from the following summer (July 6th, 1911), she again complains to Cockerell of severe overwork, and adds with earnest conviction that ". . . people don't quite realize the amount of conscientious work I have put into the proof-reading, every page being gone over systemically [sic] & methodically many times."

The only documentary evidence we have, in short, suggests that May Morris used the 1890 edition as a primary copy-text, and made comparisons with the Kelmscott and other editions. This hypothesis would be difficult to reconcile with the many changes in accidentals between the 1890 and 1910-1911 editions, unless one further conjectures that she simply accepted the punctuation patterns prepared for her by Longmans's printers, and focused primarily on the wording of the 1890 and (sometimes) the Kelmscott edition.

On my reading of this evidence, therefore, May Morris's decisions as she prepared the 1910-11 text do not create editorial authority for retention of changes in the 1910-11 text whose source and rationale are otherwise unknown. The Routledge edition is therefore based primarily on the 1896 Kelmscott text, the final version which Morris is known to have corrected in full or part. As founder of the Kelmscott Press, Morris was also the only major Victorian poet who published several of his own works, and a book-designer whose influence on the creation of fine books has been greater than that of any other English printer since Caxton. Any idiosyncrasies and innovations in the presentation of his own poetry at the end of his life would thus seem to merit a unique measure of special consideration. After 1891, when Morris acquired full power to supervise the production of his own books, his printing practice was especially distinguished by carefully formulated attention to the "accidentals" of punctuation and layout. It would therefore seem doubly appropriate to preserve as much as possible the spirit and the letter [41] of the changes he effected in his own works during the last years of his life.

There is admittedly no way to know how much of the text for the later (July through February) tales of the Kelmscott edition Morris himself was able to correct, before his final illness overcame him. In The Kelmscott Press and William Morris, Master-Craftsman (1924), his assistant H. Halliday Sparling, the press's compositor, recorded that Sigurd the Volsung was "in the press" in June of 1896, and that "two pages were struck off in January of 1897 (171). Since Sigurd was published in 1898, well after The Earthly Paradise (1896-97), it may be that much or all of The Earthly Paradise was also "in the press" before Morris was incapacitated in the last months of 1896.

For all these reasons, I decided to use the text of 1896 as the copy-text for the Routledge edition, rather than that of 1890. More precisely, I have used the 1896 Kelmscott text of the poems for March through June (volumes I-III), which appeared in May, June, and August of 1896; and the 1896-97 Kelmscott text of the remaining tales (volumes IV-VIII, which appeared after Morris's death, in October and November of 1896, and February, March, and June 1897).7

This edition thus tends far more toward "preservationism" than toward "critical reconstruction." Recovery of several hundred of Morris's known changes in the Kelmscott text of the early tales of The Earthly Paradise seems to me to outweigh any marginal anxieties about "accidentals" in the later tales. In the few cases where an obvious error seems to have been made, I have also considered the 1890 version. The edition's collations, in any case, record the evolution of wordings and punctuations through every major version: the Huntington manuscript; the edition of 1868-70; the 1890 one-volume revised edition; and the Kelmscott version of 1896-97.

1. The Collected Letters of William Morris, edited Norman Kelvin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 1: 39 (no. 26).

2. Mackail, J.W. The Life of William Morris. (London: Longmans, 1900), 1:194.

3. Possibly a reference to Walter Scott's The Antiquary.

4. Theories of History, edited Patrick Gardiner (New York: The Free Press, 1959), 221 (from Gesammelte Schriften, Stuttgart: Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, vol. VII, trans. J. J. Kuehl).

5. Collected Works of William Morris, ed. May Morris (London: Longmans, 1910-15), 3, xxii.

6. The Book That Never Was, New York: Oriole Editions, 1971, 24.

7. Le Mire, Eugene. A Bibliography of William Morris. London: Oak Knoll Press and the British Library, 2006.

 

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