Layamon's Brut: Middle English Poem - Summary

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     Layamon's Brut is one of the verse chronicles of the middle English period. At the end of the twelfth century, Layamon, a priest translated for his fellow countrymen Wace's Brut which was based on the fabulous work of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Lavamon who was wholly Saxon, faithfully repeats the recital in which the Britons are glorified at the expense of his own ancestors. In spite of the fact that Layamon was translating from a French source, Layamon is a thoroughly English poet. He had apparently been brought up on the old English alliterative verse and his own lines are so clearly in this tradition that about half of them can be scanned by old English standards. He, however, makes frequent use of rime. It has certain essential English characteristics.


Layamon's Brut

      Layamon's vocabulary is remarkable for the small number of French words in it, particularly in view of the fact that he was translating from a French poem. Moreover, Layamon is a poet. He has an eye for nature and outdoor life. Arrows fly as thick as hail; a cornered warrior is compared to a wild boar at bay. Layamon is more than a translator; he is a poet and his efforts are the effects of conscious art. There is something impressive in his work - far removed as it is from Wace's correctness and ease. His verse is a blending of the old and the new, halting midway between alliteration and rhyme. This is the first appearance of King Arthur in English.

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