Illustrate the Significance of The Poem Morte d'Arthur

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      Morte d'Arthur is a noble epical fragment, an adaptation of Homer such as Mathew Arnold attempted later on a more ambitious scale in Sohrabs and Rustum. Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur describes a medieval story, but it has far reaching psychological and allegorical significance. Morte d'Arthur adapts a crucial episode in the Arthurian story to purpose of moral, religious and even political statement. It is true that Arthur has a doubt as to what will happen to him after death, but the tone of Arthur's speech remains assured and serene. The compulsion for the poet to address the world about the world's problems emerges as the voice of the preacher. Yet there are doubts and hesitations dramatised with the poem itself, mainly through the presentation of the puzzled, conscience-tormented, and ultimately lonely figure of sir Bedivere, and there have much in commoni with the doubts and hesitations, dramatised explicitly or implicity, in The Two Voices, Locksley Hall, and The Vision of Sin.

Morte d'Arthur is a noble epical fragment, an adaptation of Homer such as Mathew Arnold attempted later on a more ambitious scale in Sohrabs and Rustum. Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur describes a medieval story, but it has far reaching psychological and allegorical significance. Morte d'Arthur adapts a crucial episode in the Arthurian story to purpose of moral, religious and even political statement. It is true that Arthur has a doubt as to what will happen to him after death, but the tone of Arthur's speech remains assured and serene. The compulsion for the poet to address the world about the world's problems emerges as the voice of the preacher. Yet there are doubts and hesitations dramatised with the poem itself, mainly through the presentation of the puzzled, conscience-tormented, and ultimately lonely figure of sir Bedivere, and there have much in commoni with the doubts and hesitations, dramatised explicitly or implicity, in The Two Voices, Locksley Hall, and The Vision of Sin.
Morte d'Arthur

      The prevailing atmosphere of the poem Morte d'Arthur is one of pathos. Our hearts are touched with sympathy when we read the acount of King Arthur having been wounded and his death being imminent. Sir Bedivere's feeling of desolation at having been left the sole survivor of Round Table adds to the pathos. The grief of the three queens on seeing the wounded king is also very moving. We are reminded of all the past heroic deeds of king Arthur and his knights, and we think of their exploits in a mood of wistfulness, for the institution of the Round Table is to be dissolved. The setting of the story is medieval, and the medieval atmosphere has been created with great art and skill. Reference to the Knights of the Round Table, and to tournaments in which Arthur fought lance in hand, bring out the chivalry and heroism of the middle ages. The supernaturalism and mystery of those remote ages, their belief in magic and witchcraft, is seen in the magic sword of king Arthur, and the mystic hand which rises out of the lake at his death to take it away. J. B. Steane says, we have, "all the medieval wardrobe and scenery; the armed heels, the white samite, mystic, wonderful; the brand Excalibur, etc.".

      The poem is a remarkable revelation of human nature. Sir Bedivere was a loyal and honourable kight. And yet even he felt tempted by the splendour and magnificence of the precious stones to throw the sword and told a lie to king Arthur that he had thrown the sword into the lake. The modern element in the poem is also seen in the symbolic and allegorical significance which he has imparted to the story. A critic points out, "King Arthur represents, 'the soul at war with senses. King Arthur stands for the God like man, as a kind of dream or hope of what manhood might attain, should it reach its ideal. He expresses the aspiration of spirit toward perfection in our modern lie. He symbolises the struggle of man towards a higher life." The mystic lady of the Lake represents the church or religion and Excalibur represents spiritual power with which Arthur wages war against Evil. The poem illustrates the truth that change is the law of nature, for without change even good customs corrupt the world. Modern research however, has proved that there was a noted chieftain and general of the name of Artus or Arthur in the 6th century, who, after the departure of the Romans from Britain, led the tribes of western Britain against encroaching Saxons from the east and the Picts and Scots from the north. It is now held that this valiant Artus was, by a slow process of idealisation and glorification, made into the Arthur of the legends for, as Mr. Lyall puts it, 'in a primitive age it is the real hero, famous when he lived, who becomes fabulous after his death'. The process of idealisation went on till the name of Arthur came to stand 'for an ideal of royal wisdom, chivalric virtue and knightly prowess'. In the hands of the romances of the Middle Ages, he became the ideal hero of English chivalry, while the addition of the mystic Grail legend to the Arthurian cycle gradually made him into the ideal Christian king striving to found the kingdom of God on earth.

      The poem is a source of inspiration for the reader. We get a fair idea what chivalry meant in the Middle Ages. We are transported to a period of history when heroic and noble deeds were daily performed. The whole poem gives an atmosphere of medieval chivalry. The poem narrates beautifully the great admiration for King Arthur and his heroic knights.

      According to W. Bagehot, the poem presents the contrast and conflict between two types of characters, the sensuous and the ascetic. The whole conflict is universal; it is as much Modern and Victorian as it is Mediaeval. He writes, "The contrast of character between king Arthur and Sir Lancel of is one of those which exists in some degree in all ages, but which the existing circumstances of an unsettled time necessarily tend to bring out and exaggerate. There is a presentation of two kinds of goodness which have long been contrasted, and always seem likely to be contrasted, in the world, the ascetic and the sensuous.

      King Arthur represents "the soul at war with the senses". He stands for the God-like man, as a kind of dream or hope of what manhood might attain, should if reach its ideal. He expresses the aspiration of the spirit towards perfection in our modern life. He symbolises the attempt of man to reach a higher life.

      Tennyson is unequalled in the beauty, appropriateness and grandeur of his using of similes, words and phrases. The beauty consists in their wonderful picturesqueness, the appropriateness in the elaborate aptness of details, and the grandeur of the source from which the comparison is taken. Avoidance of common place word and phrases is another prominent feature of Tennyson's style. Another leading characteristics of Tennyson's style is repetition of a word or sometimes a whole line in the same or in a slightly different sense. Morte D' Arthur illustrates a moral, religious and even political truth;

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfills Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

      There are doubts dramatised within the poem itself, mainly through the bewildered, conscience stricken Bedivere and also his death. These doubts are the same as those expressed in The Two Voices, Locksley Hall and The Vision of Sin. But, on the whole, the appeal of the poem lies in its narrative as well as its descriptive skill.

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