An examination and translation in modern terms of the Arthurian legend and the Sword in the stone. It is taken from the Caxton version of the story by Sir Thomas Mallory  published in 1468.


Then Shall He Be, True Born King of England by M.A.Meddings part one

From time to time in this text I introduce translators comments  to insert a little humour into what is otherwise a deeply dramatic text.

 

Perhaps the most fascinating of English legends is that of the Arthurian crown and the Kingdom of Camelot.

That such a kingdom ever existed except in the minds of a people who, after the void left by the Romans leaving and the destruction of 'Pax Brittanica', fell into what we colloquially describe as the 'dark ages'. As such, we term those centuries immediatley following the Romans departure  dark, because little light has been thrown upon them by accurate historical records.

It is worth contemplating for a moment the effect of Roman rule upon the culture of the nation.

To put it into perspective the Romans ruled this land for an equivelant of  the time that has passed since the Enlish civil war. Some 400 years or so. Before they came there was obscurity. Since they left for a further 400 years or so there is relative obscurity.

Into this void historical commentators have sought to put some cohesion to a nation hungry for an identity and for a national leader to take up the example left by the Romans .

The Romans brought us roads they gave us relativley modern housing facilities and a degree of culture. What they gave us above all and something that is often forgotten is discipline and a rule of law. They brought us relative peace in the ambience of 'Pax Brittanica'.

Once they left that peace broke down and the nation descended into tribal feuding by en large.

Thus from the maelstrom of these ages I suggest by association and wishful thinking men sought for leadership, and for a culture akin to that ideal they had lost.

They eventually in my view found the culture of 'A Camelot', a fictitious ideal kingdom where men lived not by fear but by common bond and kinmanship supported by a code of ethics known as chivalry. Thus in mens minds  King Arthur and the round table was born.

In modern parlance that period of hope and optimism that followed the election of J.F.Kennedy might be known as the American 'Camelot'

Yet such a kingdom is loosely based on known fact and if centred on chivalry  peace and kinsman ship, according to the chroniclers of the age , it was born of lust of war, and the taking of a woman.

Cental to the embyonic creation of Camelot is a legendry King known as Uther Pendragon,  That he ever existed except as a figment of Britains mythical history is highly doubtful.

By all accounts according to his self promoted biographer Geoffry of Monmouth (1100 to 1155) Uther Pendragon 'Chief Dragon in figuritive terms was of Welsh descent as too was Monmouth, was a strong leader and and a dedicated defender of his people. His character adequately fits the desire for strong leadership. In his 'History of the kings of Britain written in 1136, Monmouth describes an incident, a series of trysts, that were to have a dramatic effect upon the  Arthurian legend.  

Some 300 years later enter Sir Thomas Mallory of Newbold Revel Warwickshire 1405 to 1471 , a clergy man of somewhat itinerant if not dubious character,  who compiled a book, some of it written whilst he was in prison, that became the basis of the Arthurian story as we know it today.
The book was published sometime between 1460 and 1468 and was printed by Caxton. in  Ye Olde Englyshe text. This story is a transcription of that text straight from a copy of the Caxton text that I own.

 

'The Sword In The Stone'

from the Book Morte D'Athur
by Sir Thomas mallory
T
ranslated from the old Caxton text  

by M.A.Meddings

And it came to pass that, in the days of Uther Pendragon, when he was King of all England, A rival and powerful Duke whos domain was set in Cornwall, had designs on the Crown and went to war against Uther in attempt to overthrow him, even though he the duke owed the king loyalty and feilty.

The Duke, known as the Duke of Tintagel was commanded by the king to attend court so that they might negotiate a peace , but the king made it known that if he did not attend he would be brought forth in chains.

The Duke had a beautiful wife known as Igraine and was commanded to bring her along with him.

When Uther Pengragon saw the fair Igraine, he fell in love with her and wanted her for his woman, seeking to deceive the Duke into letting her stay whilst he went back to Tintagel to consider his options.

As to Igraine herself she saw the lust with which the king beheld her and became shocked that he should think she would succumb to his desires.

She informed her husband of her fears and asked they depart for Tintagel immediately.

Thus on the dead of night the Duke and his wife departed Pendragons castle secretly and made haste for Cornwall.

On the morning first light King Uther discovered their leaving unannounce and was filled with anger that his hospitality be treated as such.

He the summoned his moot of councellors and asked for their advice.
They inturn told him he should not accept this challenge to his authority and to send for the duke again. They further advised, that if the Duke refused, as they knew he would, then the king had adequate excuse to declare war on the Duke for treason. 

And so the Duke was sent for by the king and to bring his wife with him.
Yet the Duke saw the secret desire of the king to covet his wife and desisted sending a message of refusal.

'My leige and sovereign i will not do as commanded i am free in my own domain and intend to stay so in the security of my lands, trusting that you see as my sovereign that it is wrong to command any man on the pretext of kinmanship, whilst desiring to take his wife'

translators commentary

(well actually he said ' piss off you old lecher she is mine and you aint having her', but such reality spoils for the chivalrous romance of the story.)

 

Then King Uther became very angry at the Duke of Cornwalls refusal to obey his command of homage and sent a messenger to him in Tintagel.

'You should prepare your domains and see for a great siege and I give you  forty days to prepare before a state of war exists between us.

The duke took heed ofthe kings warning and prepared two srtronghold castles to withstand a long siege.

In one castle known as Tintagel he made safe his queen Igraine and in the other known as Terrabil he garrisoned himslf and his troops.

At  length Uther Pendragon laid siege to the castle Terrabil with a large army and the battle lasted for forty until, after many were slain, King Uther had not prevailed and became sick with depression, that his armys could not defeat the Duke.

Then one of his most loyal knights  Sir Ulfius came to the king and asked why he fought so wildly in a lost cause. The King answered, 'To prevent the usurping of my authority and I am in love with the fair Igraine, the thought of her is driving me crazy. I want her for my queen'.

Translators Comment

(Oh! the gentle whiles of a woman in all her beauty changeth not.)

 

'Well my liege' said Ulfius, 'I will seek out Merlin from his denizens and ask of his help in securing for you the hand of the lady Igraine'

 

Translators Comment

(Merlin was the legendry Wizard and  soothe sayer, a wise man who had the power of Nacromancy and was close  to the Pendragon family.)

 

And so the loyal Knight searched for the whereabouts of Merlin and evenually discovered him fraternising amongst a tribe of beggers and malcontents.
Wnen Ulfius approached he was asked by one who behaved as a beggar,'who seeketh thou good knight'.

'I seek the whereabouts of the Nacromanser known as Merlin'

'Then seek no further good Sir for I am he and of what service can I be'?

'None to me wise man but to your liege and friend King Uther Pendragon'

'Then of what service to he who is king i will gladly endow him with his wishes provided he will grant me equal service and the granting of my wishes as I do he. And Good knight go forth to Uther pendragan and let him know that neither he nor I should greatly profit from this bargain one over the other each shall be equal benefactors. Let him see that his desires and mine will be equally granted'.

'This I will do  wise and  considerate wizard'

'Ride on your way knight at all speed for I will not be far behind'

Sir Ulfias came unto King Uther and made known of his meeting with Merlin and what was said.

'But where is he asked the king'

'He is here your liege'

And as if by apparition a figure formed in the doorway and it was that of Merlin fully robed .

I am here at your service but before I perform such i will have you swear by all that you hold dear, that you shall be true king annointed. You shall have all your hearts desire as you will grant mine on equal terms'.

'I so do' said the king, 'What will you have me do'

'You must swear by the four evangelists, that after you get what you desire and win the fair Igraine that you shall cause her to bear a child by you, and that after the child is borne you will deliver it unto me for safe guardianship. I will succour and educate the baby into all the wisdom it will need to make its life in this world, swear it now or forever hold thy councel without me'

Translators Comment

'A trice dramatic I vouch but when this guy could turn you into a toad at the drop of a hat if you double crossed him, I guess you tended to mind your manners, even if you were a king'.

Here then Sir is my plan. You are to dress in the attire of The fair Igraines husband and in disguise as he present your self to her at Tintagel disguised as her husband. To increase  the subterfuge Sir Ulfias shall diguise himself as Sir Brastias a loyal knight to the Duke and I will pose as Sir Jordanus another loyal knight to the Duke.

When you come unto her you should speak as little as possible for fear she might recognise the voice as not her husbands. Just pretend to be sick and wish to be in your bed to rest.

So this was done. and just as luck would have it the Duke saw that Uther Pendragon had left the battlefield and guessed where he was heading.

Thus he made haste from the battle himslf and whilst crossing enemy terrtory he was slain in battle and the news of his death brought to Uther Pendragon
Who  made good his chances.

Translators Comment

'Like A Rat up a drainpipe'.


Before Igraine had heard of the death of her husband Uther pendragon in disguise came to her bed and took her for his woman, and she welcomed him for his lustiness and cried out for him again and again for it had been a long time since she had felt like a woman.

And so after a night of love the fair Igraine was with child that she asumed was her husband doing, and was shocked to hear that her husband had been killed some hours previously to him entering her bed.

'Who then good servants was the man who loved me so lustily last night'? said the fair lady Igraine.

There was nothing for it but that Uther admit to his disguise and to his taking of the fair lady. 

 Translaters Comments

'It was I', said the King, 'it was me who saw to your needs and you to mine.
My god by the faith, you are a fine figure of a woman and didst arouse me to heights I never knew , and all without the use of Viagra' Of course in those days they knew of other methods to improve the Libido, Viagra didnt really exist. i am sure you get my drift

The two armies of the Duke and the king ceased hostilities and wished for peace and the the king and his lady taken become man and wife in the eyes of the church. So the very next day they were married amidst scenes of great rejoicing. At the same time the king requested that the three sisters of Igraine be wed to their chosen men folk.

Margawse who was the mother of Sir Gawain wed King Lot of Lothian Scotland, Elaine became wed to King Netres of the land of garlot whilst the third sister , Morgan le Fay was sent to a nunnery to be schooled in the art of Nacromancy. She was then wedded to King Uriens of the land of Gore and father to Sir Ewain Le Blanchmains.

To be continued

 

 

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Poetry by lastromantichero The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 1516 times
Written on 2008-04-28 at 06:28

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Rob Graber
It is an engaging tale. This king, though something of a scoundrel, is less reprehensible than Kind David, who sent his desired's husband to the front lines where he was duly killed...
2008-04-30


Kathy Lockhart
Michael many times I have heard or seen the tales of Camelot but you have taken this and opened it up from your preamble telling of Rome and its influence on British history and mythology. And then in this wonderful translation you have again brought a new interest in this story that has past down through the ages. I have enjoyed the translator remarks which bring more insight and some chuckles along the way. Thank you for posting this here on PoetBay. I look forward to reading the rest of the story. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxyblyvm
2008-04-28