”A night in which heaven and earth are indistinguishable—
behold, on the dreadful sea
rises a great ship,
shaped like a winged dragon;
it seems to come from heaven, bright
from prow to stern, and
on the deck stands a gleam of light They were
gone in an instant. They
went down to the bay and watched the stormy waves,
one wave after another, each bigger than the last,
until at last, the ninth wave gathered half the ocean,
full of noise , rose slowly, the sound shook the sky, and
the whole huge wave was ablaze: the
wave fell, and a naked baby was born in the flame…”
The child born in the huge wave and the flame is King Arthur in “Song of Kings” .
According to legend, King Arthur was the military commander of the British Celts around the 6th century AD. He was admired by the Celtic people because he led the crowd to resist the Anglo-Saxon invasion, and became a Celtic national hero. Later generations attached many legends and stories to him, and weaved many magnificent and fantasy stories around it. Over time, King Arthur has degenerated into a figure in folklore and literature, and his historical authenticity has been obliterated. The legendary King Arthur is no longer just the commander of the Celts, but the king of the whole of Britain, “a great warrior, noble leader, and exemplary monarch”, brave, generous, and wise. He fought north and south, and finally unified the British Isles and established the Kingdom of Arthur. In the hall of his Camillo Palace, there is a large round table with 150 seats around it (this is the most common way of saying, in fact, the number of seats on the round table varies from 12 to more than 1,600 according to different story versions ), all knights who have made great achievements can take a place at the round table. This is the so-called “Knights of the Round Table”. This led to a series of knight adventures, knight-errant stories and romances between knights and ladies. Well-known ones, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Iser, Parzifar and Galahad in pursuit of the Holy Grail, and so on. In the end, King Arthur was mortally wounded in a fierce battle, but he did not die, but was taken by the fairies to the fairy valley of Avalon to heal his wounds. It is believed that, after recovering from his trauma, King Arthur will return again to save his people from the fire.
For more than a thousand years, the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have been narrated, rewritten, even parodied and subverted by people in various literary and artistic forms. Today, even Hollywood movies, Broadway songs and dances, comic books, puppet shows, etc., are also talking about the legend of King Arthur. Therefore, some scholars believe that the legend of King Arthur is widely spread in the West, probably second only to the “Bible” and Shakespeare’s works; some scholars even list the legend of King Arthur, ancient Greek and Roman literature, and the “Bible” as the three major sources of Western literature. It can be seen that its influence is great. Among the legendary authors of King Arthur throughout the ages, Alfred Tennyson, the author of “The King’s Song”, is the one who loves and obsesses the most.
Alfred Tennyson, the poet laureate of Victorian England, just as Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in British history, Tennyson was the longest reigning poet laureate (1850-1892). Some critics believe that if the glorious nineteenth-century British poetry is divided into two periods: the first half can be called the age of Wordsworth, and the second half can be called the age of Tennyson. Tenney was born in 1809 in a pastor’s family with rich cultural atmosphere in the village of Somersby, Lincolnshire. His father was well-read, capable of poetry and painting (but mentally ill); his mother loved poetry and often read famous poets to her children. s work. Therefore, Tennyson had a strong interest in poetry creation since he was a child. He began to write poetry at the age of eight, and he continued to write until his death in 1892. During his long creative career, Tennyson wrote a large number of poems with various themes, styles, and lengths; but there is one theme that can be said to have run through his entire creative career. This is the Arthurian theme poem.
In his diary, Tennyson wrote: When he was a child, he met Malory (author of the great book “The Death of King Arthur”), and he was fascinated by the world of Arthur. Tennyson once called the Arthurian legend “the greatest of all poetic subjects”. As early as the 1830s, Tennyson considered writing an Arthurian series of poems, and developed two different proposals: an epic poem in 12 volumes, for which he wrote a draft prose in 1833; A five-act plot outline was drawn up before 1840. Tennyson’s first Arthurian poem was “Lady Charlotte”, written in 1832. This is a famous poem by Tennyson. The poem is based on an Italian legend of the same name, describing the story of a mysterious girl who lives on Charlotte Island. Lady Charlotte is doomed to weave webs day in and day out, and her only access to the outside world is a mirror hanging on the wall. Through the reflection in the mirror, she perceives the outside world. But if she turns around and looks at the world outside the window, she will be cursed and die. However, no matter how wonderful the world in the mirror is, it is just an image. Finally one day, Miss Charlotte, who was tired of reflections in the mirror, suddenly saw in the mirror “Flower of the Knight” Lancelot riding past the window: “His cheerful face is shining with sunshine, /The horse’s shiny hooves Stepping on the ground, / He rode straight forward, / His curly black hair fluttered under his helmet, / He is galloping towards Camelot…” At this time, she couldn’t sit still anymore, so she “leaved The loom, leaving the web, / She walked through her boudoir, / She saw the water lilies blooming, / The feathers of the helmet fluttered, / She looked at the Camelot… …” The mirror on the wall shattered, and the doom of death was about to fall on her head. But Miss Charlotte boarded the boat without hesitation, and drifted towards Camelot, who was dreaming day and night. He died suddenly on the way. According to Arthurian legend, the Lady Charlotte is Elaine (one of the heroines of The King’s Song), whose father’s name is “Charlotte” in English. Subsequently, Tennyson created “Sir Launcelow and Queen Guinevere”, “Sir Galahad” and so on. Tennyson published “The Death of Arthur” in 1842, which was well received by many critics and readers. This poem is written in blank verse based on Malory, and mainly describes the final battle between King Arthur and his rebellious son Mordred. In this battle, most of the Knights of the Round Table were killed, and King Arthur was also mortally wounded. After ordering Badwyer – the first knighted and last Knight of the Round Table to leave – to throw his Excalibur “Excalibur” (gifted by the “Nymph”) into the lake, King Arthur was carried to the fairy valley of Avalon by “three crowned queens,”— “There will be no hail, no showers, no snow, and the wind will never blow so hard…” There, King Arthur will heal his wounds. The poem is powerful and has an epic style. From 1859 to 1885, Tennyson successively published his masterpiece “Song of the King”. In 1889, Tennyson published Maureen and the Flash. This is the last Arthurian poem independent of the Song of the King. Maureen is a famous figure in Arthurian legend, the great wizard. He assisted King Arthur with all his strength, and he can be said to be the designer of Arthur’s kingdom. In the poem, the poet uses Mo Lin as a metaphor for himself, and reviews his creative career. In the following years Tennyson continued to revise the previous work until his death in 1892.
It can be seen from the above that Tennyson has maintained a lifelong interest in King Arthur’s poems, and has never forgotten them throughout his life. It has been deepened for a long time, and it can be said that he has formed an “Arthur complex”.
Among the many Arthurian-themed poems written by Tennyson, the most important is undoubtedly “The King’s Song”.
The King’s Song is Tennyson’s most ambitious and longest poem. Tennyson once told his son: “At the age of twenty-four I intended to write an Arthurian epic or play.” This idea later led to the creation of “The King’s Song”. In fact, “Lady Charlotte” before this, that is, the deformed narrative of the story “Lancelot and Elaine” in “Song of the King”, is its predecessor; The Death of Arthur, which was later included in Songs of the King under the name Arthur Dies. From 1859 to 1885, the volumes of “Song of the King” were published one after another, and finally formed a 12-volume long poem with an epic scale. The entire work was published in 1889. Since then, Tennyson continued to revise and polish it until the year before his death. It can be said that, like Goethe’s “Faust”, “The King’s Song” is Tennyson’s “lifework”.
”Song of the King” mainly narrates the course of Arthur’s kingdom from establishment to prosperity and then decline. Before the arrival of King Arthur, Britain was barbaric: the land was desolate, wild animals were rampant, and heretics were rampant. Men died at the mouth of beasts, or at the sword of infidels. Until Arthur arrives. Arthur led the knights to attack heretics, expel wild animals, quell wars, and lead people out of ethical ignorance; then he married the most beautiful woman in the world, Guinevere, unified Britain, and established the Kingdom of Arthur. At first, King Arthur restrained the knights of the round table with a sacred oath, instilled them with noble ideas, and influenced them with his own practice. He wholeheartedly hopes that the knights of the round table can become perfect people, and that the knights of the round table will become a model for the “vast world”. The kingdom is thriving and thriving. Unfortunately, due to various incest behaviors, the dynasty fell into anomie of ethics and was precarious. First, Queen Guinevere had an affair with Lancelot, “the Flower of the Knights”; then Tristan and Iser followed suit; choose ugly examples from among those who commit crimes.” The Arthurian dynasty was in decline. Later, in the “quest for the Holy Grail” that shirked responsibility, most of the knights died, and “only a small number returned”, exhausted and depressed. In the end, due to Mordred’s usurpation and rebellion, the Knights of the Round Table were wiped out in “the last, dark, and weird Western war”? ? Arthur himself died of serious injuries. Of course, the long poem is not entirely pessimistic. At the same time, the work also creates some noble and beautiful images, such as King Arthur as an ideal monarch, Gareth as a model of chivalry, Enid as a loyal and virtuous wife who assists her husband, and as a loyal and faithful follower of Arthur until death. Loyal servants of Badwell and others. Although they all perished in the end, they were not empty, because they left behind lofty words and deeds and brilliant examples, which can be followed and emulated by people who are determined to pursue a noble and beautiful life in the future. As the poem says, they are “dissolved in a piece of light”. Therefore, the long poem concludes with the words: “A new sun rises and brings a new year.”
”The King’s Song” is Tennyson’s most labor-intensive work, and it was also his most popular work. In the poem, he poured out his concern for reality, thinking about history and hope for the future.
In addition to the legendary King Arthur, there was another Arthur in Tennyson’s life, whom he also never forgot. This is Arthur Hallam. Arthur Hallam was Tennyson’s classmate when he was studying at Cambridge. Their common interest in poetry and common views on social, religious, political and other issues made the two young people quickly forge a deep friendship. Hallam often visited Tennyson’s home, read aloud, discussed poetry and philosophical issues with the Tennyson brothers and sisters, walked and played together, just like family members. In 1830, Hallam fell in love with Tennyson’s sister, Emily, and their relationship developed into a brotherhood. The son of historians, Hallam was well-read, brilliant, and well-informed; at the same time warm and urbane, he was regarded as one of the most outstanding youths of his time, a model of youth. For Tennyson’s poetry creation, Hallam spoke highly of and enthusiastically encouraged, and at the same time offered his own advice. In August 1831, after the publication of Tennyson’s “Lyric Poems”, Hallam wrote an article to comment, publicly insisting that Tennyson was a poet of the new era, and at the same time privately urged Tennyson to get rid of the expression of pure self-expression, and Turn to “ordinary life” and “public” interests. After his birthday, Tenney became the most influential and admired poet of the Victorian era, and he owed Hallam both emotionally and intellectually. Therefore, Tennyson’s affection for Hallam is extremely deep. For him, Hallam is not only a close friend, but also a good teacher. Unfortunately, in September 1833, while traveling with his father in Europe, Hallam suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. He was only twenty-two years old. Hallam’s sudden death was a great blow to Tennyson. He was so sad that he even lost his direction in life for a while. This grief is eloquently expressed in the poem “Splash, splash, splash” written in 1834. The poem says: “Splash, splash, splash, splash / on your cold gray rock, O sea! / May my words express / the thoughts and feelings that surge in my heart. / / Oh, that How good the fisherman’s boy, / He and his little sister are playing and shouting! / Oh, how good the young sailor, / He is singing and rowing on the bay! / The majestic ships go away one by one , / Into their hillside harbors; / But the hand that held each other is dead, / The voice that speaks is silenced, oh! / / Splash, splash, splash, splash / on your rocky rock On the feet, oh the sea! / The profound friendship of the past, / For me, it will never come again.” In the poem, “splash it”, the original text is “break”, both “(waves) beat (coast)” It also means “broken”. Therefore, the poem not only expresses the scene of the waves beating against the rocks, and the waves are splashing; It expresses the poet’s heartbroken heartbreak because of the untimely death of his best friend, which is deeply touching. Tennyson’s affection for Hallam was unusually deep and lasting. In the following years, he continued to express his condolences to his friends, thus creating poems full of affectionate and philosophical mourning. These poems were finally compiled and published in 1850, 17 years after Hallam’s death, under the title “In Memoriam”. His initials “AHH” are prominently printed on the title page of the anthology. “In Memoriam” is one of the most famous elegiac poems in the history of English literature, together with Milton’s “Lycidas” and Shelley’s “Adonis”, it is also known as the three major elegiac poems in the history of English poetry. The poem records the poet’s sadness and despair after his best friend’s sudden death, and expresses his lingering sorrow for the deceased friend; at the same time, it also expresses the poet’s thinking about life, society, religion and other issues after his friend’s death, thus showing the poet from grief, The mental journey from doubt to recasting faith and hope.
After “Mourning” was published, it was unanimously praised by readers and critics. It is said that after reading it, Queen Victoria said: “Aside from the Bible, the thing that comforts me is “Mourning.” In the same year, Tennyson won the title of “Poet Laureate” and married Emily Selwood. Miss married.
The publication of “In Memoriam” does not mean that Tennyson will forget his deceased friend. Throughout his life, the poet never forgot Arthur Hallam, but poured this emotion into his creation and into the shaping of poetic characters, especially in the shaping of the image of King Arthur, the character of the same name. Arthur in “The King’s Song” has both a powerful heroism and a warm and elegant gentleman’s demeanor. He is a “man among men” and a model of mankind. Tennyson himself clearly pointed out that Arthur was “the most perfect man God has created since Adam”. When composing “Song of the King”, the figure of Arthur Hallam always appeared in front of the poet’s eyes, and all the perfect qualities of King Arthur were exactly what Arthur Hallam possessed in the poet’s mind. In fact, as early as in “The Death of Arthur” published in 1842, the poet compared King Arthur to “the most noble and dignified modern gentleman”. The model of this “modern gentleman” is clearly Arthur Hallam. The researchers also found that drafts of “The Death of Arthur” and “In Memoriam” were written in the same notebook. For Tennyson, the two Arthurs were one.
In 1891, the year before Tennyson’s death, the poet added this sentence in the “Conclusion” of “The King’s Song”: “The ideal manhood resides in the real man.” It can also be seen as a memory of Arthur Hallam.
Harold Bloom declared in Tennyson, Hallam, and the Romantic Tradition: “Tennyson’s muse was, and always has been, Hallam.” Arthur Hallam, though He died young and only existed in the early days of Tennyson’s life, but his influence on Tennyson was profound. Together with the legendary King Arthur, he accompanied the poet through a long creative career, constituted the axis of his poems, and was the eternal source of inspiration for the poet.
We might say: Tennyson’s muse was, and has been, Arthur.