Meter: A study of Idylls of the King, Part 10, Pelleas and Ettarre

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Welcome to part 10 of my study of Idylls of the King. Today we will be looking at chapter 9, Pelleas and Ettarre.

KING ARTHUR made new knights to fill the gap
Left by the holy quest;

(Lines 1-2, Pelleas and Ettarre)

Pelleas, a young man, is one of the new knights of Arthur, and, after being knighted, he returns to his homelands to protect it. Once there, he sees a beautiful woman named Ettarre leading a group of people to a tournament that Arthur is planning on hosting.

Ettarre falls for the beautiful maiden and pledges himself to her. Ettarre, a rather wicked woman, takes advantage of this and ask Pelleas to enter the tournament on her behalf and win her the prize, a golden crown.

Pelleas enters the tournament and wins. He gives Ettarre the crown, but dismisses him and returns home. Pelleas, believing this to be just another test he needs to overcome to win her love, follows her home, and waits outside her castle.

Ettarre becomes annoyed with this and sends her knights to get rid of him. Despite a few fights, Pelleas remains outside her castle.

Gawain, the lazy knight from Lancelot and Elaine, sees this one day and decides to 'help.' He comes up with a plan to help Pelleas, by claiming to have killed him, in order win an audience with Ettarre so that he might try to convince her how good of a man Pelleas actually was.

Pelleas waits for three days for Gawain to return, but when he doesn't, Pelleas becomes worried and sneaks into the castle. He finds Gawain and Ettarre in bed with each other.

Enraged by the fact he was betrayed by a fellow knight, Pelleas debates if he should kill the two in their sleep. In the end, he doesn't and instead lays his sword across their throats.

Pelleas then has this inner monologue which I will scan.

"Would they have risen against me in their blood
At the last day? I might have answer'd them
Even before high God. O towers so strong,
Huge, solid, would that even while I gaze
The crack of earthquake shivering to your base
Split you, and hell burst up your harlot roofs
Bellowing, and charr'd you thro' and thro' within,
Black as the harlot's heart-hollow as a skull!
Let the fierce east scream thro' your eyelet-holes,
And whirl the dust of harlots round and round
In dung and nettles! hiss, snake - I saw him there-
Let the fox bark, let the wolf yell! Who yells
Here in the still sweet summer night but I-
I, the poor Pelleas whom she call'd her fool?
Fool, beast -he, she, or I? myself most fool;
Beast too, as lacking human wit- disgraced,
Dishonor'd all for trail of true love-
Love?- we be all alike; only the king
Hath made us fools and liars. O Noble vows!
O great and sane and simple race of brutes
That own no lust because they have no law!
For why should I have loved her to my shame?
I loathe her, as I loved her to my shame.
I never loved her, I but lusted for her-
(Line 452-476)

"Would they/ have ris/en (>) against/ me in /their blood (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
the/ last day?/ I might/ have ans/wer'd them (Trochee/Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
en /before /high God./ O towers/ so strong, (Trochee/Iamb/Spondee/Iamb/Iamb)
Huge, sol/id, would/ that ev/en while I gaze (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
The crack/ of earth/quake shiver/ing to/ your base (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
you,/ and hell /burst up /your har/lot roofs (Trochee/Double Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
owing, and charr'd you thro' and thro' within, (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Black as/ the har/lot's heart/(II)-hollow (>) as/ a skull! (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Trochee/Iamb)*
Let the /fierce east /scream thro'/ your eye/let-holes, (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And whirl /the dust /of har/lots round /and round (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
In dung and nett(les)!(II) hiss, snake/ - I saw /him there- (Iamb/Iamb/Spondee/Iamb/Iamb)**
Let the/ fox bark, /let the /wolf yell! Who yells (Trochee/Iamb/Trochee/Iamb/Iamb)***
Here in /the still/ sweet sum/mer night/ but I- (Iamb/Double Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
I, the /poor Pell/eas whom /she call'd/ her fool? (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Fool, beast/ -he, she,/ or I?/ myself/ most fool; (Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Beast too,/ as lack/ing hum/an wit- /disgraced, (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Dishon/or'd all/ for tra/il of /true love- (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb)
Love?- we/ be all /alike;(II)/ only/ the king (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Trochee/Iamb)*
Hath made/ us fools /and liars./ O Nob/le vows! (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
O great /and sane/ and simp/le race /of brutes (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
That own /no lust /because /they have /no law! (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
For why/ should I /have loved /her to /my shame? (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
I loathe /her, as /I loved /her to /my shame. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
I nev/er loved /her, I /but lust/ed for (her-) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (hyper))
Away!"- (Iamb)

* I wanted to note how A trochee follows the Caesural pause in these lines. This is an important requirement for using midline trochees.

** Midline hyper-metrical feet occur, sometimes, before a Caesural pause.

***This line might look difficult to scan, and some would scan it as (Trochee/Spondee/Trochee/Spondee/Iamb) but that would not be correct as there are more spondees and Trochees than there are iambs. Using the numbering system you will see how the line is mostly Iambs.

Let (2) the (1)/ fox (3) bark (4), /let (2) the (1) /wolf (3) yell! (4) Who (1) yells (4)


Afterward, Pelleas rides madly into the country. He encounters Sir Percivale and learns about how Lancelot and the Queen are having an affair (Percivale says this having thought that Pelleas already knew.)

With Pelleas's worldview shattered, he rides to Camelot in order to confront the queen.

Pelleas encounters Lancelot outside the castle, and after a brief argument between the two, they duel. Lancelot easily wins. Lancelot spars Pelleas, even though he knows what he intends to do, and takes him before the Queen. The Queen tries to calm Pelleas down, but Pelleas says

'I have no sword.' (line 590)

This implies that if he did, he'd force her knight 'Lancelot' to slay him.

The court goes silent. Lancelot and Guinevere realize that the day of reckoning is fast approaching. Modred realizes that the time is at hand for him to shatter Arthur's kingdom, and take the throne for himself.


I hope you've all enjoyed Part 10. If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave a comment or a like!

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