Meter: A study of Idylls of the King, Part 11, The Last Tournament

Published by OJB in the blog OJB's blog. Views: 79

Welcome to part 11 of my study of Idylls of the King. Today we will be looking at Chapter 10, The Last Tournament.

In this chapter, Guinevere's adopted son (remember, she can't have children) dies. She asks Arthur to host a tournament in the child's honor, having a ruby necklace as the prize. Arthur agrees, but before he can host it, news of a 'Red Knight' attacking the north reaches him. Arthur gathers his army (made up of his new knights) and leaves the business of running the tournament in Lancelot's care.

The Tournament is held and Tristram wins. Lancelot does not wish to give Tristam the prize because Tristam has had a number of affairs, but Tristram taunts Lancelot about his own affair with the queen. Here is the passage, which I will scan, of Tristram and Lancelot's argument.

So Tristram won, and Lancelot gave, the gems,
Not speaking other word than, "Hast thou won?
Art thou the purest, brother? See, the hand
Wherewith thou takest this is red!" to whom
Tristram, half plagued by Lancelot's languorous mood,
Made answer: Ay, but wherefore toss me this
Like a dry bone cast to some hungry hound?
Let be thy fair Queen's fantasy. Strength of heart
And might of limb, but mainly use and skill,
are winners in this pasttime of our king.
My hand - belike the lance hath dript upon it-
No blood of mine,. I trow; but O chief knight,
Right arm of Arthur in the battlefield,
Great brother, thou nor I have made the world;
Be happy in thy fair Queen as I in mine."

(The Last Tournament, lines 190-204)

So Trist/ram won,/ and Lance/lot gave,/ the gems, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Not speak/ing oth/er word/ than, "Hast/ thou won? (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Art thou/ the pur/est, broth/er? See, /the hand (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Wherewith /thou tak/est this/ is red!"/ to whom (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
ram,/ half plagued/ by Lance/lot's lang/uorous mood, (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Made ans/wer: Ay,/ but where/fore toss /me this (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
a/ dry bone/ cast to/ some hung/ry hound? (Trochee/Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Let be /thy fair /Queen's fant/asy. Strength /of heart (Trochee/Double Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And might /of limb, /but main/ly use/ and skill, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
are win/ners in /this past/time of /our king. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
My hand - belike/ the lance/ hath dript/ upon (it-) (Iamb/Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (Hyper))
No blood/ of mine,./ I trow; but O /chief knight, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb)
Right arm/ of Arth/ur in /the bat/tle-field, (Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Great broth/
er, thou/ nor I/ have made /the world; (Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Be hap/py in thy/ fair Queen/ as I/ in mine." (Iamb/Double Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

Elsewhere, Arthur and his forces meet the Red Knight. The Red Knight, who is Pelleas from the previous chapter, informs Arthur that his wife and Lancelot are having an Affair. Before Arthur can talk to him, Arthur's knights kill the Red Knight, murder all the people inside the Red Knight's keep, and they burn the Keep to the ground. This horrifies Arthur.

Back to the main story, Tristram takes the ruby necklace to his mistress, Queen Isolt. The two are about to kiss each other when her husband appears and murders Tristram.

The chapter ends with Arthur returning and wishing to talk to Guinevere; however, he discovers that she is gone.

Metrically, this chapter is a joy! There are so many interesting lines, word play, and Rhetoric devices that I almost want to scan the whole chapter; however, a I'll just scan the lines that really stuck out and explain why.

A hundred goodly ones -the Red Knight, he-
Lord, I was tending swine, and the Red knight.
(Lines 70-71)

A hund/red good/ly ones /-the Red /Knight, he- (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Lord, I /was tend/ing swine,/ and the /Red knight. (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb)

Look at how 'Knight' is not stressed in one line, but is in the next. The reason for this is compound nouns (even if they are two words) the primary stress falls on the first word. In the second line though, there is nothing that follows Knight.


From the great deep to the great deep he goes. (Line 133)

From (2) the/ great (3) deep (4) /to (2) the (1)/ great (3) deep (4)/ he (1) goes(4).

I've used the numbering system to show the Rhythm of this line. This is a great line, and I would use it as an allusion in my own works.


Brake with a wet wind blowing, Lancelot, (Line 137)

Brake (4) with (2) /a (1) wet (2) /wind (3) blow/(4) ing(1),Lanc (4)/ e(1) lot(2),
(Trochee/Double Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

This line has a lot of different stress levels. I want to show it with the numbering system so people could see how much Iambic Pentameter can vary in sound.


The Black-Blue Irish hair, and Irish eyes. (Line 403)

The Black/-Blue Iri/sh hair, /and Ir/ish eyes. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

Compound adjectives (Black-Blue) the first word gets the stress.


Like hill-snow high in heaven, the steel-blue eyes, (Line 662)

Like hill/-snow high/ in heaven, /the steel-/blue eyes (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

Not only is this a great simile, but look, two compound adjectives!


From uttering freely what I freely hear? (Line 689)

What I like about the above lines is the wordplay. Wordplay is not something I've done a whole lot with, but one day I am going to really explore it.


The last things I wanted to note is that this chapter reveals the theme of the entire story.

'"All Courtesy is dead," (Like 211)

This is the main focus of the story, and in my conclusion I will go into greater detail about the theme of this story and what I think about it.


I hope you've enjoyed part 11 of my study of Idylls of the King. If you have a question or a thought, please leave a comment or a like!

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