Meter: A study of Idylls of the King, Part 14, The Conclusion.

Published by OJB in the blog OJB's blog. Views: 74

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, the end of this study has finally arrived. In this conclusion, I want to talk about what I've learned, and my thoughts on the theme of Idylls Of The King.

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I read this story in order to advance my understanding and use of Metrical writing, and it has. Lord Tennyson use a fair share of rising and falling Rhythms in his writing, which gives his poetry and stories a musical feel to them. I want to give some example to show what I mean.

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


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

3 2 1 2 3 4 1 4 1 2

From the numbering scale, you can see the Rythm starts high, sinks, rises, drops, Peaks, drops again, rises again. This is very musical.

Another rising line,

And the new sun rose bringing the new year. (Line 469, the Passing of Arthur)

And (1) the (2) new (3) sun (4) rose (3) bring (4)ing (1) the (2) new (3) year. (4)

1 2 3 4 3 4 1 2 3 4

As we can see, this has two rising Rhythms. This type of musicality is what keeps Iambic Pentameter from being monotone.

The last thing I've picked up is the Trochee/Spondee that occurs within Iambic Pentameter. While Spondees are considered two equal stressed syllables in a row, this is very rare in English, and some people don't believe Spondee exist at all in English. Regardless, the Rhythmic pattern I am referring to occurs in this line twice!

From (2) the (1) great (3) deep (4) to (2) the (1) great (3) deep (4) he (1) goes (4). (The Last Tournament, Line 133)

2 1 3 4 2 1 3 4 1 4

The 2 1 3 4 pattern is what some would call a Trochee/Spondee (Though I am calling this Spondee a heavy Iamb with 3/4). It is a pattern I never considered using in my own writing, and I am glad that I've discovered it and started putting it to use.

In the end, it is the discovery and use or these Rhythmic patterns that have made this study worth the time and effort.

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The Theme.

In my opinion, the theme of Idylls of the King is that Chivalry (courtesy) is dead because of women. What has lead me to this conclusion is that all the major antagonist in this story are women (with the expectation of Mordred).

Lynette antagonizes Gareth -the man trying to save her sister- all through chapter 2 through mockery and insults.

Vivien -through her sexual advances- brings an end to Merlin and helps Mordred usurp the throne.

Ettarre uses her beauty to trick Pelleas, and it is through her trickery the Red Knight is born.

Guinevere is the major instrument in playing out this theme. She sees nothing wrong her affair with Lancelot (while Lancelot laments over the fact) and it is through her actions that Balin and Balan are killed, that Pelleas becomes the Red Knight, and the war between Lancelot and Arthur occurs.

This is not to say that the men of this story are faultless, (Tristam is murdered because of his affair) but the fault seems to be put on more of the woman in this story than the men. The primary contrast though might be between Arthur and Vivien.

Arthur, a faultless king that worries only about his people.

Vivien, a court whore that uses sex to charm men to her biding with the sole intention of seeing Arthur destroyed.

So, what do I make of this theme? And is it relevant today?

Chivalry is dead because women killed it is a complaint I still hear today (at least in Chicago.)

Is this a sexist belief? Or Frustration on courtship in today's society? I believe it to be the latter, other might view it as the former.

And was this Tennyson's intention when he wrote this?

In the end, this is the message I got out of reading this: Building a stable society involves both women and men to make good and respectable choices. If either side falters, the whole crumbles.

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I hope you've enjoyed my study of Idylls of the King. My next step will be to continue with my blog series on Metrical writing and get into the more advanced theory. If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave a comment or a like!

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