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Meter: A study of Idylls of the King, Part 4: The Marriage of Geraint

Published by OJB in the blog OJB's blog. Views: 390

The Marriage of Geraint tells the story of how Geraint and Enid met and wedded. The story begins with rumors of how Queen Guinevere and Lancelot are having an affair. Seeing how Enid and Guinevere are best friends, Geraint becomes paranoid about his own marriage so he and Enid take leave from Arthur's court.

Geraint's paranoia causes his reputation to slip, and his best efforts to keep Enid faithful to him actually causes her to distant herself. Enid one morning looks at her wedding dress and has a flashback about how she and Geraint met.

The rest of the story is a Flashback about the how to the two meet.

The Flashback begins with a hunt that King Arthur is leading. As Arthur and his men are out hunting, Geraint -being late- meets up with the queen. As the two talk, a drawf, a knight, and a lady appears and refuses to show recognition to the queen. Enraged, Geraint chases after them. Before he leaves, The Queen promises that should he find love she will be his bride's best friend.

Geraint follows them to a town and loses them. Geraint then seeks shelter for the night and comes across a ruined castle ruled by a lord named Yniol (Enid's father).

While at the Castle Geraint hears Enid sing and falls in love. I want to present the song as it's Ryhmn pattern is a common one that appears within Idylls.

"Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel, and lower the proud; (A)
Turn thy wild wheel thro' sunshine, storm, and cloud; (A)
Thy wheel and thee neither love nor hate. (X)

"Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown; (B)
With that wild wheel we go not up or down; (B)
Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great. (X)

"Smile and we smile, the lord of many lands; (C)
Frown and we smile, the lords of our own hands; (C)
For man is man and master of his fate. (X)

"Turn, turn thy wheel above the staring crowd; (D)
Thy wheel and thou sare shadows in the cloud; (D)
Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate." (X)

There is a note I want to make about this passage. Fortune and her wheel is a figure that appears in The Divine Comedy. The Idea is that Fortune spins a wheel and that the 'luck' one gains in life are completely random. Hence this is an Allusion to The Divine Comedy.

I very much like the simplicity of this Rhythm pattern, and might make use of it in the future for my own works.

Geraint learns that the foul knight is Yniol nephew and that he is in town for a tournament. This leads to this passage which I will post then scan.

'And Yniol answer's: "Arms, indeed, but old
And rusty, old and rusty, Prince Geraint,
Are mine, and therefore, at thine asking, thine.
But in this Tournament can no man tilt,
Expect the lady he loves best be there.
Two forks are fixt into the meadow ground,
and over these is placed a silver wand,
And over that a golden sparrow-hawk,
The Prize of beauty for the fairest there,
And this, what knight soever be in field
Lays claim to for the lady at his side,
And Tilts with my good nephew thereupon,
Who being apt at arms and big of bone
Had ever won it for the lady with him,
And toppling over all antagonism
Has earn's himself the name of sparrow-hawk.
But thou, that has no lady, canst not fight."

To whom Geraint with eyes all bright replied,
leaning a little toward him: "Thy leave!
Let me lay lance in rest, O noble host,
For this dear child, because I never saw,
Tho' having see elsewhere, anything so fair.
And if I fall her name will yet remain
Untarnish'd as before; but if I live,
So aid me heaven when at mine uttermost
As I will make her truly my true wife!"'

(The Marriage of Geraint lines 477-503)

'And Yn/iol ans/wer's: "Arms, /indeed, /but old (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And rust/y, old /and rust/y, Prince /Geraint, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Are mine,/ and there/fore, at/ thine ask/ing, thine. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)*1
But in/ this Tourn/a-ment/ can no/ man tilt, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Expect/ the lad/y he/ loves best/ be there. (Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb/Iamb)
Two forks/ are fixt/ into/ the mead/ow ground, (Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
and ov/er these/ is placed/ a sil/ver wand, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And ov/er that /a gold/en spar/row-hawk, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
The Prize/ of beaut/y for/ the fair/est there, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And this,/ what knight/ soev/er be in field (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Lays claim/ to for/ the lad/y at his side, (Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)**2
And Tilts/ with my/ good neph/ew there/upon, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Who be/ing apt/ at arms /and big/ of bone (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Had ev/er won/ it for/ the lad/y (>)with him, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb) *3
And topp/ling ov/er all/ an-tag/on-ism (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Has earn's/ himself /the name/ of spar/row-hawk. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
But thou,/ that has /no lad/y, canst/ not fight." (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

To whom/ Geraint /with eyes/ all bright/ replied, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
leaning/ a litt/le to/ward him: /"Thy leave! (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
me/ lay lance/ in rest,/ O nob/le host, (Trochee/Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)*4
For this/ dear child,/ because /I nev/er saw, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Tho' hav/ing see/ elsewhere,(II)/ an(>)ything so fair. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb(Pause)/Trochee/Iamb)
And if/ I fall/ her name/ will yet/ remain (Iamb/Iamb/IAmb/IAmb/Iamb)
Untar/nish'd as /before; (II) but if I live, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Trochee/Iamb)*5
So aid /me heaven /when at/ mine utt/er-most (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb) *6
As I/ will make/ her tru/ly my /true wife!"' (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb) *7

*1: If you noticed in the line 'Thine' appears both as an unstressed word and as a stressed word. This is A Rhetorical device we will be studying later, but it gives Meter its power.

*2: Lay Claim is a Spondee. I wanted to note that substitutions should not be used willy nilly, but used to add dramatic effect. This is a great example.

*3 There is an elision in this line. We will be going into Elisions in depth later, but they are somewhat outdated device, however when this was written they were completely acceptable. The reason they are outdated though is because as time went on Poets wanted Meter to match natural speech, vs. forcing syllables to slur together.

*4: there is a few ways this line can be scanned: Pure Iamb/Double Iamb followed by pure Iambs/ or the way I have it scanned with Trochee/Spondee. The reason I opted for this Scan is look at where I placed all the stress marks -On words that start with L. Alliteration is when words in close approximatity start with the same sound. Poetic devices should work in conjunction with each other, not against each other.

*5 This line could be read as pure Iamb, but sometimes poets place a trochee after a punctuation mark that occurs mid-line.

*6 Heaven is pronounced as a single Syllable (crazy, right?) This is a prime example of why poets wanted to move away from Elisions.

*7 The line ends in a double Iamb. In terms of meter, double Iambs is my favorite variation that occurs within Iambic Pentameter.

So the above passage sets up Geraint in a unique dilemma. In order for him to enter the tournament and defeat the evil knight, he needs to bring a lady with him, and if he wins the tournament (which is his goal) he has to marry the Lady he has brought with him. Seeing how Geraint wants to marry Enid, this is not really that much of a Dilemma, but we -as writers- can look at this and think up our own Dilemmas to throw at our characters. In fact, doesn't this scenario kinda of remind you of those high school comedies where the hero has to find a date for Prom and is forced to bring a girl he doesn't like?


The story continues with the tournament, and Geraint kicks the evil knight's ass! The knight begs for Mercy, and Geraint demands that him, the dwarf, and the lady appear before the Queen and beg for pardon (which they agree to).

And here is what happens to the evil knight.

'And there the Queen forgave him easily.
And being young, he changed and came to loathe
His crimes of traitor, slowly drew himself
Bright from his old dark light, and fell at last
In the great battle fighting for the king. ' -Lines 592-597

This passage is beautifully written metrically (I'll scan it in a bit) and is my favorite part -Metrically- in this chapter. Not only does this give you a conclusion to what happened to the knight, but also foreshadows the ending chapter of this book (The Great Battle between Arthur and Mordred.) Now the Scan.

'And there the Queen/ forgave/ him eas/i-ly. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And be/ing young, /he changed/ and came to loathe (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
His crimes/ of trait/or, slow/ly drew/ himself (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Bright from /his old/ dark light,/ and fell/ at last (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)*
In the /great batt/le fight/ing for/ the king. (Trochee/Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb) **

*The use of a trochee here is brilliant. Bright being both the first word and stress of the line really gives it emphasis.

**There is that Trochee/Spondee Pattern again. I really like and hope to use it in my own works.


After the tournament Enid obtains the dress her mother gave her (her mother having had died three years before) and wears it as her wedding dress. Enid and Geraint are married, and...

'Remembering how first he came on her
Drest in that dress, and how he loved her in it,' Lines 843-844.


This concludes the chapter. The Next chapter is a follow up to this one, and concludes the story of Geraint and Enid.


This concludes part 4 of my Study on Idylls of the King. If you have any thoughts or questions please leave a comment or like!

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