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NOTES TO ELAINE.
(The numbers refer to lines.)
KING ARTHUR was a Celtic hero, who fought against the early Saxon invaders. What his real character was, it is now impossible to discover. A cycle of legends has gathered about him, and hidden the actual facts. The Arthurian legends are widely extended. From England they crossed the Channel to France, and from that country passed into the literature of the leading nations of Europe. These legends were a favorite topic with the poets and storytellers of the Middle Ages. The scenes of Arthur's exploits are laid chiefly in the south-western part of England. Cærleon on the Usk is given as his principal place of residence. He established a magnificent court, gathered about him the bravest knights and fairest ladies of his realm, and sought to regenerate the world. Twelve of the noblest knights, who enjoyed the special confidence of the king, and sat with him at meat, constituted the famous "order of the Table Round." In "Guinevere" Arthur is represented as saying:
"But I was first of all the kings who drew
The knighthood errant of this realm, and all
The realms, together under me, their head,
In that fair order of my Table Round,
A glorious company, the flower of men,
To serve as model for the mighty world,
And be the fair beginning of a time.
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the King, as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King,
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
But alas for Arthur's beautiful hopes! Passion and sin invaded his court; and finally the unfaithfulness and treachery of his friends brought devastation and death.
Among the knights of the Round Table, Lancelot was pre-eminent for deeds of prowess. He stood highest in the favor of the king. His birthplace and possessions were in Brittany. In his infancy he was carried away and fostered by Vivien, the Lady of the Lake; and from this circumstance he is called sometimes "Lancelot du Lac." Unfortunately, he cherished a secret passion for the queen. This unholy attachment, which is referred to in Elaine," and still more fully in "Guinevere," brought unspeakable sorrow, not only to the guilty lovers, but also to the noble and unsuspecting king. It was this love for the queen that steeled his heart against the touching devotion of Elaine.
"Elaine" is justly regarded as one of the most beautiful "Idyls of the King." The story is as follows: "On his way to Camelot to joust, incognito, for the last and greatest of the nine diamonds offered as prizes by King Arthur, Lancelot spends the night at Astolat, the castle of Elaine's father. Here unwittingly he wins Elaine's love. At the joust, whither he is accompanied by Lavaine, Lancelot, wearing her sleeve of pearls on his helmet, is sorely wounded. Elaine learns of this, and, with her father's consent, goes to him and nurses him through his serious illness. Recovering, he returns with her and her brother to Astolat for his shield, left with her that he might not be recognized by it. Here she confesses to him her love. Unable to give his own in return, he tenderly, yet without farewell, departs. Elaine sickens and dies; but not till her father has promised her that; with the letter she has written to Lancelot and the queen in her dead hand, she shall be dressed in her richest white, placed on the deck of the barge, and rowed up the river to the palace. This is done; and the majestic poem concludes with the appearance of her body at court and the burial, with a painful interview between the king and Lancelot, and with Lancelot's sad reflections."
2. Lily maid, in reference to her complexion.
4. Sacred, that is, in the eyes of Elaine.
coat of arms.
to portray armorial bearings. From O. Fr. blazon, a
62. Proof trial, test.
65. Heathen: Saxons. Arthur is represented as a Christian king. See introduction.
67. Still always.
69. The Queen = Guinevere, between whom and himself there existed a guilty attachment.
gift, present. From Fr. bon, Lat. bonus, good.
76. World's hugest = London, on the Thames.
91. Tale number.
hinders. There are two lets in English; the one from A. S. letan, to allow; and the other from A. S. lettan, to hinder.
104. That summer, etc. - Lancelot had been sent to conduct Guinevere to the court to become the wife of King Arthur. It was on this journey, when all their talk was on "love and sport and tilts and pleasure," that their attachment sprang up.
106. Cricket, here used as a collective noun. Cf. creak.
108. Nothing, that is, cannot be located.
149. But knowing
only knowing or simply knowing.
= = hills. From A. S. dun, a hill.
167. Fired lighted up by the setting sun.
168. Gateway horn=
the horn used by visitors to announce their
181. Livest between the lips art known or called by.
without coat of arms or other device.
263. Smaller time time of less noble thought and feeling.
referred or alluded to.
287. Glem, etc. - See introduction.
293. Lady's Head= image of the Virgin Mary.
294. Centred, etc. - The emerald was set in the centre of a pictured sun.
297. White Horse
= standard of the northern invaders.
early. It is the positive form, now little used, of rather.
411. Broke from underground = rose above the horizon.
416. Lancelot of the Lake. See introduction.
422. Pendragon = dragon's head, a title descending to Arthur from his reputed father, Uther.
= a rich silk stuff, usually adorned with gold.
442. Nameless king. —See line 40.
456. Shock strike together, collide.
482. Smoke are blown into mist by the wind.
honorably, worthily. From A. S. stem weorth,
502. Diamond me, etc.
do not speak to me of diamonds.
borders, frontiers. From A. S. mearc, border.
545. Bring us = bring us word.
552. Mid might = the might of vigorous manhood.
556. Sir Modred was Arthur's nephew, and finally became a traitor. See "Guinevere" and "The Passing of Arthur."
660. Ramp = stand rampant; that is, upright on their hind legs. 681. One I may not name= Queen Guinevere.
703. Liege sovereign. In the older sense, a liege lord was a free lord. Common meaning, faithful, loyal.
715. Twenty strokes, etc.
From A. S. wer
mod, ware-wood, mind-preserver. So called, says Skeat, from its curative
798. Far blood = distant relations.
Thus it has no connection with either
844. Either twilight = morning and evening.
medicinal plants. "So called," says Webster, "be
cause each vegetable is supposed to possess its particular virtue, and therefore
880. Ghostly grace: the image of the Queen seen vaguely in fancy. 898. Burthen chorus or refrain of a song.
1084. Pass die. =
1092. Ghostly man = priest. From A. S. gast, spirit; the h has been
hearse; a vehicle on which dead bodies are borne.
1129. Dole= grief, sorrow.
1131. With bent brows with heads bowed in sorrow.
1134. Full-summer = with light and beauty of mid-summer. 1176. Armlet = an ornament for the arm.
1254. From the half face, etc.
from a side view to look the king full in
1300. Sea was her wrath, etc. = her wrath was like the sea raging after a
1316. Worship = honor. See line 489.