Thursday, November 3, 2016

Timothy Spearman writes


It is destiny’s blight I share the king’s bed
To keep his rapacious appetite fed.
He calleth his priv’lege right of first night,
But would sooner banish me from his sight.

I would not for the world abandon thee,
When it is thee I wouldst sooner set free.
Thou art to me as wondrous in thy parts,
As the sirens are in their appointed arts.

The bards call me the Lady of the Lake,
Yet it’s my reputation they forsake.
It is thy languid image in the pool
That rendereth me a besotted fool.
I remain the lady with virtue intact
But leave it to them to distort the facts.

Thou art the mother of all creation,
Whose children feel jubilant elation.
When thy benefic form incarnated
Even the derelict poor were sated.
Thou art the matriarch that will enthrall,
Whilst thou graceth regal Camelot’s halls.
I devoutly serve thee on bended knee,
The Queen that with farthest vision doth see.
Let my honourable intent be resolute,
For faith can have no vouchsafed substitute.


The Lady of the Lake Steals Lancelot --George Wooliscroft Rhead & Louis Rhead


  1. The Lady of the Lake was the titular name of the ruler of Avalon (Ynys Afallon; probably from afal, meaning "apple" in Welsh), which was introduced in 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his “Historia Regum Britanniae” (The History of the Kings of Britain) as the place where king Arthur's sword Excalibur was forged and where he was taken after the battle of Camlann (Cad Camlan or Brwydr Camlan), where he either died or was severely wounded. Geoffrey first called it Insula Avallonis, but later, in his “Vita Merlini,” he called it Insula Pomorum (the isle of fruit trees) and added more details (introducing the sorceress Morgan le Fay, for instance, who over time became an evil character identified as Arthur’s half-sister, a lover and apprentice of Merlinus Ambrosius, whose name was Geoffrey’s Latinization of the 6th-century bard/prophet Myrddin Wyllt.) The Lady of the Lake’s abode has been associated with Martin Mere, Dozmary Pool, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Ogwen, Llyn y Fan Fach, The Loe, Pomparles Bridge, Loch Arthur, and Aleines in Wales, as well as Pergusa Lake in Sicily. She was given various names (including Nimue, Viviane, Vivien, Elaine, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne) by different chroniclers of king Arthur, and details of her life also varied, though much of her biography was first sketched out in the five volumes of the early-13th-century “Lancelot-Grail,” which claimed that Merlin was a cambion (the son of a woman and an incubus, from whom he inherited his supernatural powers, including shape-shifting and clairvoyance). Merlin magically enabled Uther Pendragon to enter Tintagel in disguise and impregnate his enemy's wife, Igraine (Morgan le Fey’s mother) with his son, Arthur. Later writers described Merlin as the king's early advisor. The Lady played a pivotal role in many Arthurian stories, including giving him his sword, Excalibur. When the Lady prepared to leave Arthur’s court, Merlin encouraged her to stay with the queen and subsequently fell in love with her, but, afraid that he might use his magic to take advantage of her, she swore she would only love him if he taught her all of his secrets. En route back to her home, Merlin had a vision that Arthur needed help against Morgan le Fay, but on the way back to Arthur’s castle they stopped at a stone chamber; Merlin told the Lady that when the two lovers who had inhabited it died they were put in a magic tomb inside a room in the chamber. That night, while Merlin slept, the Lady cast a spell over him and placed him in the magic tomb, causing his death. In the “Prophetiae Merlini,” she confined him in the forest of Brocéliande behind walls of air, visible as mist to others but as a beautiful tower to him. (In other accounts he was imprisoned in a cave, a large rock, or an invisible tower; according to Breton legend, he climbed the pine of Barenton, had a profound revelation, and never returned to the mortal world; his “glas [evergreen] tann” [sacred tree] became mistranslated as a "glass house.”)

  2. She was also associated with Sir Lancelot du Lac (Lancelot of the lake), who made his first appearance in the 12th century; Chrétien de Troyes had mentioned him in his earliest work, “Erec et Enide,” gave him a more promoinint role in “Cligès,” and made him the star of “Le Chevalier de la Charette” (The Knight of the Cart); manuscript evidence suggests that his name may have been L'Ancelot (the servant) and that Chretien may have derived the name from Geoffrey of Monmouth's “Anguselaus.” Lancelot was later associated with the Grail Quest, but Chrétien did not mention him in his final, unfinished, romance, “Perceval, le Conte du Graal,” which introduced the Grail motif in medieval literature; Lancelot's association was not recorded until the “Perlesvaus,” written between 1200 and 1210. Nevertheless, Chrétien introduced most of the themes associated with him (such as his parentage and his adultery with Arthur’s queen Guinevere [Gwenhwyfar, "The White Enchantress"]; Geoffrey of Monmouth rendered her name as Guanhumara in Latin). Originally baptized as Galahad, Lancelot was the son of king Ban of Benwick, who was deposed by Claudas de la Deserte; but the Lady of the Lake carried the infant off. She also abducted his cousins Lionel and Bors and raised them all without revealing their identities to them. Eventually she took Lancelot to Arthur’s court, where he immediately fell in love with Guinevere. Still unaware of his real identity, he was known only as the White Knight, but after defeating the Copper Knight’s army with the Lady’s help, he lifted a metal slab that could only be lifted by one man, whose name was written beneath the slab; thus, he discovered that his name was Lancelot.

  3. Later he saved Arthur from defeat by Galahaut, who surrendered to the king in exchange for Lancelot’s service in his army. Eventually, Arthur invited them both to join the Round Table; it was Galahaut who finally persuaded Guinevere that she could return Lancelot's affection. With Arthur’s help, Lancelot defeated Claudas and recovered his father's kingdom but decided to remain at Camelot with his cousins Sir Bors and Sir Lionel and his illegitimate half-brother Ector de Maris. The daughter of the Fisher King, Elaine of Corbenic (identified as "The Grail Maiden" or "Grail Bearer") tricked him into believing she was Guinevere, resulting in the birth of his son Galahad. Guinevere banishes her lover, who wandered as a mad man for two years until he arrived at Corbenic, where Elaine cured him by showing him the Holy Grail through a veil. Meanwhile, Gunevere has sent Sir Percival and Ector to find him, and he returns with them to Camelot. When Lancelot took part in the Grail Quest, he was only allowed another glimpse of the cup (which was reputed to be the vessel that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, which Joseph of Arimathea then used to catch his blood at the crucifixion) because he was an adulterer and distracted by fame; Percival, Bors, and Galahad were the only ones allowed to drink from it. One of Lancelot’s closest companions was Sir Gawain (Gwalchmei), the son of Arthur's sister Morgause (as a character she was later merged into Morgan le Fay) and his presumed heir; Gawain’s half-brother Mordred (Medraut) was Arthur's own son by Morgause, though in earlier literature he was regarded as the legitimate son of her husband king Lot of Orkney. When Mordred and his brother Agravain plotted against Lancelot and Guinevere by exposing their love affair, Gawain tried to stop them, and when the queen was sentenced to burn at the stake, Gawain disobeyed Arthur’s command to guard the execution. When Lancelot rescued Guinevere, a battle between him and the Round Table ensued, and Lancelot killed Gawain's sons and brothers, except for Mordred, causing Gawain to seek vengeance. At Gawain’s instigation, Arthur goes to France to make war against Lancelot, and Mordred seized the throne and perhaps married Guinevere, though in some versions she fled his advances and became a nun. Returning to Britain, Gawain was mortally wounded; before he died he asked Lancelot’s forgiveness and requested his aid against Mordred. In the ensuing battle, Mordred’s oldest son Melehan slays Sir Lionel, Bors kills Melehan, and Lancelot kills Mordred’s other son. Mordred himself was slain at Arthur’s final battle, Camlann. The Lady reclaimed Excalibur and hurled it back into the Lake and was one of the three queens (including Morgan) who escorted Arthur to Avalon. When Lancelot learned of Arthur’s death, he went to Guinevere, who had become a nun, but she rejected his advances; so Lancelot and eight companions, including Sir Bors, retired to a hermitage. He became a priest and had a dream that Guinevere, by then an abbess, was dying, but she passed away a half hour before he could see her again. He presided over her funeral, took her body to be interred beside Arthur’s, where Gawain's skull was also kept, and died of grief six weeks later.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?