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Old 06-11-2013, 10:28 PM   #16
Shade of Carn Dm
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
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In Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings on page 123 and following there is a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien written about Charles Williams. In this poem Tolkien mentions his joy in Williams’ wisdom and virtues and his companionship. But Tolkien also makes it quite plain that Tolkien did not very much like Williams’ Arthurian poems.

Tolkien writes:
Geodisy say rather; for many a ‘fen’
he wrote, and chapters bogged in tangled rhymes,
and has surveyed Europa’s lands and climes,
dividing her from P’o-L’u’s crawling slimes,
in her diving buttocks, breast, and head
(to say no fouler thing), where I instead,
dull-eyed, can only see a watershed,
a plain, an island, or a mountain-chain.
In short Tolkien did not appreciate Williams’ geographical allegories, which is not surprising as, in general, Tolkien did not like allegories.

Tolkien also disliked Williams’ praise of Byzantium as an image of heaven where Tolkien only saw an enormous city famed for its slaves and eunuchs. For him Byzantium is rather a symbol “of Rule that strangles and of Laws that kill.”

Tolkien also did not much like what Williams had made of Taliessin, although in his poem Tolkien believes, wrongly, that the historical Taliesin “in the days of Cymbeline he wrought.” In fact the historical Taliesin flourished some time following the traditional Arthurian period and was a bard of King Urien of Rheged. At least Taliesin presents himself as such in the poems now accepted as authentic.

Christopher Tolkien in The Fall of Arthur does not mention anything of the very little that Tolkien wrote on Arthur elsewhere and I don’t see that any mention of such scraps would add much to his essays. These cover the traditions of Arthur which lie behind this poem and trace the development of the poem and give hints of where it was going.

The poem is traced mainly to Laȝamon’s Brut, the alliterative Morte Arthure, the stanzaic Morte Arthur, and Malory’s Le Morte d'Arthur, in short the main works written in Middle-English that cover the matter of Tolkien’s poem. Tolkien also invents a lot from his own imagination.

Christopher Tolkien indicates that his father's last work on The Fall of Arthur occurred in 1937 when he started work on The Lord of the Rings and seems to see that as the main reason why he did not return to it at that time; he had become absorbed in other matters.

Last edited by jallanite; 06-14-2013 at 04:53 PM.
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