The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation

Overview

“A new standard in the enterprise of bringing the past back into poetry.”—Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal
First appearing around 1400, The Death of King Arthur is one of the most widely beloved and spectacularly alliterative poems penned in Middle English. While it is more than six centuries old, this magisterial new translation has finally given American readers the ability to experience the splendor and poignancy of the original. Echoing the lyrical passion that so distinguished Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, Simon ...

See more details below
Paperback
$12.80
BN.com price
(Save 19%)$15.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (13) from $4.90   
  • New (6) from $9.35   
  • Used (7) from $4.90   
Sending request ...

Overview

“A new standard in the enterprise of bringing the past back into poetry.”—Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal
First appearing around 1400, The Death of King Arthur is one of the most widely beloved and spectacularly alliterative poems penned in Middle English. While it is more than six centuries old, this magisterial new translation has finally given American readers the ability to experience the splendor and poignancy of the original. Echoing the lyrical passion that so distinguished Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, Simon Armitage has produced a virtuosic translation of a timeless masterpiece, one that follows Arthur’s bloody conquests across Europe, all the way to his spectacular and even bloodier downfall. This unparalleled presentation of the greatest Arthurian tale promises to become the definitive edition for generations to come.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Ron Charles
…Armitage's spectacular translation…renders this anonymous poem into modern English lines that command your full allegiance…forget Tennyson's Victorian niceties in Idylls of the King; Armitage's pages are splattered with gore, "gloupy with slime"…With captivating articulation, these lines growl and roar and hiss in a way that reminds us just how much our preference for rhyme over alliteration has cost us. And amid all the viscera and gore, we find such startling moments of intimacy and grief, expressed by soldiers wholly unconstrained by our narrow, modern-day expectations of manhood.
Jeremy Noel-Tod - Guardian
“Invitingly ingenious and inventive.”
David Blackburn - Spectator
“Armitage has triumphed. . . . The verse requires attention; but, once you are attuned to the alliterative structure, it’s as swift as the swish of a sword.”
Bill Greenwell - Independent
“Armitage, on top form, renders [Arthur] expertly.”
Guardian
Invitingly ingenious and inventive.— Jeremy Noel-Tod
Spectator
Armitage has triumphed. . . . The verse requires attention; but, once you are attuned to the alliterative structure, it’s as swift as the swish of a sword.— David Blackburn
Independent
Armitage, on top form, renders [Arthur] expertly.— Bill Greenwell
Washington Post
[T]ake heart, brave literary warriors. Norton has...just published a paperback edition of Simon Armitage’s spectacular translation of The Death of King Arthur. The celebrated British writer renders this anonymous poem into modern English lines that command your full allegiance.— Ron Charles
Ron Charles - Washington Post
“[T]ake heart, brave literary warriors. Norton has...just published a paperback edition of Simon Armitage’s spectacular translation of The Death of King Arthur. The celebrated British writer renders this anonymous poem into modern English lines that command your full allegiance.”
Library Journal
Award-winning British poet Armitage follows his celebrated 2007 translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with this muscular, clanging rendering of the Middle English Alliterative Morte Arthure. The original poem appears on facing pages and presents readers with a miscellany of linguistic loose ends, some lines requiring very little translation and others remaining lost in the Middle English word horde. Armitage's translation preserves the robust alliteration of the original and utilizes the repeated blows of letter sounds to evoke the din of battle as well as to propel the poem to its ferocious and tragic end. Here, Arthur is an ambivalent figure, sure of God's grace yet troubled by dreams that bind the fate of all Britons to his conflict with Sir Lucius, the Roman emperor whose ambition and arrogance mirror Arthur's. VERDICT Armitage's version of the Alliterative Morte Arthure strengthens Norton's catalog of new translations of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English texts. It is also a remarkable instance of Armitage's own unique poetic strengths, especially his ear for lyrical economy and gift for sensual, tactile description.—J. Greg Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman
The Barnes & Noble Review

Midwinter, flickering and dark, is the time to pull up to the fire and listen to a story, savoring the word hoard of the language. Now, with Simon Armitage's verse translation of The Death of King Arthur, we have a chance to do exactly that. We're called back to our mythic selves, plopped down in a timeless and fantastic season, where the renowned king is enjoying a bit of Christmas goodness in the company of his closest knights. But just as he's settling down for some midwinter rabbit, a visitor arrives and challenges him to fight for the far reaches of his kingdom.

The messenger is none other than an envoy of Sir Lucius, emperor of Rome. The visit is intended to throw down the gauntlet. It succeeds: the year's project is begun. The knights arm up and head out. There's little suspense in the story that unfolds — its end can be found in its title — so what follows must live in the telling. Fortunately, it does. Armitage's Arthur arrives not from the version compiled by Sir Thomas Malory in the fifteenth century but from an earlier work, an alliterative version of his legend penned by an anonymous scribe. Not that this should be mistaken for a more original version of the myth than Malory's — by the time this scribe wrote these words, written myths of King Arthur had been in the British Isles for 300 years. This poem's language is threaded with French; the quintessentially English tale has already been rewoven in the weft of a romantic tradition.

No matter: purity or origin, like the notion of "what happens at the end," isn't the point. The point is verbal hijinks, the hap in happening, the unfurling tapestry of tale. Armitage puts a sprightly, even perhaps knightly, spring in the line — and meanwhile it's pleasing to read across the facing page, to slip back into the lovely gutturals of older English.

As soon as Christmas has passed, the knights set off to defend the kingdom, but not, of course, without stopping to slay a hulking giant — a big gruesome one, five fathoms high, who has to be carted around on a platform drawn by camels in chainmail. If that fabulous image doesn't get the imagination working, well, little will. Here's a bit in the Middle English: ?

His front and his forheved, all was it over
As the fell of a frosk and frakened it seemed:
Hook nebbed as a hawk, an a hore berde,
And hered to the eyen-holes with hangand browes.
Here's the beast in Armitage's remaking:
His face and forehead were flecked all over
like the features of a frog, so freckled it seemed.
He was hook beaked like a hawk, with a hoary beard,
and his eyes were overhung with hoary brows.
The language is gruesome and fecund, clamorous, pleasurable. Arthur moves on from here to Milan, to Tuscany, and at last to Rome, which his nobles conquer and hope to occupy by the next Christmas. Excalibur, ho! The rest is the stuff of legend and best left to the reading itself.

Yet even as one reads Armitage's version of this chainmail-ridden text, it's worth remembering that this year he's also put out a startling book of his own prose poems called Seeing Stars. These too turn our current world off kilter. If giants riding camels have one's mind spinning, try these poems, which inhabit a world held together by sidelong observers. Here are the cartoonish, persuasive voices of a balloon maker, a trapped panda, a sperm whale, a grave robber. In them, a tapestry of modern life emerges, but refracted as if through a watery prism. "Sometimes I vomit large chunks of ambergris," says the sperm whale, before continuing, "My brother, Jeff, owns a camping store and outdoor clothing shop in the Lake District and is a recreational user of cannabis."

In their own way, these poems, always rueful, reminded me of a contemporary Canterbury Tales, a series of fables in which citizens both claim and mock their world. "Don't be taken in by the dolphins," continues the whale. "They are the pickpockets of the ocean, the gypsy children of the open waters, and they are laughing all the way to Atlantis." Maybe we should laugh our way to Atlantis too, and maybe these poems unfetter us a little to do just that. No less than the anonymous scribe whose tracks he's followed to recapture King Arthur, Armitage finds a way to weave myths for our own time, to lull us into dreaming, before baffling us awake again.

Reviewer: Tess Taylor

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393343533
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/3/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 698,783
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Armitage is an award-winning poet who has published ten volumes of poetry and translations of both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Death of King Arthur. He is professor of poetry at the University of Sheffield, England.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction Simon Armitage 7

A Note on the Meter of the Alliterative Morte Arthure James Simpson 15

The Death of King Arthur 19

Characters and Names of the Alliterative Morte Arthure 297

About the Translator 301

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)