The Stones in the Sword: Tennyson's Crown Jewels

The Stones in the Sword: Tennyson's Crown Jewels MICHAEL HANCOCK F ALL THE ILLICIT AFFAIRS IN THE IDYLLS OF THE KING, NONE IS MORE unusual than "bold" Sir Bedivere's relation with Excalibur (PA, l. 207).1 Commanded to cast the kingdom's founding sword into the lake where it surfaced, the Round Table's first knight finds himself dazzled by the brand's moonlit handle, which "twinkle[s] with diamond sparks, / Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work / Of subtlest jewellery" (PA, ll. 224-226).2 Thinking of how the gems might please "the eyes of many men" by being preserved for posterity "in some treasure-house of mighty kings" (PA, ll. 259, 269), an enthralled Bedivere tries to salvage the sword through disobedience and deceit. Only when Arthur threatens to slay the faithless knight does Bedivere return Excalibur to its source. The precious stones in the sword, as objects of desire, thus become an obstacle almost as difficult to overcome as the very vows that make and break Camelot. The conversion of Excalibur from sword into stones is hardly an anomaly in the Idylls. Tennyson's poem is itself a collection like Arthur's sword, encrusted with a dragon's hoard of jewels. These gems are more than colorful baubles, as they come out of nature http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Victorian Poetry West Virginia University Press

The Stones in the Sword: Tennyson's Crown Jewels

Victorian Poetry, Volume 39 (1) – Mar 1, 2001

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 West Virginia University.
ISSN
1530-7190
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

MICHAEL HANCOCK F ALL THE ILLICIT AFFAIRS IN THE IDYLLS OF THE KING, NONE IS MORE unusual than "bold" Sir Bedivere's relation with Excalibur (PA, l. 207).1 Commanded to cast the kingdom's founding sword into the lake where it surfaced, the Round Table's first knight finds himself dazzled by the brand's moonlit handle, which "twinkle[s] with diamond sparks, / Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work / Of subtlest jewellery" (PA, ll. 224-226).2 Thinking of how the gems might please "the eyes of many men" by being preserved for posterity "in some treasure-house of mighty kings" (PA, ll. 259, 269), an enthralled Bedivere tries to salvage the sword through disobedience and deceit. Only when Arthur threatens to slay the faithless knight does Bedivere return Excalibur to its source. The precious stones in the sword, as objects of desire, thus become an obstacle almost as difficult to overcome as the very vows that make and break Camelot. The conversion of Excalibur from sword into stones is hardly an anomaly in the Idylls. Tennyson's poem is itself a collection like Arthur's sword, encrusted with a dragon's hoard of jewels. These gems are more than colorful baubles, as they come out of nature

Journal

Victorian PoetryWest Virginia University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2001

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