/ Michigan quarterly review: Vol. 25, No. 4
686 MICHIGAN QUARTERLY REVIEW Great Bear, casts his image as far as the stars, those enduring records of human dreams. There is something humane, pleasant, something of the English countryside in early summer (he held his court at the Feast of Whitsuntide) in Arthur's civilized yet rural kingdom. The British imagination has, in Arthur's kingdom of peace and justice, from Malory to Tennyson to the present day, perfected an image of a ruler finely balanced between strength and mildness; an epitome, one might say, of the image of kingship latent in every Englishman. The Matter of Britain remains very much alive in our time. One may cite John Cowper Powys's strange fantasy novel, Porius; T. E. White's The Sword in the Stone and its continuation in The Once and Future King; John Heath Stubbs's Artorius which some years ago won the Queen's Medal for poetry; and a recently published Matter of Britain by Harold Morland, not to mention films like Camelot and Excalibur. Towering among these are the writings of David Jones, whose The Sleeping Lord associates Arthur and Christ in a more spiritual, less moralistic manner than does Tennyson in Idylls of the King. Jones seeks to establish, especially at the conclusion of the title poem, the enduring presence of Arthur as a figure for the land itself:. are the hills his couch or is he the couchant hills? Are the slumbering valleys him in slumber are the still undulations the still limbs of him sleeping...? Does the land wait the sleeping lord or is the wasted land that very lord who sleeps? Myths and legends do not embody merely high ideals as moralists think they should be: the imagination of a race is much richer than that, and more mysterious. Arthur's marriage with Guinevere was flawed by the Queen's love for Launcelot du Lac, and by this knight's divided loyalty. Love, as is usually so in mythological stories, obeys laws of its own - Guinevere with her feminine un-lawabidingness is queen by right of that very independence of the moral law which she shares with Ireland's Queen Maeve, and Isolde queen of Cornwall, and with many a goddess. The Eternal Feminine is above, or beneath, or at all events outside all those laws, however admirable, that kings and law-makers establish. Indeed the figures
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