Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Newest 'Re-Imagining' of the Arthurian Myth

We arrived at the Lake on Friday in plenty of time for the kids to take a quick dip and head off for dinner at the nearby Golf Course clubhouse. Then we treated ourselves to the new King Arthur movie. I admit there were a few aspects where the suspension of disbelief was stretched rather thin. There was much debate amongst us all afterward. Overall, I liked it quite a lot.

Some have criticized it for the lack of Grail Lore. I would point out that most of the Grail portion of the legend actually could take place AFTER the portion of Arthur’s life depicted here.

Besides, as we watched the previews, I realized Nicholas Cage (One of our big favorites!) is making that movie.

Perhaps no other story has so captured the imagination of Western European thought.

This version does purport to be based on recent new historical investigations. There are several projects that have endeavored to discover some historical basis for the stories.

Without giving away so much as to become a spoiler, most of the main aspects of the stories are here, but with a different basis for their existence within the retelling.

Other than the traditional elements, the biggest new aspect is the non-traditional setting of the events much earlier in history.

Arthur and his Knights are Roman soldiers just prior to Rome’s retreat from British occupation.

There are many items I will discuss about this movie in a future post or two.

For now, here, in words far more eloquent than I could ever manage, is a brief synopsis of this new Roman element of this version:

The Roman Centurion's Song

by Rudyard Kipling

Legate, I had the news last night --my cohort ordered home
By ships to Portus Itius and thence by road to Rome.
I've marched the companies aboard, the arms are stowed below:
Now let another take my sword. Command me not to go!

I've served in Britain forty years, from Vectis to the Wall,
I have none other home than this, nor any life at all.
Last night I did not understand, but, now the hour draws near
That calls me to my native land, I feel that land is here.

Here where men say my name was made, here where my work was done;
Here where my dearest dead are laid--my wife--my wife and son;
Here where time, custom, grief and toil, age, memory, service, love,
Have rooted me in British soil. Ah, how can I remove?

For me this land, that sea, these airs, those folk and fields surffice.
What purple Southern pomp can match our changeful Northern skies,
Black with December snows unshed or pearled with August haze--
The clanging arch of steel-grey March, or June's long-lighted days?

You'll follow widening Rhodanus till vine an olive lean
Aslant before the sunny breeze that sweeps Nemausus clean
To Arelate's triple gate; but let me linger on,
Here where our stiff-necked British oaks confront Euroclydon!

You'll take the old Aurelian Road through shore-descending pines
Where, blue as any peacock's neck, the Tyrrhene Ocean shines.
You'll go where laurel crowns are won, but--will you e'er forget
The scent of hawthorn in the sun, or bracken in the wet?

Let me work here for Britain's sake--at any task you will--
A marsh to drain, a road to make or native troops to drill.
Some Western camp (I know the Pict) or granite Border keep,
Mid seas of heather derelict, where our old messmates sleep.

Legate, I come to you in tears--My cohort ordered home!
I've served in Britain forty years. What should I do in Rome?
Here is my heart, my soul, my mind--the only life I know.
I cannot leave it all behind. Command me not to go!


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