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Idylls of the King

Alfred Tennyson

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Fully illustrated by Gustave Doré. Idylls of the King, published between 1859 and 1885, is a cycle of twelve narrative poems by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892; Poet Laureate from 1850) which retells the legend of King Arthur, his knights, his love for Guinevere and her tragic betrayal of him, and the rise and fall of Arthur's kingdom. Chapters include: The Coming Of Arthur; Gareth And Lynette; The Marriage Of Geraint; Geraint And Enid; Balin And Balan; Merlin And Vivien; Lancelot And Elaine; The Holy Grail; Pelleas And Ettarre; The Last Tournament; Guinevere; The Passing Of Arthur; and, To The Queen.

This book has 477 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1859.

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Excerpt from 'Idylls of the King'

Leodogran, the King of Cameliard,

Had one fair daughter, and none other child;

And she was the fairest of all flesh on earth,

Guinevere, and in her his one delight.


For many a petty king ere Arthur came

Ruled in this isle, and ever waging war

Each upon other, wasted all the land;

And still from time to time the heathen host

Swarmed overseas, and harried what was left.

And so there grew great tracts of wilderness,

Wherein the beast was ever more and more,

But man was less and less, till Arthur came.

For first Aurelius lived and fought and died,

And after him King Uther fought and died,

But either failed to make the kingdom one.

And after these King Arthur for a space,

And through the puissance of his Table Round,

Drew all their petty princedoms under him.

Their king and head, and made a realm, and reigned.


And thus the land of Cameliard was waste,

Thick with wet woods, and many a beast therein,

And none or few to scare or chase the beast;

So that wild dog, and wolf and boar and bear

Came night and day, and rooted in the fields,

And wallowed in the gardens of the King.

And ever and anon the wolf would steal

The children and devour, but now and then,

Her own brood lost or dead, lent her fierce teat

To human sucklings; and the children, housed

In her foul den, there at their meat would growl,

And mock their foster mother on four feet,

Till, straightened, they grew up to wolf-like men,

Worse than the wolves. And King Leodogran

Groaned for the Roman legions here again,

And Caesar’s eagle: then his brother king,

Urien, assailed him: last a heathen horde,

Reddening the sun with smoke and earth with blood,

And on the spike that split the mother’s heart

Spitting the child, brake on him, till, amazed,

He knew not whither he should turn for aid.

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