The knitting portion of the Norns Project is going beautifully right now. I'm so pleased with it! It's just coming together perfectly.
The first side-panel of the third swatch is currently about a third of the way done - doesn't it look exquisite?
As for my reading: I have not written about King Arthur yet, mostly because I keep exploring additional texts! So even though I'm working through another book at the moment, I will be taking this post to discuss one of the most unexpected and fascinating aspects of the Arthurian literature I've read so far.
|William Morris' stunning rendition of Arthur|
So often we think of King Arthur in the realm of the great French romances - awash with star-crossed lovers and rogue knights and chivalric battles. Yet the roots of Arthurian literature lie in the Early Middle Ages, and these sources only bear a partial resemblance of the future developments. Here, Arthur is only in part the courtly king we've grown to accept. The powerful specter of the Celtic warlord still lingers about him, along with the surprising ghost of the Roman ruler.
The level of Classicism present in the Early Medieval and some of the High Medieval Arthurian texts is staggering. Too often the Early Middle Ages are thought of a purely barbarian time, bereft of the so-called "enlightenment" of Greco-Roman thought. In reality, classical culture seems to have played an enormous role in shaping Medieval culture - even in the earliest reaches of this era.
|The gorgeous Medieval tapestry exalting Arthur as one of the|
Nine Worthies; I had the opportunity to see it in person!
To-day [the Roman emperor] demands tribute from Britain and other islands of the sea. To-morrow he purposes in his thought to receive truage of France. Consider first the case of Britain, and how to answer wisely therein. Britain was conquered by Caesar of force. The Britons knew not how to keep them against his host, and perforce paid him their tribute. But force is no right. It is but pride puffed up and swollen beyond measure. They cannot hold of law what they have seized by violence and wrong. The land is ours by right, even if the Roman took it to himself by force. The Romans really reproach us for the shame and the damage, the loss and the sorrow Caesar visited upon our fathers. They boast that they will avenge such losses as these, by taking the land with the rent, and making their little finger thicker than their father's loins. Let them beware. Hatred breeds hatred again, and things despiteful are done to those who despitefully use you. They come with threats, demanding truage, and reproving us for the evil we have done them. Tribute they claim by the right of the strong, leaving sorrow and shame as our portion. But if the Romans claim to receive tribute of Britain because tribute was aforetime paid them from Britain, by the same reasoning we may establish that Rome should rather pay tribute to us.
Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans were resisted, still left in us a last hope of succour, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery. To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.
Tacitus is obviously the more polished of the two, but the parallels are still striking! They seem to use remarkably similar arguments for Celtic/British resistance against the Romans - they discuss their country's mortal peril, and then rousingly reveal why they possess the moral superiority to drive back Rome. Hmm - I wonder if Wace had access to Tacitus? I'll be researching that later this week!
If you're interested in reading more of Wace or the rest of Galgacus' magnificent speech, you might be interested in these sources: