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The death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage

The death of King Arthur (edition 2012)

by Simon Armitage (Translator)

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1045116,035 (3.66)22
Title:The death of King Arthur
Authors:Simon Armitage (Translator)
Info:London : Faber & Faber, 2012.
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:21st century, Arthurian, chivalry, fantasy, fiction, first edition, hardcover, King Arthur, poem, poetry, translated, UK author

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The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage (Translator)


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Fabulous poetry - both the original (quite a lot is understandable when read next to the translation) and the new verse translation. However the subject matter is not terribly interesting..... basically it is a propaganda exercise at a time when the English had been gradually losing control of the vast lands of Western France. King Arthur is repeatedly described as entitled to rule the Roman Empire as 'did all his ancestors except Uther'.
I really, really tried, got over half way through but despite the power of the verse the subject is just too dull. Lists of rich people killing or being killed in various different ways. I skipped over the rest of the book to see if there was any plot or any interest in his homecoming but it was just more of the same. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
I don't like this as much as Simon Armitage's other Middle English translation, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It's a more serious poem, I think, less playful and rich in language, but it's still pretty amazing. I can't speak for the quality of the translation right now, I haven't yet compared it with the Middle English -- I'm sure there have been liberties taken, but I think he gets across the tone of the original poem, at least. Sometimes his alliteration is a bit over the top, not quite obeying the rules; I'm not sure if the original poem is the same -- it might well be.

It's fun to read, and easy to follow -- probably less scholarly than Brian Stone's translation, and probably all the more readable for that. Interesting how much it reminds me of The Song of Roland, particularly the part where Arthur grieves over Gawain's death... ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
I really liked Simon Armitage's translation of Gawain, but I can't figure out what this is. Clearly not Morte D'Arthur; Malory's not listed as an author and it's nowhere near long enough.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
This is another superb translation of a middle English poem into modern language by Simon Armitage. Like [Sir Gawain and the Green Knight] it is an alliterative poem, with the rhymes and rhythms not coming from the ends of each line, but the alliteration within each line. The extends in this poem to stretching the alliteration over several lines. This type of rhythm seems to drag you along, it works really well with the descriptions of the battle and the action, seeming to hurry forward through these passages.

Tells the tale of king Arthur who receives at his court a summons from the Emperor of Rome to go and pay tribute. Arthur says (paraphrasing) "Blow that for a lark" and sets out to conquer Rome. It's all going swimmingly well until he has a nasty dream where he seems the lady fortune and is cast out by her and the wheel of fate turns. From here it's down hill all the way. At home his regent, Mordred has done what all regents do and turned against the crown - it's not going to end well and it doesn't. You know Arthur's going to die (the title does rather give that away) but that doesn't mean that it isn't an emotional send off that tugs at the heart strings.

I simply adore the style of writing. There is something about the alliterative style that I find just sweeps me up. I love the word play and juxtaposition of stresses in the lines. It always feels to me that I should be declaiming it, and maybe that's part of its charm - it harks back to a much older tradition, when stories were told not read.

I really ought to try some of Simon Armitage's modern work, rather than simply the translations, but these are just wonderful and he certainly has an ear for this - it is stuff of the highest quality. ( )
1 vote Helenliz | Mar 31, 2013 |
There's a lot to like in Simon Armitage's second foray into the world of Anglo-Saxon English literature. His command of the alliterative line is sure, and he manages to keep the form driving the poem forward, rather than getting bogged down in heavy sound.

Where this book falters is nothing to do with Armitage's translation. It is, as the cover blurb states, strongly concerned with "channel crossings, battle formations, naval engagements, rearguard actions and forays". In other words, it's heavy on "the carnage and horror of war", as Arthur and his men fight their way across Europe to challenge the might of the Pope in Rome. And even more than the Gawain poet, the original author of the Alliterative Morte D'Arthur goes into detail after bloody detail of the slaughter that takes place. And for me, that was where the piece as a whole suffered -- too much about battle formations and bodies cleaved in two by mighty sword blows, and not enough (despite the cover blurb's claim) about the psychology of Arthur himself, let alone the machinations of Mordred or the private thoughts of Guinevere. Despite the title, the main concern of the poem is the events that conspired to have Arthur out of the country, rather than the immediate circumstances that lead up to his death.

It is always a difficult choice when translating a poem: how closely must you stay to the original, and how much latitude can you permit yourself? In this case, I think Armitage has stayed too faithful to the original text. Some judicious editing would have balanced the poem more, and prevented interest from waning through the mid section. I would have loved Armitage to have taken more liberties, and perhaps have expanded the physiological aspects of the poem on his own terms. Less faithful to the text perhaps, but more faithful to the history of this canonical story.

In summary, it's a very decent revisioning of an important historical poem. But nowhere near as effective -- or impressive -- as his translation of Gawain. ( )
2 vote joannasephine | Feb 27, 2012 |
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Here begins the Death of Arthur.
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A new translation of the Middle English classic follows Arthur into battle and describes the death of his knights and his own poignant last moments.

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