First appearing around 1400, The Alliterative Morte Arthur, or The Death of King Arthur, is one of the most widely beloved and spectacularly alliterative poems ever penned in Middle English. Now, from the internationally acclaimed translator of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, comes this magisterial new presentation of the Arthurian tale, rendered in unflinching and gory detail. Following Arthur's bloody conquests across the cities and fields of Europe, all the way to his spectacular and even bloodier fall, this masterpiece features some of the most spellbinding and poignant passages in English poetry. Never before have the deaths of Arthur's loyal knights, his own final hours, and the subsequent burial been so poignantly evoked.
Echoing the lyrical passion that so distinguished Seamus Heaney's Beowulf, Simon Armitage has produced a virtuosic new translation that promises to become both the literary event of the year and the definitive edition for generations to come.
©2012 Simon Armitage. All rights reserved. The text of the ‘Alliterative Morte Arthure’ printed alongside Simon Armitage’s translation is taken from the book King Arthur’s Death edited by Larry D. Benson, published by the University of Exeter Press. All rights reserved. (P)2012 AudioGo
Probably hardcore Arthur fans and Medievalists will be the only ones seeking this out, and to them I say, "what are you waiting for?"
The really cool thing about this book that the official blurb doesn't make clear is that the 10 hour length INCLUDES BOTH THE TRANSLATION AND THE MIDDLE ENGLISH ORIGINAL, as well as some short introductory essays. That means you get to hear it first in Modern English, (It's a nice translation that preserves the alliterative verse; Middle English isn't really all that different from Modern, so the translation does much less violence to the work than a verse translation of poem in a truly foreign language.) and then in Middle English… And that's great – once you've absorbed the details of the story, you can savor the sound of the original.
Though I wouldn't know correct Middle English pronunciation from wrong, (does anyone, really?) Bill Wallis seems as fluent in Middle as Modern English, and his somewhat ragged-sounding voice suits the tone of the text perfectly.
As for the story: this is a more active, classically-heroic Arthur than you see elsewhere – he fights in the front lines and wrestles with monsters. And Mordred, though still the villain, is interestingly reluctant about it at first. Lancelot has only a very minor role. It's a strange, and somehow still fresh-feeling, take.
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