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The Death of King Arthur

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  257 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
King Arthur comes to vivid life in this gripping poetic translation by the renowned poet and translator.

First appearing around 1400, The Alliterative Morte Arthure, 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
Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published (first published 1400)
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Joseph F. I was surprised at this too. Up until I read that I also saw Mordred as a simple scoundrel. I believe it means that there was a remnant of a…moreI was surprised at this too. Up until I read that I also saw Mordred as a simple scoundrel. I believe it means that there was a remnant of a conscience left in Mordred. But by this time he was so deep in his betrayal of Arthur that he had to complete what he started. Either way, he was a dead man.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 802)
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Jan 07, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it
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 obe ...more
Crossposted/edited from my blog

I’m going to start off with the disclaimer that I do not read a lot of poetry and don’t feel particularly comfortable analysing it.This makes me a bit of an uncultured idiot when it comes to trying to write a review, but I’m going to do my best. When I do read poetry – and I’m trying to do so more – my preference also lies very heavily towards old-fashioned narrative and epic poems that tell an interesting story. Since I find the King Arthur legend (or legends) one
Vicky Shirley
Jan 14, 2012 Vicky Shirley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished reading this to avoid essays. Not quite sure what I think of it. I've never really enjoyed Middle English literature in translation, partly because I'm sure a lot of the musicality of literature from that period is located in word order (which gets shifted around in modern adaptations), and the lower vowel sounds. Some of the translation throughout the poem is probably a bit too modern for my liking, but I guess you have to do so to get around things like metre which dominates alli ...more
Alex Telander
Simon Armitage’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a delight to read and well-received by many readers (it remains one of the top read reviews on BookBanter), and now Armitage is back with his new translation of The Death of King Arthur, appearing in 1400, also known as The Alliterative Morte Arthure; it is imbued with the passion and panache of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.

The story opens at a Christmas day feast where King Arthur is entertaining his round table of kn
Jul 11, 2013 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gone, abandonned
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 desp
Joseph F.
Just when I thought I covered the French Vulgate Death of King Arthur and the Mallory classic Le Morte D'arthur, along comes this overlooked English classic from the never ending corpus that is Arthurian literature. This poem dates from the 1400's and is called the Alliterative Death of King Arthur, in order to distinguish it from the Stanzaic Death of King Arthur (I guess I have to read that one next!)
It takes place after Arthur has conquered much and is having fun at Christmas with his round t
Michael Joosten
Nov 14, 2014 Michael Joosten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find myself bucking the major trend of the comments here: I didn't read Armitage and ignore Robert of Thornton; I gave Thornton a try on the first page and found that I could follow the Middle English.

Not 100% by any means! But with a little help from reading aloud, a lot of help from glancing over at Armitage to get the gist of the meaning where it wasn't clear, and with just enough sense of Middle English terminology from Tolkien to keep me afloat, I more-or-less managed it. I don't know if
May 17, 2015 Cole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arthurian, abandoned
I can't listen to this anymore. Way too much alliteration.
Mar 08, 2015 Keith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a moderately entertaining mini-epic. The story is based around Arthur’s conquering of Europe, but it is episodic – one adventure/challenge after another. There doesn’t seem to be an overarching theme, though I guess you could argue it’s about hubris. Arthur fights an ogre, sieges and sacks Lorraine, fights numerous battles, defeats the Roman armies, then returns to England to find that Mordred has usurped him.

There is very little fantastical in the poem. It is very realistic, along with
N.J. Ramsden
I've read some terrifically scathing comments (not here) regarding Armitage's language – no, he's not perfect, he takes liberties and does his own thing with it, and there might even be interpretive errors that slipped past an edit - none of which is unusual or cause for major bitterness. Armitage picked an oddity for a modern working I think, as the narrative of the piece is rather linear and simplistic, and there's clearly some medieval tubthumping going on – but broadly he's pulled it off. Ha ...more
Oct 24, 2012 Lucinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The past is brought vividly to life with such beautiful poetry that is enchanting and well written.

Those readers like myself who are fascinated with the Arthurian legends (of Merlin and Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table and Guinevere), will be captivated by Simon Armitage’s portrayal within his poetry. He recently turned the glorious poem ‘Sir Gwain and the green knight’ into something quite special (in modern English), bringing the past back to life in such a way that is current and cont
Jim Kinsey
This is one of those books I didn't enjoy so much as admire, in contrast with his Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with which I did both.

It's interesting, and certainly a quite different take on the Arthurian legend, but lacks the magic and sympathetic central character of Gawain. It does have its moments, especially toward the beginning with the dream sequences, but overall it reads like uncomplicated propaganda - the enemies are all eeeeee-vil, the knights "our brave boys" showing them how it's
J D Murray
Jan 08, 2015 J D Murray rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
An alliterative poem about King Arthur. I should love it.

I hated it. Turns out it's possible to have too much alliteration. There's a lot of violence here, and a lot of jingoistic posturing at the expense of Johnny Foreigner, and not much magic.

It's not necessarily Armitage's fault. It may be a faithful translation of an original that I would also have hated.

But I hated it.
Geeez, this is a gory tale. The challenge to reading it for me was that I wanted it to have more of a rhythm line by line. The core tale is Arthur going to Rome to avenge some slight sent by ambassador from the Roman Emperor. Arthur left Mordred on charge, and has to return to his realm to deal with the usurper. But the real meat of the poem is the alliterative (rather than rhyming) style. That and the mayhem.

For instance:
"Why flee, false knight? The Fiend have thy soul."
Then Sir Florent was in
A poem about a subject nearly as old as time itself, namely, Britain's relationship with continental Europe. Armitage's translation tells a rollicking tale and while I was unsure how the alliterative structure would work over more than 4000 lines, I fell for it soon and hard. Both reader and hearer gain much in its being read aloud. The edition that I obtained has a yellow and blue wrapper that reminds me of a history textbook from my youth and if the publisher is reading this, I urge that it be ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Cole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was pretty good. My dad read it out loud to me so it took a long time.
Feb 17, 2014 Maggie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Armitage certainly took a few liberties with the translation, but he made reading it fun so it's cool. I'm so good at this reviewing thing.
Rebecca Stevenson
An interesting curiosity, but not much to recommend here. If you're reading for the story, there isn't a lot to it; the text's focus is on the campaign against Rome. It's a straightforward war story with very little by way of mythic trappings, and the titular event is dealt with almost as an afterthought.

If you're reading for the language, the original verse is interesting enough, but I thought Armitage's "translation" added very little. The text would have been better served by a good glossary
Norman Wakefield
I loved it! Couldn't put it down!
T P Kennedy
It's a good translation but it's simply not as interesting as Gawain and the Green Knight. Armitage sticks relatively closely to his source so most of the book focuses on who unhorsed who. The alliteration is fun and it's nice to read a version where there's no moral dilemma about Lancelot. Still, I prefer Tennynson's "Morte D'Arthur".
Stuart Parr
Feb 06, 2013 Stuart Parr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good update of an ancient poem into modern language. I think a poetic form is something many fantasy and sci-fi writers can learn from - complete, epic story in a few thousand lines of poetry, much better that wading through 3 volumes of prose :)
Oct 30, 2014 Emma rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I tried to enjoy this, but it became more of a chore to read than I had hoped. It's obviously an important work, and the translation is easily accessible, but I just couldn't get into it.
Nov 03, 2011 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 10, 2013 Amaya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fanastic! Armitage does a very good job at preserving the alliteration of the original version. A must for any and all Arthurian lore lovers.
Steve Gillway
Mar 01, 2012 Steve Gillway rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I think I might enjoy having this read to me because it is the sound of the words which is important.
Alan Fricker
Sep 12, 2013 Alan Fricker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Less fun than some of the other recent armitage rewrites but worth a read
May 02, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
review soon @
Gary D.
Has the original on facing page.
Dec 25, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poem on the story of Arthur.
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“This misfortune you find is of your own manufacture.
Keep hold of what you have, it will harm no other,
for hatred comes home to the hand that chose it.”
“Oh dire, dreadful death, you drag your heels.
Why dawdle and draw back? You drown my heart.”
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