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Idylls of the King

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  6,787 ratings  ·  142 reviews
Alternate cover edition of ISBN10: 0140422536; ISBN13: 9780140422535

Written in the middle of his career, Idylls of the King is Tennyson's longest and most ambitious work. Reflecting his lifelong interest in Arthurian themes, his primary sources were Malory's Morte d'Arthur and the Welsh Mabinogion. For him, the Idylls embodied the universal and unending war between sense a
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 5th 1989 by Penguin Books Limited (first published 1885)
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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
Best Arthurian Fiction
12th out of 375 books — 1,260 voters
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
The Arthurian Legend Retold
14th out of 394 books — 650 voters

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Community Reviews

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I have a beautiful, old edition of this book. I wish I could show you.

On the book marker, in old-fashioned cursive, it says,
Merry Christmas
To Lottie

This is a truly beautiful work. Enchanting. Mesmerizing, really.
There is just one little thing though...
I'd heard rumblings of this book being misogynistic. Loving Tennyson as I do, I refused to believe it. Basically, I read the book like this:
"Well, that's not necessarily sexist...Okay, it is. But, surely he didn't intend...Okay, he d
I have read my softcover copy so many times it is falling apart. I really need to get a nice, illustrated, hard cover. I read this book several times a year. And sob hysterically at the end so that I can hardly finish. The saddest lines for me are (spoken by Arthur to Guinevere visiting her in the nunnery before the final battle with Modred):

"Thou hast not made my life so sweet to me,
That I the King should greatly care to live;
For thou hast spoilt the purpose of my life."

The agony in those lines
This book was every bit as beautiful as I could imagine. I had previously loved and read The Lady of Shalott. Idylls, however, is a testament to his love and knowledge of Arthurian legend.

You'll likely walk away from this book with lots of favorite passages. And you might fall in love with the characters of this legend all over again.

Lancelot - "...a dying fire of madness in his eyes"

Percivale - "Had heaven appear'd so blue, nor earth so green, For all my blood danced in me, and I knew That I s
Geraint & Enid still rock, although today their story would probably be featured on an episode of Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? on the Investigation Discovery channel.

Ain't no wimmens gonna put up with a control-freak like Sir Geraint. Just sayin'...

Just finished this one for my Victorian Literature seminar. I will admit that the prospect of reading a 300+ page long poem was daunting, but well, well worth it. I have always admired Tennyson's work. This one is a bit different though. The language is not as resonant, but the imagery is spectacularly beautiful. Also, lots of lovely moments of universal truth within the story. They pop out of nowhere sometimes. The characters have a liquid, uncertain quality, bringing a whole lot of ambiguity t ...more
David M.
There are certain books, or authors, that don't hold up to modern political correctness. Mark Twain is one of them; Huckleberry Finn is constantly under threat to be banned from American schools. Robert E. Howard's protagonists routinely face villains who embody the worst of early twentieth century stereotypes. But Tennyson, in Idylls of the King comes under fire for his female characters in his series of epic poems concerning King Arthur and his valorous knights. What is not generally kept in m ...more
Clif Hostetler
Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson was etched into my memory as a famouse classic from an early age thanks to the card game, "Authors." So now, sixty years later, I finally got around to seeing what the story was all about. The final nudge to read it came from a book group so I had the pleasure of discussing the book with others.

So what did I learn? It's the story of King Arthur in blank verse and iambic pentameter, about a hundred pages worth. It's divided into twelve different stories
Bryn Hammond
As usual, I thought right up there the short story of Balin, who is to blame for his own tragedy ('My violences, my violences!').

Darker than I had expected and gutsier. I think I decided to read this at last after I saw a book on Tennyson's battle poetry. How he wrote 54 battle poems and had a genuine feel for the 'heroic ethos' of ancient fiction to which he was devoted. Fair enough, I thought. Tried a couple of short ones: his Boadicea is as bloody as she came, and I throbbed to 'The Revenge:
This particular book is not an edition of Tennyson's work, Idylls of the King, as a whole. It's an abridged version, essentially, with selections from Tennyson's poetry contextualised by brief prose. The reason I have this edition is, of course, the illustrations included, those done by Gustave Doré. Many of them are really spectacular, capturing perfectly the mood of the pieces and scenes.

Tennyson's poetry is, of course, powerful and problematic, but I'll review that in itself another time.
From BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3:
Alfred Lord Tennyson's epic poem The Idylls of the King, narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith and adapted by Michael Symmons Roberts.

Laurel Hicks
Ah, Tennyson! It feels like coming home. This book is music to me.
[Name Redacted]
"A deathwhite mist slept over sand and sea:
Whereof the chill, to him who breathed it, drew
Down with his blood, till all his heart was cold
With formless fear; and even on Arthur fell
Confusion, since he saw not whom he fought.
For friend and foe were shadows in the mist,
And friend slew friend not knowing whom he slew;
And some had visions out of golden youth,
And some beheld the faces of old ghosts
Look in upon the battle; and in the mist
Was many a noble deed, many a base,
And chance and craft and stre
I started out kinda dreading this novel because of a) it's thickness and b) its confusingly written self, but as I read it and (cough used some helpful "guides") I have grown to long to read it. It is exciting and interesting and sophisticated. As of now (I am in Balan and Balin) I like it. (November 14)

I have now finished this novel and I enjoyed it. My favorite stories were Gareth and Lynette, The Marriage of Geraint, Geraint and Enid, Lancelot and Elaine, Pelleas and Ettare, and mm yes, those
I could give you a hundred literary reasons to read these poems. I could talk about how Arthur mirrors Tennyson's own time. I could point out that Tennyson is one of the greats. The real reason why I love this book, why I love these poems is simply the poem "Gareth and Lynette". There are times when a reader feels truly connected to an author. Not in the sense of the written word being read, but in the sense of learning something about the author that also applies to the reader. For instance, le ...more
Roland Allnach
A venture of epic poetry, this is Alfred Lord Tennyson's take on the Arthurian legends. An incredible read in its own right, but, when taken in relation to Malory, Tennyson's work highlights the passion, tragedy, and Romanticism that sometimes was left at a simmer in Malory's work. Tennyson's work is more 'fantastic' than Malory's, and his descriptions of Camelot are as awe inspiring for the reader as they are for the characters he follows. For those familiar with Malory, Tennyson does not paral ...more
Ben Loory
it's beautiful; tennyson just has the best ear. the whole thing just demands to be read aloud, and not just read but almost sung. storywise it sags a bit in the middle but really pulls it out at the end. (it's not really a single epic, more a collection of linked poems (and a collection written over a period of 25+ years.)) my favorites were "Gareth and Lynette" (by far) and "Lancelot and Elaine." strangely i think the weakest is the one about the holy grail.

Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and
Mike (the Paladin)
I have more read "in" this than read it "through" at once. I found I loved Tennyson at a time when I had, quite a bit of time on my hands. Tennyson has a voice unlike any you'll find in contemporary writing. In this and other verse he conveys action and emotion. He seems obsessed with misunderstanding, rumor and false assumptions.

Excellently expressed. Enjoy.
Benji Cossa
Beautiful. Late in the game for the Arthurian reader (19th C), but he surely keeps the flame alive. Really inspirational. If the Arthurian Vulgate Cycle were the blues, he'd be... someone awesome.
Peter Townsend
There are a lot of accounts of King Arthur of which I have read a few. Most of the installments of this "Once and Future King" focus on the fantastical and adventurous nature of the tale. They keep us engaged and want to transport us to watch Arthur and his table round but it is Tennyson that breaths the humanity into these amazing tales. And if that isn't reason enough to want to read this piece, the poetry is beautiful, lavish and deep. "Authority forgets a dying king." As Arthur lies dying, t ...more
I. Hated. This. Book. So. Much.
Timothy Darling
The Idylls are a wonderful presentation of the legend of King Arthur. I think they are worthy of special note because so seldom has the legend been treated by a great English poet. Not even Shakespeare, for some reason, considered it a worthy topic.

That said, the cycle is uneven in its presentation, sometimes lofty, sometimes cryptic, sometimes atmospheric and sometimes just plain hard to follow. Tennyson shows very well the height, transition, and degradation of the round table, but it bears wi
“If Malory's "Le Morte D'Arthur" is the skeleton of Arthurian literature then Tennyson's "Idylls of the King” is its flesh and blood”, I’ve seen this praising phrase in several places and it’s quite true. This is an epic poem containing twelve loosely connected stories/poems narrating the adventures and romances of the King Arthur and the knights of Camelot, so what’s not to love.

Each section deals with story a knight or several knights of King Arthur's court. Their adventures and romances are
So this was a reread for a paper I am working on, so I know the text pretty well. One of my favourite things about it is that it is easy to read in episodes and each section has its own voice. I always find something new with each reading and my feelings towards each of the characters changes subtly over time, particularly as my critical focus moves from idyll to idyll. While this Arthuriad is a dramatic shift from those readers familiar with the medieval texts and the more overt stle of current ...more
If you're thinking of reading "Idylls of the King," my guess is that you're not expecting a progressive modern treatment of gender, gender roles, marriage, and sexuality. The Victorian conception of gender is the hub around which the work revolves; and--spoiler alert--unless you're pretty old-school, you're likely to find it off-putting, confusing, and possibly offensive. If I hadn't recently been reading about Victorian ideals of gender and marriage, I would have been even more baffled than I w ...more
Baley Whary
Feb 05, 2010 Baley Whary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Baley by: teacher
Idylls of the King is Tennyson's take on Malory's version of the stories of Arthur. It is well told, very poetic, and quite an interesting read. Tennyson "cleans up" Malory's version (leaving out any blatant sexual scenes), but it doesn't seem to lose any value because of that. We still see that Guinevere and Lancelot have an affair (though it isn't explicitly detailed), and there is still murder, vengeance, love, loyalty, and valor to round out the story.

The books (idylls) move from good to bad
Okay, not really medieval literature, and not really "classic," but some of the poetry in Tennyson's romanticized versions of these tales had me in tears. Especially the first couple chapters, and "Guinevere." As a lover of medieval lit a lot of it is quite thematically accurate, because there is something particularly stirring about lines like this:

Reign ye, and live and love, and make the world
Other, and may thy Queen be one with thee,
And all this Order of thy Table Round
Fulfil the boundless
Mike McArtor
Some of the stories were better than others.

I skipped the second story about Geraint and Enid, as he had no redeeming qualities and she was stuck in a crappy marriage; everything bad that happened in that story could have been avoided if she just talked to him.

All of the women in these stories were either caged songbirds or portrayed as villains. Or, you know, to mix it up a little a few were both. The only women who proactively did stuff tended to die.

I don't know if it's just how the Arthur
Rachel McEleney Freebury
Okay I'll admit I would never have picked up this book if it has't been part of my course requirements. But I'm glad it was. There were bits that were boring, but most of it was so beautifully written that I found myself re-reading. I particularly loved Merlin and Vivien's poem:
'Says she not well? and there is more--this rhyme
Is like the fair pearl-necklace of the Queen,
That burst in dancing, and the pearls were spilt;
Some lost, some stolen, some as relics kept.
But nevermore the same two sister
This has long been on my list of books I want to have read but don't really think I'll enjoy them. Boy was I wrong. This was fantastic! I thought it was going to be this very manly adventure poem. All fighting and death. It wasn't at all. Really emotional, beautifully written. Loved every bit of it.
Aug 20, 2007 hypothermya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anachronistic poets and romantics
I specifically own an edition of this book that was published by The Heritage Press in 1939. This edition was illustrated by one Robert Ball; who has a manner of illustration that is quite detailed and evocative. When I was younger, I was quite in love with romantic poets -- Tennyson and Yeats being the two I best remember -- and when I saw this edition of Idylls of the King I couldn't resist buying it. The illustrations add another element to the already masterful and vivid poems written by Ten ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Wrong description for edition 2 12 Oct 05, 2013 06:33AM  
  • Arthurian Romances
  • The Mabinogion
  • The Ring and the Book (Broadview literary texts)
  • A Shropshire Lad
  • The History of the Kings of Britain
  • Le Morte d'Arthur, Vol. 2
  • The Death of King Arthur
  • The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
  • The Lady of the Lake
  • Tristan: With the Tristran of Thomas
  • The Arthurian Encyclopedia
  • The Romance of Arthur, New, Expanded Edition: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation
  • The Romance of Tristan
  • The Lais of Marie de France
  • Parzival
  • Don Juan
  • The Faerie Queene
Alfred Tennyson was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, the fourth of the twelve children of George Tennyson, clergyman, and his wife, Elizabeth. In 1816 Tennyson was sent to Louth Grammar School, which he disliked so intensely that from 1820 he was educated at home until at the age of 18 he joined his two brothers at Trinity College, Cambridge and with his brother Charles published his first book, Po ...more
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“Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of: Wherefore, let thy voice,
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.”
“This madness has come on us for our sins.” 6 likes
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