The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage audiobook

The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation

Translated by Simon Armitage
Read by Bill Wallis

Blackstone Publishing, Blackstone Publishing
10.32 Hours Unabridged
Format: Digital Download (In Stock)
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    ISBN: 9781482982060

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    ISBN: 9781482157390

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    ISBN: 9781609987381

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.

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Summary

Summary

A Poetry Book Society Choice

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.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“A new standard in the enterprise of bringing the past back into poetry.” Wall Street Journal
“Armitage’s spectacular translation…renders this anonymous poem into modern English lines that command your full allegiance…With captivating articulation, these lines growl and roar and hiss in a way that reminds us just how much our preference for rhyme over alliteration has cost us. And amid all the viscera and gore, we find such startling moments of intimacy and grief, expressed by soldiers wholly unconstrained by our narrow, modern-day expectations of manhood.” Washington Post
“Invitingly ingenious and inventive.” Guardian (London)
“Armitage, on top form, renders [Arthur] expertly.” Independent (London)
“Armitage has triumphed…The verse requires attention; but, once you are attuned to the alliterative structure, it’s as swift as the swish of a sword.” Spectator

Reviews

Reviews

by Bertie Wooster 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

The Death of a Purist

Or, Have I Been Unfair to Simon Armitage?

Once upon a time, when people tried to make ancient and medieval literature “relevant” and “accessible” I would cringe. “The work is already relevant.” my inner curmudgeon snarled, “that’s why it has survived so long. Make yourself accessible to it, not the other way around. You’re sidestepping an opportunity to enter the mindset of our ancestors. Oh…and grow up, too.”

What can I say? I was a curmudgeon. A purist. The problem with purists is that they wind up alone, like Robespierre in that chilling cartoon, guillotining the executioner, the last man in France save himself, all in the name of political purity.

After all, there is accessibility then there is accessibility. Dumbing down an ancient tale is one thing. Making it flow for a modern reader is quite another. And in my curmudgeon-hood I tended to conflate the two.

That was probably because I have a fair ability to spell my way through Chaucer’s Middle English and, if I was feeling especially fresh and bright, the patience to stumble through the more northern, remote and forbidding Middle English of the Gawain Poet—a language that includes letters we don’t even use anymore. So when someone tried to “modernize” or make those texts “relevant”, I had a fair idea of what was being changed and an even better idea of what was being lost.

Therefore I treasured, for example, J. R. R. Tolkien’s translation of Gawain and the Green Knight. It struck me as a conscious effort to be as true as possible to the original language while still making the sledding a little easier for us moderns. I felt I was cheating when I used Neville Coghill’s excellent re-workings of Chaucer, but had to admit I never really experienced the full power, delight and sweep of the stories—especially Troilus and Cressida—until I read Coghill.

But when Armitage came out a few years back with his version of Gawain and the Green Knight, I was dubious. Unlike Tolkien or the excellent version by Benedict Flynn (available here at Downpour), Armitage seemed to me to take an almost school-boyish delight in stepping farther than other translators across the line into intentional, almost thumb-in-your-eye modernisms.

That’s why I was so surprised (and delighted) when I started listening to this recording of The Death of King Arthur.

When spoken, patently modern words like “raptor”, “insurgent” and “radicals” and phrases like “coast is clear” or “team leader” make far less of an impression as they take their place in the avalanche of alliteration. Bill Wallis is the perfect voice and has the perfect attitude as he reads the heroic, tragic and yes, even comic stretches of the poem. Armitage’s excellent introduction deftly sets the historical and cultural context, explains the verse form with and presents the problems he faced as a translator, from shifting verb tenses to missing lines that time had erased (in the only text of this poem we have). The poem itself, the story, is, as Armitage makes clear, masterfully constructed and, like Gawain, a very human, gripping portrayal of our royal protagonist.

Best of all? Because Armitage’s book is dual language—the original presented on the left-hand page with his translation on the right—the recording is, too. The second half is Bill Wallis reading the poem in all its primordial glory. No, I don’t understand everything. But I love every word. Though written at the cusp of the Renaissance, The Death or Arthur is, like Gawain, part of a resurgence of Anglo-Saxon poetry that took place in the late 13th and early 14th Centuries and therefore sounds a lot older than it really is.

Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD
Category: Nonfiction/Poetry
Runtime: 10.32
Audience: Adult
Language: English