The World’s Best English Epic Poetry – Robinson’s Lancelot

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Another great poetry must read includes Edwin Alington Robinson‘s Lancelot.

Fixated upon his adulterous love-affair with the wife of his best friend: Lancelot realises things cannot go on indefinitely. Thus, when Mordred springs his trap – catching Lancelot in bed with Guinevere: the stern reality check sends his world crashing down. Lancelot gains a reprieve for himself by fighting free from Mordred’s clutches: but Guinevere is left behind to be sent to the stake and burnt for infidelity.

Lancelot, however, refuses to back down. Knowing further concealment is useless, he openly recruits his blood-relations to his side: mounting a daring rescue of Guinevere as she is led to the  pyre on the day set for her execution. Lancelot and his knights mercilessly strike down everyone in their way: their swords forcing a bloody path over the cobblestones of Camelot. But while Lancelot claims the victory: his bloody actions have already sown the seeds of his downfall: as Sir Gawain’s two unarmed brothers are soon discovered lying underneath a heap of the slain.

Gawain’s sorrow quickly turns to fury to avenge the death of his brothers: and it is Sir Gawain who animates King Arthur’s campaign to bring Sir Lancelot to justice and drive his kinsfolk out of Britain. Lancelot and his numerous relatives arm in self-defence for the upcoming retaliation: splitting Arthur’s kingdom into two opposing factions, armed and ready for a bitter civil war.

  • Gawain hates Lancelot, but Lancelot is by far the better knight. What lengths will Gawain go to to prosecute his revenge?
  • Arthur understands Lancelot’s actions – but cannot forgive losing Guinevere’s love. Is a noble death in battle perhaps the best way to permanently escape the contradictions of kingship?
  • Queen Guinevere has sent many knights to their deaths – and this weighs heavily upon her conscience. Has her time come to leave the world for the cloister, to expiate her sins, and prepare her soul to meet her Maker?

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