Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Maybe I’m just biased, but I’ve always enjoyed this book. This rendition of it made me fall in love with it all over again.

I love the Arthurian legends, but this used to be merely one of the collection for me. Superior as a story, but I don’t think I appreciated blank verse poetry nearly as much back then. The last few years, I’ve made some personal strides on the poetic front, having learned how to finally appreciate Shakespeare, Chaucer, Byron, Shelley, and a great many others. Having returned to this one after a few years with this new appreciation, this might very well be my favorite version of the Arthur tales now. Funny how that happens sometimes.

I’ve picked up Audio Connoisseur titles in the past, and I’ve been impressed by them, both in quantity of extra information and in appreciation of the narrator. For most of my experiences, Charlton Griffin has been the performer. This guy is amazing when it comes to delivery in the classic style. I highly recommend his version of Milton’s Paradise Lost for comparison.

What kind of extras are here? There is a bio of Tennyson, which I always find helpful. Knowing the artist makes for better appreciation of the art. There is an Edison recording of Tennyson reading his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” which for an old radio geek like me is awesome beyond words. Fair warning: you’ll want a print copy to read along with because the quality is less than acceptable, but still… it’s cool to have it there anyway. There is extended synopsis and analysis, so nobody’s expecting you to be dropped in head first. And before the Idylls get going, there’s Griffin’s performance of Tennyson’s classic “The Lady of Shallot.” I truly wish more of his related poetry had made it into this collection, but I’ll take what I can get.

On a personal appreciation level, I’ve found that digging into Arthurian legend and the medieval history that inspires it to be every bit as complex as digging into Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. It’s easy to connect the dots back and forth too, the more you dig. No doubt that has a considerable amount of my newfound appreciation for this work. Granted, most people won’t do that kind of work unless it’s a specialization for them. I’m strictly an amateur on this, not a tenured professor or anything, but I’ve been around the block enough to see an evolution in how these stories are put together. Combine that with a recently-gained appreciation for the poetic, which I’ve mentioned, I can look at this work in a number of ways. I see it as a pinnacle of the Arthurian legend, certainly. But I can also see it as the pinnacle of the Victorian quest to reignite the flame of romantic chivalry. That speaks to me. If that idea speaks to you as well, then I highly recommend this one.

5 stars

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