BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in February 2004We've left it here for reference.More information

22 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Legacies - Oxford

BBC Homepage
 UK Index
Your stories
 Site Info
 BBC History
 Where I Live

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

Myths and Legends
Wiiliam Morris
© William Morris Gallery, London
William Morris and the Legendary

Morris the poet

Morris found that he could write poetry, and at the age of only 24, published 'The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems'. As the title indicates, Morris was strongly attracted to the Arthurian Legends, which he read in Malory’s 'Morte D’Arthur'. The title poem of the volume has King Arthur’s Queen Guenevere vigorously defending her relationship with Lancelot, against the knights’ who accused her of adultery; she then accuses Arthur of having bought her in marriage with his “great name and his little love”.

Morris at 23
© William Morris Gallery, London
It is an astonishing point of view to be expressed by a young man in early Victorian Britain, with its emphasis of fidelity and the family. Other poems derive from the account given by the historian Jean Froissart of the 14th Century wars in which England tried to retain its hold on its territories in France.

Here again Morris, though attracted by the Middle Ages, is far from glamorising what occurred then. He shows how often violence and injustice prevailed. For example, in the dramatic poem 'The Haystack in the Floods', we are shown the loving knight Robert and his lady Jehane taken prisoner by the brutal Godmar, who murders Robert before Jehane’s eyes and against her will force her back to his castle.

Words: Peter Faulkner

Pages: [ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ] Next

Your comments

Print this page
Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

Read more >
Internet Links
William Morris Society
William Morris Gallery
Morris and the Craft Movement
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
Rat running wild
Related Stories
How Germany's loss was England's gain
Andrew Marvell, man of contradictions
Meet the Bronte we don't mention

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy