Idylls of the King

  • by Alfred Tennyson
  • Narrated by Charlton Griffin
  • 12 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Arthurian legend of Camelot has been told many times, but never better than by Alfred Tennyson. Employing some of the most stirring and beautiful blank verse ever written, Tennyson crafted his version of the Knights of the Round Table over the course of nearly fifty years, completing it in 1885. Despite the length of time, Tennyson managed to maintain a high level of style and continuity throughout. His gift for sublime and evocative metaphor and simile has never been matched, and in this case has produced some of the most memorable lines of narrative poetry in the history of English literature. Although Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur has been called the backbone of the Arthurian legend, Tennyson's Idylls of the King is the flesh and blood. Tennyson's epic poem consists of 12 loosely connected episodes of the knights at Camelot, Arthur himself appearing as an almost Christ-like figure among them. However, though Arthur's knights represent the highest and most virtuous ideals, they sometimes fail to live up to those ideals, and their tragic flaws eventually lead to disaster. But it is this very tension between the flawed knight struggling with his own weaknesses as he confronts evil that gives Idylls of the King its compelling qualities. Some of the most dramatic scenes in the poem concern the vicissitudes of love and the daunting ethical challenges such love poses for a knight: jealousy, betrayal, and adultery. Tennyson's vision of glorious quests, Christian valor, doomed love, manly jousts, and bitter destiny have dazzled readers for well over 100 years. These endlessly inspiring, enduring lines of verse are not only entertaining, but enlightening as well. The timeless Idylls will no doubt continue to enthrall mankind for centuries to come.

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What the Critics Say

"His genius was lyrical." (W.H. Auden)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Beautiful poetry

This is wonderful poetry--descriptive, evocative and moving. The language is spell-binding. I would find myself leaving the car and thinking about the day to come in the language of Arthur and his knights.

The story is also compelling. It is a tragic and doomed tale, yet it is also noble in the characters' aspirations, efforts and, perhaps most surprisingly, self-perceptions.

Narration is the key to poetry, and Griffin's reading is absolutely superb.

There is also a fine scholarly introduction to the work, which includes an Edison recording of Tennyson himself reciting "The Charge of the Light Brigade". Not to be missed.
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- Roger

Superior Romanticism

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.
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- Troy

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-19-2007
  • Publisher: Audio Connoisseur