T.H. White’s The Once and Future King

Julia_Margaret_Cameron_(British,_born_India_-_Parting_of_Sir_Lancelot_and_Queen_Guinevere_-_Google_Art_Project

Lancelot and Guinever, photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron

LANCELOT AND GUENEVER were sitting at the solar window. An observer of the present day, who knew the Arthurian legend only from Tennyson and people of that sort, would have been startled to see that the famous lovers were past their prime. We, who have learned to base our interpretation of love on the conventional boy- and- girl romance of Romeo and Juliet, would be amazed if we could step back into the Middle Ages— when the poet of chivalry could write about Man that he had “en ciel un dieu, par terre une déesse.” Lovers were not recruited then among the juveniles and adolescents: they were seasoned people, who knew what they were about. In those days people loved each other for their lives, without the conveniences of the divorce court and the psychiatrist. They had a God in heaven and a goddess on earth— and, since people who devote themselves to goddesses must exercise some caution about the ones to whom they are devoted, they neither chose them by the passing standards of the flesh alone, nor abandoned it lightly when the bruckle* thing began to fail.

*brittle, fragile

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