William Morris Archive

Margaret Lourie


[p. 31]

The present text follows the first edition of 1858 but incorporates substantive variants which appear to be authorial and spelling corrections from the Kelmscott Press edition of 1892. Misprints which either seemed indisputable or were acknowledged on the errata slip in the first edition have been silently corrected. The textual apparatus records: 1) substantive variants in the two and a half surviving manuscripts and the five poems printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine during 1856, 2) readings from the first edition not accepted in the edited text, and 3) substantive variants in the Kelmscott Press edition which have been rejected from the text as probably nauthoritative. The appendix preserves an opening section for 'The Defence of Guenevere," a scene from "Sir Peter Harpdon's nd," and changes Morris contemplated for the 1875 reprint, none f which was ever published by the poet.

As to accidentals, I have almost always retained those of he first edition, even its frequent comma splices and missing question marks, without noting variants except in spelling. The only exception is that I have changed several mid-sentence periods to the punctuation of the Kelmscott edition, noting the original reading in the apparatus. Morris was particularly cavlier in matters of punctuation, as the extremely light and phazard punctuation in the surviving manuscripts indicates. May Morris testifies that her "father was notoriously careless in spelling common words, and he did not trouble himself much about stops" (CW I, p. xxxj). Nor was he, as his daughter elsewhere confesses, a good proofreader (CW III, p. xxviij). For accidentals, then, Morris seems to have been content to rely the judgment of his compositors. Hence, no edition seems likely to have more authoritative punctuation than any other. I have chosen to follow the first edition simply because it is closest to Morris' manuscript and, for consistency and readability, follow it even where the manuscript punctuation is known. Since I also assume that the many accidental variants in the Kelmscott Press edition are compositorial rather than [p. 32]   authorial, I do not note them even when they improve on the punctuation of the first edition.

Below is a description of the six significant Guenevere texts and a summary of the major differences among them. The three other editions mentioned are important mainly for their annotations. See Buxton Forman's The Books of William Morris Described (London: Hollings, 1897) and Temple Scott's A Bibliography of the Works of William Morris (London: Bell, 1897) for fuller bibliographical descriptions of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine and the 1858, 1875, and 1892 editions.

Manuscripts. Morris apparently celebrated the March 1858 publication of The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems by burning all the manuscripts of his early poems he could find (Mackail I, pp. 52-53). The unhappy result is that manuscripts survive for only two and a half of the poems in this volume. The Huntington Library has a manuscript for the last half of "Golden Wings," labeled pages "7" through "13" and beginning in the text at line 120. Internal evidence indicates that this was the printer's copy: line 132, which opens page 209 in the first edition, is bracketed in the manuscript and the number "209" inserted marginally. The first half of the manuscript has been lost. The British Museum has a complete six-page holograph of "The Haystack in the Floods" (Ashley Manuscript 3680). Both these manuscripts are fair copies and differ from the printed versions mainly in accidentals. Finally, Volume I of the May Morris Bequest to the British Museum (Additional Manuscript 45,298A) contains an early three-page draft of "Riding Together," then titled "The Captive," which underwent significant substantive revision before it came to print.

The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. Five of the poems in this famous volume had appeared in various issues of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine during 1856. This literary journal began as a joint venture by Morris and his Oxford friends. After demonstrating his own editorial inadequacies in the first number, Morris turned over the editorship to his friend William Fulford but retained sole financial responsibility himself. Between January and December 1856 the group produced twelve monthly numbers, largely--and not always fortunately--supplied from their own pens. By December the small group of original enthusiasts was dissolving, and Morris, who had lost both interest and money in the project, decided to give it up. Over the year he had contributed essays, tales, and poems to ten of the twelve issues. Among them, "In Prison" (embedded in the prose tale "Frank's Sealed Letter") appeared in April, "Riding Together" in May, "Hands" (which became the Prince's song in  [p. 33]  "Rapunzel") in July, "The Chapel in Lyoness" in September, and "Summer Dawn" (untitled in this first appearance) in October. In the 1858 volume "In Prison," "Riding Together," and "Summer Dawn" remain unrevised while "Hands" and "The Chapel in Lyoness" undergo slight alterations.

The first edition.

The five misprints listed on the errata slip of this edition were not all corrected until the May Morris edition for The Collected Works. Along with the five poems published in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, the first edition contains twenty-five poems which had never before been printed. There is an eighteen-page foolscap octavo of "Sir Galahad, A Christmas Mystery" bearing the imprint of Bell and Daldy, 1858. But a letter from Robert G. C. Proctor in the January 22, 1898, Athenaeum and a section in John Carter and Graham Pollard's Enquiry Into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets (London: Constable, 1934, pp. 207-210) prove conclusively that it is a Thomas J. Wise forgery, probably printed in the 1890's.

The 1875 reprint.
THE / DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE, / AND OTHER POEMS. / BY WILLIAM MORRIS. / (Reprinted without alteration from the edition of 1858.) / LONDON: / ELLIS & WHITE, 29, NEW BOND STREET. / 1875.

Besides three corrections and the inevitable printer's errors, the 1875 reprint introduced three substantive variants Which were retained in the Kelmscott Press edition: "the" was omitted from line 70 of "The Defence of Guenevere;" in "King Arthur's Tomb" "Didst ever think that queens held their truth dear" (line 264) read "Didst ever think queens held their truth for dear;" and "her" became "the" in line 311 of "Rapunzel." Because all three variants markedly improve the text and in the absence of solid evidence to the contrary, I have assumed that these revisions were authorial and admitted them to the edited text. The 1875 edition is interesting mainly because Morris meant to revise "The Chapel in Lyoness" substantially and "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" slightly before allowing the volume to be reprinted. Although the poet changed his mind about these reisions, May Morris preserves them in her introduction (CW I, p. xxij-xxv), and they appear in the appendix of this edition.

The Kelmscott Press edition.
[p. 34]
[Colophon:] HERE ends The Defence of Guenevere, and / other Poems, written by William Morris; and / printed by him at the Kelmscott Press, 14, Upper Mall, Hammersmith, in the County of / Middlesex; & finished on the 2nd day of April, / of the Year 1892. / Sold by Reeves & Turner, 196, Strand, London.

The Kelmscott Press edition offers six more corrections than the 1875 reprint but introduces seven new printer's errors. Of the nineteen substantive variants in this edition, May Morris (CW I, pp. xxv-xxvi) maintains that the author was definitely responsible for two: in "King Arthur's Tomb" he tried to regularize the meter by canceling "pray to" from line 381, and in "Summer Dawn" he rewrote line 11 to avoid a cockney rhyme. Among the remaining seventeen, I have rejected two from the edited text as patently compositorial: In "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" omission of "yet" from line 402 destroys the meter and weakens the sense, while omission of the stage direction to line 448 seems an easy oversight for a compositor and in no way strength-ens the poem. The fifteen other substantive variants, which include those carried over from the 1875 reprint, either scarcely affect the poetry or improve it slightly. For want of contrary arguments, I have admitted them all to the text in spite of my suspicion that some of them must be compositorial.

But accidentals account for far the greatest number of variants between the first and Kelmscott editions. In many in-stances these differences are more interesting for what they signify about the policy of the Kelmscott Press than for any literary implications. The type, paper, layout, and binding of all Kelmscott books were quite consciously archaic. Before making up the Golden type used in the Kelmscott Guenevere, for instance, Morris pored over the Roman characters of the fifteenth-century Venetian printer Nicholas Jenson. The same self-conscious archaism dictated several punctuation policies: diacritical marks were omitted; ampersands occasionally replaced "and's" in long lines; alternate punctuation, most often a colon, always replaced the dash; quotation marks, single rather than double, and parentheses were used sparingly. Nothing was printed in italics. And each line began flush with the left margin.

Several other differences also proceed from the fifteenth-century format of the Kelmscott Guenevere but have more interesting literary consequences. First, the full borders around the openings of "The Defence of Guenevere" and "Sir Peter Harpdon's End" isolate the four Arthurian poems as a unit. The half-border around the opening of "Rapunzel" suggests, perhaps less insistently, that this poem begins a third section of the book. Secondly, the opening stanzas of "King Arthur's Tomb"  [p. 35]  appear on the last page of "The Defence of Guenevere," a strong indication that these two poems constitute a pair--especially since all other poems in the Kelmscott edition begin on a separate page. Thirdly, "The Defence of Guenevere" is broken in-to five sections (beginning at lines 1, 11, 49, 61, and 287) with ornamented initials instead of into three-line stanzas. Fourthly, each hexameter line of "The Wind" is printed as two trimeter half-lines. Finally, ornamented initials and paragraph marks occur throughout the volume to cue the reader to change of focus or speaker, as well as to structural division.

The May Morris edition.

Reprinted in 1966 by Russell and Russell of New York, the May Morris edition has become the source for most modern re-printings of the Guenevere poems. Besides providing invaluable biographical and textual information in her introduction, Morris' daughter edited her text carefully, introducing only one Substantive error (omission of the second "you" from line 41 of "Father John's War-song") and regularizing punctuation. May Morris is, however, misleading in one respect. While claiming to follow the first edition exclusively, she surreptitiously, .if tastefully, intrudes three substantive variants from the Kelmscott edition: "there was" in line 96 of "The Defence of Guenevere," "Didst ever think queens held their truth for dear" as line 264 of "King Arthur's Tomb," and "of her" in line 2 of "Two Red Roses Across the Moon."

Other editions. Although not textually significant, three other twentieth-century editions deserve mention. Robert Steele's edition for the King's Classics (London: Chatto and Windus, 904; Boston: John W. Luce, 1907) offers a substantial introduction and twelve pages of textual and explanatory notes. More recently, Cecil Y. Lang's edition for The Pre-Raphaelites And Their Circle (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968; 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975) has provided an invaluable overview of Pre-Raphaelitism as well as scant but suggestive explanatory notes. Peter Faulkner's edition of the Early Romances in Prose and Verse (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1973) includes brief, factual annotations and an introduction to Morris' early life and work.

[p. 36]

All thirty Guenevere poems demand of their reader the intimacy with medieval and nineteenth-century literature which Morris shared with his original audience, the close friends who participated in his college experience and literary tastes. The explanatory notes in the present edition seek primarily to bridge the gap in living and reading between those Oxford friends and the modern reader. Thus, they are intended, insofar as possible, to be informative rather than interpretive. Specifically, the commentary on each poem consists of a general introductory note followed by notes to particular lines. Introductory notes supply four kinds of information:

Dating and composition. In general, there are only vague indications of composition dates for most of this volume. Mackail maintains that Morris wrote his first poem in 1855 (I, p. 51), but the May Morris Bequest to the British Museum contains one poem dated 1853. It appears from its manuscript that "Riding Together" was one of these very early poems. The four other poems printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine were probably written during 1856. As for the others, Mackail simply says that in the few months before Morris published the Guenevere volume in March 1858, he "had been producing very fast" (I, p. 134). Presumably, then, nearly all the other poems were written in late 1857 or early 1858. Whatever dating and manuscript specifics are known for each poem appear in the introductory note.

Reading guide. For several poems with elusive patterns or structures, I give some indication of how the poem seems to progress. For most of the poems in this volume, however, such an explanation seemed both unnecessary and cumbersome.

Sources and influences. Sources for or parallels with the narrative of each poem are broadly outlined in the introductory note, along with prosodic ancestors or influences. More detailed analogues and echoes appear in the notes to particular lines.

Critical studies. Critical articles focused on the poem in question are outlined and sometimes evaluated in the introductory note. Allusions to these articles sometimes recur in the line notes. These studies and those which throw light on the volume as a whole are listed in the bibliography at the end of the editorial introduction.

Notes to particular lines complement and further specify the introductory notes. Their functions are four-fold:

[p. 37]

(1) To document sources and analogues. The greatest number of line notes cite narrative sources, as often as possible by direct quotation from the editions Morris read. Some of these notes merely explain historical allusions. Others suggest analogues to earlier literary forms or folk tales. A final group records echoes or suggestions of other English poets whom Morris had read. For reliable information on works Morris certainly read before 1858, I have consulted only Mackail (passim), May Morris (AWS I, pp. 383-390), and Morris' own list of books he felt had influenced him most (reprinted in CW XXII, pp. xiijxvj).

It has been, however, impossible to discover exactly where Morris acquired his broad knowledge of medieval lyrics and border ballads. Since he spent a great deal of time scrutinizing illuminated manuscripts during his Oxford years, I assume that he knew the Balliol and Bodleian manuscript collections, as well as the collections in the British Museum and the London Guildhall. With respect to ballads, he definitely knew Scott's Minstrelsy and undoubtedly scanned a number of other collections published during the early nineteenth-century ballad revival. To indicate the wide range of Morris' reading in both medieval lyrics and border ballads, the notes often quote samples from standard modern collections. These and Morris' major sources are enumerated in the "Short Titles" section of the abbreviations.

(2) To suggest biographical antecedents. Wherever an incident or attitude from Morris' life until 1858 seems to illuminate a passage, it is recounted in a note to the appropriate line.
On rare occasions, these biographical data seemed primary enough to merit inclusion in the introductory note.

(3) To gloss difficult words or passages. Words defined or translated in standard reference works are only glossed when a book Morris read contains a parallel occurrence. Explanations of difficult passages have also been kept to a minimum.

(4) To specify critical interpretations. When critics have rendered interpretations that comment importantly on certain lines or passages, their arguments are summarized in the apropriate notes.


The bibliography below includes only published books and titles which deal with one or more of the poems in Morris' first volume and which take a literary rather than a biographal stance. Several works which seem to stress Morris' later  [p. 38]  poems have been excluded. William Morris: The Critical Heritage, edited by Peter Faulkner (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), reprints a useful selection of early reviews. William E. Fredeman's sections on Morris in Pre-Raphaelitism: A Bibliocritical Study (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965) and in The Victorian Poets: A Guide to Research (ed. Frederic E. Faverty, 2nd ed., Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968) supply bibliographical references for further study of Morris' literary career. Essays by Fredeman (1974) and, since 1977, by Allan R. Life in "Guide to the Year's Work in Victorian Poetry" (published in Victorian Poetry) update the earlier bibliographies.

1. Balch, Dennis R. "Guenevere's Fidelity to Arthur in 'The Defence of Guenevere' and 'King Arthur's Tomb.'" Victorian Poetry, 13, iii-iv (1975), 61-70.

2. Berry, Ralph. "A Defence of Guenevere," Victorian Poetry, 9 (1971), 271-286.

3. Bledsoe, Audrey Shaw. "The Seasons of Camelot: William Morris' Arthurian Poems," South Atlantic Bulletin, 42, iv (1977), 114-122.

4. Bratlinger, Patrick. "A Reading of Morris' The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems," Victorian Newsletter, no. 44 (Fall 1973), 18-24.

5. Brooke, Stopford A. A Study of Clough, Arnold, Rossetti, and Morris, with an Introduction on the Course of Poetry from 1822-1852. London: Pitman, 1908.

6. Carson, Mother Angela. "Morris' Guenevere: A Further Note," Philological Quarterly, 42 (1963), 131-134.

7. Dahl, Curtis. "Morris's 'The Chapel in Lyoness': An Interpretation," Studies in Philology, 51 (1954), 482-491.

8. Davies, Frank. "William Morris's Sir Peter Harpdon's End," Philological Quarterly, 11 (1932), 314-317.

9. Denton, Ramona. "William Morris and Rapunzel; or, What Was She Doing in Rouen?" Notes and Queries, 24 (1977),

10. Dewsnap, Terence. "Symmetry in the Early Poetry of William Morris," Notes and Queries, n.s. 4 (1957), 132-133.

[p. 39]   11. Drinkwater, John. William Morris: A Critical Study. Lon don: Secker, 1912.

12. Evans, B. Ifor. William Morris and His Poetry (Poetry and Life Series, ed. W. H. Hudson). London: Harrap, 1925.

13. Fontana, Ernest L. "Memory and Character in William Morris' 'The Judgment of God,"' Pre-Raphaelite Review, 1, ii (1978), 104-109.

14. Ford, George H. "Morris, Swinburne, and Some Others," Keats and the Victorians: A Study of His Influence and Rise to Fame, 1821-1895. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944.

15. Galyon, Aubrey E. "William Morris: The Past as Standard," Philological Quarterly, 56 (1977), 245-249.

16. Gent, Margaret. "'To Flinch From Modern Varnish': The Appeal of the Past to the Victorian Imagination," Victorian Poetry (Stratford-Upon-Avon Studies 15). London: Edward Arnold, 1972.

17. Hazen, James. "Morris' 'Haystack': The Fate of Vision," Pre-Raphaelite Review, 1, i (1977), 49-56

18. Hearn, Lafcadio. "William Morris," Pre-Raphaelite and Other Poets: Lectures. Selected and edited with an Introduction by John Erskine. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1922.

19. Hollow, John. "William Morris and the Judgment of God," PMLA, 86 (1971), 446-451.

21. Hough, Graham. "William Morris," The Last Romantics. London: Duckworth, 1949.

22. Lindsay, Jack. William Morris, Writer. London: William Morris Society, 1961.

23. Long, Littleton. "Morris and Timekeeping," Victorian Newsletter, no. 35 (Spring 1969), 25-28.

24. Lourie, Margaret A. "The Embodiment of Dreams: William Morris' 'Blue Closet' Group," Victorian Poetry, 15 (1977), 193-206.

[p. 40]   25. MacEachen, Dougald B. "Trial by Water in William Morris' 'The Haystack in the Floods,'" Victorian Poetry, 6 (1968),

26. Morris, May. "Introduction," The Collected Works of William Morris, I. London: Longmans, 1910.

27. __________, ed. William Morris: Artist, Writer, Socialist, I. Oxford: Blackwell's, 1936.

28. Noyes, Alfred. William Morris (English Men of Letters Series). London: Macmillan, [1908].

29. Oberg, Charlotte H. "Youthful Dreams of Doom: Morris as a Pre-Raphaelite," A Pagan Prophet: William Morris. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978.

30. Pater, Walter H. "Aesthetic Poetry," Appreciations. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916.

31. Patrick, John M. "Morris and Froissart Again: 'Sir Peter Harpdon's End,'" Notes and Queries, n.s. 6 (1959), 331-333.

32. "Morris and Froissart: 'Geffray Teste Noire' and 'The Haystack in the Floods,'" Notes and Queries, n.s. 5 (1958), 425-427.

33. Perrine, Laurence. "Morris's Guenevere: An Interpretation," Philological Quarterly, 39 (1960), 196-200.

34. Post, Jonathan F. "Guenevere's Critical Performance," Victorian Poetry, 17 (1979), 317-327.

35. Raymond, Meredith B. "The Arthurian Group in The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems," Victorian Poetry, 4 (1966),

36. Reed, Michael D. "Morris' 'Rapunzel' as an Oedipal Fantasy," American Imago, 30 (1973), 313-322.

37. Sadoff, Dianne F. "Erotic Murders: Structural and Rhetorical Irony in William Morris' Froissart Poems," Victorian Poetry, 13, iii-iv (1975), 11-26.

38. "Imaginative Transformation in William Morris' 'Rapunzel,'" Victorian Poetry, 12 (1974), 153-164.

[p. 41]   39. Scott, W. Dixon. "The First Morris," Men of Letters, intro. Max Beerbohm. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916.

40. Short, Clarice. "William Morris and Keats," PMLA, 59 (1944), 513-523.

41. Silver, Carole G. "'The Defence of Guenevere': A Further Interpretation," Studies in English Literature, 9 (1969), 695-702.

42. Spatt, Hartley S. "William Morris and the Uses of the Past," Victorian Poetry, 13, iii-iv (1975), 1-9.

43. Staines, David. "Morris' Treatment of His Medieval Sources in The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems," Studies in Philology, 70 (1973), 439-464.

44. Stallman, Robert L. "'Rapunzel' Unraveled," Victorian Poetry, 7 (1969), 221-232.

45. ___________. "The Lovers' Progress: An Investigation of William Morris' 'The Defence of Guenevere' and 'King Arthur's Tomb,'" Studies in English Literature, 15 (1975), 657-670.

46. Stevenson, Lionel. The Pre-Raphaelite Poets. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.

47. Thompson, E. P. William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. Rev. ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977.

48. Thompson, Francis. "Pre-Raphaelite Morris," Literary Criticisms. Newly Discovered and Collected by the Rev. Terence L.

49. Connolly, S.J. New York: Dutton, 1948.

50. Thompson, Paul. The Work of William Morris. London: Heinemann; New York: Viking, 1967.
Tinker, Chauncey B. "William Morris as Poet," Essays in Retrospect: Collected Articles and Addresses. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948.

51. Tompkins, J. M. S. "The Work of William Morris: A Cord of Triple Strand," Dalhousie Review, 50 (1970), 97-111.

52. Welby, T. Earle. The Victorian Romantics, 1850-1870: The Early Work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Burne-Jones, Swinburne, Simeon Solomon and Their Associates. London: Howe, 1929

[p. 42]   53. Wolff, Lucien. "Le Sentiment medieval en Angleterre au XIXe siecle et la premiere poesie de William Morris," Revue Anglo-Americaine, 1 (Augus 1924), 491-504; 2 (October 1924), 29-38.