English Lamp Posts Top Victorian Blog Award Winner 2011

Brought to you by English Lamp Posts

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Balin and Balan

This idyll tells the story of twin brothers who are knights of Arthur's Round Table.  Arthur restores Balin's knighthood while Balan volunteers to kill the demon of the woods who has killed one of Arthur's knights.  Balin remains behind and develops true admiration for Guinevere and Lancelot before chancing upon them in the garden and seeing them talking about their supposed affair and does not want to believe it:  "Queen? subject? but I see not what I see./Damsel and lover? hear not what I hear."  He leaves the court to find his brother and hears of the rumor from Garlon, whom he fights, and the evil Vivien, who adds lies to his suspicions.  When Balan approaches Balin, he mistakes him for the woods demon and they kills one another.

This idylls contains much garden and forest imagery.  We first meet the brothers while they are sitting beside a fountain "from underneath a plume of lady fern."  When they return as knights at Arthur's court, they encounter a "woodland wealth/Of leaf, and gayest garlandage of flowers, along the walls and down the board."  In the woods dwells a demon who practices black magic.  Balin's temperament is described as "a flame/That rages in the woodland."  In the garden, "A walk of roses ran from door to door;/A walk of lilies crost it to the bower," and Balin sees Lancelot and Guinevere, who declares to the knight "we have ridden before among the flowers."  Balin, after he has fed from Garlon, finds himself unworthy of carrying a shield bearing the Queen's crown and hangs the shield on a branch in the woods, falls asleep in a glade, and is awakened by Vivien, who rides through the forest singing a song praising lust and plots to bring down Arthur and his knights.  She poisons Balin's mind with lies about Lancelot and Guinevere.  There in those woods, he and his brother Balan die.

The woods and the garden represent the weakness of the human flesh.  The garden is where Lancelot and Guinevere have met at least once before and where they carry on their relationship.  They place themselves outside in the open, a vulnerable position where they could be discovered easily.  Similarly, Balin subjects himself to vulnerability when he falls asleep in the woods.  He is at the mercy of nature and awakens to be tricked by Vivien.  Finally, just before dying, Balan states that the woods are where Vivien dwells and "dallies with (Garlon)."  The woods are where man gives in to the desires of the flesh and not a proper dwelling place for the knights of Arthur's Round Table.

The above drawing is The Death of Balin and Balin (1902) by H. J. Ford.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails