King Arthur's Death

By Michael Smith

An epic poem of the fall of kings, vibrantly translated and stunningly illustrated with linocut prints by the author of Unbound’s Sir Gawain

Monday, 29 June 2020

And we're off!

Dear Subscriber,

The day has arrived! I'm sending a brief update to say that as of today,  30th June 2020, King Arthur's Death enters its final stage ready for publication in February next year. My understanding from Unbound is that you, as a pledger and patron of the book, will receive your copies much earlier than this so hopefully the wait will be shorter. 

As previously explained, the coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on the book trade worldwide as shops were shut, books waited in warehouses and even the online suppliers diverting their energies into other areas. It's been an extremely difficult and distressing time for us all.

I'm very sorry that Arthur was delayed but, in these circumstances, it made perfect sense. Perhaps, in a way, the delay has been fortuitous.

This particular strand of the King Arthur story is interesting because of its undercurrent narrative of political critique. In the last few months, across different regions and countries, we've seen the best of leadership and the worst; this poem, when originally written, held itself up as a mirror to poor leadership and its impact.

King Arthur's Death - the Alliterative Morte Arthure - is about a king who takes action against the incursions of an aggressive Roman empire only for himself, on defeating his enemies, to fall victim himself to the very qualities he sought to overcome: the overweening pride, or surquedry, of his enemies.

At the beginning of the poem, on his way to fight the Romans, King Arthur has a dream in which a bear fights a dragon. This dream is interpreted by his sages as suggesting that Arthur is morally right in taking on his enemy. But towards the end of the poem, as Arthur overreaches himself, he has another dream; this time lady fortune tells him that his days are done; his pride has come before a fall.

The attached brief video features a reading of this section from my translation. I hope it gives you a flavour of just a few of the 4500 lines of fabulous alliteration which feature within it.

This story, written sometime in the final quarter of the fourteenth century, sets itself in a political environment wracked by weak monarchy, the impact of plague, uprisings of the peasantry, abuses of power, invisible puppet masters and governmental cynicism. 

Take away the lords and ladies, knights and peasants, and this magnificent fourteenth century alliterative poem is very much a story for today. As the book now enters its final journey down the slipway to its own particular ocean, I'd like to thank you for supporting it and enabling it to come alive again. Modern day leaders, have a care!

Thank you so much for your support.


Michael Smith

PS Once the patron's list closes today (30th June), the various pledge rewards (prints, cards etc) will cease to be available so, if you have been thinking about a signed copy or ordering one of the special original linocut prints, today's the last day to secure one, which you can do simply by upgrading your pledge to the relevant pledge option. Thank you once again for your support - every pledge of support, no matter the size, has all helped make this new translation happen, for which I am truly grateful. . 


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Paul Taylor
 Paul Taylor says:

Really looking forward to having a solid rather than virtual copy of the book. Not long to wait now? Any idea when the pledged prints will become available?
Many thanks

posted 30th June 2020

Michael Smith
 Michael Smith says:

Hello Paul - I too am looking forward to it! We're hopeful that the pledger books may (that's a big "may") be available before Christmas but I'm in Unbound's hands on that (and to some extent the printers). In terms of the prints (presumably you mean one of the pledge rewards); these are normally sent out with the books. I will be packing these separately and deliver them to Unbound for mailing to patrons. Thank you for your support for my work. Michael.

posted 30th June 2020

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