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

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

King Arthur's Death - here's what will happen next...

Dear Supporter,

As you know, last week my translation of the Alliterative Morte Arthure (King Arthur's Death) hit 100% funding and now takes its last steps before being handed over to the team at Unbound to turn it into a book. I thought I would just send a quick update to let you known what is happening next with the book.

  1. Firstly, as of today, I have completed all the linocut illustrations which will go in the book (some of which I made available as pledge options). In the end, there are 20 full size prints (12" x 12") going into the book in addition to about 10 smaller prints (6" x 6"). In the book, of course, they'll all be the same size - but the larger prints make it easier for me to create more complex images (even if in so doing, I spend 4 times as long producing the linocut!). The image accompanying this update features a cameo of a print I made today, featuring the mysterious, curiously saviour-like, Sir Priamus who appears half way through the poem.
  2. Secondly, the main translation (and accompanying notes) is complete. As I write, I am going through it to finesse the alliteration so that this 4300+ line poem matches the punchiness of the original poet (an unknown commentator during the reign of either Edward III, Richard II or possibly Henry IV). He has a distinct style in his writing (possibly linked to his Yorkshire/Lincolnshire origins) which I want to preserve in the way I have translated the poem. I have found that, when read aloud, the original Middle English is astonishingly powerful and rhythmic and I want this to be a feature of my translation.
  3. Once I have done this, I will read through one last time for sense, to ensure that the poem and its structure work for a modern audience. The structure of Middle English poems can occasionally catch you out, so it is important for me to do this to be sure the final translation is effective.
  4. I am also writing the introduction to the poem which will explain the context in which it was written and highlight the themes chosen by the poet. It is clear that the anonymous poet had other ideas in his head than simply writing a romance; the introduction will give the reader a solid understanding of what was in his mind when quill was put to paper some six centuries ago.
  5. Finally, I am now working on the last of the illuminated letters which are loosely based on those in Macclesfield Psalter of the 1330s. I like the decorative style of these (see the "personalised illuminated letter" pledge option for and idea how they will look); there are about 18 different letters and they will appear throughout the book and in the same places where the original poet chose to break down his own manuscript. As in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, these letters serve as a break in the narrative and indicate putative "chapters" within the work.

Publishing Timetable - I have agreed with Unbound that I will supply all of these elements to them by the end of July. Once they have the material, they will be able to advise on the design and production schedule and I will be able to share that with you in more detail when I know more. 

Once again, I would like to thank you for supporting my work. If you know of others who would like to support the book, please do pass on this update to them. I think its going to be a super book and I am indebted to you for all your support along the way.

Kind regards


Michael Smith,

Author, Translator, Printmaker

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Peter Wood
 Peter Wood says:

Many thanks for the timetable Michael. All very exciting!

posted 5th June 2019

Mark Gamble
 Mark Gamble says:

Many thanks for the update ~ looking forward to seeing this!

posted 5th June 2019

Michael Smith
 Michael Smith says:

Thank you Peter and Mark - it will be worth the wait! Michael

posted 5th June 2019

Kim Locke
 Kim Locke says:

Thank you for undertaking this translation and congrats for having it fully funded! I'm actually looking forward to seeing the linocuts and illuminated letters.

posted 5th June 2019

Michael Smith
 Michael Smith says:

Thank you Kim - I'm sorry not to be able to reveal all the illustrations beforehand but I like to hold them in reserve. Save to say, I'm really pleased with how they have emerged and how they convey the astonishing mood of this wonderful poem. I've posted up some teaser images on Twitter of the illuminated letters (the lino pieces themselves rather than the printed letters) but they will give you a flavour! Thank you for supporting the book.

posted 19th June 2019

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