Lyonesse - shadow island of the Atlantic
September 27, 2008 5:26 AM   Subscribe

In Tennyson´s epic poem Idylls of the King, Lyonesse is the place where the final, epoch-shattering battle between Mordred and King Arthur takes place. In the older Arthurian romances, Lyonesse is the birthplace of Sir Tristan, and it is supposed to have bordered Cornwall in the southwest of England. No historical evidence of Lyonnesse has been found, and the academic consensus seems to be that the French author of the Prose Tristan got his British geography catastrophically wrong, and that he really meant Lothian in Scotland. There are, however, those who believe that Lyonesse was a real realm which once reached from the Scilly Islands to Land´s End. The people of Penzance and southwestern Cornwall certainly seem fond of stories about sunken lands, church bells in the deep, and drowned forests. According to family legend, the ancestor of the local Trevelyan family was a sole survivor who rode across the causeway to Cornwall as Lyonesse crumbled into the sea behind him.
posted by the_unutterable (14 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent post, thanks. Perfect for a Saturday with nothing to do.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:42 AM on September 27, 2008

You missed a perfectly good opportunity to reference Jack Vance.

Seriously, though, thanks for the post. I love the imagery of glimpsing above-ground structure under the sea whenever I encounter it (usually in fiction).

There's also an interesting use of the sunken city in Delany's Neveryona. I guess I could make a whole nother post with uses of the imagery in modern fiction, but I'm not going to bore anyone with that.
posted by selfnoise at 5:44 AM on September 27, 2008

sunken cities

(Includes link to this Celtic site)

Nice post!
posted by languagehat at 6:30 AM on September 27, 2008

excellent post! thank you!
posted by jammy at 6:35 AM on September 27, 2008

I´m quite fond of the poem Sunk Lyonesse by Walter de la Mare, even though you have to dock some points for that "marble flowers bloom for aye" bit. Like much of de la Mare´s poetry, it is quite evocative, and there is a marvellously well-crafted rhythm to it.
posted by the_unutterable at 7:03 AM on September 27, 2008

You might enjoy medieval illustrations from a French Prose Tristan at the British Library, such as this depiction of a knight, a ship and a guy in a rowboat. La Bibliothèque nationale de France provides manuscript images online through the Mandragore database, including this illuminationof Tristan's return to Cornwall from a fifteenth-century manuscript of tristan de léonois. For more Tristan images, maybe try searching for "Tristan" (or Lancelot, whatever) under the "Images" column in "Descripteur1" field, then click "Rechercer." Enjoy : )
posted by woodway at 7:07 AM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

...should have said click "chercher." Apparently, I can't spell words correctly in any language. Um, the pictures are nice though, and really, really old.
posted by woodway at 7:11 AM on September 27, 2008

Thanks so much for this!
posted by Evangeline at 7:12 AM on September 27, 2008

God, I love this stuff. Thanks!
posted by peachfuzz at 7:56 AM on September 27, 2008

Kind of related: sunken land was found off the north coast of Northern Ireland recently. Nothing says when it sank or how they would know.
posted by dilettante at 8:25 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Good post!
posted by Justinian at 12:04 PM on September 27, 2008

Excellent post. Thanks!

There are those who think Atlantis was in Ireland.
posted by homunculus at 12:57 PM on September 27, 2008

Thanks a lot for those links to illuminated documents, Woodway. Mandragore is an absolute gold mine :-)
posted by the_unutterable at 12:58 PM on September 27, 2008

Marvelous post. The beaten, battered, and despairing English major inside me thanks you.
posted by kjh at 1:43 PM on September 27, 2008

« Older He Chose ... Poorly.   |   Paul Newman is dead Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments