CR Episode 133: Idylls of the King, Part VI

Vivien and Merlin, by Julia Margaret Cameron
Vivien and Merlin, by Julia Margaret Cameron

Download Link: Released on 4 July 2022

The panel reads the poem that serves as the hinge in the cycle of the Idylls, “Merlin and Vivien”, looking at how Vivien uses manipulation, dissemblance, and falsehood to achieve her ends, and considering the natural ends of the law and the state.


  1. Love the podcast, especially the current series! A thought I had on “The Coming of Arthur”, as I have finally began to read the poems myself: the panel discussed the mentioning to “the Powers who walk the world” (line 106) a strangely pagan reference made by the “narrator”, who, in Tennyson’s work, does not generally favor magical and pagan interpretations of events. Perhaps we can explain this by recalling the opening of that very passage, at line 94: “Thereafter — as he speaks who tells the tale” — if the whole passage is written from the perspective of “he who tells the tale”, an ancient, pagan recording of the events, then it is this speaker who refers to the “Powers”, not the usual narrator. Just a thought — thank you for all the amazing content you have created around these rich poems!

  2. Thank you for this excellent comment: that’s a fine reading, indeed, and we’ll bring it up at the start of episode 134!

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