Even if the “Morte d’Arthur” had not this charm of style, it would be important in literature as giving the modern world the most easily intelligible mediæval version of what Tennyson called “the greatest of all poetic subjects.” Of the several valuable contributions of the Middle Ages to the general store of European art and thought, none is richer than their mass of legend—stories of saints and martyrs, of many local champions of more or less fame, and of a few who attaining wider fame became great epic heroes of the world. In nearly every case, poetic fame has a basis of historical fact, but most of the superstructure, and all its adornment, is popular story. Such a hero is Siegfried, 1 now the typical representative of the Germanic hero-age, but at first no better known than half a dozen other warriors, like Dietrich of Verona, whose stories grew out of the unsettling migrations of the Germanic peoples in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. Another is Charlemagne,〖See “The Song of the Volsungs” in Harvard Classics, xlix, 249ff.〗 as colossal a figure in mediæval romance as in history is the monarch who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800. An even greater epic hero of the Middle Ages is Arthur, who is much better known to English readers than the others largely because of Sir Thomas Malory.

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