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The Vision of Sir Launfal

James Russell Lowell

Book Overview: 

A collection of poems by Lowell, one of the Fireside poets with Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes, and Bryant, including a sketch of his life. The collection is composed of the title piece, a retelling of an Arthurian legend, as well as 17 other poems.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . poem except the quality of generosity in the hero, who—

"gaf gyftys largelyche,
Gold and sylver; and clodes ryche,
To squyer and to knight."

One of Lowell's earlier poems, The Search, contains the germ of The Vision of Sir Launfal. It represents a search for Christ, first in nature's fair woods and fields, then in the "proud world" amid "power and wealth," and the search finally ends in "a hovel rude" where[30]—

"The King I sought for meekly stood:
A naked, hungry child
Clung round his gracious knee,
And a poor hunted slave looked up and smiled
To bless the smile that set him free."

And Christ, the seeker learns, is not to be found by wandering through the world.

"His throne is with the outcast and the weak."

A similar fancy also is embodied in a little poem entitled A Parable. Christ goes through the world to see "How the men, my brethren, believe in . . . Read More

Community Reviews

A short and delightful poem, in the Arthurian vein, that tells the tale of a wandering knight. One of Lowell's best works.

I only have a copy of the book because it was some relative's favorite poem and he would quote it every year on the first day of June. To the point where I can now say "What is so rare as a day in June, for then, if ever, come perfect days...."