Martyn Skinner's The Return of Arthur (book-length poem)


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
Quite a few years ago, I read Skinner's Letters to Malaya I-V with enjoyment. Now I propose to take up this hefty book -- the one-volume edition.

John Betjeman, quoted on the dustjacket of my 1966 Chapman and Hall edition: "This is a modern epic, easy to read and an amazing piece of sustained, imaginative writing. There are moments of beautiful description and of pathos as well as of satiric humor."

The inner flap says the poem tells of "the return of King Arthur to a post-Orwellian England." It continues, "The Return of Arthur, with its easy, supple style, its terrifying vision of a technocratic hell, its flashes of beauty and its deft satire of modern times, bids fair to outlast the work of many poets who have attracted more attention in recent years."

I'm used to launching threads that attract little interest (Phyllis Paul, anyone?), but -- why not?


The book Radio Camelot: Arthurian Legends on the BBC, 1922-2005 by Roger Simpson refers to Skinner's "fine Arthurian trilogy in ottava rima." That's what the one-volume edition gathers.

Here is a very appreciative obituary of Skinner, from The Independent:
Obituary: Martyn Skinner

The epigraph from Johnson on the title page of The Return of Arthur: "To tell of disappointment and misery, to thicken the darkness of futurity and perplex the labyrinth of uncertainty, has always been a delicious employment of the poets."

How could I resist?
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Dale Nelson on an “Easy to Read” Modern Arthurian Epic

you will find out a fair bit about The Return of Arthur. It certainly is one of the major Arthurian efforts in 20th-century British writing. Somebody who likes compare-and-contrast thinking might set it side by side with T. H. White's Arthurian books, though Arthur and Merlin are not on stage a lot in Skinner's poem. It's very readable and lively.
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