"Near Avalon," written in 1858, was part of Morris' first volume of poetry, The Defense of Guenevere, a piece he dedicated to Rossetti. This volume received mixed reviews from his contemporaries who deemed it as too medieval and heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, implying that Morris was too concerned with morbidity, sexuality, and death for this piece of work to align with the decorum and good taste of the Victorians. "Near Avalon" resembles Browning's poems as many of them are dramatic narratives. The imagery in "Near Avalon" seems to be a predominate component of this short narrative. The poem abruptly commences with a descriptive stanza explaining the scene, allowing the reader to immediately become one with the poem:
A ship with shields before the sun,
Six maidens round the mast,
A red-gold crown on every one,
A green gown on the last.
Certain structures and words reappear more than once in the poem such as "banners," "a ship withÉ," and "heaumes." Morris makes a sharp contrast from the beginning of the poem to the end, with a marked difference in tone. Morris concludes the poem on a sorrowful tone:
The tatter'd scarlet banners there,
Right soon will leave the spear-heads bare,
Those six knights sorrowfully bear
In all their heaumes some yellow hair.
Morris pays close attention to the detail of this poem and follows a simplistic rhyme scheme, what does this say about the message of the poem.
Many of Morriss critics did not agree with his use of medieval themes in his poetry. If Morris's intended audience was not his critics, then who do you think the audience for this poem was?
Which one of Browning's poems do you think most closely resembles "Near Avalon"? Can you see Browning's or the PRB influence in this poem?
Why do you suppose Morris chose this type of rhyme scheme? Do you think it is an effective way of expressing his ideas? What do you think was the main idea of the poem?
Last modified 13 November 2004