Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/465

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(Read at Meeting, 20th June, 1905.)

One of the central figures in the Arthurian cycle is that of the uncanny prophet and magician Merlin. His whole history is surrounded with so much mystery, and so many inexplicable incidents are interwoven in the relation of his birth and his further activity that they have baffled the ingenuity of many a scholar. I now endeavour to make a contribution towards the elucidation of some of the most prominent features of the romance. We must not forget that we are dealing with a written and not with an oral literature. The individuality of the author is more pronounced and the personal equation much easier to determine than in the anonymous remnants which have been retained by the memory of the folk. Each poem is a literary monument which must be critically examined, in the same way as we are now examining and dissecting every other literary remains of ancient times.

And here the personality of the author ought to occupy the first place. I may not have seen all that has been written on these mediæval romances, but as far as I know there is nowhere a critical study of the personality of their authors. We do not find any clear description of their lives and learning, of the circumstances under which they wrote, the influences to which they were