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Monday, August 20, 2012

The world was fresh and young: Howard Pyle

Upon that quest, Sir Percival and Sir Ewaine rode together for the sake of companionship. And they made agreement to travel together in that wise until the fortunes of adventure should separate them.
So they rode side by side in very pleasant companionship, taking the way that chance led them, yet everywhere seeking for news of Sir Launcelot, of whom they could find no word of any sort.
In those days the world was very fresh and young, so that it was great pleasure to journey in that wise, for anon they two rode beneath blue skies and anon through gentle showers, anon up hill and anon down dale, anon through countryside, anon through town, anon through forest and anon through wold. Yea; in those days, when the world was young, all things of life were so gay and joyous that it was little wonder that good knights like those twain took delight in being abroad in that wise, for so they might breathe more freely, out in the wider expanses of God's world, and so the spirit within them might expand to a greater joy of life than would be possible in court or in lady's bower. - Howard Pyle, The Story of Sir Launcelot and His Companions, public domain. (Originally published in 1907)

Pyle was an illustrator, primarily of children's books -- this one was meant to be one. I first read it, and its three companion volumes, from my elementary school library, more than six decades ago. Pyle was considered to be an excellent artist, as well as a teacher of other well-known artists -- see the Wikipedia article on him. His most important pupil was probably N. C. Wyeth. The article says that Pyle's pirate book is largely responsible for the way current popular culture (such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series) shows pirates.

His idea of the world being somehow better during the time of King Arthur is interesting, and attractive, and it was probably one of the attractions of his series on Camelot, but I'm not sure that it is valid. The book which is the source of the quotation, and other books by Pyle, are available free from Project Gutenberg.

Thanks for reading.

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