Date of Award
Languages & Literature
Of all the cycles of the Arthurian Legend the cycle of Merlin is the greatest for the others are based on Merlin's prophecies. As Arthur represents the physical force in the world so Merlin represents the intellectual force, which is the guide, prophet and protector in the Arthurian Epic. In point of time Merlin is prior to Arthur, being adviser and counselor to Vortigern and to Uther who was the father of Arthur. In fact Arthur owes his birth, and victories to the wise counsels of Merlin.
In treating the subject of the Merlin theme four natural divisions can be made. Those four divisions will be followed beginning with the legend as narrated by the bards, chroniclers, romancers and the modern writers. Each division of writers has made its contribution to the legend, though continuing the general tradition. Down through the history of the literature of England the theme can be traced, however dim its path may become at times.
In searching back "through the dazzling period of the Romancers, where the brilliant imagination of the medieval writer has clothed all the scenes he depicts with a glow of noonday splendour; back through the sombre era of the Chroniclers, where, in the gray dawn of early romance, the grand outlines of the more prominent figures can be discerned with tolerable accuracy; back to the thick misty shades of bardic times, where amid the darkness of pre-historic days, the figures of heroes and enchanters loom colossally forth, like dim supernatural forms, the very haze which obscures them, magnifying their true proportions", we find Merlin first represented as a Welsh bard. (1)
Murphy, Leo, "The Merlin Theme In English Literature" (1934). Languages and Literature Undergraduate Theses. 112.