Charles Williams (1886-1945)

Taliessin Terms

 

These are names of people places and things which appear in the two collections of Arthurian poems written by Charles Williams (Taliessin through Logres and The Region of Summer Stars). The terms are defined for the most part as William's used them but some are included to provide the proper setting for the mythological world he produced.

 

 

Agravaine: One of the sons of Morgause and King Lot. With his brother Gawaine he kills Lamorack and his own mother after they learned of the affair they were having. He and Modred

were the ones who exposed the affair of Lancelot and Guenevere.

        

Almesbury: Convent where Dindrane lives, where the newborn Galahad is taken for safety, and where Guenevere enters as a nun after her affair with Lancelot is made known.

 

Anna, see Morgause

          

Antipodean: Opposite side of the earth. Dealing with, or adjacent to the land of Po-lu.

 

Antipodes: Inhabitants of P'o-lu.

               

Arthur: King. Son of Uther Pendragon and Igrayne (through the use of enchantment by Merlin). Husband of Guenevere. Brother of Morgause. Uncle/Father of Modred. Becomes king through battle after which he establishes a realm of unity and peace overseen by himself and the knights of the Round Table. He obtains the sword named Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake (Nimue). In neglecting his religious and civil duties, and his duties as a husband, he hinders the coming of the Grail and brings about the dissolution of his kingdom.

        

Badon, Mount: Site of the battle where Arthur defeats the Saxons.Symbolic as the establishment of an ordered realm (the idea of "the city"). A hero of this battle was Taliesan.

 

Balan: Brother of Balin. These brothers killed each other in battle without realizing it. Fought for Arthur in his war against King Lot.

        

Balin (Knight with two swords ; Balin the Savage): Brother of Balan. These brothers killed each other in battle without realizing it. Fought for Arthur in his war against King Lot. Strikes the dolorous blow against King Pelles, when Pelles tried to avenge the death of Garlon, using the sacred spear for his own protection and purpose. Merlin sets his sword in the stone which is later drawn out by Galahad.     

        

Blanchefleur, see Dindrane

                                                 

Bors: Knight of the Round Table. Husband of Elayne, by whom he had two children. Nephew of Lancelot. Companion of Galahad and Percival at Carbonek and aboard ship sailing to Sarras. A lesser knight than Lancelot, but able to acheive more. Develops spirtually through the quest for the Grail.

        

Brisen: Daughter of Nimue. Sister of Merlin. Nurse of Elayne. Lives in Carbonek. Symbolizes space (to Merlin's time). Deceives Lancelot into thinking that Elayne was Guenevere, by which Galahad was born.

        

Britain, see Logres

                 

Broceliande: Land beyond Byzantium, to the southwest of Britain. It consists of a forest, whose mistress is Nimue, and adjoins the sea which wraps around the world to join the Antipodean Ocean.

A place of making where the whole of the matter and form of Byzantium emerge. A timeless place of immense possiblities and immense dangers. The road from earth to heaven (Sarras) runs through it, but also the road to hell (P'o-Lu). Land of "the Aperion" (the unlimited), but not the absolute. A place where science and art exist together in correspondence. Entering this place changes a person

either for the good or the bad.

 

Byzantium: The Empire, including Logres (the head), France (the breasts), Rome (the hands), Caucasia (the buttocks), and Jerusalem (the loins). The seat of the empire (the city of Byzantium) is the navel of the body which forms the empire. This is the empire before the Great Schism, when

Christianity was whole. Symbol of divine order, mathematical precision, unity, purpose, beauty, splendor, flawlessness. Fullest realization of the idea of "the city". Throne room of the emperor symbolizes the presence of God; an audience with the emperor the vision of God. Byzantium represents the central unity of which all creation is an infinite variation.

        

Caerleon: An earlier Roman name for the town which became the site of Camelot.

        

Camelot: Castle. The chief residence of King Arthur and the place of the Round Table. Place of union between Carbonek and Byzantium.

        

Carbonek: Castle of the Grail in the forest of Broceliande. The place where the Sacred Spear and the Grail are kept. Also the dwelling place of the wounded King Pelles and his daughter Elayne. The connecting place between heaven (Sarras) and earth (Byzantium). Symbolized by Merlin and

Brisen.

 

Case: Castle near Carbonek where Galahad was conceived by Lancelot and Elayne.

 

Caucasia: Land opposite of Logres (the head); the buttocks of the empire. In possession of the Moslems. Symbolizes the sin nature of man (the Old Adam).

 

Chastity:  "... The chief name of all balance and interchange and union of the virtues in the flesh was chastity; for chastity was precisely the name of its union with the incarnation ... chastity is the obedience to and relation with the adorable central body ..." (from: The Forgiveness of Sins)

        

Cradlemas: King of London. Last representative of Roman civilization in Britain. Feeble, frail and sinister.

 

Dinadan: The wisest next to Galahad, Taliesin and Merlin. Knows his place; sees himself as dispensible. Accepts humiliation with laughter. Nearly the hero.

        

Dindrane (Blanchefleur): Lives as a nun at Almesbury. Sister of Perceval and Lamorack. Loved by Taliesin. Figure of sanctity and self-giving. She is what Guenevere should have been. Merlin brings the newborn Galahad to her for safety. Fulfills "law of exchange" by giving her blood to a dying girl, and in so doing dies herself. Taken to Sarras for burial by Galahad, Perceval and Bors.

 

Dolorous blow:  Struck by Balin against King Pelles, using the Sacred Spear for his own protection and purpose. This causes the wound of the "Fisher King". Symbolic of the Fall, setting man against man and against the creation. In some accounts this reduces Logres to a wasteland (cf. T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland")

        

Elayne (Elaine ; Helayne): Daughter of King Pelles. Wife of Bors. Becomes the mother of Galahad through the trickery of Brisen, who made Lancelot think that Elayne was Guenevere.

 

Elburz: Mountain of Caucasia.

 

Emperor of Byzantium: Symbol of divine providence and order operating in this world.

 

Emperor of P'o-lu (Headless Emperor): Symbol of anarchy and disorder operating in this world. He is the Headless Emperor walking forever backwards.

 

Excalibur: The sword given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake.

 

Fisher King, see Pelles

 

Galahad:  The perfect Grail knight. Son of Elayne and Lancelot, through the enchantment of Brisen. Born at Carbonek. He is taken to Dindrane at Almesbury by Merlin (in wolf form) to be cared for by her when he is threatened by his father Lancelot (in wolf form). His coming finishes the work of Merlin and Brisen. He is the one to accomplish the union of Carbonek and Byzantium, which turns out to be a personal achievement rather than for Logres, which fades into Britain. He is

Lancelot's only true glory but also his supreme shame. He is pictured almost as divine and is the symbol of mystical way. He embodies the virtues of chastity, singleness, wholeness and simplicity. He is the preordained hero of the Grail quest. Renowned for physical beauty and prowess. It is he who removes the Balin's sword from the stone and it is he who heals the wound of the Fisher King. He is the only one who sees directly the mystery of the Grail.

 

Gareth: Son of King Lot and Morgause.

 

Gawaine: Knight. Son of King Lot and Morgause. With his brother Agravaine he kills Lamorack and his own mother because of the affair those two were having.

 

Grail (Graal):  The most sacred of all material things. The cup of the last supper which was used to catch the blood of Christ on the cross. It was brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea and presided over by a series of guardians, one of which was King Pelles at Carbonek. The quest for the Grail was the center of activity of Arthur's knights. It is symbolic of the "second coming". Thought to be able to unite in Britain the limitlessness of Broceliande with the ordered limitedness of Byzantium; the uniting of the religious ideals of Christianity with the worldly ideals of civilization; bringing about the perfection of Christendom on earth. Its coming is hindered by the striking of the dolorous blow, the affair of Queen Guenevere and Lancelot, and by the begetting of Modred. The Grail is a material item with overwhelming spiritual significance. Like the incarnation, it affirms the worth of the material creation. It does not provide food, but rather it is a substitute for physical food.

 

Great Ban: Imposed by the Emperor and concerned viewing of the Grail.

 

Guenevere:  Wife of Arthur. Lover of Lancelot. She does not live up to her place within the kingdom. She is symbolic of Eve. The affair between her and Lancelot forms the central story line in many accounts for it is instrumental in bringing about the dissolution of Arthur's kingdom.

 

Hazel: Symbolizes straightness, discipline and measure.

 

Helayne, see Elayne

 

Igrayne: Wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. Becomes the mother of Arthur by Uther through the enchantment of Merlin.

               

Iseult (Isolde):  Wife of King Mark of Cornwall. Lover of Tristram. Her affair with Tristram became one of the most popular love stories of the Middle Ages.

 

Islam:  Symbol of what is eternally opposite to Carbonek and Sarras in that it denies the incarnation. Stands for all religions afraid of matter and of mystery. Seen as having an ethics of sheer duty; a sterile legalism. Threatens the overthrow of Byzantium.

 

Joseph, of Arimathea:  From the Gospel accounts he is the rich man who gave his own tomb as a resting place for the body of Christ.According to legend he was given the Grail by Christ during a vision and was taught its mysteries at that time. After going through many adventures he brought the Grail to Britain; traditionally to Glastonbury.

 

Kay: King Arthur's steward.

 

Lady of the Lake, see Nimue

 

Lamorack:  Brother of Perceval and Dindrane. Lover of Morgause. He and Morgause are killed by two of her sons (Gawaine and Agravaine) because of their affair.

             

Lance, Sacred, see Spear, Sacred

 

Lancelot:  Knight. Lover of Guenevere. Father of Galahad, through the enchantment of Brisen, who makes him think that Elayne was Guenevere. He is the flawed flower of knighthood; the flaw being his affair with Guenevere. He forgets his place and appropriates what is not his. He becomes the functional head of the kingdom. The affair between him and Guenevere becomes the central story line in many accounts. His greatest claim to glory becomes Galahad, who he fathered by Elayne through the enchantment of Brisen. This event drove him to madness and for a year he roamed the forests of Broceliande as a wolf, trying even to devour the newborn Galahad. 

        

Lateran:  Hill in Rome where the church is established. Earlier known as Mons Coelia, the home of Coelius Vibenna the leader of the Etruscan sorcerers.

 

Logres (Britain): Province of Byzantium (the head). Arthurian Britain. Symbolizes that which is sacred; pointing us to God. Looks toward Carbonek. Ultimately it proves to be unstable and becomes only a passing realization of an ideal society. Though it fails a remnant is saved (Galahad, Perceval and Bors, sailing to Sarras with the body of Dindrane). Logres becomes Britain. 

 

Lonazap: Tournament at which Palomides defeats Lancelot.

 

Lot:  King of Orkney and Lothian. Husband of Morgause. Father of Gawaine, Agravaine, Gareth and Gaheris. Rebels against Arthur but later becomes his ally.

 

Lupercal:  Wolf-feast during the wolf-month of February in the Roman calendar. Connected with fertility and nativity because of the legend of the founders of Rome (Romulus and Remus) who were suckled by a she-wolf.

 

Mark: King of Cornwall. Husband of Iseult.

 

Merlin: Son of Nimue. Brother of Brisen. His birth, power and knowledge are supernatural. Has the gift of prophecy. He acts as an agent of union between Carbonek and Camelot. He symbolizes time. He and his sister Brisen are sent by their mother Nimue to establish a throne in Logres. He prepares a remnant to be left after the fall of Arthur's kingdom, when Logres becomes Britain.

         

Modred (Mordred):  Son/nephew of Arthur and his half-sister Morgause. Cynic and traitor who kills Arthur, bringing the downfall of Logres.

 

Morgause (Anna):  Wife of King Lot. Mother of Gawaine, Agravaine, Gareth and Gaheris. Half-sister of Arthur, by whom she becomes the mother of Modred. Lover of Lamorack. She symbolizes the spirit of stone; hard, sharp, ruthless. She and Lamorack are killed by Gawaine and Agravaine when they find out about their affair.

 

Nimue (Lady of the Lake):  Mistress of the forest of Broceliande. Mother of Merlin and Brisen. Sometimes said to be the nursemaid of Lancelot. The mother of making; reproduces, on earth, patterns from the third heaven (or the highest heaven). She is the point of contact between earth and heaven.

 

Octopods:  Giant, tentacled creatures living in the Antipodean Ocean (off the shore of India).

 

Palomides:  Knight from Islamic Spain. Unsucessful lover of Iseult; a Beatrician experience gone

wrong. Carries on a life-long pursuit of the Questing Beast by whose capture he hopes to gain entry into christendom and gain prestige by doing what no one else has done. He defeats Lancelot at the tournament at Lonazep by trickery. Converted to Christianity through Dinadane, not through joy but by fate.

        

Pelles (Pellam ; Fisher King):  One of a line of guardians of the Grail. Father of Elayne. Wounded (the dolorous blow) by Balin (using the Sacred Spear) in the groin. The wound is both physical and

spiritual, with a constant flow of blood. It affects both his physical and spiritual virility. The wound is a symbol of the Fall, being both a physical and spiritual hurt suffered by all of mankind. The flow of blood and constant pain symbolizes the passion of Christ on the cross.

 

Perceval: Knight. Brother of Lamorack and Dindrane. When at the Grail castle he fails to ask the question that would heal the wound of the Fisher King. Initially ignorant, he acquires his knightly skills and knowledge quickly. Ultimately he lacks responsibility and understanding.

 

P'o-lu: Land beyond Byzantium, to the south. Land of the Antipodes and bordering the Antipodean Ocean. Land of the Headless Emperor who walks forever backwards. An infernal realm where order dissolves into anarchy, creating a turmoil of the mind.

        

Questing Beast: A monster described in Malory as the strongest beast ever heard of. Pursued by Palomides after his rejection by Iseult. It is said to have slid in Logres from Broceliande. The beast symbolizes carnal jealousy and is for Palomides a confrontation with himself.

 

Region of the Summer Stars, see Third heaven

 

Rome:  Seat of both the passing pagan Roman empire (with its poet Virgil) and the Catholic Church (part of the Christian empire of Byzantium with its poet Taliesan).

 

Round Table:  Meeting place in the castle of Camelot, set up by Arthur for his knights. It was fashioned, on the advice of Merlin, after the table in the Grail castle made by Joseph of Arimathea, which was itself fashioned after the table used at the Last Supper. The table is round to promote the idea of equality; no seat being better than any other seat.

 

Sarras:  Land of the Trinity. Furthest point west from Logres beyond the sea bordering Broceliande. It is the heavenly city.

 

Sophia Church of St. Sophia in Byzantium which later became of Moslem Mosque.

 

Spear, Sacred (or Lance):  The spear that pierced the side of Christ as He hung on the cross. Used by Balin to strike the dolorous blow against Pelles. It bleeds continuously from the tip.

 

Sword in the stone: Balin's sword placed there by Merlin. The sword is later drawn out by Galahad.

 

Taliessin:  Poet of Logres and of the empire of Byzantium. Also a warrior who was a hero at the battle of Mt. Badon. Everything is seen through his eyes in William's poems since everything is written by him. Loves Dindrane. Historically he is a 6th century Welsh poet, one of the three chief Christian poets of Britain, whose work is extant in twelve short poems. He does not figure prominently outside of Welsh traditions. In the Mabinogion he is a poet and a spellbinder. In Tennyson he is the chief poet of King Arthur's court.

 

Third heaven (Region of the Summer Stars; Venus [sphere of divine love]): Place of perfect forms which are then represented on earth through the process of creation. The highest heaven (cf. II Corintians 12:2-4).

 

Thule: Northernmost region of the world.

 

Uther Pendragon:  Father of Arthur by Igrayne through the enchantment of Merlin.

 

PJS [rev. 8/06]


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