« The Fall of Arthur » (cont'd)
In seeking some explanation of his abandonment of these ambitious poems when each was already far advanced, one might look to the circumstances of his life after his election to the Professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford in 1925: the demands of his position and his scholarship and the needs and concerns and expenses of his family. As through so much of his life, he never had enough time; and it may be, as I incline to believe, that the breath of inspiration, endlessly impeded, could wither away; yet it would emerge again, when an opening appeared amid his duties and obligations – and his other interests, but now with a changed narrative impulse.
No doubt there were in fact specific reasons in each case, not now to be with any certainty discerned; but in that of The Fall of Arthur I have suggested that it was driven into the shallows by the great sea-changes that were taking place in my father’s conceptions at that time, arising from his work on The Lost Road and the publication of The Hobbit: the emergence of Númenor, the myth of the World Made Round and the Straight Path, and the approach of The Lord of the Rings.
One might surmise also that the very nature of this last, elaborate poem made it peculiarly vulnerable to interruption or disturbance. The astonishing amount of surviving draft material for The Fall of Arthur reveals the difficulties inherent in such use of the metrical form that my father found so profoundly congenial, and his exacting and perfectionist concern to find, in an intricate and subtle narrative, fitting expression within the patterns of rhythm and alliteration of the Old English verse-form. To change the metaphor, The Fall of Arthur was a work of art to be built slowly: it could not withstand the rising of new imaginative horizons.