W.R.J Barron and S.C. Weinberg, Layamon’s Arthur: The Arthurian Section of Layamon’s Brut. University of Exeter Press – Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies. Liverpool : Liverpool University Press; 2nd edition. ISBN 978-0859896856
Like Wace, Laȝamon adapted Wace’s Brut into his own vernacular. But unlike Wace, he does not have the same zest and vivacity of style. On the other hand, what make it interesting are the slight alterations he makes to the Arthurian story (especially concerning the foundation of the Round Table, a Wace invention). What made it even more interesting for me is its idiom. Laȝamon’s Brut is a rare example of the early Middle English language. Not only is it contemporary with the gradual change from Old to Middle English, but it is also written, according to the experts, in an intentionally archaic language. The result is an Arthur sounding like Beowulf, a paradox in terms of both the Arthurian story (Arthur fights the Saxons and kicks them out of Britain!) and Laȝamon’s own historical context. Only Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur, which employs the Beowulf metre in modern English, achieves such a level of cultural paradox.
The Brut is very formulaic, highly structured and repetitive poetry, that initially helps deciphering, but which eventually gets tiring. I started reading it in the original in this facing page translation edition, since I have some helpful rudiments of Old and Middle English, but once I got through half of it, I switched back to the translation for quicker reading. Worth reading for the original text.