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Shvoong Home>Books>Poetry>Summary of w.m.thackeray’S “King Canute” Review

Summary of w.m.thackeray’S “King Canute”

Book Review   by:akso6o175     Original Author: Andy Kester Sawian
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King Canute was a weary-hearted man who reigned on his throne for twenty years. He spent the twenty years of his reign in fighting battles, struggling for the survival and pushing the boundaries of his kingdom, fighting against other aggressive kingdoms, killing potentially dangerous foes and plundering distant kingdoms while he returns home with his heavy booty. He would spare some of his precious time walking by the wild sea-shore and pondering upon his actions. The king walked along with his Chancellor and their Bishop in their middle with sedated steps: not disturbed by excitement, passion etc. calm: the chamberlains and grooms came after to join the king in his walk with great silver and golden sticks. Even the chaplains, the aides-de-camp: officers in the army acting as a confidential assistant to a superior Officer: pages: male attendants especially in chivalry, a lad or young man in training for Knighthood: and all the officers of the state would slide after his shadow, and pausing with him when he chooses to pause. If King Canute contracted his face with a frown, straightaway the courtiers would drop their jaws and if he cared enough to laugh, all of them would burst into laughter with their loud hee-haws.
But on that very day something vexed him: troubled, afflicted, baffled, and confused him: that became apparently quite clear to the old and the young subjects around him. Three times he yawned at the table, when his favorite gleemen sung. Though his queen tried to console him, yet he bade her to hold her tongue. The keeper of the Seal proclaimed that something ailed his gracious master, for sure it must have been the lampreys: an eel-like, parasitic jawless fish, having a circular suctorial mouth and rasping teeth: served at dinner or the veal: a calf that is grown for food. The Monarch exclaimed angrily at the keeper and told him that it was not what he felt. It was his heart and not the dinner that his rest was impaired. Could a king as great as he Prithee and yet does not know how to care? The king announced that he was sick, tired and weary. Just then somebody cried for the king’s arm chair to be brought out at once.
Quick! His lord, the keeper nodded towards the lackeys turning: a male servant, servile attendant or follower: straight away the king’s great arm chair was brought to him by two able bodied footmen. Languidly: drooping, fatigued, languorous, listless and weary: he sank into the chair as it was comfortably waded: proceeded slowly or laboriously. He reminded everyone how he led his fierce companions over the storm and brine: sea water saturated with salt, how he had fought and conquered. But now where was his glory like to him? Loudly all the courtiers echoed where was the glory like to him? What avails him all his kingdoms? Weary is he now and old; those fair sons whom he had begotten, longed to see him dead and cold. Would he were and quietly buried underneath the silent mould? Then King Canute replied that nay he felt that his end was drawing near. Then all the present courtiers (striving each to squeeze a tear) exclaimed to the king not to say so for sure his grace was strong and lusty and may live for the next fifty years. The Bishop roared with the phrase to live the next fifty years, with actions made to suit his expression, for how could the lord Keeper speak of King Canute with such immensity? As men have lived a thousand years and sure even his majesty will do it. The bishop then reminded everyone of a Biblical character, Joshua, the Jewish captain, who believed to have ordered the sun to stay upon the hill, and while he slew his foemen, he even bid the silver moon to stand still. So no doubt that even the gracious King Canute could do the same, if it were his sacred will.
King Canute then enquired from the Bishop whether he really had the authority to stay the sun above them. Or could he bid the silver moon to pause upon her heavenly ride. For if the moon obeys his orders, and then surely he can command the tide to back away. Again he asked the Bishop whether the advancing waves would obey him if he makes the sign. The Bishop answered and said as he bowed lowly, that the land and the sea belong to the king. King Canute turned towards the ocean and ordered the foaming brine to back off. But the sullen ocean answered with a louder and deeper roar, with the rapid waves drawing nearer, falling soundly on the shore. The king, the keeper, the bishop and the courtiers retreated. Then King Canute turned to all of them and commanded them never again to kneel to mortal beings, but alone to praise and worship that which the earth and seas obey. From that day onwards he never wore the golden crown of his empire.

Published: April 29, 2011   
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  1. Answer   Question  :    Who were the people who accompanied the king at the sea shore?How did they behave and why? View All
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