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Layamon or Laghamon (US /ˈləmən/; [ˈlaɣamon]) - spelled Laȝamon or Laȝamonn in his time, occasionally written Lawman - was a poet of the late 12th/early 13th century and author of the Brut, a notable work that was the first to present the legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in English poetry.

J. R. R. Tolkien valued him as a transmitter of early English legends in a fashion comparable to the role played with respect to Icelandic legend by Snorri Sturluson.[1]

Life and influence

Layamon describes himself in his poem as a priest, living at Areley Kings in Worcestershire. His poem had a significant impact on medieval history writing in England and the development of Arthurian literature;[2] and subsequently provided inspiration for numerous later writers, including Sir Thomas Malory and Jorge Luis Borges.


Brut (ca. 1190) is a Middle English poem compiled and recast by the English priest Layamon. It is named for Britain's mythical founder, Brutus of Troy. It is contained in the MS. Cotton Caligula A ix, written in the first quarter of the 13th century, and in the Cotton Otho C xiii, about fifty years later (though in this edition it is shorter). Both exist in the British Library.

The Brut is 16,095 lines long and narrates the history of Britain. It is largely based on the Anglo-Norman Roman de Brut by Wace, which is in turn inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. It is however longer than both and includes an enlarged section on the life and exploits of King Arthur. Among the new material Layamon provided was an account of the birth of Merlin, and the origins of the Round Table;[3] as well as details of Arthur's departure by ship to Avalon to be healed by the elf-queen.[4]

It is written in a combination of alliterative verse, deriving from Old English, and rhyme, influenced by Wace's Roman de Brut, and as used in later Middle English poetry.

Spelling of name

Print-era editors and cataloguers have spelled his name in various ways including "Layamon", "Lazamon", or "Lawman". Brown University suggests that the form "Layamon" is etymologically incorrect, while The Fifth International Conference on Laȝamon's Brut at Brown University mentions: "BL MS Cotton Caligula A.ix spells it "Laȝamon" (the third letter is called a "yogh"). BL MS Cotton Otho C.xiii spelled it "Laweman" and "Loweman".[5]

See also


  1. T. Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth (1992) p. 300 and p. 57
  2. I. Ousby ed, The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1995) p. 536
  3. J. R. Tanner ed., The Cambridge Medieval History VI (Cambridge 1929) p. 826
  4. C. Tolkien ed., The Fall of Arthur (2015) p. 146-8
  5. program Medieval Studies Department, Brown University Retrieved October 21, 2006


  • Cannon, Christopher . The Grounds of English Literature, Chapter 2. Oxford University Press. 2004. ISBN 0-19-927082-1
  • Lewis, C. S. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964.
  • Loomis, Roger S. "Layamon's Brut" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
  • Ackerman, Robert W. Backgrounds to Medieval English Literature. 1st. New York: Random House, Inc., 1966.
  • Everett, Dorothy. "Laȝamon and the Earliest Middle English Alliterative Verse." Essays on Middle English Literature. Ed. Patricia Kean. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978.
  • Solopova, Elizabeth, and Stuart D. Lee. Key Concepts in Medieval Literature. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  • Barron, W. R. J., Weinberg, S. C. (2001) Ed., & trans. Layamon's Arthur: The Arthurian Section of Layamon's Brut (lines 9229–14297). Exeter: Exeter University Press ISBN 978-0-85989-685-6 (first published by Longman 1989)
  • Tiller, Kenneth J. (2007)Layamon's Brut and the Anglo-Norman Vision of History University of Chicago Press ISBN 978-0-7083-1902-4

External links