Maurice Keen

I learned today that the great Maurice Keen passed on this last week, his death overshadowed by the other news of 11 September.

His most famous work, Chivalry, remains the best general history to serve as an introduction to the topic. Nearly thirty years' work by historians and scholars of medieval literature has added a great deal to our understanding of the topic, but I am not aware of anyone who has brought the advances together into a form so solid, enlightening and useful. Whoever does is likely to stand heavily in his debt, as even now there is much in his work that cannot be improved upon.

Here is an appropriate poem from a recently-reposted lecture on the meaning and use of Viking poetry.

You must climb up on to the keel,
cold is the sea-spray’s feel;
let not your courage bend:
here your life must end.
Old man, keep your upper lip firm
though your head be bowed by the storm.
You have had girls’ love in the past;
death comes to all at last.

So, alas, it does.

Requiescat in pace.


Eric Blair said...

I understand that, in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", the 'famous historian' that gets ridden down by a knight (see here: )is supposed to be based on Maurice Keen--both Terry Jones and Michael Palin were at Oxford, and Jones in particular likely studied under him.

Grim said...

I suppose that's a tribute of a sort.