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Announcing Merlin's Isle: An Arthuriad by Malcolm Guite

And so the tale came down the years

In every land and tongue.

And old folk told it through their tears

And gave it to the young.

And even I, in these dark days,

Have heard and found it true.

So I have taken up the tale

And passed it on to you.

-Galahad and the Grail

Rabbit Room Press has long made camp at the crossroads of the fantastic and the literary. We are, we like to claim, descended from the literary traditions of MacDonald and Grahame, of Lewis and Tolkien, of Wangerin and L’Engle. And they are, in turn, descended from a litany of writers and poets down through the centuries.

It seems right, then, that in the 21st century Rabbit Room Press has arrived upon the literary and literal doorstop of Malcolm Guite. In fact, we’ve been admirers and champions of Guite’s work for years. His fluency with the poetic traditions and stories of the past, along with his theological bent for illuminating the deep mysteries of faith, and his rare gift of making poetry approachable for the modern reader, have all endeared him to us as a kindred spirit and a fellow traveler. 

In 2022, Rabbit Room Press was thrilled to include an original ballad of Guite’s writing in our story collection entitled The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad, but little did we know that the inclusion of that ballad would be as the first pebbles of an avalanche.

Malcolm Guite, you see, has been in a life-long love affair with the stories of King Arthur and his knights, and on the heels of his Galahadic ballad, that romance with the “matter of Britain” has grown into a full-fledged epic poem in the tradition of Homer, Virgil, Milton, Tennyson. Guite’s work now encompasses a four-volume epic in verse called Merlin’s Isle: An Arthuriad. And despite its daunting scope, its four volumes retain all of Guite’s seemingly effortless approachability and readability, his exuberant affinity for the tales of Arthur and Britain, and his penchant for capturing the numinous and calling the reader deeper into it. Indeed, here is an epic poem, not constrained to the shelves of academia, but bound as well for the young reader enraptured by tales of chivalric deed, or the light reader in search of the lyrical, or even the family reading aloud at day’s end.

Guite embarks upon the millennia-spanning tradition of the Epic with the joy of a child at play and the sure precision of a master with a twinkle in his eye.

It’s with great joy that Rabbit Room Press enters on this 4-part quest of the Grail, of Camelot and Avalon and all things Arthurian, with Malcolm Guite leading us into the storied wilds, and with acclaimed illustrator Stephen Crotts adorning Guite’s words with images all along the way.

The first volume of Merlin’s Isle, titled Galahad and the Grail, will be released in spring of 2026, followed by volumes 2-4 in 2027 and 2028.

We invite you to take up the tale. 

Join us.

It’s going to be epic.

From Merlin’s Isle: An Arthuriad:

As I walked out one morning

All in the soft fine rain

It seemed as though a silver veil

Was shining over hill and vale

As though some lovely long-lost spell

Had made all new again.

And through that shimmer in the air

I seemed to hear a sound

As though a distant horn were blown

In some lost land that I had known

That seemed to speak from tree and stone

And echo all around.

And with the music came these words:

“Poet, take up the tale!

Take up the tale this land still keeps

In earth and water magic sleeps

The dryad sighs, the naiad weeps

But you can lift the veil.

From where the waves wash Cornwall’s caves

Out to the white horse vale

The lands still hold the tale of old

Like hidden treasure, buried gold

Once more the story must be told

Poet, take up the tale.

Tell of the king who will return

Tell of the Holy Grail

Tell of old knights and chivalry

Tell of the pristine mystery

Of Merlin’s Isle of gramarye

Poet, take up the tale.

Take up the tale of courtesy

Take up the tale of grace

Revive the lands’ long memory

Summon the fair folk, let them be, 

Something of faery, wild and free

Still lingers in this place.

Lift up your eyes to see the light

On Glastonbury Tor

Then come down from that far green hill

To where the sacred waters spill

And shine within the chalice well

And listen to their lore.

Yea, listen well before you start,

Be still ere you begin

See through the surface round about

The noise, the rush, the fear, the doubt

Though Modern Britain lies without

Fair Logres lives within.

You may yet walk through Merlin’s isle

By oak and ash and thorn

The ancient hills do not forget

And you might wake their wisdom yet

Who knows what wonders might be met

On this midsummer morn.”

So I have taken up the tale

To tell it full and free

The tale that makes my heart rejoice

I tell it, for I have no choice

I tell it till another voice

Takes up the tale from me.


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