AS I read this first back in the early 80s I'm sure you'll see this is not homework related. I have been reading the books again and caught a line which I must have just accepted all those years ago, but now I'm curious. At the end of the feast, after the death of Uther, and the challenges to the newly named Arthur, Merlin begins to tell the assembly about Macsen's sword which is in the chapel now to be known the Chapel Perilous, and then goes on to say that if any one but the true king tries to touch the sword therein "it shal burn like levin in his hand." Curious, I've just spent about half an hour on the internet trying to search for what Levin is and why it should burn your hand. This was the first site I found that I could actually ask a question. I hope someone might have an answer
The word "levin" is a Middle English word meaning "lightening." It can be found, inter alia, in Spenser's "Two Canto of Mutabilitie":
... With that, he [Jupiter] shooke
His Nectar-deawed locks, with which the skyes
And all the world beneath for terror quooke,
And eft his burning levin-brond in hand he tooke.
"Levin-brond" in this context refers to Jupiter's thunderbolt (i.e. lightening) which commonly appears in iconography representing Jupiter (or the Greek Zeus).
There is a double sense to Stewart's usage. On the literal level, lightening does cause burns. However, normal mortals cannot actually pick up and grasp lightening. Thus the image of the king wielding a thunderbolt aligns the king symbolically with the gods, as having greater than human powers. The burning then carries a second implication, that because lightening is really too powerful to be wielded by humans, the king doing so experiences pain.
I'm glad this was useful. eNote questions don't need to be about homework -- it can also function as a sort of "ask-a-professor" site for you, if you are intellectually curious and just want PhDs on tap for precisely this sort of question.
Thank you so much, apparently google ain't all its cracked up to be! Mucho mahalos.