Twice in Tennyson’s “Passing of Arthur” section of Idylls there’s the phrase “that last weird battle”: on lines 29 and 94. Then on line 444 the word recurs; “the weird rhyme.” What’s so weird about these things? (Aside from the weirdness you might be feeling about this poem.)
When you come across a word that doesn’t seem to fit its context, at least by our modern understanding, the answer usually lies in the Oxford English Dictionary. I keep it bookmarked, but you’ll need to log in to the UofC Library’s proxy server (or be on campus) before you can access it.
The OED tells me that “weird” is a noun, an adjective, and a verb. Since “battle” and “rhyme” are nouns, evidently Tennyson’s using it as an adjective. So when you click on meaning #2, you get this:
“Eureka!” you say (as one does), “So Tennyson means that the battle and the rhyme had something to do with Arthur’s fate or destiny.” And so they do, as you know from reading the poem: he meets his fated death in the battle, and the rhyme has something to do with his water-birth in “The Coming of Arthur,” page 1245.
Those who remember their Macbeth will know that the witches who forecast his fate are repeatedly called “the weird sisters.”
What does this have to do with our modern meaning of “weird”? It’s a word whose meaning has changed over the centuries, from specifically supernatural to (more generally) unusual or strange, out of the ordinary. You can see how the meanings are linked. It’s another example of how the history of words can help you understand how we use English today.
And if that subject interests you, I can recommend a great book I’ve been reading by the historical linguist David Crystal, The Story of English in 100 Words.