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The Knight Who Slew Death

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



IN the Idylls of the King, Tennyson gives us vivid pictures of the chivalry of the Middle Ages. With the stories of love and tourney there are combined lessons of truth, beautifully told. The story of Gareth and Lynette is one of these. Gareth is the son of King Lot and Queen Bellicent, and longs to become one of the knights of Arthur's Round Table. This his mother refuses to permit, but finally agrees, on condition that he shall serve a twelve month and a day in Arthur's kitchen, disguised as a scullion ; thinking that such a condition would cure the lad of any desire to become a knight. But Gareth gladly complied with the condition and served in Arthur's kitchen as a knave. After a few weeks of such service well rendered, the Queen mother released the boy from his vow and sent him the arms of his father. He eagerly sought King Arthur, and begged him to become his knight. Unknown to any save Lancelot, Arthur's brother, Gareth was made a knight of the Round Table. and was promised the first quest. On the same day came the Lady Lynette. whose sister Lyonors, was held captive in a distant castle guarde' by three knights, known as Morning Star, Noon Sun, and Evening Star. A huge man-beast called Death, held the Castle Perilous, in which Lyonors was held a prisoner. Lynette besought Arthur to send Lancelot to rescue her sister, but Gareth in a loud voice demanded the quest, and to the disgust of Lynette it was immediately granted to him. The two started on the quest, Gareth, supposedly a kitchen knave, and Lynette in great anger that Arthur should have sent such a one on such an important quest. The three hostile knights are met ; one after another succumbs to the stroke of Gareth's sword, for the very disdain of the queen nerved him to his best endeavor. Finally, they arrive in sight of the Castle Perilous, and Gareth is made known to Lynette as a prince and knight of Arthur. She begs him not to do battle with the hideous monster who guards the castle, but he boldly defies Death. At the first onslaught Death is thrown to the ground, and on attempting to rise, " with one stroke Sir Gareth split the skull.

" Half fell to right and half to left and lay.
Then with a stronger buffet he clove the helm
As thoroughly as the skull; and out from this
Issued the bright face of a blooming boy
Fresh as a flower new-born, . . . .
Then sprang the happier day from under ground;
And Lady Lyonors and her house, with dance
And revel and song made merry over Death,
As being after all their foolish fears
And horrors only proven a blooming boy."

The One born in a manger, the poor carpenter's son, was the royal knight, who, defeating his enemies, slew death with one hard stroke, rescuing captives from peril and from fear, and bringing from his cloven skull, a form beautiful as the flowers, glorious as an angel of light.



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