Sample Essay

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Both Alfred Lord Tennyson and Algernon Swinburne dramatized the Arthurian myth of the Red Knight Balen in poetic form.  However, the dramatizations differ greatly.  Much of the differences may stem from the fact that Tennyson was a Christian, and sought to tell the story of the knight in a moralistic, religious light, whereas Swinburne was an atheist, well known for creating fatalistic and humanistic characters and stories.  In turn, Tennyson creates a vision of the knight as a savage, going mad at the sight of immorality leading ultimately to his death, along with the simultaneous death of his brother.  Swinburne alternately creates a deterministic version of the medieval tale, with a main character that is driven by fate.  While the subject matter of both poems stems from the same source, the two are very different.

Tennyson creates a setting that is based in morality.  The Camelot here is one where the characters behave in a moral manner, and seek to uphold such virtues.  The knights are to behave nobly, the queen, virtuously, the king, valiantly.

Said Arthur “Thou hast ever spoken truth;

Thy too fierce manhood would not let thee lie.

Rise, my true knight.  As children learn, be thou

Wiser for falling! Walk with me, and move

To music with thine Order and the King.

Thy chair, a grief to all the brethren, stands

Vacant, but thou retake it, mine again!”

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