On Knightly Duty and Suffering
I’ve been reading “The story of King Arthur and His Knights” by Howard Pyle to my son in the evenings recently. It’s filled with various stories of knightly prowess, victory and defeat, triumph and humiliation, etc. Overall, I’d recommend it and I think my son got a lot out of it, even if the language (Ye Olde English) is somewhat difficult to parse (we just came off of the classic The Adventures of Robin Hood, so he was used to the language).
Anyhow, at the very end of each unit is a kind of ‘Moral of the Story’ and the last one was very inspiring. This isn’t really my situation right now, but I’ve been in situations like this and I’m definitely going to keep this one handy for when it arises again (any emphasis or highlighting is mine):
Such is the story of Sir Gawaine, and from it I draw this significance: as that poor ugly beldame appeared unto the eyes of Sir Gawaine, so doth a man’s duty sometimes appear to him to be ugly and exceedingly ill-favored unto his desires. But when he shall have wedded himself unto that duty so that he hath made it one with him as a bridegroom maketh himself one with his bride, then doth that duty become of a sudden very beautiful unto him and unto others.
So may it be with ye that you shall take duty unto yourselves no matter how much it may mislike ye to do so. For indeed a man shall hardly have any real pleasure in his life unless his inclination becometh wedded unto his duty and cleaveth unto it as a husband cleaveth unto his wife. For when inclination is thus wedded unto duty, then doth the soul take great joy unto itself as though a wedding had taken place betwixt a bridegroom and a bride within its tabernacle.
Likewise, when you shall have become entirely weedded unto your duty then shall you become equally worthy with that good knight and gentleman Sir Gawaine; for it needs not that a man shall wear armor for to be a true knight, but only that he shall do his best endeavor with all patience and humility as it hath been ordained for him to do. Wherefore, when your time cometh unto you to display your knightness by assuming your duty, I do pray that you also may approve yourself as worthy as Sir Gawaine approved himself in this story which I have told you of as above written.
How foreign these words sound today in our culture…