The time period of “Incident in a Rose Garden” isn’t explicit, though its themes, structure, and diction suggest the Middle Ages. Justice’s poem evokes the idea of danse macabre , or the dance of death, a notion that grew out of Western Europe’s response to the bubonic plague, which killed millions of people beginning in the fourteenth century. In paintings and poems, the allegorical concept of danse macabre depicted a procession of people from all walks of life, both living and dead. One of the earliest representations of the dance of death is in a series of paintings (1424–1425) formerly in the Cimetière des Innocents, a cemetery in Paris that was moved in the eighteenth century. These paintings depict a procession of living people from the church and state being led to their graves by corpses and skeletons. The living are arranged according to their rank so as to present an inclusive representation of humanity. This scene is meant to underscore the leveling power of death and the idea that death can come at any time. The earliest use of the term danse macabre occurs in 1376 in a poem by Jean Le Fevre. The obsession with death also found expression during this time in the morality play. Morality plays were allegories in dramatic form, performed to teach viewers the path from sin to salvation and the fragility of earthly life. Justice’s poem does not include a procession like the dance of death, but it does include a personification of death and the character types of Master and Gardener, who stand for social classes, and it does emphasize the idea that death does not discriminate based on social status. A few of the more popular morality plays include Mankind and Everyman .
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The fairy princess Niamh fell in love with Oisin's poetry and begged him to join her in the immortal islands. For a hundred years he lived as one of the Sidhe, hunting, dancing, and feasting. At the end of this time he found a spear washed up on the shore and grew sad, remembering his times with the Fenians . Niamh took him away to another island, where the ancient and abandoned castle of the sea-god Manannan stood. Here they found another woman held captive by a demon, whom Oisin battled again and again for a hundred years, until it was finally defeated. They then went to an island where ancient giants who had grown tired of the world long ago were sleeping until its end, and Niamh and Oisin slept and dreamt with them for a hundred years. Oisin then desired to return to Ireland to see his comrades. Niamh lent him her horse warning him that he must not touch the ground, or he would never return. Back in Ireland, Oisin, still a young man, found his warrior companions dead, and the pagan faith of Ireland displaced by Patrick's Christianity. He then saw two men struggling to carry a "sack full of sand";  he bent down to lift it with one hand and hurl it away for them, but his saddle girth broke and he fell to the ground, becoming three hundred years old instantaneously.