Feb. 10th, 2009

gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
The green knight on the ground soon takes his stand,
Bows his head a little, baring his flesh;
His long lovely locks he laid over his head,
Letting the naked neck show for the stroke.
Gawain gripped his axe and heaved it on high,
Setting the left foot on the ground before him,
And let it swing swiftly down on the naked skin,
That the sharp edge of the blade sundered the bones
And sank through the fair flesh, and sheared it in two,
That the bight of the burnished steel bit into the ground.
The fair head from the body hit the earth hard,
That many felt it with their feet where it rolled forth;
The blood sprayed from the body, and sparkled on the green.
And neither faltered nor fell the knight never,
But stoutly he started forward there on stiff shanks
And roughly he reached out there where the ranked knights stood,
Caught hold of his lovely head and lifted it up.
Then he turns to his horse, and grasps the bridle,
Steps into his stirrup and swings up aloft,
Holding his head by the hair in his hand.
And he keeps his seat in his saddle as steady
As if nothing had ailed him, though headless now
Instead.
He turned his trunk about,
That ugly body that bled;
Many felt fear and doubt
At the wild words he said.

For the head in his hands he holds up high,
That the noblest on the dais might see the face,
And it lifts up its eyelids, and looks all about,
And spoke this much with its mouth, as you may now hear:
"Gawain, look that you be swift to go as you've sworn,
And look for me loyally till you, lord, find me,
As you have pledged in this hall, these knights hearing.
To the green chapel come, I charge thee, to feel
Such a blow as thou hast dealt-- and well deserved--
To be yielded timely on New Year's morn.
The knight of the green chapel, many men know me;
If you ask after me, you shall not fail to find.
Therefore come, or be called recreant for ever."
With a rough jerk he turns the reins,
Rode hard out the hall door, his head in his hand,
That the fire flew off the flint from his horse's hooves.
To what country he went none there could tell,
No more than they knew from whence he came.
What then?
The king and Gawain by and by
At the green man laugh and grin,
Yet they cannot deny
A wonder they have seen.

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