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A chair before the chimney where charcoal burned
Was dressed for Sir Gawain swiftly with clothes,
Cushions upon quilted cloths, both quaintly worked.
And then a merry mantle was cast on that man
Of a brown bleaunt silk, embroidered full richly,
And fair furred within with fells of the best
Of all ermine on earth; his hood of the same.
And he sat in that seat, seemly and rich,
And warmed himself well, and then his mood mended.
Soon a table was set up on fair trestles,
Clad with a clean cloth that showed clear white,
Serviette and salt-cellar and silver spoons.
He washed with good will and went to his meat:
Strong men enough served him in seemly wise
With several stews and sweets, seasoned finely,
Twofold servings, as was fitting, and fish of many kinds,
Some baked in bread, some roasted on the coals,
Some seethed, some in stews that savoured of spices,
And all sauces so subtle, as Sir Gawain liked.
The fair man called it a feast, full freely and often,
Right regally, and all the men of rank replied at once
Thereupon,
"This penance now you take,
It will amend anon."
Much mirth Gawain did make
For wine to his head had gone.

Then it was sought and spoken of in sparing fashion,
By certain personal points of that prince, which they put to him,
That he acknowledged courteously of what court he came:
That the high King Arthur held him as his,
The rich royal king of the Round Table,
And it is Gawain himself that sits in that hall,
Come to keep Christmas with them, as chance would have it.
When the lord learned that he had Gawain as his guest,
Loud he laughed for his delight at it,
And all the men within the motte made much joy
To appear in his presence at precisely that time,
For all peerlessness, prowess and pure politeness
Appertain to his person, for which he is praised;
Among all men on earth his honour is highest.
Each spectator softly said to his companion:
"Now we shall see seemly and courtly manners,
And the untarnished terms of noble talk.
What is splendid in speech, unsought we may learn it,
Since we have found here that fine father of nurture.
God has given us his good grace, forsooth,
That He grants us to have such a guest as Gawain,
When blithe men of His birth shall sit
and sing.
"The mode of manners clear
This knight shall to us bring.
I hope that we who hear
Shall learn of love-talking."

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gawainandthegreenknight

October 2010

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