gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
Gawain glanced at the man that did greet him so gladly,
And thought it a bold man that owned this castle,
Huge-built he was, in his high prime of age.
Broad, bright was his beard, and all beaver-brown,
Stern and strong was his stride on his stalwart shanks,
His face fierce as fire, but friendly and free of speech,
A well-seeming man, forsooth, as Gawain thought,
To be leader and liege of this lordly company.
The lord escorts him to a chamber, and quickly commands
That someone be on hand, humbly to serve him.
And brisk at his bidding there came bold men enough
That brought him to a bright bower with noble bedding:
Curtains of pure silk with shining gold hems,
And coverlets curiously made with comely panels
Of bright ermine above, with embroidered borders,
And running on ropes through red-gold rings,
Tapestries tight to the walls of Toulouse and Tars silk,
And underfoot, on the floor, of the selfsame kind.
There, with words of mirth, they disarmed the knight
Of his coat of chainmail and his bright clothes.
Men of the house hurried to bring him rich robes
So he might choose of the best to change into.
As soon as he took one and wrapped it about him,
That suited him well, with sailing skirts,
To well-nigh every noble that looked on his face,
It seemed springtime had come, from all the hues
Glowing and lovely, that enveloped his limbs,
That a comelier knight Christ never made,
They thought.
From wheresoe'er he were,
It seemed that he ought
To be prince without peer
In the field where fierce men fought.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
The bold knight brought his horse to a halt on the bank
Of the deep double ditch that defended the place.
The wall stood in the water wondrously deep,
And then rose to a full huge height up above
Of hard hewn stone up to the corbels,
Placed beneath the battlements in the best method;
Between were watchtowers, brightly bedecked,
With many lovely loopholes, cleanly cut;
A better barbican that brave man had never beheld.
And within, he discerned a hall full high,
Towers evenly spaced, thickly adorned
With fair fine-pointed finials, peerlessly tall,
Their carven capstones craftily worked.
Chalk-white chimneys he saw, rising
From tower roofs that twinkled all white.
So many painted pinnacles were strewn everywhere,
Among the crenellations crowded so thickly,
That a castle cut from clean white paper it seemed.
The free man on his fine horse thought it a fair thing
If he might contrive to come within the cloister,
To be harboured in that house while the holiday lasted
By right.
There came soon at his call
A porter, a pleasant wight.
He stood upon the wall
And hailed the errant knight.

"Good sir," says Gawain, "Would you bear my message
To the high lord of this house, safe harbour to crave?"
"Yes, by Peter," says the porter, "and pretty sure I am
That you, sir, will be welcome to stay while you please."
The porter went and swiftly returned again,
And folk freely with him to receive the knight.
They let down the great drawbridge and courteously came out,
And knelt down on their knees on the cold earth
To welcome this same man in the way they thought worthy.
They hauled the broad gate up wide to let him pass,
And he courteously bid them rise and rode over the bridge.
Several men seized his saddle to help him dismount,
And strong men enough helped to stable his steed.
Knights and squires came down then
For to bring this bold knight blissfully into the hall.
When he heaved off his helm, many came hurrying
To take it from his hands, to do him service;
His sword and blazoned shield both they took.
Then he graciously thanked each of the knights,
And many proud men there pressed to honour that prince.
All hasped in his high harness they brought him to the hall,
Where a fair fire fiercely burned in the hearth.
Then the lord of those people hastens from his chamber
To meet with honour the man on the floor.
He says: "You are welcome to stay as you like.
What's here is all your own, to have and wield at will
In this place."
"Great thanks!" Gawain replies,
"May Christ reward your grace."
As men whom friendship ties
The two do now embrace.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
In the morning he merrily rides by a mound
Into a forest full deep that was wondrous wild,
High hills on either hand, and holtwoods below
Of hoar oaks full huge, a hundred together.
The hazel and the hawthorn were hurled together
With rough ragged moss draped everywhere,
With many birds, not blithe, upon bare twigs
That piteously piped there, pining in the cold.
Gawain upon Gryngolet glides underneath
Through many a marsh and mire, a man all alone,
Full of care for the cost, if he should not come
To see the service of that sire, who that selfsame night
Was born of a bright maiden, our battles to quell.
And therefore sighing he said: "I beseech thee, Lord,
And Mary, that is thy mild mother so dear,
For some haven where, with high heart, I might hear mass
And thy matins tomorrow: meekly I ask this,
And with this prayer I say my Paternoster and Ave
And Creed."
He rode on in his prayer
And wept for his misdeeds;
Crossed himself often there,
Saying "Christ's cross be my speed!"

He had signed himself, good soldier, only thrice
When he was aware in the wood of a moated dwelling
Above a lawn, on a little hill, locked in by boughs
Of many ancient oaks about by the ditches:
A castle, the comeliest that ever knight kept,
In the midst of a meadow, a park all around it,
Stoutly surrounded with a spiked palisade
That enclosed many trees, more than two miles about.
That house, on one side, our hero beheld
As it shimmered and shone through the bare oak branches.
He hastily takes off his helm, and with high heart thanks
Jesus and Saint Julian for their gentleness
That courteously heard him and hearkened to his cry.
"Now a good welcome," says Gawain, "I beseech you yet!"
Then he goads Gryngolet on with gilt-spurred heels
And by good chance he has chosen the chief path
That brought him swiftly to the bridge's end
In haste.
The bridge was drawn away,
And all the gates shut fast;
The walls in good array
Against the winter's blast.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
Now rides this man through the realm of Logres,
Sir Gawain, God guide him! No game he thought it.
Often abandoned and alone he lay at night
Where he found not before him the fare that he liked;
He had no friend but his foal through forests and downs,
Nor no one but God to gossip with on the way,
Until he drew full near to North Wales.
All the isles of Anglesea are on his left hand
As he fares over the ford by the foremost lands
Over at the Holy Head, till he had come ashore
In the wilderness of Wirral. Few dwelt there
That loved either God or man with good heart.
And ever he asked all that he met as he rode
If they had heard any talk of a knight that was green,
In a green chapel, in grounds thereabout.
And all answered nay, that never in their life
They'd seen never a knight that was of such hues
Of green.
The knight took ways full strange
On hills where none had been.
His cheer would often change
Before that chapel was seen.

He clambered over many cliffs in country strange;
Far afield from his friends, as a stranger he rides.
At each ford or waterway where the weary man passed,
He found a foe before him, else it were a wonder:
And those so foul and so fell that they must be fought.
So many marvels the man finds there in the mountains,
It were too terrible to tell of the tenth part.
Sometimes with dragons he wars, and with wolves too,
Sometimes with woodwoses that dwell in the crags,
Both with bulls and with bears, and boars at times,
And giants that chased him off the high fells.
Had he not been strong and steadfast and the Lord's servant,
Doubtless he had been dead a dozen times over:
For war wearied him not so much, but winter was worse,
When the cold clear water from the clouds was shed
And froze before it could fall to the fallow earth,
Near slain by sleet he slept in his harness
More nights than enough, on the naked rocks
Where clattering from the crest the cold burn runs
And hung high over his head in hard icicles.
Thus in peril and pain and plight full hard
This knight rides through the country till Christmas Eve
The knight that Christmastide
To Mary made his moan,
That she his way might guide
Unto some house or home.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
Then they showed him the shield, of shining gules,
With the pentangle depicted in pure gold hues.
He takes it by the baldric and hangs it about his neck,
And it became the knight wondrous well.
And why the pentangle appertains to that noble prince
I am determined to tell you, though it delay our tale:
It is a sign that Solomon sometime set
As a token of truth, to which it has a title.
For it is a figure that has five points,
And each line overlaps and interlocks with the others,
And everywhere it is endless, and the English call it
Overall, as I hear, the endless knot.
Therefore it well accords with this knight and his arms,
For ever faithful in five ways, and five times five,
Gawain was good: like pure refined gold,
Devoid of all villainy, enamoured of virtue
Therefore the pentangle new
He bore in shield and coat,
As man of word most true
And gentlest knight of note.

First he was found faultless in his five wits,
And then he failed never with his five fingers,
And all his faith in the field was in the five wounds
That Christ took on the cross, as the creed tells.
And wheresoever this man in melée took his stand,
His first thought was on this, through all other things:
That all his fierceness derived from the five joys
That Heaven's high queen had of her child;
And because of this the knight had, in comely wise,
On the inner side of his shield her image painted,
So that when he glanced upon it his good heart never failed.
The fifth five that I find this free-hearted man used
Were frankness and fellowship before all things;
His cleanness and courtesy never were crooked,
And pity, that passes all points-- these five pure virtues
Were more firmly fixed in him than in any other.
These fivefold gifts, forsooth, were found in the knight,
Each linked to the others so none had an end,
And fixed upon five points that never failed,
Not joined on any side, nor sundered neither,
Without end at any angle anywhere, as I find,
Where the figure might first begin or come to a finish.
Therefore on his shining shield the knot was shaped
Royally with red gold upon red gules,
That is called the pure pentangle by the people
With lore.
Gawain, in brave array,
Took up the lance he bore
And gave them all good day,
He thought, forevermore.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
He dwells there all that day, and dresses in the morning,
Asks early for his arms, and they all were brought.
First a crimson carpet was uncurled on the floor,
And much gilded gear laid gleaming upon it.
The strong man steps onto it and inspects the steel,
Clad in a doublet of dear Tarsian silk,
And a fine-crafted cape à dos, closed at the neck,
That with fair white fur was trimmed within.
Then they set the sabatons upon the strong man's feet,
His legs lovingly lapped in steel greaves,
With clean-polished polaynes attached to them,
Fastened about his knees with knots of gold;
Clean cuisses then, that quaintly closed
About his thick strong thighs, attached with thongs;
And then the hauberk, the body of bright steel rings,
Woven to guard that warrior over the doublet he wore,
And well-burnished braces upon both his arms,
With couters good and gay, and gloves of plate,
And all the goodly gear that should be to his gain
A rich cote over his mail,
His gold spurs sprung with pride,
A sword that could not fail
On a silk sash by his side.

When he was wholly armed, his harness was rich;
The least latchet or loop gleamed with gold.
So harnessed as he was, he goes to hear Mass,
Makes offerings and does honour to the high altar.
After, he comes to the king and his courtly companions,
Takes a loving leave of lords and ladies,
And they kissed him and came with him, commending him to Christ.
By then Gryngolet was groomed, and girded with a saddle
That gleamed gaily with many gold fringes
Newly nailed everywhere, enriched for the new quest;
The bridle striped about, bound with bright gold.
The apparel of the breastplate and of the proud skirts,
The crupper and caparisons, accorded with the saddlebows,
And all was adroned with rich red-gold nails,
That all glittered as the sun's gleam glanced off them.
Then he takes the helmet, and hastily kisses it,
That was stapled together strongly and stuffed within.
It was high on his head, fastened behind
With a light cloth covering the mail aventail,
Embroidered and bounded with the best gems
On its broad silken border, and birds on the seams,
Painted parrots preening between,
Turtledoves and true-love knots entwined so thick
As if many maidens had spent seven winters to make it
In town.
Yet of far greater price
The circlet that bound his crown:
Of diamonds a device,
That were both bright and brown.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
Then Arthur before the high dais that adventure beheld,
And regally did him reverence, for he never was rude,
And said "Wight, welcome in truth to this place:
The head of this house, Arthur I am called.
Dismount in courtesy and dine with us, I pray,
And whatsoever thy will is we shall know after."
"Nay!" said that lord, "So help me He that sits on high,
To waste any while in these walls was not my errand.
But because the praise of thee, lord, is lifted up so high,
And thy house and thy knights are held for the best,
Strongest under steel gear, steeds to ride,
The greatest and the worthiest of their kind in the world,
Proven in play in the joust's pure lists;
And courtesy is not unknown here, as I have heard carp;
That has tempted me hither, in truth, at this time.
You may see surely by this branch I bear here
That I pass your gates in peace, and seek no peril;
For had I come to find you in fighting wise,
I have a hauberk at home and a helm too,
A shield and a sharp spear shining bright,
And other weapons I know well how to wield;
But because I wish no war, I wear softer weeds.
Now if thou be so bold as all the world tells,
Thou wilt grant me with good will the game that I ask,
By right."
Arthur made answer then,
And said "Sir courteous knight,
If thou crave battle bare,
None here will fail to fight."

"Nay, I tell you in faith I seek no fight!
About on these benches are but beardless children,
And if I were hasped in arms on a high steed,
Here is no man that could match me in might.
Therefore I crave in this court only a Christmas game,
For it is Yule and New Year, and here are many youths:
If any holds himself so hardy in this house,
Has boldness in his blood and brain in his head,
That dares strongly to strike one stroke for one more,
I shall give him as my gift this rich giserne,
This axe that is heavy enough, to handle as he likes,
And I shall bide the first blow as bare as I sit.
If any man has the nerve to do as I've said,
Leap lightly to me and take this weapon:
I quit-claim it forever; keep it as his own.
And I shall stand stock-still on this floor for his stroke,
If thou wilt give me leave to strike him another
In fair play.
He'll bide his blow from me
In a twelvemonth and a day.
Now, high lord, let us see
What any man dares say."
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
Now of their service I'll say no more,
For anyone with wits can tell there was no want.
Another noise, a new one, was nearing,
The thing that would give the king leave to eat;
For hardly was the noise not a while ceased,
And the first course in the court courteously served,
When there hauls in at the door a frightful master,
One of the most massive men in the world by measure,
From the neck to the waist so square and so thick,
And his loins and his limbs so long and so great,
Half-ogre on earth I think that he was,
But man for the most part I mind him to be,
And of men the merriest in his strength that might ride,
For though he was broad of back and of breast,
Both his belly and waist were worthily small,
And all his features fitting the form that he had
Full clean.
For wonder of his hue men had,
In his semblance to be seen:
He moved like one gone mad--
And overall, bright green.
Three more stanzas below, including a green horse )


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October 2010

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