gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
“Madame,” said the merry man, “Mary reward you,
For in good faith, I find your free heart noble.
Others may freely accept favours for their deeds,
But these dignities are above my deserving.
It is only your worthiness, who know nought but well.”
“By Mary,” said the lady, “I think otherwise,
For if I were the worthiest of women alive,
And all the wealth of the world were in my hand,
And I should bid and bargain to betroth me to a lord,
Both for the signs that I’ve seen in you here, sir knight,
Of beauty and behaviour debonair and blithe,
And for that which I’ve heard and now hold to be true,
There should be no man chosen on earth before you.”
“Worthy lady,” said the wise man, “you have fared well better.
But I am proud indeed that you prize me so highly,
And, as your servant, I call you my sovereign,
And I now become your knight: Christ reward you!”
Thus they talked of this and that until past midmorning,
And ever the lady seemed to love him much,
And the knight with fair words made his defence.
“Though I were loveliest of all,” thought the lady then,
“I’d still lack his love-- for his quest lures him on
in chase.”
The blow that will him cleave
Must have its time and place.
The lady took her leave:
He granted with good grace.

She gave him good day, and glancing laughed,
And as she stood, she astonished him with strong words:
“Now He that speeds each speech reward you for this sport!
But truly, I cannot think that you are Gawain.”
“Wherefore?” the worried knight quickly asked,
Afraid lest he had failed in the forms of courtesy.
But the fair one blessed him, and spoke as follows:
“Gawain is generally given to be so good,
And so full of courtesy constant and clear,
He could not lightly have lingered so long with a lady
And not asked a kiss by his courtesy,
By some touch of trifling words at some tale’s end.”
Then said Gawain: “Well, let it be as you please,
I shall kiss at your command, as befits a knight,
And further, lest I displease you; so ask it no more.”
She comes nearer with that, catches him in her arms,
Leans down lovingly and kisses the man.
In comely wise they commend each other to Christ;
She lets herself out the door without more words;
And he readies himself to rise and rapidly dress,
Calls for his chamberlain, chooses his clothing,
When clad, goes forth blithely to mass;
Thence to the well-served meal that lay waiting,
And made merry all day till the moon rose
With games.
No man had fairer cheer
With two such worthy dames,
The younger and the sere:
For pleasure was their aim.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
“Good morrow, Sir Gawain,” said that gay lady,
“You’re no sly sleeper, to let me steal in here.
Now in good time you’re taken, and unless we make truce,
I shall bind you in your bed, trust me on that.”
All laughing the lady let fly these light words.
“Good morrow, gay lady,” said Gawain the blithe.
“My fate’s at your will, and that likes me well,
For I yield me meekly, and pray you for grace.
And that’s the best I can do, for I am helpless.”
Thus he bounced her jest back with blithe laughter.
“But if you, lovely lady, would grant me leave,
Parole your prisoner and permit him to rise,
I'd be briskly out of bed and dress me better,
And converse with you in greater comfort.”
“No, forsooth, fair sir,” said that sweet lady,
“You shall not rise from your bed. I’ve a better idea:
I’ll swaddle you in sheets on this other side also,
And then chat with my knight that I have caught.
For I know-- believe it! -- Sir Gawain you are,
Whom all the world worships, wherever you ride;
Your honour, your chivalry courteously praised
By lords and ladies and all that bear life.
And now you are here, and we on our own:
My lord’s led his lads on a lengthy journey,
All other men abed, and my maids too,
The door shut, the bolt shot, the hasp strong.
And since I have in this house he whom all love,
I shall make the most of my time while it lasts
With skill.
My body is all yours,
Do with me as you will.
For I must be perforce
Your willing servant still.”

“In good faith,” said Gawain, “you do me a grace,
Though I’m in no way the man you describe:
To receive such reverence as you refer to
I am a wretch unworthy, I know it well.
But by God, I’d be glad if you thought it good
To let me, in speech or with steel, do you service
As your knight, in your name-- it would be a pure joy.”
“In good faith, Sir Gawain,” said the lady gaily,
“The prize-winning prowess that pleases all people
It would be discourteous in me to dispraise.
Believe me, there are ladies enough who’d rather
Have you, sir, in their hold as I have you here,
To dally dearly with your dainty words,
Take comfort in you and lighten their cares,
Than possess all the goods and gold that they have.
But, my love to the Lord who lifts up heaven,
I have wholly in my hands that which all desire,
Through grace.”
She made him such great cheer
Who was so fair of face;
He, with words pure and clear,
Answered her in each case.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
So the lord plays his game in the eaves of the greenwood,
And Gawain the good man lies in that gay bed,
Lying low till the daylight gleamed on the walls,
Under a bright coverlet, curtained about.
And sunk in slumber as he was, softly he heard
A little sound at his door as it quickly opened,
And he heaves up his head out of the bedclothes.
A corner of the curtain he takes up a little,
And lies warily in wait to see what it might be.
It was the lady, loveliest to behold,
That shut the door after her, secret and silent,
And bent toward the bed; and the man felt shame,
And laid him down to let her think he slept.
And she stepped softly and stole to his bed,
Cast up the curtain and crept within,
And sat herself softly down on the bedside
And lingered there strangely long, to look when he wakened.
The man lay lurking a full long while,
Questioning in his conscience what this case might
Mean, or lead to: a marvel he thought it.
But yet he said to himself: "More seemly it were
To find out in speech, in short space, what she wants."
Then he wakened and writhed and turned towards her,
And unlocked his eyelids and looked quite surprised,
And crossed himself as though to save his soul
The while.
Her chin and cheek full sweet
With white and red beguile;
Lovingly did she greet
Him with a sweet-lipped smile.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
Then Gawain was glad, and gaily he laughed:
"Now I thank you truly, past all other things!
Now my quest is achieved, I shall at your will
Dwell here, and otherwise do as you deem."
Then the lord siezed his arm and sat at his side;
Let the ladies be fetched, to please them the better,
And they made seemly cheer there by themselves.
For love, the lord let fly loud words so merry,
Like one out of his wits, that knew not what he did.
Then he called to the knight, crying aloud:
"You have bound yourself to do my bidding.
Will you hold to your word here at this hour?"
"Yes, sir, forsooth," said the true knight,
"While I bide in your walls, I'll be at your will."
"Since you've travelled," said the lord, "from far away,
And then waked late with me, you won't have had enough
Either of sustenance or of sleep-- forsooth, I know it.
So sleep late in your loft and lie at your ease
Tomorrow till mealtime; and go to your meat
When you will, with my wife, who with you shall sit
And comfort you with company, till I come back to court.
Lie low,
And I shall early rise;
A-hunting I shall go."
Gawain grants all of this
With a courteous bow.

"Yet further," says the lord, "a bargain let us make:
Whatsoever I win in the wood, it will be yours,
And what good things you gain, give me in exchange.
Sweet sir, let's shake on it, and swear to hold truth,
Whichever of us, knight, fares worse or better."
"By God," says Gawain the good, "I grant assent,
And if you like to gamble, that gladdens me."
"Bring us a beverage! This bargain is made,"
Said the lord of that land. They laughed, each one,
They drank and dallied, and talked of trifles,
These lords and ladies, as late as they liked;
And after, with Frenchified flourishes and many fair words,
They stood up, stopped and softly spoke,
Kissed in comely wise and took their leave.
With many light and gleaming torches,
Each was brought to bed at the last
Full soft.
Before they went to bed,
They repeated their bargain oft;
The old lord of that stead
Could keep a game aloft.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
On the morrow, as each man remembers that time
That the Lord was born to die for our destiny,
Joy fills every dwelling in the world for his sake.
So did it there on that day with many treats:
Both at dinner and supper, quaint dishes aplenty
Were delivered to the daïs, daintily dressed.
The old ancient goodwife, highest she sits;
The lord at her side leans lovingly towards her, I believe.
Gawain and the gay lady, together they sat down
Right in the center, just as food was brought in;
And then throughout the hall, as all thought best,
To each man in his degree was swiftly served.
There was meat; there was mirth; there was so much joy
That to try to tell of it would trouble me sorely;
But I'll do my best to depict it, though I despair.
But yet I know that Gawain and the worthy lady
Took such comfort in their company together,
Through the dear dalliance of their secret speech,
With clean and courteous conversation free from filth,
That their play was more pleasant than any prince's game
For players.
Trumpets and drums, iwis,
Much piping there prepares;
Each man minded his--
And these two minded theirs.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
By the time dinner was done and the company rose,
It was near night; so the time drew on.
To the chapels the chaplains led the way,
And rang full richly, right as they should,
To the high evensong of that holy day.
The lord bends his step thither, and the lady too;
Into a comely closed pew she quaintly enters.
Gawain goes gaily and soon gets there;
The lord siezes his sleeve and leads him to sit,
Courteously acknowledges him, calls him by name,
And said he was the welcomest guest in the world.
Gawain thanked him truly, and then they embraced,
And sat soberly side by side during the service.
Then the lady wished to look on the knight;
Then came she from her closed seat with many comely maids.
She was the fairest of face, of skin and of flesh,
And of shape and colour and condition, of them all;
More queenly than Guenevere, as Gawain thought:
He crosses through the chancel, to come at that chatelaine.
Another lady led her by the left hand,
That was older than she-- an ancient, it seemed,
And highly honoured by the lords all about.
But unlike to look on those ladies were,
For if the young one was fresh, the other was yellow;
Rich red on that one glowed everywhere;
Rough wrinkled cheeks hung in rolls on the other.
This one had kerchiefs with many clear pearls:
Her breast and her bright throat bare displayed
Shone whiter than snow that falls on the hills;
The other's neck was girt with a gorget
That hid her black chin with chalk-white veils,
And her forehead in folds of silk all pleated
And set with jewels and trefoils all about,
So that nothing was bare of her but the black brows,
The two eyes and the nose, the naked lips,
And those were sour to see and strangely bleared.
A most gracious lady on earth men might call her,
by God!
Her body was short and thick,
Her buttocks flat and broad;
More sweet to look and like
Was her companion's mode.

When Gawain's glance found her gay and graceful looks,
With the lord's leave he went to meet them.
The elder he hails, bowing full low;
The lovelier he clasps a little in his arms,
Kisses her courteously, and makes knightly speech.
They accept his acquaintance, and he quickly asks
To be their true servant, if it like them well.
They take him between them, and lead him in talk
To a chamber by the chimney, and then chiefly call
For spices, which men bring speedily, unsparing,
And the winsome wine with them, each time.
The loving lord often leaps aloft,
Commands mirth to be made many times over,
Nobly whips off his hood, hanging it on a spear,
And offers it as a prize, to be worshipfully won
By him who might move most mirth that Christmastime.
"And by my faith, you'll find me frolicking with the best
Before I lose my hood, with the help of my friends!"
Thus with laughing jests the lord makes sport,
For to gladden Sir Gawain with games in the hall
That night,
Until the time was sped;
The lord commanded lights.
Sir Gawain sought his bed,
Bidding them all goodnight.


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October 2010

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