gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
Full early before dawn the folk rose up;
Those guests that would go, they called to their grooms,
And they bustled busily to saddle their steeds,
Tighten their tack and pack up their bags.
Those of highest rank are all arrayed to ride,
Leap lightly to horse, lay hands on the reins,
Each wending his way where he well pleased.
The loved lord of the land was not the last
Arrayed for the riding, with many retainers:
Ate a bite hastily, and when he'd heard mass,
To the broad field, with bugle, he bustles in haste.
By the time any daylight gleamed upon earth,
He and his high lords were on high-bred horses.
Then his handy hunters leashed hounds in couples,
Unclosed the kennel door and called them out,
Blew three bold, strong notes on the bugle;
Hounds bayed back, making brave noise;
Those who went chasing off were checked and chastised.
A hundred hunters, as I have heard tell,
Of the best,
To their stations quickly went;
The hounds uncoupled quest.
The horn the silence rent,
And rang in that forest.

At the first blowing of the quest the wild beasts quaked.
Deer fled in droves through the dale, mad with dread;
Headed for the high ground, but here they were handily
Blocked by the beaters, who boldly bellowed.
They let pass the harts with the high heads,
The breeding bucks also with their broad antlers;
For the lord had forbidden in fermison time
That any man should move to the male deer.
The hinds were held in with "hey!" and "ware!",
The does driven with great din to the deep dells.
There you might see, as they shot, slanting flights of arrows:
At each turn in the wood a shaft struck home,
Broad heads biting deep into the brown hides.
What! They bray and they bleed, and by the banks they die,
And the whole pack of hounds follows hard on their heels.
Hunters with high horns hasted after them,
With cries loud enough to crack the cliffs.
What wild thing won free of the worthy bowmen
Was run down and rent by huntsmen and hounds
Waiting on the high ground to chase them to the waters:
The men at the low stations were so learned,
And the greyhounds so great, that rush to get them
And fell upon them as fast as men might look
Right there.
The lord would chase and toy,
Would gallop and alight
All through that day with joy
Until the dark night.
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)
Much mirth was made there that day and the next,
And the third just as thoroughly, that came thereafter:
The joy of Saint John's Day was gentle to hear,
That was the last of Christmastime, as they kept it there.
The guests were to go upon the grey morning,
So that night they were wondrous wakeful, drinking the wine,
Dancing dauntlessly to the delightful carols.
At the last, when it was late, they took their leave,
Each one who lived elsewhere to go on their way.
Gawain bade good day to his host, who takes him aside,
Leads him to his own chamber beside the chimney,
And there clasps him in arms and dearly thanks him
For the fair worship that he had shown him
As to honour his house on those high days,
And grace the castle with his courteous cheer.
"I know, sir, all my life I'll be the better off
That Gawain has been my guest at God's own feast."
"Great thanks, sir," said Gawain, "in good faith I owe you.
All the honour is your own-- the high king reward you!
And I am, sir, yours to command at will,
As I am bound to do, in high things and low,
By right."
The lord he was at pains
To longer hold the knight;
To him answers Gawain
There's no way that he might.

Then the fine man asked him the question fairly:
What dark deed had driven him at that dear time
So keenly from the king's court to quest all alone
Before the holidays' holly were hauled out of town.
"Forsooth, sir," says the strong knight, "you say only the truth.
A high and hasty errand holds me from home,
For I am summoned by myself to some place--
But I know not where in the world to go to find it.
I would not fail to draw near it on New Year's morn
For all the land here in Logres, so help me our Lord!
Therefore, sir, this request I make of you here:
That you tell me with truth if you ever heard a tale
Of the green chapel, on what ground it stands,
And of the knight that keeps it, of the colour of green.
There's a bargain established by statute between us
To meet that man at that mark, if I might live;
And of that same New Year but little now lacks,
And I would look on that lord, if God would let me,
More gladly, by God's Son, than get any good thing.
So indeed, with your goodwill, I must soon go;
I have no time but barely three days for this business,
And I'd as soon fall dead as fail in my errand."
Then laughing the lord said "Now you must linger,
For I shall teach you the way there by the time's end.
The green chapel's ground shall grieve you no more,
But you shall be in your bed, bold knight, at thine ease,
Until full daylight, and go forth on the first of the year,
And come to that mark at midmorning, to make what you will
Dwell here till New Year's Day
And rise and ride then, clear.
I'll set you on your way;
It's not two mile from here."
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.
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
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
"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."
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.


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October 2010

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