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)
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.

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October 2010

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