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.
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.
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.


Apr. 1st, 2009 07:46 am
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
The strong knight had not thrice made the sign of the cross
When he heard heavy hoofbeats on the hill ahead.
Gawain on Gryngolet turns, grimly grasps his sword-hilt,
And saw a stern lord striding swiftly toward him.
Upon his high-helmed head was fastened a hart's crown
Of antlers that exceeded a double arm-span;
A hooded cloak hung from his broad shoulders,
Of fair wool trimmed with fur, falling down in folds
Almost to the ground -- a great distance indeed,
For the towering stranger stood taller than any two
Of the mightiest men on the earth, by any measure.
Gawain stands his ground and greets the stranger,
Saying "Sir knight, in sooth, joy on this Christmastide.
If you, for courtesy or charity, will counsel
A fellow knight far from home or any harbour,
May I be bold to beseech you, brave lord, to say
If you have heard tell any tidings of a Green Chapel,
Where it may be found, and the fellow who defends it,
A high lord, whose hair and harness is all of green
To see?"
The stranger fixed his stare
On Gawain silently.
He stood full stiffly there,
And spoke no word but "Ni!"

Then at that terrible word true Gawain trembled,
And scarcely heard the screeching voice of the stranger
Shred the air with a shriek, shrilly demanding a shrubbery.
Fierce and fell was this foe the fair knight had found,
But Gawain was wise and ware of his wild ways.
The brave man in a brief space drew breath and grew bold,
Saying "Knight, thy name is known in Arthur's noble house,
The blithe king and Sir Bedivere have both bested you.
Now guide me to the green chapel and its grim lord,
And I shall show thee a shrubbery, shining and shapely."
"Iwys," whispered that wild man, "I know not where it is.
But shall you not bestow on me the shrubbery still?"
"Goddammit," said Gawain, "I was saving that shrubbery.
But a brother knight should not be obliged to beg,
And today is Christmastide, so take it and be gone."
Then with great mirth the mighty one merrily ran away,
Leaving Gawain shrubberiless and shivering, unsheltered,
Only watching with wonder as the wild man went his way
On ground:
No horse the tall man rode,
But in his hands unbound,
An Afric swallow's load
Of coconuts did sound.
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)
He spurred the steed with the spurs, and sprang on his way
So strongly sparks flew from the stones in his wake.
All sighed in heart who saw that seemly man go,
In care for their comely knight. "By Christ, it is hard
That thou, lord, shalt be lost, that art of life noble!
To find his equal upon earth, in faith, is not easy.
The wise and wary course would have shown more wit:
To have dubbed that dear man a duke, and detained him.
A loved leader of men in land he might be,
And better that than this wasted death,
Beheaded by an elvish man, for angry pride.
Who ever knew any king to take such counsel
From knights who cavil at Christmas games?"
Much was the warm water that welled from their eyes
When that seemly man sought forth from safety
That day.
He made no abode,
But swiftly went his way.
Many wild ways he rode,
In tales as I heard say.
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)
Yet till All Hallows' Day with Arthur he lingers,
And the king made a fair on that feast-day for his sake,
With much royal revelry of the Round Table.
The courteous knights and the comely ladies
All for love of that lord felt longing at heart;
But nevertheless, now or later, they spoke only mirth,
And many, though joyless, for that gentle knight jested.
For after supper he sadly speaks to his uncle,
And talks of his passage, and proudly he said:
"Now, liege lord of my life, I ask your leave.
You know the cost of this contract, so I won't keep you
With telling over the terrors of it-- nothing but trifles.
But I am bound to begin at bare dawn tomorrow,
To seek the knight of the green, as God will guide me."
Then the highest of the household hastened together,
Ywain and Erec and many another,
Sir Dodinaval de Savage, the Duke of Clarence,
Launcelot and Lionel and Lucan the good,
Sir Bors and Sir Bedivere, big men both,
And many other mighty ones, with Mador de la Porte.
All this company of court came close to the king
For to counsel the knight, with care in their hearts.
There was much sorrow suffered in secret in the hall
That one so worthy as Gawain should go on that errand,
To be dealt a dreadful blow, and draw no sword
To defy.
The knight still made good cheer,
And said "Why should I sigh?
Of destinies dark or clear,
What may man do but try?"
gawainandthegreenknight: (Default)
This adventure was the first Arthur had
In the young year, for he yearned to hear of heroics.
Though all were lost for words when they went to be seated,
Now there is hard work to be done; their hands are full.
Gawain was glad to begin those games in the hall,
But have no wonder if the end be heavy;
For though men be merry in mind when they have hard drink,
A year slips away speedily, and never like the last:
The first is full seldom formed like the finish.
Therefore this Yule quickly passed, and the year after,
Each season swiftly shifting into the next:
After Christmas came the slow-creeping Lent
That mortifies flesh with the fish and food more simple.
But then the weather of the world strives against winter;
Cold ceases to cling, clouds arise,
The sheer rain sweeps down in warm showers,
Falls upon fair fields, where flowers unfold.
Both the ground and the groves are clad in green,
Birds briskly build, and blithely they sing
For solace of the soft summer that swiftly comes after
In thanks,
And blossoms bud and blow
In richest rows and ranks,
And sweet notes high and low
Are heard by woods and banks.

Then comes the season of summer with the soft winds
When Zephyrus himself sighs on seeds and herbs:
The plant shall prosper that pushes up shoots
As the damp dew drops off the leaves
To bide a blissful blush of the bright sun.
But then comes harvest to harden the grain,
Warns him before the winter to wax full ripe;
With drought he drives the dust to rise,
From the face of the earth to fly full high;
Wrathful wind from above wrestles with the sun,
The leaves drop from the linden, and alight on the ground,
And all grey grows the grass that was green before;
All that first rose up ripens and rots.
And thus wanes the year in many yesterdays,
And turns to winter again, as the world wags
Its way,
Till Michaelmas's moon
Is come in winter's sway.
Then thinks Gawain full soon
Of his anxious journey.
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