Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Fytte the Third

1.

Full early before the day the folk arose;
the guests that would go called their grooms,
and these hastened to saddle the horses,
arrange their gear, and truss their mails.
The great ones arrayed themselves to ride,
leaped up lightly and caught their bridles,
each wight on his way where it well pleased him.
The dear lord of the land was not the last;
arrayed for the riding, with retainers full many,
he ate a sop42 hastily after he had heard mass,
and took his way quickly with his bugle to the field.
By the time that any daylight gleamed upon the earth,
he with his heroes were mounted on their high horses.
Then these hunters that understood it, coupled their hounds,
unclosed the kennel doors and called them thereout,
blew blithely on bugles three simple calls.
At this the brachets43 bayed and made a wild noise,
and the hunters chastised and turned back those that wandered off,
— a hundred hunters of the best there were,
as I have heard tell.
To their stations the trackers went;
hunters cast off the couples;
and then arose for the good blasts
great uproar in that forest.

2.

At the first noise of the quest the game quaked;
the deer moved down into the dale,
dazed for dread; hurried to the height;
but quickly they were hindered by the beaters,
who cried stoutly.
They let the harts with the high head go their way,
the wild bucks also with their broad palms,44
for the generous lord had forbidden that there should
any man meddle with the male deer in the close season.
But the hinds were held back with “Hay!” and “Ho!”
and the does driven with great din to the deep glades.
There might one see as they ran the flight of arrows;
at each turn under the boughs out flew a shaft,
that savagely bit on the brown hide with full broad heads.
How they leaped and bled and died by the banks!
And ever the hounds with a rush eagerly followed them;
hunters with shrill horn hastened after
with such a resounding cry as if cliffs had cracked.
What game escaped the men who shot
was all run down and torn at the stands.
The deer45 were pestered at the heights,
and worried at the waters;
the people were so alert at the low stations,
and the greyhounds so great,
that got them quickly and pulled them down
as fast as a man could see.
The lord, shouting for joy,
shot and alighted full oft,
and passed the day thus with joy
till the dark night.

3.

So this lord sports by the eaves of the linden wood,
and Gawain the good man lies in his gay bed;
reposes till the day light gleams on the walls,
under the beautiful coverlets, curtained about.
And as he fell into a doze,
faintly he heard a little din at the door,
then distinctly;
and he heaved up his head out of the clothes,
caught up a corner of his curtain a little,
and watched warily in that direction to see what it might be.
It was the lady, loveliest to behold,
who drew the door to after her right slyly and quietly,
and turned toward the bed.
The hero grew bashful and laid himself down cunningly
and pretended that he slept.
And she stepped quietly, and stole to his bed,
cast up the curtain, and crept within,
and seated herself full softly on the bedside,
and stayed there surprisingly long,
to see when he should awake.
The man lay pretending a full great while,
bothered in his conscience what this affair might mean or amount to.
Marvellous it seemed to him.
But yet he said to himself,
“More seemly would it be to find out by asking what she would.”
Then he waked, and stretched, and turned to her;
unlocked his eyelids, and made believe he was amazed,
and crossed himself with his hand,
to be the safer for his prayer.
With chin and cheek full sweet,
of mingled white and red,
right lovely she looked,
with her small laughing lips.

4.

“Good morrow, Sir Gawain!” said that fair lady.
“Ye are a careless sleeper when one can enter thus.
Now ye are certainly taken; unless we can make a truce
I shall bind you in your bed, ye may be sure of that!”
All laughing the lady shot those jests.
“Good morrow, fair one,” quoth Gawain the blithe.
“I shall be at your disposal, and that pleases me well,
for I yield me outright and pray for grace,
— and that is the best course, I judge,
for I am in straits.”
And thus he returned the jests with many a blithe laugh.
“But would ye, lovely lady, grant me leave,
free your prisoner and bid him rise,
I would leave this bed and dress myself better.
Then I could talk with you in more comfort.”
“Nay, forsooth, fair sir,” said that sweet one,
“ye shall not rise from your bed;
I shall manage you better. I shall tie you up securely,46
and afterwards talk with my knight that I have caught;
for I ween well, ye are indeed Sir Gawain,
whom all the world worships whereso ye ride.
Your honour, your courtesy, is heartily praised,
by lords, by ladies, by all alive;
and now ye are here, forsooth, and we all alone.
My lord and his people are gone far away;
the other men in their beds, and my maidens also;
the door shut and closed with a strong hasp;
and since I have in this house him whom all like,
I shall make good use of my time while it lasts.
Ye are welcome to my person, to do whatever you wish;
I am perforce, and must remain, your servant.”

5.

“In good faith,” quoth Gawain,
“a great privilege it seems to me —
though I be not now he that ye speak of.
To reach such reverence as ye rehearse here,
I am a man unworthy, I know well.
By God, I should be glad — if it seemed good to you —
to do what I might in speech or in service
to enhance your worship;47 — it were a pure joy.”
“In good faith, Sir Gawain,” quoth the gay lady,
“if I should speak ill of the fame and the prowess
that pleases all others, or esteem it light,
it would show but small discernment.48
But there are ladies enough who were liefer have
this courteous one in their power — as I have thee here,
— to dally dearly with your dainty words,
to comfort themselves and dispel their cares,
— than much of the treasure and gold that they have.
But I praise the Lord who rules the skies that through his grace
I have wholly in my hand that which all desire.”
Great cheer she that was so fair of face made him;
the knight with discreet speeches
answered her every proposal.

6.

“Madame,” quoth the merry man, “Mary reward you,
for in good faith I have found your generosity noble.
People judge a person’s deeds largely from the accounts of others;49
but the praise that they accord my deserts is but idle.
It is simply your own nobility, who know nothing but good.”
“By Mary,” quoth the gracious one, “methinks it is otherwise;
for were I worth all the store of women alive,
and all the wealth of the world were in my hands,
and I should bargain and choose to get me a lord,
then for the good traits that I have found in the knight here,
of beauty and graciousness and gay seeming,
and from what I have heard before and hold in this case to be true,
there should no hero in the world be chosen before you.”
“Indeed, worthy one,” quoth the hero,
“ye might50 have chosen much better;
but I am proud of the estimation that ye put upon me;
and as your devoted servant I hold you my sovereign,
and your knight I become; and Christ pay you for it.”
Thus they spoke of various things till past the midmorn;
and ever the lady behaved as if she loved him much.
But the hero fared with caution and made courteous pretences.
“Though I were the fairest of women,” mused the lady,
“little love would he show,
because of the danger that he seeks without reproach —
the blow that may slay him, but must needs be undergone.”
The lady then asked leave,
and he granted her full soon.

7.

Then she gave him good day, and of a sudden laughed;
and as she stood there she astonished him with right sharp words;
“Now may he that speeds each speech,
pay you for this entertainment;
but that ye are Gawain, it goes not in my mind.”51
“Wherefore?” quoth the hero; and eagerly he asks,
afraid lest he had failed in the performance of his design.52
But the lady blessed him and spake in this wise:
“A man as good as Gawain is properly held —
and courtesy is closed so entirely in him —
could not easily have lingered so long with a lady but
he had on some trifling excuse or other53 courteously craved a kiss.”
Then said Gawain, “Indeed, be it as you like;
I shall kiss at your commandment as becomes a knight,
and fear54 lest he displease you; so urge that plea no more.”
She comes nearer at that and takes him in her arms;
stoops graciously down and kisses the man.
They courteously entrust each other to Christ.
She goes forth at the door without more ado,
and he prepares to rise, and hurries amain;
calls to his chamberlain, chooses his weeds,
steps forth blithely to mass when he is ready;
and then he goes to his meat, behaving always courteously,
and makes merry all day till the bright moon rises.
Never was a hero fairer entertained by two such worthy dames,
the other and the younger.
Much disport they make together.

8.

And ever the lord of the land is bound in his sport,
to hunt in holts and heath at barren hinds.
Such a sum of does and of other deer
he slew there by the time the sun was low,
that it were a marvel to estimate.
Then eagerly they all flocked together at the last;
and quickly of the slain deer they made a quarry.
The leaders hastened thereto with men enough;
gathered the greatest of grease,55
and proceeded properly to undo56 them as the occasion demands.
Some that were there tried them at the assay57
and found two fingers of fat on the leanest of all.
Afterwards they slit the slot,58 seized the arber,59
cut it free with a sharp knife,
and tied it60 up.
Next they cut down along the four limbs and rent off the hide;
then they opened the belly, took out the paunch,
cutting eagerly, and laid aside the knot.61
They began at the throat again and skilfully divided
the weasand from the windpipe and threw out the guts.
Then they cut out the shoulders with their sharp knives,
and pulled them through by a little hole,
so as to have whole sides.
Next they divided the breast, and cut it in two;
and once more they began at the throat,
split the beast quickly right up to the crotch,
took out the advancers,62
and immediately severed all the fillets by the ribs,
and took them off properly along the backbone even to the haunch,
— all of which hung together.
Then they heaved it up whole and cut it off there;
and that they took for the numbles,63 as it is rightly called.
At the fork of the thighs they cut the flaps behind;
hastily they hewed the carcass in two,
and severed it along the backbone.

9.

Both the head and the neck they hewed off then,
and afterwards they sundered the sides swiftly from the chine,
and corbie’s fee64 they cast in a green tree.
Then they pierced either thick side through by the rib,
and hung them each by the hocks of the haunches —
each man for his fee, as it befell him to have it.
Upon a skin of a fair beast they fed their hounds
with the liver and the lights,
the leather of the paunches,
and bread bathed in blood mingled thereamong.
Loudly they blew the prize,
and bayed their hounds;
then they started to carry home their meat,
blowing full stoutly many loud notes.
By the time daylight was done
the band had all arrived at the comely castle,
where the knight is quietly waiting
in comfort beside a bright fire.
When the lord arrived and Gawain met him,
there was joy enough.

10.

Then the lord commanded to gather in the hall all the household,
and both the ladies to come down with their maids.
Before all the folk on the floor he bade men fetch his venison before him;
and all in merry sport he called Gawain,
told him the number of the choice beasts,
and showed him the fat meat cut from65 the ribs;
“How like you this play? Have I won the prize?
Have I properly earned thanks by my woodcraft?”
“Yes, indeed,” quoth the other hero; “here is the fairest store
that I saw this seven year in the season of winter.”
“And all I give you, Gawain,” quoth the host, then;
“for by our plighted covenant you can claim it as your own.”
“That is true,” replied the hero, “and I say to you the same;
I too have won this worthy thing within doors;
and I am sure that with quite as good will it belongs to you.”
He throws his arms about his fair neck
and kisses him as courteously as he know how.
“Take you there my merchandise; I have won no more;
though I should give it up willingly even if it were greater.”
“It is good,” quoth the good man; “gramercy therefor.
Perchance it might be better if you would tell me where
you won this same favour by your own66 wit.”
“That was not the agreement,” said he; “ask me no more,
for ye have got all that belongs to you, be sure of that.”
They laughed and made merry in low tones;
then they went quickly to supper with new dainties enough.

11.

And afterwards as they sat by a fireplace in a chamber,
servants poured to them oft the choice wine;
and again in their jesting they agreed to make
the same bargain on the morning that they made before, —
whatsoever chance betide to exchange their winnings
at night when they met, whatsoever new they win.
They made this agreement before all the court,
and the beverage was brought forth merrily at that time.67
Then at length they politely took leave;
and everybody hurried to bed.
When the cock had crowed and cackled but thrice,
the lord had leaped from his bed; likewise his followers each one,
so that the meat and the mass were promptly despatched,
and the troop ready for the chase in the wood ere any day sprang.
With hunters and horns they passed through the plains,
and uncoupled the racing hounds among the thorns.

12.

Soon they heard the cry of the dogs by a marsh side.
The huntsman encouraged the hounds that first caught the scent,
hurled sharp words at them with a great noise.
The hounds that heard it hastened thither quickly,
and fell immediately to the scent, forty at once.
Then there rose such a resounding cry
of gathered hounds that the rocks about rang.
The hunters cheered them with horn and with mouth;
then all together they swung in a troop
between a pool in that wood and a wild crag.
On a hill, beside a cliff at the side of the bog,
where the rough rock was rudely fallen,
they fared to the finding,
and the hunters after them.
The men surrounded both the rock and the hill,
because they knew well that he was within them,
— the beast that the bloodhounds were proclaiming there.
Then they beat on the bushes and bade him rise up,
and he savagely rushed out athwart the men,
the most formidable of swine.
Long since had he left the herd on account of his age,
for he was a huge beast, the greatest of boars.
His grinders when he grunted grieved many,
for at his first burst he thrust three to the earth,
and sped hastily forth at great speed without respite.
And they hallooed “High!” full loudly, and cried “Hay, hay!”
With horns to mouth lustily they blew the recheat.68
Many were the merry cries of men and of hounds
that hastened after this boar with hue and cry to kill him.
Full oft he bides at bay, and maims the pack in the melee.
He hurts many of the hounds
and grievously they howl and yell.

13.

The hunters pushed forward then to shoot at him,
aimed at him with their arrows and hit him often.
But the shafts that struck on his shields,69 give way at the pith,
and the barbs would not bite on his brawn
though the shaven shafts shivered in pieces;
the head hopped out again wheresoever it hit.
But when the dints of their keen strokes scared him,
then mad for destruction he rushed on the men,
did them sore hurt where he hurled forth,
and many a one grew wary thereat and gave back a little.
But the lord on a light horse hurries after him,
blowing his bugle like a bold hero.
He winds the recheat as he rides through thick groves,
following this wild swine till the sun declined.
Thus they drive on the day with such doings
while our lovely hero lies comfortably in his bed at home
in clothes full rich of hue.
The lady did not forget; she came to greet him;
full early she was by him to change his mind.

14.

She comes to the curtain and peeps at the knight.
Sir Gawain at once welcomes her worthily,
and she returns his greeting right promptly,
seats herself softly by his side, laughs opens,
and with a lovely look addresses these words to him:
“Sir, if ye be Gawain, it seems to me a very strange thing
that a man of such quality should not follow
the conventions of good society;
and should after making acquaintance with a person
cast him utterly from his mind.
Thou hast already forgotten what I taught you yesterday
in the best language that I knew.”
“What is that?” quoth the hero.
“Forsooth I know not.
If what ye say be true,
I am to blame.”
“Yet I taught you about kissing,” replied the fair lady;
“wherever a countenance is known, quickly to claim a kiss;
that becomes every knight who practices courtesy.”
“Cease such speech, my dear lady,” said the ready man.
“I durst not claim it lest I should be denied.
If I proposed and were refused,
I should certainly be wrong in proffering.”
“By my faith,” quoth the lovely dame, “ye cannot be refused.
Ye are strong enough to compel it by strength if ye pleased,
supposing any were so ill-bred as to deny you.”
“Yea, by God,” said Gawain, “your speech is good;
but violence is considered discourteous among my people,
as is any gift that is not given with a good will.
I am at your command to kiss when ye like.
Ye may begin when ye please,
and leave off whenever it likes you.”
The lady stoops down and gracefully kisses his face.
They converse long of the fears and joys of love.

15.

“I should like to know from you, sir,” said the peerless lady,
“if it vexes you not, — what might be the reason
that so young and so gallant person as ye now are,
one so courteous and so knightly as ye are known everywhere to be,
have never spoken of love.70
For in relating the pains of true knights,
the chief thing praised in all of chivalry is the royal sport of love,
— and the science of arms:
it is the title, token, and text of their works;
how heroes for their true love adventured their lives,
endured for their sweethearts doleful hours,
and afterwards avenged themselves by their valour;
dispersed their care, and brought bliss to bower,
with plenteous rewards for themselves.
And ye are the most renowned knight of your time;
your fame and your worship walks everywhere,
— and now I have sat by you here two separate times,
yet have I never heard from your head a single word
that pertained at all to love, less or more.
And ye, that are so courteous and so distinguished in your vows,
ought willingly to show and teach to a young thing
some tokens of the art of true love.
Why are ye so rude who are so praised?
Is it that ye deem me too dull
to hearken to your dalliance? For shame!
I came hither all alone to sit
and learn from you some accomplishment;
do teach me part of your skill while my lord is from home.”

16.

“In good faith,” quoth Gawain,
“God reward you! Great is the entertainment,
and huge the pleasure to me,
that so worthy a one as ye should come hither,
and take pains with so poor a man,
and play with your knight in any wise;
it delights me.
But to take upon myself the task of expounding true love,
of touching upon the themes of that text,
and tales of arms before you,
who I wot well have more knowledge of that sort
by the half than I or a hundred such have,
or ever shall have so long as I live,
— that were a manifold folly by my troth,
dear one.
But I would work your will with all my might,
highly beholden to you as I am;
and I wish evermore to be your servant,
so God save me.”
Thus the fair lady besought him, and tried him oft,
for to have won him to wrong,
— whatever it was she purposed;
but he defended himself fairly that no fault appeared,
nor any evil on either side;
they knew nought but joy.
They laughed and played a long time,
till at last she kissed him,
took her leave fairly,
and went her way.

17.

Then the hero bestirred himself and rose to the mass;
and afterwards their dinner was dight and splendidly served.
The hero sported with the ladies all day,
but the lord raced over the land full oft,
following his uncouth swine,
that rushed along the banks and bit in sunder
the backs of his best brachets.71
There he abode at his bay till bowmen broke it,
and maugre his head made him move forth.
Many fell arrows there flew when the folk gathered about,
but yet at times he made the stoutest to start;
till at the last he was so weary he could no more run;
but with the haste that he might he won
to a hole in a cleft by a rock, where the burn runs.
He got the bank at his back and began to scrape;
the ugly froth foamed from the corners of his mouth,
and he whet his white tusks.
It was not pleasant for all the bold hunters that stood about him
to approach him even remotely;
and to go nigh him durst none for fear of harm.
He had hurt so many before,
that all seemed then full loath to be more torn
with the tusks of that savage and crazed beast.

18.

When the knight came himself, reining his steed,
and saw him bide at the bay near his men,
he lighted nimbly down, left his courser,
pulled out a bright brand and boldly strode forth,
and hurried fast through the stream where the fell one abode.
The wild creature was ware of the wight with weapon in hand,
and heaved on high his hairs;
so fiercely he snorted that many feared for their lord
lest to him befell the worse.
The swine rushed directly upon the hero,
so that man and boar were both in a heap in the wildest of the water;
but the boar had the worse,
for the man marked him well as they first met
and skilfully set his point exactly in the slot,72
pierced him up to the hilt so that his heart split,
and he gave way squealing and went quickly down the water.
A hundred hounds seized him and fiercely bit on him.
Men brought him to land and the dogs finished him.73

19.

There was blowing of the prize74 on many a loud horn,
high halloing aloft by mighty hunters;
brachets bayed the beast as the masters bade
who were the chief huntsmen of that swift chase.
Then a wight that was wise in woodcraft
begins skilfully to unlace75 this boar.
First he hews off its head and sets it on high;
and afterwards splits him all down his rough back,
and takes out the bowels and singes them on the coals;
then with bread mingled with these,
he rewards his hounds.
Afterwards he cuts the brawn in fine broad shields,
and has out the hastlets76 in the proper manner.
And now they bind the halves all whole together,
and afterwards stoutly hang them on a stiff staff.
Now with this same swine they take their way home.
The boar’s head was borne before the warrior who slew him at
the stream through the force of his own strong hand.
It seemed long to him until he saw Sir Gawain in the hall;
then he called, and Gawain came promptly to take his fees there.

20.

The lord jested77 full loudly,
and merrily he laughed when he saw Sir Gawain;
with pleasure he spoke.
The good ladies were called and the household gathered.
He showed them the shields and told them the tale
of the girth78 and the length of the wild swine;
and also of his viciousness in the wood where he fled.
That other knight full comely commended his deeds,
and praised it as a great bag that he had made:
for such a brawn of a beast, the bold man said,
nor such sides of a swine, saw he never before.
Then they handled the huge head;
the courteous man praised it and made much of it to honour the lord.
“Now Gawain,” quoth the good man,
“this game is your own, by fine and fast forward,
truly ye know.”
“It is sooth,” quoth the hero; “and as truly all my getting
I shall give you in turn, by my troth.”
He took the warrior about the neck and courteously kissed him,
and another time he served him the same.
“Now we are even,” quoth the warrior,
“tonight of all the covenants that we knit by law since I came hither.”
Said the lord, “By St. Giles,
ye are the best that I know!
Ye will be rich in a short time,
if ye drive such chaffer!”

21.

Then they raised tables aloft on trestles,
and cast cloths upon them.
The clear light then appeared along the walls,
as men set and distributed waxen torches all about the hall.
Much mirth and glee rose up therein,
about the fire on the hearth,
and in various wise at supper and after.
Many noble songs they sang,
as Christmas carols and new dance tunes,
with all the mannerly mirth that a man can tell of.
And ever our lovely knight sat beside the lady.
Such seemly cheer she made to the hero,
sought with such sly stolen79 glances to please the stalwart one,
that the wight was all amazed, and wroth with himself.
But he would not on account of his breeding reprove her,
but responded in all courtesy,
howsoever outrageous she might be.
When they had played in the hall as long as their will lasted,
the lord called to bedwards,
and to the room with a fireplace they passed.

22.

And there they drank and talked,
and the lord proposed again to make
the same arrangement for New Year’s Eve.
But the knight craved leave to depart,
for it was nigh at the term that he must keep.
The lord hindered him from that,
persuaded him to linger, and said,
“As I am a true man, I pledge my troth
thou shalt reach the green chapel to do thy tasks,
sir, by New Year’s light, long before prime.
Therefore lie in thy loft and take thine ease;
and I shall hunt in this holt and keep the covenant —
change merchandise with thee when I return hither;
for I have tried thee twice,
and faithful I find thee;
now ‘third time, best time.’80 Think on the morrow.
Make we merry while we may, and be joyful:
for a man can catch trouble whensoever he likes.”
This was readily granted and Gawain stayed.
Drink was quickly brought to them,
and to bed they went with lights.
Sir Gawain lay and slept full still and soft all night;
the lord, mindful of his hunting,
was dight full early.

23.

After mass he and his men took a morsel.
Merry was the morning.
He asks for his mount,
and all the sportsmen who should accompany him on horse
were ready mounted on their steeds before the hall gates.
Wondrous fair was the field,
for the frost still lingered.
The sun rose in a rack of ruddy red,
and drove all the clouds from the welkin.
The hunters uncoupled by a holt side,
and the rocks in the forest rang for the noise of their horns.
Some dogs fell on a scent where the fox had loitered;
followed it obliquely81 through the cunning of their wiles.
A kennet82 cried upon it;
the huntsman encouraged him,
and his fellows hastened after,
panting thickly.
They ran forth in a rabble on Reynard’s very track,
and he hurried before them.
Soon they found him;
and when they actually saw him they chased him fast,
baying him full fiercely with a huge noise.
And he trants83 and runs through many a rough grove;
doubles and hearkens by hedges full often.
At the last by a little ditch he leaps over a spinny,
and steals out full stilly by a rough rand.84
Half escaped from the wood he turns with wiles from the hounds;
but then he arrived, ere he knew it, at a chosen stand,
where in an instant three stout hunters in gray threatened him at once.
He blenched again quickly, and bravely started off;
with all the woe in the word, he turned away to the wood.

24.

Then was it a pure joy to listen to the hounds,
when all the gathered mute85 got view of him.
The cry they set on his head at the sight
was as if all the resounding cliffs had clattered down in a heap.
Here he was halloed loudly when the hunters met him,
loudly cried upon with noisy calls;
there he was threatened and often called thief;
and ever the ticklers were at his tail so that he could not tarry.
Oft was he run at when he raked out,
and oft he reeled in again,
so wily was Reynard.
And ever he led the bespattered lord and his troop
in this manner among the hills,
now in them,
now over,
now under,
while the courteous knight at home slept wholesomely
within the comely curtains on the cold morn.
But the lady for love cared not to sleep
nor to give up the purpose that bode in her heart;
but up she rose quickly and took her way thither
in a gay mantle meetly reaching to the earth,
and furred full fine with skins of the best.
No ornaments of gold on her head; but only the bright stones
set above her tressour86 in clusters of twenty.
With her fair face and her lovely throat all naked,
her breast bare before and behind too,
she comes within the chamber door and closes it after her,
throws up a window and calls out the wight,
and smartly thus stirred him with her fair cheery words.
“Ah man, how can you sleep,
this morning is so clear!”
Though he was drowsing deep,
yet could he hear her.

25.

In the dreary depths of a dream the noble was sunk,
like a man suffering from many sad thoughts,
how destiny should dight him87 his weird at the green chapel
that day when he met the man,
and had to abide his buffet without more debate.
But when he had fairly recovered his wits,
he emerged from his dreams and answered with haste.
The lovely lady came laughing sweetly,
stooped over his fair face and courteously kissed him.
He welcomed her worthily with choice cheer.
To see her so glorious, and so gaily attired,
so faultless of feature, and so lovely of colour,
warmed his heart with welling joy.
With smooth and gracious smiling they straightway waxed mirthful.
All was bliss and good cheer that passed between them.
They exchanged goodly words; much happiness they felt,
and great was the peril between them,
unless Mary thought of her knight.

26.

For that beauteous princess constrained him so sorely,
and the danger pressed him so nigh,
that of necessity it behooved him either
to accept her love or rudely refuse it.
He thought much of his courtesy,
lest he should prove a clown;
and more on his villainy if he should do sin,
and be traitor to the hero who owned the castle.
“God shield!” quoth the warrior,
“that shall not befall!”
With a little love-dalliance he laid aside
all the pointed speeches that sprang from her mouth.
Quoth the lady to the hero: “Ye deserve blame
if ye love not her who is so near you,
— of all creatures in the world most wounded in heart;
— unless indeed ye have a sweetheart,
a dearer being, that pleases you better,
and ye have plighted faith so firmly
to that gentle one that ye care not to loosen it.
— Verily now that is what I believe,
and I pray you that you tell me truly;
for all the loves in the world deny not the truth with guile.”
“By St. John!” said the knight, and courteously he smiled,
“I have none, and none will I have.”

27.

“That is the worst of all!” quoth the lady.
“I am answered indeed, to my sorrow.
Kiss me now comely and I shall go hence.
I can only mourn in the world as a maid that loved much.”
Sighing she stooped down and kissed him seemly;
and then she severed from him,
and said as she stood,
“Now, dear, at this departing do me this comfort;
give me somewhat of thy gift, thy glove if it might be,
that I may think on thee, sir, to lessen my mourning.”
“Now in truth,” quoth that man, “I would I had here for thy love,
the dearest thing that I wield;
for truly ye have right oft in reason
deserved a greater reward than I could reckon.
But to exchange with you love-tokens,
that would profit but little.
It is not for your honor to have at this time
a glove of Gawain’s gift for a keepsake;
and I am here on an errand in lands uncouth,
and have no men with mails full of precious things
for remembrance at this moment;
and that mislikes me, lady.
But every man must act according to his circumstances,
and none should take it ill or repine.”
“Now, courteous and honourable one,” quoth that lovesome lady,
“though I shall have nothing of yours,
yet shall ye have of mine.”

28.

She reached him a rich ring of red gold work
with a gleaming stone standing aloft,
that shed blushing beams like the bright sun;
know ye well it was worth wealth full huge.
But the man refused it, and readily he said:
“I desire no great gifts, my gay one, at this time.
I have naught to give you, and naught will I take.”
She offered it him full pressingly,
and he refused her offer,
and swore swiftly on his sooth that he would not take it.
And she sorrowed that he refused,
and said thereafter,
“If ye refuse my ring, since it seems too rich,
and ye would not be so highly beholden to me,
I shall give you my girdle,
that will enrich you less.”
She lightly caught a lace that went about her sides,
knit upon her kirtle under the bright mantle.
It was adorned with green silk,
and ornamented with gold,
broidered all around,
decked with fringes;88
and that she offered to the hero,
and gaily besought that,
though it were unworthy,
he would take it.
And he denied that he would in any wise
take either gold or present ere God sent him grace
to achieve the chance that he had chosen there.
“And therefore, I pray you,
be not displeased, and give over your attempt;
for I intend never to consent.
I am dearly beholden to you because of your entertainment;
and ever in hot and in cold I will be your true servant.”

29.

“Now refuse ye this silk,” said the lady then,
“because it is simple in itself,
as it certainly seems to be?
Lo! little it is, and less it is worth;
but whoso knew the virtues that are knit therein,
he would esteem it at a greater price peradventure;
for whatsoever man is girt with this green lace,
while he has it fittingly wrapped about him,
there is no warrior under heaven that can wound him;
for he could not be slain by any device in the world.”
Then the knight paused, and it came to his heart
that it would be a jewel for the peril
that awaited him when he arrived at the chapel to undergo his ordeal.
Could he manage to be unslain, that were a noble device.
Then he indulged her entreaties and suffered her to speak;
and she pressed the belt on him and offered it to him eagerly.
And he accepted it, and she gave it him with a good will,
and besought him for her sake never to discover it,
but to conceal it loyally from her lord.
The man agreed that never person should know it indeed but they twain.
Full oft he thanked her, right glad in heart and thought.
By that she had kissed the stout knight three times.

30.

Then she takes her leave and leaves him there,
for more entertainment she could not get from that man.
When she was gone, Sir Gawain bestirs himself,
rises and dresses in noble array.
He lays up the love-lace the lady had given him,
hides it full cleverly where he can find it again.
Then promptly he takes his way to the chapel;
quietly approaches to the priest and prays him there
that he would elevate his life,
and teach him better how his soul should be saved
when he should go hence.
Then he shrives him cleanly and shows his misdeeds,
both the more and the less, beseeches mercy,
and begs for absolution.
And the priest assoils him thoroughly and set him as clean
as if doomsday had been due on the morrow.
And afterwards Gawain makes more mirth
among the fair ladies that day with comely carols
and all kinds of joy than ever he did before,
till the dark night.
Everyone had pleasure of him there,
and said indeed that he had never been so merry since he came hither.

31.

Now let him linger in that place,
where may love betide him.
The lord is still in the field leading his men.
He has overtaken the fox that he followed so long,
as he sprinted over a spinny to spy the rascal,
where he heard the hounds that hastened fast after him.
Reynard came running through a rough grove,
and all the rabble in a rout right at his heels.
The man was ware of the game, and warily abode;
pulled out his bright brand and struck at the beast;
and he dodged from the sharp weapon and would have turned;
but a dog seized him ere he could,
and right before the horses’ feet
they all fell on him and worried the wily one
with a great noise.
The lord lighted quickly,
and caught him forthwith;
pulled him full hastily out of the dogs’ mouths,
and holding him high over his head,
hallooed fast;
and there many fierce hounds bayed him.
Hunters hied them thither with horns full many,
ever blowing the recheat89 till they saw the hero.
As soon as his noble company was come,
all that bare bugle blew at once,
and all the others that had no horns halloed.
It was the merriest mute90 that ever men heard —
the rich riot that there was raised for Reynard’s soul.
They rewarded the hounds there,
stroked them and rubbed their heads;
and afterwards they took Reynard and turned off his coat.

32.

And then they hastened home,
for it was nigh night,
blowing full stoutly in their great horns.
The lord alighted at last at his dear home,
found fire on the floor,
and the hero beside it,
Sir Gawain the good,
that glad was withal among the ladies;
in their love he had much joy.
He wore a mantle of blue that reached to the earth;
his surcoat, that was softly furred, became him well;
and his hood of the same hung on his shoulder.
Trimmed all about with fine fur were both.
He met this good man in the middle of the floor,
and all joyfully he greeted him, and goodly he said:
“Now I shall fulfill our covenant, that we have just made,
where no drink was spared.”
Then he embraces the knight and kisses him thrice
with as much gusto and as soberly as he could give them.
“By Christ!” quoth the other knight,
“ye get much bliss in the profits of this business —
if ye drive good bargains!”
“Of the bargain no matter,” quoth curtly that other,
“so long as the debts that I owed are properly paid.”
“Mary!” quoth the other man,
“my offering is the worse,
for I have hunted all this day,
and naught have I got but this foul fox-fell;
the fiend have the good ones! And that is full poor
to pay for such fine things as ye have given me here,
three such rare kisses.”
“It is enough,” quoth Sir Gawain; I thank you, by the rood.”
And as they stood there the lord told him how the fox was slain.

33.

With mirth and minstrelsy,
with meats at there will,
they made as merry as any men could.
With laughing of ladies, with merry jests,
Gawain and the good man were both as glad
as if the court were mad,
or else drunk.
Both the man and his retinue made many jokes
till the season arrived when they must sever;
the men had to go to their beds at last.
Then humbly this gentle man takes his leave of the lord first;
and fairly he thanks him.
“For such a joyous sojourn as I have had here,
for the honor you have shown me at this high feast,
the high king reward you! I can only give you
myself to be one of your men,
if that pleases you.
For I must needs, as ye know, proceed, tomorrow,
if ye will grant me some man to show,
as you promised, the way to the green chapel,
as God will suffer me to take on New Year’s day the doom of my fate.”
“In good faith,” quoth the good man,
“with a good will! All that ever I promised you,
I will perform.”
Therewith he assigns a servant to set him in the way,
and conduct him by the downs,
that he should without hesitation travel through
the forest and fare at the best in the woods.
The lord thanked Gawain for the worship he had been willing to show him.
Then the knight took his leave of the beautiful ladies.

34.

With care and with kissing he speaks to them,
and many earnest thanks he presses upon them.
And they returned the same again promptly;
they entrusted him to Christ with sighings full sad.
Afterwards he graciously departs from the household;
each man that he met he thanked him for his service and his solace,
and the various pains with which they had been busy to serve him.
And each man was as sad to sever from him there
as they had ever dwelt worthily with that hero.
Then with people and with light he was led to his chamber
and blithely brought to bed to be at his rest.
Whether he slept soundly I dare not say,
for he had much to think of on the morrow if he would.
Let him lie there; he was near what he sought.
If ye will be still a while I shall tell you how they fared.

42. Took a light repast.

43. Hounds that hunt by scent.

44. The flat, broad part of the horn.

45. Subject supplied.

46. A mere guess: the line appears to be literally “I shall cover you here the other half also.”

47. The passage is none too clear.

48. The last clause is obscure in the text.

49. The passage is obscure.

50. ”might” supplied.

51. The negative is supplied.

52. Possibly, “in some form of courtesy.”

53. Literally, “By some touch of some trifle at some tale’s end.”

54. ”Fear” is an emendation by Morris; the clause is obscure.

55. The correct hunting term for “the fattest.”

56. Cut up.

57. Probably at the side of the neck, or on the brisket.

58. Probably at the hollow of the breast bone.

59. The gullet probably.

60. The schyre is presumably the “arber”; though in l. 2256 it appears to be the skin of the neck or nape.

61. i.e. the entrails, with the gullet knotted to prevent the filth from escaping.

62. This titbit is sometimes called a part of the numbles.

63. A choice cut; hence, capriciously, our humble-pie.

64. A bit of the offal for the crows.

65. Literally “upon.”

66. Possessive uncertain.

67. A drink ratifies the agreement — as before.

68. A call for collecting the hounds.

69. The tough skin of the flanks.

70. These last five words are rashly supplied by the translator. For several lines here the construction is unclear.

71. hounds.

72. The proper piercing spot in the chest.

73. Present and past are oddly mixed in this stanza, as often in the poem. This time they have been normalized.

74. The horn-blowing for the game’s death.

75. cut up.

76. cutlets.

77. Two words not clear.

78. Translating largesse as “largeness.”

79. A guess for stollen.

80. The line is not clear; literally, perhaps, “third time, throw best.”

81. Word obscure.

82. small hound.

83. twists.

84. Unploughed strip by woodside.

85. pack.

86. headdress, caul.

87. These two words supplied by Morris.

88. Reading frynges for MS. fyngres; or we may keep the text and translate, “wrought, embroidered by fingers.”

89. The note that recalled all the dogs.

90. Noise of the whole band.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:31