Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight - An Alliterative Romance-Poem (c. 1360 A.D.)
Author: Anonymous
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Sir Gawayne


The Green Knight:







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In re-editing the present romance-poem I have been saved all labour of transcription by using the very accurate text contained in Sir F. Madden's "Syr Gawayne."

I have not only read his copy with the manuscript, but also the proof-sheets as they came to hand, hoping by this means to give the reader a text free from any errors of transcription.

The present edition differs from that of the earlier one in having the contractions of the manuscript expanded and side-notes added to the text to enable the reader to follow with some degree of ease the author's pleasant narrative of Sir Gawayne's adventures.

The Glossary is taken from Sir F. Madden's "Syr Gawayne,"[1] to which, for the better interpretation of the text, I have made several additions, and have, moreover, glossed nearly all the words previously left unexplained.

For a description of the Manuscript, and particulars relating to the authorship and dialect of the present work, the reader is referred to the preface to Early English Alliterative Poems.


LONDON, December 22, 1864.

[Footnote 1: Sir F. Madden has most generously placed at the disposal of the Early English Text Society any of his works which it may determine to re-edit.]

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No Knight of the Round Table has been so highly honoured by the old Romance-writers as Sir Gawayne, the son of Loth, and nephew to the renowned Arthur. They delighted to describe him as Gawayne the good, a man matchless on mould, the most gracious that under God lived, the hardiest of hand, the most fortunate in arms, and the most polite in hall, whose knowledge, knighthood, kindly works, doings, doughtiness, and deeds of arms were known in all lands.

When Arthur beheld the dead body of his kinsman lying on the ground bathed in blood, he is said to have exclaimed, "O righteous God, this blood were worthy to be preserved and enshrined in gold!" Our author, too, loves to speak of his hero in similar terms of praise, calling him the knight faultless in his five wits, void of every offence, and adorned with every earthly virtue. He represents him as one whose trust was in the five wounds, and in whom the five virtues which distinguished the true knight were more firmly established than in any other on earth.

The author of the present story, who, as we know from his religious poems, had an utter horror of moral impurity, could have chosen no better subject for a romance in which amusement and moral instruction were to be combined. In the following tale he shows how the true knight, though tempted sorely not once alone, but twice, nay thrice, breaks not his vow of chastity, but turns aside the tempter's shafts with the shield of purity and arm of faith, and so passes scatheless through the perilous defile of trial and opportunity seeming safe.

But while our author has borrowed many of the details of his story from the "Roman de Perceval" by Chrestien de Troyes, he has made the narrative more attractive by the introduction of several original and highly interesting passages which throw light on the manners and amusements of our ancestors.

The following elaborate descriptions are well deserving of especial notice:—

I. The mode of completely arming a knight (ll. 568-589).

II. The hunting and breaking the deer (ll. 1126-1359).

III. The hunting and unlacing the wild boar (ll. 1412-1614).

IV. A fox hunt (ll. 1675-1921).

The following is an outline of the story of Gawayne's adventures, more or less in the words of the writer himself:—

Arthur, the greatest of Britain's kings, holds the Christmas festival at Camelot, surrounded by the celebrated knights of the Round Table, noble lords, the most renowned under heaven, and ladies the loveliest that ever had life (ll. 37-57). This noble company celebrate the New Year by a religious service, by the bestowal of gifts, and the most joyous mirth. Lords and ladies take their seats at the table—Queen Guenever, the grey-eyed, gaily dressed, sits at the dais, the high table, or table of state, where too sat Gawayne and Ywain together with other worthies of the Round Table (ll. 58-84, 107-115). Arthur, in mood as joyful as a child, his blood young and his brain wild, declares that he will not eat nor sit long at the table until some adventurous thing, some uncouth tale, some great marvel, or some encounter of arms has occurred to mark the return of the New Year (ll. 85-106).

The first course was announced with cracking of trumpets, with the noise of nakers and noble pipes.

"Each two had dishes twelve, Good beer and bright wine both."

Scarcely was the first course served when another noise than that of music was heard. There rushes in at the hall-door a knight of gigantic stature—the greatest on earth—in measure high. He was clothed entirely in green, and rode upon a green foal (ll. 116-178). Fair wavy hair fell about the shoulders of the Green Knight, and a great beard like a bush hung upon his breast (ll. 179-202).

The knight carried no helmet, shield, or spear, but in one hand a holly bough, and in the other an axe "huge and unmeet," the edge of which was as keen as a sharp razor (ll. 203-220). Thus arrayed, the Green Knight enters the hall without saluting any one. The first word that he uttered was, "Where is the govenour of this gang? gladly would I see him and with himself speak reason." To the knights he cast his eye, looking for the most renowned. Much did the noble assembly marvel to see a man and a horse of such a hue, green as the grass. Even greener they seemed than green enamel on bright gold. Many marvels had they seen, but none such as this. They were afraid to answer, but sat stone-still in a dead silence, as if overpowered by sleep;

"Not all from fear, but some for courtesy" (ll. 221-249).

Then Arthur before the high dais salutes the Green Knight, bids him welcome, and entreats him to stay awhile at his Court. The knight says that his errand is not to abide in any dwelling, but to seek the most valiant of the heroes of the Round Table that he may put his courage to the proof, and thus satisfy himself as to the fame of Arthur's court. "I come," he says, "in peace, as ye may see by this branch that I bear here. Had I come with hostile intentions, I should not have left my hauberk, helmet, shield, sharp spear, and other weapons behind me. But because I desire no war, 'my weeds are softer.' If thou be so bold as all men say, thou wilt grant me the request I am about to make." "Sir courteous knight," replies Arthur, "if thou cravest battle only, here failest thou not to fight." "Nay," says the Green Knight, "I seek no fighting. Here about on this bench are only beardless children. Were I arrayed in arms on a high steed no man here would be a match for me (ll. 250-282). But it is now Christmas time, and this is the New Year, and I see around me many brave ones;—if any be so bold in his blood that dare strike a stroke for another, I shall give him this rich axe to do with it whatever he pleases. I shall abide the first blow just as I sit, and will stand him a stroke, stiff on this floor, provided that I deal him another in return.

And yet give I him respite, A twelvemonth and a day; Now haste and let see tite (soon) Dare any here-in ought say.'"

If he astounded them at first, much more so did he after this speech, and fear held them all silent. The knight, righting himself in his saddle, rolls fiercely his red eyes about, bends his bristly green brows, and strokes his beard awaiting a reply. But finding none that would carp with him, he exclaims, "What! is this Arthur's house, the fame of which has spread through so many realms? Forsooth, the renown of the Round Table is overturned by the word of one man's speech, for all tremble for dread without a blow being struck!" (ll. 283-313). With this he laughed so loud that Arthur blushed for very shame, and waxed as wroth as the wind. "I know no man," he says, "that is aghast at thy great words. Give me now thy axe and I will grant thee thy request!" Arthur seizes the axe, grasps the handle, and sternly brandishes it about, while the Green Knight, with a stern cheer and a dry countenance, stroking his beard and drawing down his coat, awaits the blow (ll. 314-335). Sir Gawayne, the nephew of the king, beseeches his uncle to let him undertake the encounter; and, at the earnest entreaty of his nobles, Arthur consents "to give Gawayne the game" (ll. 336-365).

Sir Gawayne then takes possession of the axe, but, before the blow is dealt, the Green Knight asks the name of his opponent. "In good faith," answers the good knight, "Gawayne I am called, that bids thee to this buffet, whatever may befall after, and at this time twelvemonth will take from thee another, with whatever weapon thou wilt, and with no wight else alive." "By Gog," quoth the Green Knight, "it pleases me well that I shall receive at thy fist that which I have sought here—moreover thou hast truly rehearsed the terms of the covenant,—but thou shalt first pledge me thy word that thou wilt seek me thyself, wheresoever on earth thou believest I may be found, and fetch thee such wages as thou dealest me to-day before this company of doughty ones." "Where should I seek thee?" replies Gawayne, "where is thy place? I know not thee, thy court, or thy name. I wot not where thou dwellest, but teach me thereto, tell me how thou art called, and I shall endeavour to find thee,—and that I swear thee for truth and by my sure troth." "That is enough in New Year," says the groom in green, "if I tell thee when I have received the tap. When thou hast smitten me, then smartly I will teach thee of my house, my home, and my own name, so that thou mayest follow my track and fulfil the covenant between us. If I spend no speech, then speedest thou the better, for then mayest thou remain in thy own land and seek no further; but cease thy talking[1] (ll. 366-412). Take now thy grim tool to thee and let us see how thou knockest." "Gladly, sir, for sooth," quoth Gawayne, and his axe he brandishes.

[Footnote 1: This, I think, is the true explanation of slokes.]

The Green Knight adjusts himself on the ground, bends slightly his head, lays his long lovely locks over his crown, and lays bare his neck for the blow. Gawayne then gripped the axe, and, raising it on high, let it fall quickly upon the knight's neck and severed the head from the body. The fair head fell from the neck to the earth, and many turned it aside with their feet as it rolled forth. The blood burst from the body, yet the knight never faltered nor fell; but boldly he started forth on stiff shanks and fiercely rushed forward, seized his head, and lifted it up quickly. Then he runs to his horse, the bridle he catches, steps into his stirrups and strides aloft. His head by the hair he holds in his hands, and sits as firmly in his saddle as if no mishap had ailed him, though headless he was (ll. 413-439). He turned his ugly trunk about—that ugly body that bled,—and holding the head in his hand, he directed the face toward the "dearest on the dais." The head lifted up its eyelids and looked abroad, and thus much spoke with its mouth as ye may now hear:

"Loke, Gawayne, thou be prompt to go as thou hast promised, and seek till thou find me according to thy promise made in the hearing of these knights. Get thee to the Green Chapel, I charge thee, to fetch such a dint as thou hast dealt, to be returned on New Year's morn. As the Knight of the Green Chapel I am known to many, wherefore if thou seekest thou canst not fail to find me. Therefore come, or recreant be called." With a fierce start the reins he turns, rushes out of the hall-door, his head in his hand, so that the fire of the flint flew from the hoofs of his foal. To what kingdom he belonged knew none there, nor knew they from whence he had come. What then?

"The king and Gawayne there At that green (one) they laugh and grin."

Though Arthur wondered much at the marvel, he let no one see that he was at all troubled about it, but full loudly thus spake to his comely queen with courteous speech:

"Dear dame, to-day be never dismayed, well happens such craft at Christmas time. I may now proceed to meat, for I cannot deny that I have witnessed a wondrous adventure this day" (ll. 440-475).

He looked upon Sir Gawayne and said, "Now, sir, hang up thine axe, for enough has it hewn." So the weapon was hung up on high that all might look upon it, and "by true title thereof tell the wonder." Then all the knights hastened to their seats at the table, so did the king and our good knight, and they were there served with all dainties, "with all manner of meat and minstrelsy."

Though words were wanting when they first to seat went, now are their hands full of stern work, and the marvel affords them good subject for conversation. But a year passes full quickly and never returns,—the beginning is seldom like the end; wherefore this Christmas passed away and the year after, and each season in turn followed after another (ll. 476-520). Thus winter winds round again, and then Gawayne thinks of his wearisome journey (ll. 521-535). On All-hallows day Arthur entertains right nobly the lords and ladies of his court in honour of his nephew, for whom all courteous knights and lovely ladies were in great grief. Nevertheless they spoke only of mirth, and, though joyless themselves, made many a joke to cheer the good Sir Gawayne (ll. 536-565). Early on the morrow Sir Gawayne, with great ceremony, is arrayed in his armour (ll. 566-589), and thus completely equipped for his adventure he first hears mass, and afterwards takes leave of Arthur, the knights of the Round Table, and the lords and ladies of the court, who kiss him and commend him to Christ. He bids them all good day, as he thought, for evermore (ll. 590-669);

"Very much was the warm water that poured from eyes that day."

Now rides our knight through the realms of England with no companion but his foal, and no one to hold converse with save God alone. From Camelot, in Somersetshire, he proceeds through Gloucestershire and the adjoining counties into Montgomeryshire, and thence through North Wales to Holyhead, adjoining the Isle of Anglesea (ll. 670-700), from which he passes into the very narrow peninsula of Wirral, in Cheshire, where dwelt but few that loved God or man. Gawayne enquires after the Green Knight of the Green Chapel, but all the inhabitants declare that they have never seen "any man of such hues of green."

The knight thence pursues his journey by strange paths, over hill and moor, encountering on his way not only serpents, wolves, bulls, bears, and boars, but wood satyrs and giants. But worse than all those, however, was the sharp winter, "when the cold clear water shed from the clouds, and froze ere it might fall to the earth. Nearly slain with the sleet he slept in his armour, more nights than enough, in naked rocks" (ll. 701-729).

Thus in peril and plight the knight travels on until Christmas-eve, and to Mary he makes his moan that she may direct him to some abode. On the morn he arrives at an immense forest, wondrously wild, surrounded by high hills on every side, where he found hoary oaks full huge, a hundred together. The hazel and the hawthorn intermingled were all overgrown with moss, and upon their boughs sat many sad birds that piteously piped for pain of the cold. Gawayne besought the Lord and Mary to guide him to some habitation where he might hear mass (ll. 730-762). Scarcely had he crossed himself thrice, when he perceived a dwelling in the wood set upon a hill. It was the loveliest castle he had ever beheld. It was pitched on a prairie, with a park all about it, enclosing many a tree for more than two miles. It shone as the sun through the bright oaks (ll. 763-772).

Gawayne urges on his steed Gringolet, and finds himself at the "chief gate." He called aloud, and soon there appeared a "porter" on the wall, who demanded his errand.

"Good sir," quoth Gawayne, "wouldst thou go to the high lord of this house, and crave a lodging for me?"

"Yea, by Peter!" replied the porter, "well I know that thou art welcome to dwell here as long as thou likest."

The drawbridge is soon let down, and the gates opened wide to receive the knight. Many noble ones hasten to bid him welcome (ll. 773-825). They take away his helmet, sword, and shield, and many a proud one presses forward to do him honour. They bring him into the hall, where a fire was brightly burning upon the hearth. Then the lord of the land[1] comes from his chamber and welcomes Sir Gawayne, telling him that he is to consider the place as his own. Our knight is next conducted to a bright bower, where was noble bedding—curtains of pure silk, with golden hems, and Tarsic tapestries upon the walls and the floors (ll. 826-859). Here the knight doffed his armour and put on rich robes, which so well became him, that all declared that a more comely knight Christ had never made (ll. 860-883).

[Footnote 1: Gawayne is now in the castle of the Green Knight, who, divested of his elvish or supernatural character, appears to our knight merely as a bold one with a beaver-hued beard.]

A table is soon raised, and Gawayne, having washed, proceeds to meat. Many dishes are set before him—"sews" of various kinds, fish of all kinds, some baked in bread, others broiled on the embers, some boiled, and others seasoned with spices. The knight expresses himself well pleased, and calls it a most noble and princely feast.

After dinner, in reply to numerous questions, he tells his host that he is Gawayne, one of the Knights of the Round Table. When this was made known great was the joy in the hall. Each one said softly to his companion, "Now we shall see courteous behaviour and learn the terms of noble discourse, since we have amongst us 'that fine father of nurture.' Truly God has highly favoured us in sending us such a noble guest as Sir Gawayne" (ll. 884-927). At the end of the Christmas festival Gawayne desires to take his departure from the castle, but his host persuades him to stay, promising to direct him to the Green Chapel (about two miles from the castle), that he may be there by the appointed time (ll. 1029-1082).

A covenant is made between them, the terms of which were that the lord of the castle should go out early to the chase, that Gawayne meanwhile should lie in his loft at his ease, then rise at his usual hour, and afterwards sit at table with his hostess, and that at the end of the day they should make an exchange of whatever they might obtain in the interim. "Whatever I win in the wood," says the lord, "shall be yours, and what thou gettest shall be mine" (ll. 1083-1125).

Full early before daybreak the folk uprise, saddle their horses, and truss their mails. The noble lord of the land, arrayed for riding, eats hastily a sop, and having heard mass, proceeds with a hundred hunters to hunt the wild deer (ll. 1126-1177).

All this time Gawayne lies in his gay bed. His nap is disturbed by a little noise at the door, which is softly opened. He heaves up his head out of the clothes, and, peeping through the curtains, beholds a most lovely lady (the wife of his host). She came towards the bed, and the knight laid himself down quickly, pretending to be asleep. The lady stole to the bed, cast up the curtains, crept within, sat her softly on the bed-side, and waited some time till the knight should awake. After lurking awhile under the clothes considering what it all meant, Gawayne unlocked his eyelids, and put on a look of surprise, at the same time making the sign of the cross, as if afraid of some hidden danger (ll. 1178-1207). "Good morrow, sir," said that fair lady, "ye are a careless sleeper to let one enter thus. I shall bind you in your bed, of that be ye sure." "Good morrow," quoth Gawayne, "I shall act according to your will with great pleasure, but permit me to rise that I may the more comfortably converse with you." "Nay, beau sir," said that sweet one, "ye shall not rise from your bed, for since I have caught my knight I shall hold talk with him. I ween well that ye are Sir Gawayne that all the world worships, whose honour and courtesy are so greatly praised. Now ye are here, and we are alone (my lord and his men being afar off, other men, too, are in bed, so are my maidens), and the door is safely closed, I shall use my time well while it lasts. Ye are welcome to my person to do with it as ye please, and I will be your servant" (ll. 1208-1240).

Gawayne behaves most discreetly, for the remembrance of his forthcoming adventure at the Green Chapel prevents him from thinking of love (ll. 1205-1289). At last the lady takes leave of the knight by catching him in her arms and kissing him (ll. 1290-1307). The day passes away merrily, and at dusk the Lord of the castle returns from the chase. He presents the venison to Gawayne according to the previous covenant between them. Our knight gives his host a kiss as the only piece of good fortune that had fallen to him during the day. "It is good," says the other, "and would be much better if ye would tell me where ye won such bliss" (ll. 1308-1394). "That was not in our covenant," replies Gawayne, "so try me no more." After much laughing on both sides they proceed to supper, and afterwards, while the choice wine is being carried round, Gawayne and his host renew their agreement. Late at night they take leave of each other and hasten to their beds. "By the time that the cock had crowed and cackled thrice" the lord was up, and after "meat and mass" were over the hunters make for the woods, where they give chase to a wild boar who had grown old and mischievous (ll. 1395-1467).

While the sportsmen are hunting this "wild swine" our lovely knight lies in his bed. He is not forgotten by the lady, who pays him an early visit, seeking to make further trial of his virtues. She sits softly by his side and tells him that he has forgotten what she taught him the day before (ll. 1468-1486). "I taught you of kissing," says she; "that becomes every courteous knight." Gawayne says that he must not take that which is forbidden him. The lady replies that he is strong enough to enforce his own wishes. Our knight answers that every gift not given with a good will is worthless. His fair visitor then enquires how it is that he who is so skilled in the true sport of love and so renowned a knight, has never talked to her of love (ll. 1487-1524). "You ought," she says, "to show and teach a young thing like me some tokens of true-love's crafts; I come hither and sit here alone to learn of you some game; do teach me of your wit while my lord is from home." Gawayne replies that he cannot undertake the task of expounding true-love and tales of arms to one who has far more wisdom than he possesses. Thus did our knight avoid all appearance of evil, though sorely pressed to do what was wrong (ll. 1525-1552). The lady, having bestowed two kisses upon Sir Gawayne, takes her leave of him (ll. 1553-1557).

At the end of the day the lord of the castle returns home with the shields and head of the wild boar. He shows them to his guest, who declares that "such a brawn of a beast, nor such sides of a swine," he never before has seen. Gawayne takes possession of the spoil according to covenant, and in return he bestows two kisses upon his host, who declares that his guest has indeed been rich with "such chaffer" (ll. 1558-1647).

After much persuasion, Gawayne consents to stop at the castle another day (ll. 1648-1685). Early on the morrow the lord and his men hasten to the woods, and come upon the track of a fox, the hunting of which affords them plenty of employment and sport (ll. 1686-1730). Meanwhile our good knight sleeps soundly within his comely curtains. He is again visited by the lady of the castle. So gaily was she attired, and so "faultless of her features," that great joy warmed the heart of Sir Gawayne. With soft and pleasant smiles "they smite into mirth," and are soon engaged in conversation. Had not Mary thought of her knight, he would have been in great peril (ll. 1731-1769). So sorely does the fair one press him with her love, that he fears lest he should become a traitor to his host. The lady enquires whether he has a mistress to whom he has plighted his troth. The knight swears by St John that he neither has nor desires one. This answer causes the dame to sigh for sorrow, and telling him that she must depart, she asks for some gift, if it were only a glove, by which she might "think on the knight and lessen her grief" (ll. 1770-1800). Gawayne assures her that he has nothing worthy of her acceptance; that he is on an "uncouth errand," and therefore has "no men with no mails containing precious things," for which he is truly sorry.

Quoth that lovesome (one)—

"Though I had nought of yours, Yet should ye have of mine.

Thus saying, she offers him a rich ring of red gold "with a shining stone standing aloft," that shone like the beams of the bright sun. The knight refused the gift, as he had nothing to give in return. "Since ye refuse my ring," says the lady, "because it seems too rich, and ye would not be beholden to me, I shall give you my girdle that is less valuable" (ll. 1801-1835). But Gawayne replies that he will not accept gold or reward of any kind, though "ever in hot and in cold" he will be her true servant.

"Do ye refuse it," asks the lady, "because it seems simple and of little value? Whoso knew the virtues that are knit therein would estimate it more highly. For he who is girded with this green lace cannot be wounded or slain by any man under heaven." The knight thinks awhile, and it strikes him that this would be a "jewel for the jeopardy" that he had to undergo at the Green Chapel. So he not only accepts the lace, but promises to keep the possession of it a secret (ll. 1836-1865). By that time the lady had kissed him thrice, and she then takes "her leave and leaves him there."

Gawayne rises, dresses himself in noble array, and conceals the "love lace" where he might find it again. He then hies to mass, shrives him of his misdeeds, and obtains absolution. On his return to the hall he solaces the ladies with comely carols and all kinds of joy (ll. 1866-1892). The dark night came, and then the lord of the castle, having slain the fox, returns to his "dear home," where he finds a fire brightly turning and his guest amusing the ladies (ll. 1893-1927). Gawayne, in fulfilment of his agreement, kisses his host thrice.[1] "By Christ," quoth the other knight, "ye have caught much bliss. I have hunted all this day and nought have I got but the skin of this foul fox (the devil have the goods!), and that is full poor for to pay for such precious things" (ll. 1928-1951).

After the usual evening's entertainment, Gawayne retires to rest. The next morning, being New Year's day, is cold and stormy. Snow falls, and the dales are full of drift. Our knight in his bed locks his eyelids, but full little he sleeps. By each cock that crows he knows the hour, and before day-break he calls for his chamberlain, who quickly brings him his armour (ll. 1952-2014). While Gawayne clothed himself in his rich weeds he forgot not the "lace, the lady's gift," but with it doubly girded his loins. He wore it not for its rich ornaments, "but to save himself when it behoved him to suffer," and as a safeguard against sword or knife (ll. 2015-2046).

Having thanked his host and all the renowned assembly for the great kindness he had experienced at their hands, "he steps into stirrups and strides aloft" (ll. 2047-2068).

The drawbridge is let down, and the broad gates unbarred and borne open upon both sides, and the knight, after commending the castle to Christ, passes thereout and goes on his way accompanied by his guide, that should teach him to turn to that place where he should receive the much-dreaded blow. They climb over cliffs, where each hill had a hat and a mist-cloak, until the next morn, when they find themselves on a full high hill covered with snow. The servant bids his master remain awhile, saying, "I have brought you hither at this time, and now ye are not far from that noted place that ye have so often enquired after. The place that ye press to is esteemed full perilous, and there dwells a man in that waste the worst upon earth, for he is stiff and stern and loves to strike, and greater is he than any man upon middle-earth, and his body is bigger than the best four in Arthur's house. He keeps the Green Chapel; there passes none by that place, however proud in arms, that he does not 'ding him to death with dint of his hand.' He is a man immoderate and 'no mercy uses,' for be it churl or chaplain that by the chapel rides, monk or mass-priest, or any man else, it is as pleasant to him to kill them as to go alive himself. Wherefore I tell thee truly, 'come ye there, ye be killed, though ye had twenty lives to spend. He has dwelt there long of yore, and on field much sorrow has wrought. Against his sore dints ye may not defend you' (ll. 2069-2117). Therefore, good Sir Gawayne, let the man alone, and for God's sake go by some other path, and then I shall hie me home again. I swear to you by

[Footnote 1: He only in part keeps to his covenant, as he holds back the love-lace.]

God and all His saints that I will never say that ever ye attempted to flee from any man."

Gawayne thanks his guide for his well-meant kindness, but declares that to the Green Chapel he will go, though the owner thereof be "a stern knave," for God can devise means to save his servants.

"Mary!" quoth the other, "since it pleases thee to lose thy life I will not hinder thee. Have thy helmet on thy head, thy spear in thy hand, and ride down this path by yon rock-side, till thou be brought to the bottom of the valley. Then look a little on the plain, on thy left hand, and thou shalt see in that slade the chapel itself, and the burly knight that guards it (ll. 2118-2148). Now, farewell Gawayne the noble! for all the gold upon ground I would not go with thee nor bear thee fellowship through this wood 'on foot farther.'" Thus having spoken, he gallops away and leaves the knight alone.

Gawayne now pursues his journey, rides through the dale, and looks about. He sees no signs of a resting-place, but only high and steep banks, and the very shadows of the high woods seemed wild and distorted. No chapel, however, could he discover. After a while he sees a round hill by the side of a stream; thither he goes, alights, and fastens his horse to the branch of a tree. He walks about the hill, debating with himself what it might be. It had a hole in the one end and on each side, and everywhere overgrown with grass, but whether it was only an old cave or a crevice of an old crag he could not tell (ll. 2149-2188).

"Now, indeed," quoth Gawayne, "a desert is here; this oratory is ugly with herbs overgrown. It is a fitting place for the man in green to 'deal here his devotions after the devil's manner.' Now I feel it is the fiend (the devil) in my five wits that has covenanted with me that he may destroy me. This is a chapel of misfortune—evil betide it! It is the most cursed kirk that ever I came in." With his helmet on his head, and spear in his hand, he roams up to the rock, and then he hears from that high hill beyond the brook a wondrous wild noise. Lo! it clattered in the cliff as if one upon a grindstone were grinding a scythe. It whirred like the water at a mill, and rushed and re-echoed, terrible to hear. "Though my life I forgo," says Gawayne, "no noise shall cause me to fear."

Then he cried aloud, "Who dwells in this place, discourse with me to hold? For now is good Gawayne going right here if any brave wight will hie him hither, either now or never" (ll. 2189-2216).

"Abide," quoth one on the bank above, over his head, "and thou shalt have all in haste that I promised thee once."

Soon there comes out of a hole in the crag, with a fell weapon a Danish axe quite new, the "man in the green," clothed as at first as his legs, locks and beard. But now he is on foot and walks on the earth. When he reaches the stream, he hops over and boldly strides about. He meets Sir Gawayne, who tells him that he is quite ready to fulfil his part of the compact. "Gawayne," quoth that 'green gome' (man), "may God preserve thee! Truly thou art welcome to my place, 'and thou hast timed thy travel' as a true man should. Thou knowest the covenants made between us, at this time twelve-month, that on New Year's day I should return thee thy blow. We are now in this valley by ourselves, and can do as we please (ll. 2217-2246). Have, therefore, thy helmet off thy head, and 'have here thy pay.' Let us have no more talk than when thou didst strike off my head with a single blow."

"Nay, by God!" quoth Gawayne, "I shall not begrudge thee thy will for any harm that may happen, but will stand still while thou strikest."

Then he stoops a little and shows his bare neck, unmoved by any fear. The Green Knight takes up his "grim tool," and with all his force raises it aloft, as if he meant utterly to destroy him. As the axe came gliding down Gawayne "shrank a little with the shoulders from the sharp iron." The other withheld his weapon, and then reproved the prince with many proud words. "Thou art not Gawayne that is so good esteemed, that never feared for no host by hill nor by vale, for now thou fleest for fear before thou feelest harm (ll. 2247-2272). Such cowardice of that knight did I never hear. I never flinched nor fled when thou didst aim at me in King Arthur's house. My head flew to my feet and yet I never fled, wherefore I deserve to be called the better man."

Quoth Gawayne, "I shunted once, but will do so no more, though my head fall on the stones. But hasten and bring me to the point; deal me my destiny, and do it out of hand, for I shall stand thee a stroke and start no more until thine axe has hit me—have here my troth." "Have at thee, then," said the other, and heaves the axe aloft, and looks as savagely as if he were mad. He aims at the other mightily, but withholds his hand ere it might hurt. Gawayne readily abides the blow without flinching with any member, and stood still as a stone or a tree fixed in rocky ground with a hundred roots.

Then merrily the other did speak, "Since now thou hast thy heart whole it behoves me to strike, so take care of thy neck." Gawayne answers with great wroth, "Thrash on, thou fierce man, thou threatenest too long; I believe thy own heart fails thee."

"Forsooth," quoth the other, "since thou speakest so boldly, I will no longer delay" (ll. 2273-2304). Then, contracting "both lips and brow," he made ready to strike, and let fall his axe on the bare neck of Sir Gawayne. "Though he hammered" fiercely, he only "severed the hide," causing the blood to flow. When Gawayne saw his blood on the snow, he quickly seized his helmet and placed it on his head. Then he drew out his bright sword, and thus angrily spoke: "Cease, man, of thy blow, bid me no more. I have received a stroke in this place without opposition, but if thou givest me any more readily shall I requite thee, of that be thou sure. Our covenant stipulates one stroke, and therefore now cease."

The Green Knight, resting on his axe, looks on Sir Gawayne, as bold and fearless he there stood, and then with a loud voice thus addresses the knight: "Bold knight, be not so wroth, no man here has wronged thee (ll. 2305-2339); I promised thee a stroke, and thou hast it, so hold thee well pleased. I could have dealt much worse with thee, and caused thee much sorrow. Two blows I aimed at thee, for twice thou kissedst my fair wife; but I struck thee not, because thou restoredst them to me according to agreement. At the third time thou failedst, and therefore I have given thee that tap. That woven girdle, given thee by my own wife, belongs to me. I know well thy kisses, thy conduct also, and the wooing of my wife, for I wrought it myself. I sent her to try thee, and truly methinks thou art the most faultless man that ever on foot went. Still, sir, thou wert wanting in good faith; but as it proceeded from no immorality, thou being only desirous of saving thy life, the less I blame thee."

Gawayne stood confounded, the blood rushed into his face, and he shrank within himself for very shame. "Cursed," he cried, "be cowardice and covetousness both; in you are villany and vice, that virtue destroy." Then he takes off the girdle and throws it to the knight in green, cursing his cowardice and covetousness. The Green Knight, laughing, thus spoke: "Thou hast confessed so clean, and acknowledged thy faults, that I hold thee as pure as thou hadst never forfeited since thou wast first born. I give thee, sir, the gold-hemmed girdle as a token of thy adventure at the Green Chapel. Come now to my castle, and we shall enjoy together the festivities of the New Year" (ll. 2340-2406).

"Nay, forsooth," quoth the knight, "but for your kindness may God requite you. Commend me to that courteous one your comely wife, who with her crafts has beguiled me. But it is no uncommon thing for a man to come to sorrow through women's wiles; for so was Adam beguiled with one, and Solomon with many. Samson was destroyed by Delilah, and David suffered much through Bathsheba. 'It were indeed great bliss for a man to love them well and believe them not.' Since the greatest upon earth were so beguiled, methinks I should be excused. But God reward you for your girdle, which I will ever wear in remembrance of my fault, and when pride shall exalt me, a look to this love-lace shall lessen it (ll. 2407-2438). But since ye are the lord of yonder land, from whom I have received so much honour, tell me truly your right name, and I shall ask no more questions."

Quoth the other, "I am called Bernlak de Hautdesert, through might of Morgain la Fay, who dwells in my house. Much has she learnt of Merlin, who knows all your knights at home. She brought me to your hall for to essay the prowess of the Round Table. She wrought this wonder to bereave you of your wits, hoping to have grieved Guenever and affrighted her to death by means of the man that spoke with his head in his hand before the high table. She is even thine aunt, Arthur's half sister; wherefore come to thine aunt, for all my household love thee."

Gawayne refuses to accompany the Green Knight, and so, with many embraces and kind wishes, they separate—the one to his castle, the other to Arthur's court.

After passing through many wild ways, our knight recovers from the wound in his neck, and at last comes safe and sound to the court of King Arthur. Great then was the joy of all; the king and queen kiss their brave knight, and make many enquiries about his journey. He tells them of his adventures, hiding nothing—"the chance of the chapel, the cheer of the knight, the love of the lady, and lastly of the lace." Groaning for grief and shame he shows them the cut in his neck, which he had received for his unfaithfulness (ll. 2439-2504). The king and his courtiers comfort the knight—they laugh loudly at his adventures, and unanimously agree that those lords and ladies that belonged to the Round Table, and each knight of the brotherhood should ever after wear a bright green belt for Gawayne's sake. And he upon whom it was conferred honoured it evermore after.

Thus in Arthur's time this adventure befell, whereof the "Brutus Books" bear witness (ll. 2505-2530).

I need not say that the Brutus Books we possess do not contain the legend here set forth, though it is not much more improbable than some of the statements contained in them. If the reader desires to know the relation in which this and the like stories stand to the original Arthur legends, he will find it discussed in Sir F. Madden's Preface to his edition of "Syr Gawayne," which also contains a sketch of the very different views taken of Sir Gawayne by the different Romance writers.

Into this and other literary questions I do not enter here, as I have nothing to add to Sir F. Madden's statements; but in the text of the Poem I have differed from him in some few readings, which will be found noticed in the Notes and Glossary.

As the manuscript is fast fading, I am glad that the existence of the Early English Text Society has enabled us to secure a wider diffusion of its contents before the original shall be no longer legible.

We want nothing but an increased supply of members to enable us to give to a large circle of readers many an equally interesting record of Early English minds.

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NOTE: The Old English "yogh" characters have been translated both upper and lower-case yoghs to digit 3's. There are Unicode allocations for these (in HTML Ȝ and ȝ) but at present no font which implements these. Substiting the digit 3 seemed a workable compromise which anybody can read. The linked html "Old English 'yogh' file" uses Ȝ and ȝ representations, and is included for users with specialist fonts.

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[A] Sien e sege & e assaut wat3 sesed at Troye, [Fol. 91a.] e bor3 brittened & brent to bronde3 & aske3, e tulk at e trammes of tresoun er wro3t, 4 Wat3 tried for his tricherie, e trewest on erthe; Hit wat3 Ennias e athel, & his highe kynde, at sien depreced prouinces, & patrounes bicome Welne3e of al e wele in e west iles, 8 [B] Fro riche Romulus to Rome ricchis hym swye, With gret bobbaunce at bur3e he biges vpon fyrst, & neuenes hit his aune nome, as hit now hat; Ticius to Tuskan [turnes,] & teldes bigynnes; 12 Langaberde in Lumbardie lyftes vp homes; [C] & fer ouer e French flod Felix Brutus On mony bonkkes ful brode Bretayn he sette3, wyth wynne; 16 [D] Where werre, & wrake, & wonder, Bi sye3 hat3 wont er-inne, [E] & oft boe blysse & blunder Ful skete hat3 skyfted synne.

[Sidenote A: After the siege of Troy] [Sidenote B: Romulus built Rome,] [Sidenote C: and Felix Brutus founded Britain,] [Sidenote D: a land of war and wonder,] [Sidenote E: and oft of bliss and blunder.]


20 Ande quen is Bretayn wat3 bigged bi is burn rych, [A] Bolde bredden er-inne, baret at lofden, In mony turned tyme tene at wro3ten; Mo ferlyes on is folde han fallen here oft 24 [B] en in any oer at I wot, syn at ilk tyme. [C] Bot of alle at here bult of Bretaygne kynges Ay wat3 Arthur e hendest; as I haf herde telle; For-i an aunter in erde I attle to schawe, [Fol. 91b.] 28 at a selly in si3t summe men hit holden, & an outtrage awenture of Arthure3 wondere3; [D] If 3e wyl lysten is laye bot on littel quile, I schal telle hit, as-tit, as I in toun herde, 32 with tonge; As hit is stad & stoken, In stori stif & stronge, With lel letteres loken, 36 In londe so hat3 ben longe.

[Sidenote A: Bold men increased in the Land,] [Sidenote B: and many marvels happened.] [Sidenote C: Of all Britain's kings Arthur was the noblest.] [Sidenote D: Listen a while and ye shall hear the story of an "outrageous adventure."]


[A] is kyng lay at Camylot vpon kryst-masse, With mony luflych lorde, lede3 of e best, [B] Rekenly of e rounde table alle o rich breer, 40 With rych reuel ory3t, & rechles meres; er tournayed tulkes bi-tyme3 ful mony, Iusted ful Iolile ise gentyle kni3tes, Syen kayred to e court, caroles to make. 44 [C] For er e fest wat3 ilyche ful fiften dayes, With alle e mete & e mire at men coue a-vyse; Such glaumande gle glorious to here, Dere dyn vp-on day, daunsyng on ny3tes, 48 [D] Al wat3 hap vpon he3e in halle3 & chambre3, With lorde3 & ladies, as leuest him o3t; With all e wele of e worlde ay woned er samen, [E] e most kyd kny3te3 vnder kryste seluen, 52 & e louelokkest ladies at euer lif haden, & he e comlokest kyng at e court haldes; For al wat3 is fayre folk in her first age, on sille; 56 [F] e hapnest vnder heuen, Kyng hy3est mon of wylle, Hit were[1] now gret nye to neuen So hardy a here on hille.

[Sidenote A: Arthur held at Camelot his Christmas feast,] [Sidenote B: with all the knights of the Round Table,] [Sidenote C: full fifteen days.] [Sidenote D: All was joy in hall and chamber,] [Sidenote E: among brave knights and lovely ladies,] [Sidenote F: the happiest under heaven.] [Footnote 1: MS. werere.]


60 [A] Wyle nw 3er wat3 so 3ep at hit wat3 nwe cummen, at day doubble on e dece wat3 e douth serued, Fro e kyng wat3 cummen with kny3tes in to e halle, e chauntre of e chapel cheued to an ende; 64 Loude crye wat3 er kest of clerke3 & oer, Nowel nayted o-newe, neuened ful ofte; [Fol. 92] & syen riche forth runnen to reche honde-selle, [B] 3e3ed 3eres 3iftes on hi3, 3elde hem bi hond, 68 Debated busyly aboute o giftes; Ladies la3ed ful loude, o3 ay lost haden, & he at wan wat3 not wrothe, at may 3e wel trawe. [C] Alle is mire ay maden to e mete tyme; 72 When ay had waschen, woryly ay wenten to sete, e best burne ay abof, as hit best semed; [D] Whene Guenore ful gay, grayed in e myddes. Dressed on e dere des, dubbed al aboute, 76 Smal sendal bisides, a selure hir ouer Of tryed Tolouse, of Tars tapites in-noghe, at were enbrawded & beten wyth e best gemmes, at my3t be preued of prys wyth penyes to bye, 80 in daye; [E] e comlokest to discrye, er glent with y3en gray, A semloker at euer he sy3e, 84 Soth mo3t no mon say.

[Sidenote A: They celebrate the New Year with great joy.] [Sidenote B: Gifts are demanded and bestowed.] [Sidenote C: Lords and ladies take their seats at the table.] [Sidenote D: Queen Guenever appears gaily dressed.] [Sidenote E: A lady fairer of form might no one say he had ever before seen.]


[A] Bot Arthure wolde not ete til al were serued, He wat3 so Ioly of his Ioyfnes, & sum-quat child gered, His lif liked hym ly3t, he louied e lasse 88 [B] Auer to lenge lye, or to longe sitte, So bi-sied him his 3onge blod & his brayn wylde; & also anoer maner meued him eke, at he ur3 nobelay had nomen, ho wolde neuer ete 92 Vpon such a dere day, er hym deuised were [C] Of sum auenturus yng an vncoue tale, Of sum mayn meruayle, at he my3t trawe, Of[1] alderes, of armes, of oer auenturus, 96 Oer sum segg hym bi-so3t of sum siker kny3t, To Ioyne wyth hym in iustyng in Ioparde to lay, Lede lif for lyf, leue vchon oer, As fortune wolde fulsun hom e fayrer to haue. 100 is wat3 [e] kynges countenaunce where he in court were, At vch farand fest among his fre meny, in halle; [Fol. 92b.] [D] er-fore of face so fere. 104 He sti3tle3 stif in stalle, Ful 3ep in at nw 3ere, Much mirthe he mas with alle.

[Sidenote A: Arthur would not eat,] [Sidenote B: nor would he long sit] [Sidenote C: until he had witnessed a "wondrous adventure" of some kind.] [Sidenote D: He of face so bold makes much mirth with all.] [Footnote 1: Of of, in MS.]


[A] Thus er stondes in stale e stif kyng his-seluen, 108 Talkkande bifore e hy3e table of trifles ful hende [B] There gode Gawan wat3 grayed, Gwenore bisyde [C] & Agrauayn a la dure mayn on at oer syde sittes Boe e kynges sister sunes, & ful siker kni3tes; 112 [D] Bischop Bawdewyn abof bi-gine3 e table, [E] & Ywan, Vryn son, ette wit hym-seluen; ise were di3t on e des, & derworly serued, & sien mony siker segge at e sidborde3. 116 [F] en e first cors come with crakkyng of trumpes, Wyth mony baner ful bry3t, at er-bi henged, Nwe nakryn noyse with e noble pipes, Wylde werbles & wy3t wakned lote, 120 at mony hert ful hi3e hef at her towches; [G] Dayntes dryuen er-wyth of ful dere metes, Foysoun of e fresche, & on so fele disches, at pine to fynde e place e peple bi-forne 124 For to sette e syluener,[1] at sere sewes halden, on clothe; Iche lede as he loued hym-selue er laght with-outen loe, 128 [H] Ay two had disches twelue, [I] Good ber, & bry3t wyn boe.

[Sidenote A: The king talks with his knights.] [Sidenote B: Gawayne,] [Sidenote C: Agravayn,] [Sidenote D: Bishop Bawdewyn,] [Sidenote E: and Ywain sit on the dais.] [Sidenote F: The first course is served with cracking of trumpets.] [Sidenote G: It consisted of all dainties in season.] [Sidenote H: Each two had dishes twelve,] [Sidenote I: good beer and bright wine both.] [Footnote 1: svlueren (?) (dishes).]


[A] Now wyl I of hor seruise say yow no more, For veh wy3e may wel wit no wont at er were; 132 [B] An oer noyse ful newe ne3ed biliue, at e lude my3t haf leue lif-lode to cach. For vnee wat3 e noyce not a whyle sesed, & e fyrst cource in e court kyndely serued, 136 [C] er hales in at e halle dor an aghlich mayster, On e most on e molde on mesure hyghe; Fro e swyre to e swange so sware & so ik, [D] & his lyndes & his lymes so longe & so grete, 140 Half etayn in erde I hope at he were. [Fol. 93.] [E] Bot mon most I algate mynn hym to bene, & at e myriest in his muckel at my3t ride; [F] For of bak & of brest al were his bodi sturne, 144 [G] Bot his wombe & his wast were worthily smale, & alle his fetures fol3ande, in forme at he hade, ful clene; For wonder of his hwe men hade, 148 Set in his semblaunt sene; He ferde as freke were fade, & ouer-al enker grene.

[Sidenote A: There was no want of anything.] [Sidenote B: Scarcely had the first course commenced,] [Sidenote C: when there rushes in at the hall-door a knight;] [Sidenote D: the tallest on earth] [Sidenote E: he must have been.] [Sidenote F: His back and breast were great,] [Sidenote G: but his belly and waist were small.]


[A] Ande al grayed in grene is gome & his wedes, 152 A strayt cote ful stre3t, at stek on his sides, A mere mantile abof, mensked with-inne, With pelure pured apert e pane ful clene, With blye blaunner ful bry3t, & his hod boe, 156 at wat3 la3t fro his lokke3, & layde on his schulderes Heme wel haled, hose of at same grene, [B] at spenet on his sparlyr, & clene spures vnder, Of bry3t golde, vpon silk bordes, barred ful ryche 160 & scholes vnder schankes, ere e schalk rides; & alle his vesture uerayly wat3 clene verdure, Boe e barres of his belt & oer blye stones, at were richely rayled in his aray clene, 164 [C] Aboutte hym-self & his sadel, vpon silk werke3, at were to tor for to telle of tryfles e halue, at were enbrauded abof, wyth bryddes & fly3es, With gay gaudi of grene, e golde ay in myddes; 168 e pendauntes of his payttrure, e proude cropure His molaynes, & alle e metail anamayld was enne e steropes at he stod on, stayned of e same, & his arsoun3 al after, & his ael sturtes, 172 at euer glemered[1] & glent al of grene stones. [D] e fole at he ferkkes on, fyn of at ilke, sertayn; A grene hors gret & ikke, 176 [E] A stede ful stif to strayne, In brawden brydel quik, To e gome he wat3 ful gayn. [Fol. 93b.]

[Sidenote A: He was clothed entirely in green.] [Sidenote B: His spurs were of bright gold.] [Sidenote C: His saddle was embroidered with birds and flies.] [Sidenote D: The foal that he rode upon was green;] [Sidenote E: it was a steed full stiff to guide.] [Footnote 1: glemed (?).]


[A] Wel gay wat3 is gome gered in grene, 180 & e here of his hed of his hors swete; Fayre fannand fax vmbe-foldes his schulderes; [B] A much berd as[1] a busk ouer his brest henges, at wyth his hi3lich here, at of his hed reches, 184 Wat3 euesed al vmbe-torne, a-bof his elbowes, at half his armes er vnder were halched in e wyse Of a kynge3 capados, at closes his swyre. [C] e mane of at mayn hors much to hit lyke, 188 Wel cresped & cemmed wyth knottes ful mony, Folden in wyth fildore aboute e fayre grene, Ay a herle of e here, an oer of golde; [D] e tayl & his toppyng twynnen of a sute, 192 & bounden boe wyth a bande of a bry3t grene, Dubbed wyth ful dere stone3, as e dok lasted, Syen rawen wyth a wong a warle knot alofte, er mony belle3 ful bry3t of brende golde rungen. 196 [E] Such a fole vpon folde, ne freke at hym rydes, Wat3 neuer sene in at sale wyth sy3t er at tyme, with y3e; He loked as layt so ly3t, 200 So sayd al at hym sy3e, [F] Hit semed as no mon my3t, Vnder his dyntte3 dry3e.

[Sidenote A: Gaily was the knight attired.] [Sidenote B: His great beard, like a bush, hung on his breast.] [Sidenote C: The horse's mane was decked with golden threads.] [Sidenote D: Its tail was bound with a green band.] [Sidenote E: Such a foal nor a knight were never before seen.] [Sidenote F: It seemed that no man might endure his dints.] [Footnote 1: as as, in MS.]


[A] Wheer hade he no helme ne hawb[e]rgh nauer, 204 Ne no pysan, ne no plate at pented to armes, Ne no schafte, ne no schelde, to schwne ne to smyte, [B] Bot in his on honde he hade a holyn bobbe, at is grattest in grene, when greue3 ar bare, 208 [C] & an ax in his oer, a hoge & vn-mete, A spetos spare to expoun in spelle quo-so my3t; e hede of an eln3erde e large lenke hade, e grayn al of grene stele & of golde hewen, 212 [D] e bit burnyst bry3t, with a brod egge, As wel schapen to schere as scharp rasores; e stele of a stif staf e sturne hit bi-grypte, at wat3 wounden wyth yrn to e wande3 ende, [Fol. 94.] 216 [E] & al bigrauen with grene, in gracios[1] werkes; A lace lapped aboute, at louked at e hede, & so after e halme halched ful ofte, Wyth tryed tassele3 erto tacched in-noghe, 220 [F] On botoun3 of e bry3t grene brayden ful ryche. is hael helde3 hym in, & e halle entres, Driuande to e he3e dece, dut he no woe, [G] Haylsed he neuer one, bot he3e he ouer loked. 224 e fyrst word at he warp, "wher is," he sayd, [H] "e gouernour of is gyng? gladly I wolde Se at segg in sy3t, & with hym self speke raysoun." 228 To kny3te3 he kest his y3e, & reled hym vp & doun, [I] He stemmed & con studie, Quo walt er most renoun.

[Sidenote A: The knight carried neither spear nor shield,] [Sidenote B: In one hand was a holly bough,] [Sidenote C: in the other an axe,] [Sidenote D: the edge of which was as keen as a sharp razor,] [Sidenote E: and the handle was encased in iron, curiously "graven with green, in gracious works."] [Sidenote F: Thus arrayed the Green Knight enters the hall,] [Sidenote G: without saluting any one.] [Sidenote H: He asks for the "governor" of the company,] [Sidenote I: and looks for the most renowned.] [Footnote 1: looks like gracons in MS.]


232 [A] Ther wat3 lokyng on lene, e lude to be-holde, For vch mon had meruayle quat hit mene my3t, at a hael & a horse my3t such a hwe lach, [B] As growe grene as e gres & grener hit semed, 236 en grene aumayl on golde lowande bry3ter; Al studied at er stod, & stalked hym nerre, [C] Wyth al e wonder of e worlde, what he worch schulde. For fele sellye3 had ay sen, bot such neuer are, 240 For-i for fantoum & fayry3e e folk ere hit demed; [D] er-fore to answare wat3 ar3e mony ael freke, & al stouned at his steuen, & stonstil seten, [E] In a swoghe sylence ur3 e sale riche 244 As al were slypped vpon slepe so slaked hor lote3 in hy3e; I deme hit not al for doute, [F] Bot sum for cortaysye, 248 Bot let hym at al schulde loute, Cast vnto at wy3e.

[Sidenote A: Much they marvel to see a man and a horse] [Sidenote B: as green as grass.] [Sidenote C: Never before had they seen such a sight as this.] [Sidenote D: They were afraid to answer,] [Sidenote E: and were as silent as if sleep had taken possession of them;] [Sidenote F: some from fear and others from courtesy.]


[A] enn Arour bifore e hi3 dece at auenture byholde3, & rekenly hym reuerenced, for rad was he neuer, 252 & sayde, "wy3e, welcum iwys to is place, [B] e hede of is ostel Arthour I hat, [Fol. 94b.] Li3t luflych adoun, & lenge, I e praye, & quat so y wylle is, we schal wyt after." 256 [C] "Nay, as help me," quod e hael, "he at on hy3e syttes, To wone any quyle in is won, hit wat3 not myn ernde; Bot for e los of e lede is lyft vp so hy3e, & y bur3 & y burnes best ar holden, 260 Stifest vnder stel-gere on stedes to ryde, [D] e wy3test & e woryest of e worldes kynde, Preue for to play wyth in oer pure layke3; & here is kydde cortaysye, as I haf herd carp, 264 & at hat3 wayned me hider, I-wyis, at is tyme. 3e may be seker bi is braunch at I bere here, [E] at I passe as in pes, & no ply3t seche; For had I founded in fere, in fe3tyng wyse, 268 [F] I haue a hauberghe at home & a helme boe, A schelde, & a scharp spere, schinande bry3t, Ande oer weppenes to welde, I wene wel als, Bot for I wolde no were, my wede3 ar softer. 272 Bot if ou be so bold as alle burne3 tellen, ou wyl grant me godly e gomen at I ask, bi ry3t." [G] Arthour con onsware, 276 & sayd, "sir cortays kny3t, If ou craue batayl bare, Here fayle3 ou not to fy3t."

[Sidenote A: Arthur salutes the Green Knight.] [Sidenote B: bids him welcome, and invites him to stay awhile.] [Sidenote C: The knight says that he will not tarry.] [Sidenote D: He seeks the most valiant that he may prove him.] [Sidenote E: He comes in peace.] [Sidenote F: At home, however, he has both shield and spear.] [Sidenote G: Arthur assures him that he shall not fail to find an opponent worthy of him.]


[A] "Nay, frayst I no fy3t, in fayth I e telle, 280 [B] Hit arn aboute on is bench bot berdle3 chylder; If I were hasped in armes on a he3e stede, [C] Here is no mon me to mach, for my3te3 so[1] wayke. For-y I craue in is court a crystmas gomen, 284 [D] For hit is 3ol & nwe 3er, & here ar 3ep mony; If any so hardy in is hous holde3 hym-seluen, [E] Be so bolde in his blod, brayn in hys hede, at dar stifly strike a strok for an oer, 288 I schal gif hym of my gyft ys giserne ryche, [F] is ax, at is heue in-nogh, to hondele as hym lykes, & I schal bide e fyrst bur, as bare as I sitte. [Fol. 95.] If any freke be so felle to fonde at I telle, 292 Lepe ly3tly me to, & lach is weppen, I quit clayme hit for euer, kepe hit as his auen, [G] & I schal stonde hym a strok, stif on is flet, Elle3 ou wyl di3t me e dom to dele hym an oer, 296 barlay; & 3et gif hym respite, [H] A twelmonyth & a day;— Now hy3e, & let se tite 300 Dar any her-inne o3t say."

[Sidenote A: "I seek no fight," says the knight.] [Sidenote B: "'Here are only beardless children.'] [Sidenote C: Here is no man to match me.] [Sidenote D: Here are brave ones many,] [Sidenote E: if any be bold enough to 'strike a stroke for another,'] [Sidenote F: this axe shall be his;] [Sidenote G: but I shall give him a 'stroke' in return] [Sidenote H: within a twelvemonth and a day."] [Footnote 1: MS. fo.]


[A] If he hem stowned vpon fyrst, stiller were anne Alle e hered-men in halle, e hy3 & e lo3e; [B] e renk on his rounce hym ruched in his sadel, 304 & runisch-ly his rede y3en he reled aboute, [C] Bende his bresed bro3e3, bly-cande grene, [D] Wayued his berde for to wayte quo-so wolde ryse. When non wolde kepe hym with carp he co3ed ful hy3e, 308 Ande rimed hym ful richley, & ry3t hym to speke: [E] "What, is is Arures hous," quod e hael enne, "at al e rous rennes of, ur3 ryalmes so mony? Where is now your sourquydrye & your conquestes, 312 Your gry[n]del-layk, & your greme, & your grete wordes? [F] Now is e reuel & e renoun of e rounde table Ouer-walt wyth a worde of on wy3es speche; For al dares for drede, with-oute dynt schewed!" 316 Wyth is he la3es so loude, at e lorde greued; [G] e blod schot for scham in-to his schyre face & lere; [H] He wex as wroth as wynde, 320 So did alle at er were e kyng as kene bi kynde, en stod at stif mon nere.

[Sidenote A: Fear kept all silent.] [Sidenote B: The knight rolled his red eyes about,] [Sidenote C: and bent his bristly green brows.] [Sidenote D: Waving his beard awhile, he exclaimed:] [Sidenote E: "What! is this Arthur's court?] [Sidenote F: Forsooth the renown of the Round Table is overturned 'with a word of one man's speech.'"] [Sidenote G: Arthur blushes for shame.] [Sidenote H: He waxes as wroth as the wind.]


[A] Ande sayde, "hael, by heuen yn askyng is nys, 324 & as ou foly hat3 frayst, fynde e be-houes; I know no gome at is gast of y grete wordes. Gif me now y geserne, vpon gode3 halue, & I schal bayen y bone, at ou boden habbes." 328 Ly3tly lepe3 he hym to, & la3t at his honde; [Fol. 95b.] en feersly at oer freke vpon fote ly3tis. [B] Now hat3 Arthure his axe, & e halme grype3, & sturnely sture3 hit aboute, at stryke wyth hit o3t. 332 e stif mon hym bifore stod vpon hy3t, Herre en ani in e hous by e hede & more; [C] Wyth sturne schere[1] er he stod, he stroked his berde, & wyth a countenaunce dry3e he dro3 doun his cote, 336 No more mate ne dismayd for hys mayn dinte3, en any burne vpon bench hade bro3t hym to drynk of wyne, [D] Gawan, at sate bi e quene, 340 To e kyng he can enclyne, "I be-seche now with sa3e3 sene, is melly mot be myne."

[Sidenote A: He assures the knight that no one is afraid of his great words.] [Sidenote B: Arthur seizes his axe.] [Sidenote C: The knight, stroking his beard, awaits the blow, and with a "dry countenance" draws down his coat.] [Sidenote D: Sir Gawayne beseeches the king to let him undertake the blow.] [Footnote 1: chere (?).]


"Wolde 3e, worilych lorde," quod Gawan to e kyng, 344 [A] "Bid me bo3e fro is benche, & stonde by yow ere, at I wyth-oute vylanye my3t voyde is table, & at my legge lady lyked not ille, I wolde com to your counseyl, bifore your cort ryche. 348 [B] For me ink hit not semly, as hit is so knawen, er such an askyng is heuened so hy3e in your sale, a33e 3our-self be talenttyf to take hit to your-seluen, [C] Whil mony so bolde yow aboute vpon bench sytten, 352 at vnder heuen, I hope, non ha3er er of wylle, Ne better bodyes on bent, er baret is rered; [D] I am e wakkest, I wot, and of wyt feblest, & lest lur of my lyf, quo laytes e soe, 356 Bot for as much as 3e ar myn em, I am only to prayse, No bounte bot your blod I in my bode knowe; & syen is note is so nys, at no3t hit yow falles, & I haue frayned hit at yow fyrst, folde3 hit to me, 360 & if I carp not comlyly, let alle is cort rych, bout blame." [E] Ryche to-geder con roun, & syen ay redden alle same, 364 To ryd e kyng wyth croun, & gif Gawan e game.

[Sidenote A: He asks permission to leave the table; he says,] [Sidenote B: it is not meet that Arthur should be active in the matter,] [Sidenote C: while so many bold ones sit upon bench.] [Sidenote D: Although the weakest, he is quite ready to meet the Green Knight.] [Sidenote E: The nobles entreat Arthur to "give Gawayne the game."]


en comaunded e kyng e kny3t for to ryse; [Fol. 96.] & he ful radly vp ros, & ruchched hym fayre, 368 [A] Kneled doun bifore e kyng, & cache3 at weppen; & he luflyly hit hym laft, & lyfte vp his honde, & gef hym godde3 blessyng, & gladly hym biddes [B] at his hert & his honde schulde hardi be boe. 372 "Kepe e cosyn," quod e kyng, "at ou on kyrf sette, & if ou rede3 hym ry3t, redly I trowe, at ou schal byden e bur at he schal bede after. Gawan got3 to e gome, with giserne in honde, 376 & he baldly hym byde3, he bayst neuer e helder [C] en carppe3 to sir Gawan e kny3t in e grene, "Refourme we oure for-wardes, er we fyrre passe. Fyrst I ee e, hael, how at ou hattes, 380 at ou me telle truly, as I tryst may?" [D] "In god fayth," quod e goode kny3t, "Gawan I hatte, at bede e is buffet, quat-so bi-falle3 after, & at is tyme twelmonyth take at e anoer, 384 Wyth what weppen so[1] ou wylt, & wyth no wy3 elle3, on lyue." at oer on-sware3 agayn, "Sir Gawan, so mot I ryue, 388 [E] As I am ferly fayn. is dint at ou schal dryue."

[Sidenote A: The king gives his nephew his weapon,] [Sidenote B: and tells him to keep heart and hand steady.] [Sidenote C: The Green Knight enquires the name of his opponent.] [Sidenote D: Sir Gawayne tells him his name, and declares that he is willing to give and receive a blow.] [Sidenote E: The other thereof is glad.] [Footnote 1: MS. fo.]


[A] "Bigog," quod e grene kny3t, "sir Gawan, melykes, at I schal fange at y fust at I haf frayst here; 392 & ou hat3 redily rehersed, bi resoun ful trwe, Clanly al e couenaunt at I e kynge asked, Saf at ou schal siker me, segge, bi i trawe, at ou schal seche me i-self, where-so ou hopes 396 I may be funde vpon folde, & foch e such wages [B] As ou deles me to day, bifore is doue ryche." [C] "Where schulde I wale e," quod Gauan, "where is y place? I wot neuer where ou wonyes, bi hym at me wro3t, 400 Ne I know not e, kny3t, y cort, ne i name. [D] Bot teche me truly er-to, & telle me howe ou hattes, & I schal ware alle my wyt to wynne me eder, & at I swere e for soe, & by my seker trawe." [Fol. 96b.] 404 "at is in-nogh in nwe 3er, hit nedes no more," Quod e gome in e grene to Gawan e hende, [E] "3if I e telle trwly, quen I e tape haue, & ou me smoely hat3 smyten, smartly I e teche 408 Of my hous, & my home, & myn owen nome, en may ou frayst my fare, & forwarde3 holde, [F] & if I spende no speche, enne spede3 ou e better, For ou may leng in y londe, & layt no fyrre, 412 bot slokes; [G] Ta now y grymme tole to e, & let se how ou cnoke3." "Gladly sir, for soe," 416 Quod Gawan; his ax he strokes.

[Sidenote A: "It pleases me well, Sir Gawayne," says the Green Knight, "that I shall receive a blow from thy fist; but thou must swear that thou wilt seek me,] [Sidenote B: to receive the blow in return."] [Sidenote C: "Where shall I seek thee?" says Sir Gawayne;] [Sidenote D: "tell me thy name and abode and I will find thee."] [Sidenote E: "When thou hast smitten me," says the knight, "then tell I thee of my home and name;] [Sidenote F: if I speak not at all, so much the better for thee.] [Sidenote G: Take now thy grim tool, and let us see how thou knockest."]


[A] The grene kny3t vpon grounde grayely hym dresses, A littel lut with e hede, e lere he discouere3, [B] His longe louelych lokke3 he layd ouer his croun. 420 Let e naked nec to e note schewe. Gauan gripped to his ax, & gederes hit on hy3t, e kay fot on e folde he be-fore sette, [C] Let hit doun ly3tly ly3t on e naked, 424 at e scharp of e schalk schyndered e bones, [D] & schrank ur3 e schyire grece, & scade hit in twynne, at e bit of e broun stel bot on e grounde. [E] e fayre hede fro e halce hit [felle] to e ere, 428 [F] at fele hit foyned wyth her fete, ere hit forth roled; e blod brayd fro e body, at blykked on e grene; [G] & nawer faltered ne fel e freke neuer e helder, Bot styly he start forth vpon styf schonkes, 432 [H] & ru[n]yschly he ra3t out, ere as renkke3 stoden, La3t to his lufly hed, & lyft hit vp sone; & syen bo3e3 to his blonk, e brydel he cachche3, [I] Steppe3 in to stel bawe & stryde3 alofte, 436 [J] & his hede by e here in his honde halde3; & as sadly e segge hym in his sadel sette, As non vnhap had hym ayled, a3 hedle3 he[1] we[re], in stedde; 440 [K] He brayde his bluk[2] aboute, at vgly bodi at bledde, [Fol. 97.] Moni on of hym had doute, Bi at his resoun3 were redde.

[Sidenote A: The Green Knight] [Sidenote B: puts his long lovely locks aside and lays bare his neck.] [Sidenote C: Sir Gawayne lets fall his axe] [Sidenote D: and severs the head from the body.] [Sidenote E: The head falls to the earth.] [Sidenote F: Many kick it aside with their feet.] [Sidenote G: The knight never falters;] [Sidenote H: he rushes forth, seizes his head,] [Sidenote I: steps into the saddle,] [Sidenote J: holding the while the head in his hand by the hair,] [Sidenote K: and turns his horse about.] [Footnote 1: MS. ho.] [Footnote 2: blunk (?).]


444 For e hede in his honde he halde3 vp euen, [A] To-ward e derrest on e dece he dresse3 e face, & hit lyfte vp e y3e-lydde3, & loked ful brode, [B] & meled us much with his muthe, as 3e may now here. 448 "Loke, Gawan, ou be graye to go as ou hette3, & layte as lelly til ou me, lude, fynde, [C] As ou hat3 hette in is halle, herande ise kny3tes; [D] To e grene chapel ou chose, I charge e to fotte, 452 Such a dunt as ou hat3 dalt disserued ou habbe3, [E] To be 3ederly 3olden on nw 3eres morn; e kny3t of e grene chapel men knowen me mony; [F] For-i me forto fynde if ou frayste3, fayle3 ou neuer, 456 [G] er-fore com, oer recreaunt be calde e be-houeus." With a runisch rout e rayne3 he torne3, [H] Halled out at e hal-dor, his hed in his hande, at e fyr of e flynt fla3e fro fole houes. 460 To quat kyth he be-com, knwe non ere, Neuermore en ay wyste fram queen. he wat3 wonnen; what enne? e kyng & Gawen are, 464 [I] At at grene ay la3e & grenne, 3et breued wat3 hit ful bare, A meruayl among o menne.

[Sidenote A: The head lifts up its eyelids,] [Sidenote B: and addresses Sir Gawayne; "Look thou, be ready to go as thou hast promised,] [Sidenote C: and seek till thou findest me.] [Sidenote D: Get thee to the Green Chapel,] [Sidenote E: there to receive a blow on New Year's morn.] [Sidenote F: Fail thou never;] [Sidenote G: come, or recreant be called."] [Sidenote H: The Green Knight then rushes out of the hall, his head in his hand.] [Sidenote I: At that green one Arthur and Gawayne "laugh and grin."]


[A] a3 Arer e hende kyng at hert hade wonder, 468 He let no semblaunt be sene, bot sayde ful hy3e To e comlych quene, wyth cortays speche, [B] "Dere dame, to day demay yow neuer; Wel by-commes such craft vpon cristmasse, 472 Laykyng of enterlude3, to la3e & to syng. Among ise, kynde caroles of kny3te3 & ladye3; [C] Neuer-e-lece to my mete I may me wel dres, For I haf sen a selly, I may not for-sake." 476 He glent vpon sir Gawen, & gaynly he sayde, [D] "Now sir, heng vp yn ax, at hat3 in-nogh hewen." & hit wat3 don abof e dece, on doser to henge, [Fol. 97b.] er alle men for meruayl my3t on hit loke, 480 & bi trwe tytel er-of to telle e wonder. [E] enne ay bo3ed to a borde ise burnes to-geder, e kyng & e gode kny3t, & kene men hem serued Of alle dayntye3 double, as derrest my3t falle, 484 Wyth alle maner of mete & mynstralcie boe; Wyth wele walt ay at day, til wored an ende, in londe. [F] Now enk wel, sir Gawan, 488 For woe at ou ne wonde, is auenture forto frayn, at ou hat3 tan on honde.

[Sidenote A: Arthur addresses the queen:] [Sidenote B: "Dear dame, be not dismayed; such marvels well become the Christmas festival;] [Sidenote C: I may now go to meat.] [Sidenote D: Sir Gawayne, hang up thine axe.] [Sidenote E: The king and his knights sit feasting at the board till day is ended.] [Sidenote F: Now beware, Sir Gawayne, lest thou fail to seek the adventure that thou hast taken in hand.]



[A] This hanselle hat3 Arthur of auenturus on fyrst, 492 In 3onge 3er, for he 3erned 3elpyng to here, Tha3 hym worde3 were wane, when ay to sete wenten; Now ar ay stoken of sturne werk staf-ful her hond. Gawan wat3 glad to be-gynne ose gomne3 in halle, 496 Bot a3 e ende be heuy, haf 3e no wonder; For a3 men ben mery in mynde, quen ay han mayn drynk, [B] A 3ere 3ernes ful 3erne, & 3elde3 neuer lyke, e forme to e fynisment folde3 ful selden. 500 For-i is 3ol ouer-3ede, & e 3ere after, & vche sesoun serlepes sued after oer; [C] After crysten-masse com e crabbed lentoun, at frayste3 flesch wyth e fysche & fode more symple 504 Bot enne e weder of e worlde wyth wynter hit repe3, [D] Colde clenge3 adoun, cloude3 vp-lyften, Schyre schede3 e rayn in schowre3 ful warme, Falle3 vpon fayre flat, flowre3 ere schewen, 508 [E] Boe grounde3 & e greue3 grene ar her wede3, [F] Brydde3 busken to bylde, & bremlych syngen, [G] For solace of e softe somer at sues er after, bi bonk; 512 [H] & blossume3 bolne to blowe, Bi rawe3 rych & ronk, [I] en note3 noble in-no3e, Ar herde in wod so wlonk. [Fol. 98]

[Sidenote A: This marvel serves to keep up a brisk conversation in Court.] [Sidenote B: The year passes full quickly and never returns.] [Sidenote C: After Christmas comes the "crabbed Lenten."] [Sidenote D: Spring sets in and warm showers descend;] [Sidenote E: the groves become green,] [Sidenote F: birds build and sing,] [Sidenote G: for joy of the summer that follows;] [Sidenote H: blossoms begin to bloom,] [Sidenote I: and noble notes are heard in the woods]


516 [A] After e sesoun of somer wyth e soft wynde3, Quen 3eferus syfle3 hym-self on sede3 & erbe3, [B] Wela-wynne is e wort at woxes er-oute. When e donkande dewe drope3 of e leue3, 520 To bide a blysful blusch of e bry3t sunne. [C] Bot en hy3es heruest, & hardenes hym sone. Warne3 hym for e wynter to wax ful rype; [D] He dryues wyth dro3t e dust for to ryse. 524 Fro e face of e folde to fly3e ful hy3e; Wroe wynde of e welkyn wrastele3 with e sunne, [E] e leue3 lancen fro e lynde, & ly3ten on e grounde, [F] & al grayes e gres, at grene wat3 ere; 528 enne al rype3 & rote3 at ros vpon fyrst, & us 3irne3 e 3ere in 3isterdaye3 mony, [G] & wynter wynde3 a3ayn, as e worlde aske3 no sage. 532 Til me3el-mas mone, Wat3 cumen wyth wynter wage; [H] en enkke3 Gawan ful sone, Of his anious uyage.

[Sidenote A: Then the soft winds of summer,] [Sidenote B: beautiful are the flowers wet with dew-drops.] [Sidenote C: But harvest approaches soon,] [Sidenote D: and drives the dust about.] [Sidenote E: The leaves drop off the trees,] [Sidenote F: the grass becomes gray, and all ripens and rots.] [Sidenote G: Winter winds round again,] [Sidenote H: and then Sir Gawayne thinks of his dread journey.]


536 [A] 3et quyl al-hal-day with Arer he lenges, & he made a fare on at fest, for e freke3 sake, With much reuel & ryche of e rounde table; Kny3te3 ful cortays & comlych ladies, 540 Al for luf of at lede in longynge ay were, Bot neuer-e-lece ne e later ay neuened bot mere, Mony ioyle3 for at ientyle iape3 er maden. [B] For aftter mete, with mournyng he mele3 to his eme, 544 & speke3 of his passage, & pertly he sayde, [C] "Now, lege lorde of my lyf, leue I yow ask; 3e knowe e cost of is cace, kepe I no more To telle yow tene3 er-of neuer bot trifel; 548 [D] Bot I am boun to e bur barely to morne, To sech e gome of e grene, as god wyl me wysse." enne e best of e bur3 bo3ed to-geder, Aywan, & Errik, & oer ful mony, 552 Sir Doddinaual de Sauage, e duk of Clarence, [Fol. 98b.] Launcelot, & Lyonel, & Lucan e gode, Sir Boos, & sir Byduer, big men boe, [E] & mony oer menskful, with Mador de la Port. 556 Alle is compayny of court com e kyng nerre, For to counseyl e kny3t, with care at her hert; [F] ere wat3 much derue[1] doel driuen in e sale, at so worthe as Wawan schulde wende on at ernde, 560 To dry3e a delful dynt, & dele no more wyth bronde. e kny3t mad ay god chere, & sayde, "quat schuld I wonde, 564 [G] Of destines derf & dere, What may mon do bot fonde?"

[Sidenote A: On All-hallows day Arthur makes a feast for his nephew's sake.] [Sidenote B: After meat, Sir Gawayne thus speaks to his uncle:] [Sidenote C: "Now, liege lord, I ask leave of you,] [Sidenote D: for I am bound on the morn to seek the Green Knight."] [Sidenote E: Many nobles, the best of the court, counsel and comfort him.] [Sidenote F: Much sorrow prevails in the hall.] [Sidenote G: Gawayne declares that he has nothing to fear.] [Footnote 1: derne (?).]


[A] He dowelle3 er al at day, and dresse3 on e morn, Aske3 erly hys arme3, & alle were ay bro3t 568 [B] Fyrst a tule tapit, ty3t ouer e flet, & miche wat3 e gyld gere at glent er alofte; [C] e stif mon steppe3 eron, & e stel hondole3, [D] Dubbed in a dublet of a dere tars, 572 & syen a crafty capados, closed aloft, at wyth a bry3t blaunner was bounden with-inne; [E] enne set ay e sabatoun3 vpon e segge fote3, His lege3 lapped in stel with luflych greue3, 576 With polayne3 piched er-to, policed ful clene, Aboute his kne3 knaged wyth knote3 of golde; [F] Queme quyssewes en, at coyntlych closed His thik rawen y3e3 with wonges to-tachched; 580 [G] & syen e brawden bryne of bry3t stel rynge3, Vmbe-weued at wy3, vpon wlonk stuffe; [H] & wel bornyst brace vpon his boe armes, With gode cowters & gay, & gloue3 of plate, 584 & alle e godlych gere at hym gayn schulde at tyde; [I] Wyth ryche cote armure, [J] His gold spore3 spend with pryde, 588 [K] Gurde wyth a bront ful sure, With silk sayn vmbe his syde.

[Sidenote A: On the morn he asks for his arms.] [Sidenote B: A carpet is spread on the floor,] [Sidenote C: and he steps thereon.] [Sidenote D: He is dubbed in a doublet of Tarsic silk, and a well-made hood.] [Sidenote E: They set steel slices on his feet, and lap his legs in steel greaves.] [Sidenote F: Fair cuisses enclose his thighs,] [Sidenote G: and afterwards they put on the steel habergeon,] [Sidenote H: well-burnished braces, elbow pieces, and gloves of plate.] [Sidenote I: Over all this is placed the coat armour.] [Sidenote J: His spurs are then fixed,] [Sidenote K: and his sword is attached to his side by a silken girdle.]


[A] When he wat3 hasped in armes, his harnays wat3 ryche, [Fol. 99a.] e lest lachet ou[]er loupe lemed of golde; 592 So harnayst as he wat3 he herkne3 his masse, Offred & honoured at e he3e auter; [B] Syen he come3 to e kyng & to his cort fere3, Lache3 lufly his leue at lorde3 & ladye3; 596 & ay hym kyst & conueyed, bikende hym to kryst. [C] Bi at wat3 Gryngolet grayth, & gurde with a sadel, at glemed ful gayly with mony golde frenges, Ay quere naylet ful nwe for at note ryched; 600 e brydel barred aboute, with bry3t golde bounden; [D] e apparayl of e payttrure, & of e proude skyrte3, e cropore, & e couertor, acorded wyth e arsoune3; & al wat3 rayled on red ryche golde nayle3, 604 at al glytered & glent as glem of e sunne. [E] enne hentes he e holme, & hastily hit kysses, at wat3 stapled stifly, & stoffed wyth-inne: Hit wat3 hy3e on his hede, hasped bihynde, 608 [F] Wyth a ly3tli vrysoun ouer e auentayle, [G] Enbrawden & bounden wyth e best gemme3, On brode sylkyn borde, & brydde3 on seme3, As papiaye3 paynted pernyng bitwene, 612 Tortors & trulofe3 entayled so yk, As mony burde er aboute had ben seuen wynter in toune; [H] e cercle wat3 more o prys, 616 at vmbe-clypped hys croun, Of diamaunte3 a deuys, at boe were bry3t & broun.

[Sidenote A: Thus arrayed the knight hears mass,] [Sidenote B: and afterwards takes leave of Arthur and his court.] [Sidenote C: By that time his horse Gringolet was ready,] [Sidenote D: the harness of which glittered like the "gleam of the sun."] [Sidenote E: Then Sir Gawayne sets his helmet upon his head,] [Sidenote F: fastened behind with a "urisoun,"] [Sidenote G: richly embroidered with gems.] [Sidenote H: The circle around the helmet was decked with diamonds.]


[A] Then ay schewed hym e schelde, at was of schyr goule3, 620 Wyth e pentangel de-paynt of pure golde hwe3; He brayde3 hit by e baude-ryk, aboute e hals kestes, at bisemed e segge semlyly fayre. [B] & quy e pentangel apende3 to at prynce noble, 624 I am in tent yow to telle, of tary hyt me schulde; Hit is a syngne at Salamon set sum-quyle, In bytoknyng of trawe, bi tytle at hit habbe3, For hit is a figure at halde3 fyue poynte3, [Fol. 99b] 628 & vche lyne vmbe-lappe3 & louke3 in oer, [C] & ay quere hit is endele3,[1] & Englych hit callen Ouer-al, as I here, e endeles knot. For-y hit acorde3 to is kny3t, & to his cler arme3, 632 For ay faythful in fyue & sere fyue sye3, [D] Gawan wat3 for gode knawen, & as golde pured, Voyded of vche vylany, wyth vertue3[2] ennourned in mote; 636 For-y e pen-tangel nwe He ber in schelde & cote, [E] As tulk of tale most trwe, & gentylest kny3t of lote.

[Sidenote A: Then they show him his shield with the "pentangle" of pure gold.] [Sidenote B: The "pentangle" was devised by Solomon as a token of truth.] [Sidenote C: It is called the endless knot] [Sidenote D: It well becomes the good Sir Gawayne,] [Sidenote E: a knight the truest of speech and the fairest of form.] [Footnote 1: MS emdele3.] [Footnote 2: MS verertue3]


640 [A] Fyrst he wat3 funden fautle3 in his fyue wytte3, & efte fayled neuer e freke in his fyue fyngres, [B] & alle his afyaunce vpon folde wat3 in e fyue wounde3 at Cryst ka3t on e croys, as e crede telle3; 644 & quere-so-euer ys mon in melly wat3 stad, His ro o3t wat3 in at, ur3 alle oer ynge3, at alle his forsnes he fong at e fyue ioye3, at e hende heuen quene had of hir chylde; 648 At is cause e kny3t comlyche hade [C] In e more half of his schelde hir ymage depaynted, at quen he blusched erto, his belde neuer payred. e fyrst[1] fyue at I finde at e frek vsed, 652 Wat3 fraunchyse, & fela3schyp for-be[2] al yng; [D] His clannes & his cortaysye croked were neuer, & pite, at passe3 alle poynte3, yse pure fyue Were harder happed on at hael en on any oer. 656 Now alle ese fyue sye3, forsoe, were fetled on is kny3t, & vchone halched in oer, at non ende hade, & fyched vpon fyue poynte3, at fayld neuer, Ne samned neuer in no syde, ne sundred nou[er], 660 With-outen ende at any noke [a]i quere fynde, Where-euer e gomen bygan, or glod to an ende. [E] er-fore on his schene schelde schapen wat3 e knot, us alle wyth red golde vpon rede gowle3, 664 at is e pure pentaungel wyth e peple called, [Fol. 100] with lore. Now grayed is Gawan gay, [F] & la3t his launce ry3t ore, 668 & gef hem alle goud day, He wende for euer more.

[Sidenote A: He was found faultless in his five wits.] [Sidenote B: His trust was in the five wounds.] [Sidenote C: The image of the Virgin was depicted upon his shield.] [Sidenote D: In cleanness and courtesy he was never found wanting,] [Sidenote E: therefore was the endless knot fastened on his shield.] [Sidenote F: Sir Gawayne seizes his lance and bids all "good day."] [Footnote 1: MS fyft.] [Footnote 2: for-bi (?).]


[A] He sperred e sted with e spure3, & sprong on his way, So stif at e ston fyr stroke out er-after; 672 [B] Al at se3 at semly syked in hert, & sayde soly al same segges til oer, Carande for at comly, "bi Kryst, hit is scae, at ou, leude, schal be lost, at art of lyf noble! 676 [C] To fynde hys fere vpon folde, in fayth is not ee; Warloker to haf wro3t had more wyt bene, & haf dy3t 3onder dere a duk to haue wored; [D] A lowande leder of lede3 in londe hym wel seme3, 680 & so had better haf ben en britned to no3t, [E] Hadet wyth an aluisch mon, for angarde3 pryde. Who knew euer any kyng such counsel to take, As kny3te3 in caueloun3 on cryst-masse gomne3!" 684 [F] Wel much wat3 e warme water at waltered of y3en, When at semly syre so3t fro o wone3 at[1] daye; He made non abode, 688 Bot wy3tly went hys way, [G] Mony wylsum way he rode, e bok as I herde say.

[Sidenote A: He spurs his horse and goes on his way.] [Sidenote B: All that saw that seemly one mourned in their hearts.] [Sidenote C: They declared that his equal was not to be found upon earth.] [Sidenote D: It would have been better for him to have been a leader of men,] [Sidenote E: than to die by the hands of "an elvish man."] [Sidenote F: Much was the warm water that poured from eyes that day.] [Sidenote G: Meanwhile many a weary way goes Sir Gawayne.] [Footnote 1: MS. ad.]


[A] Now ride3 is renk ur3 e ryalme of Logres, 692 Sir Gauan on Gode3 halue, a3 hym no gomen o3t; Oft, leudle3 alone, he lenge3 on ny3te3, er he fonde no3t hym byfore e fare at he lyked; [B] Hade he no fere bot his fole, bi frythe3 & doune3, 696 Ne no gome bot God, bi gate wyth to karp, [C] Til at he ne3ed ful noghe[1] in to e Nore Wale3; Alle e iles of Anglesay on lyft half he halde3, & fare3 ouer e forde3 by e for-londe3, 700 [D] Ouer at e Holy-Hede, til he hade eft bonk In e wyldrenesse of Wyrale; wonde er bot lyte [E] at auer God oer gome wyth goud hert louied. [Fol. 100b] & ay he frayned, as he ferde, at freke3 at he met, 704 [F] If ay hade herde any karp of a kny3t grene, In any grounde er-aboute, of e grene chapel;[2] & al nykked hym wyth nay, at neuer in her lyue [G] ay se3e neuer no segge at wat3 of suche hwe3 708 of grene. e kny3t tok gates straunge, In mony a bonk vnbene, [H] His cher ful oft con chaunge, 712 at chapel er he my3t sene.

[Sidenote A: Now rides the knight through the realms of England.] [Sidenote B: He has no companion but his horse.] [Sidenote C: No men does he see till he approaches North Wales.] [Sidenote D: From Holyhead he passes into Wirral.] [Sidenote E: There he finds but few that loved God or man.] [Sidenote F: He enquires after the Green Knight of the Green Chapel,] [Sidenote G: but can gain no tidings of him.] [Sidenote H: His cheer oft changed before he found the Chapel.] [Footnote 1: nyghe (?).] [Footnote 2: MS. clapel.]


[A] Mony klyf he ouer-clambe in contraye3 straunge, Fer floten fro his frende3 fremedly he ryde3; [B] At vche ware oer water er e wy3e passed, 716 He fonde a foo hym byfore, bot ferly hit were, & at so foule & so felle, at fe3t hym by-hode; [C] So mony meruayl hi mount er e mon fynde3, Hit were to tore for to telle of e tene dole. 720 [D] Sumwhyle wyth worme3 he werre3, & with wolues als, Sumwhyle wyth wodwos, at woned in e knarre3, [E] Boe wyth bulle3 & bere3, & bore3 oer-quyle, & etayne3, at hym a-nelede, of e he3e felle; 724 [F] Nade he ben du3ty & dry3e, & dry3tyn had serued, Douteles he hade ben ded, & dreped ful ofte. [G] For werre wrathed hym not so much, at wynter was wors, When e colde cler water fro e cloude3 schadden, 728 & fres er hit falle my3t to e fale ere; Ner slayn wyth e slete he sleped in his yrnes, Mo ny3te3 en in-noghe in naked rokke3, er as claterande fro e crest e colde borne renne3, 732 & henged he3e ouer his hede in hard ysse-ikkles. [H] us in peryl, & payne, & plytes ful harde, Bi contray carye3 is kny3t, tyl kryst-masse euen, al one; 736 e kny3t wel at tyde, [I] To Mary made his mone. at ho hym red to ryde, & wysse hym to sum wone. [Fol. 101.]

[Sidenote A: Many a cliff he climbed over;] [Sidenote B: many a ford and stream he crossed, and everywhere he found a foe.] [Sidenote C: It were too tedious to tell the tenth part of his adventures] [Sidenote D: with serpents, wolves, and wild men;] [Sidenote E: with bulls, bears, and boars.] [Sidenote F: Had he not been both brave and good, doubtless he had been dead.] [Sidenote G: The sharp winter was far worse than any war that ever troubled him.] [Sidenote H: Thus in peril he travels till Christmas-eve.] [Sidenote I: To the Virgin Mary he prays to guide him to some abode.]


740 [A] Bi a mounte on e morne meryly he rydes, Into a forest ful dep, at ferly wat3 wylde, Hi3e hille3 on vche a halue, & holt wode3 vnder, [B] Of hore oke3 fill hoge a hundreth to-geder; 744 e hasel & e ha3-orne were harled al samen, With ro3e raged mosse rayled ay-where, [C] With mony brydde3 vnblye vpon bare twyges, at pitosly er piped for pyne of e colde. 748 e gome vpon Gryngolet glyde3 hem vnder, [D] ur3 mony misy & myre, mon al hym one, Carande for his costes, lest he ne keuer schulde, To se e seruy[1] of at syre, at on at self ny3t 752 Of a burde wat3 borne, oure baret to quelle; [E] & erfore sykyng he sayde, "I be-seche e, lorde, & Mary, at is myldest moder so dere. Of sum herber, er he3ly I my3t here masse. 756 Ande y matyne3 to-morne, mekely I ask, & er-to prestly I pray my pater & aue, & crede." He rode in his prayere, 760 & cryed for his mysdede, [F] He sayned hym in syes sere, & sayde "cros Kryst me spede!"

[Sidenote A: On the morn Sir Gawayne finds himself in a deep forest,] [Sidenote B: where were old oaks many a hundred.] [Sidenote C: Many sad birds upon bare twigs piped piteously for the cold.] [Sidenote D: Through many a mire he goes, that he may celebrate the birth of Christ.] [Sidenote E: He beseeches the Virgin Mary to direct him to some lodging where he may hear mass.] [Sidenote F: Blessing himself, he says, "Cross of Christ, speed me!"] [Footnote 1: seruyce (?).]


[A] Nade he sayned hym-self, segge, bot rye, 764 Er he wat3 war in e wod of a won in a mote. [B] Abof a launde, on a lawe, loken vnder bo3e3, Of mony borelych bole, aboute bi e diches; [C] A castel e comlokest at euer kny3t a3te, 768 Pyched on a prayere, a park al aboute, With a pyked palays, pyned ful ik, at vmbe-te3e mony tre mo en two myle. at holde on at on syde e hael auysed, 772 [D] As hit schemered & schon ur3 e schyre oke3; enne hat3 he hendly of his helme, & he3ly he onke3 Iesus & say[nt] Gilyan, at gentyle ar boe, at cortaysly hade hym kydde, & his cry herkened. [Fol. 101b.] 776 "Now bone hostel," coe e burne, "I be-seche yow 3ette!" enne gedere3 he to Gryngolet with e gilt hele3, [E] & he ful chauncely hat3 chosen to e chef gate, at bro3t bremly e burne to e bryge ende, 780 in haste; [F] e bryge wat3 breme vp-brayde, e 3ate3 wer stoken faste, e walle3 were wel arayed, 784 Hit dut no wynde3 blaste.

[Sidenote A: Scarcely had he blessed himself thrice] [Sidenote B: when he saw a dwelling in the wood, set on a hill,] [Sidenote C: the comeliest castle that knight ever owned.] [Sidenote D: It shone as the sun through the bright oaks.] [Sidenote E: Sir Gawayne goes to the chief gate,] [Sidenote F: and finds the draw-bridge raised, and the gates shut fast.]


[A] e burne bode on bonk, at on blonk houed, Of e depe double dich at drof to e place, e walle wod in e water wonderly depe, 788 [B] Ande eft a ful huge he3t hit haled vpon lofte, Of harde hewen ston vp to e table3, [C] Enbaned vnder e abataylment, in e best lawe; & syen garyte3 ful gaye gered bi-twene, 792 Wyth mony luflych loupe, at louked ful clene; A better barbican at burne blusched vpon neuer; & innermore he be-helde at halle ful hy3e, [D] Towre telded bytwene trochet ful ik, 796 Fayre fylyole3 at fy3ed, & ferlyly long, [E] With coruon coprounes, craftyly sle3e; Chalk whyt chymnees er ches he in-no3e, Vpon bastel roue3, at blenked ful quyte; 800 So mony pynakle payntet wat3 poudred ay quere, Among e castel carnele3, clambred so ik, at pared out of papure purely hit semed. [F] e fre freke on e fole hit fayr in-n[o]ghe o3t, 804 If he my3t keuer to com e cloyster wyth-inne, To herber in at hostel, whyl halyday lested auinant; [G] He calde, & sone er com 808 A porter pure plesaunt, On e wal his ernd he nome, & haylsed e kny3t erraunt.

[Sidenote A: The knight abides on the bank,] [Sidenote B: and observes the "huge height,"] [Sidenote C: with its battlements and watch towers.] [Sidenote D: Bright and long were its round towers,] [Sidenote E: with their well-made capitals.] [Sidenote F: He thinks it fair enough if he might only come within the cloister.] [Sidenote G: He calls, and soon there comes a porter to know the knight's errand.]


[A] "Gode sir," quod Gawan, "wolde3 ou go myn ernde, 812 To e he3 lorde of is hous, herber to craue?" "3e, Peter," quod e porter, "& purely I trowe,[1] [Fol. 102.] [B] at 3e be, wy3e, welcum to won quyle yow lyke3." en 3ede at wy3e a3ayn awye, 816 & folke frely hym wyth, to fonge e kny3t; [C] ay let doun e grete dra3t, & derely out 3eden, & kneled doun on her knes vpon e colde ere, To welcum is ilk wy3, as wory hom o3t; 820 [D] ay 3olden hym e brode 3ate, 3arked vp wyde, & he hem raysed rekenly, & rod ouer e brygge; Sere segge3 hym sesed by sadel, quel[2] he ly3t, [E] & syen stabeled his stede stif men in-no3e. 824 [F] Kny3te3 & swyere3 comen doun enne, For to bryng is burne[3] wyth blys in-to halle; [G] Quen he hef vp his helme, er hi3ed in-noghe For to hent hit at his honde, e hende to seruen, 828 His bronde & his blasoun boe ay token. en haylsed he ful hendly o haele3 vch one, & mony proud mon er presed, at prynce to honour; Alle hasped in his he3 wede to halle ay hym wonnen, 832 er fayre fyre vpon flet fersly brenned. [H] enne e lorde of e lede loute3 fro his chambre, For to mete wyth menske e mon on e flor; He sayde, "3e ar welcum to welde as yow lyke3, 836 at here is, al is yowre awen, to haue at yowre wylle & welde." "Graunt mercy," quod Gawayn, "er Kryst hit yow for-3elde," 840 [I] As freke3 at semed fayn, Ayer oer in arme3 con felde.

[Sidenote A: "Good sir," says Gawayne, "ask the high lord of this house to grant me a lodging."] [Sidenote B: "You are welcome to dwell here as long as you like," replied the porter.] [Sidenote C: The draw-bridge is let down,] [Sidenote D: and the gate is opened wide to receive him.] [Sidenote E: His horse is well stabled.] [Sidenote F: Knights and squires bring Gawayne into the hall.] [Sidenote G: Many a one hastens to take his helmet and sword.] [Sidenote H: The lord of the country bids him welcome,] [Sidenote I: and they embrace each other.] [Footnote 1: trowoe, MS.] [Footnote 2: quyle (?) or quen (?).] [Footnote 3: buurne, MS.]


[A] Gawayn gly3t on e gome at godly hym gret, [B] & u3t hit a bolde burne at e bur3 a3te, 844 A hoge hael for e none3, & of hyghe elde;[1] [C] Brode bry3t wat3 his berde, & al beuer hwed, Sturne stif on e strye on stal-worth schonke3, [D] Felle face as e fyre, & fre of hys speche; 848 & wel hym semed for soe, as e segge u3t, To lede a lortschyp in lee of leude3 ful gode. [E] e lorde hym charred to a chambre, & chefly cumaunde3[2] [Fol.] To delyuer hym a leude, hym lo3ly to serue; [102b.] 852 & ere were boun at his bode burne3 in-no3e, [F] at bro3t hym to a bry3t boure, er beddyng wat3 noble, Of cortynes of clene sylk, wyth cler golde hemme3, [G] & couertore3 ful curious, with comlych pane3, 856 Of bry3t blaunnier a-boue enbrawded bisyde3, Rudele3 rennande on rope3, red golde rynge3, [H] Tapyte3 ty3t to e wo3e, of tuly & tars, & vnder fete, on e flet, of fol3ande sute. 860 [I] er he wat3 dispoyled, wyth speche3 of myere, e burn of his bruny, & of his bry3t wede3; [J] Ryche robes ful rad renkke3 hem[3] bro3ten, For to charge, & to chaunge, & chose of e best. 864 Sone as he on hent, & happed er-inne, at sete on hym[4] semly, wyth saylande skyrte3, [K] e ver by his uisage verayly hit semed Wel ne3 to vche hael alle on hwes, 868 Lowande & lufly, alle his lymme3 vnder, [L] at a comloker kny3t neuer Kryst made, hem o3t; Wheen in worlde he were, 872 Hit semed as he my3t Be prynce with-outen pere, In felde er felle men fy3t.

[Sidenote A: Gawayne looks on his host;] [Sidenote B: a big bold one he seemed.] [Sidenote C: Beaver-hued was his broad beard,] [Sidenote D: and his face as "fell as the fire."] [Sidenote E: The lord leads Gawayne to a chamber, and assigns him a page to wait upon him.] [Sidenote F: In this bright bower was noble bedding;] [Sidenote G: the curtains were of pure silk with golden hems;] [Sidenote H: Tarsic tapestries covered the walls and the floor.] [Sidenote I: Here the knight doffed his armour,] [Sidenote J: and put on rich robes,] [Sidenote K: which well became him.] [Sidenote L: A more comely knight Christ never made.] [Footnote 1: eldee, MS.] [Footnote 2: clesly, MS.] [Footnote 3: hym (?).] [Footnote 4: MS. hyn.]


[A] A cheyer by-fore e chemne, er charcole brenned, 876 Wat3 grayed for sir Gawan, grayely with cloe3, Whyssynes vpon queldepoyntes, a[t] koynt wer boe; [B] & enne a mere mantyle wat3 on at mon cast, Of a broun bleeaunt, enbrauded ful ryche, 880 & fayre furred wyth-inne with felle3 of e best, Alle of ermyn in erde, his hode of e same; & he sete in at settel semlych ryche, & achaufed hym chefly,[1] & enne his cher mended. 884 [C] Sone wat3 telded vp a tapit, on treste3 ful fayre, [D] Clad wyth a clene cloe, at cler quyt schewed, Sanap, & salure, & syluer-in spone3; e wy3e wesche at his wylle, & went to his mete [Fol. 103.] 888 Segge3 hym serued semly in-no3e, [E] Wyth sere sewes & sete,[2] sesounde of e best, Double felde, as hit falle3, & fele kyn fische3; [F] Summe baken in bred, summe brad on e glede3, 892 [G] Summe soen, summe in sewe, sauered with spyces, & ay sawes[3] so sle3e3, at e segge lyked. e freke calde hit a fest ful frely & ofte, [H] Ful hendely, quen alle e haeles re-hayted hym at one3 896 as hende; "is penaunce now 3e take, & eft hit schal amende;" [I] at mon much mere con make. 900 For wyn in his hed at wende.

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