D> --Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- a close verse translation. Part 1 of 4.


Gold THE GEOFFREY CHAUCER PAGE




Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Part I (vv. 1-490)

1 Once the siege and assault       had ceased at Troy,
2 The burg battered and burned       to brands and ashes,
3 The trooper that the tricks       of treason there wrought
4 Was tried for his treachery,       the truest on earth.
5 It was Aeneas the noble       and his high-born kin
6 Who then despoiled provinces       and patrons became
7 Well nigh of all the wealth       of the West Isles.
8 Then rich Romulus to Rome       rushes him swiftly,
9 With great splendor that burg       he builds at first,
10 And names it his own name,       as it now has.
11 Ticius to Tuscany       and towns he builds.
12 Longabeard in Lombardy       lifts up homes,
13 And far over the French Flood       Felix Brutus
14 On many banks full broad       Britain he sets
15       To begin.
16 Where war and wrack and wonder
17 Have often flourished therein,
18 And oft both bliss and blunder
19 Have ruled in turn since then.

20 And when this Britain was built       by this brave knight
21 Bold men bred therein       -- battles they loved --
22 Who in many a turbulent time       troubles have wrought.
23 More wonders on this field       have befallen here oft
24 Than on any other that I know       since that same time.
25 But of all that here built       of British kings
26 Ever was Arthur the most elegant,       as I have heard tell.
27 Therefore an earthly adventure       I intend to show,
28 That a strange sight       some men it hold,
29 And an outrageous adventure       of Arthur's wonders.
30 If you will listen to this lay       but a little while
31 I shall tell it at once,       as I in town heard
32        With tongue,
33 As it is set down and struck
34 In story stiff and strong.
35 With true letters interlocked
36 In this land as has been long.

37 This king lay at Camelot       upon Christmas
38 With many loyal lords,       lads of the best,
39 Renowned of the Round Table       all those rich brethren,
40 With rich revel aright       and reckless mirth.
41 There tourneyed troopers       by times full many,
42 Jousted full jollily       these gentle knights,
43 Then came to the court       carols to make,
44 For there the feasting was the same for a full fifteen days
45 With all the meals and the mirth       that man could devise;
46 Such gladness and glee       glorious to hear,
47 Dear din upon day,       dancing on nights;
48 All was happiness on high       in halls and chambers,
49 With lords and ladies,       as most lovely it seemed.
50 With all the wealth of the world       they dwelt there together,
51 The best known knights       under Christ Himself,
52 And the loveliest ladies       that ever life had,
53 And he the comeliest king       that the court holds;
54 For all was this fair folk       in their first age,
55        And still
56 The most fortunate known to fame,
57 The king highest man of will.
58 It would now be hard to name
59 So hardy a host on hill.

60 While New Year was so young,       since it was newly come,
61 That day with double portions       were the diners served,
62 For the king was come       with knights into the hall,
63 The chanting in the chapel       achieved an end.
64 Loud cries were there cast       by clerks and others,
65 "Noel" named anew,       announced full oft;
66 And then the rich run forth       to render presents
67 Yelled "Year's gifts!" on high,       yielding them by hand,
68 Debated busily       about those gifts;
69 Ladies laughed full loud,       though they had lost,
70 And he that won was not wroth,       that may you well believe.
71 All this mirth they made       until the meal time.
72 When they had washed worthily,       they went to sit,
73 The best brave always above,       as it best seemed;
74 Queen Guenevere, full gay,       graced the middle,
75 Bedecked on the dear dais,       adorned all about,
76 Fine silk at her sides,       a ceiling above
77 Of rich cloth of Toulouse,       and of Tartary many tapestries
78 That were embroidered and bedecked       with the best gems
79 That might be proven in price       with pennies to buy
80        In our day.
81 The comeliest to see
82 There gleamed with eyes of gray;
83 A fairer that ever could be
84 In sooth might no man say.

85 But Arthur would not eat       until all were served,
86 He was so jolly of his joyfulness       and somewhat juvenile:
87 He liked his life light;       he loved the less
88 Either too long to lie       or too long to sit
89 So busied him his young blood       and his brain wild.
90 And also another matter       moved him as well,
91 That he through nobility had adopted:       he would never eat
92 Upon such a dear day       ere he was told
93 Of some adventurous thing,       an astonishing tale
94 Of some mighty marvel that       he might believe
95 Of our elders, of arms,       of other adventures,
96 Or some stalwart besought him       for some true knight
97 To join with him in jousting,       in jeopardy to lay
98 At risk life for life,       each one happy if the other
99 Fortune favored, granted him       the fairer to have.
100 This was the king's custom       whenever he was in court
101 At each fine feast       among his fair retinue
102        In hall.
103 Therefore of face so fair
104 He stands strong at his stall.
105 Full youthful in that New Year,
106 Much mirth he makes with all.

107 Thus there stands at his stall       the strong king himself,
108 Talking before the high table       of trifles full courtly.
109 There good Gawain was seated       Guenevere beside,
110 And Agravain of the Hard Hand       on that other side sits,
111 Both the king's sister's sons       and full sure knights.
112 Bishop Baldwin above       begins the table
113 And Ywain, Urien's son,       ate with Arthur himself.
114 These were dining on the dais,       diligently served,
115 And next were many sure stalwarts       at the sideboards.
116 Then the first course came       with cracking of trumpets
117 With many banners full bright       that thereby hanged;
118 New noise of drums       with the noble pipes,
119 Wild warbles and loud       wakened echoes,
120 That many hearts heaved       full high at their notes.
121 Dainties drummed in therewith       of many dear foods,
122 Full plenty of fresh food       and on so many fair dishes
123 That it was a pain to find place       the people before
124 To set the silver that held       the seperate stews
125        On cloth.
126 Each lad as he loved himself
127 There dined, nothing loath
128 Each two had dishes twelve,
129 Good beer and bright wine both.

130 Now will I of their service       say you no more,
131 For each warrior may well know       no want was there.
132 Another noise full new       quickly came nigh
133 That the lord might have leave       to lift up his food,
134 For hardly was the noise       not a while ceased,
135 And the first course in the court       courteously served,
136 There hastens in at the hall door       an awesome figure,
137 One of the most on earth       in measure of height,
138 From the neck to the waist       so square and well-set,
139 And his loins and his limbs       so long and so big
140 Half a giant in earth       I hold that he was;
141 Yet man must I nonetheless       admit him to be
142 And that the merriest in his muchness       that might ride,
143 For though of back and of breast       his body was stout,
144 Both his belly and his waist       were worthily slim,
145 And all his features conforming,       in form that he had,
146        Full clean.
147 But great wonder of the hue men had
148 Set in his complexion seen:
149 He fared like a fighter to dread,
150 And over all deep green.

151 And all garbed in green       this gallant and his clothes:
152 A straight coat full tight       that stuck to his sides,
153 A merry mantle above,       embellished within
154 With fur skillfully trimmed,       a lining full bright
155 Of bright white ermine       and his hood as well,
156 That was lifted from his locks       and laid on his shoulders;
157 Neat well-fitting hose       of that same green
158 That covered his calves,       and shining spurs below
159 Of bright gold, on silken borders       embroidered full rich,
160 And with rich shoes below the shanks       the chevalier rides,
161 And all his vesture verily       was verdant green,
162 Both the bars of his belt       and other bright stones,
163 That were richly arranged       in his array completely
164 About himself and his saddle,       upon silk works
165 That would be too toilsome to tell       of trifles the half
166 That were embroidered above,       with insects,and birds
167 With gay gems of green,       the gold all intermingled,
168 The pendants of his horse trappings,       the proud crupper;
169 His mount's bit and all the metal       enamelled was then,
170 The stirrups that he stood on       colored the same,
171 And his saddle-bow next       and its elegant skirts
172 That ever glimmered and glowed       all of green stones.
173 The foal he fares on       fully of that same hue,
174        Certain:
175 A green horse great and thick,
176 A steed full stiff to restrain;
177 In embroidered bridle quick,
178 For the gallant who held the rein.

179 Well gay was this gallant       and his gear in green,
180 And the hair of his head       matching his horse.
181 Fair fanning locks       enfold his shoulders,
182 A beard big as a bush       over his breast hangs
183 That with the noble hair       that from his head reaches
184 Was clipped all around       above his elbows
185 That half his arms thereunder were held in,       in the manner
186 Of a king's cape       that encloses his neck;
187 The mane of that mighty horse       much to it like,
188 Well curled and combed       with knots full many,
189 Tied in with gold thread       about the fair green,
190 Always one strand of hair,       another of gold,
191 His tail and his topknot       twisted in braids,
192 And both bound with a band       of bright green,
193 Adorned with full dear gems       to the top of the tuft,
194 Then bound tightly with a thong,       trickily knotted above,
195 Where many bells full bright       of burnished gold rang.
196 Such a foal in the field       nor fighter that rides him
197 Was never seen in that hall       with sight ere that time
198        With eye.
199 He looked like lightning as light,
200 Said all that saw him come nigh;
201 It seemed that no man might
202 Such blows as his defy.

203 Yet he had no helmet       nor hauberk neither,
204 Nor no armor nor plate       that pertained to arms,
205 Nor no spear nor no shield       to shove nor to smite,
206 But in his one hand       he had a holly branch,
207 That is greatest in green   when groves are bare,
208 And an axe in his other,       a huge and monstrous,
209 A spiteful axe to describe in speech,       if anyone could.
210 Near four feet in length       the large head had,
211 With a spike of green steel       and of hammered gold.
212 The bit burnished bright       with a broad edge,
213 As well shaped to shear       as a sharp razor.
214 By the hilt of the strong shaft       that stern one it gripped
215 That was wound with iron       to the weapon's end,
216 And all engraved with green       in gracious works;
217 By a lace sash, coiled about,       that was tied at the head
218 And so down the shaft       looped full oft,
219 With fine tassles thereto       attached thereby,
220 And buttons of bright green,       embroidered full rich.
221 This horseman held his way in       and the hall enters,
222 Driving to the high dais --       no danger he feared;
223 Hailed he never any one       but high he looked over.
224 The first word that he whipped out:       "Where is," he said,
225 "The governor of this gang?       Gladly I would
226 See that stalwart in sight       and speak with himself
227       And reason."
228 To knights he cast his eyes
229 And rolled them up and down;
230 He stopped and studied to surmise
231 Who wields there most renown.

232 There was looking at length       the liegeman to behold,
233 For each man had marvel       what it might mean
234 That a horsemen and a horse       might have such a hue.
235 As green as the growing grass       and greener it seemed
236 Than green enamel on gold       glowing brighter.
237 All studied that there stood       and stalked him nearer,
238 With all the wonder of the world       of what he would do,
239 For many spectacles had they seen       but such as this never;
240 Thus from fantasy and fairyland       the folk there it deemed.
241 Therefore to answer were afraid       many elegant fighters,
242 And all were astounded by his speech,       and sat stone-still
243 In a swooning dead stillness       through the silent hall,
244 As if all were slipped into sleep       so slackened their noises
245        On high --
246 I deem it not all for fear,
247 But some, for courtesy shy,
248 Let him whom all should revere
249 To that warrior give reply.

250 Then Arthur before the high dais       that adventure beholds
251 And rightly reverenced him,       for feared was he never,
252 And said "Warrior,       welcome indeed to this place;
253 The head of this hostel       Arthur I am called
254 Light lovely adown       and linger I pray thee
255 And whatever thy will is       we shall know later,"
256 "Nay, so help me," quoth the horseman,       "He that on high sits,
257 To dwell any while in this dwelling       was not my errand;
258 But for the laud of thee, lad,       is lifted up so high,
259 And thy burg and thy braves       best are held,
260 Stoutest under steel gear       on steeds to ride,
261 The strongest and the worthiest       of this world's kind,
262 With prowess in jousting       and other pure sports,
263 And here is famed courtesy,       as I have heard claimed,
264 And that has drawn me here,       indeed, at this time.
265 You may be sure by this branch       that I bear here
266 That I pass here in peace       and no peril seek,
267 For had I fared here with a force       for fighting ready,
268 I have a mail coat at home       and a helmet too,
269 A shield and a sharp spear,       shining bright,
270 And other weapons to wield       I know well also;
271 But since I want no war,       my weeds are softer.
272 But if thou be as bold       as all battlers tell,
273 Thou will grant me goodly       the game that I ask,
274        By right."
275 Arthur gave answer
276 And said, "Sir courteous knight,
277 If thou crave battle of armor bare,
278 Here failest thou not to fight."

279 "Nay, I seek no fight,       in faith I thee tell.
280 Here about on this bench       are but beardless children.
281 If I were harnessed in armor       on a high steed
282 Here is no man to match me,       their mights are so weak.
283 Therefore I crave in this court       a Christmas game,
284 For it is Yule and New Year       and here are youths many.
285 If any so hardy in this house       holds himself,
286 Or is so bold in his blood,       brain-mad in his head
287 That dare stiffly strike       one stroke for another
288 I shall give him of my gift       this great battle-axe,
289 This axe, that is plenty heavy,       to handle as he pleases,
290 And I shall abide the first blow       as bare as I sit.
291 If any fighter be so fierce       to test what I tell
292 Leap lightly to me       and latch on to this weapon;
293 I quit-claim it forever;       let him keep it as his own,
294 And I shall stand one stroke from him,       stout on this floor,
295 If thou will grant me the right       to render him another.
296        -- Time out today! --
297 And yet I give him respite,
298 A twelvemonth and a day.
299 Now hurry and let's see aright
300 If any dare anything say."

301 If he astounded them at first,       stiller were then
302 All the courtiers in the hall,       the high and the low;
303 The rider on his mount       moved him in his saddle
304 And roughly his red eyes       he rolled about,
305 Bent his bushy brows       brightly green,
306 Waved his beard to see       whoever would arise.
307 When none would keep him there with talk,       he coughed "ahem,"
308 And rose up full lordly       and readied himself to speak.
309 "What? Is this Arthur's house?"       quoth the horseman then,
310 "That all the renown runs       through realms so many?
311 Where is now your vainglory       and your victories,
312 Your ferocity and your grimness       and your great words?
313 Now is the revel and renown       of the Round Table
314 Overthrown by one word       of one warrior's speech,
315 For all dither for dread       without deed shown!"
316 With this he laughs so loud       that the lord grieved.
317 The blood shot for shame       in his shining white face
318        So fair;
319 He waxed as wroth as wind,
320 So did all that were there.
321 The king, as keen by kind
322 Then strode that stout man nearer,

323 And said "Horseman, by heaven,       thine asking is foolish,
324 And as thou folly have sought,       to find it thee behooves.
325 I know no gallant that is aghast       of thy great words.
326 Give me now thy great axe,       by God's wounds,
327 And I shall bestow the boon       that thou hast begged."
328 Lightly leaps he him to       and latches it from his hand
329 Then fiercely that other fighter       upon foot alights.
330 Now has Arthur his axe,       and the hilt grips,
331 And sternly swings it about,       and meant to strike with it;
332 The stout man before him       stood up straight,
333 Higher than any in the house,       by the head and more.
334 With stern stance where he stood       he stroked his beard,
335 And with a countenance dry       he drew down his coat,
336 No more moved nor dismayed       for his mighty blows
337 Than if any battler upon bench       had brought him a drink
338        Of wine.
339 Gawain, that sat by the queen,
340 To the king he did incline:
341 "I beseech now with plain speech
342 This melee may be mine."

343 Would ye, worthy lord,"       quoth Wawain to the king,
344 Bid me bow from this bench       and stand by you there,
345 That I without vile manners       might vacate this table,
346 And that my liege lady       be not ill pleased,
347 I would come to your counsel       before your rich court,
348 For I think it not seemly,       as it is known sooth
349 That such an asking be heaved up       so high in your hall,
350 Though you yourself be tempted       to take it to yourself
351 While so many bold about you       upon bench sit
352 That under heaven I hold       none hardier of will,
353 Nor better bodies on earth       where battle is reared.
354 I am the weakest, I know,       and of wit feeblest,
355 And my life would be the least loss,       to speak the sooth.
356 For only because you are my uncle       am I to be praised;
357 No goodness but your blood       I in my body know,
358 And since this business is so foolish,       it does not befit you,
359 And I have begged it of you first,       inflict it on me;
360 And if I speak not courteously,       let all this court rich
361        Me blame."
362 Rich nobles gathered round
363 And they all advised the same:
364 To replace the king with crown,
365 And give Gawain the game.

366 Then commanded the king       the knight for to rise,
367 And he full readily uprose       and arranged himself fairly,
368 Kneeled down before the king       and catches that weapon,
369 And Arthur lovingly left it to him       and lifted up his hands
370 And gave him God's blessing       and gladly him bids
371 That his heart and his hands       should hardy ne both.
372 "Take care, kinsman," quoth the king,       "that thou cut but once.
373 And if thou deal with him rightly,       readily I believe
374 Thou shalt survive the blow       he shall bring thereafter."
375 Gawain goes to the gallant       with the great axe in hand,
376 And he boldly him abides;       he was abashed not at all.
377 Then calls out to Sir Gawain       the knight in the green,
378 "Let us affirm our pledge,       ere we further pace.
379 First I ask thee, horseman,       how you are called;
380 That thou tell me truly,       so I can trust."
381 "In good faith," quoth the good knight,       "Gawain I am called,
382 Who grants thee this buffet,       whatever after befalls,
383 And from this time a twelvemonth       I will treat thee to another,
384 With what weapon as thou wish       and with no other warrior
385        A-live."
386 The other answers again:
387 "Sir Gawain, as I may thrive,
388 I am greatly glad, certain,
389 That thou this blow shalt drive."

390 "By Gog" quoth the green knight,       "Sir Gawain, I like it
391 That I shall feel from your fist,       the favor I have asked.
392 And thou hast readily rehearsed,       by reason full true,
393 Completely all the covenant       that I of the king asked,
394 Save that thou shall assure me,       stalwart, by thy troth,
395 That thou shall seek me thyself,       wherever thou supposest
396 I may be found upon earth,       and fetch thee such wages
397 As thou deal to me today       before this dear court."
398 "Where should I wend to thee?" quoth Gawain,       "where is thy place?
399 I am not aware where thou dwellest,       by Him that me wrought,
400 Nor I know not thee, knight,       thy court nor thy name.
401 But teach me truly thereto       and tell me how thou art called,
402 And I shall work with all my wit       to win my way thither,
403 And that I swear thee for sooth       and by my sure troth";
404 "That is enough in the New Year;       it needs no more,"
405 Quoth the gallant in the green       to Gawain the courtier.
406 "If I tell thee truly       when I have tapped thee,
407 And thou me smoothly hast smitten,       smartly I will teach thee
408 Of my house and my home       and my own name.
409 Then may thou be my guest       and fulfill our agreements;
410 And if I cannot speak any speech,       then succeedest thou the better,
411 For thou may linger in thy land       and look no farther.
412        Thou spokest!
413 Take now thy grim tool, in truth,
414 And let's see how thou pokest."
415 "Gladly, sir, for sooth,"
416 Quoth Gawain; his axe he strokes.

417 This green knight upon ground       gracefully him readies,
418 A little bow with his head       the face he uncovers;
419 His long lovely locks       he laid over his crown
420 Let the naked neck       show to the nape.
421 Gawain gripped to his axe       and gathers it on high,
422 The left foot on the floor       he set before,
423 Let it down swiftly alight       on the naked skin
424 That the sharp of the chevalier       shattered the bones
425 And sheared through the shining flesh    and slashed it in two,
426 That the bit of the bright steel    bit on the ground.
427 The fair head from the neck    hit to the earth,
428 That full many it kicked with their feet,    where it forth rolled.
429 The blood poured from the body,       bright on the green,
430 And neither faltered nor fell       the fighter nonetheless,
431 But stoutly he starts forth       upon strong shanks,
432 And roughly he reached out       where riders stood,
433 Latched on to his lovely head,       and lifted it up soon;
434 And then bounded to his bronc,       the bridle he catches,
435 Steps into the stirrups,       strides aloft,
436 And his head by the hair       holds in his hand ,
437 And as steadily the stalwart       sat him in his saddle,
438 As if no mishap had ailed him,       though headless now
439        Instead.
440 He twisted his trunk about,
441 That ugly body that bled;
442 Many feared the clout,
443 Ere his speech was said,

444 For the head in his hand       he holds upright,
445 Toward the dearest on the dais       he addresses the face,
446 And it lifted up the eye-lids       and looked full widely about
447 And spoke thus much with its mouth,       as you may now hear:
448 "Look, Gawain, thou be prepared       to go as thou promised,
449 And look loyally till thou,       liegeman, find me,
450 As thou hast promised in this hall,       in these knights' hearing;
451 To the green chapel choose the way,       I charge thee, to fetch
452 Such a dint as thou hast dealt       -- thou hast deserved it --
453 To be promptly yielded       on New Year's morn.
454 As the Knight of the Green Chapel,       men know me many.
455 Thus me for to find, if thou set forth,       failest thou never.
456 Therefore come or recreant       to be called thee behooves."
457 With a rough roar       the reins he turns,
458 Hurried out at the hall door,       his head in his hand,
459 That the fire of the flint flew       from his foal's hooves.
460 To what country that he came       knew none there,
461 No more than they knew       from whence he was come.
462       What then?
463 The king and Gawain there,
464 At that green one they laugh and grin,
465 Yet recorded it was with care
466 As a marvel among those men.

467 Though Arthur, the elegant king,       at heart had wonder,
468 He let no sign be seen,       but said full high
469 To the comely queen       with courteous speech,
470 "Dear dame,       today dismay you never;
471 Well becomes such craft       upon Christmas,
472 Playing of interludes       to laugh and to sing,
473 Among these courtly carols       of knights and ladies.
474 Nonetheless to my meal       I may me well address,
475 For I have seen a strange sight;       I can not gainsay it."
476 He glanced at Sir Gawain       and goodly he said,
477 "Now sir, hang up thine axe,       that has enough hewed";
478 And it was done, above the dais       on the tapestry hanging,
479 Where all men for a marvel       might look on it
480 And be truly entitled thereof       to tell the wonder.
481 Then they bounded to the board,       these battlers together,
482 The king and the good knight,       and keen men them served
483 With all dainties double,       as to the dearest should befall;
484 With all manner of meat       and minstrelsy both,
485 With wealth dwelt they that day,       until it went to an end
486        In land.
487 Now, think well, Sir Gawain,
488 Lest for fear of what thou began,
489 Thou from this adventure refrain
490 That thou hast taken in hand.


D> --Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- a close verse translation. Part 1 of 4.


Gold THE GEOFFREY CHAUCER PAGE




Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Part I (vv. 1-490)

1 Once the siege and assault       had ceased at Troy,
2 The burg battered and burned       to brands and ashes,
3 The trooper that the tricks       of treason there wrought
4 Was tried for his treachery,       the truest on earth.
5 It was Aeneas the noble       and his high-born kin
6 Who then despoiled provinces       and patrons became
7 Well nigh of all the wealth       of the West Isles.
8 Then rich Romulus to Rome       rushes him swiftly,
9 With great splendor that burg       he builds at first,
10 And names it his own name,       as it now has.
11 Ticius to Tuscany       and towns he builds.
12 Longabeard in Lombardy       lifts up homes,
13 And far over the French Flood       Felix Brutus
14 On many banks full broad       Britain he sets
15       To begin.
16 Where war and wrack and wonder
17 Have often flourished therein,
18 And oft both bliss and blunder
19 Have ruled in turn since then.

20 And when this Britain was built       by this brave knight
21 Bold men bred therein       -- battles they loved --
22 Who in many a turbulent time       troubles have wrought.
23 More wonders on this field       have befallen here oft
24 Than on any other that I know       since that same time.
25 But of all that here built       of British kings
26 Ever was Arthur the most elegant,       as I have heard tell.
27 Therefore an earthly adventure       I intend to show,
28 That a strange sight       some men it hold,
29 And an outrageous adventure       of Arthur's wonders.
30 If you will listen to this lay       but a little while
31 I shall tell it at once,       as I in town heard
32        With tongue,
33 As it is set down and struck
34 In story stiff and strong.
35 With true letters interlocked
36 In this land as has been long.

37 This king lay at Camelot       upon Christmas
38 With many loyal lords,       lads of the best,
39 Renowned of the Round Table       all those rich brethren,
40 With rich revel aright       and reckless mirth.
41 There tourneyed troopers       by times full many,
42 Jousted full jollily       these gentle knights,
43 Then came to the court       carols to make,
44 For there the feasting was the same for a full fifteen days
45 With all the meals and the mirth       that man could devise;
46 Such gladness and glee       glorious to hear,
47 Dear din upon day,       dancing on nights;
48 All was happiness on high       in halls and chambers,
49 With lords and ladies,       as most lovely it seemed.
50 With all the wealth of the world       they dwelt there together,
51 The best known knights       under Christ Himself,
52 And the loveliest ladies       that ever life had,
53 And he the comeliest king       that the court holds;
54 For all was this fair folk       in their first age,
55        And still
56 The most fortunate known to fame,
57 The king highest man of will.
58 It would now be hard to name
59 So hardy a host on hill.

60 While New Year was so young,       since it was newly come,
61 That day with double portions       were the diners served,
62 For the king was come       with knights into the hall,
63 The chanting in the chapel       achieved an end.
64 Loud cries were there cast       by clerks and others,
65 "Noel" named anew,       announced full oft;
66 And then the rich run forth       to render presents
67 Yelled "Year's gifts!" on high,       yielding them by hand,
68 Debated busily       about those gifts;
69 Ladies laughed full loud,       though they had lost,
70 And he that won was not wroth,       that may you well believe.
71 All this mirth they made       until the meal time.
72 When they had washed worthily,       they went to sit,
73 The best brave always above,       as it best seemed;
74 Queen Guenevere, full gay,       graced the middle,
75 Bedecked on the dear dais,       adorned all about,
76 Fine silk at her sides,       a ceiling above
77 Of rich cloth of Toulouse,       and of Tartary many tapestries
78 That were embroidered and bedecked       with the best gems
79 That might be proven in price       with pennies to buy
80        In our day.
81 The comeliest to see
82 There gleamed with eyes of gray;
83 A fairer that ever could be
84 In sooth might no man say.

85 But Arthur would not eat       until all were served,
86 He was so jolly of his joyfulness       and somewhat juvenile:
87 He liked his life light;       he loved the less
88 Either too long to lie       or too long to sit
89 So busied him his young blood       and his brain wild.
90 And also another matter       moved him as well,
91 That he through nobility had adopted:       he would never eat
92 Upon such a dear day       ere he was told
93 Of some adventurous thing,       an astonishing tale
94 Of some mighty marvel that       he might believe
95 Of our elders, of arms,       of other adventures,
96 Or some stalwart besought him       for some true knight
97 To join with him in jousting,       in jeopardy to lay
98 At risk life for life,       each one happy if the other
99 Fortune favored, granted him       the fairer to have.
100 This was the king's custom       whenever he was in court
101 At each fine feast       among his fair retinue
102        In hall.
103 Therefore of face so fair
104 He stands strong at his stall.
105 Full youthful in that New Year,
106 Much mirth he makes with all.

107 Thus there stands at his stall       the strong king himself,
108 Talking before the high table       of trifles full courtly.
109 There good Gawain was seated       Guenevere beside,
110 And Agravain of the Hard Hand       on that other side sits,
111 Both the king's sister's sons       and full sure knights.
112 Bishop Baldwin above       begins the table
113 And Ywain, Urien's son,       ate with Arthur himself.
114 These were dining on the dais,       diligently served,
115 And next were many sure stalwarts       at the sideboards.
116 Then the first course came       with cracking of trumpets
117 With many banners full bright       that thereby hanged;
118 New noise of drums       with the noble pipes,
119 Wild warbles and loud       wakened echoes,
120 That many hearts heaved       full high at their notes.
121 Dainties drummed in therewith       of many dear foods,
122 Full plenty of fresh food       and on so many fair dishes
123 That it was a pain to find place       the people before
124 To set the silver that held       the seperate stews
125        On cloth.
126 Each lad as he loved himself
127 There dined, nothing loath
128 Each two had dishes twelve,
129 Good beer and bright wine both.

130 Now will I of their service       say you no more,
131 For each warrior may well know       no want was there.
132 Another noise full new       quickly came nigh
133 That the lord might have leave       to lift up his food,
134 For hardly was the noise       not a while ceased,
135 And the first course in the court       courteously served,
136 There hastens in at the hall door       an awesome figure,
137 One of the most on earth       in measure of height,
138 From the neck to the waist       so square and well-set,
139 And his loins and his limbs       so long and so big
140 Half a giant in earth       I hold that he was;
141 Yet man must I nonetheless       admit him to be
142 And that the merriest in his muchness       that might ride,
143 For though of back and of breast       his body was stout,
144 Both his belly and his waist       were worthily slim,
145 And all his features conforming,       in form that he had,
146        Full clean.
147 But great wonder of the hue men had
148 Set in his complexion seen:
149 He fared like a fighter to dread,
150 And over all deep green.

151 And all garbed in green       this gallant and his clothes:
152 A straight coat full tight       that stuck to his sides,
153 A merry mantle above,       embellished within
154 With fur skillfully trimmed,       a lining full bright
155 Of bright white ermine       and his hood as well,
156 That was lifted from his locks       and laid on his shoulders;
157 Neat well-fitting hose       of that same green
158 That covered his calves,       and shining spurs below
159 Of bright gold, on silken borders       embroidered full rich,
160 And with rich shoes below the shanks       the chevalier rides,
161 And all his vesture verily       was verdant green,
162 Both the bars of his belt       and other bright stones,
163 That were richly arranged       in his array completely
164 About himself and his saddle,       upon silk works
165 That would be too toilsome to tell       of trifles the half
166 That were embroidered above,       with insects,and birds
167 With gay gems of green,       the gold all intermingled,
168 The pendants of his horse trappings,       the proud crupper;
169 His mount's bit and all the metal       enamelled was then,
170 The stirrups that he stood on       colored the same,
171 And his saddle-bow next       and its elegant skirts
172 That ever glimmered and glowed       all of green stones.
173 The foal he fares on       fully of that same hue,
174        Certain:
175 A green horse great and thick,
176 A steed full stiff to restrain;
177 In embroidered bridle quick,
178 For the gallant who held the rein.

179 Well gay was this gallant       and his gear in green,
180 And the hair of his head       matching his horse.
181 Fair fanning locks       enfold his shoulders,
182 A beard big as a bush       over his breast hangs
183 That with the noble hair       that from his head reaches
184 Was clipped all around       above his elbows
185 That half his arms thereunder were held in,       in the manner
186 Of a king's cape       that encloses his neck;
187 The mane of that mighty horse       much to it like,
188 Well curled and combed       with knots full many,
189 Tied in with gold thread       about the fair green,
190 Always one strand of hair,       another of gold,
191 His tail and his topknot       twisted in braids,
192 And both bound with a band       of bright green,
193 Adorned with full dear gems       to the top of the tuft,
194 Then bound tightly with a thong,       trickily knotted above,
195 Where many bells full bright       of burnished gold rang.
196 Such a foal in the field       nor fighter that rides him
197 Was never seen in that hall       with sight ere that time
198        With eye.
199 He looked like lightning as light,
200 Said all that saw him come nigh;
201 It seemed that no man might
202 Such blows as his defy.

203 Yet he had no helmet       nor hauberk neither,
204 Nor no armor nor plate       that pertained to arms,
205 Nor no spear nor no shield       to shove nor to smite,
206 But in his one hand       he had a holly branch,
207 That is greatest in green   when groves are bare,
208 And an axe in his other,       a huge and monstrous,
209 A spiteful axe to describe in speech,       if anyone could.
210 Near four feet in length       the large head had,
211 With a spike of green steel       and of hammered gold.
212 The bit burnished bright       with a broad edge,
213 As well shaped to shear       as a sharp razor.
214 By the hilt of the strong shaft       that stern one it gripped
215 That was wound with iron       to the weapon's end,
216 And all engraved with green       in gracious works;
217 By a lace sash, coiled about,       that was tied at the head
218 And so down the shaft       looped full oft,
219 With fine tassles thereto       attached thereby,
220 And buttons of bright green,       embroidered full rich.
221 This horseman held his way in       and the hall enters,
222 Driving to the high dais --       no danger he feared;
223 Hailed he never any one       but high he looked over.
224 The first word that he whipped out:       "Where is," he said,
225 "The governor of this gang?       Gladly I would
226 See that stalwart in sight       and speak with himself
227       And reason."
228 To knights he cast his eyes
229 And rolled them up and down;
230 He stopped and studied to surmise
231 Who wields there most renown.

232 There was looking at length       the liegeman to behold,
233 For each man had marvel       what it might mean
234 That a horsemen and a horse       might have such a hue.
235 As green as the growing grass       and greener it seemed
236 Than green enamel on gold       glowing brighter.
237 All studied that there stood       and stalked him nearer,
238 With all the wonder of the world       of what he would do,
239 For many spectacles had they seen       but such as this never;
240 Thus from fantasy and fairyland       the folk there it deemed.
241 Therefore to answer were afraid       many elegant fighters,
242 And all were astounded by his speech,       and sat stone-still
243 In a swooning dead stillness       through the silent hall,
244 As if all were slipped into sleep       so slackened their noises
245        On high --
246 I deem it not all for fear,
247 But some, for courtesy shy,
248 Let him whom all should revere
249 To that warrior give reply.

250 Then Arthur before the high dais       that adventure beholds
251 And rightly reverenced him,       for feared was he never,
252 And said "Warrior,       welcome indeed to this place;
253 The head of this hostel       Arthur I am called
254 Light lovely adown       and linger I pray thee
255 And whatever thy will is       we shall know later,"
256 "Nay, so help me," quoth the horseman,       "He that on high sits,
257 To dwell any while in this dwelling       was not my errand;
258 But for the laud of thee, lad,       is lifted up so high,
259 And thy burg and thy braves       best are held,
260 Stoutest under steel gear       on steeds to ride,
261 The strongest and the worthiest       of this world's kind,
262 With prowess in jousting       and other pure sports,
263 And here is famed courtesy,       as I have heard claimed,
264 And that has drawn me here,       indeed, at this time.
265 You may be sure by this branch       that I bear here
266 That I pass here in peace       and no peril seek,
267 For had I fared here with a force       for fighting ready,
268 I have a mail coat at home       and a helmet too,
269 A shield and a sharp spear,       shining bright,
270 And other weapons to wield       I know well also;
271 But since I want no war,       my weeds are softer.
272 But if thou be as bold       as all battlers tell,
273 Thou will grant me goodly       the game that I ask,
274        By right."
275 Arthur gave answer
276 And said, "Sir courteous knight,
277 If thou crave battle of armor bare,
278 Here failest thou not to fight."

279 "Nay, I seek no fight,       in faith I thee tell.
280 Here about on this bench       are but beardless children.
281 If I were harnessed in armor       on a high steed
282 Here is no man to match me,       their mights are so weak.
283 Therefore I crave in this court       a Christmas game,
284 For it is Yule and New Year       and here are youths many.
285 If any so hardy in this house       holds himself,
286 Or is so bold in his blood,       brain-mad in his head
287 That dare stiffly strike       one stroke for another
288 I shall give him of my gift       this great battle-axe,
289 This axe, that is plenty heavy,       to handle as he pleases,
290 And I shall abide the first blow       as bare as I sit.
291 If any fighter be so fierce       to test what I tell
292 Leap lightly to me       and latch on to this weapon;
293 I quit-claim it forever;       let him keep it as his own,
294 And I shall stand one stroke from him,       stout on this floor,
295 If thou will grant me the right       to render him another.
296        -- Time out today! --
297 And yet I give him respite,
298 A twelvemonth and a day.
299 Now hurry and let's see aright
300 If any dare anything say."

301 If he astounded them at first,       stiller were then
302 All the courtiers in the hall,       the high and the low;
303 The rider on his mount       moved him in his saddle
304 And roughly his red eyes       he rolled about,
305 Bent his bushy brows       brightly green,
306 Waved his beard to see       whoever would arise.
307 When none would keep him there with talk,       he coughed "ahem,"
308 And rose up full lordly       and readied himself to speak.
309 "What? Is this Arthur's house?"       quoth the horseman then,
310 "That all the renown runs       through realms so many?
311 Where is now your vainglory       and your victories,
312 Your ferocity and your grimness       and your great words?
313 Now is the revel and renown       of the Round Table
314 Overthrown by one word       of one warrior's speech,
315 For all dither for dread       without deed shown!"
316 With this he laughs so loud       that the lord grieved.
317 The blood shot for shame       in his shining white face
318        So fair;
319 He waxed as wroth as wind,
320 So did all that were there.
321 The king, as keen by kind
322 Then strode that stout man nearer,

323 And said "Horseman, by heaven,       thine asking is foolish,
324 And as thou folly have sought,       to find it thee behooves.
325 I know no gallant that is aghast       of thy great words.
326 Give me now thy great axe,       by God's wounds,
327 And I shall bestow the boon       that thou hast begged."
328 Lightly leaps he him to       and latches it from his hand
329 Then fiercely that other fighter       upon foot alights.
330 Now has Arthur his axe,       and the hilt grips,
331 And sternly swings it about,       and meant to strike with it;
332 The stout man before him       stood up straight,
333 Higher than any in the house,       by the head and more.
334 With stern stance where he stood       he stroked his beard,
335 And with a countenance dry       he drew down his coat,
336 No more moved nor dismayed       for his mighty blows
337 Than if any battler upon bench       had brought him a drink
338        Of wine.
339 Gawain, that sat by the queen,
340 To the king he did incline:
341 "I beseech now with plain speech
342 This melee may be mine."

343 Would ye, worthy lord,"       quoth Wawain to the king,
344 Bid me bow from this bench       and stand by you there,
345 That I without vile manners       might vacate this table,
346 And that my liege lady       be not ill pleased,
347 I would come to your counsel       before your rich court,
348 For I think it not seemly,       as it is known sooth
349 That such an asking be heaved up       so high in your hall,
350 Though you yourself be tempted       to take it to yourself
351 While so many bold about you       upon bench sit
352 That under heaven I hold       none hardier of will,
353 Nor better bodies on earth       where battle is reared.
354 I am the weakest, I know,       and of wit feeblest,
355 And my life would be the least loss,       to speak the sooth.
356 For only because you are my uncle       am I to be praised;
357 No goodness but your blood       I in my body know,
358 And since this business is so foolish,       it does not befit you,
359 And I have begged it of you first,       inflict it on me;
360 And if I speak not courteously,       let all this court rich
361        Me blame."
362 Rich nobles gathered round
363 And they all advised the same:
364 To replace the king with crown,
365 And give Gawain the game.

366 Then commanded the king       the knight for to rise,
367 And he full readily uprose       and arranged himself fairly,
368 Kneeled down before the king       and catches that weapon,
369 And Arthur lovingly left it to him       and lifted up his hands
370 And gave him God's blessing       and gladly him bids
371 That his heart and his hands       should hardy ne both.
372 "Take care, kinsman," quoth the king,       "that thou cut but once.
373 And if thou deal with him rightly,       readily I believe
374 Thou shalt survive the blow       he shall bring thereafter."
375 Gawain goes to the gallant       with the great axe in hand,
376 And he boldly him abides;       he was abashed not at all.
377 Then calls out to Sir Gawain       the knight in the green,
378 "Let us affirm our pledge,       ere we further pace.
379 First I ask thee, horseman,       how you are called;
380 That thou tell me truly,       so I can trust."
381 "In good faith," quoth the good knight,       "Gawain I am called,
382 Who grants thee this buffet,       whatever after befalls,
383 And from this time a twelvemonth       I will treat thee to another,
384 With what weapon as thou wish       and with no other warrior
385        A-live."
386 The other answers again:
387 "Sir Gawain, as I may thrive,
388 I am greatly glad, certain,
389 That thou this blow shalt drive."

390 "By Gog" quoth the green knight,       "Sir Gawain, I like it
391 That I shall feel from your fist,       the favor I have asked.
392 And thou hast readily rehearsed,       by reason full true,
393 Completely all the covenant       that I of the king asked,
394 Save that thou shall assure me,       stalwart, by thy troth,
395 That thou shall seek me thyself,       wherever thou supposest
396 I may be found upon earth,       and fetch thee such wages
397 As thou deal to me today       before this dear court."
398 "Where should I wend to thee?" quoth Gawain,       "where is thy place?
399 I am not aware where thou dwellest,       by Him that me wrought,
400 Nor I know not thee, knight,       thy court nor thy name.
401 But teach me truly thereto       and tell me how thou art called,
402 And I shall work with all my wit       to win my way thither,
403 And that I swear thee for sooth       and by my sure troth";
404 "That is enough in the New Year;       it needs no more,"
405 Quoth the gallant in the green       to Gawain the courtier.
406 "If I tell thee truly       when I have tapped thee,
407 And thou me smoothly hast smitten,       smartly I will teach thee
408 Of my house and my home       and my own name.
409 Then may thou be my guest       and fulfill our agreements;
410 And if I cannot speak any speech,       then succeedest thou the better,
411 For thou may linger in thy land       and look no farther.
412        Thou spokest!
413 Take now thy grim tool, in truth,
414 And let's see how thou pokest."
415 "Gladly, sir, for sooth,"
416 Quoth Gawain; his axe he strokes.

417 This green knight upon ground       gracefully him readies,
418 A little bow with his head       the face he uncovers;
419 His long lovely locks       he laid over his crown
420 Let the naked neck       show to the nape.
421 Gawain gripped to his axe       and gathers it on high,
422 The left foot on the floor       he set before,
423 Let it down swiftly alight       on the naked skin
424 That the sharp of the chevalier       shattered the bones
425 And sheared through the shining flesh    and slashed it in two,
426 That the bit of the bright steel    bit on the ground.
427 The fair head from the neck    hit to the earth,
428 That full many it kicked with their feet,    where it forth rolled.
429 The blood poured from the body,       bright on the green,
430 And neither faltered nor fell       the fighter nonetheless,
431 But stoutly he starts forth       upon strong shanks,
432 And roughly he reached out       where riders stood,
433 Latched on to his lovely head,       and lifted it up soon;
434 And then bounded to his bronc,       the bridle he catches,
435 Steps into the stirrups,       strides aloft,
436 And his head by the hair       holds in his hand ,
437 And as steadily the stalwart       sat him in his saddle,
438 As if no mishap had ailed him,       though headless now
439        Instead.
440 He twisted his trunk about,
441 That ugly body that bled;
442 Many feared the clout,
443 Ere his speech was said,

444 For the head in his hand       he holds upright,
445 Toward the dearest on the dais       he addresses the face,
446 And it lifted up the eye-lids       and looked full widely about
447 And spoke thus much with its mouth,       as you may now hear:
448 "Look, Gawain, thou be prepared       to go as thou promised,
449 And look loyally till thou,       liegeman, find me,
450 As thou hast promised in this hall,       in these knights' hearing;
451 To the green chapel choose the way,       I charge thee, to fetch
452 Such a dint as thou hast dealt       -- thou hast deserved it --
453 To be promptly yielded       on New Year's morn.
454 As the Knight of the Green Chapel,       men know me many.
455 Thus me for to find, if thou set forth,       failest thou never.
456 Therefore come or recreant       to be called thee behooves."
457 With a rough roar       the reins he turns,
458 Hurried out at the hall door,       his head in his hand,
459 That the fire of the flint flew       from his foal's hooves.
460 To what country that he came       knew none there,
461 No more than they knew       from whence he was come.
462       What then?
463 The king and Gawain there,
464 At that green one they laugh and grin,
465 Yet recorded it was with care
466 As a marvel among those men.

467 Though Arthur, the elegant king,       at heart had wonder,
468 He let no sign be seen,       but said full high
469 To the comely queen       with courteous speech,
470 "Dear dame,       today dismay you never;
471 Well becomes such craft       upon Christmas,
472 Playing of interludes       to laugh and to sing,
473 Among these courtly carols       of knights and ladies.
474 Nonetheless to my meal       I may me well address,
475 For I have seen a strange sight;       I can not gainsay it."
476 He glanced at Sir Gawain       and goodly he said,
477 "Now sir, hang up thine axe,       that has enough hewed";
478 And it was done, above the dais       on the tapestry hanging,
479 Where all men for a marvel       might look on it
480 And be truly entitled thereof       to tell the wonder.
481 Then they bounded to the board,       these battlers together,
482 The king and the good knight,       and keen men them served
483 With all dainties double,       as to the dearest should befall;
484 With all manner of meat       and minstrelsy both,
485 With wealth dwelt they that day,       until it went to an end
486        In land.
487 Now, think well, Sir Gawain,
488 Lest for fear of what thou began,
489 Thou from this adventure refrain
490 That thou hast taken in hand.