Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

By

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight By Kenneth G. T. Webster and W. A. Neilson

Format: Global Grey edition

Pages (PDF): 78

Publication Date: This translation, 1917

Illustrations: No

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Details:

Pages (PDF): 78

Publication Date: This translation, 1917

Illustrations: No

About The Book: This is a late 14th-century Middle English chivalric romance and one of the best known Arthurian stories. Interpreted by some as a representation of the Green Man of folklore and by others as an allusion to Christ, it draws on Welsh, Irish, and English stories, as well as the French chivalric tradition. It tells the tale of how Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table, accepts a challenge from a mysterious "Green Knight" who challenges any knight to strike him with his axe if he will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts and beheads him with his blow, at which the Green Knight stands up, picks up his head, and reminds Gawain of the appointed time. In his struggles to keep his bargain, Gawain demonstrates chivalry and loyalty until his honour is called into question by a test involving Lady Bertilak, the lady of the Green Knight's castle.


Excerpt:

1.

After the siege and the assault had ceased at Troy,
the city been destroyed and burned to brands and ashes,
the warrior who wrought there the trains of treason
was tried for his treachery, the truest on earth.
This was Aeneas the noble;
he and his high kindred afterwards conquered provinces,
and became patrons of well nigh all the wealth in the West Isles.
As soon as rich Romulus turns him to Rome,
with great pride he at once builds that city,
and names it with his own name, which it now has;
Ticius turns to Tuscany and founds dwellings;
Longobard raises homes in Lombardy;
and, far over the French flood, Felix Brutus
establishes Britain joyfully on many broad banks,
where war and waste and wonders by turns have since dwelt,
and many a swift interchange of bliss and woe.

2.

And when this Britain was founded by this great hero,
bold men loving strife bred therein,
and many a time they wrought destruction.
More strange things have happened in this land since these days
than in any other that I know,
but of all the British kings that built here,
Arthur was ever the most courteous,
as I have heard tell.
Therefore, I mean to tell of an adventure in the world,
which some count strange and extraordinary
even among the wonders of Arthur.
If ye will listen to this lay but a little while,
I will tell it forthright as I heard it told in town,
as it is set down in story that cannot be changed,
long written in the land in true words.

3.

This King lay royally at Camelot at Christmas tide
with many fine lords, the best of men,
all the rich brethren of the Round Table,
with right rich revel and careless mirth.
There full many heroes tourneyed betimes,
jousted full gaily;
then returned these gentle knights to the court to make carols.
For there the feast was held full fifteen days alike
with all the meat and the mirth that men could devise.
Such a merry tumult, glorious to hear;
joyful din by day, dancing at night.
All was high joy in halls and chambers
with lords and ladies as pleased them best.
With all the weal in the world they dwelt there together,
the most famous knights save only Christ,
the loveliest ladies that ever had life,
and he, the comeliest of kings, who holds the court.
For all this fair company were in their prime in the hall,
the happiest troop under heaven with the proudest of kings.
Truly it would be hard to name anywhere so brave a band.

4.

When New Year was fresh and but newly come,
the court was served double on the dais.
As soon as the king with his knights was come into the hall,
the chanting in the chapel came to an end;
loud was the cry there of clerks and others.
Noel was celebrated anew, shouted full often;
and afterwards the great ones ran about to take handsel;
called aloud for New Year’s gifts;
ladies laughed full loud, though they had lost;
and he that won was not wroth,
that may ye well trow.
All this mirth they made till the meat time.
When they had washed,
worthily they went to their seats,
the best man ever above,
as it best behoved.
Queen Guinevere full beauteous was set in the midst,
placed on the rich dais adorned all about.
Fine silk at the sides,
a canopy over her of precious cloth of Toulouse
and tapestries of Tars, that were embroidered
and set with the best gems that money could buy.
Truly no man could say that he ever beheld
a comelier lady than she,
with her dancing gray eyes.

5.

But Arthur would not eat till all were served.
He was so merry in his mirth,
and somewhat childlike in his manner;
his life pleased him well;
he loved little either to lie long or to sit long,
so busied him his young blood and his wild brain.
And another custom moved him also,
that he through chivalry had taken up;
he would never eat upon such a dear day before he was told
an uncouth tale of some adventurous thing,
of some great marvel that he could believe,
of ancient heroes, of arms, or of other adventures;
or unless some person demanded of him
a sure knight to join with him in jousting,
to incur peril, to risk life against life,
trusting each in the other,
leaving the victory to fortune.
This was the king’s custom whenever he held court
at each goodly feast among his free company in the hall.
And so with undaunted face he strides
stoutly to his seat on that New Year,
making great mirth with everybody.

6.

Thus the great king stands waiting before the high table,
talking of trifles full courteously.
The good Gawain was placed there beside Guinevere,
and Agravain of the Hard Hand sat on the other side,
both of them the king’s sister’s sons and full sure knights.
Bishop Baldwin at the top begins the table,
and Ywain, Urien’s son, ate by himself.
These were placed on the dais and honorably served,
and after them many a good man at the side tables.
Then the first course came in with blare of trumpets,
which were hung with many a bright banner.
A new noise of kettle-drums with the noble pipes,
wild and stirring melodies wakened the echoes;
that many a heart heaved full high at their tones.
Dainties of precious meats followed,
foison of fresh viands, and on so many dishes
that it was difficult to find place before the people
to set on the cloth the silver that held the several courses.
Each man as he himself preferred partook without hesitation.
Every two had twelve dishes between them,
good beer and bright wine both.


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