© 2013 Diana

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Anonymous (XIVc)

Source: www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/English/GawainAndTheGreenKnight.htm#_Toc178583491




‘Gawain,’ quoth the green man, ‘God may you guard!

Indeed you are welcome, knight, to my place,

and you have timed your travel as true man should.

And you know the covenant pledged between us:

at this time twelvemonth gone you took what befell,

that I should at this New Year promptly requite.

And we are in this valley verily alone;

here are no ranks to sever us, serve as you will.

Heft your helm off your head, and have here your pay.

Ask no more debate than I did of you then

when you whipped off my head at a single blow.’

‘Nay, by God,’ quoth Gawain, ‘who lent me a soul,

I shall bear you no grudge for the grief that befalls.

Strike but the one stroke, and I shall stand still

and offer no hindrance, come work as you like,

I swear.’

He leant down his neck, and bowed,

and showed the white flesh all bare,

as if he were no way cowed;

for to shrink he would not dare.




Then the man in green readies him swiftly,

girds up his grim blade, to smite Gawain;

with all the strength in his body he bears it aloft,

manages it mightily as if he would mar him.

Had he driven it down as direly as he aimed,

one had been dead of the deed who was dauntless ever.

But Gawain glanced at the grim blade sideways,

as it came gliding down on him to destroy him,

and his shoulders shrank a little from the sharp edge.

The other man with a shrug the slice withholds,

and then reproves the prince with many proud words:

‘You are not Gawain,’ quoth the man, ‘held so great,

that was never afraid of the host by hill or by vale,

for now you flinch for fear ere you feel harm.

Such cowardice of that knight have I never heard.

I neither flinched nor fled, friend, when you let fly,

nor cast forth any quibble in King Arthur’s house.

My head flew off, at my feet, yet fled I never;

yet you, ere any harm haps, are fearful at heart.

And I ought to be branded the better man, I say,


Quoth Gawain: ‘I flinched once,

Yet so will I no more;

Though if my head fall on the stones,

I cannot it restore.’




‘Be brisk, man, by your faith, and bring me to the point.

Deal me my destiny and do it out of hand,

for I shall stand your stroke, and start no more

till your axe has hit me – have here my troth.’

‘Have at you, then,’ quoth the other, and heaves it aloft

and glares as angrily as if he were mad.

He menaces him mightily, but touches him not,

swiftly withholding his hand ere it might hurt.

Gawain gravely it bides and moves not a muscle,

but stands still as a stone or the stump of a tree

that is riven in rocky ground with roots a hundred.

Then merrily again he spoke, the man in green:

‘So now you have your heart whole, it me behoves.

Hold you safe now the knighthood Arthur gave you,

and keep your neck from this cut, if ever it may!’

Gawain full fiercely with anger then said:

‘Why, thrash on, you wild man, threaten no longer;

it seems your heart is warring with your own self.’

‘Forsooth,’ quoth the other, ‘so fiercely you speak,

I’ll not a moment longer delay your errand

I vow.’

Then he takes up his stance to strike

pouts lips and puckers his brow;

Nothing there for him to like

who hopes for no rescue now.




Up the weapon lifts lightly, is let down fair,

and the blade’s border beside the bare neck.

Though heaved heavily it hurt him not more,

but nicked him on the one side, and severed the skin.

The sharp edge sank in the flesh through the fair fat,

so that bright blood over his shoulders shot to the earth.

And when the knight saw his blood blotting the snow,

he spurted up, feet first, more than a spear-length,

seized swiftly his helm and on his head cast it,

shrugged with his shoulders his fine shield under,

broke out his bright sword, and bravely he spoke –

never since he was a babe born of his mother

had he ever in this world a heart half so blithe –

‘Back man, with your blade, and brandish no more!

I have received a stroke in this place without strife,

and if you offer another I’ll readily requite you

and yield it you swiftly again – of that be you sure –

as foe.

But one stroke to me here falls;

the covenant stated so,

arranged in Arthur’s halls,

so lay your weapon, now, low!’




The other then turned away and on his axe rested,

set the haft to the earth and leant on the head,

and looked at the lord who held to his ground,

how doughty, and dread-less, enduring he stands

armed, without awe; in his heart he him liked.

Then he spoke merrily in a mighty voice,

and with a ringing roar to the knight he said:

‘Bold man be not so fierce in this field.

No man here has mistreated you, been unmannerly,

nor behaved but by covenant at King’s court made.

I hit with a stroke, and you have it, and are well paid;

I release you from the rest of all other rights.

If I had been livelier, a buffet perchance

I could have worked more wilfully, to bring you anger.

First I menaced you merrily with a single feint,

and rent you with no riving cut, rightly offered

for the pledge that we made on the very first night;

for you truthfully kept troth and dealt with me true,

all the gain you gave me, as good men should.

The next blow for the morn, man, I proffered;

you kissed my fair wife, the kisses were mine.

For both these days I brought you but two bare feints,

without scathe.

Truth for the truth restore,

then man need dread no wraith.

On the third you failed for sure,

and so took that blow, in faith.’




‘For it is mine that you wear, that same woven girdle;

my own wife gave it you, I know it well forsooth.

Now, know I well your kisses and conduct too,

and the wooing of my wife; I wrought it myself.

I sent her to test you, and truly I think you

the most faultless man that was ever afoot.

As a pearl beside whitened pea is more precious,

so is Gawain, in good faith, beside other good knights.

But here sir you lacked a little, wanting in loyalty;

but that was for no wily work, nor wooing neither,

but for love of your life – so I blame you the less.’

The other strong man in study stood a great while,

so aggrieved that for grief he grimaced within.

All the blood of his breast burnt in his face,

that he shrank for shame at all the man said.

The first words the knight could frame on that field:

‘Curse upon cowardice and covetousness both!

In you are villainy and vice that virtue distress.’

Then he caught at the knot and pulled it loose,

and fair flung the belt at the man himself:

‘Lo! There’s the falseness, foul may it fall!

For fear of your knock cowardice me taught

to accord with covetousness, forsake my kind,

the largesse and loyalty that belongs to knights.

Now am I faulted and false, and ever a-feared;

from both treachery and untruth come sorrow

and care!

I confess to you knight, here, still,

my fault in this affair;

let me understand your will,

and henceforth I shall beware.’




Then laughed that other lord and lightly said:

‘I hold it happily made whole, the harm that I had;

You are confessed so clean, cleared of your faults,

and have done penance plain at the point of my blade,

I hold you absolved of that sin, as pure and as clean,

as though you were never at fault since first you were born.

And I give you, sir, the girdle that is gold-hemmed.

As it is green as my gown, Sir Gawain, you may

think upon this same trial when you throng forth

among princes of price, and this the pure token

of the test at the Green Chapel to chivalrous knights.

And you shall this New Year come back to my castle,

and we shall revel away the remnant of this rich feast

I mean’

Thus urged him hard the lord,

and said: ‘With my wife, I ween,

we shall bring you in accord,

who was your enemy keen.’




‘Nay, forsooth,’ quoth the knight, and seized his helm

doffed it deliberately, and dealt his thanks:

‘I have sojourned enough. May luck you betide,

and may He yield you reward that rewards all men!

And commend me to the courteous, your comely wife,

both the one and the other, my honoured ladies,

that thus their knight with a trick have cunningly beguiled.

But it is no wonder for a fool to run mad

and through wiles of woman be won to sorrow.

For so was Adam on earth with one beguiled,

and Solomon with many such, Samson too –

Delilah dealt him his doom – and David thereafter

was blinded by Bathsheba, and suffered much ill.

Since these were wounded with wiles, it were wise

to love them well and believe them not, if a lord could.

For these were the finest formerly, favoured by fate

excellently of all those under heaven’s rule

ill used;

And all these were beguiled

with women that they used.

If I am now beguiled

I think I should be excused.’




‘For your girdle,’ quoth Gawain, ‘God reward you!

That I will wear with good will, not for the white gold,

nor the stuff, the silk, nor the slender pendants,

its worth, nor richness, nor for the fine working;

but as a sign of my sin I shall see it often

when I ride in renown, remorseful, remembering

the fault and the frailty of perverse flesh,

how it tends to entice to the tarnish of sin.

And thus when pride shall stir me in prowess of arms,

one look at this love-lace shall lower my heart.

But one thing I would you pray, displease you never:

Since you are lord of yonder land where I lingered

Say you by your knighthood – may He reward you

that upholds the heavens and on high sits –

how you tell your true name, and then no more?’

‘That shall I tell you truly,’ quoth the other then,

‘Bertilak de Hautdesert I am in this land,

through might of Morgan la Faye, that dwells in my house,

and is mistress of magic, by crafts well learned

the mysteries of Merlin, many has she taken,

for she has dealt in depths full dearly sometime

with that excellent sage, and that know all your knights

at home.

Morgan the Goddess

therefore is now her name;

none has such high haughtiness

that she cannot make full tame.’




‘She sent me in this same wise to your wide hall

for to assay its pride, test if all that were truth

that runs on the great renown of the Round Table.

She worked all this wonder your wits to ravel,

to grieve Guinevere and to bring her to die

aghast at that same ghoul with his ghostly speech

with his head in his hand before the high table.

That is she that is at home, the ancient lady;

she is even your aunt, Arthur’s half-sister,

daughter of Tintagel’s Duchess that dear Uther after

had Arthur upon, who now is your king.

Therefore, sir, I entreat you, come to your aunt,

make merry in my house. My men do love you,

and I wish you as well, man, by my faith,

as any man under God, for your great truth.’

Yet Gawain denied him, nay, he would in no way.

They clasped and kissed, commending each other

to the Prince of Paradise, parted in the cold where

they stood.

Gawain on steed I ween

to the King goes fast as he could,

and the man in the emerald green

whithersoever he would.




Wild ways in the world Gawain now rides,

on Gringolet, he whom grace had gifted with life.

Often he harboured in houses, and often outside,

had adventures much in the vales, often vanquisher,

that I do not at this time intend to recall.

The hurt was all whole that he had in his neck,

and the bright belt he bore all thereabout,

obliquely, as a baldric, bound at his side,

tied under his left arm, the lace, with a knot,

as token he was tainted with guilt of his fault.

And so he comes to the court, all safe and sound.

Delight dawned in that dwelling when the great knew

that good Gawain was come; and thought it gain.

The King kisses the knight, and the queen also,

and then many staunch knights sought to salute him,

to know how he had fared; and faithfully he tells

confessing all the cost of the cares he had suffered –

what chanced at the chapel, the cast of its lord,

the love of the lady, the lace at the last.

The nick in the neck he naked them showed,

that he had for his lie, from the lord’s hands,

in blame.

He was pained he must tell,

he groaned for grief at the same;

blood ran to his face pell-mell,

when he showed the mark, for shame.




‘Lo, Lord!’ quoth the knight, and handled the lace,

‘This is the belt of blame I bear at my neck,

this is the hurt and the harm that I have learned

through the cowardice and covetousness I caught there.

This is the token of the untruth I am taken in,

and I must needs it wear while I may last.

For none may hide harm done, and go unscathed,

for where it is once attached depart will it never.’

The King comforts the knight, and all the court also,

laughing loudly thereat, and lovingly agreeing,

those lords and ladies that belonged to the Table,

that each born to the brotherhood, a baldric should have,

a belt, oblique him about, of a bright green,

and that for the sake of the knight, the same hue.

For it was accorded to the renown of the Round Table,

and he that had it was honoured, evermore after,

as is borne out by the best book of romance.

Thus in Arthur’s day this adventure was tried,

the books of Brutus thereof bear witness.

Since Brutus, the bold baron, first bent hither,

after the siege and assault had ceased at Troy,

there is,

many an adventure born

befallen such, ere this.

Now who bears the crown of thorn,

May He bring us to his bliss! AMEN.


                HONY SOYT QUI MAL PENCE


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