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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
English
Middle English
Manuscript

Now wyl I of hor seruise say yow no more,
Now wyl I of hor seruise say yow no more,
Now of their service I will say nothing more,
For vch wyȝe may wel wit no wont þat þer were.
For vch wyȝe may wel wit no wont þat þer were.
for you are all well aware that no want would there be.
An oþer noyse ful newe neȝed biliue,
An oþer noyse ful newe neȝed biliue,
Another noise that was new drew near to a sudden,
Þat þe lude myȝt haf leue liflode to cach;
Þat þe lude myȝt haf leue liflode to cach;
so that their lord might have leave at last to take food.
For vneþe watz þe noyce not a whyle sesed,
For vneþe watz þe noyce not a whyle sesed,
For hardly had the music but a moment ended,
And þe fyrst cource in þe court kyndely serued,
And þe fyrst cource in þe court kyndely serued,
and the first course in the court as was custom been served,
Þer hales in at þe halle dor an aghlich mayster,
Þer hales in at þe halle dor an aghlich mayster,
when there passed through the portals a perilous horseman,
On þe most on þe molde on mesure hyghe;
On þe most on þe molde on mesure hyghe;
the mightiest on middle-earth in measure of height,
Fro þe swyre to þe swange so sware and so þik,
Fro þe swyre to þe swange so sware and so þik,
from his gorge to his girdle so great and so square,
And his lyndes and his lymes so longe and so grete,
And his lyndes and his lymes so longe and so grete,
and his loins and his limbs so long and so huge,
Half etayn in erde I hope þat he were,
Half etayn in erde I hope þat he were,
that half a troll upon earth I trow that he was,
Bot mon most I algate mynn hym to bene,
Bot mon most I algate mynn hym to bene,
but the largest man alive at least I declare him;
And þat þe myriest in his muckel þat myȝt ride;
And þat þe myriest in his muckel þat myȝt ride;
and yet the seemliest for his size that could sit on a horse,
For of bak and of brest al were his bodi sturne,
For of bak and of brest al were his bodi sturne,
for though in back and in breast his body was grim,
Both his wombe and his wast were worthily smale,
Both his wombe and his wast were worthily smale,
both his paunch and his waist were properly slight,
And alle his fetures folȝande, in forme þat he hade,
And alle his fetures folȝande, in forme þat he hade,
and all his features followed his fashion so gay
          ful clene;
          ful clene;
          in mode;
     For wonder of his hwe men hade,
     For wonder of his hwe men hade,
     for at the hue men gaped aghast
     Set in his semblaunt sene;
     Set in his semblaunt sene;
     in his face and form that showed;
     He ferde as freke were fade,
     He ferde as freke were fade,
     as a fay-man fell he passed,
     And oueral enker-grene.
     And oueral enker-grene.
     and green all over glowed.
     
     
     
Ande al grayþed in grene þis gome and his wedes:
Ande al grayþed in grene þis gome and his wedes:
All of green were they made, both garments and man;
A strayte cote ful streȝt, þat stek on his sides,
A strayte cote ful streȝt, þat stek on his sides,
a coat tight and close that clung to his sides;
A meré mantile abof, mensked withinne
A meré mantile abof, mensked withinne
a rich robe above it all arrayed within
With pelure pured apert, þe pane ful clene
With pelure pured apert, þe pane ful clene
with fur finely trimmed, shewing fair fringes
With blyþe blaunner ful bryȝt, and his hod boþe,
With blyþe blaunner ful bryȝt, and his hod boþe,
of handsome ermine gay, as his hood was also,
Þat watz laȝt fro his lokkez and layde on his schulderes;
Þat watz laȝt fro his lokkez and layde on his schulderes;
that was lifted from his locks and laid on his shoulders;
Heme wel-haled hose of þat same,
Heme wel-haled hose of þat same,
and trim hose tight-drawn of tincture alike
Þat spenet on his sparlyr, and clene spures vnder
Þat spenet on his sparlyr, and clene spures vnder
that clung to his calves; and clear spurs below
Of bryȝt golde, vpon silk bordes barred ful ryche,
Of bryȝt golde, vpon silk bordes barred ful ryche,
of bright gold on silk broideries banded most richly,
And scholes vnder schankes þere þe schalk rides;
And scholes vnder schankes þere þe schalk rides;
though unshod were his shanks, for shoeless he rode.
And alle his vesture uerayly watz clene verdure,
And alle his vesture uerayly watz clene verdure,
And verily all this vesture was of verdure clear,
Boþe þe barres of his belt and oþer blyþe stones,
Boþe þe barres of his belt and oþer blyþe stones,
both the bars on his belt, and bright stones besides
Þat were richely rayled in his aray clene
Þat were richely rayled in his aray clene
that were richly arranged in his array so fair,
Aboutte hymself and his sadel, vpon silk werkez.
Aboutte hymself and his sadel, vpon silk werkez.
set on himself and on his saddle upon silk fabrics:
Þat were to tor for to telle of tryfles þe halue
Þat were to tor for to telle of tryfles þe halue
it would be too hard to rehearse one half the trifles
Þat were enbrauded abof, wyth bryddes and flyȝes,
Þat were enbrauded abof, wyth bryddes and flyȝes,
that were embroidered upon them, what with birds and with flies
With gay gaudi of grene, þe golde ay inmyddes.
With gay gaudi of grene, þe golde ay inmyddes.
in a gay glory of green, and ever gold in the midst.
Þe pendauntes of his payttrure, þe proude cropure,
Þe pendauntes of his payttrure, þe proude cropure,
The pendants of his poitrel, his proud crupper,
His molaynes, and alle þe metail anamayld was þenne,
His molaynes, and alle þe metail anamayld was þenne,
his molains, and all the metal to say more, were enamelled,
Þe steropes þat he stod on stayned of þe same,
Þe steropes þat he stod on stayned of þe same,
even the stirrups that he stood in were stained of the same;
And his arsounz al after and his aþel skyrtes,
And his arsounz al after and his aþel skyrtes,
and his saddlebows in suit, and their sumptuous skirts,
Þat euer glemered and glent al of grene stones;
Þat euer glemered and glent al of grene stones;
which ever glimmered and glinted all with green jewels;
Þe fole þat he ferkkes on fyn of þat ilke,
Þe fole þat he ferkkes on fyn of þat ilke,
even the horse that upheld him in hue was the same,
          sertayn,
          sertayn,
          I tell:
     A grene hors gret and þikke,
     A grene hors gret and þikke,
     a green horse great and thick,
     A stede ful stif to strayne,
     A stede ful stif to strayne,
     a stallion stiff to quell,
     In brawden brydel quik –
     In brawden brydel quik –
     in broidered bridle quick:
     To þe gome he watz ful gayn.
     To þe gome he watz ful gayn.
     he matched his master well.
     
     
     
Wel gay watz þis gome gered in grene,
Wel gay watz þis gome gered in grene,
Very gay was this great man guised all in green,
And þe here of his hed of his hors swete.
And þe here of his hed of his hors swete.
and the hair of his head with his horse’s accorded:
Fayre fannand fax vmbefoldes his schulderes;
Fayre fannand fax vmbefoldes his schulderes;
fair flapping locks enfolding his shoulders,
A much berd as a busk ouer his brest henges,
A much berd as a busk ouer his brest henges,
a big beard like a bush over his breast hanging
Þat wyth his hiȝlich here þat of his hed reches
Þat wyth his hiȝlich here þat of his hed reches
that with the handsome hair from his head falling
Watz euesed al vmbetorne abof his elbowes,
Watz euesed al vmbetorne abof his elbowes,
was sharp shorn to an edge just short of his elbows,
Þat half his armes þer-vnder were halched in þe wyse
Þat half his armes þer-vnder were halched in þe wyse
so that half his arms under it were hid, as it were
Of a kyngez capados þat closes his swyre;
Of a kyngez capados þat closes his swyre;
in a king’s capadoce that encloses his neck.
Þe mane of þat mayn hors much to hit lyke,
Þe mane of þat mayn hors much to hit lyke,
The mane of that mighty horse was of much the same sort,
Wel cresped and cemmed, wyth knottes ful mony
Wel cresped and cemmed, wyth knottes ful mony
well curled and all combed, with many curious knots
Folden in wyth fildore aboute þe fayre grene,
Folden in wyth fildore aboute þe fayre grene,
woven in with gold wire about the wondrous green,
Ay a herle of þe here, an oþer of golde;
Ay a herle of þe here, an oþer of golde;
ever a strand of the hair and a string of the gold;
Þe tayl and his toppyng twynnen of a sute,
Þe tayl and his toppyng twynnen of a sute,
the tail and the top-lock were twined all to matched
And bounden boþe wyth a bande of a bryȝt grene,
And bounden boþe wyth a bande of a bryȝt grene,
and both bound with a band of a brilliant green:
Dubbed wyth ful dere stonez, as þe dok lasted,
Dubbed wyth ful dere stonez, as þe dok lasted,
with dear jewels bedight to the dock’s ending,
Syþen þrawen wyth a þwong a þwarle knot alofte,
Syþen þrawen wyth a þwong a þwarle knot alofte,
and twisted then on top was a tight-knitted knot
Þer mony bellez ful bryȝt of brende golde rungen.
Þer mony bellez ful bryȝt of brende golde rungen.
on which many burnished bells of bright gold jingled.
Such a fole vpon folde, ne freke þat hym rydes,
Such a fole vpon folde, ne freke þat hym rydes,
Such a mount on middle-earth, or man to ride him,
Watz neuer sene in þat sale wyth syȝt er þat tyme,
Watz neuer sene in þat sale wyth syȝt er þat tyme,
was never beheld in that hall with eyes ere that time;
          with yȝe.
          with yȝe.
          for there
     He loked as layt so lyȝt,
     He loked as layt so lyȝt,
     his glance was as lightning bright,
     So sayd al þat hym syȝe;
     So sayd al þat hym syȝe;
     so did all that saw him swear;
     Hit semed as no mon myȝt
     Hit semed as no mon myȝt
     no man would have the might,
     Vnder his dynttez dryȝe.
     Vnder his dynttez dryȝe.
     they thought, his blows to bear.
     
     
     
Wheþer hade he no helme ne hawbergh nauþer,
Wheþer hade he no helme ne hawbergh nauþer,
And yet he had not a helm, not a hauberk either,
Ne no pysan ne no plate þat pented to armes,
Ne no pysan ne no plate þat pented to armes,
not a pisane, not a plate that was proper to arms;
Ne no schafte ne no schelde to schwue ne to smyte,
Ne no schafte ne no schelde to schwue ne to smyte,
not a shield, not a shaft, for shock or for blow,
Bot in his on honde he hade a holyn bobbe,
Bot in his on honde he hade a holyn bobbe,
but in his one hand he held a holly-bundle,
Þat is grattest in grene when greuez ar bare,
Þat is grattest in grene when greuez ar bare,
that is greatest in greenery when groves are leafless,
And an ax in his oþer, a hoge and vnmete,
And an ax in his oþer, a hoge and vnmete,
and an axe in the other, ugly and monstruous,
A spetos sparþe to expoun in spelle, quoso myȝt.
A spetos sparþe to expoun in spelle, quoso myȝt.
a ruthless weapon aright for one in rhyme to describe:
Þe lenkþe of an elnȝerde þe large hede hade,
Þe lenkþe of an elnȝerde þe large hede hade,
the head was as large and as long as an ellwand,
Þe grayn al of grene stele and of golde hewen,
Þe grayn al of grene stele and of golde hewen,
a branch of green steel and of beaten gold;
Þe bit burnyst bryȝt, with a brod egge
Þe bit burnyst bryȝt, with a brod egge
the bit, burnished bright and broad at the edge,
As wel schapen to schere as scharp rasores,
As wel schapen to schere as scharp rasores,
as well shaped for shearing as sharp razors;
Þe stele of a stif staf þe sturne hit bi grypte,
Þe stele of a stif staf þe sturne hit bi grypte,
the stem was a stout staff, by which sternly he gripped it,
Þat watz wounden wyth yrn to þe wandez ende,
Þat watz wounden wyth yrn to þe wandez ende,
all bound with iron about to the base of the handle,
And al bigrauen with grene in gracios werkes;
And al bigrauen with grene in gracios werkes;
and engraven in green in graceful patterns,
A lace lapped aboute, þat louked at þe hede,
A lace lapped aboute, þat louked at þe hede,
lapped round with a lanyard that was lashed to the head
And so after þe halme halched ful ofte,
And so after þe halme halched ful ofte,
and down the length of the haft was looped many times;
Wyth tryed tasselez þerto tacched innoghe
Wyth tryed tasselez þerto tacched innoghe
and tassels of price were tied there in plenty
On botounz of þe bryȝt grene brayden ful ryche.
On botounz of þe bryȝt grene brayden ful ryche.
to bosses of the bright green, braided most richly.
Þis haþel heldez hym in and þe halle entres,
Þis haþel heldez hym in and þe halle entres,
Such was he that now hastened in, the hall entering,
Driuande to þe heȝe dece, dut he no woþe,
Driuande to þe heȝe dece, dut he no woþe,
pressing forward to the dais – no peril he feared.
Haylsed he neuer one, bot heȝe he ouer loked.
Haylsed he neuer one, bot heȝe he ouer loked.
To none gave he greeting, gazing above them,
Þe fyrst word þat he warp, “Wher is”, he sayd,
Þe fyrst word þat he warp, “Wher is”, he sayd,
and the first word that he winged: “Now where is”, he said,
“Þe gouernour of þis gyng? Gladly I wolde
“Þe gouernour of þis gyng? Gladly I wolde
“the governor of this gathering? For gladly I would
Se þat segg in syȝt, and with hymself speke
Se þat segg in syȝt, and with hymself speke
on the same set my sight, and with himself now talk
          raysoun.”
          raysoun.”
          in town.”
     To knyȝtez he kest his yȝe,
     To knyȝtez he kest his yȝe,
     On the courtiers he cast his eye,
     And reled hym vp and doun;
     And reled hym vp and doun;
     and rolled it up and down;
     He stemmed, and con studie
     He stemmed, and con studie
     he stopped, and stared to espy
     Quo walt þer most renoun.
     Quo walt þer most renoun.
     who there had most renown.
     
     
     
Ther watz lokyng on lenþe þe lude to beholde,
Ther watz lokyng on lenþe þe lude to beholde,
Then they looked for a long while, on that lord gazing;
For vch mon had meruayle quat hit mene myȝt
For vch mon had meruayle quat hit mene myȝt
for every man marvelled what it could mean indeed
Þat a haþel and a horse myȝt such a hwe lach,
Þat a haþel and a horse myȝt such a hwe lach,
that horseman and horse such a hue should come by
As growe grene as þe gres and grener hit semed,
As growe grene as þe gres and grener hit semed,
as to grow green as the grass, and greener it seemed,
Þen grene aumayl on golde glowande bryȝter.
Þen grene aumayl on golde glowande bryȝter.
than green enamel glowing on gold glowing far brighter.
Al studied þat þer stod, and stalked hym nerre
Al studied þat þer stod, and stalked hym nerre
All stared that stood there and stole up nearer,
Wyth al þe wonder of þe worlde what he worch schulde.
Wyth al þe wonder of þe worlde what he worch schulde.
watching him and wondering what in the world he would do.
For fele sellyez had þay sen, bot such neuer are;
For fele sellyez had þay sen, bot such neuer are;
For many marvels they had seen, but to match this nothing;
Forþi for fantoum and fayryȝe þe folk þere hit demed.
Forþi for fantoum and fayryȝe þe folk þere hit demed.
wherefore a phantom and fay-magic folk there thought it,
Þerfore to answare watz arȝe mony aþel freke,
Þerfore to answare watz arȝe mony aþel freke,
and so to answer little eager was any of those knights,
And al stouned at his steuen and stonstil seten
And al stouned at his steuen and stonstil seten
and astounded at his stern voice stone-still they sat there
In a swoghe sylence þurȝ þe sale riche;
In a swoghe sylence þurȝ þe sale riche;
in a swooning silence through that solemn chamber,
As al were slypped vpon slepe so slaked hor lotez
As al were slypped vpon slepe so slaked hor lotez
as if all had dropped into a dream, so died their voices
          in hyȝe –
          in hyȝe –
          away.
     I deme hit not al for doute,
     I deme hit not al for doute,
     Not only, I deem, for dread;
     Bot sum for cortaysye –
     Bot sum for cortaysye –
     but of some ’twas their courtly way
     Bot let hym þat al schulde loute
     Bot let hym þat al schulde loute
     to allow their lord and head
     Cast vnto þat wyȝe.
     Cast vnto þat wyȝe.
     to the guest his word to say.
     
     
     
Þenn Arþour bifore þe hiȝ dece þat auenture byholdez,
Þenn Arþour bifore þe hiȝ dece þat auenture byholdez,
Then Arthur before the high dais beheld this wonder,
And rekenly hym reuerenced, for rad was he neuer,
And rekenly hym reuerenced, for rad was he neuer,
and freely with fair words, for fearless was he ever,
And sayde, “Wyȝe, welcum iwys to þis place,
And sayde, “Wyȝe, welcum iwys to þis place,
saluted him, saying: “Lord, to this lodging thou’rt welcome!
Þe hede of þis ostel Arthour I hat;
Þe hede of þis ostel Arthour I hat;
The head of this household Arthur my name is.
Liȝt luflych adoun and lenge, I þe praye,
Liȝt luflych adoun and lenge, I þe praye,
Alight, as thou lovest me, and linger, I pray thee;
And quat-so þy wylle is we schal wyt after.”
And quat-so þy wylle is we schal wyt after.”
and what may thy wish be in a while we shall learn.”
“Nay, as help me,” quoþ þe haþel, “he þat on hyȝe syttes,
“Nay, as help me,” quoþ þe haþel, “he þat on hyȝe syttes,
“Nay, so help me,” quoth the horseman, “He that on high is throned,
To wone any quyle in þis won, hit watz not myn ernde;
To wone any quyle in þis won, hit watz not myn ernde;
to pass any time in this place was no part of my errand.
Bot for þe los of þe, lede, is lyft vp so hyȝe,
Bot for þe los of þe, lede, is lyft vp so hyȝe,
But since thy praises, prince, so proud are uplifted,
And þy burȝ and þy burnes best ar holden,
And þy burȝ and þy burnes best ar holden,
and thy castle and courtiers are accounted the best,
Stifest vnder stel-gere on stedes to ryde,
Stifest vnder stel-gere on stedes to ryde,
the stoutest in steel-gear that on steeds may ride,
Þe wyȝtest and þe worþyest of þe worldes kynde,
Þe wyȝtest and þe worþyest of þe worldes kynde,
most eager and honourable of the earth’s people,
Preue for to play wyth in oþer pure laykez,
Preue for to play wyth in oþer pure laykez,
valiant to vie with in other virtuous sports,
And here is kydde cortaysye, as I haf herd carp,
And here is kydde cortaysye, as I haf herd carp,
and here is knighthood renowned, as is noised in my ears:
And þat hatz wayned me hider, iwyis, at þis tyme.
And þat hatz wayned me hider, iwyis, at þis tyme.
’tis that has fetched me hither, by my faith, at this time.
Ȝe may be seker bi þis braunch þat I bere here
Ȝe may be seker bi þis braunch þat I bere here
You may believe by this branch that I am not bearing here
Þat I passe as in pes, and no plyȝt seche;
Þat I passe as in pes, and no plyȝt seche;
that I pass as one in peace, no peril seeking.
For had I founded in fere in feȝtyng wyse,
For had I founded in fere in feȝtyng wyse,
For had I set forth to fight in fashion of war,
I haue a hauberghe at home and a helme boþe,
I haue a hauberghe at home and a helme boþe,
I have a hauberk at home, and a helm also,
A schelde and a scharp spere, schinande bryȝt,
A schelde and a scharp spere, schinande bryȝt,
a shield, and a sharp spear shining brightly,
Ande oþer weppenes to welde, I wene wel, als;
Ande oþer weppenes to welde, I wene wel, als;
and other weapons to wield too, as well I believe;
Bot for I wolde no were, my wedez ar softer.
Bot for I wolde no were, my wedez ar softer.
but since I crave for no combat, my clothes are softer.
Bot if þou be so bold as alle burnez tellen,
Bot if þou be so bold as alle burnez tellen,
Yet if thou be so bold, as abroad is published,
Þou wyl grant me godly þe gomen þat I ask
Þou wyl grant me godly þe gomen þat I ask
thou wilt grant of thy goodness the game that I ask for
          bi ryȝt.”
          bi ryȝt.”
          by right.”
     Arthour con onsware,
     Arthour con onsware,
     Then Arthur answered there,
     And sayd, “Sir cortays knyȝt,
     And sayd, “Sir cortays knyȝt,
     and said: “Sir, noble knight,
     If þou craue batayl bare,
     If þou craue batayl bare,
     if battle thou seek thus bare,
     Here faylez þou not to fyȝt.”
     Here faylez þou not to fyȝt.”
     thou’lt fail not here to fight.”
     
     
     
“Nay, frayst I no fyȝt, in fayth I þe telle,
“Nay, frayst I no fyȝt, in fayth I þe telle,
“Nay, I wish for no warfare, on my word I tell thee!
Hit arn aboute on þis bench bot berdlez chylder.
Hit arn aboute on þis bench bot berdlez chylder.
Here about on these benches are but beardless children.
If I were hasped in armes on a heȝe stede,
If I were hasped in armes on a heȝe stede,
Were I hasped in armour on a high charger,
Here is no mon me to mach, for myȝtez so wayke.
Here is no mon me to mach, for myȝtez so wayke.
there is no man here to match me – their might is so feeble.
Forþy I craue in þis court a Crystemas gomen,
Forþy I craue in þis court a Crystemas gomen,
And so I crave in this court only a Christmas pastime,
For hit is Ȝol and Nwe Ȝer, and here ar ȝep mony:
For hit is Ȝol and Nwe Ȝer, and here ar ȝep mony:
since it is Yule and New Year, and you are young here and merry.
If any so hardy in þis hous holdez hymseluen,
If any so hardy in þis hous holdez hymseluen,
If any so hardy in this house here holds that he is,
Be so bolde in his blod, brayn in hys hede,
Be so bolde in his blod, brayn in hys hede,
if so bold be his blood or his brain be so wild,
Þat dar stifly strike a strok for an oþer,
Þat dar stifly strike a strok for an oþer,
that he stoutly dare strike one stroke for another,
I schal gif hym of my gyft þys giserne ryche,
I schal gif hym of my gyft þys giserne ryche,
then I will give him as my gift this guisarm costly,
Þis ax, þat is heué innogh, to hondele as hym lykes,
Þis ax, þat is heué innogh, to hondele as hym lykes,
this axe – ’tis heavy enough – to handle as he pleases;
And I schal bide þe fyrst bur as bare as I sitte.
And I schal bide þe fyrst bur as bare as I sitte.
and I will abide the first brunt, here bare as I sit.
If any freke be so felle to fonde þat I telle,
If any freke be so felle to fonde þat I telle,
If any fellow be so fierce as my faith to test,
Lepe lyȝtly me to, and lach þis weppen,
Lepe lyȝtly me to, and lach þis weppen,
hither let him haste to me and lay hold of this weapon –
I quit-clayme hit for euer, kepe hit as his auen,
I quit-clayme hit for euer, kepe hit as his auen,
I hand it over for ever, he can have it as his own –
And I schal stonde hym a strok, stif on þis flet,
And I schal stonde hym a strok, stif on þis flet,
and I will stand a stroke from him, stock-still on this floor,
Ellez þou wyl diȝt me þe dom to dele hym an oþer
Ellez þou wyl diȝt me þe dom to dele hym an oþer
provided thou’lt lay down this law: that I may deliver him another.
          barlay,
          barlay,
          Claim I!
     And ȝet gif hym respite,
     And ȝet gif hym respite,
     And a respite I’ll allow,
     A twelmonyth and a day;
     A twelmonyth and a day;
     till a year and a day go by.
     Now hyȝe, and let se tite
     Now hyȝe, and let se tite
     Come quick, and let’s see now
     Dar any herinne oȝt say.”
     Dar any herinne oȝt say.”
     if any here dare reply!”
     
     
     
If he hem stowned vpon fyrst, stiller were þanne
If he hem stowned vpon fyrst, stiller were þanne
If he astounded them at first, yet stiller were then
Alle þe heredmen in halle, þe hyȝ and þe loȝe.
Alle þe heredmen in halle, þe hyȝ and þe loȝe.
all the household in the hall, both high men and low.
Þe renk on his rouncé hym ruched in his sadel,
Þe renk on his rouncé hym ruched in his sadel,
The man on his mount moved in his saddle,
And runischly his rede yȝen he reled aboute,
And runischly his rede yȝen he reled aboute,
and rudely his red eyes he rolled then about,
Bende his bresed broȝez, blycande grene,
Bende his bresed broȝez, blycande grene,
bent his bristling brows all brilliantly green,
Wayued his berde for to wayte quo-so wolde ryse.
Wayued his berde for to wayte quo-so wolde ryse.
and swept round his beard to see who would rise.
When non wolde kepe hym with carp he coȝed ful hyȝe,
When non wolde kepe hym with carp he coȝed ful hyȝe,
When none in converse would accost him, he coughed then loudly,
Ande rimed hym ful richly, and ryȝt hym to speke:
Ande rimed hym ful richly, and ryȝt hym to speke:
stretched himself haughtily and straightway exclaimed:
“What, is þis Arthures hous,” quoþ þe haþel þenne,
“What, is þis Arthures hous,” quoþ þe haþel þenne,
“What! Is this Arthur’s house,” said he thereupon,
“Þat al þe rous rennes of þurȝ ryalmes so mony?
“Þat al þe rous rennes of þurȝ ryalmes so mony?
“the rumour of which runs through realms unnumbered?
Where is now your sourquydrye and your conquestes,
Where is now your sourquydrye and your conquestes,
Where now is your haughtiness, and your high conquests,
Your gryndellayk and your greme, and your grete wordes?
Your gryndellayk and your greme, and your grete wordes?
your fierceness and fell mood, and your fine boasting?
Now is þe reuel and þe renoun of þe Rounde Table
Now is þe reuel and þe renoun of þe Rounde Table
Now are the revels and the royalty of the Round Table
Ouerwalt wyth a worde of on wyȝes speche,
Ouerwalt wyth a worde of on wyȝes speche,
overwhelmed by the word of one man spoken,
For al dares for drede withoute dynt schewed!”
For al dares for drede withoute dynt schewed!”
for all blench now abashed ere a blow is offered!”
Wyth þis he laȝes so loude þat þe lorde greued;
Wyth þis he laȝes so loude þat þe lorde greued;
With that he laughed so loud that their lord was angered,
Þe blod schot for scham into his schyre face
Þe blod schot for scham into his schyre face
the blood shot for shame into his shining cheeks
          and lere;
          and lere;
          and face;
     He wex as wroth as wynde,
     He wex as wroth as wynde,
     as wroth as wind he grew,
     So did alle þat þer were.
     So did alle þat þer were.
     so all did in that place.
     Þe kyng as kene bi kynde
     Þe kyng as kene bi kynde
     Then near the stout man drew
     Þen stod þat stif mon nere,
     Þen stod þat stif mon nere,
     the king of fearless race,
     
     
     
Ande sayde, “Haþel, by heuen, þyn askyng is nys,
Ande sayde, “Haþel, by heuen, þyn askyng is nys,
And said: “Marry! Good man, ’tis madness thou askest,
And as þou foly hatz frayst, fynde þe behoues.
And as þou foly hatz frayst, fynde þe behoues.
and since folly thou hast sought, thou deservest to find it.
I know no gome þat is gast of þy grete wordes;
I know no gome þat is gast of þy grete wordes;
I know no lord that is alarmed by thy loud words here.
Gif me now þy geserne, vpon Godez halue,
Gif me now þy geserne, vpon Godez halue,
Give me now thy guisarm, in God’s name, sir,
And I schal bayþen þy bone þat þou boden habbes.”
And I schal bayþen þy bone þat þou boden habbes.”
and I will bring thee the blessing thou has begged to receive.”
Lyȝtly lepez he hym to, and laȝt at his honde.
Lyȝtly lepez he hym to, and laȝt at his honde.
Quick then he came to him and caught it from his hand.
Þen feersly þat oþer freke vpon fote lyȝtis.
Þen feersly þat oþer freke vpon fote lyȝtis.
Then the lordly man loftily alighted on foot.
Now hatz Arthure his axe, and þe halme grypez,
Now hatz Arthure his axe, and þe halme grypez,
Now Arthur holds his axe, and the haft grasping
And sturnely sturez hit aboute, þat stryke wyth hit þoȝt.
And sturnely sturez hit aboute, þat stryke wyth hit þoȝt.
sternly he stirs it about, his stroke considering.
Þe stif mon hym bifore stod vpon hyȝt,
Þe stif mon hym bifore stod vpon hyȝt,
The stout man before him there stood his full height,
Herre þen ani in þe hous by þe hede and more.
Herre þen ani in þe hous by þe hede and more.
higher than any in that house by a head and yet more.
Wyth sturne schere þer he stod he stroked his berde,
Wyth sturne schere þer he stod he stroked his berde,
With stern face as he stood he stroked at his beard,
And wyth a countenaunce dryȝe he droȝ doun his cote,
And wyth a countenaunce dryȝe he droȝ doun his cote,
and with expression impassive he pulled down his coat,
No more mate ne dismayd for hys mayn dintez
No more mate ne dismayd for hys mayn dintez
no more disturbed or distressed at the strength of his blows
Þen any burne vpon bench hade broȝt hym to drynk
Þen any burne vpon bench hade broȝt hym to drynk
than if someone as he sat had served him a drink
          of wyne.
          of wyne.
          of wine.
     Gawan, þat sate bi þe quene,
     Gawan, þat sate bi þe quene,
     From beside the queen Gawain
     To þe kyng he can enclyne:
     To þe kyng he can enclyne:
     to the king did then incline:
     “I beseche now with saȝez sene
     “I beseche now with saȝez sene
     “I implore with prayer plain
     Þis melly mot be myne.”
     Þis melly mot be myne.”
     that this match should now be mine.”
     
     
     
“Wolde ȝe, worþilych lorde,” quoþ Wawan to þe kyng,
“Wolde ȝe, worþilych lorde,” quoþ Wawan to þe kyng,
“Would you, my worthy lord,” said Wawain to the king,
“Bid me boȝe fro þis benche, and stonde by yow þere,
“Bid me boȝe fro þis benche, and stonde by yow þere,
“bid me abandon this bench and stand by you there,
Þat I wythoute vylanye myȝt voyde þis table,
Þat I wythoute vylanye myȝt voyde þis table,
so that I without discourtesy might be excused from the table,
And þat my legge lady lyked not ille,
And þat my legge lady lyked not ille,
and my liege lady were not loth to permit me,
I wolde com to your counseyl bifore your cort ryche.
I wolde com to your counseyl bifore your cort ryche.
I would come to your counsel before your courtiers fair.
For me þink hit not semly, as hit is soþ knawen,
For me þink hit not semly, as hit is soþ knawen,
For I find it unfitting, as in fact it is held,
Þer such an askyng is heuened so hyȝe in your sale,
Þer such an askyng is heuened so hyȝe in your sale,
when a challenge in your chamber makes choice so exalted,
Þaȝ ȝe ȝourself be talenttyf, to take hit to yourseluen,
Þaȝ ȝe ȝourself be talenttyf, to take hit to yourseluen,
though you yourself be desirous to accept it in person,
Whil mony so bolde yow aboute vpon bench sytten,
Whil mony so bolde yow aboute vpon bench sytten,
while many bold men about you on bench are seated:
Þat vnder heuen I hope non haȝerer of wylle,
Þat vnder heuen I hope non haȝerer of wylle,
on earth they are, I hold, none more honest of purpose,
Ne better bodyes on bent þer baret is rered.
Ne better bodyes on bent þer baret is rered.
no figures fairer on field where fighting is waged.
I am þe wakkest, I wot, and of wyt feblest,
I am þe wakkest, I wot, and of wyt feblest,
I am the weakest, I am aware, and in wit feeblest,
And lest lur of my lyf, quo laytes þe soþe –
And lest lur of my lyf, quo laytes þe soþe –
and the least loss, if I live not, if one would learn the truth.
Bot for as much as ȝe ar myn em I am only to prayse,
Bot for as much as ȝe ar myn em I am only to prayse,
Only because you are my uncle is honour given me:
No bounté bot your blod I in my bodé knowe;
No bounté bot your blod I in my bodé knowe;
save your blood in my body I boast of no virtue;
And syþen þis note is so nys þat noȝt hit yow falles,
And syþen þis note is so nys þat noȝt hit yow falles,
and since this affair is so foolish that it nowise befits you,
And I haue frayned hit at yow fyrst, foldez hit to me;
And I haue frayned hit at yow fyrst, foldez hit to me;
and I have requested it first, accord it then to me!
And if I carp not comlyly, let alle þis cort rych
And if I carp not comlyly, let alle þis cort rych
If my claim is uncalled-for without cavil shall judge
          bout blame.”
          bout blame.”
          this court.”
     Ryche togeder con roun,
     Ryche togeder con roun,
     To consult the knights draw near,
     And syþen þay redden alle same
     And syþen þay redden alle same
     and this plan they all support;
     To ryd þe kyng wyth croun,
     To ryd þe kyng wyth croun,
     the king with crown to clear,
     And gif Gawan þe game.
     And gif Gawan þe game.
     and give Gawain the sport.
     
     
     
Þen comaunded þe kyng þe knyȝt for to ryse;
Þen comaunded þe kyng þe knyȝt for to ryse;
The king then commanded that he quickly should rise,
And he ful radly vpros, and ruchched hym fayre,
And he ful radly vpros, and ruchched hym fayre,
and he readily uprose and directly approached,
Kneled doun bifore þe kyng, and cachez þat weppen;
Kneled doun bifore þe kyng, and cachez þat weppen;
kneeling humbly before his highness, and laying hand on the weapon;
And he luflyly hit hym laft, and lyfte vp his honde,
And he luflyly hit hym laft, and lyfte vp his honde,
and he lovingly relinquished it, and lifting his hand
And gef hym Goddez blessyng, and gladly hym biddes
And gef hym Goddez blessyng, and gladly hym biddes
gave him God’s blessing, and graciously enjoined him
Þat his hert and his honde schulde hardi be boþe.
Þat his hert and his honde schulde hardi be boþe.
that his hand and his head should be hardy alike.
“Kepe þe, cosyn,” quoþ þe kyng, “þat þou on kyrf sette,
“Kepe þe, cosyn,” quoþ þe kyng, “þat þou on kyrf sette,
“Take care, cousin,” quoth the king, “one cut to address,
And if þou redez hym ryȝt, redly I trowe
And if þou redez hym ryȝt, redly I trowe
and if thou learnest him his lesson, I believe very well
Þat þou schal byden þe bur þat he schal bede after.”
Þat þou schal byden þe bur þat he schal bede after.”
that thou wilt bear any blow that he gives back later.”
Gawan gotz to þe gome with giserne in honde,
Gawan gotz to þe gome with giserne in honde,
Gawain goes to the great man with guisarm in hand,
And he baldly hym bydez, he bayst neuer þe helder.
And he baldly hym bydez, he bayst neuer þe helder.
and he boldly abides there – he blenched not at all.
Þen carppez to Sir Gawan þe knyȝt in þe grene,
Þen carppez to Sir Gawan þe knyȝt in þe grene,
Then next said to Gawain the knight all in green:
“Refourme we oure forwardes, er we fyrre passe.
“Refourme we oure forwardes, er we fyrre passe.
“Let’s tell again our agreement, ere we go any further.
Fyrst I eþe þe, haþel, how þat þou hattes
Fyrst I eþe þe, haþel, how þat þou hattes
I’d know first, sir knight, thy name; I entreat thee
Þat þou me telle truly, as I tryst may.”
Þat þou me telle truly, as I tryst may.”
to tell it me truly, that I may trust in thy word.”
“In god fayth,” quoþ þe goode knyȝt, “Gawan I hatte,
“In god fayth,” quoþ þe goode knyȝt, “Gawan I hatte,
“In good faith,” quoth the good knight, “I Gawain am called
Þat bede þe þis buffet, quat-so bifallez after,
Þat bede þe þis buffet, quat-so bifallez after,
who bring thee this buffet, let be what may follow;
And at þis tyme twelmonyth take at þe an oþer
And at þis tyme twelmonyth take at þe an oþer
and at this time a twelvemonth in thy turn have another
Wyth what weppen so þou wylt, and wyth no wyȝ ellez
Wyth what weppen so þou wylt, and wyth no wyȝ ellez
with whatever weapon thou wilt, and in the world with
          on lyue.”
          on lyue.”
          none else but me.”
     Þat oþer onswarez agayn,
     Þat oþer onswarez agayn,
     The other man answered again:
     “Sir Gawan, so mot I þryue
     “Sir Gawan, so mot I þryue
     “I am passing pleased,” said he,
     As I am ferly fayn
     As I am ferly fayn
     “upon my life, Sir Gawain,
     Þis dint þat þou schal dryue.”
     Þis dint þat þou schal dryue.”
     that this stroke should be struck by thee.”
     
     
     
“Bigog,” quoþ þe grene knyȝt, “Sir Gawan, me lykes
“Bigog,” quoþ þe grene knyȝt, “Sir Gawan, me lykes
“Begad,” said the green knight, “Sir Gawain, I am pleased
Þat I schal fange at þy fust þat I haf frayst here.
Þat I schal fange at þy fust þat I haf frayst here.
to find from thy fist the favour I asked for!
And þou hatz redily rehersed, bi resoun ful trwe,
And þou hatz redily rehersed, bi resoun ful trwe,
And thou hast promptly repeated and plainly hast stated
Clanly al þe couenaunt þat I þe kynge asked,
Clanly al þe couenaunt þat I þe kynge asked,
without abatement the bargain I begged of the king here;
Saf þat þou schal siker me, segge, bi þi trawþe,
Saf þat þou schal siker me, segge, bi þi trawþe,
save that thou must assure me, sir, on thy honour
Þat þou schal seche me þiself, where-so þou hopes
Þat þou schal seche me þiself, where-so þou hopes
that thou’ll seek me thyself, search where thou thinkest
I may be funde vpon folde, and foch þe such wages
I may be funde vpon folde, and foch þe such wages
I may be found near or far, and fetch thee such payment
As þou deles me to-day bifore þis douþe ryche.”
As þou deles me to-day bifore þis douþe ryche.”
as thou deliverest me today before these lordly people.”
“Where schulde I wale þe,” quoþ Gauan, “where is þy place?
“Where schulde I wale þe,” quoþ Gauan, “where is þy place?
“Where should I light on thee,” quoth Gawain, “where look for thy place?
I wot neuer where þou wonyes, bi hym þat me wroȝt,
I wot neuer where þou wonyes, bi hym þat me wroȝt,
I have never learned where thou livest, by the Lord that made me,
Ne I know not þe, knyȝt, by cort ne þi name.
Ne I know not þe, knyȝt, by cort ne þi name.
and I know not, knight, thy name nor thy court.
Bot teche me truly þerto, and telle me how þou hattes,
Bot teche me truly þerto, and telle me how þou hattes,
But teach me the true way, and tell what men call thee,
And I schal ware alle my wyt to wynne me þeder,
And I schal ware alle my wyt to wynne me þeder,
and I will apply all my purpose the path to discover:
And þat I swere þe for soþe, and by my seker traweþ.”
And þat I swere þe for soþe, and by my seker traweþ.”
and that I swear thee for certain and solemnly promise.”
“Þat is innogh in Nwe Ȝer, hit nedes no more”,
“Þat is innogh in Nwe Ȝer, hit nedes no more”,
“That is enough in New Year, there is no need of no more!”
Quoþ þe gome in þe grene to Gawan þe hende;
Quoþ þe gome in þe grene to Gawan þe hende;
said the great man in green to Gawain the courtly.
“Ȝif I þe telle trwly, quen I þe tape haue
“Ȝif I þe telle trwly, quen I þe tape haue
“If I tell thee the truth of it, where I have taken the knock,
And þou me smoþely hatz smyten, smartly I þe teche
And þou me smoþely hatz smyten, smartly I þe teche
and thou handily hast hit me, if in haste I announce then
Of my hous and my home and myn owen nome,
Of my hous and my home and myn owen nome,
my house and my home and mine own title,
Þen may þou frayst my fare and forwardez holde;
Þen may þou frayst my fare and forwardez holde;
then thou canst call and enquire and keep the agreement;
And if I spende no speche, þenne spedez þou þe better,
And if I spende no speche, þenne spedez þou þe better,
and if I waste not a word, thou’lt win better fortune,
For þou may leng in þy londe and layt no fyrre –
For þou may leng in þy londe and layt no fyrre –
for thou mayst linger in thy land and look no further –
          bot slokes!
          bot slokes!
          but stay!
     Ta now þy grymme tole to þe,
     Ta now þy grymme tole to þe,
     To thy grim tool now take heed, sir!
     And let se how þou cnokez.”
     And let se how þou cnokez.”
     Let us try thy knocks today!”
     “Gladly, sir, for soþe”,
     “Gladly, sir, for soþe”,
     “Gladly”, said he, “indeed, sir!”
     Quoþ Gawan; his ax he strokes.
     Quoþ Gawan; his ax he strokes.
     and his axe he stroked in play.
     
     
     
Þe grene knyȝt vpon grounde grayþely hym dresses,
Þe grene knyȝt vpon grounde grayþely hym dresses,
The Green Knight on the ground now gets himself ready,
A littel lut with þe hede, þe lere he discouerez,
A littel lut with þe hede, þe lere he discouerez,
leaning a little with the head he lays bare the flesh,
His longe louelych lokkez he layd ouer his croun,
His longe louelych lokkez he layd ouer his croun,
and his locks long and lovely he lifts over his crown,
Let þe naked nec to þe note schewe.
Let þe naked nec to þe note schewe.
letting the naked neck as was needed appear.
Gauan gripped to his ax, and gederes hit on hyȝt,
Gauan gripped to his ax, and gederes hit on hyȝt,
His left foot on the floor before him placing,
Þe kay fot on þe folde he before sette,
Þe kay fot on þe folde he before sette,
Gawain gripped on his axe, gathered and raised it,
Let him doun lyȝtly lyȝt on þe naked,
Let him doun lyȝtly lyȝt on þe naked,
from aloft let it swiftly land where ’twas naked,
Þat þe scharp of þe schalk schyndered þe bones,
Þat þe scharp of þe schalk schyndered þe bones,
so that the sharp of his blade shivered the bones,
And schrank þurȝ þe schyire grece, and schade hit in twynne,
And schrank þurȝ þe schyire grece, and schade hit in twynne,
and sank clean though the clear fat and clove it asunder,
Þat þe bit of þe broun stel bot on þe grounde.
Þat þe bit of þe broun stel bot on þe grounde.
and the blade of the bright steel then bit into the ground.
Þe fayre hede fro þe halce hit to þe erþe,
Þe fayre hede fro þe halce hit to þe erþe,
The fair head to the floor fell from his shoulders,
Þat fele hit foyned wyth her fete, þere hit forth roled;
Þat fele hit foyned wyth her fete, þere hit forth roled;
and folk fended it with their feet as forth it went rolling;
Þe blod brayd fro þe body, þat blykked on þe grene;
Þe blod brayd fro þe body, þat blykked on þe grene;
the blood burst from the body, bright on the greenness,
And nawþer faltered ne fel þe freke neuer þe helder,
And nawþer faltered ne fel þe freke neuer þe helder,
and yet neither faltered nor fell the fierce man at all,
Bot styþly he start forth vpon styf schonkes,
Bot styþly he start forth vpon styf schonkes,
but stoutly he strode forth, still strong on his shanks,
And runyschly he raȝt out, þere as renkkez stoden,
And runyschly he raȝt out, þere as renkkez stoden,
and roughly he reached out along the rows that stood there,
Laȝt to his lufly hed, and lyft hit vp sone;
Laȝt to his lufly hed, and lyft hit vp sone;
caught up his comely head and quickly upraised it,
And syþen boȝez to his blonk, þe brydel he cachchez,
And syþen boȝez to his blonk, þe brydel he cachchez,
and then hastened to his horse, laid hold of the bridle,
Steppez into stelbawe and strydez alofte,
Steppez into stelbawe and strydez alofte,
stepped into stirrup-iron, and strode up aloft,
And his hede by þe here in his honde haldez;
And his hede by þe here in his honde haldez;
his head by the hair in his hand holding;
And as sadly þe segge hym in his sadel sette
And as sadly þe segge hym in his sadel sette
and he settled himself then in the saddle as firmly
As non vnhap had hym ayled, þaȝ hedlez he were
As non vnhap had hym ayled, þaȝ hedlez he were
as if unharmed by mishap, though in the hall he might
          in stedde.
          in stedde.
          wear no head.
     He brayde his bulk aboute,
     He brayde his bulk aboute,
     His trunk he twisted round,
     Þat vgly bodi þat bledde;
     Þat vgly bodi þat bledde;
     that gruesome body that bled,
     Moni on of hym had doute,
     Moni on of hym had doute,
     and many fear then found,
     Bi þat his resounz were redde.
     Bi þat his resounz were redde.
     as soon as his speech was sped.
     
     
     
For þe hede in his honde he haldez vp euen,
For þe hede in his honde he haldez vp euen,
For the head in his hand he held it up straight,
Toward þe derrest on þe dece he dressez þe face,
Toward þe derrest on þe dece he dressez þe face,
towards the fairest at the table he twisted the face,
And hit lyfte vp þe yȝe-lyddez and loked ful brode,
And hit lyfte vp þe yȝe-lyddez and loked ful brode,
and he lifted up its eyelids and looked at them broadly,
And meled þus much with his muthe, as ȝe may now here:
And meled þus much with his muthe, as ȝe may now here:
and made such words with his mouth as may be recounted.
“Loke, Gawan, þou be grayþe to go as þou hettez,
“Loke, Gawan, þou be grayþe to go as þou hettez,
“See thou get ready, Gawain, to go as thou vowedst,
And layte as lelly til þou me, lude, fynde,
And layte as lelly til þou me, lude, fynde,
and as faithfully seek till thou find me, good sir,
As þou hatz hette in þis halle, herande þise knyȝtes;
As þou hatz hette in þis halle, herande þise knyȝtes;
as thou hast promised in this place in the presence of these knights.
To þe grene chapel þou chose, I charge þe, to fotte
To þe grene chapel þou chose, I charge þe, to fotte
To the Green Chapel go thou, and get thee, I charge thee,
Such a dunt as þou hatz dalt – disserued þou habbez
Such a dunt as þou hatz dalt – disserued þou habbez
such a dint as thou hast dealt – indeed thou hast earned
To be ȝederly ȝolden on Nw Ȝeres morn.
To be ȝederly ȝolden on Nw Ȝeres morn.
a nimble knock in return on New Year’s morning!
Þe knyȝt of þe grene chapel men knowen me mony;
Þe knyȝt of þe grene chapel men knowen me mony;
The Knight of the Green Chapel I am known to many,
Forþi me for to fynde if þou fraystez, faylez þou neuer.
Forþi me for to fynde if þou fraystez, faylez þou neuer.
so if I find me thou endeavour, thou’lt fail not to do so.
Þerfore com, oþer recreaunt be calde þe behoues.”
Þerfore com, oþer recreaunt be calde þe behoues.”
Therefore come! Or to be called a craven thou deservest.”
With a runisch rout þe raynez he tornez,
With a runisch rout þe raynez he tornez,
With a rude roar and rush his reins he tuned then,
Halled out at þe hal dor, his hed in his hande,
Halled out at þe hal dor, his hed in his hande,
and hastened out through the hall-door with his head in his hand,
Þat þe fyr of þe flynt flaȝe fro fole houes.
Þat þe fyr of þe flynt flaȝe fro fole houes.
and fire of the flint flew from the feet of his charger.
To quat kyth he becom knwe non þere,
To quat kyth he becom knwe non þere,
To what country he came in that court no man knew,
Neuer more þen þay wyste from queþen he watz wonnen.
Neuer more þen þay wyste from queþen he watz wonnen.
no more than they had learned from what land he had journeyed.
          What þenne?
          What þenne?
          Meanwhile,
     Þe kyng and Gawen þare
     Þe kyng and Gawen þare
     the king and Sir Gawain
     At þat grene þay laȝe and grenne,
     At þat grene þay laȝe and grenne,
     at the Green Man laugh and smile;
     Ȝet breued watz hit ful bare
     Ȝet breued watz hit ful bare
     yet to men had appeared, ’twas plain,
     A meruayl among þo menne.      
     A meruayl among þo menne.      
     a marvel beyond denial.

Commentary
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian romance in alliterative verse written in the 14th century, known from a single manuscript called Cotton Nero A.x. (now in the British Library), which also includes three religious poems: Pearl, Purity and Patience. All are thought to have been written by the same author, who remains unidentified despite suggestions by some critics. He wrote in the North West Midland dialect of Middle English and adhered to the “Alliterative Revival”, a renewal in the late Middle Ages of poetic forms continuing the Old English tradition.

The poem deals with an adventure of Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew. During the feast of New Year’s Day, a wondrous knight, gigantic and green from head to toe (his horse included), appears in Camelot. He taunts and challenges the knights of the Round Table to a “Christmas game”: someone among them shall behead him with his own axe, provided that he may return the blow after a year and a day. Gawain takes on the challenge and beheads the Green Knight, who picks his severed head and rides off after inviting Gawain to find him one year later at the Green Chapel. On All Saints’ Day, Gawain sets off on a quest to keep his promise and ends up in a nearby castle, where he is welcomed with great courtesy by lord Bertilak de Hautdesert and his gorgeous wife. The two men agree that the weary Gawain shall rest in the castle during the next three days while his host is hunting, and they shall exchange at every day’s end whatever they have caught. While her husband is away, the lady attempts to seduce Gawain, but he only accepts from her a few kisses that he duly repays Bertilak – without telling him about their origin, which is no part of their agreement. During the three days, the lady grows more and more insistent, while Bertilak’s catch decreases in worth. At the end of the third day, the lady persuades Gawain to accept a green girdle, supposedly a magical protection against death, without telling her husband. The next day, Gawain rides off to the Green Chapel, meets the Green Knight and kneels to get the agreed blow. The Green Knight swings his axe but does not hit Gawain because he has flinched. The second time Gawain does not move, but the blow is withheld again and he becomes angry. The third time, the Green Knight just scratches Gawain’s neck, reveals himself as Bertilak and explains that it had been indeed just a game. Gawain’s true test had taken place at the castle: he had been chastised with a scratch for the minor failing of having accepted the girdle without telling, but kept his life because he had remained chaste. He has therefore passed the test, but is deeply ashamed all the same because he failed to keep his promise fully, and pledges to wear the green girdle as a reminder. The knights of the Round Table praise him when he returns and all decide to wear a green girdle in his honour.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien co-edited this poem in 1925 together with his colleague Eric Valentine Gordon, when they both worked at the University of Leeds. Tolkien also wrote a translation into modern English using the same verse than the original, which was published posthumously in 1975 by his son Christopher. We used his edition and translation for this sample, which presents the Green Knight and the beheading game.

We followed Tolkien and Gordon’s remarks about the pronunciation of the poet’s Middle English dialect. Notably: The text’s transcription rather resembles the kind of blackletter writing known as textura prescissa or sine pedibus, typified by the lack of serifs on descenders. This style appeared at the end of the 13th century and spread much in England in the Late Middle Ages. We made use of Robert Pfeffer’s typeface Pfeffer Simpelgotisch.

References
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel (ed.) & Gordon, Eric Valentine (ed.). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Second edition revised by Norman Davis – First edition 1925. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963. XXVII-232 p. ISBN 0-19-811486-9. 🌍 Middle English Compendium.
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo: translated by J. R. R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 2006. VII-158 p. ISBN 978-0-261-10259-0.

The works of John Ronald Reuel and Christopher Tolkien are under the copyright of their authors and/or rights holders, including their publishers and the Tolkien Estate.
Quotations from other authors, editors and translators mentioned in the bibliography are under the copyright of their publishers, except for those whose copyright term has ended.
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