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The Greene Knight


1 In return for a similar stroke at his neck twelve months from this day

2 If (the concealment of) the lace had not happened


Abbreviations: P = Percy Folio; BP= Bishop Percy's marginal notes in the MS; M = Madden's edition; F = Furnivall's edition. See Select Bibliography for these editions.

First Part The first fitt or section of the poem is not marked by a rubric in the manuscript; I have added a rubric here to correspond with the one the scribe adds after line 258.

2 all att. M prints att all; though a blot in the MS makes the reading indistinct, it appears that att follows all.

   leadinge. M disregards the final stoke and prints leading.

10 strove of. I follow BP; F reads strong of, then inserts strove as initial word of line 11.

12 Arthur's founding of a round table in order to prevent squabbling among his knights about rank, about who "bygan the highe dese" (Ragnelle, line 601), is mentioned first in Geoffrey of Monmouth. Cornwall begins with Guenevere's demurral concerning Arthur's statement to Gawain that his is "one of the fairest Round Tables / That ever you see with your eye" (lines 3-4).

22 on head. P: & head; I emend for sense, following F.

27 puissance. Through Shakespeare's time, this word is used to designate a crowd or force of people.

28 they. P: the; F: thé. I emend to they here and in lines 159, 199, 225, 240, 243, 246, 307, 308, 312, 430, 494, and 497.

31 came and went. P: came went; I follow F's emendation.

39 in the west countrye. The poem sets its action in the northwest midlands, near the Welsh border, with localized references to Hatton and Delamere Forest (see lines 87 and 493 and notes). Arthur's court nonetheless remains at Carlisle (line 85); despite the impression of proximity offered in the poem, this would have been a long northern journey for Sir Bredbeddle.

41 mickele. M: mickel.

43 his wiffe. P: wis wiffe; I follow F's emendation.

49 Agostes. So far as I know, this name does not occur elsewhere in Arthurian literature, though the connection between her supernatural powers of witchcraft and the consonance of Agostes with `ghostly' is striking. Agostes' counterpart in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Morgan le Fay, is called `Argante' in Layamon's Brut (see note at line 169).

54 lightt. The manuscript is indistinct; M prints light, reading only a single "t" in the tangle of strokes. The tail rhyme is clearly defective in the stanza, and lightt may have crept in through analogy with rhymes in lines 60, 63, 66, 69, and 72. BP suggested a variation on "lythe," a word for trunk or body which would rhyme with frythe (line 57); licham (spelled "lygham" in Alliterative Morte Arthure, lines 3281, 3286), also meaning body, would fit still better, making the phrase an alliterative tag. The scribe or a later reader seems to have overwritten the "g," but no amount of straining produces a certain or convincing reading.

62 That which she. P: that theye which; M: Yt the witch (emending the MS, which he reads as they wch); I follow F's emendation.

70 Gawaines points three. Gawain's three points are his boldness, his courtesy, and his hardiness.

79 a jolly sight. Though Bredbeddle's "horsse and armour was all greene" (line 80), the magic by which Agostes "transpose[s]" his "likenesse" does not seem to transform his person (lines 53, 56); the porter notes that "his vesture is greene" (line 105), and when he meets Gawain for the return blow, Bredbeddle has "transposed him in another array, / Before as it was greene" (lines 442-43). This distinguishes him from the marvelous intruder of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, who (although he bears no arms or armor) is not simply dressed in green, but is "overal enkergrene" (line 150; everywhere bright green) right down to his hair and skin; the uncanny, and potentially mythic or supernatural, character of that Green Knight separates him from Bredbeddle, and helps mark the radical difference in atmosphere and effect between the two poems. See also line 109 and note, below.

87 the Forrest of Delamore. Unlike other Gawain romances, which set their adventures in Inglewood Forest near Carlisle, Greene Knight specifies places that are in "the west countrye," in particular, in Cheshire. The reference here is to Delamere Forest, east and slightly north of Chester, in which local Cheshire families maintained interests; see B. M. C. Hussain, "Delamere Forest in Later Medieval Times," Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 107 (1955), 23-59, and the more general discussion of the region and its cultural life in M. J. Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism: Cheshire and Lancashire Society in the Age of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). In giving Sir Bredbeddle a seemingly brief journey to Arthur's court, the poem presents his manor as bordering upon the Wirral (the peninsula that extends northwest from Chester, between the Rivers Dee and Mersey), the wilds through which Sir Gawain travels to meet the Green Knight in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (line 701). As the further reference to Hutton (line 493 and note) suggests, the locale has only an imaginary connection to Carlisle, despite the assertion of lines 85 and 89. The Castle of Flatting (line 86) remains unidentified.

90 fayre countrye. BP emends to countrye faire, to improve the rhyme (but not by much).

104 Heer. P: hee; BP: there is; I emend for sense.

109 the Greene Knight: As the introduction points out, Cornwall expressly refers to Sir Bredbeddle as "the Greene Knight" (lines 214, 222, 233, 267 and 285). Chivalric champions presenting themselves under the name of "Green Knight" occur in several other romances as well: in Carlisle, the son of Sir Ironside is apparently referred to as "The Knyght of Armus Grene" (line 45 and 68), and in the same poem Gawain's own livery seems green, for he throws his "manttell of grene" over the small horse of the Carl (line 353). In Malory, Gawain's brother Sir Gareth (fighting as Sir Bewmaynes) has a long encounter with the Grene Knyght (also called Sir Pertholepe; Works, pp. 305-10; 314). It is possible that within popular tradition Sir Gawain and his kin had some long-standing association with Green Knights; see note to line 64 of Carlisle.

116 a venterous. BP adds knight, and F so emends, echoing, e.g., line 104.

119 everye. M: eu ye, though it seems that M's usual abbreviation mark - an ' for er - has been omitted (see p. lxix in his edition); this appears to be a typographical error since there is space within the word as printed for the mark to have been added.

169 your sisters sonne. Gawain's mother is Arthur's half-sister and the wife of King Lot of Lothian and Orkney, variously called Morgause (in Malory) or Anna. She is mother also of Mordred (by Arthur), and sister to Morgan le Fay, who in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight sponsors the transformation of the Green Knight. Morgan is therefore the counterpart of the witch Agostes (line 49), who in the present poem is also the Green Knight's mother-in-law.

181 it. M: itt.

220 perill. M: pil, with a stroke through the descender of the p as an abbreviation mark for er (see his edition, p. lxix).

235 courtt. P: covett; I follow BP's suggested emendation here. F reads Couett, and speculates that this may be covey from French couvée, i.e., "gathering."

242 revell. M prints karoll, emending the MS, which he reads as keuell.

246 They wold bren all the west. The off-hand character of this threat perhaps reflects its anachronistic status. Though chevauchée - the systematic devastation of resources and countryside through pillaging and burning - was a feature of chivalric warfare throughout the Middle Ages, such raids would not have been usual in the conduct of royal justice or even private war after the thirteenth century, at least in "the west." On the northern borders, including Carlisle, such destructive raids continued beyond the end of the Middle Ages.

259 The scribe brackets the stanza beginning with this line, and the accompanying rubric reads, Second parte.

280 furleys. P: furlegs; I follow F's emendation.

289 evening. P: eveing; I follow F's emendation.

304 Hee. F: He.

323 This stanza lacks its sixth line. Madden supplies a possible filler of his own devising: "Shee tooke her maids [every one,] / And to her chamber [will] gone."

325 St. Martine. St. Martin of Tours was one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. His best known act, dividing his cape in two to share with a beggar, made him a patron of the poor and an exemplar of charity and hospitality. Perhaps his invocation here, as a welcoming gesture, reflects the nature of his cult; compare line 420 and note.

327 F labels this as line 328, and his numeration is consequently off by a single line from here to the poem's end. Subsequent citations will refer to actual line numbers (as in the present edition) rather than to F's numbers.

348 frauce. This word is apparently not recorded in the OED or MED. The meaning, "uproar, noise," seems clear, though the origin is not. MED lists the apparently onomatopoeic verb fracchen or frashen, "to make a harsh or strident noise," but gives no cognate noun. F connects it to French frais, "noise," but it seems more likely connected to French fracas, as in modern English "fracas," i.e., "uproar, row."

396 a lace of silke. This phrase vividly recalls the third encounter between Gawain and Lady Bertilak in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where she offers him her "girdel," "a lace" adorned with "grene sylke" (lines 1829 ff.). This lace is not a garment, but an elaborately worked, ornamental braid used as a cincture or belt, or perhaps as a fastener (as in "shoelace"). Lace meaning cloth worked in delicate patterns seems not to occur in medieval English, and (like "girdle" before twentieth-century American usage) it has no association with intimate apparel; a luflace (as in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 1874, 2438) is simply an accessory of dress, though perhaps especially appropriate as a love token because of its woven, interlaced character. In Middle English, lace seems to have had as a primary meaning "net" or "snare." Both here and in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, therefore, the repetition of the word may entail a suggestive pun; see R. A. Shoaf, The Poem as Green Girdle: "Commercium" in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1984).

400 noe. F: no.

401 upon. I follow F, based upon his glimpsing of a stroke in the manuscript that BP did not see.

418 heer. P: heers; I emend for sense and meter.

420 St. Leonard. St. Leonard of Noblac (near Limoges) was widely celebrated as the patron of captives, peasants, pregnant women, and the sick. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the invocation of particular saints seems at times coordinated to specific moments in the narrative, though the linking of St. Leonard to the exchange here is not clear. See line 325 above and note.

434 Att. M: At; the MS is no longer clearly legible, though the spacing seems to support Att.

449 evyes. P: euyes. According to BP, probably "ivies," but conceivably "yews."

459 shontest. The interchangability of letter forms makes it possible to read this as "shoutest" (as does Madden). It is a further recollection of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight where, when Gawain "schranke a lytel" from the Green Knight's stroke, the latter held back with "wyth a schunt" (line 2268). In reply to the Green Knight's taunt, "Thou art not Gawayn . . . that is so goud halden" [so highly esteemed], Gawain replies, "I schunt onez, / And so wyl I no more" (lines 2270 ff.).

461 feete. P: ffeete; I emend to single initial f rather than capitalize as in lines 352 and 405.

488 nicked her with nay. This vivid alliterative formula occurs frequently in late medieval poetry; see Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 706 and 2471, and Gawain and Gologras, line 115 and note.

493 the Castle of Hutton. Hutton (and Hatton) are relatively common place and family names. F suggests this is Hutton manorhouse, in Somerset. Given the other localizing details of Greene Knight (see lines 39, 85 ff. and notes, above), it seems more likely that the reference here is to Hatton in Cheshire, some seven miles north of the Delamere Forest. It is perhaps worth noting that there is a Hutton in Inglewood Forest, Cumberland; it is the neighboring village to Hesket, the parish that contains the Tarn Wathelene. Madden considers this the locale intended, and says the "whole of the territory hereabout was romance-ground" (p. 354).

502 Knights of the Bathe. This allusion parallels the insertion of the motto of the Order of the Garter at the conclusion of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written only a generation after the Order was founded in the 1340's. Unlike the Garter, which was a formal Order with statutes and distinctive garb, the category "Knights of the Bath" seems to have been used simply to designate knights of special eminence; often this high rank may have been based upon receiving knighthood from the sovereign's hand after an elaborate, ritualized ceremony (including bathing). Froissart makes this connection explicit in his account of the coronation of Henry IV (1399); on that occasion, with full ceremony, the king created forty-six Knights of the Bath. Particular customs - for example, the removal of a white silken shoulder lace or insignia - became associated with the Knights of the Bath. Nonetheless, the formal Order of the Bath was founded only in 1725 by King George I. John Anstis, who wrote a Historical Essay Upon the Knighthood of the Bath (London, 1725) and produced the statutes of the Order, made much use of these historical traditions that preceded the actual founding, though he seems not to have known about the allusion in Greene Knight. As noted in the Introduction to this poem, Sir John Paston owned a copy of a poem entitled "the Greene Knyght"; in addition, in a separate volume (his "boke off knyghthod"), he owned a description of "Hou Knyghtis of the Bath shulde be made," a detailed formulary specifying just what "our soveraigne lord" the king must do to create knights of this rank. A scribe or reader, finding these volumes side by side in Sir John's library, might well have been struck by similarities between the actual ceremonies of fifteenth-century knighthood and the fictional portrayal in Greene Knight, and may have decided to add this "historical" allusion. For a full discussion of this ceremonial, see G. A. Lester, Sir John Paston's "Grete Boke" (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1984), pp. 80-83; Lester's account of this "boke off knyghthod" sheds much light on the links between chivalric romance, the ideals and rituals of chivalric behavior, and the role of courtesy, violence, and political manoeuvering in the lives of a late medieval knight and his associates. James C. Risk, in The History of the Order of the Bath and Its Insignia (London, 1972), provides a full account of the Order's origins. The use of an Arthurian poem to lend authority to such "Ancient Ceremonials" makes clear how this chivalric material is rewritten for the interests of each generation and audience.

weare. F prints wear.

516 Finis. F: ffins.

First Part
List! wen Arthur he was King,
He had all att his leadinge
   The broad Ile of Brittaine.
England and Scottland one was,
And Wales stood in the same case,
   The truth itt is not to layne.
He drive allyance out of this Ile.
Soe Arthur lived in peace a while,
   As men of mickle maine,
Knights strove of their degree,
Which of them hyest shold bee;
   Therof Arthur was not faine.
Hee made the Round Table for their behove,
That none of them shold sitt above,
   But all shold sitt as one,
The King himselfe in state royall,
Dame Guenever our Queene withall,
   Seemlye of body and bone.
Itt fell againe the Christmase
Many came to that Lords place,
   To that worthye one,
With helme on head and brand bright,
All that tooke order of knight;
   None wold linger att home.
There was noe castle nor manour free
That might harbour that companye,
   Their puissance was soe great.
Their tents up they pight
For to lodge there all that night;
   Therto were sett to meate.
Messengers there came and went
With much victualls verament,
   Both by way and streete.
Wine and wild fowle thither was brought -
Within they spared nought
   For gold, and they might itt gett.
Now of King Arthur noe more I mell,
But of a venterous knight I will you tell
   That dwelled in the west countrye.
Sir Bredbeddle, for sooth he hett:
He was a man of mickele might
   And Lord of great bewtye.
He had a Lady to his wiffe:
He loved her deerlye as his liffe -
   Shee was both blyth and blee.
Because Sir Gawaine was stiffe in stowre,
Shee loved him privilye paramour,
   And shee never him see.
Itt was Agostes that was her mother:
Itt was witchcraft and noe other
   That shee dealt with all.
Shee cold transpose knights and swaine
Like as in battaile they were slaine,
   Wounded in lim and lightt.
Shee taught her sonne the knight alsoe
In transposed likenesse he shold goe
   Both by fell and frythe.
Shee said, "Thou shalt to Arthurs hall,
For there great adventures shall befall
   That ever saw king or knight."
All was for her daughters sake,
That which she soe sadlye spake
   To her sonne-in-law the knight:
Because Sir Gawaine was bold and hardye,
And therto full of curtesye,
   To bring him into her sight.
The knight said, "Soe mote I thee,
To Arthurs court will I mee hye
   For to praise thee right,
And to prove Gawaines points three -
And that be true that men tell me,
   By Mary most of might."
Earlye, soone as itt was day,
The Knight dressed him full gay,
   Umstrode a full good steede;
Helme and hawberke both he hent,
A long fauchion verament
   To fend them in his neede.
That was a jolly sight to seene,
When horsse and armour was all greene,
   And weapon that hee bare.
When that burne was harnisht still,
His countenance he became right well,
   I dare itt safelye sweare.
That time att Carleile lay our King;
Att a Castle of Flatting was his dwelling,
   In the Forrest of Delamore.
For sooth he rode, the sooth to say;
To Carleile he came on Christmas day,
   Into that fayre countrye.
When he into that place came,
The porter thought him a marvelous groome.
   He saith, "Sir, wither wold yee?"
Hee said, "I am a venterous knight,
And of your King wold have sight,
   And other lords that heere bee."
Noe word to him the porter spake,
But left him standing att the gate,
   And went forth, as I weene,
And kneeled downe before the King,
Saith, "In lifes dayes old or younge,
   Such a sight I have not seene!
"For yonder att your gates right,"
He saith, "Heer is a venterous knight.
   All his vesture is greene!"
Then spake the King, proudest in all,
Saith, "Bring him into the hall.
   Let us see what hee doth meane."
When the Greene Knight came before the King,
He stood in his stirrops strechinge,
   And spoke with voice cleere,
And saith, "King Arthur, God save thee
As thou sittest in thy prosperitye,
   And maintaine thine honor!
"Why thou wold me nothing but right,
I am come hither a venterous knight,
   And kayred thorrow countrye farr,
To prove poynts in thy pallace
That longeth to manhood in everye case
   Among thy lords deere."
The King, he sayd full still
Till he had said all his will.
   Certein thus can he say:
"As I am true knight and King,
Thou shalt have thy askinge!
   I will not say thy nay,
"Whether thou wilt on foote fighting,
Or on steed backe justing,
   For love of ladyes gay.
If and thine armor be not fine,
I will give thee part of mine."
   "God amercy, Lord!" can he say:
"Here I make a challenging,
Among the lords both old and younge
   That worthy beene in weede -
Which of them will take in hand,
Hee that is both stiffe and stronge
   And full good att need.
"I shall lay my head downe -
Strike itt of if he can
   With a stroke to garr itt bleed,
For this day twelf monthe another at his.1
Let me see who will answer this -
   A knight that is doughtye of deed.
"For this day twelf month, the sooth to say,
Let him come to me and seieth his praye,
   Rudlye, or ever hee blin.
Whither to come, I shall him tell -
The readie way to the Greene Chappell:
   That place I will be in."
The King att ease sate full still,
And all his lords said but litle
   Till he had said all his will.
Upp stood Sir Kay, that crabbed knight,
Spake mightye words that were of height,
   That were both loud and shrill:
"I shall strike his necke in tooe,
The head away the body froe!"
   They bade him all be still,
Saith, "Kay, of thy dints make no rouse!
Thou wottest full litle what thou does -
   Noe good, but mickle ill."
Eche man wold this deed have done.
Up start Sir Gawaine soone,
   Upon his knees can kneele,
He said, "That were great villanye
Without you put this deede to me,
   My Leege, as I have sayd.
"Remember, I am your sisters sonne."
The King said, "I grant thy boone.
   But mirth is best att meele:
Cheere thy guest, and give him wine,
And after dinner, to itt fine,
   And sett the buffett well!"
Now the Greene Knight is set att meate,
Seemlye served in his seate,
   Beside the Round Table.
To talke of his welfare, nothing he needs:
Like a knight himselfe he feeds,
   With long time reasnable.
When the dinner it was done,
The King said to Sir Gawaine soone,
   Withouten any fable,
He said, "On you will doe this deede,
I pray Jesus be youre speede!
   This knight is nothing unstable."
The Greene Knight his head downe layd;
Sir Gawaine, to the axe he braid
   To strike with eger will;
He stroke the necke bone in twaine,
The blood burst out in everye vaine,
   The head from the body fell.
The Greene Knight his head up hent;
Into his saddle wightilye he sprent,
   Spake words both lowd and shrill,
Saith: "Gawaine! Thinke on thy covenant!
This day twelf monthes see thou ne want
   To come to the Greene Chappell!"
All had great marvell, that they see
That he spake so merrilye
   And bare his head in his hand.
Forth att the hall dore he rode right,
And that saw both King and knight
   And lords that were in land.
Without the hall dore, the sooth to saine,
Hee set his head upon againe,
   Saies, "Arthur, have heere my hand!
Whensoever the knight cometh to mee,
A better buffett sickerlye
   I dare him well warrand."
The Greene Knight away went.
All this was done by enchantment
   That the old witch had wrought.
Sore sicke fell Arthur the King,
And for him made great mourning
   That into such bale was brought.
The Queen, shee weeped for his sake;
Sorry was Sir Lancelott du Lake,
   And other were dreery in thought
Because he was brought into great perill.
His mightye manhood will not availe,
   That before hath freshlye fought.
Sir Gawaine comfort King and Queen
And all the doughtye there bedeene.
   He bade they shold be still,
Said, "Of my deede I was never feard,
Nor yett I am nothing adread,
   I swere by Saint Michaell!
"For when draweth toward my day,
I will dresse me in mine array
   My promise to fulfill.
Sir," he saith, "as I have blis,
I wott not where the Greene Chappell is:
   Therfore, seeke itt I will!"
The royal courtt verament
All rought Sir Gawaines intent;
   They thought itt was the best.
They went forth into the feild,
Knights that ware both speare and sheeld
   They priced forth full prest.
Some chuse them to justinge,
Some to dance, revell, and sing;
   Of mirth they wold not rest.
All they swore together in fere,
That and Sir Gawaine overcome were,
   They wold bren all the west.
Now leave wee the King in his pallace.
The Greene Knight come home is
   To his owne castle.
This folke frend when he came home
What doughtye deeds he had done.
   Nothing he wold them tell.
Full well he wist in certaine
That his wiffe loved Sir Gawaine,
   That comelye was under kell.
Listen, lords! And yee will sitt,
And ye shall heere the second Fitt,
   What adventures Sir Gawaine befell.
Second Parte
The day is come that Gawaine must gone.
Knights and ladyes waxed wann
   That were without in that place.
The King himselfe siked ill,
Ther Queen a swounding almost fell,
   To that jorney when he shold passe.
When he was in armour bright,
He was one of the goodlyest knights
   That ever in Brittaine was borne.
They brought Sir Gawaine a steed,
Was dapple gray and good att need,
   I tell withouten scorne.
His bridle was with stones sett,
With gold and pearle overfrett,
   And stones of great vertue.
He was of a furley kind.
His stirropps were of silke of Ynd;
   I tell you this tale for true.
When he rode over the mold,
His geere glistered as gold.
   By the way as he rode
Many furleys he there did see.
Fowles by the water did flee,
   By brimes and bankes soe broad.
Many furleys there saw hee,
Of wolves and wild beasts sikerlye;
   On hunting hee tooke most heede.
Forth he rode, the sooth to tell,
For to seeke the Greene Chappell;
   He wist not where indeed.
As he rode in an evening late,
Riding downe a greene gate,
   A faire castell saw hee,
That seemed a place of mickle pride.
Thitherward Sir Gawaine can ryde,
   To gett some harborrowe.
Thither he came in the twylight.
He was ware of a gentle knight,
   The lord of the place was hee.
Meekly to him Sir Gawaine can speake
And asked him, "For King Arthurs sake,
   Of harborrowe I pray thee!
"I am a far labordd knight -
I pray you, lodge me all this night."
   He sayd him not nay;
He tooke him by the arme and led him to the hall.
A poore child can he call,
   Saith, "Dight well this palfrey."
Into a chamber they went a full great speed.
There they found all things readye att need,
   I dare safelye swere:
Fier in chambers burning bright,
Candles in chandlers burning light.
   To supper they went full yare.
He sent after his Ladye bright
To come to supp with that gentle knight,
   And shee came blythe withall.
Forth shee came then anon,
Her maids following her eche one
   In robes of rich pall.
As shee sate att her supper,
Evermore the Ladye clere
   Sir Gawaine shee looked upon.
When the supper it was done,
   Shee tooke her maids, and to her chamber gone.
He cheered the knight and gave him wine,
And said, "Welcome, by St. Martine!
   I pray you, take itt for none ill!
One thing, Sir, I wold you pray;
What you make soe farr this way?
   The truth you wold me tell.
"I am a knight, and soe are yee:
Your concell, an you will tell mee,
   Forsooth keepe itt I will.
For if itt be poynt of any dread,
Perchance I may helpe att need,
   Either lowd or still."
For his words that were soe smooth,
Had Sir Gawaine wist the soothe,
   All he wold not have told:
For that was the Greene Knight
That hee was lodged with that night,
   And harbarrowes in his hold.
He saith, "As to the Greene Chappell,
Thitherward I can you tell,
   Itt is but furlongs thre.
The master of it is a venterous knight,
And workes by witchcraft day and night,
   With many a great furley.
"If he worke with never soe much frauce,
He is curteous as he sees cause.
   I tell you sikerlye,
You shall abyde, and take your rest,
And I will into yonder Forrest
   Under the greenwood tree."
They plight their truthes to beleeve,
Either with other for to deale,
   Whether it were silver or gold.
He said, "We two both sworn wil be
Whatsoever God sends you and mee,
   To be parted on the mold."
The Greene Knight went on hunting;
Sir Gawaine, in the castle beinge,
   Lay sleeping in his bed.
Up rose the old witche with hast throwe,
And to her dauhter can shee goe,
   And said, "Be not adread!"
To her daughter can shee say,
"The man that thou hast wisht many a day,
   Of him thou maist be sped,
For Sir Gawaine, that curteous knight,
Is lodged in this hall all night."
   Shee brought her to his bedd.
Shee saith, "Gentle knight, awake!
And for this faire ladies sake,
   That hath loved thee soe deere,
Take her boldly in thine armes.
There is noe man shall doe thee harme."
   Now beene they both heere.
The Ladye kissed him times thre,
Saith, "Without I have the love of thee,
   My life standeth in dere."
Sir Gawaine blushed on the Lady bright,
Saith, "Your husband is a gentle knight,
   By Him that bought mee deare!
"To me itt were a great shame
If I shold doe him any grame,
   That hath beene kind to mee.
For I have such a deede to doe,
That I can neyther rest nor roe,
   Att an end till itt bee."
Then spake that Ladye gay,
Saith, "Tell me some of your journey;
   Your succour I may bee.
If itt be poynt of any warr,
There shall noe man doe you noe darr
   And yee wil be governed by mee.
"For heere I have a lace of silke:
It is as white as any milke,
   And of a great value."
Shee saith, "I dare safelye sweare
There shall noe man doe you deere
   When you have it upon you."
Sir Gawaine spake mildlye in the place:
He thanked the Lady and tooke the lace,
   And promised her to come againe.
The knight in the Forrest slew many a hind;
Other venison he cold none find,
   But wild bores on the plaine,
Plentye of does and wild swine,
Foxes and other ravine,
   As I hard true men tell.
Sir Gawaine swore sickerlye,
"Home to your owne, welcome you bee,
   By Him that harrowes hell!"
The Greene Knight his venison downe layd;
Then to Sir Gawaine thus hee said,
   "Tell me anon in heght,
What noveltyes that you have won,
For heer is plenty of venison."
   Sir Gawaine said full right:
Sir Gawaine sware, "By St. Leonard!
Such as God sends, you shall have part!"
   In his armes he hent the Knight,
And there he kissed him times thre,
Saith, "Heere is such as God sends mee,
   By Mary most of might."
Ever privilye he held the lace:
That was all the villanye that ever was
   Prooved by Sir Gawaine the gay.
Then to bed soone they went,
And sleeped there verament
   Till morrow itt was day.
Then Sir Gawaine soe curteous and free,
His leave soone taketh hee
   Att the Lady soe gaye.
Hee thanked her, and tooke the lace,
And rode towards the Chappell apace;
   He knew noe whitt the way.
Ever more in his thought he had
Whether he shold worke as the Ladye bade,
   That was soe curteous and sheene.
The Greene Knight rode another way;
He transposed him in another array,
   Before as it was greene.
As Sir Gawaine rode over the plaine,
He hard one high upon a mountaine
   A horne blowne full lowde.
He looked after the Greene Chappell:
He saw itt stand under a hill
   Covered with evyes about.
He looked after the Greene Knight:
He hard him wehett a fauchion bright,
   That the hills rang about.
The knight spake with strong cheere,
Said, "Yee be welcome, Sir Gawaine, heere;
   It behooveth thee to lowte."
He stroke, and litle perced the skin,
Unneth the flesh within.
   Then Sir Gawaine had noe doubt.
He saith, "Thou shontest! Why dost thou soe?"
Then Sir Gawaine in hart waxed throe:
   Up on his feete can stand,
And soone he drew out his sword,
And saith, "Traitor! if thou speake a word,
   Thy liffe is in my hand.
I had but one stroke att thee,
And thou has had another att mee:
   Noe falshood in me thou found!"
The Knight said withouten laine,
"I wend I had Sir Gawaine slaine,
   The gentlest knight in this land.
Men told me of great renowne;
Of curtesie thou might have woon the crowne,
   Above both free and bound,
"And alsoe of great gentrye.
And now thre points be put fro thee:
   It is the moe pittye,
Sir Gawaine, thou was not leele
When thou didst the lace conceale
   That my wiffe gave to thee.
For wee were both, thou wist full well,
For thou hadst the halfe dale
   Of my venerye.
If the lace had never been wrought,2
To have slaine thee was never my thought,
   I swere by God verelye!
"I wist it well my wiffe loved thee;
Thou wold doe me no villanye,
   But nicked her with nay.
But wilt thou doe as I bidd thee -
Take me to Arthurs court with thee -
   Then were all to my pay."
Now are the knights accorded thore.
To the Castle of Hutton can they fare,
   To lodge there all that night.
Earlye on the other day
To Arthurs court they tooke the way
   With harts blyth and light.
All the court was full faine,
Alive when they saw Sir Gawaine;
   They thanked God abone.
That is the matter and the case
Why Knights of the Bathe weare the lace
   Untill they have wonen their shoen -
Or else a ladye of hye estate
From about his necke shall it take,
   For the doughtye deeds that hee hath done.
It was confirmed by Arthur the King.
Thorrow Sir Gawaines desiringe
   The King granted him his boone.
Thus endeth the tale of the Greene Knight.
God, that is soe full of might,
   To heaven their soules bring
That have hard this litle storye
That fell some times in the west countrye
   In Arthurs days our King!
(see note)
Listen! when
command; (see note)
to conceal
drove aliens
While; great might
disputed about their rank; (see note)
About that; glad; (see note)
on their behalf
happened upon
helmet; sword; (see note)
belonged to the knightly class
entourage; (see note)
pitched; (see note)
In the same spot were they; feast
(see note)
food truly
In all
if they could get it
(see note)
was called
great strength; (see note)
(see note)
cheerful; fair of complexion
powerful; battle
secretly and passionately
Even though she never had seen him
(see note)
could; servants
To appear as if
arm and leg; (see note)
moor; woods
earnestly; (see note)
in addition
[She wished] to
On my life
myself hasten
give you your due
test; (see note)
got ready with all speed
Helmet; armor; took
broadsword truly
(see note)
knight; completely armed
He was equal to his appearance
(see note)
[i.e., the Green Knight]
(see note)
what is your destination
just at
Here; (see note)
foremost of
(see note)
raising himself
Because; do by me
(see note)
have travelled through
That are appropriate; (see note)
remained quiet
he [the Green Knight]
Firmly; did [Arthur]
deny thee
horseback jousting
And if
[To see]; respond
And then on
make his request
Readily or forever be silent
[They] said; blows; boast
desired to have the quest
It would be great shame
Unless; assign
(see note)
bring it [the challenge] to conclusion
deliver the blow
With respect to his satisfaction
With knightly manners
(see note)
idle talk
And if
eager determination
vigorously; sprang
don't fail
Outside; tell
him [Gawain]
(see note)
worthy folk gathered together
requested; quiet
death; afraid
as I hope for heaven
truly; (see note)
pricked (galloped); swiftly
chose (decided upon)
revelry and song; (see note)
as a group
if; were killed
burn all the west country; (see note)
These people asked
caul (cap)
If you'll sit still
be gone; (see note)
grew pale
stood outside
sighed grievously
Their; into a faint
in all seriousness
[The horse]; marvelous
[Gawain]; earth
marvels; (see note)
waters; shores
(see note)
became aware
an utterly exhausted
did not say no
(see note)
Take good care of
one by one
fine purple
went; (see note)
(see note)
to your health
(see note)
brings you to these remote parts
confidence if
anything worrisome
publicly; privately
In reply to; polished
known the truth
resides; keep
[Sir Bredbeddle]
Even if he acts; clamor; (see note)
when he sees fit
stay in bed late
pledged their troth in agreement
[The Green Knight]
divided evenly on earth
with all haste
daughter did she
Don't be frightened
[The mother]
Finally; together
glanced at
Until it be finished
something; mission
matter of warfare
If; guided
silken braid; (see note)
harm; (see note)
(see note)
game he could
Except; flatland
new things
meat; (see note)
(see note)
(see note)
not a bit
himself in different trappings
green as before
resoundingly (aloud)
around for
ivies; (see note)
sharpen; broad sword
So that
a stern countenance
becomes you; bow
pierced a little
But scarcely [hurt]
no (more) worry
[The Green Knight]; flinched; (see note)
heart; ferocious
did; (see note)
concealing anything
I do believe I might have
high nobility
points of virtue; removed from
loyal (honest)
both [bound by the agreement]; knew
squelched her with "no"; (see note)
(see note)
hearts happy
deeply pleased
(see note)
spurs (shoes)
Unless; high
[the Green Knight] his request
occurred once upon a time
The end; (see note)

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