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Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle


1 "Now, Gawain," said the Carle, "do you hold yourself well paid (pleased)?"

2 "May He reward you," said the Carle, "who you dearly redeemed."


I have normalized orthography (giving "th" for thorn; "gy," "g," or "y" for yogh as appropriate; "j" for "i", "u" for "v" and "w," "v" for "u" and "w," and "w" for "u" and "v") to accord with modern usage. I have expanded numerals and abbreviations ("wtt" as "wytt," "&" as "and," and so on). Punctuation (including capitalization) is editorial, and word division reflects current standard use ("undur stonde" is given as "undurstonde," for example). Some of the scribal abbreviations are ambiguous; I follow Kurvinen in rendering terminating flourishes as "us" (rather than "ys," as Ackerman represents them). I have also interpreted the ambiguous series of four minims (usually following "o") as "un" (following Kurvinen) rather than as "nn" (as Ackerman renders them). I have interpreted the ambiguous superior stroke at word endings as "e" in cases where rhyme or usage make it seem appropriate, though for the most part I have disregarded this sign.
Abbreviations: P = Porkington MS; M = Madden's edition; A = Ackerman's edition; K = Kurvinen's edition; S = Sands' edition. See Select Bibliography for these editions.

1 Lystonnyth. A reads lystenneth.

3 doughgty. P gives dou3gty, with 3 added above line.

20 At Cardyfe. Cardiff, just southwest of Caerleon at the mouth of the River Severn, has some Arthurian associations; its great distance from Carlisle, however, makes the geography of the poem impossible to imagine. In order to restore geographical coherence, K suggests changing Cardyfe to Carllyll, and Ynglonde to Ynleswode.

21 gentyll. M reads gentylle.

28 Byschope Bawdewyn. This Baldwin differs from the Bowdewynne of Bretan whose exploits are celebrated in Avowyng (line 74) in being an ordained clerk and a high church official; yet it seems likely that the popular romances meant "Bawdewyn" and "Bowdewynne" to name the same prominent companion of Arthur. In Malory, Arthur names as his "chieftains" before undertaking the campaign against Lucius "Sir Bauden of Bretayne" and "Sir Cadore," father of "Sir Constantyne that aftir was kynge, aftir Arthurs dayes" (Works, p. 195; see also Avowyng, line 914 and note); see below, line 44 and note. Malory also has Lancelot cured of a deadly wound by "the ermyte [hermit], sir Bawdewyn of Bretayne" (Works, p. 1086), who says of himself, "sometyme I was one of the felyship" of the Round Table (Works, p. 1075). That Malory takes these two Baldwins, knight and holy man, as identical seems clear in his further remark that "there were none ermytis in tho dayes but that they had bene men of worship and of prouesse, and tho ermytes hylde grete householdis and refreysshed people that were in distresse" (Works, p. 1076). In Avowyng Baldwin is distinguished for the great household he keeps and for his willingness to refresh all who come to him. In Turke (lines 152 ff.; see note at line 154), the King of Man scorns equally Gawain's "unckle King Arthur" and "that Bishopp Sir Bodwine," who by this title seems both church official and knight.

31 grece-tyme of the yeer. The hunting season for the buck or hart (or stag) - the male deer - ran from about midsummer (or perhaps a bit earlier) to the middle of September; its height seems to have come in August, when deer have fattened and can be hunted without danger to the herd. (The hind and doe - the female deer - were hunted from September through February, according to medieval hunting manuals.) In Ragnelle, after Arthur has taken his deer, he "dyd hym serve welle, / And after the grasse he taste" (lines 47-48; see note). Arthur's butchering of the deer (see Carle, line 20) and his assay of its fat is appropriate to the "grece tyme." Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains similar references to the hunt and the woodsman's knowledge of the ritual of "breaking" the deer.

34 Syr Mewreke. Here begins a catalogue of Arthurian knights whose names are drawn from a variety of sources. Some of the most prominent companions of the Round Table - Gawain above, Kay, Lancelot, Percivale, Ywain, Lot, Mordred - are named. Many of these became the central figures in popular Middle English verse romances, as did Launfal, Libeaus Desconus (line 55), and Galerowne (line 43 and note). Some of the names mentioned here are not identifiable as Arthurian characters, and may be completely improvised for a performance of Carlisle, or legendary names garbled beyond recognition. Awntyrs mentions Marrake as one of the knights who rushes to the aid of Galeron and Gawain; see line 655, and note at lines 654 ff.

35 Caratocke. A reads cantocke.

43 Syr Gaytefer and Syr Galerowne. Gologras several times mentions Gaudifeir as a companion of Arthur; see line 545 and note. Sir Galeron of Galloway plays a major role as Gawain's opponent in the second episode of Awntyrs (see line 417 and note). In Malory, Galeron is numbered among the knights of Scotland affiliated with Gawain's kin and the other "wel willers" of his brothers Aggravayne and Mordred, who oppose Lancelot. These knights include Sir Petipace (line 58 and note), Sir Gromer Somyr Joure (see Ragnelle, line 62 and note, and Turke, line 320 and note), and Gawain's sons Gyngalyne, Florence and Lovell (the latter two also being nephews of Brandles, line 64 and note below). See Works, p. 1164.

44 Syr Costantyn. Perhaps the son of Sir Cador and king after Arthur's days; see above, line 28 and note, and Avowyng, line 914 and note.

48 bedenne. A reads bedene.

49 The Kyngus uncull, Syr Mordrete. A mistake for cosyn (K) or "nephew" (A), which potentially inverts the crucial relation of mothers' brother - sister's son between Arthur and Mordred. In some narratives, Mordred is not merely Arthur's nephew by his sister Morgawse, wife of King Lot of Orkney, but Arthur's own son through incest. Mordred causes the dissension that turns his brother Gawain against Lancelot, and begins the disintegration of the Round Table; he attempts to overthrow the rule of his uncle (in some versions taking Guenevere as his own wife), and fatally wounds Arthur in the combat that brings about his own death. Carlisle, in celebrating Gawain's chivalry, seems little concerned with the ultimate fall of the Round Table, and making Mordred Arthur's uncle (whether a mistake or a conscious change) further distances those dire events to which Awntyrs, for example, deliberately alludes (lines 286 ff.). Carle (line 31) groups Arthur with "his cozen Mordred," and Marriage (line 24) refers to Arthur's "cozen Sir Gawaine"; in both cases, cozen simply means kinsman, and might easily include the relation of a nephew.

55 Dyskonus. K reads dyskoniis. Libeaus Desconus (Old French "Li Biaus Descouneus," French "Le Bel Inconnu," English "The Fair Unknown") is Gawain's son Gyngalyne. Ragnelle makes the heroine of that poem his mother; see line 799 and note. His mysterious identity seems to have led to his being presented in Carlisle as two different knights, for he appears again at line 61 as "Syr Ferr Unkowthe." See line 43 above and note for his associates in Malory.

58 Syr Pettypas. Another of the knights identified by Malory (Works, p. 1164) as "of Scotlonde" or aligned with Gawain's brothers Aggravayne and Mordred. See lines 43 and 55 and notes.

64 Syr Blancheles. Though Carlisle provides no details, this is almost surely Sir Brandles, Gawain's chief opponent in Jeaste (see introduction to that poem, and line 320 and note). Malory names Sir Braundeles the uncle of Gawain's sons Florence and Lovell (Works, p. 1147), clearly drawing upon a version of the story that lies behind Jeaste. See also Ragnelle, line 799 and note. Madden (p. 347) noted this possible connection.

Ironsyde. In Malory, Sir Ironsyde is the last of the knights Gawain's brother Sir Gareth of Orkney encounters on his quest. He presents himself as the Rede Knyght of the Rede Laundis, but reveals his true identity at Arthur's court (Works, pp. 319, 336-37); he is the father (or brother) of the other knights in colored liveries, including the Grene Knyght, whom Gareth defeats. Carlisle, in making him the father of "the Knyght of Armus Grene" (lines 45, 68), perhaps relies upon a popular story, now lost, that Malory (whose source for the adventures of Gareth remains unknown) had read as well - a story that, among other things, connected Gawain's family with Green Knights. See also introduction to Greene Knight in the present volume.

79 Favele Honde. P gives Fabele Honde; the emendation is suggested by A.

80 ff. Sir Ironside's arms consist of a golden griffin on a field of blue, surrounded by fleurs-de-lis. Ironside bears arms that strongly resemble those traditionally associated with Gawain and his kin. In one album of arms, Gawain's device is said to have been three golden lions' heads on an azure field, or, alternatively, three golden griffins on a green field; Ironside's arms combine these elements. (See the details provided in the Introduction, note 21). It may be that Ironside's armorial bearings have been confused in the transmission of Carlisle with those of "Syr Ferr Unkowthe" (line 61), Gawain's son Libeaus Desconus or the Fair Unknown; see especially Carle lines 55 ff. and note, as well as Awntyrs, line 509 and note.

86 kyngus. M emends to knights.

99 Lystynn. M reads lystyne.

145 barnn. A reads barun ("baron").

154 thou. A reads thu, here and in lines 202, 277, 310, 329, 373, 374, 388, and 401.

160 Kay here uses a proverb meaning he'll get what he asks for, or, he'll take the consequences of his own actions. See B. J. Whiting and H. W. Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968), B259.

162 thar. A reads thor; M reads there.

167 larde. M reads lorde

177 call. P gives callyd.

202 wolt. M reads wolle.

203 kyngus keyis. The meaning of this phrase remains a puzzle; the most convincing suggestion is that this is a popular, sarcastic idiom for the crowbars and other tools used by the king's agents in making a forcible entry while serving a warrant.

204 cleyn. M reads certeyn.

215 barnnus. M: barnuns; A: barunys.

218 beschope. A reads beschape.

222 thei. A reads thi, here and in lines 233, 301, 358, and 443.

233 slayn. A reads sleyn.

241 Hard yn! P gives hardyn as one word; a space is inserted by K. "Stay back!" or some similar command seems appropriate here, though this meaning is not attested. Another possibility would be Herd, in!

251 ful. P gives full. I follow the emendation K suggests in her note.

257 yardus a brede. P gives 3ardus brede; I follow K's emendation.

tayllors yardus. A tailor's yard is the common measure of three feet, making the Carle six feet across the shoulders and twenty-seven feet tall - a true giant, but a dwarf next to the hero of Carle, who is nine feet broad and seventy-five feet tall.

259 hyghtht. P gives hy3thent; emended by M.

261 The point of this line - literally, "Or else it would be a wonder" - seems to be that, given his bulk, if the Carle's limbs were any smaller, that would be still more astonishing.

263 I have glossed growand as past (rather than the present) participle of growen.

267 anny. M reads any.

271 Gawen. P gives only G; I have expanded to Gawen here and in lines 337, 344, 380, 394, 415, 442, 445, 457, 464, 465, 469, 479, 481, 501, 512, 526, 532, 538, 544, 553, 565.

290 syne. P: sethyn; I adopt syne (suggested in K's note) for the sake of rhyme.

314 The Carle's judgment on Bishop Baldwin here contrasts ironically with his own regulations (lines 193 ff.) and outright claim (lines 277 ff.) that he "can no corttessye."

315 trye. P: tryne. For this meaning of try, see OED,"try," v. 13.

337 ansswerd. A reads ansswered.

341 be bocke and belle. This proverbial phrase derives ultimately from the rite for excommunication; see Awntyrs, line 30 and note.

342 That. P gives The; emended by K.

349 Stond. P gives Sstond; A reads G[awain]: stond.

356 havfe. A reads hovfe.

374 That. M suggests emending to Thus.

377 This line is proverbial, as K points out, though Whiting, in his Proverbs, offers no medieval instances.

379 ff. The narrator makes a pointed contrast between Gawain's courteous refusal to sit at table before he is invited, and Baldwin's and Kay's impulsive indulgence of their hunger (lines 358 ff.).

385 passe. A form of pace, so that the phrase means, "make your way,""go to."

396 dentte. P gives dette; emended by M.

435 ff. The subject celebrated in the Carle's daughter's performance - the convergence of love and war in true courtesy - is typical of elite chivalric romance, as in the works of Chrétien de Troyes, in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzifal, or (with added tension) in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Popular chivalric romances typically present such idealized if improbable performances, simultaneously masking and making plain the contradictory impulses of the genre in this way. These tales almost never offer a detailed account of a performance event resembling the sort of production the romances themselves must have entailed; the closest one comes to such carnivalesque, interactive, kinetic events are the vague references to fest, game, myrthe, playe, and mynstrellis (lines 640 ff.).

465 Therof Gawen toke the Carle goode hede. K drops the scribe's abbreviation for Gawen (apparently taking it as a mistaken anticipation of the following line), and so emends to Therof toke the Carle goode hede.

hede. P gives hed; M reads hede.

466 far. Now illegible in P, but so read by M.

500 We. M reads Ne.

508 Maré, marcé. A reads Mare merci.

514 schall. M reads schalt.

517 ff. The Carle's "transformation" here consists in his confession to Gawain, and his vow to reform. Carlisle seems to omit at this point a scene of physical action - a beheading, like those in Carle, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Greene Knight, and Turke - that would account for the sudden change. In shedding a former evil identity that was perhaps imposed on him by sorcery, the Carle resembles Ragnelle; compare the remark of the lady in Marriage, that her wicked stepmother had "witched my brother to a carlish" shape (line 179).

518 maked. A reads make.

524 schulde. A reads schuld.

535 blody serke. Carlisle seems here to preserve a snatch of popular verse, familiar through some lost narrative of desperate love. The phrase survives only in two adaptations to religious contexts. The English translation of the Gesta Romanorum tells of a knight who asks that, if he should die in battle, his lady "sette out my blody serke on a perch afore," so that she will think of him always. The story is then allegorized, so that the knight is Christ, and the bloody sark the emblem of his sacrifice. (See Gesta Romanorum, ed. Sidney J. H. Herrtage, EETS e.s. 33 [London, 1879], pp. 23-26, at p. 24.) Robert Henryson tells a similar story, with strong ballad emphases, of a "lusty lady ying [young]" rescued by a "knycht"; dying from his effort, the knight asks that she take "my sark that is bludy / And hing it forrow [before] yow" as a momento. Henryson allegorizes the story identically to the Gesta, and concludes, "Think on the bludy serk." (See Robert Henryson: Poems, ed. Charles Elliott [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963], pp. 115-18.) In this passage Carlisle imposes a similar religious moralization upon this emblem of heroic devotion.

537 sene. P gives see; I follow K's emendation for the sake of rhyme.

552 Ikeverid. M reads koverid.

553 clere. M reads dere.

570 was non on molde. P gives was alle here molde. The reading makes little sense, desperate philological arguments notwithstanding. I adopt what seems an obvious emendation, suggested in K's notes. The previous two lines repeat the formulaic description of the Carle's wife, at lines 370-71.

595 ff. The first two items mentioned here are brass instruments, and the remaining six are stringed. A sawtry was an ancestor of the zither; a geteron was a kind of guitar. Except for the bowed fedylle, all these instruments were plucked. Menstrelcy here probably refers not to the players themselves, or their performance, but to a further group of instruments; compare Chaucer, Manciple's Tale, line 113: "Pleyen he kaude on every mynstralcie."

599 menstrelcy. P gives merely; K reads menstracy. I emend in accordance with scribal spelling (compare line 643).

600 fett. P gives sett; K emends to halle hem fett.

619 seyde. A reads sayde.

620 The Carle's understatement ironically reverses (and echoes) his earlier chastisements of Arthurian chivalry (see lines 193, 275 ff., 314 ff., and 329 ff.).

629 gafe. M reads gefe.

640 idyght. P gives idygh; M reads idyght, followed by K.

643 geftys. P gives yeftys.

650 rede. P gives redee; M reads rede, followed by K.

655 monkys gray. Monks of different orders were often referred to by the distinctive color of their habits; Benedictines were known as Black Monks, and Cistercians as White Monks or Gray Monks (as opposed to the Gray Friars, the title for the Franciscan mendicant order). The Cistercians, however, had no establishment in Carlisle, and the reference may be to the priory of Augustinian Canons (Black Canons), which became the site of the cathedral church after Carlisle was made a bishop's seat in 1133. K offers additional information in her notes.

659 Jesu. A reads Ihu.








Lystonnyth, lordyngus, a lyttyll stonde
Of on that was sekor and sounde
   And doughgty in his dede.
He was as meke as mayde in bour
And therto styfe in every stour;
   Was non so doughtty in dede.
Dedus of armus wyttout lese
Seche he wolde in war and pees
   In mony a stronge lede.
Sertaynly, wyttoutyn fabull
He was wytt Artter at the Rounde Tabull,
   In romans as we reede.
His name was Syr Gawene:
Moche worschepe in Bretten he wan,
   And hardy he was and wyghte.
The Yle of Brettayn icleppyde ys
Betwyn Skotlond and Ynglonde iwys,
   In storry iwryte aryghte.
Wallys ys an angull of that yle;
At Cardyfe sojornde the Kynge a whylle
   Wytt mony a gentyll knyghte
That wolde to Ynglonde to honte,
As grete lordys dothe and be wonte,
   Wytt hardy lordys and wygghte.
Kinge Arttor to his lordis gan saye
As a lorde ryall that well maye,
   "Do us to have a Masse.
Byschope Bawdewyn schall hit don;
Then to the forrest woll we gon,
   All that evyr her ys,
For nowe is grece-tyme of the yeer,
That baruns bolde schulde hont the der,
   And reyse hem of her reste."
Wondor glad was Syr Mewreke;
So was the knyght Sir Key Caratocke,
   And other mor and lase.
Glade was Launccelet de Lacke,
So was Syr Percivall, I undortake
   And Lanfalle, I wene.
So was Syr Eweyn the Uyttryan
And Syr Lot of Laudyan,
   That hardy was and kene;
Syr Gaytefer and Syr Galerowne,
Syr Costantyn and Syr Raynbrown,
   The Knyght of Armus Grene.
Syr Gawen was Stwarde of the halle;
He was master of hem all
   And buskyde hem bedenne.
The Kyngus uncull, Syr Mordrete,
Nobull knyghttus wytt hym gan lede,
   In romans as men rede.
Syr Yngeles, that genttyle knyghte,
Wytt hym he lede houndys wygght
   That well coude do her dede.
Syr Lebyus Dyskonus was thare
Wytt proude men les and mare
   To make the donne der blede;
Syr Pettypas of Wynchylse,
A nobull knyght of chevalré,
   And stout was on a stede.
Syr Grandon and Syr Ferr Unkowthe,
Meryly they sewyde wytt mouthe,
   Wytt houndys that wer wyght;
Syr Blancheles and Ironsyde,
Monny a doughty that day con ryde
   On hors fayr and lyghte.
Irounsyde, as I wene,
Gat the Knyght of Armus Grene
   On a lady brygght -
Sertenly, as I undurstonde,
That fayr may of Blanche Lonnde,
   In bour that lovely wyghte.
Ironsyde, as I wene,
Iarmyd he wolde ryde full clene,
   Wer the sonn nevyr so hoot.
In wyntter he wolde armus bere;
Gyanttus and he wer ever at were
   And allway at the debate.
   Favele Honde hyght ys stede.
His armys and his odir wede
   Full fayr and goode hit was:
Of asur for sothe he bare
A gryffyn of golde full feyr
   Iset full of golde flourrus.
He coude mor of venery and of wer
Then all the kyngus that wer ther;
   Full oft asay hem he wolde.
Brennynge dragons hade he slayn,
And wylde bullus mony won
   That gresely wer iholde.
Byge barrons he hade ibonde.
A hardyer knygght myght not be fonde;
   Full herdy he was and bolde.
Therfor ha was callyd, as I hard say,
The Kyngus fellowe by his day,
   Wytt worthy knyghttus itolde.
A lyon of golde was his creste;
He spake reyson out of reste;
   Lystynn and ye may her.
Wherever he went, be est or weste,
He nold forsake man nor best
   To fyght fer or ner.
Knyghttus kene fast they rane;
The Kynge followyd wytt mony a man,
   Fife hunderd and moo, I wene.
Folke followyd wytt fedyrt flonus,
Nobull archarrus for the nons,
   To fell the fallow der so cleyn.
Barrons gan her hornnus blowe;
The der cam reykynge on a rowe,
   Bothe hert and eke heynde.
Be that tyme was pryme of the day
Fife hunderd der dede on a lond lay
   Alonge undur a lynde.
Then Syr Gawen and Syr Key
And Beschope Baudewyn, as I yow say,
   After a raynder they rode.
Frowe that tym was prym of the day
Tyl myde-undur-non, as I yow saye,
   Never styll hit abode.
A myst gan ryse in a mor;
Barrons blowe her hornis store.
   Meche mon Syr Key made:
The reyneder wolde not dwelle.
Herkon what aventer hem befelle;
   Herbrow they wolde fayn have hade.
Then sayde the gentyll knyght Syr Gawen,
"All this labur ys in vayne,
   For certen, trowe hit me.
The dere is passyde out of our syght;
We mete no mor wytt hym tonyght,
   Hende, herkon to me.
I reede that we of our hors alyght
And byde in this woode all nyght,
   And loge undur this tree."
"Ryde we hens," quod Keye anon;
"We schall have harbrowe or we gon.
   Dar no man wern hit me."
Then sayd the Beschope: "I knowe hit well -
A Carle her in a castell
   A lyttyll her ner honde.
The Karl of Carllyll ys his nam:
He may us herborow, be Sent Jame,
   As I undurstonde.
Was ther nevyr barnn so bolde
That ever myght gaystyn in his holde
   But evyll harbrowe he fonde.
He schall be bette, as I harde say,
And yefe he go wytt lyfe away
   Hit wer but Goddus sonde.
"Nowe ryde we thedyr all thre."
Therto sayd Key, "I grant hit the,
   Also mot I well far;
And as thou seyst, hit schall be holde.
Be the Carle never so bolde,
   I count hym not worthe an har.
And yeyf he be never so stoute,
We woll hym bette all abowt
   And make his beggynge bar.
Suche as he brewythe, seche schall he drenke;
He schall be bette that he schall stynke,
   And agenst his wyll be thar."
Syr Gawen sayd, "So hav I blyse,
I woll not geystyn ther magre ys,
   Thow I myght never so well,
Yefe anny fayr wordus may us gayn
To make the larde of us full fayn
   In his oun castell.
Key, let be thy bostfull fare;
   Thow gost about to warke care,
   I say, so have I helle.
I woll pray the good lorde, as I yow saye,
Of herborow tyll tomorrow daye
   And of met and melle."
On her way fast they rode.
At the castell yat they abode -
   The portter call they schulde.
Ther hynge a hommyr by a cheyn.
To knocke therat Syr Key toke dayn;
   The hommyr away he wold have pold.
The portter come wytt a prevey fare
And hem fonde he ther;
   He axid what they wolde.
Then sayd Gawen curttesly,
"We beseche the lorde of herbory,
   The good lord of this holde."
The portter answerd hem agayn,
"Your message wold I do full fayn;
   And ye have harme, thanke hyt not me.
Ye be so fayr, lyme and lythe,
And therto comly, glad therwytt,
   That cemmely hyt ys to see.
My lorde can no corttessye;
Ye schappyth notte wyttout a vellony,
   Truly trow ye mee.
Me rewyth sor ye came this waye,
And ar ye go, so woll ye say,
   But yefe mor grace be."
"Portter," sayde Key, "let be thy care;
Thow sest we mey no forther fare -
   Thow jappyst, as I wene.
But thou wolt on our message gon,
The kyngus keyis woll we tane
   And draw hem doun cleyn."
The portter sayde, "So mot I thryfe,
Ther be not thre knyghttus alyve
   That dorst do hit, I wene.
Wyst my lorde your wordys grete,
Some your lyvys ye schold forlete
   Or ellus full fast to flen."
The portter went into the hall;
Wytt his Lord he mett wyttall,
   That hardy was and bolde.
"Carl of Carllhyll, God loke the!
At the yatt be barnnus thre,
   Semley armus to welde:
To knyghttus of Arterys in,
A beschope, and no mor men,
   Sertayn, as they me tolde."
Then sayd the Carle, "Be Sent Myghell,
That tythingus lykyth me ryght well.
   Seyth thei this way wolde."
When they came befor that syr,
They fond four whelpus lay about his fyer,
   That gresly was for to see:
A wyld bole and a fellon boor,
A lyon that wold bytte sor -
   Therof they had grete ferly.
A bege ber lay louse unbounde.
Seche four whelpus ther they founde
   About the Carllus kne.
They rose and came the knyghttus agayn,
And soun thei wold hem have slayn;
   The Carle bade hem let bee.
"Ly doun," he sayd, "my whelpys four."
Then the lyon began to lour
   And glowyd as a glede,
The ber to ramy, the boole to groun,
The bor he whett his toskos soun
   Fast and that good spede.
Then sayd the Carle, "Ly style! Hard yn!"
They fell adoun for fer of hyme,
   So sor they gan hyme drede.
For a word the Carle gan say
Under the tabull they crepyd away;
   Therof Syr Key toke hede.
The Carle the knyghttus can beholde,
Wytt a stout vesage and a bolde.
   He semyd a dredfull man:
Wytt chekus longe and vesage brade;
Cambur nose and all ful made;
   Betwyne his browus a large spane;
Hys moghth moche, his berd graye;
Over his brest his lockus lay
   As brod as anny fane;
Betwen his schuldors, whos ryght can rede,
He was two tayllors yardus a brede.
   Syr Key merveld gretly than.
Nine taylloris yerdus he was hyghtht
And therto leggus longe and wyghtht,
   Or ellus wondor hit wer.
Ther was no post in that hall,
Grettyst growand of hem all,
   But his theys wer thycker.
His armus wer gret, wyttoutyn lese,
His fyngeris also, iwys,
   As anny lege that we ber.
Whos stoud a stroke of his honde,
He was not wecke, I undurstond,
   That dar I safly swer.
Then Syr Gawen began to cnele;
The Carle sayd he myght be knyght wylle,
   And bad hyme stond upe anon.
"Lett be thy knellynge, gentyll knyght;
Thow logost wytt a carll tonyght,
   I swer, by Sennt Johnn.
For her no corttessy thou schalt have,
But carllus corttessy, so God me save -
   For serttus I can non."
He bad brynge wyn in gold so der;
Anon hit cam in coppus cler -
   As anny sonn hit schon.
Four gallons held a cop and more;
He bad brynge forthe a grettor -
"What schall this lyttyll cope doun?
This to lyttyll a cope for me,
When I sytt by the fyr onn hy
   By myself aloun.
Brynge us a gretter bolle of wynn;
Let us drenke and play syne
   Tyll we to sopper goun."
The butteler brought a cope of golde -
Nine gallons hit gane holde -
   And toke hit the Carle anon.
Nine gallons he hyld and mare;
He was not weke that hit bare
   In his won honde.
The knyghttus dronkon fast about,
And sethe arose and went hem out
   To se her hors stond.
Corne and hey thei had reydy.
A lyttyll folle stod hem bye
   Wytt her hors fast ettand.
The Besschope put the fole away:
"Thow schalt not be fello wytt my palfray
   Whyll I am beschope in londe."
The Carll then cam wytt a gret spede
And askyde, "Who hathe doun this dede?"
   The Beschope seyd, "That was I."
"Therfor a bofett thou schalt have,
I swer, so God me save,
   And hit schall be sett, wytterly."
"I ame a clarke of ordors hyghe."
"Yett cannyst thou noght of corttessyghe,
   I swer, so mott I trye!"
He gafe the Besschope a boffett tho
That to the ground he gan goo;
   I sonynge he gann lyghe.
Syr Key came in the sam cas
To se his stede ther he was;
   The foll fond he hym by.
Out att the dor he drof hym out
And on the backe yafe hym a clout.
   The Carle se that wytt hys yghe.
The Carll gaffe hym seche a boffett
That smertly onn the grond hym sett;
   In sonynge gan he lyghe.
"Evyll-taught knyghttus," the Carl gan sey;
"I schall teche the or thou wend away
   Sum of my corttessye."
Then they arose and went to hall,
The Beschope and Syr Key wytall,
   That worthy was iwroght.
Syr Gawen axyd wer they had byne;
They seyd, "Our horssys we have sene,
   And us sor forthoght."
Then ansswerd Gawen full curttesly,
"Syr, wytt your leyf then wyll I."
   The Carll knewe his thought.
Hett reynnyd and blewe stormus felle
That well was hym, be bocke and belle,
   That herborow hade caught.
Wyttout the stabull dor the foll gan stond.
Gawen put hyme in agayn wytt his honde;
   He was all wett, I wene,
As the foll had stond in rayne.
Then keveryd he hym, Sir Gawene,
   Wytt his manttell of grene:
"Stond upe, fooll, and eette thy mette;
We spend her that thy master dothe gett,
   Whyll that we her byne."
The Carle stode hym fast by
And thankyd hym full curtteslye
   Manny sythis, I wene.
Be that tyme her soper was redy dyght:
The tabullus wer havfe upe an hyght;
   Icovert they were full tyte.
Forthwytt, thei wolde not blynne:
The Besschope gan the tabull begynne
   Wytt a gret delytte.
Syr Key was sett on the tother syde
Agenst the Carllus wyfe so full of pryde,
   That was so feyr and whytte:
Her armus small, her mydyll gent,
   Her yghen grey, her browus bente;
   Of curttessy sche was perfette.
Her roode was reede, her chekus rounde,
A feyrror myght not goo on grounde,
   Ne lovelyur of syghte.
Sche was so gloryis and soo gay:
I can not rekon her araye,
Sche was so gayly dyghte.
"Alas," thought Key, "thou Lady fre,
That thou schuldyst this ipereschde be
   Wytt seche a foulle weghtht!"
"Sytt styll," quod the Carl, "and eete thy mette;
Thow thinkost mor then thou darst speke,
   Sertten, I the hyght."
I do yow all well to wette
Ther was noo man bade Gawen sitte,
   But in the halle flor gann he stonde.
The Carle sayde, "Fellowe, anoun!
Loke my byddynge be well idoun!
Go take a sper in thy honde
And at the bottredor goo take thy passe
And hitt me evyn in the face;
   Do as I the commande.
And yeyfe thou ber me agenst the wall
Thow schalt not hort me wyttalle,
   Whyll I am gyaunt in londe."
Syr Gawenn was a glade mann wytt that;
At the bottredor a sper he gatte
   And in his honde hit hente.
Syr Gawen came wytt a gret ire.
Doun he helde his hede, that syre,
   Tyll he hade geve his dentte.
He yafe the ston wall seche a rappe
That the goode sper all tobrake;
   The fyer flewe out of the flente.
The Carl sayde to hym ful soune,
"Gentyll knyght, thou hast well doune,"
   And be the honde hyme hente.
A cher was fette for Syr Gawene,
That worthy knyght of Bryttayne;
   Befor the Carllus wyfe was he sett.
So moche his love was on her lyght,
Of all the soper he ne myght
   Nodyr drynke nor ette.
The Carle sayde, "Gawen, comfort the,
For synn ys swete, and that I se.
   Serten, I the hete,
Sche ys myn thou woldyst wer thynn.
Leve seche thoghttus and drenke the wynne,
   For her thou schalt nott geytt."
Syr Gawen was aschemmyde in his thowght.
The Carllus doughtter forthe was brought,
   That was so feyr and bryght.
As gold wyre schynyde her here.
Hit cost a thousand pound and mar,
   Her aparrell pertly pyghte.
Wytt ryche stonnus her clothus wer sett,
Wytt ryche perllus about her frete,
   So semly was that syghte.
Ovyr all the hall gann sche leme
As hit were a sonbeme -
   That stonnus schone so bryght.
Then seyde the Carle to that bryght of ble,
"Wher ys thi harpe thou schuldist have broght wytt the?
   Why hast thou hit forgette?"
Anon hit was fett into the hall,
And a feyr cher wyttall
   Befor her fador was sett.
The harpe was of maser fyne;
The pynnys wer of golde, I wene;
   Serten, wyttout lett
Furst sche harpyd, and sethe songe
Of love and of Artorrus armus amonge,
   How they togeydor mett.
When they hade soupyde and mad hem glade
The Beschope into his chambur was lade,
   Wytt hym Syr Key the kene.
They toke Syr Gawen, wyttout lessynge;
To the Carlus chamber thei gan hym brynge,
   That was so bryght and schene.
They bade Syr Gawen go to bede,
Wytt clothe of golde so feyr sprede,
   That was so feyr and bryght.
When the bede was made wytt wynn,
The Carle bade his oun Lady go in,
   That lovfesom was of syghte.
A squyer came wytt a prevey far
And he unarmyde Gawen ther;
   Schaply he was undyght.
The Carle seyde, "Syr Gawene,
Go take my wyfe in thi armus tweyne
   And kys her in my syghte."
Syr Gawen ansswerde hyme anon,
"Syr, thi byddynge schall be doune,
   Sertaynly in dede,
Kyll or sley, or laye adoune."
To the bede he went full sone,
   Fast and that good spede,
For softnis of that Ladys syde
Made Gawen do his wyll that tyde;
   Therof Gawen toke the Carle goode hede.
When Gawen wolde have doun the prevey far,
Then seyd the Carle, "Whoo ther!
   That game I the forbede.
"But, Gawen, sethe thou hast do my byddynge,
   Som kyndnis I most schewe the in anny thinge,
   As ferforthe as I maye.
Thow schalt have wonn to so bryght
Schall play wytt the all this nyghte
   Tyll tomorrowe daye."
To his doughtter chambur he went full ryght,
And bade her aryse and go to the knyght,
   And wern hyme nott to playe.
Sche dorst not agenst his byddynge doun,
But to Gawen sche cam full sone
   And style doun be hyme laye.
"Now, Gawen," quod the Carle, "holst the well payde?" 1
"Ye, for Gode, lorde," he sayde,
   "Ryght well as I myghte!"
"Nowe," quod the Carle, "I woll to chambur go;
My blessynge I geyfe yow bouthe to,
   And play togeydor all this nyght."
A glad man was Syr Gawen
Sertenly, as I yowe sayne,
   Of this Lady bryght.
Serten, sothely for to say,
So, I hope, was that feyr maye
   Of that genttyll knyght.
"Mary, mercy," thought that Lady bryghte,
"Her come never suche a knyght
   Of all that her hathe benne."
Syr Key arose uppon the morrown
And toke his hors and wolde a goune
   Homwarde, as I wenne.
"Nay, Syr Key," the Beschope gann seye,
   "We woll not so wende our waye
   Tyll we Syr Gawen have sene."
The Carll arose on morrow anon
And fond his byddynge reddy doune:
   His dyner idyght full cleyne.
To a Mas they lett knelle;
Syr Gawen arose and went thertyll
   And kyst that Lady bryght and cler.
"Maré, marcé," seyde that Lady bryght,
"Wher I schall se enny mor this knyght
   That hathe ley my body so ner?"
When the Mese was doune to ende,
Syr Gawen toke his leve to wende
   And thonkyde hym of his cher.
"Furst," sayde the Carle, "ye schall dynn
And on my blessynge wende home syne,
   Homward al yn fere.
"Hit is twenti wynter gon," sayde the Karle, "nowe
That God I maked a vowe,
   Therfore I was fulle sad:
Ther schulde never man logge in my wonys
But he scholde be slayne, iwys,
   But he did as I hym bad.
But he wolde do my byddynge bowne,
He schulde be slayne and layde adowne,
   Whedir he were lorde or lad.
Fonde I never, Gawen, none but the.
Nowe Gode of hevyn yelde hit the;
   Therfore I am fulle glade.
"He yelde the," sayde the Carle, "that the dere boughte, 2
For al my bale to blysse is broughte
   Throughe helpe of Mary quene."
He lade Gawen ynto a wilsome wonys,
There as lay ten fodir of dede menn bonys.
   Al yn blode, as I wene,
Ther hynge many a blody serke,
And eche of heme a dyvers marke.
   Grete doole hit was to sene.
"This slowe I, Gawen, and my helpis,
I, and also my foure whelpis.
   For sothe, as I the say,
Nowe wulle I forsake my wyckyd lawys;
Ther schall no mo men her be slawe, iwys,
As ferthforthe as I may.
Gawen, for the love of the
Al schal be welcome to me
   That comythe here by this way.
And for alle these sowlys, I undirtake,
A chauntery here wul I lete make,
   Ten prestis syngynge til domysday."
Be that tyme her dyner was redy dyghte:
Tables wer hovyn up an hyghte;
   Ikeverid thei were fulle clene.
Syr Gawen and this Lady clere,
They were iservyd bothe ifere.
   Myche myrthe was theme bytwene;
Therfore the Carle was full glade.
The Byschop and Syr Kay he bad
   Mery that thei scholde bene.
He yafe the Bischop to his blessynge
   A cros, a myter, and a rynge,
   A clothe of golde, I wene.
He yaf Syr Kay, the angery knyght,
A blode rede stede and a whight;
   Suche on had he never sene.
   He gaf Syr Gawen, sothe to say,
His doughter, and a whighte palfray,
   A somer ichargid wyth golde.
Sche was so gloryous and so gay
I kowde not rekyn here aray,
   So bryghte was non on molde.
"Nowe ryde forthe, Gawen, on my blessynge,
And grete wel Artyr, that is your Kynge,
   And pray hym that he wolde,
For His love that yn Bedlem was borne,
That he wulle dyne wyth me tomorne."
   Gawen seyde he scholde.
Then thei rode syngynge away
Wyth this yonge Lady on her palfray,
   That was so fayre and bryghte.
They tolde Kynge Artir wher thei had bene,
And what wondirs thei had sene
   Serteynly, in here syght.
"Nowe thonkyd be God, cosyn Gawyn,
That thou scapist alyve unslayne,
   Serteyne wyth alle my myght."
"And I, Syr Kynge," sayd Syr Kay agayne,
"That ever I scapid away unslayne
   My hert was never so lyght.
"The Carle prayde you, for His love that yn Bedlem was borne,
That ye wolde dyne wyth hym tomorne."
   Kynge Artur sone hym hyght.
In the dawnynge forthe they rade;
A ryalle metynge ther was imade
   Of many a jentylle knyght.
Trompettis mette hem at the gate,
Clarions of silver redy therate,
   Serteyne wythoutyn lette -
Harpe, fedylle, and sawtry,
Lute, geteron, and menstrelcy.
   Into the halle knyghtis hem fett.
The Carle knelyd downe on his kne
And welcomyd the Kynge wurthyly
   Wyth wordis ware and wyse.
When the Kynge to the halle was brought,
Nothynge ther ne wantyd nought
   That any man kowde devyse.
The wallys glemyd as any glasse;
Wyth dyapir colour wroughte hit was -
Of golde, asure, and byse;
Wyth tabernacles was the halle aboughte,
Wyth pynnacles of golde sterne and stoute;
   Ther cowde no man hem preyse.
Trompettys trompid up in grete hete;
The Kynge lete sey grace and wente to mete,
   And was iservyde wythoute lette.
Swannys, fesauntys, and cranys,
Partrigis, plovers, and curlewys
   Before the Kynge was sette.
The Carle seyde to the Kynge, "Dothe gladly!
Here get ye no nothir curtesy,
   As I undirstonde."
Wyth that come yn bollys of golde, so grete
Ther was no knyght sat at the mete
   Myght lyfte hem wyth his on honde.
The Kynge swore, "By Seynte Myghelle,
This dyner lykythe me as welle
   As any that evyr Y fonde."
A dubbyd hym knyght on the morne;
The contré of Carelyle he gafe hym sone
   To be lorde of that londe.
"Here I make the yn this stownde
A knyght of the Table Rownde:
   Karlyle thi name schalle be."
On the morne when hit was daylyght
Syr Gawen weddyid that Lady bryght,
   That semely was to se.
Than the Carle was glade and blythe
And thonkyd the Kynge fele sythe,
   For sothe, as I you say.
A ryche fest had he idyght
That lastyd holy a fortenyght
   Wyth game, myrthe, and playe.
The mynstrellis had geftys fre
That they myght the better be
   To spende many a day.
And when the feste was broughte to ende,
Lordis toke here leve to wende
   Homwarde on here way.
A ryche abbey the Carle gan make
To synge and rede for Goddis sake
   In wurschip of Oure Lady.
In the towne of mery Carelyle
He lete hit bylde stronge and wele;
   Hit is a byschoppis see.
And theryn monkys gray
To rede and synge tille domysday,
   As men tolde hit me,
For the men that he had slayne, iwis.
Jesu Cryste, brynge us to Thy blis
   Above in hevyn, yn Thy see.
Listen; while; (see note)
one; sure and true
strong; (see note)
humble; chamber
in addition unyielding; battle
Deeds; lie
Seek; peace
strange country
Certainly; falsehood
romance; read
honor; Britain; earned
Isle; [the area] is called
(That takes in); indeed
history written
Wales; corner
Cardiff sojourned; (see note)
With; (see note)
wished to go; hunt
are accustomed
With; strong
Let there be
Baldwin; perform; (see note)
will; go
[animals'] sleek time; (see note)
barons; deer
start them from their cover
Exceedingly; Marrok; (see note)
Kay Caradoc; (see note)
greater (in rank); less
Lancelot of the Lake
Percevall; dare say
Lanval; think
Ywain son of Urien
Gadiffer; Galleron; (see note)
Constantine; Reinbrun; (see note)
readied them right away; (see note)
King's uncle; Mordred; (see note)
with; did lead
perform their work
Le Bel Inconnu; (see note)
dun deer bleed
Petipace; Winchelsea; (see note)
Fair Unknown
pursued with shouts
Brandelys; Ironside; (see note)
Many; warrior; did
Begot; Green
Certainly; dare say
maid; Blanchland
chamber; person
Armed; completely
Were; sun; hot
Giants; were; war
always; strife
"Tawnyfoot" is named his steed; (see note)
other gear; (see note)
[A shield] of azure truly
[Displaying] a griffin; fair
Embellished; fleurs-de-lis
knew; hunting; war
Than; (see note)
put them to trial
many overcome
grisly; regarded
Strong; captured
he; heard
in his time
Among; reputed
reason beyond the
hear; (see note)
by east
would not forego [the chance]; beast
ran [on the hunt]
People; feathered arrows
archers for that occasion
kill; cleanly
did their horns
running in a crowd
hart; also hind
By; [it] was mid-morning
dead; clearing
In a row; linden tree
late afternoon
blew their; loudly
Great lament
Listen; adventure them
Lodging; gladly
For sure; believe
Gentle sirs; hearken
advise; off
away said; then
before we go [far]
Dare; refuse it to me
(i.e., non-noble warrior) [lives] here
here nearby
give us lodging by Saint James
dare say
fellow; (see note)
be a guest; household
[The guest] will be overcome
if; alive
only through; will
go along with you
And may I prosper
it; done; (see note)

consider; hair
beat thoroughly
stronghold bare
brews such; (see note)
beaten [so fiercely]; stink
(i.e., won't wish to stay); (see note)
bliss (i.e., by heaven)
stay; against his wish
Though; easily
If; avail
lord with us pleased; (see note)
make trouble
health (i.e., may I prosper)
food for a meal
gate; stopped
needed to; (see note)
hung; hammer
with that; felt disdain
secret step
them examined
for lodging
undertake with pleasure
If; don't blame me
limb and body
escape; villainy
I sorely regret
Unless; special dispensation
put aside
say; go
joke; guess
Unless; with; (see note)
king's; take; (see note)
them (the gates); (see note)
As I may prosper
dare; it; guess
[If] knew; lofty
Several [of] your; give up
else; flee
right away
watch over you
gate; men; (see note)
Capable; wield
Two; Arthur's house
(see note)
By Saint Michael
tidings pleases
should come; (see note)
young animals; fire
bull; lethal boar
big bear; loose
immediately; them; (see note)
commanded; hold off
glowed; coal
growl; snort
tusks; at once
Lie still! Stay back!; (see note)
did fear him
For a single word
visage broad
Turned up; foully; (see note)
mouth large
winnowing basket
whoever; understand
in breadth; (see note)
in height; (see note)
With; powerful
Amazing as it sounds; (see note)
grown; them; (see note)
leg; have; (see note)
Whoever withstood
weak I dare say
safely swear
kneel; (see note)
lodge; churl
Surely; know
wine; precious vessels
cups bright
one cup
What [good]; do
fire; high
then; (see note)
it held; more
all around
then; made their exit
see how their horses were stabled
hay; nearby
small horse (foal); by them
their; eating
equal; saddle-horse
made even, truly
cleric of high orders
know; courtesy; (see note)
so far as I can tell; (see note)
gave; then
did go
In a faint (swoon) he did lie
steed where
war horse
saw; eye
swiftly; dropped
faint; lie
before you go off
in company
impressively; built
asked; been
seen to
we are sorely grieved
(see note)
leave; [take stock]
It rained; fierce
by book; (see note)
lodging had obtained; (see note)
eat your fodder; (see note)
use here what; provide
are here
times I guess
By; their; prepared
raised up on high (on trestles); (see note)
Covered; quickly
And then; pause
(sit in first place)
Opposite; grandeur
waist delicate
eyes; arched
complexion; rosy
fairer; go (exist)
to see
describe; clothing
decked out
thus lost; (see note)
dare; (see note)
give; understand; (see note)
on; did
to the pantry door pass over; (see note)
if; drive
hurt me at all
good-humored at that
moved; fervor
given; blow; (see note)
fire; flint
at once
by; him grasped
chair; fetched
Neither; eat
console yourself
sin is
assure you
[whom] you wish; yours
Leave such
wire shone her hair
beautifully adorned
all over adorned
[woman]; face
Soon; fetched
chair as well
maple wood
tuning pins
pause; (see note)
all the while
[And]; bold
own; get
lovely; to see
secret step
Duly; disrobed
strike [me]; knock [me]
[the Carl's] will; time
Then; heed; (see note)
private act (intercourse); (see note)
Whoa there
engagement; forbid
kindness; in some way
one [woman] just as
at daylight
not hinder him from [sexual]
command act
right away
softly; by
as completely
give; both two
Because of
dare say; woman
Here came
have gone
(see note)
command already done
prepared completely
For a Mass; commanded the knell
Mary; (see note)
Wherever; any
dine; (see note)
upon receiving; afterwards
years ago; (see note)
[to]; (see note)
For which
lodge; dwelling
Except that; surely
Unless; bade
Unless; quickly
low; (see note)
Found [true]; but you
reward you for it
the queen
led; desolate dwelling
cartloads; bones
hung; shirt; (see note)
them [bore] a heraldic design
sorrow; (see note)
These slew; helpers
more; slain
souls; make promise
church; have made
By; their; all prepared
raised up
Covered; (see note)
[the Carle's daughter]; (see note)
served; together
gave; for
gave; irascible
blood red; powerful
a one
white riding horse
[And] a pack horse laden
describe her clothing
earth; (see note)
love of Him; Bethlehem
in response
immediately; promised
royal; took place
greeted them; (see note)
right there
fiddle; psaltery
gittern; minstrelsy; (see note)
fetched them; (see note)
was lacking
varied [rich]
azure; gray
canopies; [trimmed all] about
spires; sturdy
praise [sufficiently]
with vehemence
had grace said; the meal
a snag
pheasants; cranes
Enjoy; (see note)
other; (see note)
dare say
gave; at once; (see note)
you; moment
many a time
feast; prepared; (see note)
an entire (i.e., wholly)
gifts liberal; (see note)
their leave to go
did build
(see note)
caused; to be built
(i.e., a cathedral)
[he enjoined] Cistercian monks; (see note)
On behalf of; indeed
(see note)
on Your throne
Go To The Avowyng of Arthur

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