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The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle


1 As I have mentioned in the introduction to the text, the scribe's letter forms are often interchangeable, and strokes ambiguous. Often transcription will therefore be somewhat arbitrary. Where the scribe's forms are clear, I have reproduced them in my readings; where they are unclear, I have opted for forms closer to modern conventions of spelling. This has resulted in some inconsistencies, such as a mix of spellings like his and hys. In general, I have regarded final flourishes as meaningless, and so given, for example, knyght and with (in agreement with Madden and Hartwell) in preference to knyghte and withe (the usual readings in Sumner, Whiting, and Sands). In cases of double l with a stroke, I have retained a final e (i.e., welle, fulle, Ragnelle). These ambiguities of writing practice are not uncommon in medieval and Renaissance vernacular manuscripts, and the scribe certainly did not regard them as affecting the meaning of the text in any essential way. Consequently I have not recorded in these notes all the instances where spelling differs from edition to edition because the scribe's forms can legitimately be read in a variety of ways. Ragnelle has been edited more times than most other Middle English romances; I have benefitted greatly by consulting these earlier editions, and at the same time I have had to make choices among confusing, confused, and sometimes contradictory readings. These differences among editions have the effect of making the text of Ragnelle seem even more unpredictable in its orthography than it actually is. This has been complicated by attempts at editorial "normalization"; this is especially the case with Sands (likely the best known print of the poem), where standardization is itself inconsistent, and new spellings and word forms are added to the manuscript's readings. The present edition tries to offer a readable text that leaves the manuscript readings unaltered wherever possible. I have modernized spellings, giving "j" for "i," "u" for "v" and "w," "v" for "u" and "w," and "w" for "u" and "v" in accord with current usage.
Abbreviations: R = Rawlinson MS, M = Madden, S = Sumner, W = Whiting, Sands = Sands, H = Hartwell. See Select Bibliography for these editions.

11 belovid by that. R: belovid that; M adds by for sense, which I follow.

16 Ingleswod. The story is set in Inglewood Forest, near Carlisle (see lines 127, 132, 325) in Cumberland, in northwest England, on the border of Scotland. Inglewood Forest (whose Anglo-Saxon name, meaning "the wood of the Angles," suggests an English settlement in contested British territory) ceased to exist in the nineteenth century. Its mention connects Ragnelle with the settings for Avowyng (line 65) and Awntyrs (line 709). The Tarn Wathelene (mentioned in Avowyng, Awntyrs, and Marriage) was located within Inglewood Forest; see Awntyrs, line 2 and note. For these tales of Sir Gawain, the woods and lakes of Inglewood and the environs of Carlisle were locales with strong Arthurian and marvelous associations.

26 houndes. R: goundes; M reads as houndes, H reads as hounds; S, W emend to g[r]oundes.

43 theron. R: deron. The manuscript reading has presented a puzzle to editors. Most have taken deron (see line 26) to mean "covertly," though such a spelling is not, so far as I know, attested elsewhere. Again, deron might seem a past participle of derien, "to wound," though, likewise, no spellings resembling deron occur. I have taken it therefore as a case in which the scribe substitutes d for th; other instances occur at lines 176 (oder), 196 (anoder), 383 (Neder), 386 (furder), and so on, though in all of these cases the scribe substitutes d for a voiced, intervocalic th, not for an initial unvoiced sound. I take the line to mean that the wounded deer fell down on the spot. To read this as a form of derne would suggest either that the deer fell blindly into a thicket, or fell into a blind thicket (which concealed Sir Gromer).

47 serve welle. R: vell. The scribe writes s with -er abbreviation stroke over the letter, followed by well with a stroke through the ascenders. M reads serve well, which makes good sense in this context; I follow scribal spelling of this reading as in S, W. H reads sirvell, and emends to quell.

48 grasse. S derives the meaning of this word from the Old English word for "grass," and is followed by W. Sands calls it "a puzzling line," and, following S, suggests the deer touched the grass (i.e., died). It seems certain, however, that this scene is an "assay," in which the hunter measures the deer's fat (grasse, meaning grease or fat) as a preliminary to the ritualized "breaking" or butchering of the animal. Such scenes occur in Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan, in which the hero proves his royal identity by demonstrating his knowledge of the ritual, and in the Middle English Parlement of the Thre Ages and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Instructions for the assay are given in several hunting manuals; see notes to lines 1325 ff. of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the Tolkien-Gordon-Davis edition, where the "gres" of the "fowlest" deer is two fingers in breadth. H also notes this connection, as does Susan Dannenbaum [Crane] in her note on the line (Explicator 40 [1982], 3-4).

62 Gromer Somer Joure. H reads Jourer (with expanded abbreviation) and emends to Jour. The name seems less connected with chivalry than with folklore. Malory in the Morte Darthur names Sir Gromore Somyr Joure (or Sir Gromoreson in the Winchester manuscript) among the faction of twelve knights who align themselves with Gawain's brothers Mordred and Aggravayne in the ambush of Lancelot (see Works, p. 1164, and also pp. 343, 346, 1148). Among the others in the faction are Sir Gyngolyne, the son of Sir Gawain and (according to the present romance) Ragnelle (see line 799). In Turke (see text and notes at lines 320 ff. in this volume), Sir Gawain transforms the pagan "Turk" by beheading him, and he becomes Sir Gromer. But here his dangerousness, his sudden appearance deep in the woods, and his name would seem to connect Sir Gromer Somer Joure to the festivities of midsummer's day and night, and to the spirits and the "great and ugly gyants marching as if they were alive" associated with this occasion in England through the sixteenth century (George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, ed. Gladys Doidge Willcock and Alice Walker [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936], p. 153). In this respect, he shares some traits with the Green Knight, in Greene Knight (text and notes in this volume) and still more with the eerie intruder of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, who exhibits striking similarities to the participants at celebrations of the agricultural year. The name Gromer may simply be a version of "groom," i.e., "man," as in "bridegroom" (compare line 50, where this term is applied to Sir Gromer), or a derivative from "gram," "angry." In Marriage, the lady tells Gawain that her wicked stepmother not only cast a spell on her, but "witched my brother to a carlish" shape (line 179). In Ragnelle, there's no evidence that Sir Gromer is bewitched, and he is without doubt a knight, as Arthur's greetings and descriptions make clear. See also note on Gyngolyn, line 799 below.

75 I have the nowe att avaylle. For the use of this phrase to express triumph, see OED, "avail," sb., 1b.

77 defye. The word defy carries a quasi-technical meaning in the context of chivalric honor; it implies a public challenge, which is simultaneously a denunciation and a demand for open, physical vindication of one's honor, and is therefore quite the opposite of what Sir Gromer Somer Jour does here. See MED, "defien" v. 1, 2.

80 whate thou most crave. Arthur's offer to Sir Gromer anticipates the riddle the latter poses to the King - to name "whate wemen love best" (line 91). In the same way, Sir Gromer's remark - "Thy lyfe is in my hand" (line 107) is directly echoed in Ragnelle's identical claim (line 256).

86 certeyn. M, S, W, Sands: certayn.

91 best in feld and town is written into margin; this hypermetrical tag may be part of a lost line.

96 fremde. R: frende; M reads fremde, which I follow.

104 endyng. R: end; I emend for the sake of rhyme.

128 huntyng. W misprints hyntyng.

149 By Mary flower. This is an elliptical phrase, meaning, "Mary, flower among women," or "flower of womanhood."

172 lese. R: leve; M reads lese. H reads R as lose, but follows M's emendation, as I do.

194 they. R: the; M reads they, which I follow.

212 faylle. R: ffayd; M reads faylle, which I follow.

235 her. R: he; M reads her, which I follow.

256 ff. Ragnelle's warning here precisely repeats the boast her brother, Sir Gromer, had made to Arthur at line 107 and so emphasizes the parallel between the compacts into which the king is forced. See also line 80 and note.

266 Yf I help the nott, thou art butt dead. R: Butt I warn the yf I help the nott, thou art butt dead; I follow M in omitting the phrase repeated from previous line, as a probable copyist's error.

273 Whate is your desyre, fayre Lady. Arthur's question ironically solicits from Ragnelle a concrete reply to the enigma Sir Gromer has set for him. In fulfilling her desire for Gawain, Arthur presumably obtains the answer to what all women desire, and answers Sir Gromer's challenge as well (see lines 467-72).

280 a knyght to wed. The line involves a pun: a knight to marry, and a knight as pledge of good faith ("to wed"). See OED, wed sb., 2a.

293 Alle lyethe in hym alon. In making individual consent - rather than family or state interests, or priestly authority - the ultimate basis for a valid marriage, the poem reflects central doctrinal positions taught from the twelfth century; see R. H. Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974). Ragnelle makes the same point, concerning her own right to choose, at line 310.

302 sewer. S (followed by Sands) glosses this word adverbially, as "surely," but it seems more likely a form of the verb sure, "to assure": through me Gawain may save your life, or assure that your death comes about.

314 lore. R: lore fowll; I follow M in omitting the final word, which seems a confused rhyme.

316 ther is a byrd men calle an owlle. The precise import of this line is unclear; it may be that a part of the text is missing here. In echoing herself from line 310, Ragnelle seems to mean owlle to refer both to her own monstrousness (the owl was chiefly a negative symbol in late medieval writings) and to her natural rights as a human being, or to her repellent appearance and her assertion that she is in reality a Lady (line 315).

319 Dame Ragnelle. The name is otherwise unknown in Arthurian romance. In Patience, a poetic version of the Jonah story usually attributed to the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the gentile sailors on whose ship the Hebrew prophet tries to escape from the Lord curse him by "Ragnel" (line 188), apparently intended to be taken as the name of a pagan god or devil. See the note in J. J. Anderson's edition (Manchester, 1969), p. 59. In the Digby play of Mary Magdalen a heathen priest and his servant perform a comic exorcism in broken Latin, and then call on the gods "Ragnell and Roffyn" (line 1200; Late Medieval Religious Plays of . . . Digby 133, ed. Donald C. Baker and others, EETS o.s. 283 [Oxford, 1982], p. 64). The Chester play of "Balaam" has that gentile prophet invoke his gods "Ruffyn and Reynell" (line 213); the latter is given as "Ragnell" in one manuscript. Likewise, the Chester play of "Antichrist" has Antichrist call for aid:
Helpe, Sathanas and Lucyfere!
Belzebubb, bould batchellere!
Ragnell, Ragnell, thou art my deare! (lines 645-47)
(The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. R. M. Lumiansky and David Mills, EETS s.s. 3 [Oxford, 1974], pp. 87 and 434; see also commentary by the same editors, EETS s.s. 9 [Oxford, 1986], pp. 69 and 347.) This widespread equivalence between the name Ragnelle and an exotic pagan god or devil may be echoed in Gawain's intentionally exaggerated comparison of Ragnelle to "a fend" and "Belsabub" (lines 344-45), or Arthur's reference to "the fende" (line 725), by which he may mean that he takes Ragnelle to be an evil spirit. In Marriage, the lady does not have a name, but she says her stepmother "witched me" so that "I must walke in womans liknesse, / Most like a feeind of hell" (lines 181-82). These associations may have made Ragnelle seem more spectral and frightening for a late medieval audience (like the ghost of Guenevere's mother in Awntyrs), and may have increased the ambiguity that surrounds her in the poem.

342 ff. Gawain's vow to "wed her and wed her agayn" out of friendship and fealty to Arthur gives the motive of male chivalric loyalty precedence over romantic personal love, and makes clear how women operate in romance as the intermediate term in the bonds between men.

366 itt. M supplies it before shalle as necessary for grammar and sense; the present emendation follows M's suggestion, though the spelling has been brought into accord with the scribe's convention.

419 Ye goo fulle nyse, I wolle nott lye. H emends the line to echo more fully Chaucer, Wife of Bath's Tale (line 931): "He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye." This resemblance is one of the most striking evidences of direct connection between the two versions of the story.

439 welle. M, S, W, Sands emend to well.

440 shake. S takes the word to mean distance, and is followed by Sands. H rearranges lines 440-42, so that shake becomes a verb, "to go" (compare shoke, line 740). But the phrase seems clearly adverbial, a variation on the still-current idiom, "no great shakes," and means "quickly"; see OED, "shake," sb. 1, 1.

456 alle. R: ale; M reads all; I follow S, W in preserving the usual spelling.

476 her. R: he; M reads her, which I follow.

499 that ye have. Sands misprints that he have.

508 wolle ye have. W misprints wolle y have; Sands misreads welle ye have.

525 ff. Ragnelle here addresses Arthur.

528 us togeder. Sands misreads un togeder.

536 God have mercy. R: Godhavemercy, written as one word.

548 ff. The description of Ragnelle here complements the initial portrait (lines 231 ff.) in its extravagant hideousness, though the specific details are sometimes at odds ("Her nek long," line 238, as against no neck at all, line 555, for example).

562 thorowe. S glosses this word as "thoroughly," and Sands and H reproduce this. It is certainly a form of throw, meaning a specific time, an interval, or an occasion; see OED, throw sb. 1.

564 fowlle maye. R: fowlle; M inserts lady for rhyme and sense, followed by S, W, Sands. I follow H's insertion of maye, which duplicates the rhyme at lines 715-16 and better maintains the meter.

571 ye. R: we; I emend for the sake of sense.

592 thre thowsand mark. R: thre mlle mark. I have expanded the abbreviation (a form of Latin mille). The figure (about two thousand pounds) signifies not a specific amount, but simply the extravagance of Ragnelle's clothing.

612 Al. W: All.

635 for Arthours. Sands misreads of Arthours.

644 he. R: she; M reads he, which I follow.

650 ar. W: are.

652 ie. R: ien (plural); M reads ie, which I follow.

656 ff. The choice offered by Ragnelle - "fayre on nyghtes" (line 659) or "fayre on days" (line 661) - is the same in Marriage and in Gower's "Tale of Florent" (See G. C. Macaulay, Confessio Amantis in The English Works of John Gower, EETS e.s. 81, Vol. I [Oxford, 1900], I.1411 ff.) The choice in the Wife of Bath's Tale is "foul and old" and "true, humble wyf" or "yong and fair" and "take youre adventure" on sexual faithfulness (lines 1220 ff.). Chaucer's version makes more explicit the conflict embedded in the other three versions, namely public vs. private male enjoyment of the lady's sexual attractions. The happy ending allows the hero (putting it crudely) to have his cake and eat it too.

659 nyghtes. R: nyght; M reads nyghtes, which I follow.

672 lese. R: lose; M reads lese, followed by S, W, H.

677 do as ye lyst. Gawain's disposing himself to Ragnelle's desire brings to convergence a crucial array of themes and verbal echoes in the poem. By this accord, Ragnelle has sovereynté (line 697), which breaks the spell; Ragnelle had said to Arthur that women most desire sovereynté, and Arthur in turn had promised her fulfillment of her "desyre" (line 400). This knowledge of women's "rewlle" had given Arthur "rule" over Gromer (lines 470, 472), whose own desire of Arthur was to know "what wemen love best" (line 91). When Gawain has given "her sovereynté every delle" (line 776), Ragnelle puts her desire at his will (line 784), just as Arthur (at Ragnelle's wish) makes peace with Gromer (lines 811 ff.).

691 nygramancy. This use of a learned word to give credibility to the magical transformation is repeated in Carle, line 405, suggesting that even specialized Latin terms might be appropriated for specific functions within the popular romances.

716 maye. R: mayd; M reads maye, followed by S, W, H.

722 Syrs. R: syr; M reads syrs, followed by S, W, H.

730 incerteyn. Previous editors have taken in certeyn as two words (meaning "without doubt"), partly because of the slight gap between them in the manuscript. Such a space often occurs between components that modern print conventions present as unbroken words (i.e., be fell, line 15, be think, line 66, I wys, line 354), just as separate forms are joined (Almen, line 612). The form incertain is unusual but not rare, and makes good sense as specifying the state of mind of the royal entourage at this point. See OED, incertain, and MED, incertain(e).

737 goon. Sands reads gon, perhaps emended for sake of rhyme.

743 here. R: hed; M (followed by S, W, Sands, H): her; I adjust spelling for scribal convention.

759 is a fayre. Sands misprints is faire.

761 help. R: held; so M, S, W, Sands. I emend to the common idiom on the basis of sense, as does H.

773 The responsibility of Ragnelle's stepmother for her enchantment links the romance to traditions of domestic intrigue and intergenerational, interfamilial hostility characteristic of fairy tales. Marriage and Gower's "Tale of Florent" also assign the responsibility to the "Stepmoder for an hate" (Macaulay [see note on line 656 above], Confessio Amantis I.1844), while the Wife of Bath's Tale seems to imply that the lady acts on her own.

799 Gyngolyn. Sir Gawain's son (French Guinglain) is the hero of the Middle English romance Libeaus Desconus (the Englishing of "Le bel inconnu," The Fair Unknown), which survives in six different versions (ed. M. Mills, EETS 261 [Oxford, 1969]). In the romance, the hero is begotten by Gawain "be [by] a forest syde" (line 9); his mother, who is unnamed, rears him in secret, not revealing his identity, "For douute of wykkede loos" (line 17) - for fear of shame attaching itself to her or to her son. The Lambeth version contains a title: "A tretys of one Gyngelayne . . . that was Bastard son to sir Gaweyne" (ed. Mills, p. 75). In Malory, "sir Gyngalyn, Gawaynes sonne" is defeated by Tristram in his madness (Works, pp. 494-95); in the climactic action of the story, syr Gyngalyne makes one of the twelve accompanying his uncles Mordred and Aggravayne in the ambush of Lancelot (Works, p. 1164). Among the other knights in this group are Gawain's other sons, Florence and Lovell (who, according to Malory, "were begotyn uppon Sir Braundeles syster"; Works, p. 1147, and see Jeaste line 320 and note), Sir Galleron of Galway (see Carlisle, line 43 and Awntyrs, line 417 and note), and Sir Gromore Somyr Joure, the antagonist of the present romance whom Malory's Gawain brings to the Round Table. As Malory notes, all of Lancelot's antagonists "were of Scotlonde, other ellis of sir Gawaynes kynne, other wel willers to his bretheren."

805 Gawain's unflagging devotion here contrasts with his behavior in French stories, where he tirelessly pursues knightly adventure, as in Chrétien de Troyes' Yvain; in the latter poem, Gawain's taste for exploits disrupts the hero's love of his lady. As a coward (line 808) ironically recalls line 12 above, "For cowardes were everemore shent"; Ragnelle's transformation has also changed the nature of chivalric virtue, or at least the court's view of it.

810 mervaylyd. S, W read movaylyd and emend to present reading; I follow M, H in transcribing as m with superior abbreviation stroke.

     Arthoure the Kyng. R: kyng Arthoure; M reads Arthoure the kyng, which I follow.

832 This reference to Gawain's many liaisons obliquely recalls his reputation as roué in French romance, which appears in Jeaste as well.

838 born. Sands misprints boren.

844 besett with gaylours. The claim that the composer of Ragnelle is imprisoned recalls Malory's description of himself as "a knyght presoner," and his request that readers "praye for me . . . that God sende me good delyveraunce" (Works, pp. 180, 1260). Field (see Select Bibliography, above) suggests that Malory may have been the author of this poem.

847 Royalle. R: Ryoall.



Lythe and listenythe the lif of a lord riche,
The while that he lyvid was none hym liche,
Nether in bowre ne in halle.
In the tyme of Arthoure thys adventure betyd,
And of the greatt adventure that he hymself dyd,
That Kyng curteys and royalle.
Of alle kynges Arture berythe the flowyr,
And of alle knyghtod he bare away the honour,
Wheresoevere he wentt.
In his contrey was nothyng butt chyvalry
And knyghtes were belovid by that doughty,
For cowardes were everemore shent.
Nowe wylle ye lyst a whyle to my talkyng,
I shalle you telle of Arthowre the Kyng,
Howe ones hym befelle.
On huntyng he was in Ingleswod,
With alle his bold knyghtes good -
Nowe herken to my spelle!
The Kyng was sett att his trestylle-tree
With hys bowe to sle the wylde veneré
And hys lordes were sett hym besyde.
As the Kyng stode, then was he ware
Where a greatt hartt was and a fayre,
And forthe fast dyd he glyde.
The hartt was in a braken ferne,
And hard the houndes, and stode fulle derne:
Alle that sawe the Kyng.
"Hold you stylle, every man,
And I wolle goo myself, yf I can,
With crafte of stalkyng."
The Kyng in hys hand toke a bowe
And wodmanly he stowpyd lowe
To stalk unto that dere.
When that he cam the dere fulle nere,
The dere lept forthe into a brere,
And evere the Kyng went nere and nere.
So Kyng Arthure went a whyle
After the dere, I trowe, half a myle,
And no man with hym went.
And att the last to the dere he lett flye
And smote hym sore and sewerly -
Suche grace God hym sent.
Doun the dere tumblyd so theron,
And felle into a greatt brake of feron;
The Kyng folowyd fulle fast.
Anon the Kyng bothe ferce and felle
Was with the dere and dyd hym serve welle,
And after the grasse he taste.
As the Kyng was with the dere alone,
Streyghte ther cam to hym a quaynt grome,
Armyd welle and sure,
A knyght fulle strong and of greatt myghte.
And grymly wordes to the Kyng he sayd:
"Welle imet, Kyng Arthour!
Thou hast me done wrong many a yere
And wofully I shall quytte the here;
I hold thy lyfe days nyghe done.
Thou hast gevyn my landes in certayn
With greatt wrong unto Sir Gawen.
Whate sayest thou, Kyng alone?"
"Syr Knyghte, whate is thy name with honour?"
"Syr Kyng," he sayd, "Gromer Somer Joure,
I telle the nowe with ryghte."
"A, Sir Gromer Somer, bethynk the welle;
To sle me here honour getyst thou no delle.
Bethynk the thou artt a knyghte:
Yf thou sle me nowe in thys case,
Alle knyghtes wolle refuse the in every place;
That shame shalle nevere the froo.
Lett be thy wylle and folowe wytt
And that is amys I shalle amend itt,
And thou wolt, or that I goo."
"Nay," sayd Sir Gromer Somer, "by Hevyn Kyng!
So shalt thou nott skape, withoute lesyng;
I have the nowe att avaylle.
Yf I shold lett the thus goo with mokery,
Anoder tyme thou wolt me defye;
Of that I shalle nott faylle."
"Now," sayd the Kyng, "so God me save,
Save my lyfe, and whate thou most crave,
I shalle now graunt itt the;
Shame thou shalt have to sle me in veneré,
Thou armyd and I clothyd butt in grene, perdé."
"Alle thys shalle nott help the, sekyrly.
For I wolle nother lond ne gold, truly,
Butt yf thou graunt me att a certeyn day
Suche as I shalle sett, and in thys same araye."
"Yes," sayd the Kyng; "Lo, here my hand."
"Ye, butt abyde, Kyng, and here me a stound.
Fyrst thow shalt swere upon my sword broun
To shewe me att thy comyng whate wemen love best in feld and town
And thou shalt mete me here withouten send
Evyn att this day twelfe monethes end;
And thou shalt swere upon my swerd good
That of thy knyghtes shalle none com with the, by the Rood,
Nowther fremde ne freynd.
"And yf thou bryng nott answere withoute faylle,
Thyne hed thou shalt lose for thy travaylle -
Thys shalle nowe be thyne othe.
Whate sayst thou, Kyng? Lett se, have done!"
"Syr, I graunt to thys! Now lett me gone.
Thoughe itt be to me fulle lothe,
I ensure the, as I am true kyng,
To com agayn att thys twelfe monethes endyng
And bryng the thyne answere."
"Now go thy way, Kyng Arthure.
Thy lyfe is in my hand, I am fulle sure;
Of thy sorowe thow artt nott ware.
"Abyde, Kyng Arthure, a lytell whyle:
Loke nott today thou me begyle,
And kepe alle thyng in close -
For and I wyst, by Mary mylde,
Thou woldyst betray me in the feld,
Thy lyf fyrst sholdyst thou lose."
"Nay," sayd Kyng Arthure, "that may nott be.
Untrewe knyght shalt thou nevere fynde me -
To dye yett were me lever.
Farwelle, Sir Knyght, and evyll mett.
I wolle com, and I be on lyve att the day sett,
Thoughe I shold scape nevere."
The Kyng his bugle gan blowe.
That hard every knyght and itt gan knowe;
Unto hym can they rake.
Ther they fond the Kyng and the dere,
With sembland sad and hevy chere,
That had no lust to layk.
"Go we home nowe to Carlylle;
Thys huntyng lykys me nott welle,"
So sayd Kyng Arthure.
Alle the lordes knewe by his countenaunce
That the Kyng had mett with sume dysturbaunce.
Unto Carlylle then the Kyng cam,
Butt of his hevynesse knewe no man;
Hys hartt was wonder hevy.
In this hevynesse he dyd abyde
That many of his knyghtes mervelyd that tyde,
Tylle att the last Sir Gawen
To the Kyng he sayd than:
"Syr, me marvaylythe ryghte sore
Whate thyng that thou sorowyst fore."
Then answeryd the Kyng as tyghte:
"I shall the telle, gentylle Gawen knyght.
In the Forest as I was this daye,
Ther I mett with a knyght in his araye,
And serteyn wordes to me he gan sayn
And chargyd me I shold hym nott bewrayne;
Hys councelle must I kepe therfore,
Or els I am forswore."
"Nay, drede you nott, Lord! By Mary flower,
I am nott that man that wold you dishonour
Nother by evyn ne by moron."
"Forsothe I was on huntyng in Ingleswod;
Thowe knowest welle I slewe an hartt, by the Rode,
Alle mysylf alon.
Ther mett I with a knyght armyd sure;
His name he told me was Sir Gromer Somer Joure:
Therfor I make my mone.
"Ther that knyght fast dyd me threte
And wold have slayn me with greatt heatt,
But I spak fayre agayn.
Wepyns with me ther had I none;
Alas! My worshypp therfor is nowe gone."
"What therof?" sayd Gawen.
"Whatt nedys more? I shalle nott lye:
He wold have slayn me ther withoute mercy -
And that me was fulle lothe.
He made me to swere that att the twelfe monethes end
That I shold mete hym ther in the same kynde;
To that I plyghte my trowithe.
"And also I shold telle hym att the same day
Whate wemen desyren moste, in good faye;
My lyf els shold I lese.
This othe I made unto that knyghte,
And that I shold nevere telle itt to no wight;
Of thys I myghte nott chese.
And also I shold com in none oder araye,
Butt evyn as I was the same daye.
And yf I faylyd of myne answere,
I wott I shal be slayn ryghte there.
Blame me nott thoughe I be a wofulle man;
Alle thys is my drede and fere."
"Ye, Sir, make good chere.
Lett make your hors redy
To ryde into straunge contrey;
And evere wheras ye mete owther man or woman, in faye,
Ask of theym whate thay therto saye,
And I shalle also ryde anoder waye
And enquere of every man and woman and gett whatt I may
Of every man and womans answere;
And in a boke I shalle theym wryte."
"I graunt," sayd the Kyng as tyte;
"Ytt is welle advysed, Gawen the good,
Evyn by the Holy Rood."
Sone were they bothe redy,
Gawen and the Kyng, wytterly.
The Kyng rode on way and Gawen anoder
And evere enquyred of man, woman, and other,
Whate wemen desyred moste dere.
Somme sayd they lovyd to be welle arayd,
Somme sayd they lovyd to be fayre prayed,
Somme sayd they lovyd a lusty man
That in theyr armys can clypp them and kysse them than.
Somme sayd one, somme sayd other;
And so had Gawen getyn many an answere.
By that Gawen had geten whate he maye
And come agayn by a certeyn daye.
Syr Gawen had goten answerys so many
That had made a boke greatt, wytterly.
To the courte he cam agayn.
By that was the Kyng comyn with hys boke,
And eyther on others pamplett dyd loke.
"Thys may nott faylle," sayd Gawen.
"By God," sayd the Kyng, "I drede me sore;
I cast me to seke a lytelle more
In Yngleswod Forest.
I have butt a monethe to my day sett;
I may hapen on somme good tydynges to hitt -
Thys thynkythe me nowe best."
"Do as ye lyst," then Gawen sayd,
"Whatesoevere ye do I hold me payd;
Hytt is good to be spyrryng.
Doute you nott, Lord, ye shalle welle spede;
Sume of your sawes shalle help att nede,
Els itt were ylle lykyng."
Kyng Arthoure rode forthe on the other day
Into Yngleswod as hys gate laye,
And ther he mett with a Lady.
She was as ungoodly a creature
As evere man sawe, withoute mesure.
Kyng Arthure mervaylyd securly.
Her face was red, her nose snotyd withalle,
Her mowithe wyde, her tethe yalowe overe alle,
With bleryd eyen gretter then a balle.
Her mowithe was nott to lak:
Her tethe hyng overe her lyppes,
Her chekys syde as wemens hippes.
A lute she bare upon her bak;
Her nek long and therto greatt;
Her here cloteryd on an hepe;
In the sholders she was a yard brode.
Hangyng pappys to be an hors lode,
And lyke a barelle she was made.
And to reherse the fowlnesse of that Lady,
Ther is no tung may telle, securly;
Of lothynesse inowghe she had.
She satt on a palfray was gay begon,
With gold besett and many a precious stone.
Ther was an unsemely syghte:
So fowlle a creature withoute mesure
To ryde so gayly, I you ensure,
Ytt was no reason ne ryghte.
She rode to Arthoure and thus she sayd:
"God spede, Sir Kyng! I am welle payd
That I have with the mett;
Speke with me, I rede, or thou goo,
For thy lyfe is in my hand, I warn the soo;
That shalt thou fynde, and I itt nott lett."
"Why, whatt wold ye, Lady, nowe with me?"
"Syr, I wold fayn nowe speke with the
And telle the tydynges good.
For alle the answerys that thou canst yelpe,
None of theym alle shalle the helpe.
That shalt thou knowe, by the Rood.
Thou wenyst I knowe nott thy councelle,
Butt I warn the, I knowe itt every dealle.
Yf I help the nott, thou art butt dead.
Graunt me, Sir Kyng, butt one thyng,
And for thy lyfe I make warrauntyng,
Or elles thou shalt lose thy hed."
"Whate mean you, Lady? Telle me tyghte,
For of thy wordes I have great dispyte;
To you I have no nede.
Whate is your desyre, fayre Lady?
Lett me wete shortly -
Whate is your meanyng?
And why my lyfe is in your hand?
Telle me, and I shalle you warraunt
Alle your oun askyng."
"Forsothe," sayd the Lady, "I am no qued.
Thou must graunt me a knyght to wed:
His name is Sir Gawen.
And suche covenaunt I wolle make the,
Butt thorowe myne answere thy lyf savyd be,
Elles lett my desyre be in vayne.
And yf myne answere save thy lyf,
Graunt me to be Gawens wyf.
Advyse the nowe, Sir Kyng.
For itt must be so, or thou artt butt dead;
Chose nowe, for thou mayste sone lose thyne hed.
Telle me nowe in hying."
"Mary!" sayd the Kyng, "I maye nott graunt the
To make warraunt Sir Gawen to wed the;
Alle lyethe in hym alon.
Butt and itt be so, I wolle do my labour
In savyng of my lyfe to make itt secour;
To Gawen wolle I make my mone."
"Welle," sayd she, "nowe go home agayn
And fayre wordes speke to Sir Gawen,
For thy lyf I may save.
Thoughe I be foulle, yett am I gaye;
Thourghe me thy lyfe save he maye
Or sewer thy dethe to have."
"Alas!" he sayd; "Nowe woo is me
That I shold cause Gawen to wed the,
For he wol be lothe to saye naye.
So foulle a Lady as ye ar nowe one
Sawe I nevere in my lyfe on ground gone;
I nott whate I do may."
"No force, Sir Kyng, thoughe I be foulle;
Choyse for a make hathe an owlle.
Thou getest of me no more.
When thou comyst agayn to thyne answere
Ryghte in this place I shalle mete the here,
Or elles I wott thou artt lore."
"Now farewelle," sayd the Kyng, "Lady."
"Ye, Sir," she sayd, "ther is a byrd men calle an owlle...
And yett a Lady I am."
"Whate is your name, I pray you, telle me?"
"Syr Kyng, I highte Dame Ragnelle, truly,
That nevere yett begylyd man."
"Dame Ragnelle, now have good daye."
"Syr Kyng, God spede the on thy way!
Ryghte here I shalle the mete."
Thus they departyd fayre and welle.
The Kyng fulle sone com to Carlylle,
And his hartt hevy and greatt.
The fyrst man he mett was Sir Gawen,
That unto the Kyng thus gan sayn,
"Syr, howe have ye sped?"
"Forsothe," sayd the Kyng, "nevere so ylle!
Alas, I am in poynt myself to spylle,
For nedely I most be ded."
"Nay," sayd Gawen, "that may nott be!
I had lever myself be dead, so mott I the.
Thys is ille tydand."
"Gawen, I mett today with the fowlyst Lady
That evere I sawe, sertenly.
She sayd to me my lyfe she wold save -
Butt fyrst she wold the to husbond have.
Wherfor I am wo begon -
Thus in my hartt I make my mone."
"Ys this alle?" then sayd Gawen;
"I shalle wed her and wed her agayn,
Thowghe she were a fend;
Thowghe she were as foulle as Belsabub,
Her shalle I wed, by the Rood,
Or elles were nott I your frende.
"For ye ar my Kyng with honour
And have worshypt me in many a stowre;
Therfor shalle I nott lett.
To save your lyfe, Lorde, itt were my parte,
Or were I false and a greatt coward;
And my worshypp is the bett."
"Iwys, Gawen, I mett her in Inglyswod.
She told me her name, by the Rode:
That itt was Dame Ragnelle.
She told me butt I had of her answere,
Elles alle my laboure is nevere the nere -
Thus she gan me telle.
"And butt yf her answere help me welle
Elles let her have her desyre no dele -
This was her covenaunt.
And yf her answere help me, and none other,
Then wold she have you: here is alle togeder
That made she warraunt."
"As for this," sayd Gawen, "itt shalle nott lett:
I wolle wed her att whate tyme ye wolle sett.
I pray you, make no care.
For and she were the moste fowlyst wyghte
That evere men myghte se with syghte,
For your love I wolle nott spare."
"Garamercy, Gawen," then sayd Kyng Arthor;
"Of alle knyghtes thou berest the flowre
That evere yett I fond.
My worshypp and my lyf thou savyst forevere;
Therfore my love shalle nott frome the dyssevyr,
As I am Kyng in lond."
Then within five or six days
The Kyng must nedys goo his ways
To bere his answere.
The Kyng and Sir Gawen rode oute of toun -
No man with them, butt they alone,
Neder ferre ne nere.
When the Kyng was within the Forest:
"Syr Gawen, farewelle, I must go west;
Thou shalt no furder goo."
"My Lord, God spede you on your jorney.
I wold I shold nowe ryde your way,
For to departe I am ryghte wo."
The Kyng had rydden butt a while,
Lytelle more then the space of a myle,
Or he mett Dame Ragnelle.
"A, Sir Kyng! Ye arre nowe welcum here.
I wott ye ryde to bere your answere;
That wolle avaylle you no dele."
"Nowe," sayd the Kyng, "sithe itt wolle none other be,
Telle me your answere nowe, and my lyfe save me;
Gawen shalle you wed.
So he hathe promysed me my lyf to save,
And your desyre nowe shalle ye have,
Bothe in bowre and in bed.
Therfor telle me nowe alle in hast -
Whate wolle help now att last?
Have done, I may nott tary."
"Syr," quod Dame Ragnelle, "nowe shalt thou knowe
Whate wemen desyren moste of highe and lowe;
From this I wolle nott varaye:
"Summe men sayn we desyre to be fayre;
Also we desyre to have repayre
Of diverse straunge men;
Also we love to have lust in bed;
And often we desyre to wed.
Thus ye men nott ken
Yett we desyre anoder maner thyng:
To be holden nott old, butt fresshe and yong,
With flatryng and glosyng and quaynt gyn -
So ye men may us wemen evere wyn
Of whate ye wolle crave.
"Ye goo fulle nyse, I wolle nott lye;
Butt there is one thyng is alle oure fantasye,
And that nowe shalle ye knowe.
We desyren of men above alle maner thyng
To have the sovereynté, withoute lesyng,
Of alle, bothe hyghe and lowe.
For where we have sovereynté, alle is ourys,
Thoughe a knyght be nevere so ferys,
And evere the mastry wynne.
Of the moste manlyest is oure desyre:
To have the sovereynté of suche a syre,
Suche is oure crafte and gynne.
"Therfore wend, Sir Kyng, on thy way,
And telle that knyght, as I the saye,
That itt is as we desyren moste.
He wol be wrothe and unsoughte
And curse her fast that itt the taughte,
For his laboure is lost.
Go forthe, Sir Kyng, and hold promyse,
For thy lyfe is sure nowe in alle wyse,
That dare I welle undertake."
The Kyng rode forthe a greatt shake,
As fast as he myghte gate
Thorowe myre, more, and fenne,
Whereas the place was sygnyd and sett then.
Evyn there with Sir Gromer he mett,
And stern wordes to the Kyng he spak with that:
"Com of, Sir Kyng, nowe lett se
Of thyne answere, whate itt shal be,
For I am redy grathyd."
The Kyng pullyd oute bokes twayne:
"Syr, ther is myne answer, I dare sayn;
For somme wolle help att nede."
Syr Gromer lokyd on theym everychon:
"Nay, nay, Sir Kyng, thou artt butt a dead man;
Therfor nowe shalt thou blede."
"Abyde, Sir Gromer," sayd Kyng Arthoure,
"I have one answere shalle make alle sure."
"Lett se," then sayd Sir Gromer,
"Or els, so God me help, as I the say,
Thy dethe thou shalt have with large paye,
I telle the nowe ensure."
"Now," sayd the Kyng, "I se, as I gesse,
In the is butt a lytelle gentilnesse,
By God that ay is helpand.
Here is oure answere, and that is alle
That wemen desyren moste specialle,
Bothe of fre and bond:
"I saye no more, butt above al thyng
Wemen desyre sovereynté, for that is theyr lykyng.
And that is ther moste desyre,
To have the rewlle of the manlyest men,
And then ar they welle. Thus they me dyd ken
To rule the, Gromer Syre."
"And she that told the nowe, Sir Arthoure,
I pray to God, I maye se her bren on a fyre;
For that was my suster, Dame Ragnelle,
That old scott, God geve her shame.
Elles had I made the fulle tame;
Nowe have I lost moche travaylle.
"Go where thou wolt, Kyng Arthoure,
For of me thou maiste be evere sure.
Alas, that I evere se this day!
Nowe, welle I wott, myne enimé thou wolt be.
And att suche a pryk shall I nevere gett the;
My song may be 'Welle-awaye!"'
"No," sayd the Kyng, "that make I warraunt:
Some harnys I wolle have to make me defendaunt,
That make I God avowe!
In suche a plyghte shalt thou nevere me fynde;
And yf thou do, lett me bete and bynde,
As is for thy best prouf."
"Nowe have good day," sayd Sir Gromer.
"Farewele," sayd Sir Arthoure; "so mott I the,
I am glad I have so sped."
Kyng Arthoure turnyd hys hors into the playn,
And sone he mett with Dame Ragnelle agayn,
In the same place and stede.
"Syr Kyng, I am glad ye have sped welle.
I told howe itt wold be, every delle;
Nowe hold that ye have hyghte:
Syn I have savyd your lyf, and none other,
Gawen must me wed, Sir Arthoure,
That is a fulle gentille knyght."
"No, Lady; that I you hyghte I shalle nott faylle.
So ye wol be rulyd by my councelle,
Your wille then shalle ye have."
"Nay, Sir Kyng, nowe wolle I nott soo;
Openly I wol be weddyd, or I parte the froo
Elles shame wolle ye have.
Ryde before, and I wolle com after,
Unto thy courte, Syr Kyng Arthoure.
Of no man I wolle shame;
Bethynk you howe I have savyd your lyf.
Therfor with me nowe shalle ye nott stryfe,
For and ye do, ye be to blame."
The Kyng of her had greatt shame,
Butt forth she rood, thoughe he were grevyd;
Tylle they cam to Karlyle forth they mevyd.
Into the courte she rode hym by;
For no man wold she spare, securly -
Itt likyd the Kyng fulle ylle.
Alle the contraye had wonder greatt
Fro whens she com, that foule unswete;
They sawe nevere of so fowlle a thyng.
Into the halle she went, in certen.
"Arthoure, Kyng, lett fetche me Sir Gaweyn,
Before the knyghtes, alle in hying,
"That I may nowe be made sekyr.
In welle and wo trowithe plyghte us togeder
Before alle thy chyvalry.
This is your graunt; lett se, have done.
Sett forthe Sir Gawen, my love, anon,
For lenger tarying kepe nott I."
Then cam forthe Sir Gawen the knyght:
"Syr, I am redy of that I you hyghte,
Alle forwardes to fulfylle."
"God have mercy!" sayd Dame Ragnelle then;
"For thy sake I wold I were a fayre woman,
For thou art of so good wylle."
Ther Sir Gawen to her his trowthe plyghte
In welle and in woo, as he was a true knyght;
Then was Dame Ragnelle fayn.
"Alas!" then sayd Dame Gaynour;
So sayd alle the ladyes in her bower,
And wept for Sir Gawen.
"Alas!" then sayd bothe Kyng and knyght,
That evere he shold wed suche a wyghte,
She was so fowlle and horyble.
She had two tethe on every syde
As borys tuskes, I wolle nott hyde,
Of lengthe a large handfulle.
The one tusk went up and the other doun.
A mowthe fulle wyde and fowlle igrown,
With grey herys many on.
Her lyppes laye lumpryd on her chyn;
Nek forsothe on her was none iseen -
She was a lothly on!
She wold nott be weddyd in no maner
Butt there were made a krye in all the shyre,
Bothe in town and in borowe.
Alle the ladyes nowe of the lond,
She lett kry to com to hand
To kepe that brydalle thorowe.
So itt befylle after on a daye
That maryed shold be that fowlle maye
Unto Sir Gawen.
The daye was comyn the daye shold be;
Therof the ladyes had greatt pitey.
"Alas!" then gan they sayn.
The Queen prayd Dame Ragnelle sekerly -
"To be maryed in the mornyng erly,
As pryvaly as ye may."
"Nay!" she sayd; "By Hevyn Kyng,
That wolle I nevere, for no thyng,
For oughte that ye can saye.
"I wol be weddyd alle openly,
For with the Kyng suche covenaunt made I.
I putt you oute of dowte,
I wolle nott to churche tylle Highe Masse tyme
And in the open halle I wolle dyne,
In myddys of alle the rowte."
"I am greed," sayd Dame Gaynour;
"Butt me wold thynk more honour
And your worshypp moste."
"Ye, as for that, Lady, God you save.
This daye my worshypp wolle I have,
I telle you withoute boste."
She made her redy to churche to fare
And alle the states that there ware,
Syrs, withoute lesing.
She was arayd in the richest maner,
More fressher than Dame Gaynour;
Her arayment was worthe thre thowsand mark
Of good red nobles, styff and stark,
So rychely she was begon.
For alle her rayment, she bare the belle
Of fowlnesse, that evere I hard telle -
So fowlle a sowe sawe nevere man.
For to make a shortt conclusion,
When she was weddyd, they hyed theym home;
To mete alle they went.
This fowlle Lady bygan the highe dese;
She was fulle foulle and nott curteys,
So sayd they alle verament.
When the servyce cam her before,
She ete as moche as six that ther wore;
That mervaylyd many a man.
Her nayles were long ynchys thre,
Therwith she breke her mete ungoodly;
Therfore she ete alone.
She ette thre capons, and also curlues thre,
And greatt bake metes she ete up, perdé.
Al men therof had mervaylle.
Ther was no mete cam her before
Butt she ete itt up, lesse and more,
That praty, fowlle dameselle.
Alle men then that evere her sawe
Bad the deville her bonys gnawe,
Bothe knyght and squyre.
So she ete tylle mete was done,
Tylle they drewe clothes and had wasshen,
As is the gyse and maner.
Meny men wold speke of diverse service;
I trowe ye may wete inowghe ther was,
Bothe of tame and wylde.
In Kyng Arthours courte ther was no wontt
That myghte be gotten with mannys hond,
Noder in Forest ne in feld.
Ther were mynstralles of diverse contrey.
[The manuscript is here missing one leaf, containing
about seventy lines; the narrative continues
at the moment of Ragnelle's and Gawain's wedding night.]
"A, Sir Gawen, syn I have you wed,
Shewe me your cortesy in bed;
With ryghte itt may nott be denyed.
"Iwyse, Sir Gawen," that Lady sayd,
"And I were fayre ye wold do anoder brayd,
Butt of wedlok ye take no hed.
Yett for Arthours sake kysse me att the leste;
I pray you do this att my request.
Lett se howe ye can spede."
Sir Gawen sayd, "I wolle do more
Then for to kysse, and God before!"
He turnyd hym her untille.
He sawe her the fayrest creature
That evere he sawe, withoute mesure.
She sayd, "Whatt is your wylle?"
"A, Jhesu!" he sayd; "Whate ar ye?"
"Sir, I am your wyf, securly.
Why ar ye so unkynde?"
"A, Lady, I am to blame.
I cry you mercy, my fayre madame -
Itt was nott in my mynde.
A Lady ye ar fayre in my syghte,
And today ye were the foulyst wyghte
That evere I sawe with mine ie.
Wele is me, my Lady, I have you thus" -
And brasyd her in his armys and gan her kysse
And made greatt joye, sycurly.
"Syr," she sayd, "thus shalle ye me have:
Chese of the one, so God me save,
My beawty wolle nott hold -
Wheder ye wolle have me fayre on nyghtes
And as foulle on days to alle men sightes,
Or els to have me fayre on days
And on nyghtes on the fowlyst wyfe -
The one ye must nedes have.
Chese the one or the oder.
Chese on, Sir Knyght, whiche you is levere,
Your worshypp for to save."
"Alas!" sayd Gawen; "The choyse is hard.
To chese the best, itt is froward,
Wheder choyse that I chese:
To have you fayre on nyghtes and no more,
That wold greve my hartt ryghte sore,
And my worshypp shold I lese.
And yf I desyre on days to have you fayre,
Then on nyghtes I shold have a symple repayre.
Now fayn wold I chose the best:
I ne wott in this world whatt I shalle saye,
Butt do as ye lyst nowe, my Lady gaye.
The choyse I putt in your fyst:
"Evyn as ye wolle, I putt itt in your hand.
Lose me when ye lyst, for I am bond;
I putt the choyse in you.
Bothe body and goodes, hartt, and every dele,
Ys alle your oun, for to by and selle -
That make I God avowe!"
"Garamercy, corteys Knyght," sayd the Lady;
"Of alle erthly knyghtes blyssyd mott thou be,
For now am I worshyppyd.
Thou shalle have me fayre bothe day and nyghte
And evere whyle I lyve as fayre and bryghte;
Therfore be nott grevyd.
"For I was shapen by nygramancy,
With my stepdame, God have on her mercy,
And by enchauntement;
And shold have bene oderwyse understond,
Evyn tylle the best of Englond
Had wedyd me verament,
And also he shold geve me the sovereynté
Of alle his body and goodes, sycurly.
Thus was I disformyd;
And thou, Sir Knyght, curteys Gawen,
Has gevyn me the sovereynté serteyn,
That woll nott wrothe the erly ne late.
"Kysse me, Sir Knyght, evyn now here;
I pray the, be glad and make good chere,
For well is me begon."
Ther they made joye oute of mynde,
So was itt reason and cours of kynde,
They two theymself alone.
She thankyd God and Mary mylde
She was recovered of that that she was defoylyd;
So dyd Sir Gawen.
He made myrthe alle in her boure
And thankyd of alle Oure Savyoure,
I telle you, in certeyn.
With joye and myrthe they wakyd tylle daye
And than wold ryse that fayre maye.
"Ye shalle nott," Sir Gawen sayd;
"We wolle lye and slepe tylle pryme
And then lett the Kyng calle us to dyne."
"I am greed," then sayd the mayd.
Thus itt passyd forth tylle middaye.
"Syrs," quod the Kyng, "lett us go and asaye
Yf Sir Gawen be on lyve.
I am fulle ferd of Sir Gawen,
Nowe lest the fende have hym slayn;
Nowe wold I fayn preve.
"Go we nowe," sayd Arthoure the Kyng.
"We wolle go se theyr uprysyng,
Howe welle that he hathe sped."
They cam to the chambre, alle incerteyn.
"Aryse," sayd the Kyng to Sir Gawen;
"Why slepyst thou so long in bed?"
"Mary," quod Gawen, "Sir Kyng, sicurly,
I wold be glad, and ye wold lett me be,
For I am fulle welle att eas.
Abyde, ye shalle se the dore undone!
I trowe that ye wolle say I am welle goon;
I am fulle lothe to ryse."
Syr Gawen rose, and in his hand he toke
His fayr Lady, and to the dore he shoke,
And opynyd the dore fulle fayre.
She stod in her smok alle by that fyre;
Her here was to her knees as red as gold wyre.
"Lo, this is my repayre!
Lo!" sayd Gawen Arthoure untille -
"Syr, this is my wyfe, Dame Ragnelle,
That savyd onys your lyfe."
He told the Kyng and the Queen hem beforn
Howe sodenly from her shap she dyd torne -
"My Lord, nowe be your leve" -
And whate was the cause she forshapen was
Syr Gawen told the Kyng both more and lesse.
"I thank God," sayd the Queen;
"I wenyd, Sir Gawen, she wold the have myscaryed;
Therfore in my hartt I was sore agrevyd.
Butt the contrary is here seen!"
Ther was game, revelle, and playe,
And every man to other gan saye,
"She is a fayre wyghte."
Than the Kyng them alle gan telle
How did help hym att nede Dame Ragnelle,
"Or my dethe had bene dyghte."
Ther the Kyng told the Queen, by the Rood,
Howe he was bestad in Ingleswod
With Sir Gromer Somer Joure,
And whate othe the knyght made hym swere,
"Or elles he had slayn me ryghte there
Withoute mercy or mesure.
This same Lady, Dame Ragnelle,
From my dethe she dyd help me ryght welle,
Alle for the love of Gawen."
Then Gawen told the Kyng alle togeder
Howe forshapen she was with her stepmoder
Tylle a knyght had holpen her agayn.
Ther she told the Kyng fayre and welle
Howe Gawen gave her the sovereynté every delle,
And whate choyse she gave to hym.
"God thank hym of his curtesye;
He savid me from chaunce and vilony
That was fulle foulle and grym.
Therfore, curteys Knyght and hend Gawen,
Shalle I nevere wrathe the serteyn,
That promyse nowe here I make.
Whilles that I lyve I shal be obaysaunt;
To God above I shalle itt warraunt,
And nevere with you to debate."
"Garamercy, Lady," then sayd Gawen;
"With you I hold me fulle welle content
And that I trust to fynde."
He sayd, "My love shalle she have.
Therafter nede she nevere more crave,
For she hathe bene to me so kynde."
The Queen sayd, and the ladyes alle,
"She is the fayrest nowe in this halle,
I swere by Seynt John!
My love, Lady, ye shalle have evere
For that ye savid my Lord Arthoure,
As I am a gentilwoman."
Syr Gawen gatt on her Gyngolyn
That was a good knyght of strengthe and kynn
And of the Table Round.
Att every greatt fest that Lady shold be.
Of fayrnesse she bare away the bewtye,
Wher she yed on the ground.
Gawen lovyd that Lady, Dame Ragnelle;
In alle his lyfe he lovyd none so welle,
I telle you withoute lesyng.
As a coward he lay by her bothe day and nyghte.
Nevere wold he haunt justyng aryghte;
Theratt mervaylyd Arthoure the Kyng.
She prayd the Kyng for his gentilnes,
"To be good lord to Sir Gromer, iwysse,
Of that to you he hathe offendyd."
"Yes, Lady, that shalle I nowe for your sake,
For I wott welle he may nott amendes make;
He dyd to me fulle unhend."
Nowe for to make you a short conclusyon,
I cast me for to make an end fulle sone
Of this gentylle Lady.
She lyvyd with Sir Gawen butt yerys five;
That grevid Gawen alle his lyfe,
I telle you securly.
In her lyfe she grevyd hym nevere;
Therfor was nevere woman to hym lever.
Thus leves my talkyng.
She was the fayrest Lady of alle Englond,
When she was on lyve, I understand;
So sayd Arthoure the Kyng.
Thus endythe the adventure of Kyng Arthoure,
That oft in his days was grevyd sore,
And of the weddyng of Gawen.
Gawen was weddyd oft in his days;
Butt so welle he nevere lovyd woman always,
As I have hard men sayn.
This adventure befelle in Ingleswod,
As good Kyng Arthoure on huntyng yod;
Thus have I hard men telle.
Nowe God, as thou were in Bethleme born,
Suffer nevere her soules be forlorne
In the brynnyng fyre of helle!
And, Jhesu, as thou were borne of a virgyn,
Help hym oute of sorowe that this tale dyd devyne,
And that nowe in alle hast,
For he is besett with gaylours many
That kepen hym fulle sewerly,
With wyles wrong and wraste.
Nowe God, as thou art veray Kyng Royalle,
Help hym oute of daunger that made this tale
For therin he hathe bene long.
And of greatt pety help thy servaunt,
For body and soull I yeld into thyne hand,
For paynes he hathe strong.
Here endythe the weddyng of
Syr Gawen and Dame Ragnelle
For helpyng of Kyng Arthoure.
Harken; listen to; noble; (see note)
private room nor
And [you will hear] of
bears the prize
brave [warrior]; (see note)
[if] you listen; performance
[adventure] once
Inglewood; (see note)
story (spiel)
hunting station
slay; game
waited; aware
fern thicket
heard; still; (see note)
as a woodsman
briar patch
for a time
I guess
at; took a shot
sorely; surely
on that spot; (see note)
thicket; fern
very quickly
fierce; eager
butcher properly; (see note)
afterwards; grease (fat); assayed; (see note)
strange man
requite you
lifetime nearly
(see note)
by rights
slay; not a bit
leave you
recklessness; reason
If you wish before
escape, no lie
at [my] advantage; (see note)
after mocking [you]
Another; challenge in combat; (see note)
In [preventing] that
whatever; (see note)
in hunting
green, by God
Unless; agree [to meet] me; (see note)
specify; gear
hear; moment
women; (see note)
stranger nor; (see note)
head; effort
Come on, do it
agree; [be] gone
(see note)
plight; aware
to yourself
if I knew
would even be preferable to me
met through bad luck
if I'm alive; appointed
escape [alive]
heard; did know
did; hasten
countenance; distressed look
Who; desire to play
pleases; (see note)
[the cause] of his sadness
heart; exceedingly
So that; at that time
[it] puzzles me greatly
in full armor
certain; did say
not give him away
fear; (see note)
evening; morning
In fact
pressingly; threaten
Except that; in turn
What came of it
can I say
to me was most hateful
pledged my troth (good faith)
otherwise; lose; (see note)
In this [matter]; choose
other gear
first day
Chide; if
[the cause of] my doubt
Have; prepared
either; faith
to that [question]
inquire; learn
(see note)
one [thing]
for sure
At the same time; had come
(see note)
fear greatly
resolve; seek
hit [upon]
seems to
Fear; fare
Otherwise; unlikely
path led
beyond measure
marveled transfixed
snotted as well
mouth; teeth yellow
bleary; than
hung; (see note)
broad; hips
hump; back
equally broad
hair clotted; heap
breasts [large enough]
ugliness enough
palfrey [that] was richly draped
handsomely; assure
neither proper nor
advise before
promise you; (see note)
if; prevent
what do you desire
Despite; sing out
think; secret
promise; bit
all but; (see note)
stand as guarantor
(see note)
know right away
wicked person
(see note)
Except that through
are as good as
"Good heavens!"
rests with him; (see note)
if it may be
[that outcome] secure
ensure; (see note)
you are
to go
do not know
No matter
mate [is allowed even to]
for your
know; lost; (see note)
(see note)
am named Lady; (see note)
deceived a man
you meet
soon came
did say
you fared
ready; destroy
of necessity
rather; may I prosper
bad news
desires you as
(see note)
the devil
honored; battle
honor; more
unless; from
Otherwise; nearer [success]
Otherwise; not at all
no other [answer]
guarantee of
get in the way; (see note)
whatever; will
have no concern
if; person
Many thanks
take the prize
from you be severed
Neither far; near
[he said]
very distressed
will; not at all
not otherwise
save for me
in order to save
Be quick
high and low rank
do not understand
Also; another
regarded as
cajolery and special art
whatever; will
act very foolishly; (see note)
mastery, no lie
a lord
skill; art
you tell
angry; bitter
stoutly; you
keep [your]
secure; ways
well declare; (see note)
at headlong speed; (see note)
moor; bog
right away
Come on
all prepared
two books
one [of these] will have to help
every one
as good as
settle everything; (see note)
to my great pleasure
ever; helping
their pleasure
Thus they did teach me
nag; (see note)
you wish
may rest assured
[of] that; guarantee
armor; ready for combat
an oath
have me beaten
As living proof
as I prosper
hold [to] what; promised; (see note)
what; promised
As long as
will I not [have it] so
Publicly; from
Otherwise; will; (see note)
Upon; [do] I wish
was ashamed
onward; rode
hold back surely
whence; unlovely
have summoned [for] me; (see note)
have surety
let us pledge [our] troth; (see note)
pledge; come on, do it
longer; suffer
for what; promised
(see note)
each; (see note)
boar's; dissemble
In; hand's breadth
foully grown
hairs; one
Except; proclamation
did summon; to visit
wedding feast; (see note)
(see note)
date had arrived [when]
privately; (see note)
assure you
midst; company
Only I am thinking about
As did all those of noble rank
no lie
(see note)
coin; hard
done up
Despite; took the prize
For; heard
As soon as; hastened
occupied first place on the dais
were there
[At] that
inches three
broke her bread unmannerly
she didn't wait for anyone
roasts; by God
(see note)
But she did not
Bade; bones
cleared tables
various courses
trust; know enough
[Of] what
If; take another tack
Unless; regard
least; (see note)
will [undertake to] do
(see note)
without doubt
aloof (unnatural)
(I was not thinking)
(see note)
eye; (see note)
embraced; did
(see note)
Whether; (see note)
wife [of all]
of necessity
one; preferable
lose; (see note)
dismal relations
don't know
[it] pleases you; (see note)
Release; bound
Many thanks courteous
honored properly
transformed; necromancy; (see note)
otherwise [as a hag] perceived
Until; best [knight]
On such conditions
Who; hurt
I am well-off
beyond imagining
So far as it accorded with nature
which had defiled her
for everything
stayed awake; dawn
arise; woman; (see note)
find out; (see note)
fearful for
gladly make sure
unsure; (see note)
if you would
trust; well-off; (see note)
completely averse
night dress right by
hair; (see note)
source of comfort
in their presence
monstrousness; revert
in all details
thought; harmed
person; (see note)
(see note)
transformed; by; (see note)
mischance; evil
hurt you surely
Great thanks
will ever be the case
Beyond that
begot; Guinglain; (see note)
the [prize for] beauty
(see note)
no lie
Submissively; stayed
pursue jousting as usual
(see note)
Insofar as
know; offer restitution
acted towards; uncourteously
five years
ends; performance
dare say
sorely harassed
(see note)
(see note)
their; lost
make up
[do] that
jailors; (see note)
guard; securely
tricks; powerful
true; (see note)
out of; pity
Go To Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle

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