Sir Gawayn and Þe Grene Kny3t IV

Wheþer hade he no helme ne hawbergh nauþer,
Ne no pysan ne no plate þat pented to armes,
Ne no schafte ne no schelde to schwue ne to smyte,
Bot in his on honde he hade a holyn bobbe,
Þat is grattest in grene when greuez ar bare,
And an ax in his oþer, a hoge and vnmete,
A spetos sparþe to expoun in spelle, quoso my3t.
Þe lenkþe of an eln3erde þe large hede hade,
Þe grayn al of grene stele and of golde hewen,
Þe bit burnyst bry3t, with a brod egge
As wel schapen to schere as scharp rasores,
Þe stele of a stif staf þe sturne hit bi grypte,
Þat wat3 wounden wyth yrn to þe wandez ende,
And al bigrauen with grene in gracios werkes;
A lace lapped aboute, þat louked at þe hede,
And so after þe halme halched ful ofte,
Wyth tryed tassele3 þerto tacched innoghe
On botounz of þe bry3t grene brayden ful ryche.
Þis haþel heldez hym in and þe halle entres,
Driuande to þe he3e dece, dut he no woþe,
Haylsed he neuer one, bot he3e he ouer loked.
Þe fyrst word þat he warp, 'Wher is', he sayd,
'Þe gouernour of þis gyng? Gladly I wolde
Se þat segg in sy3t, and with hymself speke


    To kny3tez he kest his y3e,
    And reled hym vp and doun;
    He stemmed, and con studie
    Quo walt þer most renoun.

Ther watz lokyng on lenþe þe lude to beholde,
For vch mon had meruayle quat hit mene my3t
Þat a haþel and a horse my3t such a hwe lach,
As growe grene as þe gres and grener hit semed,
Þen grene aumayl on golde glowande bry3ter.
Al studied þat þer stod, and stalked hym nerre
Wyth al þe wonder of þe worlde what he worch schulde.
For fele sellyez had þay sen, bot such neuer are;
Forþi for fantoum and fayry3e þe folk þere hit demed.
Þerfore to answare watz ar3e mony aþel freke,
And al stouned at his steuen and stonstil seten
In a swoghe sylence þur3 þe sale riche;
As al were slypped vpon slepe so slaked hor lotez

    in hy3e --

    I deme hit not al for doute,
    Bot sum for cortaysye --
    Bot let hym þat al schulde loute
    Cast vnto þat wy3e.

Þenn Arþour bifore þe hi3 dece þat auenture byholdez,
And rekenly hym reuerenced, for rad was he neuer,
And sayde, 'Wy3e, welcum iwys to þis place,
Þe hede of þis ostel Arthour I hat;
Li3t luflych adoun and lenge, I þe praye,
And quat-so þy wylle is we schal wyt after.'
'Nay, as help me,' quoþ þe haþel, 'he þat on hy3e syttes,
To wone any quyle in þis won, hit watz not myn ernde;
Bot for þe los of þe, lede, is lyft vp so hy3e,
And þy bur3 and þy burnes best ar holden,
Stifest vnder stel-gere on stedes to ryde,
Þe wy3test and þe worþyest of þe worldes kynde,
Preue for to play wyth in oþer pure layke3,
And here is kydde cortaysye, as I haf herd carp,
And þat hat3 wayned me hider, iwyis, at þis tyme.
3e may be seker bi þis braunch þat I bere here
Þat I passe as in pes, and no ply3t seche;
For had I founded in fere in fe3tyng wyse,
I haue a hauberghe at home and a helme boþe,
A schelde and a scharp spere, schinande bry3t,
Ande oþer weppenes to welde, I wene wel, als;
Bot for I wolde no were, my wede3 ar softer.
Bot if þou be so bold as alle burnez tellen,
Þou wyl grant me godly þe gomen þat I ask

    bi ry3t.'

    Arthour con onsware,
    And sayd, 'Sir cortays kny3t,
    If þou craue batayl bare,
    Here faylez þou not to fy3t.'

On to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight V

mauler's (non-verse) translation:

Although he had no helmet nor hauberk
Nor breast plate or any other plate related to combat
Nor spear, nor shield with which to shove and smite,
In his hand he held a sprig of holly,
That is still the greenest of greens, when other trees are leafless.
And an axe in his other, huge and unmatched,
An axe too awesome to explain in words, not matter who might try.
Its massive head was an ell in length,
Made of green steel inlaid with gold.
Its blade brightly burnished, with a broad cutting edge,
And well shaped to shear like the sharpest of razors.
The strong steel of the shaft the fierce man gripped,
Was wound with iron bands to the handle’s end,
And engraved with green in graceful patterns;
A leather lacing lashed it to the head,
And then wrapped several times around the haft,
With many silken tassels thereto attached,
Richly braided with bright green beads.
Leading his horse, the knight strode into the hall,
Directly to the high dais, fearing no danger,
Looking at no one, staring straight ahead.
The first words that he uttered: “Where is,” he asked,
“The leader of this rabble? Gladly would I
Have that fellow in my sight, and with himself have

To the knights he cast his eye,
Surveyed them up and down,
Paused, and attempted to devine,
Which was most renowned.

There were many long stares at that strange man,
For each man wondered what it might mean
That a man and a horse might share such a hue.
As green as grass and even greener they seemed,
Than green enameled gold, which glows so bright.
All studied he that stood there and sidled closer,
With all the wonder in the world at what he would do,
For strange sights had they seen, but such as this never.
Therefore a fairy or phantom they deemed him,
And thus unable to speak was many a noble lord,
So stunned by his stridence, they all stood stone-still,
In a swooning silence throughout the hall,
As if all were asleep, so silent were the throats

of even the high.
I deem it not because of fear,
But some, from courtesy,
To let he whom all revered
Speak first to that man.

When Arthur beheld that wonder before his high dais,
He greeted him politely, for afraid he was never,
And said, “Greetings Sir, I wish you welcome to this place.
I am head of this house; Arthur is my name.
Alight from your horse and linger, I pray you.
And whatever your will is we shall find out later.”
“Nay, so help me,” quoth the knight, “God on high,
To while any time here is not my mission.
The legends of you, lord, are so lofty and high,
And your realm and your knights are reckoned the finest.
The most steadfast in armor and on horseback,
The manliest and the most noble in the world,
Always ready to compete in the purity of sporting.
Here chivalry resides, or so I have heard,
And that has brought me here, I declare, at this time.
You may be sure by this branch that I bear,
That I pass in peace and no quarrel seek,
For if I had feared that fighting would be necessary,
I have both a helmet and hauberk at home,
A shield and a sharp spear, that brightly shines,
And other weapons also, that I know well how to wield.
But because I wish not for warfare, my clothes are softer.
And now if you are really as bold as all men say,
You will be so good as to grant me the game I request,

By right.
Arthur, in answer,
Said, “Sir courteous knight,
If you crave unarmed combat
Here you won’t fail to fight.”

Back to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight III | On to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight V

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