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Fr. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Brian Stone

1

"No, it is not combat I crave, for come to that,

On this bench only beardless boys are sitting.

If I were hasped' in armor on a high steed,

No man among you could match me, your might being meager.

So I crave in this court a Christmas game,

For it is Yuletide and New Year, and young men abound here.

If any in this household is so hardy in spirit,

Of such mettlesome mind and so madly rash

As to strike a strong blow in return for another,

I shall offer to him this fine axe freely;

This axe, which is heavy enough, to handle as he please.

And I shall bide the first blow, as bare as I sit here.

If some intrepid man is tempted to try what I suggest,

Let him leap towards me and lay hold of this weapon,

Acquiring clear possession of it, no claim from me ensuing.

Then shall I stand up to his stroke, quite still on this floor

So long as I shall have leave to launch a return blow

  Unchecked.

Yet he shall havea year

And a day's reprieve 2 I direct.

Now hasten and let me hear

Who answers, to what effect."2If he had astonished them at the start, yet stiller now

Were the henchmen 3 in the hall, both high and low.

The rider wrenched himself round in his saddle

And rolled his red eyes about roughly and strangely,

Bending4 his brows, bristling and bright, on all,

His beard swaying as he strained to see who would rise.

When none came to accord with him, he coughed aloud,

Then pulled himself up proudly, and spoke as follows:

“What, is this Arthur’s house, the honor of which

Is bruited abroad so abundantly?

Has your pride disappeared? Your prowess gone?

Your victories, your valor, your vaunts, where are they?

The revel and renown of the Round Table

Is now overwhelmed by a word from one man's voice,

For all flinch for fear from a fight not begun!"

Upon this, he laughed so loudly that the lord5 grieved.

His fair features filled with blood

For a shame.

He raged as roaring gale;

His followers felt the same.

The King, not one to quail,

To that cavalier then came.

 

English IV