Passus I, Stanza 15, Lines 323 through 342:
King Arthur to the rider says, “Sir, now we see you will say but folly” (323). To “Folly” is to be foolish, deficient in thought and understanding (323). Arthur continues, “Which whoso has sought, it suits that he find” (324). Arthur says, whomever or “Whoso” you seek, you shall find (324). Arthur means-you say many words, but are a fool in a state of deficient thought and understanding. Who you seek, you shall find.
Arthur says, “No guest here is aghast [of your] great words” (325). To be “Aghast” is to be frightened and terrified (325). Arthur requests the rider’s “Gisarme” (326). A “Gisarme” is a battle-axe with a long blade (326). The blade is sharp on both sides, and ends in a sharp point. Arthur makes a deal-if the rider gives him the gisarme, the “boon” he requests shall “be granted” (327). A “boon” is a favor asked of humans. Arthur “leaps … lightly” towards the rider, and “lays hold of his weapon” (328). Arthur grabs the gisarme, and thereby, accepts to participate in the beheading game.
The rider “Fiercely alights” (329). To “Fiercely alight” is to dismount aggressively from his horse (329). Arthur has his “Ax, and the haft grips” (330). To “Haft grip” is to grasp the handle of the ax (330). The ax is the gisarme. Arthur “Sternly stirs [the gisarme] about, on striking bent” (331). To “Sternly stir” is to swing actively and energetically with sternness and severity of temper (331). A “Striking bent” is to strike with a degree of curvature (331).
The rider on foot “Stood before The rider was “No more moved nor dismayed for his mighty dints” (336), than when a “bold man on the bench … brought him … wine” (337-338). A “Mighty dint” is a hardy blow (336). That bold man was “Gawain by Guenevere” (339). Gawain toward the “King doth now incline” (340). Gawain bows to Arthur, and “Beseeches” or begs, to all in attendance, that this “melee may be mine” (341-342). A “Melee” is a battle. Gawain, in the name of King Arthur, accepts the rider’s challenge to a Christmas game of beheading.
Modern English Translation:
And said “Sir, now we see you will say but folly,
Which whoso has sought, it suits that he find.
No guest here is aghast of your great words.
Give to me your gisarme, in God’s own name,
And the boon you have begged shall straight be granted.”
He leaps to him lightly, lays hold of his weapon;
The green fellow on foot fiercely alights.
Now has Arthur his ax, and the haft grips,
And sternly stirs it about, on striking bent.
The stranger before him stood there erect,
Higher than any in the house by a head and more;
With stern look as he stood, he stroked his beard,
And with undaunted countenance drew down his coat,
No more moved nor dismayed for his mighty dints
Than any bold man on bench had brought him a drink
Gawain by Guenevere
Toward the king doth now incline:
“I beseech, before all here,
That this melee may be mine.”
Middle English Manuscript:
Ande sayde, ‘Haþel, by heuen, þyn askyng is nys,
And as þou foly hatz frayst, fynde þe behoues.
I know no gome þat is gast of þy grete wordes;
Gif me now þy geserne, vpon Godez halue,
And I schal bayþen þy bone þat þou boden habbes.’
Ly3tly lepez he hym to, and la3t at his honde.
Þen feersly þat oþer freke vpon fote ly3tis.
Now hatz Arthure his axe, and þe halme grypez,
And sturnely sturez hit aboute, þat stryke wyth hit þo3t.
Þe stif mon hym bifore stod vpon hy3t,
Herre þen ani in þe hous by þe hede and more.
Wyth sturne schere þer he stod he stroked his berde,
And wyth a countenaunce dry3e he dro3 doun his cote,
No more mate ne dismayd for hys mayn dintez
Þen any burne vpon bench hade bro3t hym to drynk
Gawan, þat sate bi þe quene,
To þe kyng he can enclyne:
‘I beseche now with sa3ez sene
Þis melly mot be myne.’
Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain reproduced in facsimile from MS. Cotton Nero
A. x with Introduction by Sir I. Gollancz, E.E.T.S. 162, 1923.
Syr Gawayne, ed. Sir F. Madden, Bannatyne Club, 1839.
Sir Gawayne and The Green Knight, ed. R. Morris, E.E.T.S. 4, 1864, revd. Sir I. Gollancz 1897 and 1912.
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, Oxford, 1925.
The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Eds. Malcom Andrew, and Ronald Waldron. Exeter: U of Exeter, 1987.
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Middle Ages. 8th ed. Vol. A. Eds. Alfred David, and James Simpson. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. 160-213.
Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2nd ed. 1989. Lane Library, Ripon College, Ripon, WI.