Passus I, Stanza 15, Lines 323 through 342:
King Arthur to the rider said, “Sir, now we see you will say but folly” (323). The word words “folly” means the rider is in a state of being foolish or deficient in understanding or thought. Arthur continues, “Which whoso has sought, it suits that he find” (324). The word “whoso” means whomever or anyone. King Arthur said, although you say many words, you are in a foolish state deficient of understanding or thought, anyone you seek shall be found.
Arthur continues, “No guest here is aghast,” no guest here is frightened or terrified of your “great words” (325). Arthur requests the “gisarme” (326). A “gisarme” is a battle-axe which has a long blade, sharpened on both sides ending in a sharp point (326). Arthur makes a deal if the rider gives him the gisarme, “the boon” he requests shall “be granted” (327). A “boon” is a request or favor asked of humans. Arthur takes the gisarme, indicating acceptance to participate in the game (327). Arthur “leaps … lightly” towards the rider, and “lays hold of his weapon” (328).
The rider “fiercely alights” (329). The term “fiercely alights” means to dismount aggressively from his horse (329). Now, Arthur has “his ax, and the haft grips” (330). The “ax” is the gisarme, the weapon of exchange (330). The term “haft grips” means Arthur grasps the handle (330). Arthur “sternly stirs [the gisarme] about, on striking bent” (331). The term “sternly stirs” means with sternness of temper and severity of aspect actively and with energetic movement, and “striking bent” means to strike with a degree of curvature (331).
The rider now on foot “stood before
The rider was “no more moved nor dismayed for his mighty dints” (336). The term “mighty dints” means mighty blows (336). The rider was no more moved, than when some “bold man on the bench … brought him … wine” (337-338). It was “Gawain by Guenevere,” who brought the rider his wine (339). Gawain “Toward the king doth now incline” (340): “I beseech, before all her that this melee may be mine” (341-342). Gawain inclines towards the king, and “beseeches,” begs, that “this melee” be his (342). The word “melee” means battle or engagement. Gawain accepts the riders 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.