Passus I, Stanza 4, Lines 60 through 84:
The “New Year was new, by yesternight,” yesternight means last night (60). The time was just past midnight. They had a “Feast two-fold were served” (61). “Two-fold” means two servings (61). When King Arthur and guest arrive, the “Chanting in chapel achieved and ended” (63). To “Achieve” is for the chanting to have been accomplished and ended (63). The “Clerics and the court acclaim the glad season” (64). To “Acclaim” is to applaud (64). “Clerics” means a clergyman (64). Clergymen and the court applaud the “Glad,” new “Season” (63). Persons in attendance “Cried Noel anew” (65). To cry “Noel anew” is to proclaim, announce and sing to commemorate the birth of Christ (65).
The New Year Day festivities include “Gallants gather gaily” to exchange gifts in a game (66). The “Gallants” means men of fashion and pleasure (66). A “Gallant” is a fine gentleman or women of fashionable attire (66). They gather “Gaily,” festively and cheerfully, joyously and jauntily (66). To exchange gifts, they play a game. The guest names were called to claim their gift “By hand” (67). The players “Bickered long and busily about those gifts” (68). To “Bicker” is to skirmish over gifts through exchange (68). They exchange and fight “Long and busily” (68). The ladies did “laugh aloud, though they were the losers” (69). The man that won was “Not angered” for the prize involves a kiss from all the ladies (70).
The guest made “Mirth … until meat was served” (71). The “Mirth they made” is delight and joy (71). After they “Washed them worthily, they went to their seats” (72). They “Washed them worthily,” washed their hands in a manner befitting high standards, character and in accordance with dignity and personal worth, honor and nobility (72). The guests washed their hands, and took a seat at the table.
The “Best [people are] seated above, as best it beseemed” (73). The “Best” people are the highest rank in nobility (73). The highest rank in nobility was King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. The King and Queen were “Seated above” because it is proper (73). Guenevere the “Goodly queen gay was placed in the midst” (74). A “goodly queen” is a queen of graceful appearance (74). Her effect is elegant and beautiful. She was “gay,” an epithet of praise for a woman during the medieval period (74). Guenevere was placed “In the midst,” in the middle of the long table (74).
The throne was placed on a “Dais well-decked and duly arrayed” (75). A “Dais” is a platform which raises a table (75). A raised or high table is where distinguished persons are placed. The dais was “Well-decked,” finely adorned, beautified with ornaments, and other beauties of luster (75). The platform was “Duly arrayed” in a manner agreeable to obligation and propriety (75). The decor is Guenevere’s right by position. The ornaments include “Silk curtains and a canopy” (76). The “Rich tapestries” or expensive fabrics were from “Toulouse and Turkestan” (77). The tapestries were “Broidered and bordered with the best gems” (78). The gems were “Broidered” with needle-work onto the tapestries (78). The gems “Bordered” the tapestries (78). The gems were the best “Ever brought into Britain, with bright pennies” (79). The reference to “Bright pennies” means the gems were expensive (79).
Queen Guenevere, a “Fair queen,” was “without a flaw” (81). Guenevere “Glanced with eyes of grey” (82). The poet saw Guenevere, and decides there was no woman more “Seemlier” (83). To be “Seemlier” is to be of a pleasing and goodly appearance, fair complexion, well-form and handsome beauty (83). The poet ponders-is Guenevere the most beautiful woman in the world? The poet decides, “No man could say” (84).
Modern English Translation:
While the New Year was new, but yesternight come,
This fair folk at feast two-fold was served,
When the king and his company were come in together,
The chanting in chapel achieved and ended.
Clerics and all the court acclaimed the glad season,
Cried Noel anew, good news to men;
Then gallants gather gaily, hand-gifts to make,
Called them out clearly, claimed them by hand,
Bickered long and busily about those gifts.
Ladies laughed aloud, though losers they were,
And he that won was not angered, as well you will know.
All the mirth they made until meat was served;
When they had washed them worthily, they went to their seats,
The best seated above, as best it beseemed,
Guenevere the goodly queen gay in the midst
On a dais well-decked and duly arrayed
With costly silk curtains, a canopy over,
Of Toulouse and Turkestan tapestries rich,
All broidered and bordered with the best gems
Ever brought into Britain, with bright pennies
Fair queen, without a flaw,
She glanced with eyes of grey.
A seemlier that once he saw,
In truth, no man could say.
Middle English Manuscript:
Wyle Nw 3er watz so 3ep þat hit watz nwe cummen,
Þat day doubble on þe dece watz þe douth serued.
Fro þe kyng watz cummen with kny3tes into þe halle,
Þe chauntré of þe chapel cheued to an ende,
Loude crye watz þer kest of clerkez and oþer,
Nowel nayted onewe, neuened ful ofte;
And syþen riche forth runnen to reche hondeselle,
3e3ed 3eres-3iftes on hi3, 3elde hem bi hond,
Debated busyly aboute þo giftes;
Ladies la3ed ful loude, þo3 þay lost haden,
And he þat wan watz not wrothe, þat may 3e wel trawe.
Alle þis mirþe þay maden to þe mete tyme;
When þay had waschen worþyly þay wenten to sete,
Þe best burne ay abof, as hit best semed,
Whene Guenore, ful gay, grayþed in þe myddes,
Dressed on þe dere des, dubbed al aboute,
Smal sendal bisides, a selure hir ouer
Of tryed tolouse, and tars tapites innoghe,
Þat were enbrawded and beten wyth þe best gemmes
Þat my3t be preued of prys wyth penyes to bye,
Þe comlokest to discrye
Þer glent with y3en gray,
A semloker þat euer he sy3e
Soth mo3t no mon say.
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.