Passus I, Stanza 5, Lines 85 through 106:
King Arthur will “not eat till all were served” (85). Arthur’s heart was light and boyish. Arthur enjoys life to be lively. He does not like lying or sitting around for long. Arthur’s young blood is “busy” and “his brain so wild” (89). Arthur’s blood is “busy,” active and industrious, devoted to business (89). Arthur’s brain is “wild,” active, freely yet diligently moving toward’s his own will without restraint (89).
King Arthur has “a point of pride [which] pricked him in the heart” (90). Arthur’s “pride” is caused by an excessively high opinion of his worth or importance which gives rise to a feeling or attitude of superiority over others regarding something (90). Arthur’s “point” is regarding an individual part of some matter, a detail of some nature or character, a particular quality or respect to some subject (90). Thus, Arthur’s “point of pride” is from an inordinate self-esteem regarding some matter, nature or character, or subject (90). That pride “pricked him in the heart” (90). To “prick” means Arthur felt a piercing sensation in his heart which made a minute hole puncturing or perforating his inordinate amount of pride (90).
King Arthur “nobly willed, he would never eat” on such an important holiday (91). Arthur will eat only after he heard “some fair feat or fray some far-borne tale” (93). The term “fair feat or fray” means a desirable and reputable exceptional or noteworthy act or achievement, more specifically a deed of valor and noble exploit, or a disturbance caused by a conflict and settled through fighting, a brawl or skirmish (93). The “feat or fray” must be that of some “far-borne tale” (93). The “tale” must be a hard to discover and out of the way story or narrative regarding endurance and might (93). The “tale” must be recited to interest and amuse, and preserve the history of a fact or incident (93). King Arthur wants the tale to be of “some marvel,” miracle “of might, that he might trust” (94). The tale must be believable so the veracity of the tale may be trusted.
The tale may be regarding “champions of chivalry achieved in arms” (95). “Champions of chivalry,” Knights who in contest or conflict act as the acknowledged defender of a person or side, and stoutly maintains any cause (95). That cause must be “achieved in arms” (95). The tale may be regarding “some suppliant came seeking some single knight” for jousting (96). A “supplicant” is a humble person or petitioner begging for jousting (96). The game “jousting” is fighting on horseback with a lance (97). “Jousting” is a combat between two knights or men-at-arms on horseback (97). The combatants encounter each other with lances. The goal of the game is to throw their opponent from the saddle.
The tale may be regarding a battle. The battle may be a Knight acting as defender of a person or side, or a supplicant proposing a jousting match. However, one of the most important criteria’s os the tale is the tale must jeopardize their life, and leave the outcome to “fortune” (98). To leave the outcome to “fortune” means to ascribe the opponents life to happenchance, or the will of the Gods. The tale must include affording opponents on “field fair hap” (99). The term “field fair hap” means on the field of battle in a conflict or jousting (99). The tale must have equality in fortuity, equality in chance and fortune. The outcome must be produced by fortune, chance or the will of the Gods.
The telling of this tale is the “king’s custom, when his court he holds” (100). Whenever King Arthur holds court, “At each far-famed feast” someone must tell a tale as described (101). The term “far-famed feast” means Arthur’s feast is famous a great distance, a long way off (101). When Arthur holds court at one of his famous feasts, someone must tell a dear tale “amid his fair host” (101). The tale must be told in the midst of “fair host,” Arthur (101). The term “fair host” means a person who lodges and entertains another in his house in an agreeable, comely and noble manner (101). The word “comely” means nicely and suitably in a seemly or becoming fashion.
King Arthur a “stout king stands in state” (103). The word “stout” means proud, brave and resolute (103). The term “stands in state” means he stands proudly waiting (103). Arthur stands waiting until a “wonder shall appear” (104). The word “wonder” used in this context means something that will cause him astonishment, a marvel or miracle (104). Arthur is described as leading “with heart elate,” an elevated heart (105), and “high mirth in the New Year,” high spirit and joy in the New Year (106).
Modern English Translation:
But Arthur would not eat till all were served;
So light was his lordly heart, and a little boyish;
His life he liked lively-the less he cared
To be lying for long, or long to sit,
So busy his young blood, his brain so wild.
And also a point of pride pricked him in heart,
For he nobly had willed, he would never eat
On so high a holiday, till he had heard first
Of some fair feat or fray some far-borne tale,
Of some marvel of might, that he might trust,
By champions of chivalry achieved in arms,
Or some suppliant came seeking some single knight
To join with him in jousting, in jeopardy each
To lay life for life, and leave it to fortune
To afford him on field fair hap or other.
Such is the king’s custom, when his court he holds
At each far-famed feast amid his fair host
The stout king stands in state
Till a wonder shall appear;
He leads, with heart elate,
High mirth in the New Year.
Middle English Manuscript:
Bot Arthure wolde not ete til al were serued,
He watz so joly of his joyfnes, and sumquat childgered:
His lif liked hym ly3t, he louied þe lasse
Auþer to longe lye or to longe sitte,
So bisied him his 3onge blod and his brayn wylde.
And also an oþer maner meued him eke
Þat he þur3 nobelay had nomen, he wolde neuer ete
Vpon such a dere day er hym deuised were
Of sum auenturus þyng an vncouþe tale,
Of sum mayn meruayle, þat he my3t trawe,
Of alderes, of armes, of oþer auenturus,
Oþer sum segg hym biso3t of sum siker kny3t
To joyne wyth hym in iustyng, in jopardé to lay,
Lede, lif for lyf, leue vchon oþer,
As fortune wolde fulsun hom, þe fayrer to haue.
Þis watz þe kynges countenaunce where he in court were,
At vch farand fest among his fre meny
Þerfore of face so fere
He sti3tlez stif in stalle,
Ful 3ep in þat Nw 3ere
Much mirthe he mas withalle.
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.