Arthurian and Grail Poetry
The Marriage Of Sir Gawaine
By Bishop Thomas Percy
Part The First
King Arthur lives in merry Carleile,
And seemely is to see;
And there with him queene Guenever,
That bride soe bright of blee.
And there with him queene Guenever,
That bride so bright in bowre:
And all his barons about him stoode,
That were both stiffe and stowre.
The king a royale Christmasse kept,
With mirth and princelye cheare;
To him repaired many a knighte,
That came both farre and neare.
And when they were to dinner sette,
And cups went freely round;
Before them came a faire damsèlle,
And knelt upon the ground.
A boone, a boone, O kinge Arthùre,
I beg a boone of thee;
Avenge me of a carlish knighte,
Who hath shent my love and me.
At Tearne-Wadling his castle stands,
Near to that lake so fair,
And proudlye rise the battlements,
And streamers deck the air.
Noe gentle knighte, nor ladye gay,
May pass that castle-walle:
But from that foule discurteous knighte,
Mishappe will them befalle.
Hee's twyce the size of common men,
Wi' thewes, and sinewes stronge,
And on his backe he bears a clubbe,
That is both thicke and longe.
This grimme baròne 'twas our harde happe,
But yester morne to see;
When to his bowre he bare my love,
And sore misused mee.
And when I told him, king Arthùre
As lyttle shold him spare;
Goe tell, sayd hee, that cuckold kinge,
To meete mee if he dare.
Upp then sterted king Arthùre,
And sware by hille and dale,
He ne'er wolde quitt that grimme baròne,
Till he had made him quail.
Goe fetch my sword Excalibar:
Goe saddle mee my steede;
Nowe, by my faye, that grimme baròne
Shall rue this ruthfulle deede.
And when he came to Tearne Wadlinge
Benethe the castle walle:
"Come forth; come forth; thou proude baròne,
Or yielde thyself my thralle."
On magicke grounde that castle stoode,
And fenc'd with many a spelle:
Noe valiant knighte could tread thereon,
But straite his courage felle.
Forth then rush'd that carlish knight,
King Arthur felte the charme:
His sturdy sinewes lost their strengthe,
Downe sunke his feeble arme.
Nowe yield thee, yield thee, kinge Arthùre,
Now yield thee, unto mee:
Or fighte with mee, or lose thy lande,
Noe better termes maye bee,
Unless thou sweare upon the rood,
And promise on thy faye,
Here to returne to Tearne-Wadling,
Upon the new-yeare's daye;
And bringe me worde what thing it is
All women moste desyre;
This is thy ransome, Arthur, he sayes,
Ile have noe other hyre.
King Arthur then helde up his hande,
And sware upon his faye,
Then tooke his leave of the grimme barone
And faste hee rode awaye.
And he rode east, and he rode west,
And did of all inquyre,
What thing it is all women crave,
And what they most desyre.
Some told him riches, pompe, or state;
Some rayment fine and brighte;
Some told him mirthe; some flatterye;
And some a jollye knighte.
In letters all king Arthur wrote,
And seal'd them with his ringe:
But still his minde was helde in doubte,
Each tolde a different thinge.
As ruthfulle he rode over a more,
He saw a ladye sette
Betweene an oke, and a greene holléye,
All clad in red scarlette.
Her nose was crookt and turnd outwàrde,
Her chin stoode all awrye;
And where as sholde have been her mouthe,
Lo! there was set her eye:
Her haires, like serpents, clung aboute
Her cheekes of deadlye hewe:
A worse-form'd ladye than she was,
No man mote ever viewe.
To hail the king in seemelye sorte
This ladye was fulle faine;
But king Arthùre all sore amaz'd,
No aunswere made againe.
What wight art thou, the ladye sayd,
That wilt not speake to mee;
Sir, I may chance to ease thy paine,
Though I be foule to see.
If thou wilt ease my paine, he sayd,
And helpe me in my neede;
Ask what thou wilt, thou grimme ladyè
And it shall bee thy meede.
O sweare mee this upon the roode,
And promise on thy faye;
And here the secrette I will telle,
That shall thy ransome paye.
King Arthur promis'd on his faye,
And sware upon the roode;
The secrette then the ladye told,
As lightlye well shee cou'de.
Now this shall be my paye, sir king,
And this my guerdon bee,
That some yong fair and courtlye knight,
Thou bringe to marrye mee.
Fast then pricked king Arthùre
Ore hille, and dale, and downe:
And soone he founde the barone's bowre:
And soone the grimme baroùne.
He bare his clubbe upon his backe,
Hee stoode bothe stiffe and stronge;
And, when he had the letters reade,
Awaye the lettres flunge.
Nowe yielde thee, Arthur, and thy lands,
All forfeit unto mee;
For this is not thy paye, sir king,
Nor may thy ransome bee.
Yet hold thy hand, thou proud baròne,
I praye thee hold thy hand;
And give mee leave to speake once more
In reskewe of my land.
This morne, as I came over a more,
I saw a ladye sette
Betwene an oke, and a greene hollèye,
All clad in red scarlètte.
Shee sayes, all women will have their wille,
This is their chief desyre;
Now yield, as thou art a barone true,
That I have payd mine hyre.
An earlye vengeaunce light on her!
The carlish baron swore:
Shee was my sister tolde thee this,
And shee's a mishapen whore.
But here I will make mine avowe,
To do her as ill a turne:
For an ever I may that foule theefe gette,
In a fyre I will her burne.