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Green : first fitt

{an histoire of the great kings of Bretayn}

Since ceased th’siege + assault upon Troye,

bones brok’nd brittled t’bronz’nd ashes,

that soldier who trod treason o’er th’plots’v

his enemies was tried f’r treachery tho

agile Ennias, of th’truest on Earth, of high kind,

haunted by shade Dido, was worth th’wonder

wealth’v all th’west isles——

From rich milk’v wolf-mother Romulus

rose Rome’nd’n its captured riches Romulus was

swath’d. W/ arrogance he built his name

upon a hill + took Palatine t’Romulus t’Rome——

Tirius traveled t’Tuscany he built beginnings,

Langaberde’n Lombardy left us houses,

+ far o’er th’French floods Felix Brutus

on many full banks built Bretayn + sits

w/ one

where war’nd wreck’nd wonder

by surprise has went therein,

+ oft both bliss’nd blunder

fool hope shifted t’sin.

When Bretayn was built by Baron Felix Brutus rich,

brethren bold were born therein that loved t’fight, in-

deed ten times’nd more of warring much was written.

Marvels have fallen + unfolded here more often

than’n’any other country I know, since that early time.

But of all the kings I’ve read what is written,

Arthur is the most chivalrous in Bretayn.

|| Forthwith a wonder’v adventure I’ll attempt to show,

a selly in th’sight’v some (I’m not w/holding),

An outrageous adventure, an Arthur-wonder­——

If you will listen t’this lay but f’r’a little while,

I shall tell it, as it, as I intend’t t’be heard——

{ of the Round Table on New Year’s Eve }

Arthur——

this king lay at Camylot upon Christmastime

w/ many lovely lord’nd ladies’v th’best.

Reckon th’brethren’v th’Round Table all

rich mirth, rich feasting’nd reckless reveling,

their tournaments taken by turn, harmoniously,

jousting, joyously, these gentle-knights, these jolly

knights

set forth t’th’court they carry carols t’make

merry

for there th’feast lasts a full fifteen days

w/ all th’meat + th’mirth that men could envision.

——All

th’wealth’v th’world + they wanted kin familiar,

those most kind knights under Christ’s sacrifice, under His salvation,

+ th’loveliest look’n ladies ever that lived

+ th’most chivalrous king th’court s ev’r had.

The happiest under Heaven,

under king’nd kingly will;

his knights now the greatest known,

th’hardiest upon th’hill

+

th’queen,

the comeliest to describe

w/ eye that glinted gray,

that any other looked like her

no man would ever say.

While th’New Year was so young that it was

now——

Now Arthur would not eat till all were served.

He was so jolly’nd joyful, + child-geared

his life liked him + he loved the least’v’t.

Another might lounge long or long sit,

but Arthur’s young blood hurried him’nd his wild mind

now——

+ also another custom kept:

he’d neither quench his thirst nor would ever eat

upon such a dear day till described to him was

some adventurous thing, an incredible tale’v

some miracle that must be believed,

of elders, of armies, or of other adventures now——

waiting

thus, there stood stalled th’stalwart king himself,

talking’v trifles before the high table t’those at hand:

good Gawain Gwenore

Agrauayn

Bishop Bawdewyn

Ywan, Vryn’s son

+ many noble knights——

Such gaiety’nd glee glorious + right;

dear din all day’nd dancing upon th’night.

{ th’feast }

+ w/ th’crackling’v trumpets th’first courses came, +

w/ many a banner bright’nd full, hung there by +

now w/ drum noise + noble pipes, pipes that pipe w/

wild trills + w/ strong sounds woke words

all

that heard were touched + raised drink’nd clamor + rose

they rose

w/ delight + w/ delight were drawn forthwith to a

a table full’v dear meat,

abundant eating, copious fresh dishes so full,

so much served a place could scarcely b’set f’r

th’silver vessels’v soup t’rest upon

th’cloth.

Each led as he loved himself

t’take gladly w/out loathe;

Every two had dishes twelve,

good beer and bright wine both.

|| Of their service I’ll now say no more.

Each, you well wit, had not a thing to want for——

{ Grene, Grene, Grene: Green Arrives th’Knight }

A noise’nd another fell fresh upon th’first,

a noise th’lords there could not easily’v’eard——

Noise b’neath noise is not a while sensed,

while course upon course th’court was kindly served.

When sensed——

There hailed at th’hall door a fearsome master,

on th’most on th’mold on measure high;

from neck t’middle so square’nd so thick,

+’is loins’nd’is limbs so long’nd so great——

Only half’v earth, twice + more a man’s height

yet man more than monster,

right upon his ride.

Of back + of breast his body was stern,

while his waist was worthily small——

All his features followed fully in form but

Wonder at his hue men had,

set in his assembled scene;

His features as freakish as his fashion

as over all, he was achingly green.

This gomen, man’v games, green’nd garbed in green,

a coat, green, which constricted his middle,

a merry mantel, green, graciously w/in

w/ a trim’v valuable green, a garment pure’nd clean

w/ a bright, bright, brightly black’nd white hood

drawn down from his locks’nd laid about his shoulders;

him’n well-heeled hose of that same green,

cut close to th’calf. He wore spurs’v pure’nd bright,

bright gold, + rich silk borders braided full;

+ at the length’v’is legs, w/out shoe th’man rode;

All, all his vesture truly

green

all

green’nd the essence’v

green

both th’bar’v’is belt’nd th’bright stones

rich’nd arranged in’n array’v

green

n

array

about’imself, upon’is saddle, ‘nd over silk

works,

Over silk

works were

too many trifles t’track th’half, too much t’tell

all what was embroidered about, birds in flight

+ gay green baubles, gaudy gold lines like hay thru their middle.

+ th’pendants of his horse’s breast plate, + th’proud upon his crupper, +

th’ornaments about his bit, all, all enameled metal, all, all green,

+ the stirrups that th’ knight strained, all, all stained th’same——green,

+ th’pommel’v’is saddle, + beneath th’saddle th’skirts,

ever gleamed’nd glinted all, all w/ green stones;

His horse could hunt hidden among grasses,

certainly

for this man’s powerful horse was green,

a steed fully fixed + firm,

bridle embroidered’a vivid sheen,

all perfect for th’gomen.

Most gaily was this gomen garbed in green

+ the hair of his head as green as the hair of his horse,

fine hair that fanned about his shoulders, +

a beard, as great as a bush, grown to his breast,

that w/ th’splendid hair’v’is head was

clipped round, just above’is elbows,

so that half his arms were covered.

Th’mane’v th’knight’s great horse was

well curled’nd combed w/’a great many knots

wrapped w/ gold thread among th’green,

for ev’ry twist’v hair, another strand’v gold;

th’horse’s tail’nd his forelock matched his mane,

bound both w/ bands bright’nd green,

adorned w/ many dear stones from end t’end.

Bound up w/’a thong’nd a complicated knot

there were many bright bells’v burnished gold

ringing.

Such a steed upon earth, th’ride’ve that freak knight,

had never until that day been seen in that hall

by men’s eyes. The

knight looked lik’a lightening strike

so said all those that saw him,

He was as no man is like;

beneath his blows no man could win.

{ th’first Words that He spoke }

On the other hand, he had no helmet nor armor either,

Nor gorget nor braces rere or vam,

+ he held no staff nor shield w/ which t’smite or t’show

No

he held in’is hand a bob’v holly,

Holly that is greatest green when groves are winter bare, +

He held in’is other hand, an axe

an axe abnormal’nd cruel

an axe too unreal to

explain to you but by repeating: “an axe, an axe.”

All’v’n ell its large head had, +

hewn was its spike w/ green steel’nd w/ gold,

a broad-edged blade burnished bright, +

well shaped t’shear as sharp as razors;

By th’steel’v’a stiff staff the axe was gripped,

+ iron was wound from end t’tip,

+ all engraved in green were gracious work;

A lace wrapped about that locked at th’head,

+ so after wrapped th’handle, frequently fastened

t’th’haft, w/’a thick’v fine tassels thereto attached

by buttons bright’nd green’nd graciously work’d.

This knight rode right

in——

Directly to the high dias,

was fearless——

He hailed no one there, but glared, he

he glared over all assembled.

Th’first words warped by his mouth were: “Where is

the governor of thee gathered? Gladly, I would

sue that man, + see, + w/ his self speak

reason.”

To th’knights he cast his eye,

+ riding rode them up + down;

He stopped so he could study

who might’ve had th’most renown.

His words they lingered, + as a ghost were seen:

th’words he spoke, a mist’v luminous green.

{ a shock’v green’nd wonder }

Arthur’nd Arthur’s court

look’d long’nd in wonder, + wondered what kind’v man be-held them,

wondered what this magical spectacle must mean,

f’r’a knight’nd’is horse to’ve accrued such’a hue that is

green

green as th’grass’nd growing greener it seemed

green glow’n’nd bright’nd brighter than enameled gold.

All stood + studied + stalked at th’Knight,

green w/ all th’wonder in th’world’nd wonder at what he might render,

for though they’d seen much, at this they saw silence, fell silent f’r’a sight they’d never seen,

+ since they’d never seen such a sight, th’folk deemed th’Knight’v phantoms’nd fairies.

Th’green freak stunned all

+ all were slack as if slipp’d t’sleep,

their speech——

asleep.

|| Not all, I deem, were dumb from doubt or dread;

I’ve heard’v silence that is courtesy.

Here, t’honor for whom all bowed their heads,

for Arthur t’decide what we should say.

{ “I crave from this court a Christmas contest” }

From th’high dias

Arthur beheld adventure unafraid + so said,

“Knight, welcome indeed to this place,

th’head’v this house Arthur I am;

leap lightly adoun’nd linger, I thee pray,

+ what so ever thy will is what we shall wait after.”

“Nay, as help me,” quoth th’Knight. “He that on high sits,

t’wait awhile was never at all my errand;

but for your renown, oh lord, lifted up so high,

+ thy birth + thy brethren held t’be th’best,

th’sternest steal-geared steel riders,

th’wisest’nd worthiest’v y’r kind’nd

f’r pure, worthy play, there’s none th’like;

+ here, chivalry is shown, so’s been bragged.

That has waylaid me hither, indeed, at this time.

You may be certain by this branch that I bear here,

that I pass in peace, + no plight seek’d;

for had I founded forth f’r fighting ways——

I have armor at home + a helmet both,

+ shield + a sharp spear, shining bright,

+ other weapons t’wield, I ween well, also;

but, for I willed no war, my wardrobe is softer.

But if thou be as bold as all braggarts tell,

thou will grant me godly th’gomen that I ask

by right.”

Arthur then answered sure

said, “Sir courteous knight,

if thou crave battle bare,

here fails you not to fight.”

“Nay, fear not, in our faith I tell thee, no fight.

Besides, about y’r bench’r but beardless boys.

If I’m’n armor’nd on an armored horse,

there’s no man my match, make no mistake.

Nay, I crave from this court a Christmas gomen,

For this is Yuletide + New Year, + here are your many:

if any in this house holds himself hardy,

be bold in’is blood’nd w/ brawn’n’is head,

that dare stiffly strike a stroke f’r another,

I shall give’im a gift’v this rich axe,

this axe, that is heavy enough to handle as’e likes,

+ I shall bide th’first blow as bare as I sit.

If any fellow be so fearless as to follow what I tell,

leap lightly t’me, + lock this weapon——

I quit claim to it f’rever——keep it as’is own,

+ I shall stand’im a stroke, stiff on this floor——

assuming thou shall do me the honor to deal him another

blow——

+ yet give him respite,

twelve month + a day;

Now hasten, let’s see if

Dare any here play.”

{ th’ game is given t’Gawain }

All stood stunned, still + stiller more—

All, all’n th’hall, courtiers, high, low—all.

+

+th’man on’is horse turned in’s saddle,

+

+fiercely he rolled his red eyes about’nd

bent his bristled + gleaming green brows,

+waved his beard side-to-side to see which knight might rise—

When none, it seemed, would keep him, w/talk’r otherwise, he coughed,

loud,

+drew himself up, proud + thus spoke:

“What is this Arthur’s house?

“Th’rumors which run through so many realms?

“Where now are your vanglories + y’r conquests?

“Y’r grand elegance’nd great anger’nd golden words?

“Now is th’rule’nd renown’v th’Table Round

Overthrown w/ th’words’v one speech?

“For all’r done in by dread, w/out one blow showed!”

W/ this he laughed so loud that the lord grayed;

Th’blood shot for shame to Arthur’s sure face

+ cheek.

He works up a wrath like th’wind;

As did all who were there.

Th’king, keen by his kind,

Now near th’knight stood t’glare

+

+ said, “Knight, by Heaven, thou’v asked f’r folly,

+ if’t be folly thy seek then folly shall find ye.

I know here no man’v games who’s aghast at thy great words;

now give me thy axe, for our God’s sake,

+ I shall break what bones thy body has.”

Lightly Arthur leapt t’lay a hand upon th’knight

+ fiercely that freak dismounts.

Now has arthur his axe’nd has gripp’d its handle,

+ sternly he swings it about, w/ thought to strike.

Th’knight stood stiff + stood on high,

higher here than any in the house by a head

+ more—

W/ stern assuredness he stood’nd stoked’is beard,

+ w/’a dire countenance he dropped down his coat,

no more daunted nor dismayed by Arthur’s display

than if a boy from th’beach’ad brought him wine

to drink.

Gawain, that sat by the queen,

to the king his head inclined:

”I beseech now w/words that are plain

that this melly might not be mine.”

“Would ye, worthiest lord,” t’th’king quoth Gawain,

“Bid me from this bench, t’stand by ye there,

“so that I–w.out discourtesy–may leave this table.

“so that I–w.out discourtesy–may leave this table.

–+ if that my liege lady likend not ill–

I might come to y’r counsel before your great court?

“For–you see–I think it not seemly–as manners’r known t’me–,

“for such a haughty request t’be held so high in y’r hall

“(through y’r talented enough t’take’t t’task y’rself—)

“while so many so bold’r sitten upon y’r bench about ye,

“that under heaven I hope are no higher of will,

“nor better’v body, bent’nd battle-reared.”

“—I am th’weakest, I wot, +’v wit, feeblest,

+ least in love w/ life, t’quoth th’truth—”

“+ only f’r y’r being my uncle, am I t’be praised—

“no bounty but y’r blood in my body I know;

“+ since this note be so foolish it ought not be y’r folly t’follow

“but mine.”

“I have frayned of your first—let this folly fall t’me;

+ if my talk is not true, tell me, all, all’n this court, tell me—

but w/out blame.”

Then all th’

nobles converged around,

+ hence decided all th’same:

to release th’king with crown,

+ t’give Gawain th’game.

{ a couenant is made }

Commanded then th’king f’r th’knight to rise;

+ he rapidly rose, + readied himself right,

kneeled down before th’king, + clutched that axe

+ graciously he gave it, + lifted his hand,

+ gave him God’s blessing, + gladly bid him

that his heart + his hand should both be hardy.

Quoth the king,

“Cousin, set y’rself t’th’cut,

if thou strikes him right, readily I trust

that thou shall bear th’burden that he can make after——”

Gawain goes t’th’Gomen with axe’n hand

+

bold he waits, never dismayed.

Then speaks to Sir Gawain th’knight in green,

“Let’s repeat what’s been agreed before we go forward——

First, I ask thee, knight, how that thou be called +

I trust that thou will tell the truth——”

“In good faith,” quoth th’knight, “I am Gawain

that bid thee this blow + whatsoever follows after.

+ that in twelvemonths time I’ll take from thee another,

w/ what weapon that thou wills, +

w/ no one else but

myself.”

That other answered again,

“So sir knight as I might thrive

I’m so greatly glad, Gawain,

f’r this dint that thou shall drive.”

“Bi Gog,” quoth th’green knight. “I like


that I shall have by thy hand what I want here,

+ that thou has readily repeated—right +

complete—all’v th’covenant I ask’d’v th’king——


all


all save that thou shall swear, soldier, by thy honor, knight,

that thou shall search me out thyself, where-so-ever thou hopes

on earth I’ll be——

Make me an oath,

knight, as thou deals today before this rich court.

“Where will I find thee?” quoth Gawain. “Where is thy place?

By Him that wrought me, I never wot where thou lives.

I know thee not, knight, nor thy court, nor thy name.

Teach me th’route, tell me how thou is called,

+ I’ll work all my wit to find my way

there;

I’ll search, I swear, success, I swear, for sure.”

Then quoth th’green gomen t’Gawain th’noble:

“That is enough this New Year—it needs no more.

If I tell true,

then after thou strikes

+ thou has easily smitten me, then smartly I’ll teach thee

of my house and my home, and my own name,

+ then thou may call on me at my castle——

but

if I stay silent, then speed thou the better,

for thou may linger in thy land + look no further——

but enough!

Now take my grim weapon t’me

+ let us see how thou strikes.”

Gladly, sir, certainly,” quoth

Gawain; grim, that axe, he strokes.



{ the axe + the exit }

Th’green knight promptly took his place upon th’ground,

he bent his head a little bit to reveal th’flesh’v ‘is neck

(his long lovely locks laid o’er his crown),

+ let his naked neck bear readiness.

Gawain gripped th’green knight’s axe’nd raised it high—

left foot firm t’th’ground—

swift on th’naked neck, Gawain let it down

That man’s sharp stroke shattered the bones

+ sank through th’fair flesh + sheared th’neck in twain—

the blade of bright steel bit the ground.

The fair head fell from th’neck + hit the earth——

that green head

that fell, that forth rolled, that struck many feet——

Blood sprayed from the body that gleamed

green

+ neither fell nor faltered; the

green freak

stoutly stood + started forth upon stiff legs

+ horribly reached out where the knights stood +

seized his pleasing head, + lifted it up at once

+ then turned to’is horse, took up the bridal,

stepped into his stirrups + straddled the saddle.

By the hair he holds his head in his hand

+ on’is saddle th’knight steadily sits

as if no mishap had troubled him, though headless he was

indeed

He twisted his headless trunk about,

that ugly body that’s broken;

many a one felt fear + doubt

by the time his speech was spoken.


He held up high his head w/ his hand

+ addressed his face to the dearest on the dias;

eye lids lifted wide

he speaks w/’is mouth

|| as you may now hear:

“Look,

Gawain. Be ready to go as thou vowed,

to seek faithfully till thou find me

as thou’ve vowed in this hall—w/in the hearing of these knights.

To the Green Chapel go, I charge thee, make your way there to get

your blow—such a blow as thou has dealt deserves

to be readily returned on New Year’s morn.

Many men know me—th’knight of th’Green Chapel.

For this reason, you won’t fail t’find me—unless y’r frightened.

Therefore come, otherwise be called forever faint of heart.”

W/ a rough roar he twisted the reign +

rode out through the hall door, head in hand,

hard so that fire from th’flint flies from beneath his horse’s hooves.

Neither do they know from whence he came than to where he would go to next.

What then?

King Arthur + Knight Gawain there

laugh + grin at th’green story,

yet + nevertheless they declare

it a miracle sent to those many.


Though the court’s king——

Arthur——

at heart had wonder

He let no uncertainty be seen, + spoke

to the comely queen w/ courteous speech,

“Dear Dame, don’t be dismayed to-day——

never!

Well becomes such craft upon Christmas.

No. Don’t be dismayed to-day.

Now,

we like entertainments, to laugh + to sing

carols among these kind knights + ladies,

+ now,

I may well address my meal, my ale, my wine——

for now I’ve seen a selly I may not soon forsake!”

+

Arthur glanced at Gawain + gamely said,

“Now sir, hang up the axe, it’s had enough’ve’a cut

for all men t’marvel who might look on it.”

+ it was done, hung above the high dias, against a tapestry, hung

for all men t’marvel who might look on it

+ by truth t’tell, there to tell th’wonder.

Then, Arthur + Gawain turned to th’table that brought those knights together

the king + the good knight + the keen men he served

of all delights double, as dearest might fall;

w/ all manner of meat + merriment both——

w/ wealth they spent that day

on Earth.

|| Now Sir Gawain think well:

what thou took to thy hand

is adventure that’s a trial,

a danger that thou can’t bend.






____
Adam Golaski
is the author of Color Plates and Worse Than Myself. He co-edits for Flim Forum Press, and is the editor of New Genre. Check in on Adam at Little Stories.