Part 3, lines 1126-1557 Notes from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Part 3, lines 1126-1557

Most everyone in the castle woke before dawn, the Christmas guests packing and calling for their horses. The lord of the castle was awake as well, and not the last to be ready to ride. After mass and a hasty breakfast, he and his men, one hundred in all, gathered their hounds and set off to the hunt, bugles blaring. Wild animals shook at the sound of the hounds; deer bolted for the hills. The male deer were allowed to pass; the lord had decreed according to the law of the season that no male deer be killed. Does, however, were driven into valleys and shot through with arrows. Deer that escaped the arrows were caught and cut down by keeper, whose greyhounds were so huge that they could catch a deer at a run and tear it right down. And thus the lord rode and yelled until darkness, frantic with delight.

All the while Gawain lay in his lovely bed, until long after the sun rose. Sleeping, he suddenly heard the door to his room open; he raised his head and looked. It was the lady of the castle, approaching his bed. Gawain, embarrassed, dropped to his pillow and pretended to sleep, keeping the lady waiting as she opened the curtain surrounding his bed and sat down at the bed's edge. Gawain wondered why she had come, then thought to himself that it would be better to ask and find out then pretend to sleep. So he tossed and turned, pretending to awaken, then feigned surprise at seeing the lady of the castle upon opening his eyes.

Topic Tracking: Chivalry 7

The lady told Gawain that his sleep was innocent; anyone could catch him, and catch him she had. She teased that she would tie him to his bed. Gawain assured her that he would be her servant, but he requested that she leave him for a moment so he could dress and get out of bed. But she declined, saying she had better plans; she would lock him where he lay so she could talk to this knight she'd caught. For she knew who he was, Gawain himself, honored the world over for his perfect chivalry. And her lord was away in the woods, and the rest of the castle was asleep, and his door was locked with a bolt, and she would not lose her chance to be with a man so loved. And Gawain replied:

"'Lord!' said Gawain. 'How lucky I am,
Lady, not to be the knight you speak of:
To take that kind of honor on my own
Would be sinful; I know myself too well.
By God, I'd be glad, if it pleased you, to offer you
Some different service, in word or deed
To serve such excellence would be endless delight."
Part 3, lines 1241-1247

Topic Tracking: Chivalry 8

The lady replied that any self-respecting woman of good breeding would want to hold Gawain captive in her castle, just as she herself did now. Gawain praised her "noble words;" again he denied their truth and his worthiness as a knight, saying that such perfection could only be assigned to her. Back and forth they went all morning, talking of many things, the lady pretending to love him and Gawain speaking to her with care and tact. Then, knowing it was time, she took her leave. But before she left, she looked back at Gawain, saying that he was obliged to repay her. Gawain asked her what for. She said that if Gawain's heart were truly lined with courtly virtue, he never would have gone so long and not kissed her. Gawain responded that he would kiss her as she wished; she need not ask again. The lady thus walked to the bed, bent down to his face, wound her arms around him, and kissed him. Then, bidding each other farewell, the lady left. Gawain swiftly rose, called for his clothes, dressed, went happily to mass, ate a worthy meal, then spent the day making merry with the lord's wife and the old woman.

In the woods, the lord reveled in his own brand of pleasure, killing so many deer before sundown that no one could count them. Huntsmen and keepers came together and piled up the bodies. Knights took the best deer for themselves, and ordered them quartered and carved. The throat was cut, then the gullet scraped and tied. The legs were cut and skinned, then the belly was broken open and the intestines pulled out. Carving the shoulder bone loose, they pulled it trough a small slit, keeping the hide whole. Then the breast was halved, the carcass ripped from the throat to the fork in the front legs, then cut along the backbone to the haunch. The head and neck were cut off, and the flanks carved away from the spine. The inedible parts were thrown to the ravens as a hole was pushed through the ribs so that each carcass could be hung. Each man in the hunting party took pieces of the kill, according to his rank. Then the livers, the lungs, and the tripe were placed on a fresh-flayed skin with blood-soaked bread and fed to the hounds. The hunters returned home with their kill, their bugles again blaring.

Topic Tracking: Courage 5

When the party returned to the castle, the lord found Gawain sitting quietly by a bright fire. They greeted each other with delight, and the lord invited everyone in the castle into the hall. Then he commanded that his venison be brought to him, and asked Gawain to note how noble the deer were that he had killed. He asked Gawain if he had won his admiration; Gawain said it was the best game he had seen in seven winters. The lord then gave Gawain the venison, because according to the agreement in their game it was his. Gawain announced that he would do the same for the lord; he wrapped his arms around the lord's neck and kissed him courteously, saying that the kiss was all he had won that day. The lord was pleased, and said that Gawain's winnings were better than his. He asked Gawain just where he had gotten that prize, but Gawain said he would have none of that; their agreement demanded only that they report the winnings, not their source. Then the men laughed, and sat down to supper.

After dinner they sat by a fire drinking the best of wines, and agreed to make the same bargain to exchange their daily winnings on the next day. Then they took their leave and went to bed. The lord was up the next morning once the cock had crowed three times, and he and his men heard mass, ate breakfast, and were gone with their hounds before dawn. Quickly the pack of hounds caught a scent, and hurried to the chase, baying so loudly that the rocks and cliffs rang. The hunters urged them to the chase, through forests and rocks, until the animal they chased was trapped. Then suddenly the animal came crashing out of the underbrush at a line of men: it was an enormous boar, which though it had been driven from its herd from old age, was the hoariest, fiercest, biggest boar in the world. The boar drove three men to the ground and kept on running, though the men yelled at it. The men gave chase, but the boar often turned and sliced open a hound with his snout or routed the men. The hunters rained arrows upon it, which did nothing to pierce his steel-like skin. Through all of this, the lord galloped behind the boar, fearless, calling to his hunters.

And all the while Gawain lay peaceful in his bed, until early in the morning when the lord's wife came to visit him again in his room, looking for him to chase his mind. They exchanged courteous good mornings.

Topic Tracking: Chivalry 9

The lady lamented, rather ironically, that she had spent all the previous day teaching Gawain a lesson, and he had already forgotten it. He asked her what lesson that was, and apologized to her. She said the lesson had been one of kissing; whenever a lady's looks ask for it, a knight had to claim his prize. Gawain said he would be loathe to seek an unwanted kiss; the lady was incredulous, and said he was far too strong to accept a "no" from a lady. Gawain responded, saying that force and threats are indecent with friends, and unwilling gifts are gifts in vain. But he offered her his lips to kiss, and she kissed him well.

The lady asked Gawain just how, as a knight known so far and wide as he, and, being that a knight's reputation rests on his loyalty to love, he could find a woman like herself at his bedside not once but twice and still not reveal to her one word of love. A knight such as himself should easily open himself to such an innocent girl, and teach her the skill of love; anything less would suggest him to be unknightly. She thus begged Gawain to let her study "love's high game" with him. Gawain responded that even if he taught her all he knew, and recited romances to her, she was already a hundred times more versed in love than he. But the lady insisted on tempting him still, and Gawain remained gracefully evasive to her advances. At the end of the morning, she offered him a courtly kiss, and left him.

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