Part 3, lines 1558-1997 Notes from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Part 3, lines 1558-1997

Sir Gawain rose from bed, made ready for mass, then sat down to a meal. He spent the day sporting with the lady of the castle and the old woman, while the lord of the castle was out hunting the enormous boar. The boar broke the backs of his best hounds, but was spurred to exhaustion by the hunters' arrows, where it took refuge in a rocky hole over a river, sharpening his tusks and waiting. The hunters wanted to root him out but they were too tired and afraid - so many men had been gored by the boar that they were held in fear for their lives.

Topic Tracking: Fear 5

The lord rode up, saw the scene, jumped lightly from his horse, and drew his sword. The boar saw the sword and his hackles rose; the hunters feared for their lord's life. The boar lunged from his hole and into the river just as the lord was fording it, and the two met in frothing white water. But the lord had timed the charge and aimed his sword so that it plunged into the boar's neck, and down into its heart. The boar fell, and as he did the hounds and the men fell to him biting and pulling.

Topic Tracking: Courage 6

The mens' horns sounded in triumph, and the master of hounds set his dogs baying. A man trained in the art set about carving up the boar. He cut off the head and mounted it on a post, then cut deep along the backbone and hauled out the intestines. These were broiled on coals and fed to the dogs dressed with bread. Then the meat was carved out, as were the edible guts, and the whole thing was lashed to a heavy rod. The carcass was carried home, and the head, high on its pole, was paraded in front of the lord. To him the trip back home to Gawain seemed longer than the hunt itself.

At the sight of the knight, the lord laughed and gave a loud greeting; the lords and ladies of the castle came running. The lord told them all of the day's travails, and Gawain gave him the praise he deserved as he examined the enormous head. And the lord gave the head to Gawain, saying it was his according to their bargain. To keep his end of the bargain, Gawain threw his arms around the lord and kissed him twice, saying their bond had been kept. The lord replied that he could not compete; Gawain had won the day again. The two men sat down to cloth covered tables and laughed together while servant bustled around them, serving meat. They sang Christmas songs, and were as cheerful as men could be; and all the while, the lord's lady sat beside Gawain, giving him an endless stream of loving glances and winks. Gawain was stunned and angry with himself, though he kept his gracious and kind, regardless of how he felt. Later, after dinner, the two men sat together by a fire in a private chamber. The lord wanted to play their game for another day, but Gawain said he had to leave, to make his way to the green chapel. But the lord insisted that the green chapel was not far; he need not leave until New Year's day. He told Gawain to rest another day in his castle, while he hunted again.

So the next morning, while Gawain slept peacefully, the lord set out to the woods once again. They released their hounds by a wood, and soon the dogs had picked up the trail of a fox; a beagle sounded the alarm and the rest of the dogs came running, keeping the trail fresh. Seeing the fox, the dogs chased him through the underbrush, but he evaded them at all turns. He led the lord and his men on a chase all the way through midday, hiding in the wood, swift and clever.

And while Gawain slept, the lord's wife denied herself sleep and went to Gawain's chamber for the third time. She wore a beautiful mantle, and a jeweled net for her hair. Her face and throat were bare, and she wore a dress deliberately cut very low both in front and in back. She called Gawain awake, scolding him softly for sleeping so long. Gawain had been deep in a miserable dream, but he awoke at the speech. He had tossed and turned all night with a troubled mind, remembering his fate at the green chapel; how he had to take a blow from the Green Knight without fighting back.

Topic Tracking: Fear 6

Gawain gathered his wits and struggled awake. She laughed and bent to him, giving him a graceful kiss.

"And seeing how beautiful she was,
And how dressed, and her face, and her body, and her flesh,
So white, joy swelled in his heart.
With gentle smiles they started to talk,
And their talk was of joyful things, they spoke only
Of bliss.
Words came flowing free,
Each was pleased
With the other; and only Mary
Could Save him from this.
That beautiful princess pressed him so hard,
Urged him so near the limit, he needed
Either to take her love or boorishly
Turn her away. To offend like a boor
Was bad enough; to fall into sin
Would be worse, betraying the lord of the house.
'God willing,' he thought, 'it will not happen!'"
Part 3, lines 1760-1776

Topic Tracking: Chivalry 10

The lady told Gawain that shame was all he deserved for refusing a lady sitting in his bed with her heart laid open for him; unless, of course he was refusing her for another love which he already had. Gawain responded once and for all that he had no lover, "and none will have for now" (l. 1791). The lady said those were ugly words, for they were the truth, and the truth had hurt her; she would take her leave. She kissed him, then asked Gawain at least to give her some gift so that she could remember him. Gawain said he had nothing to give her, no trifle he could give her would be worthy of her beauty and honor; he had come alone on a pilgrimage, and he had no porters with gifts. She responded by saying that if she would have nothing from him, she would at least give him her golden ring. The ring was set with stones, and dazzling enough to be a king's ransom. But Gawain declined, saying he would not accept a one-way gift.

Then the lady insisted that he take her belt instead; it was not as costly. It was green silk, embroidered with gold, and woven with stones. Gawain refused, saying he could not touch treasure or gold until his pilgrimage was complete. But the lady continued to press the belt upon him. She told him that although it seemed a trifle, it was a magic belt, and any man who wore it could never be hurt or killed in any way.

"Gawain hesitated, his heart
Reached for protection, like a thief for a gem:
He could come to that chapel, and take that stroke,
And with this glorious device walk off
Part 3, lines 1855-1859

Topic Tracking: Fear 7

Gawain allowed her to push the belt on him, and he accepted it as her gift on her condition that he hide the gift from her husband. Gawain thanked her, gracious as never before, and she tapped three kisses on his cheek before leaving. After she was gone, Gawain dressed and hid the belt carefully so he could find it later. Then he walked to the castle chapel and sought a priest to have his confession heard. And he confessed all his sins, and prayed to God, and begged the priest for absolution. At the end, his soul was so clean that he would have welcomed the Day of Judgment. He spent the rest of the day making merry with the lord's wife and the old woman as never before.

In the fields, the lord was still hunting the fox. The lord spied the fox cutting across a grove; he waited, drew his sword, and swung. The fox dodged the blow, but pulled back long enough as it did to be caught by a hound that chased it. A horde of dogs fell on the fox, and bit him to death. The lord dismounted and lifted the fox above his head to keep it from the dogs. The hunters ran up, and bellowed and cheered for the kill. The party headed home in the twilight, and finally arrived at the castle, where Gawain sat at ease by a fire. When he greeted the lord, he said he had to keep his end of their bargain first; he threw his arms around the lord and vigorously kissed him three times. The lord replied that all he had in return to give was a miserable fox skin; three kisses were as good as a dozen bedraggled hides.

The story of the hunt was told, and the two men sang and ate together. They drank to the ladies, and exchanged jests, and Gawain took a humble and courtly farewell of the lord, and asked him for a guide to take him to the green chapel. The lord said he would have anything he wanted, and assigned a servant to guide him through the hills. Then Gawain thanked him, and exchanged kisses sadly with the two ladies. Every man regretted his going, lamenting the departure of his honor. But Gawain was led to his room to sleep.

"But whether he slept or not I dare not
Say; he could have remembered many
Yet let him lie as he will,
His adventure ringing
In his ears. Sit still
A moment more, and I'll sing it."
Part 3, lines 1991-1997

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