Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Part 4 (lines 1998–2531)

1

He did not leave the lace belt, with lady’s gift: For his own good, Gawain did not forget that! When he had strapped the sword on his swelling hips. The knight lapped his loins with his love-token twice, Quickly wrapped it with relish around his waist.

2

‘Bide there!’ said one on the bank above his head, ‘And you shall swiftly receive what I once swore to give you.’ Yet for a time he continued his tumult of scraping, Turning away as he whetted, before he would descend. Then he thrust himself round a thick crag through a hole Whirling round a wedge of rock with a frightful weapon, A Danish axe duly honed for dealing the blow[.]

3

Up went the axe at once and hurtled down straight At the naked neck with its knife-like edge. Though it swung down savagely, slight was the wound, A mere snick on the side, so that the skin was broken. Through the fair fat to the flesh fell the blade, And over his shoulders the shimmering blood shot to the ground. When Sir Gawain saw his gore glinting on the snow, He leapt feet close together a spear’s length away[.]

4

‘For that braided belt you wear belongs to me, I am well aware that my own wife gave it you. Your conduct and your kissings are completely known to me, And the wooing by my wife—my work set it on. I instructed her to try you, and you truly seem To be the most perfect paladin ever to pace the earth. . . . But here your faith failed you, you flagged somewhat, sir, Yet it was not for a well-wrought thing, nor for wooing either, But for love of your life, which is less blameworthy.

5

‘But your girdle,’ said Gawain, ‘God requite you for it! Not for the glorious gold shall I gladly wear it . . . But as a sign of my sin I shall see it often, Remembering with remorse, when I am mounted in glory, The fault and faithlessness of the perverse flesh, How it tends to attract tarnishing sin. So when pride shall prick me for my prowess in arms, One look at this love-lace will make lowly my heart.’