An Arthurian Miscellany at sacred-texts.com
SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT: A PLAY
THE REVEREND JAMES YEAMES
ACT I. NEW YEAR'S DAY AT CAMELOT.
Opening Chorus. "All Hail, All Hail! The Glad New Year!"
Carol. "Pass the year into yesterdays."
"Knights and Ladies dance and sing!"
(Minuet and Waltz movements)
ACT II. GAWAIN'S CHAMBER, HALLOWE'EN.
Chorus. "To morrow is All Hallows' Day!"
Dagonet's Song,--"The spooks and sprites are out to-night."
ACT III. THE BARON'S CASTLE. CHRISTMASTIDE.
Lullaby. "Hush, hush! Goodnight! Goodnight!"
ACT IV. THE GREEN CHAPEL. NEW YEAR'S DAY.
ACT V. IN ARTHUR'S HALL.
THE GREEN KNIGHT.
FAME, afterwards DUKE OF WIRRAL.
GOLD, afterwards PHELOT, First Messenger.
PLEASURE, afterwards LADY OF THE CASTLE.
HUMPHREY, Second Messenger.
RALPH, the Kitchen-knave.
Court Ladies, Servants, Knights, Squires, Pages, etc.
The Poem upon which this play is based is contained in a manuscript of the fourteenth century, preserved in the British Museum, London.
The story is necessarily modified in order to bring it within the appreciation of boys, and to adapt it, in its representation, to their powers and resources.
The whole of Act II, and of Act III (except "The Lady") is an interpolation. The character of Dagonet, as also that of the Kitchen-knave, has been introduced to supply an element of humor.
The source of the main incidents in the story is a prose rendering of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" by Jessie L. Weston.
Of this Middle-English Arthurian Romance M. Gaston Paris has said: It is "The jewel of the English mediæval literature." To those who would test the justice of this eulogy we commend Miss Weston's book, which is published by The New Amsterdam Book Co., New York.
The Green Knight, intruding upon a New Year's Festival at Camelot, makes a bold challenge. Gawain accepts the challenge.
In Act II, Merlin's magic art brings to Gawain visions of the temptations which await him on his quest. Pursuing his quest, Gawain arrives on Christmas Eve at the unknown Baron's castle. Here, the temptations prefigured in vision meet him in reality.
Resuming the journey, he reaches the Green Chapel on New Year's Day, and keeps the appointed tryst with the Green Knight. The Green Knight reveals himself, and explains how all that has happened has been a test of the honor and valor of the Knights of the Round Table.
Gawain and his faithful squire, Dagonet, return to Camelot, to be received with favor by King Arthur and his Court.
ACT I. NEW YEAR'S DAY AT CAMELOT.
In Arthur's Hall.
Platform with Banquet-table furnished for the feast; with candles, silver cups, dishes, flagons, etc. Window in rear. Green bough and Battle-axe. (The handle should not be less than four feet long, and the blade at least a foot wide at the edge. Blade can be made of folded cardboard covered with tinfoil.)
ACT II. HALLOWE'EN AT CAMELOT.
Couch, candles, etc. Jack-o-lanterns (?) Colored lights, etc. Whistle, rattle, etc., to produce appropriate noises (behind the scenes) in Dagonet's song.
In the scene at the back of the stage is set a picture frame, at least seven feet high and four feet wide. Here, painted on scrim, stretched tight, is a picture of King Arthur. In this frame, as Visions, Fame, Gold, and Pleasure, in turn appear. The back of the stage must be kept dark until the Vision is to be seen. Then light from behind (an electric hooded light from top of the frame at the back is best) should be thrown directly on the Figure. The picture of Arthur then disappears, to be seen again when the lights behind are shut off and the lights in front are thrown on.
ACT III. THE BARON'S CASTLE. CHRISTMAS TIDE.
Guest Room of the Castle.
Helmet, shield, etc. (for Gawain) which Dagonet is polishing. Tin cover, dipper, spit or long spoon for Kitchen-knave. Handsome sword for First Mess. Casket with pearls and jewels for Second M. Large gilded key. Jewelled ring for Lady, also girdle of green and gold with gold tassels or pendants. Torches or candles for servants.
ACT IV. THE GREEN CHAPEL. NEW YEAR'S DAY.
Battle-axe. (The same axe used in Act I., will serve. The edge of the blade should be touched with red ochre so as to leave a red mark on Gawain's neck at the third stroke.) The Green Knight wears the same covering green cloak or tunic, etc., as in Act I. but underneath is his splendid dress as the Baron. The Girdle, worn by Gawain.
ACT V. IN ARTHUR'S HALL.
Scene. Same as Act I. but with dais and throne, etc. Battle-axe hanging above the dais, as in Scene I. Excalibur. A green sash for each knight and lady. White knight's tunic, sword and spurs for Dagonet. Each knight should carry or wear a sword. Esquires and pages a shield or spear, or both.
In Act I. the high table should be set on a low platform near the back scene, which must show a window, through which the King and others may seem to look upon the courtyard.
In Act II. the back scene must leave at least two feet behind, so that Figures may stand behind picture-frame, and pass in and out. The rear of the scene should be kept dark. Each Figure poses as a picture. Lights from the front must be so arranged as to produce this effect. As the time of this Act is Hallowe'en, the lights and setting (before and after visions) should be in harmony with the hour.
In Act III. a handsome couch is needed for Gawain. Gawain's shield:--In upper half, pentangle (a continuous line interlacing at the five points) of gold or red. In lower half, head or figure of Virgin, with gold nimbus, on blue ground.
Couch at R. Table and chair at L. Fireplace, with logs burning on the hearth. Other logs ready for Dagonet to put on the fire. If you have electric light it is easy to represent a blazing fire; if not, a good imitation can be made with red and gold tinsel paper and grey wool for smoke.
Act IV. The back scene should be set two or three feet from the rear wall. The arch of the chapel may be filled with transparent cloth so as to show red or green lights burned behind. By some means, as of a rattle, a noise of grinding a weapon must be made behind the scenes.
Act V. The scene is the same as in Act I. The platform and table have given place to dais and throne, and the surroundings can be arranged so as to produce a new effect.
In Acts I, III, and V, the back scene may be set at the full depth of the stage, so as to leave room in front. In Acts II and IV, space must be left behind the back scene.
For Knights, a sleeveless tunic, with cross or shield (with crest or arms). Tunics may be white, or colored, or even parti-colored (as black and orange, purple and yellow, etc.) They may be worn with or without belt, and have separate sleeves of another material and color. Full trunks, or knee trousers may be worn; and common underwear dyed makes a fair substitute for tight long hose. Low shoes with buckles, or boots. Consult pictures of mediæval dress. Some King Arthur books (Miss Macleod's "King Arthur and His Noble Knights," e.g. ) have suggestive drawings.
Bright cambric, or cheese cloth, or sateen is a very good material.
Dagonet wears the usual jester's costume,--except in Act IV and V. He must then be dressed as for a journey, in some sober color. In the last act he is invested at his knighting with white tunic, spurs, and sword. The King does not wear the royal robe in the first act, but should be dressed as magnificently as possible. In the last act he wears crown and robe. [Morgan-le-Fay may appear as described in the Third Act. She should be dressed as an old woman, with a white wimple under chin, hood, and cloak. She does not speak, and the character is not absolutely necessary.]
(1) One reliable boy should be made property-man, and should have a list of things required in each scene, and see that they are where they ought to be. Other boys should serve as (2) prompter, (3) scene-shifters, and (4) in charge of the lights, and (5) curtain. The good management of these matters is as important as the work of the actors.
SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT
NEW YEAR'S DAY AT CAMELOT
(King, Queen, Merlin, Gawain, Agravain, Lancelot, etc., at High Table
Knights, pages, etc., with Dagonet, in the Hall.)
CHORUS-- (discovered as Curtain rises.)
All hail! All hail! the Glad New Year,
With song and dance and hearty cheer,
We meet, we greet, the Glad New Year!
We meet, we greet, the Glad New Year! (Repeat chorus.)
(Enter Old Year.)
But who are ye that feast and sing,
While fleeting Time is on the wing?
And I, the Old Year, bent and grey,
Go tottering on my wasting way?
Farewell, Farewell! The Good Old Year!
We keep in mind thy memories dear!
Of glowing hearth, and verdant field,
Of summer's flowers, and autumn's yield:
Thy work is done, thy course is run,
Spent thy last day, set thy last sun.
Hail and Farewell! Hail and Farewell! The Good Old Year!
'Tis well! I have not lived in vain,
All is not loss; like golden grain
Stored in the past, my deeds and days
Live in your lives, and live always!
(Old Year retires.)
But see He comes, Old Time new-born,
Fair as the flowers, bright as the morn,
The young New Year! The Glad New Year!
All hail, All hail! The Glad New Year!
With song and dance, etc.
Behold the green and goodly Spring!
The old must go,--the new year bring,
Grass to the field, leaf to the tree,
And what has been, again shall be.
And Summer, too, all crowned with flowers,
With song of birds, and perfumed bowers,
(Enter Autumn and Winter.)
And Autumn, rich with fruits and grain,
And Winter, whitening lake and plain!
All hail! All hail! The Glad New Year!
With song and dance and hearty cheer,
We meet, we greet the glad New Year,
We meet, we greet the Young New Year;
With budding Spring, and Summer's prime,
And Autumn's store, and Winter-time,
Hail and Farewell! Hail and Farewell!
The Changing Years!
(Exit--New Year and Seasons.)
(Enter Green Knight, green bough in one hand, huge battle-axe in the
GREEN KNIGHT.--Where is the ruler of this fold? I would gladly look upon that hero, and have speech with him.
(Dagonet creeps behind knight, touches weapons, grins and grimaces.)
KING ARTHUR.--Sir, thou are welcome to this place. Lord of this hall am I, and men call me Arthur. Be seated at our board, and tarry with us a while, and what thy will is that shall we learn hereafter.
G.K.--Nay, 'twas not in mine errand to tarry. But, the praise of this thy folk and this thy city is lifted up on high, and thy warriors are holden for the best and most valiant of those who ride mail-clad to the fight. The wisest and the worthiest of the world are they, and well-proven in all knightly sports. And here, as I have heard tell, is fairest courtesy, therefore have I come hither at this time.
K.A.--Thou art welcome, Sir Knight. What then is thine errand?
G.K.--By the branch that I bear ye may be sure I come in peace, seeking no strife. For had I willed to journey in warlike guise, I have at home both hauberk and helm, shield and shining spear.
Since then, I seek no war, my raiment is that of peace. But if thou be so bold as all men tell, thou wilt freely grant me the boon I ask.
K.A.--Sir Knight, if thou cravest battle here, thou shalt not fail for lack of foe.
G.K.--Nay, I ask not fight. In faith, here are but beardless children. Were I clad in armour there is no man here might match me!
Therefore I ask in this court but for a Christmas jest,--for that it is Yule-tide and New Year, and there are many here fain for sport.
If any one in this hall holds himself so hardy, so bold both of blood and brain, as to dare to strike me one stroke for another, I will give him as a gift this axe, to handle as he may list, and I will abide the first blow, unarmed!
(Dagonet, behind the knight, pretends to lift the axe; mimics knight's
G.K.--If any knight be so bold as to prove my words let him come swiftly to me here and take this weapon. I quit claim to it,--he may keep it as his own, and I will abide his stroke.
Then shalt thou give me the right to deal him another,--the respite of a year and a day shall he have. Now, haste, and let see whether any here dare say aught!
(Knights, who have been frowning, and whispering to one another,
G.K.--What! Is this Arthur's Hall? And these the knights whose renown has run through many realms? Where are now your pride and your conquests, your fierce wrath and mighty words?
Now are the praise and renown of the Round Table o'erthrown by one man's speech: since all keep silence for dread, ere they have seen a blow!
K.A.-- (Springing to his feet and approaching the G. Knight)
Now, by heaven, foolish is thy asking, and thy folly shall find its fitting answer. I know no man aghast at thy great words. Give me here thine axe, and I shall grant thee the boon thou hast asked!
(K.A. grasps the axe and swings it round. The Green Knight strokes his beard, and draws down his coat, undismayed.)
GAWAIN.-- (leaning forward from his seat next the Queen.)
I beseech thee, my lord, let this venture be mine. If my liege lady think it not ill, bid me rise and stand by your side.
Surely it is not seemly that ye should undertake such a challenge, when there are so many bold knights in hall! Though I be the weakest, and the feeblest of wit, the less loss if my life be taken.
For, save that ye are mine uncle, naught is there in me to praise. No virtue is there in my body save your blood, and since this challenge is such folly that it beseems ye not to take it, let it fall to me who have asked ye first.
ALL-- (loudly) Aye, aye! Gawain! Gawain!
(Gawain rises, kneels down before the king and takes the axe, while the
king gives him his blessing.)
K.A.--See to it well, nephew, that thou give him but the one blow; and if thou strikest rightly, I trow thou shalt well abide the stroke he may give thee after!
G.K.-- (as Gawain advances.)
Make we our covenant, ere we go further. First, I ask thee, knight, thy name. Tell me truly, that I may know thee.
G.--In faith, Gawain am I called, who give thee this buffet, let what may come of it, and at this time twelve month will I take another at thine hand, with whatsoever weapon thou wilt, and none other.
G.K.--Sir Gawain, so may I thrive as I am fain to take this buffet at thine hand. It liketh me well that I shall take at thy fist that which I have asked here. Now swear me, by thy troth, to seek me thyself wherever thou hopest I may be found, and win such reward as thou dealest me this day.
GAWAIN.--Where shall I seek thee? Where is thy place? I wot not where thou dwellest; nor know I thee, knight, thy court, nor thy name.
But teach me truly all that pertaineth thereto, and tell me thy name, and I shall use all my wit to win my way to thee; and that I swear thee for sooth, and by my sure troth.
G.K.--It is enough, it needs no more. And if I tell thee truly when I have taken the blow and thou hast smitten me, then will I teach thee of my house and home, and my own name; then mayest thou ask thy road and keep covenant.
And if I waste no words, then farest thou the better; for thou canst dwell at thine ease in thy land and seek no further.
But now, Come to the court yard of this castle-keep, and take thy toll, and let see how thou strikest!
(They go out, accompanied by a group of knights. The king and
queen rise and look out of the window--Agravain and Merlin on either side.)
AGRAVAIN.--Aha! See! The Green Knight kneels and bares his neck! His long, light locks are thrown upward over his poll! Gawain, grip well thine axe!
KING A.--By Heaven, a mighty swing!
QUEEN.--See! The head falls! (shuddering, and covering her eyes) I'll look no longer!
(Sinks fainting into her seat.)
MERLIN.--What devil's marvel is this? See! the headless knight rises to his feet! He lifts the fallen head! He sets it in place again! I see the eyes flash and the lips move! Some dark, infernal magic is here!
(Noise without. Knights enter--all exclaiming and gesticulating--followed by Gawain.)
KING A.--Peace, peace! Let one speak. Tell us, Lancelot, if thou canst, what wizardry is this?
LANCE.--My lord, I know not; save that I saw the Green Knight bow his head, and lay his long locks on his crown. Gawain gripped the axe, and raised it on high. He let the blow fall but lightly, but it clave the neck in two, and the fair head fell to the earth!
QUEEN.--Just as I saw it, although I thought my eyes were cheated by a weird and ghastly vision.
LANCE.--But the knight neither faltered nor fell. He started forward, and with outstretched hand, lifted the head by the hair, and placed it on his shoulders again!
(Enter Green Knight. Knights fall back. G.K. faces Gawain and the king.)
GREEN K.--Look Gawain, that thou art ready to go as thou hast promised, and seek leally until thou find me, even as thou to-day hast sworn.
Come thou, I charge thee, to the Green Chapel; and if thou askest, thou shalt not fail to find me. Therefore, it behooves thee to come, or yield thee as a recreant!
(Exit Green Knight.)
(The court, silent and astonished, gaze after him, until each turns
and they look and laugh at each other.)
KING ARTHUR.--(turning to the Queen) Dear lady, 'tis well that thou smilest again! And all the court smiles with thee!
Now, fair nephew, hang up the great axe, since it has hewn enough.
As for us, we will be merry. For the New Year should be greeted with good will and blithesome cheer, and fair carols of knights and ladies.
Where is the gay company who a while since cheered us with their song? (Music) Do not I hear music? Bid them enter.
(Enter New Year. Seasons, etc., Chorus.)
CAROL.--Dance with vocal music.
Pass the year into yesterdays,
Blither days are coming,
Where the snow fills the drifted ways,
Bees will soon be humming!
Flowers will bloom where snow-wreaths twine,
Purple clusters weight the vine,
Glowing suns will brightly shine
In the new time coming!
Pass the year into yesterdays,
Blither days are coming!
Pass the year into yesterdays,
Hail the glad time coming!
Knights and Ladies! Knights and Ladies!
Dance and sing!
Squires and Pages! Squires and Pages!
Hail the glad to-morrow, hail the glad New Year!
And for royal Arthur raise a loyal cheer!
HALLOWE'EN AT CAMELOT
Scene.--Gawain's Chamber. (Enter Dagonet, surrounded by a merry company.)
To-morrow is All Hallowe'ens' Day,
Till midnight we may sport and play,
For it is Hallowe'en!
Both witch and warlock are abroad,
And fairies trip it on the sward.
For once by mortals seen!
The spooks and sprites are out to-night,
Both bogies black and pixies bright,
And sheeted ghosts in ghastly white,
(I shrink and shiver with affright!)
What would you do? Now, tell me that,
If spectres lean and goblins fat
Crowded on you? Would you stand pat?
(Noises) --What's that? What's that? What's that?
Chorus.--Why, that's the CAT!
I walked out in the castle yard,
The bridge was hung, the gates were barred,
Yet, spite of bolt, and watch and ward,
And sentinel and armed guard,--
Tall, shadowy forms in cloak and cowl,
Gaunt skeletons with fleshless jowl,
From crypt and tomb came forth to prowl--
(Noises) --What's that? What's that? What's that?
Chorus.--Why, that's an OWL!
I sweated, shivered,--cold and hot!
The while they closer to me got;
Of sins I minded quite a lot,
My prayers, alas! were all forgot!
With wagging jaws they stood and grinned,
(Oh, could I up a tree have shinned!)
But to the spot I felt as pinned--
(Noises) --What's that? What's that? What's that?
Chorus.--Why, that's the WIND!
And one, all clad in scarlet gear,
With horns and hoofs, and trident spear,
And barbed tail, drew slowly near,--
Methought I should have died with fear!
And some with wings and ears, like bats,
Round-bellied men with peaked hats,
Who mopped and mowed, like Cheshire cats--
(Noises) --What's that? What's that? What's that?
Chorus.--Oh, Rats! Rats! RATS!
To-morrow is All Hallows' Day,
Till midnight we will sport and play,
For it is Hallowe'en!
GAWAIN.--Cease, cease, ye noisy crew! The hour is late, and I fain would sleep.
(Takes off robe and moves toward couch. Lights lowered and lanterns
extinguished as singers withdraw. Weird sounds.)
G. (sitting on the bed) --I am full weary, for the day has been long. Yet mine eyes wake wide, and sleep seems far from me.
I must rise with the dawn, for the morrow is a holy day.
And then I set out on my quest, for it is within a month of the year and a day on which I am to find the Green Knight.
(Lights tapers at shrine.)
(Crossing himself) --God and all good angels guard me!
(Lies down and covers himself.)
(Soft music. Sleeps.)
MERLIN.-- (Waves wand over sleeper, as if invoking a spell.)
Sleep, sleep well, my son! But, sleeping, thou shalt have strange dreams, and see visions of mystic meaning. The time of thy fiery testing is at hand, and I will strive to fit thee for the hour of trial.
(Approaches picture in frame, and waves his wand. As he vanishes the scene is darkened, lights are thrown on the picture, and the figure of Fame appears.)
Rings the world with Arthur's name,
And Lancelot, of deathless fame;
And thou, Gawain, may'st gain renown,
And win, perchance, a kingly crown!
But go no further on this quest,
What boots it to pursue a jest?
Seek not the Chapel nor Green Knight,
Put on thine helm and armor bright,
Strike thou for fame and royalty,
The tribes of Cambria beckon thee!
The yoke of Arthur from thee fling,
A freeman, thou mayest be a king!
MERLIN.-- (Appearing as Figure vanishes.)
Methinks Gawain is strong for e'en so subtle and mighty a tempting.
Crown and Kingdom! Fame and Glory! Aye, but the price!
Yet (looking down upon the sleeper) thou mightest be royal,--if thou couldst be disloyal!
For the marches of Wales are all in revolt, and the wild Kymri would hail thee as their lord, if thou wouldst lead them against the king!
But see, he wakes!
(Waves wand over picture and retires.)
GAWAIN.-- (Rousing,--stretches,--rubs eyes.)
By my troth, a strange vision!
But, was it all a dream? Methought I saw a solid form, all clad in knightly guise, and heard a voice that hailed Gawain as king!
The King! The King! Who but Arthur is king? (Points to picture.)
But what strange spell is this which loads my eyelids as if with weights of lead? Awhile I could not sleep; anon I cannot wake!
(Falls back drowsily and sinks into a deep slumber. Figure appears as picture in the frame as before.)
What is FAME but a name? And what Glory, but a dream?
Either is a breath, each a vanishing gleam!
But GOLD, GOLD, GOLD! Who hath it, all doth hold.
All that is solid can be bought with this treasure,
Here is the price which procures every Pleasure:
Jewels, wine, gear and grain, and feasting without measure!
Speed thee, where Dee's river runs,
There, within thrice seven suns,
Castle gates shall ope to thee,
Cambria's sons thy liegemen be.
Arthur's tyrant sway disown,
Thine may be a royal throne!
All Caerleon's hoards despoil,
Lord of men and mines and soil;
Rich beyond the wildest dream,
Come, Gawain, where treasures gleam:
Shines thy star of Destiny,
Wales and victory wait for thee!
MERLIN.-- (appearing) --Now shall we see if Gold be more potent than Glory. Methinks, Gawain, gallant knight, thou art not to be bought! But, of a truth, he must needs be strong who would resist both Call of Fame and Glamour of Gold!
King of Cambria! Lord of Caerleon! Possessor of all the gold and gems, the treasures of many kings!
Ha! He moves! I must be gone.
(Waves wand over picture and vanishes.)
GAWAIN.-- (awakening, stretches himself.)
Did I wake or sleep? Surely I saw one standing there and heard the voice? Am I dreaming or waking now? In sooth, the powers of heaven and hell are abroad this hour! (Rises and moves to L.)
It is not much beyond the meridian of night. The sands in the glass have much to run ere the turn of the hour shall come.
But I am fain to rest and sleep, for I am full weary with sport and toil, and the journey before me is long, and the task hard.
I will get me to my couch again. Perchance, this time my eyes and ears will be sealed, and my soul sink to slumber, and I sense no more of glory or of gain.
(Lies down again. Soft, melodious music. Third figure appears as
picture in frame.)
FAME may sound his loud, melodious trumpet,--
Dies the ringing music, and dumb stillness reigns;
GLORY wreathes his green and shining laurels,
Soon they fade and perish,--nought but dust remains!
Torches blaze, to smoulder into darkness,
Dull oblivion swallows great renown,
Sullen silence follows loud acclaiming,
Pyramid and pillar fall in ruin down.
But PLEASURE is Treasure!
Spending in the having, and having while ye spend!
Take now the lute and tread the joyful measure,
Enjoying to the full the good the gods may send.
Better the Game, than fickle, fading Fame,
And the day that we have than the morrow never known;
Fill up the wine cup, feast ye on life's dainties,
Singing and dancing where the flowers are strown.
Love waits for thee, in many bright eyes smiling;
Charms and caresses, and wreathed lips beguiling;
Come thou with me! Wake and be free!
Let duty stern compel thee not,
Let Death and Fate be all forgot:
To-day! To-day! Live while ye may!
Let life, if short, be merry!
MERLIN (appearing as Figure vanishes.)
Fame,--Gold,--and Pleasure! Great Three! Too oft the tempting ministers of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil!
My soul is dark with foreboding. Surely there are fierce ordeals awaiting thee, my son!
Not that I mistrust thy knightly honor. But, though thou win in the fight, as win thou must, thou mayest be sorely wounded.
What! Art thou waking?
G.--Then, 'twas not all a dream! Was it thou who camest to me as in vision, in such strange guise? Dost thou read my future?
M.--Nay; only that I see great trials awaiting thee. In what shape the ordeal shall come, I know not. Nor am I sure that the hand of the Foe who challenges thee shall strike the blow thou shouldst most fear.
There are enemies that assail the fortress from without: I think, Gawain, thou wilt be able to withstand and over-throw them.
But there are other foes,--crafty, unsuspected,--who sometimes lurk within. Be on thy guard, my son! Forget not the Vision of the Holy Grail, and to thyself be true!
But get thee to slumber, for there are but three hours before thou must rise and make thee ready to set forth on thy quest.
(Distant music. Monks in chapel heard chanting.)
M.--List! Already those who keep vigil sing the first office of a new day.
THE BARON'S CASTLE
Guest Room of the Castle. Couch at R. Table and chair at L.
DAGONET. (Polishing Gawain's armour.)
What luck! What luck! To think we should find this fine place on Christmas Eve! And to think of the three days we've had here!
The singing! And the dancing! And the feasting! Oh my! Oh my! (smacking his lips.)
The roast sucklings and the stuffed capons! The boar's head and the turkeys! The jugged hare, and the game pies!
I could be content to tarry here until the next Christmas-tide!
But Gawain talks of going on to the Green Chapel with the morrow's morn.
Ugh! (shudders) That Green Knight! Did I not see his head fall from his body? And yet he walked, and carried his head in his right hand!
But, if he should cut off Gawain's head, who will set it on Gawain's shoulders again?
(Enter Kitchen-knave, with tin pans which he is polishing.) Knave. Hallo, brother! Are you brushing up your master's pans?
D. (indignantly.) Pans, forsooth! this is my master's helmet, and this his armor of proof!
KNAVE. Ah, well! (Sticks pan on his head, and advances, holding tin cover as a shield.) And these are my helmet and shield! And you can put them to the proof!
D. Faugh! Thou are but a kitchen-knave, and smellest of the kitchen!
KNAVE. And wasn't Gareth a kitchen-knave? And did not the Lady Lynette turn up her proud little nose at him?
Say! Thou dost not need to turn up thy nose,--Nature has done it for thee!
D. Well, well, good knave and sweet scullion, we will not quarrel.
But, and it please ye, tell me where we are?
KNAVE. (laughs.) Ha, ha! Why fool, thou art there, and I am here!
D. I know, I know! But, what castle is this, and what is thy lord's name?
KNAVE. Oh ho! Perchance it is a Christmas jest? Well; Q-uestion begins with Q; and Q-uest begins with Q; and that is the Q for you and your master. And this is the castle of the Quest, and that is my cue; and my lord is Baron Q, and his good dame my lady Q, and so I can give you the cue!
D. (stammering.) Oh, I p-p-p-pray thee, ex-cu-cu-cuse me!
KNAVE. Nay, thou hadst better mind thy P'--and Q's!
D. (rising.) Now that seems very Pe-pe-cu-cu-liar!
(Puts on helmet and brandishes sword, with shield on his left arm.)
KNAVE. (Advances, flourishing spit or long spoon, tin cover on his
arm, and pan on his head.)
COMBAT--(as they clash.)
GAWAIN. What folly is this? (Knave slinks away. Dagonet stands abashed.)
G. Surely thy cap--and--bells become thee better than the warrior's headpiece! Didst thou not promise me that thou wouldst not play the fool if I would take thee on quest as my esquire? Put down that sword, and take thy bauble!
G. Tut, tut! Surely I make much ado about nothing.
And why should not a knight on a fool's errand have a fool for his squire?
(Enter the Baron.)
B. Sir Gawain, I wish that while I live I shall be held the worthier that thou hast been my guest at God's own feast.
G. Gramercy, sir, In good faith all the honor is yours, and may the High King give it you, inasmuch as I am beholden to you in great and small.
B. Stay then, noble prince! It shall pleasure me to have thee as guest for as long as thou canst tarry.
G. Nay, Sir Knight, I must e'en depart on the stern behest which calls me. 'Tis a high quest and a pressing that hath brought me afield, for I am summoned to a certain place, and I know not whither in the world I may wend to find it.
Therefore, I crave you, tell me truly if ye ever heard word of the Green Chapel where it may be found, or of the Green Knight that keeps it? For I am pledged by solemn compact sworn between us, to meet that knight at the New Year, if so I were in life; and of that New Year it wants but little.
I' faith, I would look on that hero more joyfully than on any other fair sight! Therefore, by your will, it behoves me to leave you; for I have but barely three days: and I would as soon fall dead, as fail of my errand.
B. (laughing.) Now must ye needs stay; for I will show you your goal--the Green Chapel, ere your term be at an end, have ye no fear!
But you can take your ease in your bed, friend, till the fourth day, and go forth in the first of the year, and come to that place at mid-morn if you will. Dwell here till New Year's Day, and then rise and set forth, and ye shall be set in the way; 'tis not ten miles hence!
G. (gaily. ) Now I thank thee for this above all else. Now my quest is achieved I will dwell here at your will, and otherwise do as ye shall ask.
(Enter Ladies and Nobles.)
B. Ha! Now surely ye have promised to do the thing I bid thee. Will ye hold to this behest, here, at once?
G. Yea, forsooth. While I abide in your burg I am bound by your behest.
B. Ye have travelled from far, Sir Gawain, and since ye have waked with me, and the festival
has ta' no heed of night or day, ye are not well refreshed by rest and sleep, as I know.
Ye shall therefore abide in your chamber, and lie at your ease tomorrow. Nor shall ye be left without good company, and I will rise early and go forth to the chase.
G. (bowing to ladies, knight, and nobles.) Who but would accept such courtesy?
B. Sir Knight, we will make a covenant. Whatsoever I win in the wood shall be yours, and whatsoever shall fall to your share that shall ye exchange for it. Let us swear, friend, to make this exchange, however, our hap may be, for worse or for better.
G. I grant you your will; if ye list to do so, it liketh me well.
(Exit--ladies, nobles and Baron, singing:)--
Now to all, goodnight, goodnight!
Cover fire and quench the light;
Hush, hush! Hush, hush!
Veils of darkness o'er thee sweeping,
Stars their silent vigil keeping,
Stillness soothe thy peaceful sleeping,
Hush, hush! Goodnight!
Hush, hush! Goodnight!
SCENE II--THE SAME
(Gawain sleeping. Enter Dagonet softly.)
D. Now if I waken him he will rail at me. And if I waken him not, he will chide me. For it is high noon, and the baron and his hundred men and a hundred dogs have been in the chase these full six hours past.
I would I had never left Camelot.
'Tis true we have had rich feasting and rare sport,--and all is not yet done!
A right merry knight is the lord of this castle--(What said the Knave? Castle Q? Well, that's cu-cu-curious!)--and I am fain to stay,--or, to return!
But we go not back,--if, indeed, we go back at all,--until we have found the Green Chapel and have met the Green Knight.
And how can Gawain go back without his head? And how can I go back without Gawain? For my master is no necromancer like this Green giant--
G. (starting up.) Green gooseberries! Get thee my mantle, and put another log on the fire, for the day is cold.
(Dagonet obeys. A knocking is heard at the door. D. opens the door and admits a knight richly clad, who advances and salutes Gawain.)
KNIGHT. Is not this Gawain, nephew of the great Arthur, and Prince of Camelot? Sir Knight, I would speak with thee, alone.
(G. motions to Dagonet to retire, which he does very reluctantly.)
K. Sir Gawain, I am Howell, Duke of Wirral, and Lord of many Hundreds. Ten thousand men pay me soc and sac, and other thousands do me knightly service.
With me are many noble knights, and we seek to throw off the yoke of Arthur Pendragon. Why should Uther's son-- (sneeringly) --if he be Uther's son?--be Lord of Wales? Why should Cornwall rule Cambria?
We have men, we have arms, we have treasure. We need but a leader of the royal blood, and all will be bonded in a mighty league, invincible.
Come, be thou our captain and our king! Speak but the word, and on every peak from Snowdoun to Skiddaw the beacon-fires shall flash thy signal, and repeat thy name.
Sir Gawain, thou art of kingly line, and we will make thee king! A crown would well become that brow. Take thou this sword, and in thy hand it shall become the sceptre of dominion!
(Offers G. a richly jewelled sword, which G. pushes indignantly from him.)
G. Peace, caitiff, peace! Wouldst have me, duke, a traitor to my king? False to Arthur,--false to my uncle,--a rebel against the rightful sovereignty of my liege lord? (rising.)
How darest thou approach me thus? What enemy told thee Gawain would lend his ear to a scheme so foul? Tell me his name, and I warrant thee I will slit his lying tongue in twain!
(Duke, startled by G.'s violence, retreats.)
G. Aye, get thee gone! And tell thy rebel crew that brethren of the Round Table hold themselves in sacred covenant,--True to ourselves, true to each other, true to our Order, and true to our country until we meet again!
(Exit Duke, leaving sword. Gawain sinks into a seat and drops his
head on his hands.)
G. Until we meet again! Oh, sweet uncle! great Arthur! my kinsman and my king! Shall we e'er meet again?
SCENE III--THE SAME
(Gawain sitting at table reading from a scroll, by light of a taper.
Gawain's shield must be in view.)
"Then the huntsmen coupled their hounds, unclosed the kennel door, and called them out. They blew three blasts gaily on their bugles, the hounds bayed fiercely, and they that would go hunting checked and chastised them. A hundred hunters there were of the best, so I have heard tell. Then the trackers got them to the trysting-place and uncoupled the hounds, and the forest rang again with their gay blasts.
At the first sound of the hunt the game quaked for fear and fled, trembling, along the vale. They betook them to the heights, but the liers-in-wait turned them back with loud cries; the harts they let pass them, and the stags with their spreading antlers, for the lord had forbidden that they should be slain, but the hinds and does they turned back, and drove them down into the valleys. Then might ye see much shooting of arrows.
As the deer fled under the boughs a broad whistling shaft smote and wounded each sorely, so that wounded and bleeding, they fell dying on the banks. The hounds followed swiftly on their tracks, and hunters, blowing the horn, sped after them with ringing shouts, as if the cliffs burst asunder.
What game escaped those that shot was run down at the outer ring. Thus were they driven on the hills and harassed at the waters, so well did the men know their work; and the greyhounds were so great and swift that they ran them down as fast as the hunters could slay them.
GAWAIN. Well,--If that be sport give me battle; or the tournament, where brave men joust with brave men on equal terms!
When lance splinters on shield, or sword cleaves through helm or hauberk, it is give and take; and each knight assailed is clothed in mail, and stands and strikes in his own defence.
But these poor beasts,--hunted, helpless, wounded, bleeding, dying! Strong men, well armed, with horses and hounds, against painting, frightened hinds and does!
If that be the boast and pride of venery, give me the nobler glory of chivalry! I had, surely, rather be a true and tender knight than a mighty hunter!
D. Sir Gawain, two men, seemingly from afar, stand without, asking to see thee. And they have horses and grooms, and servitors and mails.
Perchance, they be merchants with much treasure.
G. Bid them enter. But who are they? And why do they seek me here, seeing I myself know not--much less can others know--where I am?
(Enter first and second messengers. Second messenger carries a casket of jewels.)
PHELOT--First Messenger. Most noble knight and prince, we salute thee!
Though thou hast been here but few days we have heard of thee, and with great desire have longed to see thee.
Steward of many broad acres am I, and keeper of the treasures of this and other baronies.
(Opens the casket borne by second Messenger Humphrey and brings out a string of jewels.)
Fain would I offer thee, most worthy knight of the Round Table, a Christmas gift--
G. Nay, nay! 'Twere without reason to receive, as indeed it is to offer such gifts. Pay tribute to the king; not to the unworthy knight who as yet has not paid his toll or won his quest!
PHELOT-- (drawing nearer, and taking a golden key from his
Sir Knight, All this treasure and much more may be thine, if thou wilt but champion our cause. All North Wales and the shires beyond, from Chester to Caerlisle, are aflame with the spirit of liberty, of resistance to Arthur's iron rule.
All that is needed is a leader. Of the ancient line of British kings he must be, and thou art he!
With thy device blazoned on our banner, victory is sure!
Let but the people see thy red shield, with its pentangle of gold and image of Our Lady, lifted high in the field, and they will rally round thy standard and make thee a crowned king!
Take this Golden Key. It will open for thee vaults of treasure, beyond all the dreams of desire--
G. (angrily starting up.) What meaneth this? Into what nest of vipers have I come? Would ye have me another Judas, to betray my lord and sell my king for gold? Thy money perish with thee! Get thee to perdition with thy gold!
(The conspirators stand, struck speechless before the passion of Gawain.)
G. Seest thou this shield? Dost know what these five points in endless knot of gold portray? Speak they not to me of the five wounds of the Crucified, and of the five joys and dolors of His Blessed Mother?
Go, tell them that sent ye, whoever they be, that Gawain cannot be bought. Begone!
As for me, I shall be full glad when I win from this place; for sure no worse can befall me than to breathe the same air and hold speech with such as ye!
(Messengers retire, silent and subdued, leaving the golden key.)
(Enter Dagonet, bearing a salver with meat and drink.)
D. Sir Knight and good uncle, I bring you a nooning. 'Tis long since ye broke your fast, and when ye did ye ate but little. Perchance, the night was long and wakeful? Methought, as I lay at the threshold, I heard thee toss and groan.
G. What, good Dagonet, dost thou lie at my door? Foolish boy, what need have I of thee? From what wouldst thou defend me?
D. My lord, I know not. But I mislike this place, and I mislike the men,--and some of the women too! There are mutterings and making signs, and whisperings in corners,--And that ancient dame, with her yellow face and rough and wrinkled cheeks, and her skinny neck and her beetling brows, and bleared eyes and black chin! Yea, verily, for within her white wimple I saw the stubble of a beard!
Now, the lady of the castle is lovely--
G. Ha, ha, Dagonet, who would have thought thee so close an observer of women? But thou art a kind lad, and a wise fool, to boot,--for, in sooth, some men's wisdom is folly, and e'en those counted fools are sometimes wondrous wise!
Boy, I love thee for thy faithfulness, I will e'en eat, and then lay me down for a while. For thou art right, the night brought me little sleep.
I' faith, I know not when I shall sleep again! Not until my quest is won,--or done!
(G. eats and drinks, and then lies down on the couch.)
(Enter Lady of the Castle.)
(Approaches the couch and looks down on Gawain. G. opens his
eyes, and--surprised to see her--tries to rise.)
LADY. (laughing.) Good morrow, Sir Gawain! Ye are but a careless sleeper, since one can enter thus. Now ye are taken unawares, and, if I would, I could bind you here, so that ye should not escape me.
GAWAIN. Good morrow, fair lady! But grant me this grace that ye pray your prisoner to rise. I would get me from my couch and array me better, then could I talk with ye in more comfort.
L. Nay, forsooth, fair sir; ye shall not rise, I will rede ye better. I shall keep ye here, and talk with my knight whom I have captured. For I know well that ye are Sir Gawain, whom all the world worships, wheresoever ye may ride. Your honor and your courtesy are praised by lords and ladies, by all who live.
It behoves me, in sooth, to be your servant, and ye are welcome to my company.
G. In good faith, I think me that I am not he of whom ye speak, for unworthy am I to hold ye in thrall. In sooth, I were glad if I might set myself by word or service your pleasure; a pure joy it would be to me!
L. Sir Knight, for all that I have seen in ye, of beauty and of courtesy and blithe semblance, and for all that I have hearkened and hold for true, there should be no knight on earth to be chosen before ye!
G. Well I wot, madam, that ye have chosen a better, even the gallant knight, the noble baron your husband. But I am proud that ye should so prize me, and as your servant do I hold ye as my sovereign, and your knight am I, and may Christ reward ye!
L. If I then be your sovereign and ye are my true knight, why art thou so stern and cold towards me? And if ye are my servant to do my behests then shall ye stay here and make merry with me and my maidens.
(Gawain moves as if to rise to his feet.)
L. Why shouldst thou go forward on this blind and bootless quest? And, what if thou shouldst not return?
Who so void of wit as to choose the pathless wild, and the cold rain and the biting wind, and toil and travail,--when he may lie here lapped in silk and wool?
Why go forth to hunger and to thirst, when ye might tarry where the banquest crowns the board, and the red wine flows? Likest thou the moan of the whistling wind better than the music of flute and harp, and the merry notes of pipe and tabor?
Here, too, are mirthsome song and gay dancing, and fair maidens and brave gallants, and good cheer!
Stay, stay, Gawain, where Pleasure bides!
G. (rising and standing.) Nay, good my lady, I must e'en set forth, and that with the morrow. For my word and troth are pledged to fulfil this quest.
L. Since, then, ye will not bide with me, at our parting do me this grace; give me some gift, if it were but thy glove, that I may bethink me of my knight, and lessen my mourning.
G. Forsooth, madam, I wish I had here some most precious thing that were worthy to be bestowed on ye in token of thanks for all thy courteous kindness. But it is not to your honor to have at this time even a glove as a gift from Gawain; and I am here on a strange errand, and have with me neither men nor mails (save only my most faithful fool and worthy gentleman, Dagonet). And that mislikes me much, lady, at this time. But each man must fare as he is taken, if for sorrow and ill.
L. Nay then, knight highly honored, though I have naught of yours, yet shall ye have some what of mine.
(Offers him a costly, jewelled ring.)
G. I will take no gift, lady, from thee, now. I have none to give, and none will I take.
(She presses the ring upon him, but he refuses.)
L. (much vexed.) If ye refuse my ring as too costly, that ye will not be highly beholden to me, I will give you my girdle as a lesser gift.
(Takes girdle from her side and offers it. Gawain pushes it from him.)
G. Nay, I touch not gold nor gear, ere God give me grace to achieve the adventure for which I have come hither. And, therefore, I pray ye, displease ye not, and ask me no longer, for I may not grant it. I am dearly beholden to ye for all the favor ye have shown me; and ever in heat and cold, will I be your true servant.
L. Now, sir knight, ye refuse this silk for it is simple in itself; lo, it is small to look upon and less in cost, but whoso knew the virtue that is knit therein he, peradventure, would value it more highly.
For whatsoever knight is belted with this girdle, while he bears it knotted about him there is no man under heaven can overcome him, for he may not be slain by any magic on earth.
G. (Aside,--starting at the lady's last words.)
This were indeed a jewel for the jeopardy which awaits me! Could I so order it that, when I come to the Green Chapel to seek the return blow, I might escape unslain, 'twere a craft worth trying.
(G. falls on one knee and kisses lady's hand as he takes the girdle.)
L. 'Twas mine, 'tis thine! And none but we may know the gift hath passed. Keep loyally from my lord that which I entrust to thee, and as thou knottest the girdle around thee, so bind my secret to thy heart!
G. (rising.) Lady, I thank thee. Never shall any one know aught, save alone we twain.
(She bends over Gawain, and kisses him on the forehead. He binds the girdle around him, beneath his robe.)
(Exit Lady, slowly.)
SCENE IV--THE SAME
The Baron returns from the chase.
GAWAIN. (rising and embracing the Baron.)
Hail to thee, safe returning! Doubtless thou hast had large success!
B. Aye, aye, Sir Gawain! Hie thee to the Great Hall and count the tale of game; of hinds and does, and e'en the wild boar I slew at the ford!
To say nought of red Reynard, the one fox whose pelt and brush thou wilt find there. For all, sir knight, according to our covenant, are thine.
But what luck had ye? And what spoil have ye won?
G. The deer and the boar and the fox are the triple trophies of thy prowess in the chase. But I, too, have won three tokens! See here,--this sword and this key!
Mine,--as they were given to me and not reclaimed. (Aside.) Yet, not mine, for I spurned them from me! They are thine, by virtue of our bargain.
B. (perplexed.) But where is the third item of thy gains.
(G. steps up to the Baron, puts his hands on his shoulders, and kisses him.)
G. These, given me without demand, I freely give to thee. Also this (pointing to sword and key) and this;--which I care not e'en to touch, nor e'er would hold. They are not mine but thine!
B. Will ye not tell me whence ye won such spoil, and this last favor of embrace and kiss? Where did ye win it? And was it by your own wit?
G. Nay, that was not in the bond. Ask me no more; ye have taken what is yours by right, be content with that!
The hour is late, and the day has been very long, and ye must be bone-weary. For the fair sojourn I have had here at this high feast may the High King Himself reward ye! I must need, as ye know, go hence with the morn; and ye will give me, as ye promised, a guide to show me the way to the Green Chapel, and God will suffer me on New Year's Day to deal the doom of my weird.
B. By my faith, all that ever I promised that will I keep with good
will. And now, Goodnight!
(Enter servants with tapers. Exit baron and attendants,--Gawain saluting all as they leave.)
THE GREEN CHAPEL
(Enter Gawain, Guide, and Dagonet.)
GUIDE. Sir I have brought ye hither, and now ye are near the place ye have sought so specially. But I tell ye, forsooth, since I know ye well, and ye are such a knight as I well love, would ye follow my counsel ye would fare the better.
DAGONET. (sadly.) Ye would fare the better!
GUIDE. The place whither ye go is accounted perilous, for he who liveth in that waste is the worst on earth. He is a discourteous knight, and shows no mercy.
Be he churl or chaplain who comes nigh that chapel, monk or mass-priest, or any other man else, he thinks it as pleasant to slay them as to pass alive himself. Therefore I tell ye, if ye come there and that knight know it, ye shall be slain, though ye had twenty lives; trow me that truly.
Good Sir Gawain, let this man be, and get thee away some other road--
DAG. Yes, Get thee away some other road!
GUIDE. For Heaven's sake, seek ye another land, and there may Christ speed ye! And I will hie me home again--
DAG. And I will hie me home again!
GUIDE. And I promise ye further, that I will swear by all the saints, or any oath ye please, that I will keep counsel faithfully, and never let any wit the tale that ye fled for fear of any man.
GAWAIN. Gramercy, Good fortune be his who wishes me good, and that thou wouldst keep faith with me I will believe. But didst thou keep it never so truly, an I passed here and fled for fear, as thou sayest,--then were I a coward knight, and might not be held guiltless.
So I will to the chapel and talk with that man. And you, friend, go back a mile, and take with thee Dagonet--
DAG. Yes, friend, take with thee Dagonet!
GAWAIN.--and wait till I seek ye. And if I come not to ye ere the sun go down,--Thanks, and Farewell!
GUIDE. Well now that ye will to take your own harm yourself, an ye be pleased to lose your life, I will neither let nor keep ye.
Now Fare-ye-well, noble Gawain! For all the gold on earth I would not go with ye, nor bear fellowship one step further!
(Exit Guide, dragging Dagonet--weeping--with him.)
GAWAIN. Now will I neither greet nor groan, but commit myself to God, and yield me to His will. Fierce though the foe be in fight, yet He knoweth well how to save His servants.
(Approaches the Chapel.)
G. Ah, can this be the Green Chapel? Here might the devil say his mattins at midnight. Now I wis there is wizardry here! 'Tis an ugly oratory, all overgrown with grass, and 'twould well beseem that fellow in green to say his devotions on devil's wise.
Now I feel in five wits, 'tis the foul fiend himself who hath set me this tryst, to destroy me here!
This is a chapel of mischance; ill luck betide it, 'tis the cursedest kirk that ever I came in!
(Sound of grinding a weapon.)
G. By my soul, I trow that gear is preparing for the knight who will meet me here! Alas, nought may help me; yet should my life be forfeit, I fear not a jot!
(Loudly.) Who waiteth in this place to give me tryst? Now is Gawain come hither: if any man will have aught of him let him hasten hither now or never!
(Enter Green Knight with huge axe.)
GREEN KNIGHT. Stay, and ye shall speedily have that which I promised ye!
(Advances to meet him.)
G.K. Now, fair sir, one may trust thee to keep tryst. Thou art welcome, Gawain, to my place! Thou hast timed thy coming as befits a true man.
Thou knowest the covenant between us. At this time twelve months ago thou didst take that which fell to thee, and I at this New Year will readily requite thee. We are in this valley, verily alone. Here are no knights to sever us, do what we will.
Have off thy helm from thy head, and have here thy pay. Make no more talking than I did then, when thou didst take off my head with one blow.
GAWAIN. Nay, by Him that gave me life, I shall make no moan whatever befall me. But make thou ready for the blow and I shall stand still and say never a word to thee, do as thou wilt.
(Gawain bends his head and bares his neck. The G. Knight swings the axe with a mighty feint of slaying Gawain. G. shrinks and swerves aside!)
GREEN KNIGHT. Thou art not Gawain, who is held so valiant that never feared he man by hill or vale; but thou shrinkest for fear ere thou feelest hurt!
Such cowardice did I never hear of Gawain. Neither did I flinch from thy blow at Camelot. My head fell to my feet, and yet I fled not; but thou didst wax faint of heart ere any harm befell. Wherefore I must be deemed the braver knight.
G. I shrank once, but so I will no more; though an my head fall on the stones I cannot set it on again. But haste, sir knight, by thy faith, and bring me to the point; and deal me my destiny: and do it out off hand: For I will stand thee a stroke and move no more till thine axe have hit me. My troth on it!
G.K. Have at thee, then!
(Swings the axe fiercely, but does not allow it to touch Gawain. Gawain does not move.)
G.K. So now thou hast thy heart whole it behooves me to smite. Hold aside thy hood that Arthur gave thee, and keep thy neck thus bent lest it cover it again.
G. (angrily.) Why talk on thus? Thou dost threaten too long. I hope thy heart misgives thee.
G.K. Forsooth, so fiercely thou speakest I will no longer let thine errand wait its reward.
(Lifts the axe lightly and lets it fall on the bare neck, slightly wounding Gawain.)
GAWAIN. (Springing up, seizes helmet and puts it on, takes shield
and draws sword.)
Stop, sir knight, bid me no more blows. I have stood a stroke here without flinching, and if thou give me another I shall requite thee, and give thee as good again! By the covenant made betwixt us in Arthur's Hall, but one blow falls to me here. Halt, therefore!
G.K. (leaning on his axe.) Bold sir, be not so fierce; no man here hath done thee wrong, nor will do, save by covenant, as we made at Arthur's court. I promisest thee a blow, and thou hast it,--Hold thyself well paid! I release thee of all other claims.
If I had been so minded I might perchance have given thee a rougher buffet. First I menaced thee with a feigned one, and hurt thee not; for the covenant that we made as to exchange of spoils. I gave thee two blows without scathe, for that thou gavest me thy gain of Sword and Key, and e'en my fair wife's kiss! But thou didst not give me all thy gains, therefore hadst thou at the third stroke that blow which drew thy blood.
For 'tis my weed thou wearest, that same woven girdle; my own wife wrought it, that do I wot for sooth!
Now, I know well all that passed,--the temptings of the rebel messengers, and thine answers: and the wooing by my wife, and your conversation and her kisses,--for it was mine own doing.
I sent her to try thee; and I think, in sooth, Sir Gawain, thou art the most faultless knight that ever trode earth! As a pearl of price among white peas, so is Gawain, i' faith, by other knights.
But thou didst lack a little, Sir knight, and wast wanting in loyalty. Yet that was for no evil work, nor for wooing neither, but because thou lovedst thy life. Therefore, I blame ye the less.
G. Now, cursed be ye, Cowardice and Covetousness,--for in ye is the destruction of virtue!
(Loosens girdle and gives to the G. Knight.)
Lo, take there the falsity, may foul befall it! For fear of thy blow Cowardice bade me make friends with Covetousness, and forsake the customs of largess and loyalty, which befit all true knights.
Now am I faulty and false, and have been afeared: from treachery and untruth came sorrow and care.
I avow to thee, sir knight, that I have ill done: do then thy will! I will be more wary hereafter.
G.K. (laughingly.) I wot I am whole of the hurt I had, and thou hast made such free confession of thy misdeeds, and hast so borne the penance of mine axe edge, that I hold thee absolved and clean.
And this girdle that is wrought with gold and green, like my raiment, do I give thee, Sir Gawain, that thou mayest think upon this chance when thou goest forth among princes of renown, and keep this for a token of the adventure of the Green Chapel, as it chanced between chivalrous knights. And thou shalt come again with me to my dwelling and pass the rest of the Feast in gladness.
(Laying his arm over Gawain's shoulder.) I wot we shall soon make peace with my wife, who was thy bitter enemy.
G. Nay, forsooth, but I thank thee. I have fared ill, may bliss betide thee, any may He who rules all things reward thee swiftly.
Commend me to that courteous lady, thy fair wife, and to the other my honored ladies, who beguiled their knight with skilful craft.
But as for thy girdle, that will I take with good will. Not for its beauty and its cost, neither for weal nor for worship, but in sign of my frailty. I shall look upon it when I ride in renown, and remind myself of the fault and faintness of the flesh; and so when pride uplifts me for prowess of arms, the sight of this shall humble my heart.
But, if it displease thee not, one thing would I pray. Since thou art lord of yonder land wherein I have dwelt, tell me what thy rightful name may be, and I will ask no more.
G.K. That will I truly. (throws off his green disguise.) Bernlak de Hautdesert am I called in this land. Morgan le Fay dwelleth in mine house, and through knowledge of clerkly craft hath she taken many. She sent me in disguise to yon fair hall to test the truth of the renown that is spread abroad of the valor of the Round Table. She taught me this marvel to betray your wits, to vex Guinevere and fright her to death by the man who held his severed head in his hand.
That is she who is at home, that ancient lady. She is even thine aunt, Arthur's half-sister, the daughter of the Duchess of Tintagel, who afterwards married King Uther.
Therefore I bid thee, knight, come to thine aunt, and make merry in my house. My folk love thee, and I wish thee as well as any man on earth by my faith, for thy true dealing.
G. Nay, I may in no wise tarry. But I thank thee, Sir Bernlak, and commend thee to the Prince of Paradise. Farewell!
(They embrace, kneel, rise--and embracing again,--part.)
IN KING ARTHUR'S HALL
(King and Queen on dais. Merlin, knights, and ladies. Enter Gawain,
with Dagonet carrying Gawain's shield.)
KING ARTHUR. Sir Knights, Esquires, and Pages!
ALL. Hail to the King!
K.A. Hail to Sir Gawain!
ALL. (loudly.) Gawain! Gawain! All hail, Gawain!
(G. advances to the throne and kneels. King raises him and presents him to the Queen. Gawain bows and kisses the Q's. hand.)
Dagonet. (standing unnoticed in the centre of the Hall.)
DAGONET! Dagonet! Now, all of ye! Hail! Hail! Where do I come in?
ALL. Hail to the fool! Hail, hail! Hail to the fool!
GAWAIN. Nay, nay! Sir Pendragon, I present to thee my faithful squire and true friend, Dagonet. His mirth hath often cheered my sadness, and his wisdom (an he be a fool) hath ofttimes been my counsel.
My leal servant and steadfast companion, Dagonet!
(Leads him to the throne. King takes sword from Page, and strikes D. lightly on both shoulders and on the head.)
KING. Rise, Sir Dagonet, worthy knight of the Round Table! Knights, Esquires, and Pages! Salute our brother!
ALL. (saluting.) Hail, hail! Sir Dagonet! All hail, Sir Dagonet!
KING. Sir Gawain, last night in banquet-hall we made merry at thy return, and heard the story of thine adventures. 'Tis indeed a mirthsome and marvelous tale. Thou hast done well to uphold the honor of our Order, and hast been loyal to thy king and to thy conscience. Even as gold tried in the fire thou hast stood the test.
G. Alas, my lord, I would thy words of kindness were well deserved. But I have not hidden from ye my fault and my failure. By the help of heaven I was true to my covenant, true to my king, and true to my host; but in this I faulted, that I was not true to myself.
I have the pardon of my lord baron Sir Hautdesert; but thy praise I deserve not.
(Addressing the Queen, and lifting the pendants of the girdle.)
See, lady, This is the bond of my blame that I bear in my neck, this is the harm and the loss I have suffered, the Cowardice and the Covetousness in which I was caught, the token of the covenant in which I was taken.
And I must needs wear it as long as I live; for none may hide his harm; but undone it may not be, for if it hath clung to thee once, it may never be severed.
QUEEN. Sir Gawain, henceforward thy girdle is a badge of honor, for thou has been brave and steadfast, thou didst live pure and speak true, and follow the King. If, for a moment, thou didst swerve, thou didst again stand for the stroke, and hast made confession of thy fault. Thy friends will not be less generous than thine enemy.
Ladies, bring forth the badges of the Companions of the Green Girdle!
(The ladies place a green sash over the right shoulder of every knight and return to the Queen, who then invests them with the green baldric.)
QUEEN. Now, Sir Pendragon, to this agree all the honor of the Round Table, that we will wear this baldric for the sake of Gawain. And they who wear it shall be held the more in honor, because they are decked with the badge of the Companions of the Green Girdle.
(The queen then hands a sash to the king, which he throws over her shoulder.)
KING. Comrades, what is the motto of our Order?
ALL. (Swords raised and pointed to a common center.) "My sword shall be bathed in heaven!"
Next: Time and the Witch Vivien, by William Butler Yeats