Gawain and the Green Knight

by Daniel Kelly - 2021
(based on the anonymous 14th century story)

Am                   C
King Arthur lay at Camelot,
G                 Am
Upon a Christmas-tide,
       C                    G
And sought a tale, before his feast,
Am            G      Am
From in his kingdom wide,

He asked the knights, of table round,
What wonders they had could share,
But before a one could start his tale,
An ill wind filled the air.

And through the hall, a great Knight rode,
On charger decked in green,
In one hand he held a holly branch,
In other an Axe Obscene.

I lay this challenge, Arthur King,
To your knights if they be bold,
To strike me on this New Year’s Eve,
With my axe of steel and gold,

This Knight may keep my axe so fine,
When I am on my way,
But I’ll return to him a strike the same,
A year hence from this day,

Gawain arose and clasped the Axe,
The Green Knight he knelt down,
And at a swift and even stroke,
green head fell to the ground.

But from the floor, all slick with blood,
The Green Knight retrieved his head,
“Come find me in a year from now”
Was what the grim thing said.

Gawain he spent the year in mirth,
As season’s turned about,
And when it came to Christmas-tide,
He sought the Green Knight out.

On Gringalet, he ventured far,
5-pointed star upon his shield,
But no trace at all of knight so green,
Did his long questing yield,

Until he came to Castle strong,
In the Wirral Wilderness,
And asked the Lord for lodging there,
As reprieve from his distress.

Gawain was welcomed to the home,
By Lady and by Lord,
And seeing he was weary sore,
They bid him put up his sword.

When Gawain told them of his quest,
The Lord replied with glee,
The Green Knight he lives near to us,
In a chapel by the lea

Lie here within my castle fine,
My wife will ye attend,
While to the hunt I’ll go each morn,
A pleasant sojourn spend.

But let us have a wager small,
At the ending of the day,
I’ll give you what I get at hunt,
And what you find here you’ll pay.

The first day the wife did woo Gawain,
As he lay on the bed,
Seeking from him a chastened kiss,
As her husband’s hunt he led.

The Lord returned with many deer,
And paid Gawain his due,
Gawain proffered the Lord a kiss,
Just as his wife did do.

The second day a raging boar,
Was hunted in the field,
The wife sought of Gawain his love,
But it he would not yield.

The lady dressed in raiment fine,
And tried Gawain again,
But while he turned away her love,
Her girdle he took then.

The girdle of embroidered green,
Sewn of fine silk and gold,
Was charmed to keep it’s wearer safe,
Woven with magic old.

The next day, being the New Year,
Gawain took his axe and shield,
And rode unto the Chapel Green,
Thinking his fate was sealed.

The Green Knight raised the fateful axe,
And struck at Gawain times three,
The first he flinched, the second held,
And third the blood ran free.

Tis but a scratch, the Green Knight said,   
For though you spurned my wife,
You took her girdle, shamefully
And sought to preserve your life.

Gawain returned to Camelot,
And told them of his tale,
How Morgaine Le Fay and tested him,
And his courage did not fail.

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