Saturday, July 31, 2021

Review: Gawain and the Green Knight

the hunt in the forest by paolo ucello
The Hunt in the Forest by Paolo Uccello, c. 1470


Gather all and put much thought 
to a tale of noble Camelot.
On New Year’s Eve the court did gather 
With wine and beer and much blather
Ladies fair and knights bold 
Plus Gweneviere and Arthur, we are told 
When all at once, what should they see 
But a walking, talking Christmas tree! 

(Actually it’s a man) 

Yes, ’twas a man, but green 
hair green, skin green, tongue green
Of great stature and much mass
Even his horse was the color of grass
Everything green, but eyes that were red
Even an idiot could guess where this led
But not Arthur and his patriotic knights
Who thought the green man rather nice

(How stupid are they?)

The Christmas Tree spoke, and offered a game
To anyone brave enough to issue his name
Strike a blow against the green man, and when the time came
A year from the next day, the green man would do the same.
What’s in it for the knights, one might wonder
But Sir Gawain this did not ponder.
He accepted the ax, and the green man knelt
Then to his neck, a fatal blow Wawain dealt.

(He chopped the Christmas Tree’s head off)

The head rolled about, the court watching whence it should land
Dismissing the Green Man, and thinking the matter at an end
Green blood spurted out from the tree
And Gawain anticipated congratulations there’d be
But the Christmas Tree rose from where he sat
And calmly collected his body’s hat
Holding his head, he told Gawain the way to his home
To meet a year from then, and to come alone

After which, he left.


Despite that Gawain was not too bright,
Even he knew to do what was right
Honor and chivalry demanded
He meet the Christmas Tree and be beheaded
Thus he set out in the morning
Uncertain about where he was going
A year later, and with much apprehension
For a view of reaching the Green Man’s mansion

(Which I’m guessing is in a forest)

But alas our knight knew not left from right
(re: none too bright)
Far and wide our hero did bumble
Searching for Green Man’s Green Chapel.
He was cold, and hungry, and sad to boot
When what should he spy: a moat!
Connected to a grand castle with turrets and flags
And the friendliest host Gawain’d ever had.

(Almost TOO friendly.)

The man himself was handsome and wealthy
With two others in residence: an old woman quite stealthy,
And a wife so beautiful she left Gawain nonplussed;
They took one look at each other and fell into lust.
Then with Gawain, a bargain the host assayed
That he would go hunting during the day
Upon his return, his catch he would giveth
And Gawain his daily claims would returneth.

(Sounds like another sketchy deal to me.)

But Gawain, like an idiot, pronounced his agreement
And into more trouble our hero descendeth.
But I shall say no more of Wawain’s toil
For fear that his tale I will spoil
At first I thought this story difficult to read
I did not comprehend the why of the characters’ deeds
But then Gawain met the lady, sorely tempting
And things got MUCH more entertaining.

(But who doesn’t like a little romance, right?)

Tis clear that this tale is all about pursuit:
of animals, women, and bravery to salute.
For while the host was hunting game,
The hostess was chasing down Gawain
Quite a dilemma for him to be thinking about
But of course not much thinking is done by that clout
Still, there’s a twist that I thought was grand
For in everything, a famous woman has a hand.

Highly recommended!

Originally posted at Medieval Bookworm in 2010. So long ago!


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