The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell

The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell (c. 1450)

 [The Text is lightly glossed; see the Glossary in The Riverside Chaucer for words not explained here.]










































































































































































Lithe and listeneth the lif of a lord riche,
The while that he lived was none him liche,
Nether in bowre ne in halle;
In the time of Arthoure this adventure betid,
And of the great adventure that he himself did,
That king curteis and royalle.

Of alle kinges Arture bereth the flower,
And of alle knightod he bare away the honour,
Where-so-ever he went.
In his contrey was nothing but chivalry
And knightes were beloved by that doughty,
For cowardes were evermor shent.

Now wille ye list a while to my talking,
I shall you telle of Arthoure the king,
How ones him befelle.
On hunting he was in Ingleswood,
With alle his bold knightes good;
Now herken to my spelle!

The king was set at his trestille-tree
With his bowe to sle the wilde venery
And his lordes were set him beside;
As the king stode, then was he ware
Where a great hart was and a faire,
And forth fast did he glide.

The hart was in a braken ferne,
And heard the groundes, and stode fulle derne.
Alle that saw the king.
"Hold you stille, every man,
And I woll go myself, if I can
With crafte of stalking."

The king in his hand toke a bowe
And woodmanly he stouped lowe
To stalk unto that dere.
When that he cam the dere fulle nere,
The dere lept forth into a brere,
And ever the king went nere and nere.

So King Arthure went a while,
After the dere, I trowe, half a mile,
And no man with him went.
And at the last to the dere he let flye
And smote him sore and sewerly;
Such grace God him sent.

Doun the dere tumbled so theron,
And felle into a great brake of feron;
The king followed fulle faste.
Anon the king bothe fierce and felle
Was with the dere and did him serve well.
And after the grasse he taste.

As the king was with the dere alone,
Streighte ther cam to him a quaint grome,
Armed well and sure,
A knighte fulle strong and of great mighte
And grimly wordes to the king he said,
"Well y-met, King Arthour!

Thou hast me done wrong many a yere
And wofully I shall quitte thee here.
I hold thy life days nighe done;
Thou hast given my landes in certain
With great wrong unto Sir Gawen.
What sayest thou, king alone?"

"Sir Knight, what is thy name with honour?"
"Sir King," he said, "Gromer Somer Joure,
I telle thee now with righte."
"A, Sir Gromer Somer bethink thee well,
To slee me here honour gettest thou no delle,
Bethink thee thou art a knight;

If thou slee me now in this case,
Alle knightes woll refuse thee in every place,
That shame shall never thee fro;
Let be thy wille and followe wit
And that is amiss I shall amend it,
And thou wolt, or that I go."

"Nay," said Sir Gromer Somer, "by heven king!
So shalt thou not skape without lesing,
I have thee now at availle.
If I shold let thee thus go with mockery,
Another time thou wolt me defy;
Of that I shall not faille."

Now said the king, "So God me save,
Save my life, and what thou wolt crave,
I shall now graunt it thee;
Shame thou shalt have to slee me in venery,
Thou armed and I clothed but in grene, perdi.

"Alle this shall not help thee, sikerly,
For I woll nother lond ne gold truly;
But if thou graunt me at a certain day
Such as I shall set, and in this same arraye."

"Yes," said the King, "lo, here my hand."

"Ye, but abide, king, and here me a stound.
First thou shalt swere upon my sword bround
To shew me at thy coming what women love best in feld and toun,
And thou shalt mete me here withouiten send
Even at this day twelve monethes end;
And thou shalt swere upon my swerd good
That of thy knightes shall none come with thee, by the rood,
Nouther frende ne friend.

And if thou bring not answere without faille,
Thine hed thou shalt lose for thy travaille
This shall now be thine othe.
What sayst thou, King? Let see, have done!"
"Sir, I graunt to this, now let me gone;
Though it be to me fulle lothe,

I ensure thee, as I am true king,
To come again at this twelve monethes end
And bring thee thine answere."
"Now go thy way, King Arthure;
Thy life is in my hand, I am fulle sure;
Of thy sorrowe thou art not ware.

Abide, King Arthure, a litelle while;
Loke not today thou me begile,
And kepe alle thing in close;
For and I wist, by Mary milde,
Thou woldest betray me in the feld,
Thy lif first sholdest thou lose."

"Nay," said King Arthure, "that may not be;
Untrewe knighte shalt thou never finde me;
To dye yet were me lever.
Farwell, Sir Knighte, and eville met,
I woll come, and I be on live at the day set,
Though I shold scape never."

The king his bugle gan blowe;
That hard every knighte and it gan knowe;
Unto him can they rake;
Ther they fond the king and the dere,
With semblant sad and hevy chere,
That had no lust to laik.

"Go we home now to Carlylle;
This hunting likes me not well,"
So said King Arthure.
Alle the lordes knewe by his countenaunce
That the king had met with some disturbaunce.

Unto Carlylle then the king cam,
But of his hevinesse knewe no man;
His hart was wonder hevy.
In this hevinesse he did abide
That many of his knightes merveled that tide,

Tille at the last Sir Gawen
To the king he said than,
"Sir, me mervaileth righte sore,
What thing that thou sorrowest for."
Then answered the king as tighte,
"I shall thee telle, gentille Gawen knighte.
In the forest as I was this daye,
Ther I met with a knighte in his arraye
And certain wordes to me he gan sayn
And charged me I shold him not bewraine;

His councelle must I kepe therfore,
Or els I am forswore."
"Nay, drede you not, lord, by Mary flower,
I am not that man that wold you dishonour
Nother by even ne by moron."

"Forsothe I was on hunting in Ingleswood;
Thow knowest well I slewe an hart, by the rode,
Alle myself alon;
Ther met I with a knighte armed sure;
His name he told me was Sir Gromer Somer Joure:
Therfor I make my mone.

Ther that knighte fast did me threte
And wold have slain me with great heat,
But I spak faire again.
Wepens with me ther had I none;
Alas, my worship therfor is now gone."
"What thereof?" said Gawen,

"What nedes more I shall not lye;
He wold have slain me ther without mercy
And that me was fulle lothe.
He made me to swere that at the twelve monethes end
That I shold mete him ther in the same kinde;
To that I plighte my trouth.

And also I shold telle him at the same day
What women desiren moste in good faye;
My life els shold I lese.
This othe I made unto that knighte,
And that I shold never telle it to no wighte;
Of this I mighte not chese.

And also I shold come in none other arraye,
But even as I was the same daye;
And if I failed of mine answere,
I wot I shall be slain righte there.
Blame me not though I be a wofulle man;

Alle this is my drede and fere."
"Ye, Sir, make good chere;
Let make your hors redy
To ride into straunge contrey;
And ever wheras ye mete outher man or woman, in faye,
Ask of theim what they therto saye.
And I shall also ride another waye
And enquere of every man and woman and get what I may
Of every man and womans answere;
And in a boke I shall theim write."
"I graunt," said the King as tite,
"It is well advised, Gawen the good,
Even by the holy rood."
Sone were they bothe redy,
Gawen and the king witterly.
The king rode on way and Gawen another
And ever enquired of man, woman, and other,
What women desired moste dere.

Somme said they loved to be well arrayed,
Somme said they loved to be faire prayed;
Somme said they loved a lusty man
That in their armes can clipp them and kisse them than;
Somme said one; somme said other;
And so had Gawen getten many an answere.
By that Gawen had geten what he may
And come again by a certain day.

Sir Gawen had goten answeres so many
That had made a boke great witterly.
To the courte he cam again.
By that was the king comen with his boke
And either on others pamplett did loke.
"This may not faile," said Gawen.

"By God," said the King, "I drede me sore,
I cast me to seke a litelle more
In Ingleswood Forest;
I have but a monethe to my day set,
I may happen on somme good tidinges to hit
This thinketh me now best."

"Do as ye list," then Gawen said,
"Whatsoever ye do I hold me paid;
Hit is good to be spyrring;
Doute you not, lord, ye shall well spede;
Some of your saw shall help at nede,
Els it were ille liking."

King Arthoure rode forth on the other day,
Into Ingleswood as his gate laye
And ther he met with a lady.
She was as ungoodly a creature
As ever man saw without mesure.
King Arthure mervailed sikerly.

Her face was red, her nose snotted withalle,
Her mouthe wide, her teethe yallowe over alle,
With blered eyen gretter then a balle;
Her mouthe was not to lak;
Her teethe hung over her lippes;
Her cheekes side as womens hippes;
A lute she bare upon her back.

Her neck long and therto great;
Her here clotered on an hepe;
In the sholders she was a yard brode;
Hanging pappes to be an hors lode;
And like a barelle she was made;
And to reherse the foulnesse of that lady,
Ther is no tung may telle, sikerly;
Of lothinesse y-nough she had.

She sat on a palfray was gay begon,
With gold beset and many a precious stone.
Ther was an unsemely sighte;
So foulle a creature without mesure
To ride so gayly, I you ensure,
It was no reason ne righte.

She rode to Arthoure and thus she said,
"God spede, Sir King, I am well paid
That I have with thee met;
Speke with me, I rede, or thou go,
For thy life is in my hand, I warn thee so;
That shalt thou finde, and I it not let." if I do not prevent it

"Why, what wold ye, lady, now with me?"
"Sir, I wold fain now speke with thee
And telle thee tidinges good.
For alle the answeres that thou canst yelpe,
None of theim alle shall thee helpe
That shalt thou know by the rood.

Thou wenest I know not thy councelle;
But I warn thee I know it every dealle.

If I help thee not, thou art but dead.
Graunt me, Sir King, but one thing,
And for thy life, I make warraunting,
Or elles thou shalt lose thy hed."
"What mean you, lady, telle me tighte,
For of thy wordes I have great dispite;
To you I have no nede.

What is your desire, faire lady?
Let me wete shortly
What is your meaning
And why my life is in your hand;
Telle me and I shall you warraunt
Alle your own asking."

"Forsothe," said the lady, "I am no qued.
Thou must graunt me a knighte to wed
His name is Sir Gawen.
And suche covenaunt I woll make thee,
But thorowe mine answere thy lif saved be,
Elles let my desire be in vaine.

And if mine answere save thy lif,
Graunt me to be Gawens wif.
Advise thee nowe, Sir King.
For it must be so, or thou art but ded;
Chose nowe, for thou mayst sone lose thine hed.
Telle me now in hying."

"Mary," said the king, "I may not graunt thee
To make warraunt Sir Gawen to wed thee;
Alle lyethe in him alon.
But and it be so, I woll do my labour
In saving of my life to make it secour;
To Gawen woll I make my mone."

"Well," said she, "now go home again
And faire wordes speke to Sir Gawen,
For thy lif I may save.
Though I be foulle, yet am I gaye;
Thourghe me thy life save he may
Or sewer thy dethe to have."

"Alas!" he said, "now wo is me
That I shold cause Gawen to wed thee,
For he woll be lothe to saye naye.
So foulle a lady as ye are now one
Saw I never in my life on ground gone,
I not what I do may."

"No force, Sir King, though I be foulle;
Choise for a make hath an owlle.
Thou getest of me no more.
When thou comest again to thine answere,
Righte in this place I shall mete thee here
Or elles I wot thou art lore."

"Now farewell," said the King, "Lady."
"Ye Sir," she said, "ther is a bird men calle an owle,
And yet a lady I am."
"What is your name, I pray you telle me?"
"Sir King, I highte Dame Ragnelle, truly,
That never yet begiled man."

"Dame Ragnelle, now have good daye."
"Sir King, God spede thee on thy way!
Righte here I shall thee mete."
Thus they departed faire and well
The king fulle sone come to Carlylle,
And his hart hevy and great.

The first man he met was Sir Gawen,
That unto the king thus gan sayn,
"Sir, how have ye sped?"
"Forsothe," said the King, "never so ille!
Alas, I am in point myself to spille,
For nedely I most be ded."

"Nay," said Gawen, "that may not be!
I had lever myself be dead, so mot I thee.
This is ille tidand."
"Gawen, I met today with the foulest lady
That ever I saw certeinly.

She said to me my life she wold save.
But first she wold thee to husbond have.
Wherfor I am wo begon
Thus in my hart I make my mone."

"Is this alle?" then said Gawen;
"I shall wed her and wed her again,
Though she were a fend,
Though she were as foulle as Belsabub,
Her shall I wed, by the rood,
Or elles were not I your frende;

For ye are my king with honour
And have worshipt me in many a stoure.
Therfor shall I not let.
To save your life, lorde, it were my parte,
Or were I false and a great coward;
And my worship is the bet."

"Y-wis, Gawen, I met her in Ingelswood.
She told me her name, by the rode,
That it was Dame Ragnelle.
She told me but I had of her answere,
Elles alle my laboure is never the nere;
Thus she gan me telle.

And but if her answere help me well,
Elles let her have her desire no dele:
This was her covenaunt;
And if her answere help me, and none other,
Then wold she have you; here is alle togeder,
That made she warraunt."

"As for this," said Gawen, "it shall not let:
I woll wed her at what time ye woll set;
I pray you make no care.
For and she were the most foulest wighte
That ever men mighte see with sighte,
For your love I woll not spare."

"Gramercy, Gawen," then said King Arthor;
"Of alle knightes thou berest the flowre
That ever yet I fond.
My worship and my lif thou savest forever;
Therfore my love shall not frome thee dissever,
As I am king in lond."

Then within five or six days
The King must nedes go his ways
To bere his answere.
The King and Sir Gawen rode out of toun,
No man with them, but they alone,
Neder ferre ne nere.

When the King was within the forest:
"Sir Gawen, farewell, I must go west,
Thou shalt no further go."
"My lord, God spede you on your jorney,
I wold I shold now ride your way,
For to departe I am right wo."

The king had ridden but a while,
Litelle more then the space of a mile
Or he met Dame Ragnelle.
"A, Sir King, ye are now welcum here,
I wot ye ride to bere your answere;
That woll availle you no dele."

"Now," said the King, "sithe it woll none other be,
Telle me your answere now, and my life save me;
Gawen shall you wed.
So he hath promised me my lif to save
And your desire now shall ye have,
Bothe in bowre and in bed.

Therfor telle me now alle in hast.
What woll help now at last;
Have done, I may not tarry."
"Sir," quod Dame Ragnelle, "now shalt thou knowe
What women desiren moste of highe and lowe;
From this I woll not varaye.

Somme men sayn we desire to be faire;
Also we desire to have repaire
Of diverse straunge men;
Also we love to have lust in bed
And often we desire to wed,
Thus ye men not ken.

Yet we desire another manner thing,
To be holden not old, but freshe and yong,
With flattring and glosing and quaint gin,
So ye men may us women ever win
Of what ye woll crave.

Ye go fulle nice, I woll not lye;
But there is one thing is alle oure fantasye,
And that now shall ye knowe.
We desiren of men above alle manner thing
To have the sovereinty, without lesing,
Of alle, bothe highe and lowe.

For where we have sovereinty alle is oures,
Though a knighte be never so feris,
And ever the maistry winne;
Of the moste manliest is oure desire:
To have the sovereinty of suche a sire;
Suche is oure crafte and ginne.

Therfore wend, Sir King, on thy way,
And telle that knighte, as I thee saye,
That it is as we desiren moste;
He woll be wrothe and unsoughte
And curse her fast that it thee taughte,
For his laboure is lost.

Go forth, Sir King, and hold promise,
For thy life is sure now in alle wise;
That dare I well undertake."
The king rode forth a great shake,
As fast as he mighte gate

Thorowe mire, more, and fenne
Wheras the place was signed and set then.
Even there with Sir Gromer he met.
And stern wordes to the King he spak with that,
"Come off, Sir King, now let see
Of thine answere what it shall be,
For I am redy grathed."

The King pulled out bokes twaine;
"Sir, ther is mine answer, I dare sayn,
For somme woll help at nede."
Sir Gromer looked on theim everychon;
"Nay, nay, Sir King, thou art but a dead man;
Therfor now shalt thou blede."

"Abide, Sir Gromer," said King Arthoure,
"I have one answere shall make alle sure."
"Let see," then said Sir Gromer,
"Or else, so God me help, as I thee say,
Thy dethe thou shalt have with large paye,
I telle thee now ensure."

"Now," said the King, "I see, as I gesse,
In thee is but a litelle gentilnesse,
By God that ay is helpand.
Here is oure answere, and that is alle,
That women desiren moste specialle,
Bothe of free and bond.

I saye no more, but above all thing
Wemen desire sovereinty, for that is their liking;
And that is ther moste desire;
To have the rewlle of the manliest men,
And then are they well, thus they me did ken,
To rule thee, Gromer Sire."

"And she that told thee nowe, Sir Arthoure,
I pray to God, I may see her bren on a fire,
For that was my suster, Dame Ragnelle.
That old stott, God geve her shame,
Elles had I made thee fulle tame;
Now have I lost moche travaille.

Go where thou wolt, King Arthoure,
For of me thou mayst be ever sure.
Alas, that I ever see this day!
Now, well I wot, mine enime thou wolt be.
And at suche a prick shall I never get thee;
My song may be `well-awaye!'"

"No," said the King, "that make I warraunt;
Some harness I woll have to make me defendaunt,
That make I God avowe!
In suche a plighte shalt thou never me finde,
And if thou do, let me bete and binde,
As is for thy best prowe."

"Now have good day," said Sir Gromer;
"Farewell," said Sir Arthoure, "so mot I thee,
I am glad I have so sped."
King Arthoure turned his hors into the plain,
And sone he met with Dame Ragnelle again,
In the same place and stede.

"Sir King, I am glad ye have sped well,
I told how it wold be every delle;
Now hold that he have highte.
Sin I have saved your lif, and none other,
Gawen must me wed, Sir Arthoure,
That is a fulle gentille knighte."

"No, lady, that I you highte I shall not faille;
So ye woll be ruled by my councelle,
Your wille then shall ye have."
"Nay, Sir King, now woll I not so,
Openly I woll be wedded, or I parte thee fro.
Elles shame well ye have.

Ride before, and I woll come after,
Unto thy courte, Sir King Arthoure;
Of no man I woll shame;
Bethink you how I have saved your lif.
Therfor with me now shall ye not strife,
For and ye do, ye be to blame."

The king of her had great shame;
But forth she rood, though he were greved,
Tille they cam to Carlyle forth they meved.
Into the courte she rode him by
For no man wold she spare, sikerly.
It liked the king fulle ille.

Alle the contraye had wonder great,
Fro whens she come, that foule unswete;
They saw never of so foulle a thing.
Into the halle she went, in certen.
"Arthoure, King, let fetche me Sir Gaweyn,
Before the knightes, alle in hying,

That I may now be made siker;
In well and wo trowth plighte us togeder
Before alle thy chivalry.
This is your graunt, let see, have done.
Set forth Sir Gawen, my love, anon,
For lenger tarrying kepe not I."

Then cam forth Sir Gawen the knighte,
"Sir, I am redy of that I you highte,
Alle forwardes to fulfille."
"God have mercy," said Dame Ragnelle then,
"For thy sake I wold I were a faire woman,
For thou art of so good wille."

Ther Sir Gawen to her his trouthe plighte
In well and in wo, as he was a true knighte;
Then was Dame Ragnelle fain.
"Alas!" then said Dame Gaynor;
So said alle the ladies in her bower
And wept for Sir Gawen.

"Alas!" then said bothe king and knight,
That ever he shold wed suche a wighte,
She was so foulle and horrible.
She had two teethe on every side
As bores tuskes, I woll not hide,
Of lengthe a large handfulle;

The one tusk went up and the other doun;
A mouthe fulle wide and foulle y-grown.
With grey heres many on.
Her lippes laye lumpred on her chin;
Neck forsothe on her was none y-seen
She was a lothly on!

She wold not be wedded in no maner
But there were made a crye in all the shire,
Bothe in town and in borrowe.
Alle the ladies now of the lond,
She let cry to come to hand
To kepe that bridalle thorowe.

So it befille after on a daye
That married shold be that foulle lady
Unto Sir Gawen.
The daye was comen the daye shold be;
Therof the ladies had great pity.
"Allas!" then gan they sayn.

The queen prayd Dame Ragnelle sikerly
To be married in the morning erly,
"As privily as we may."
"Nay," she sayd, "by Heven King,
That woll I never for no thing,
For oughte that ye can saye.

I woll be wedded alle openly,
For with the king such covenaunt made I.
I put you out of doute,
I woll not to churche tille highe masse time
And in the open halle I woll dine,
In middis of alle the route."

"I am greed," said Dame Gaynour,
"But me wold think more honour
And your worship moste."
"Ye, as for that, lady, God you save,
This daye my worship woll I have,
I telle you without boste."

She made her redy to churche to fare
And alle the states that there ware,
Sirs, without lesing.
She was arrayd in the richest maner,
More fresher than Dame Gaynour;

Her arrayment was worthe three thousand mark
Of good red nobles stiff and stark,
So richely she was begon.
For alle her raiment, she bare the belle
Of foulnesse that ever I hard telle
So foulle a sow saw never man.

For to make a short conclusion,
When she was wedded, they hyed theim home;
To mete alle they went.
This foulle lady began the highe dese;
She was fulle foulle and not curteis,
So said they alle verament.

When the service cam her before,
She ete as moche as six that ther wore;
That mervailed many a man.
Her nailes were long inchis three;
Therwith she breke her mete ungoodly;
Therfore she ete alone.

She ette three capons and also curlews three,
And great bake metes she ete up, perdi.
All men therof had mervaille.
Ther was no mete cam her before,
But she ete it up lesse and more,
That praty foulle dameselle.

Alle men then that ever her saw
Bad the deville her bones gnawe,
Bothe knighte and squire.
So she ete tille mete was done,
Tille they drewe clothes and had washen
As is the gise and manner.

Meny men wold speke of diverse service,
I trowe ye may wete y-nough ther was,
Bothe of tame and wilde;
In King Arthours courte ther was no want
That mighte be gotten with mannes hond,
Nother in forest ne in feld.

Ther were minstralles of diverse contrey.
(Here a leaf is missing from the manuscript;
the feast is ended and all retire, including
Gawain and Dame Ragenll, who are alone in their
bedroom when the action resumes.)

"A, Sir Gawen, sin I have you wed,
Shewe me your cortesy in bed;
With righte it may not be denied.

Y-wise, Sir Gawen," that lady said,
"And I were faire ye wold do another braid,
But of wedlock ye take no heed.
Yet of Arthours sake kisse me at the leste;
I pray you do this at my request,
Let see how ye can spede."

Sir Gawen said, "I woll do more
Then for to kisse, and God before!"
He turned him her untille.
He saw her the fairest creature
That ever he saw without mesure.
She said, "What is your wille?"

"A, Jesu!" he said, "what are ye?"
"Sir, I am your wif, sikerly;
Why are ye so unkinde?"
"A, lady, I am to blame;
I cry you mercy, my faire madame
It was not in my minde.

A, lady, ye are faire in my sighte
And today ye were the foulest wighte
That ever I saw with mine eye.
Well is me, my lady, I have you thus";
And brased her in his armes and gan her kisse
And made great joye sikerly.

"Sir," she said, "thus shall ye me have;
Chese of the one, so God me save,
My beauty woll not hold:
Whether ye woll have me faire on nightes
And as foulle on days to alle men sightes,

Or els to have me faire on days
And on nightes on the foulest wife,
The one ye must nedes have.
Chese the one or the other.
Chese one, Sir Knighte, whiche you is lever,
Your worship for to save."

"Alas!" said Gawen, "the choise is hard.
To chese the best it is froward.
Whether choise that I chese,
To have you faire on nightes and no more,
That wold greve my hart righte sore
And my worship shold I lese.

And if I desire on days to have you faire,
Then on nightes I shold have a simple repaire.
Now fain wold I chose the best,
I ne wot in this world what I shall saye,
But do as ye list now, my lady gaye.
The choise I put in your fist.

Even as ye woll, I put it in your hand,
Lose me when ye list, for I am bond.
I put the choise in you.
Bothe body and goodes, hart, and every dele,
Is alle your own, for to by and selle
That make I God avow!"

"Gramercy, corteis knighte," said the lady;
"Of alle erthly knightes blissed mot thou be,
For now am I worshipped.
Thou shall have me faire bothe day and nighte
And ever while I live as faire and brighte;
Therfore be not greved.

For I was shapen by nigramancy,
With my stepdame, God have on her mercy,
And by enchauntement,
And shold have bene otherwise, understond,
Even tille the best of Englond
Had wedded me verament.

And also he shold geve me the sovereinty
Of alle his body and goodes, sikerly;
Thus was I disformed;
And thou, Sir Knighte, curteis Gawen,
Has given me the sovereinty certein,
That woll not wrothe thee erly ne late.

Kisse me, Sir Knighte, even now here,
I pray thee, be glad and make good chere,
For well is me begon."
Ther they made joye out of minde,
So was it reason and cours of kinde,
They two theimself alone.

She thanked God and Mary milde
She was recovered of that that she was defoiled;
So did Sir Gawen.
He made mirthe alle in her boure
And thanked of alle oure Savioure,
I telle you, in certain.

With joye and mirthe they waked tille day
And than wold rise that faire may.
"Ye shall not," Sir Gawen said;
"We woll lie and slepe tille prime
And then let the king calle us to dine."
"I am greed," then said the maid.

Thus it passed forth till middaye.
"Sirs," quod the king, "let us go and assaye
If Sir Gawen be on live.
I am fulle ferd of Sir Gawen,
Now lest the fende have him slain;
Now wold I fain preve.

Go we now," said Arthoure the king.
"We woll go see their uprising,
How well that he hath sped."
They cam to the chambre alle in certain.
"Arise," said the king to Sir Gawen;
"Why slepest thou so long in bed?"

"Mary," quod Gawen, "Sir King, sikerly,
I wold be glad, and ye wold let me be,
For I am fulle well at ease.
Abide, ye shall see the dore undone!
I trowe that ye woll say I am well gon;
I am fulle lothe to rise."

Sir Gawen rose and in his hand he toke
His fair lady and to the dore he shoke
And opened the dore fulle faire.
She stood in her smock alle by that fire;
Her her was to her knees as red as gold wire.
"Lo, this is my repaire!

Lo!" said Gawen Arthoure untille,
"Sir, this is my wife, Dame Ragnelle,
That saved onis your life."
He told the king and the queen them beforn
How sodenly from her shap she did torne,
"My lord, now by your leve."

And what was the cause she forshapen was
Sir Gawen told the king both more and lesse.
"I thank God," said the queen,
"I wened, Sir Gawen, she wold thee have miscaried;
Therfore in my hart I was sore agreved;
But the contrary is here seen."

There was game, revelle, and playe
And every man to other gan saye,
"She is faire wighte."
Than the king them alle gan telle
How did held him at nede Dame Ragnelle,
"Or my dethe had bene dighte."

Ther the king told the queen, by the rood,
How he was bestad in Ingleswood
With Sir Gromer Somer Joure
And what othe the knighte made him swere
"Or elles he had slain me righte there
Without mercy or mesure.

This same lady, Dame Ragnelle,
From my dethe she did help me right well
Alle for the love of Gawen."
Then Gawen told the king alle together
How forshapen she was with her stepmother
Tille a knighte had holpen her again;

Ther she told the king faire and well
How Gawen gave her the sovereinty every delle
And what choise she gave to him.
"God thank him of his curtesie;
He saved me from chaunce and vilony
That was fulle foulle and grim.

Therfore, curteis knighte and hend Gawen,
Shall I never wrathe thee certain,
That promise now here I make;
Whiles that I live I shall be obaisaunt;
To God above I shall it warraunt,
And never with you to debate."

"Garamercy, lady," then said Gawen,
"With you I hold me fulle well content,
And that I trust to finde."
He said, "My love shall she have;
Therafter nede she never more crave,
For she hath bene to me so kinde."

The queen said (and the ladies alle),
"She is the fairest now in this halle,
I swere by Saint John!
My love, lady, ye shall have ever,
For that ye saved my lord Arthoure,
As I am a gentilwoman."

Sir Gawen got on her Gyngolyn,
That was a good knighte of strengthe and kin
And of the Table Round.
At every great fest that lady shold be.
Of fairnesse she bare away the bewtye,
Wher she yed on the ground.

Gawen loved that lady Dame Ragnelle;
In alle his life he loved none so well,
I telle you without lesing.
As a coward he lay by her bothe day and night.
Never wold he haunt justing arighte;
Therat mervailed Arthoure the king.

She prayd the king for his gentilnes,
"To be good lord to Sir Gromer, y-wisse,
Of that to you he hath offended."
"Yes, lady, that shall I now for your sake,
For I wot well he may not amendes make;
He did to me fulle unhend."

Now for to make you a short conclusion,
I cast me for to make an end fulle sone
Of this gentille lady.
She lived with Sir Gawen but yeres five;
That greved Gawen alle his life,
I telle you sikerly.

In her life she greved him never;
Therfor was never woman to him lever.
Thus leves my talking.
She was the fairest lady of alle Englond,
When she was on live, I understand;
So said Arthoure the king.

Thus endeth the adventure of King Arthoure,
That oft in his days was greved sore,
And of the wedding of Gawen.
Gawen was wedded oft in his days;
But so well he never loved woman always,
As I have hard men sayn.

This adventure befelle in Ingleswood,
As good King Arthoure on hunting yod;
Thus have I hard men telle.
Now God as thou were in Bethleme boren
Suffer never her soules be forlorne
In the brinning fire of helle!

And, Jesu, as thou were borne of a virgin,
Help him out of sorrowe that this tale did devine,
And that now in alle hast,
For he is beset with gailours many,
That kepen him fulle sewerly,
With wiles wrong and wraste.

Now God, as thou art verray king royalle,
Help him out of daunger that made this tale,
For therin he hath bene long.
And of great pity help thy servaunt,
For body and soulle I yeld into thine hand,
For paines he hath strong.

Here endeth The Wedding of
Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnelle
For helping of King Arthoure.





trysting tree (hunting station)
slay the game animals

thicket of ferns
grey-hounds. . . concealed

like a good woodsman



thicket of ferns

grease he tested

elegant man

repay, revenge

consider well
no bit

and = if. . . or = ere

without lie, indeed
at (my) advantage

by God

want neither

hear / while

being sent for

stranger nor

and = if

and = if

go, assemble

desire to make merry




Neither . . . morn


in return (to him)



am determined

asking, inquiring
fear . . . succeed




lacking (i.e., was big)

as = like

hair clustered

load for a horse




advise . . . ere

every bit





in haste

but if

be sure

I do not know

know . . . lost

am called


by necessity

rather . . . mau prosper

Beelzebub (the Devil)

honoured . . . battle


nearer (to an end)

be hindered




by necessity

neither far nor near





clever trickery






every way



hurry up







a lament


have me beat and bound

as I may prosper



for if


betroth us together

I care not (for)


happy, pleased

in lumpy layers


had announced (an invitation)
thoroughly, completely


estates, ranks



by God







one of the


as you desire

with = by


For I am fortunate

made foul



find out

afraid for

find out

and = if

gone well for me


her hair


supported, helped

pleasing, good

sired the hero of Libeaus Desconnus




more dear







Regularized and glossed for beginning readers of Middle English, based on the text by Sir Frederik Madden,

Sir Gawayne: A collection of Ancient Romance-Poems

. London, Bannantyne Club Publ., 61. 1839. Pp. 298a-298y. [Widener 27273 28.5] Stanza divisions supplied.