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Review: Gawain and the Green Knight

At the beginning of Classics Month, Tasha at Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books and I challenged each other to read a book from our specialities.  For her I chose Gawain and the Green Knight, a fairly well-known classic of medieval literature.  To check out my review of Nadja by Andre Breton, head on over to her blog.

forest

The Hunt in the Forest by Paolo Uccello, c. 1470

I

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.

II

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!

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