Once, Sir Gawain quested through harsh country for a long time. It was on this night he found rest and hospitality:
Many cliffs he over-clambered in countries strange,
far flying from his friends forsaken he rides.
at every twist of the water where the way passed
he found a foe before him, or freakish it were,
and so foul and fell he was beholden to fight.
So many marvels by mountain there the man finds,
it would be tortuous to tell a tenth of the tale.
Sometimes with dragons he wars, and wolves also,
sometimes with wild woodsmen haunting the crags,
with bulls and bears both, and boar other times,
and giants that chased after him on the high fells....
Thus in peril and pain, and plights full hard
covers the country this knight till Christmas Eve
Now he had signed himself times but three,
when he was aware in the wood of a wall in a moat,
above a level, on high land locked under boughs
of many broad set boles about by the ditches:
a castle the comeliest that ever knight owned,
perched on a plain, a park all about,
with a pointed palisade, planted full thick,
encircling many trees in more than two miles.
The hold on the one side the knight assessed,
as it shimmered and shone through the shining oaks.
Then humbly has off with his helm, highly he thanks
Jesus and Saint Julian, that gentle are both,
that courtesy had him shown, and his cry hearkened.
‘Now hospitality,’ he said, ‘I beseech you grant!’...
A chair before the chimney, where charcoal burned,
graciously set for Gawain, was gracefully adorned,
coverings on quilted cushions, cunningly crafted both.
And then a mighty mantle was on that man cast
of a brown silk, embroidered full rich,
and fair furred within with pelts of the best –
the finest ermine on earth – his hood of the same.
And he sat on that settle seemly and rich,
and chafed himself closely, and then his cheer mended.
Straightway a table on trestles was set up full fair,
clad with a clean cloth that clear white showed,
the salt-cellars, napkins and silvered spoons.
The knight washed at his will, and went to his meat.
Servants him served seemly enough
with several soups, seasoned of the best,
double bowlfuls, as fitting, and all kinds of fish,
some baked in bread, some browned on the coals,
some seethed, some in stews savoured with spices,
and sauces ever so subtle that the knight liked.
May you all find good cheer, and warm shelter, this Christmas.
By Grim on Monday, December 24, 2012