Percy's Reliques - The Ancient Fragment of The Marriage of Sir Gawaine.

The Ancient Fragment of The Marriage of Sir Gawaine.

            The second Poem of Book vii. intitled The Marriage of Sir Gawaine, having been offered to the reader with large conjectural supplements and corrections, the old Fragment itself is here literally and exactly printed from the Editor's folio MS., with all its defects, inaccuracies, and errata[ 1]; that such austere antiquaries as complain that the ancient copies have not been always rigidly adhered to, may see how unfit for publication many of the pieces would have been, if all the blunders, corruptions, and nonsense of illiterate reciters and transcribers had been superstitiously retained, without some attempt to correct and amend them.

            This ballad had most unfortunately suffered by having half of every leaf in this part of the manuscript torn away; and as about nine stanzas generally occur in the half page now remaining, it is concluded that the other half contained nearly the same number of stanzas.

KINGÈ Arthur liues in merry Carleile,
& seemely is to see
& there he hath wth him Queene Genevr
that bride so bright of blee.

And there he hath wth him Queene Genever
that bride soe bright in bower
& all his barons about him stoode
that were both stiffe and stowre

The K. kept a royall Christmasse
of mirth & great honor
. & . when...

[About nine stanzas wanting.]

And bring me word what thing it is
that a woman most desire
this shalbe thy ransome Arthur he sayes,
for Ile haue noe other híer.

K. Arthur then held vp his hand
according thene as was the law
he took his leaue of the baron there
and homword can he draw.

And when he came to Merry Carlile
to his chamber he is gone
& ther came to him his Cozen Sr Gawaine
as he did make his mone.

And there came to him his Cozen Sr Gawaine
that was a curteous knight
why sigh you soe sore, vnckle Arthur, he said
or who hath done thee vnright?

O peace O peace thou gentle Gawaine
that faire may thee be ffall
for if thou knew my sighing soe deepe
thou wold not meruaile att all;

ffor when I came to tearne wadling
a bold barron there I fand
wth a great club vpon his backe
standing stiffe and strong

And he asked me wether I wold fight
or from him I shold be gone
o[ 2] else I must him a ransome pay
& soe depart him from

To fight wth him I saw noe cause,
me thought it was not meet
for he was stiffe & strong wth all
his strokes were nothing sweete;

Therfor this is my ransome, Gawaine
I ought to him to pay,
I must come againe as I am sworne,
vpon the Newyeers day

And I must bring him word what thing it is

[About nine stanzas wanting.]

Then king Arthur drest him for to ryde
in one soe rich array
toward the foresaid Tearne waddling
that he might keepe his day.

And as he rode over a more
hee see a lady where shee sate
betwixt an oke & a greene hollen:
she was cladd in red scarlett

Then there as shold have stood her mouth
then there was sett her eye
the other was in her forhead fast
the way that she might see.

Her nose was crooked & turnd outward
her mouth stood foule a-wry
a worse formed lady than shee
was neuer man saw wth his eye.

To halch vpon him K. Arthur
this lady was full faine
but K. Arthur had forgott his lesson,
what he shold say againe

What knight art thou, the lady sayd
that wilt not speake tome
Of me thou nothing dismayd
tho I be vgly to see;

for I haue halched you curteouslye
& you will not me againe
yett I may happen
Sr knight shee said,
to ease thee of thy paine

Giue thou ease me lady he said
or helpe me any thing,
thou shalt haue gentle Gawaine, my cozen,
& marry him
wth a ring.

Why if I helpe thee not thou noble K. Arthur
of thy owne hearts desiringe
of gentle Gawaine . . . .

[About nine stanzas wanting.]

And when he came to the tearne waddling
the baron there cold he fimde
wth a great weapon on his backe
standing stiffe & stronge.

And then he tooke K. Arthurs letters in his hands
& away he cold them fling
& then he puld out a good browne sword
& cryd himselfe a K.

And he sayd I haue thee & thy land
Arthur to doe as it pleaseth me
for this is not thy ransome sure
therfore yeeld thee to me

And then bespoke him noble Arthur
& bad him hold his hand,
& give me leaue to speake my mind
in defence of all my land.

He said as I came over a More,
I see a lady where shee sate
betweene an oke & a green hollen;
shee was clad in red scarlette;

And she says a woman will haue her will
& this is all her cheef desire:
doe me right, as thou art a baron of sckill
this is thy ransome & all thy hyer.

He sayes an early vengeance light on her!
she walkes on yonder more;
it was my sister that told thee this;
she is a misshappen hore

But heer Ile make mine avow to god
to do her an euill turne
for an euer I maye thate fowle theefe
get in a fyer I will her burne.

[About nine stanzas wanting.]


SIR Lancelott & Sr Steven bold
they rode
wth them that day
and the formost of the company
there rode the steward Kay

Soe did Sr Banier & Sr Bore
Sr Garret wth them soe gay
soe did
Sr Tristeram that gentle k
to the forrest fresh & gay.

And when he came to the greene forrest
vnderneath a greene holly tree
their sate that lady in red scarlet
that vnseemly was to see

Sr Kay beheld this Ladys face
& looked vppon her smire[ 3]
whosoeuer kisses this lady he sayes
of his kisse he stands in feare.

Sr Kay beheld the lady againe
& looked vpon her snout
whosoeuer kisses this lady he saies
of his kisse he stands in doubt

Peace coz. Kay then said Sr Gawaine
amend thee of thy life
for there is a knight amongst us all
that must marry her to his wife.

What! wedd her to wiffe! then said Sr Kay
in the diuells name anon
gett me a wife where ere I may
for I had rather be shaine[ 4]

Then soome tooke vp their hawkes in hast,
& some took vp their hounds,
& some sware they wold not marry her
for Citty nor for towne.

And then be spake him Noble k. Arthur
& sware there by this day
for a litle foule sight & misliking

[About nine stanzas wanting.]

Then shee said, choose thee, gentle Gawaine
truth as I doe say,
wether thou wilt haue me in this liknesse
in the night or else in the day

And then bespake him Gentle Gawaine,
wth one soe mild of Moode
sayes well I know what I wold say
god grant it may be good!

To haue thee fowle in the night
when I
wth thee shold play;
yet I had rather if I might,
haue thee fowle in the day,

What when Lords goe wth ther seires[ 5] shee said;
both to the Ale & wine
alas then I must hyde my selfe
I must not goe withinne.

And then bespake him gentle gawaine
Said, Lady thats but a skill; [ 6]
And because thou art my owne lady,
thou shalt haue all thy will.

Then she said blesed be thou gentle Gawaine
this day
that I thee see
for as thou see me att this time
from hencforth I wilbe:

My father was an old knight
& yett it chanced soe
that he marryed a younge lady
that brought me to this woe

Shee witched me being a faire young Lady,
to the greene forrest to dwell
& there I must walke in womans liknesse,
most like a feeind of hell.

She witched my brother to a Carlist B . . .

[About nine stanzas wanting.]

that looked soe foule & that was wont
on the wild more to goe

Come kisse her, Brother Kay, then said Sr Gawaine
& amend thé of thy liffe
I sweare this is the same lady
that I marryed to my wiffe.

Sr Kay kissed that lady bright,
standing vpon his ffeete;
he swore as he was trew knight,
the spice was neuer soe sweete.

Well Coz. Gawaine sayes Sr Kay
Thy chance is fallen arright
for thou hast gotten one of the fairest maids
I euer saw
wth my sight

It is my fortune said Sr Gawaine;
for my unckle Arthurs sake
I am glad as grasse wold be of raine
great Joy that I may take

Sr Gawaine tooke the lady by the one arme
Sr Kay tooke her by the tother
they led her straight to K. Arthur
as they were brother & brother

K. Arthur welcomed them there all
& soe did lady Geneuer his queene
wth all the knights of the round table
most seemly to be seene.

K. Arthur beheld that lady faire
that was soe faire & bright,
he thanked christ in trinity
for Sr Gawaine that gentle knight

So did the knights both more & lesse
reioyced all that day
for the good chance
that hapened was
to Sr Gawaine & his lady gay. ffins.


1. The text of this poem has been carefully revised by comparison with Percy's Folio Manuscript, as edited by Messrs. Hales and Furnivall.-- Editor.

2. Sic.

3. ? Swire is neck.

4. ? For shent, slaine or shamed.

5. Sic in MS. pro feires, i.e. mates.

6. ? reason, feint, pretence.


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