Author’s note: In an attempt to not forget everything Middle English that I know over the summer, I decided to do a translation of one of my favourite romances. Expect inaccuracies but a lot of enthusiasm folks! ^_^
Hark and listen to the life of a rich lord,
Who had no peer while he lived,
Neither in chamber nor in hall;
In the time of Arthur this adventure happened,
And of the great deed that he himself did,
That king most courteous and royal.
Out of all kings Arthur beareth the flower,
And of all knighthood he bore away the honour
Wheresoever he went.
In this country existed nought but chivalry,
And knights were beloved by that valiant one,
For cowards were evermore shunned.
Now if ye listen awhile to my talk,
I shall tell you of Arthur the king,
How it once befell him,
While he was hunting in Inglewood
With all his knights bold and good;
Now listen to my tale.
The king set from his hunting station
With his bow to slay the wild deer,
And his lords were beside him;
As the king stood, then he was aware
Of a hart great and fair,
And fast forth did he glide.
The hart was in a fern thicket,
And heard the hounds, and stood very still;
To all the king said:
“Hold still, everyone,
And I will go myself, if I can,
With the skill of stalking.”
The king in his hand took a bow,
And woodsman-like he stooped low,
To stalk unto that deer;
But every time he came more near,
Into a briar patch leapt forth the deer,
And every time the king came nearer.
So king Arthur chased awhile
After the deer, I believe, half a-mile,
And no man with him went;
And at last to the deer he loosed an arrow,
And hit him hard and surely –
Such grace God sent him.
Down the deer tumbled wounded,
And fell into a great fern thicket;
The king followed very fast.
At once the king, both fierce and savage
Was with the deer and killed him,
And made it bite the dust.
As the king was with the deer alone,
Straightway there came to him a strange fellow,
Armed well and sure,
A knight very strong and of great might.
And grim words to the king he said:
“Well met, king Arthur!
You have wronged me many a year,
And woefully I shall repay you here;
I hold your life’s days almost done;
You have given my lands indeed
With great injustice onto Sir Gawain.
What say you, king all alone?”
“Sir knight, what is your name with honour?”
“Sir king,” he said, “Gromer Somer Joure,
I tell and say no lie.”
“A! Sir Gromer Somer, consider well:
To me slay here, gains you no honour;
Consider that you are a knight;
If you slay me as I am now,
All knights will refuse you everywhere.
This shame will never go away from thee;
Let go of anger and follow reason,
And what is amiss, I shall amend it,
If that is your wish, before I go.”
“No,” said Sir Gromer Somer, “by Heaven’s King!
Suchwise you shall not escape, without loss;
I have you now to my advantage;
If I should let you go with only banter,
Another time you would defy me;
Of that I am certain.”
Now said the king, “So God save me,
Spare my life, and what you will wish for,
I shall now grant to you;
It shall shame you to slay me while hunting,
You are armed and I am clothed but in green, by God.”
“All this shall not help you, surely,
For I want neither land nor gold,
But unless you grant me at a certain day
Such as I shall set, and in this same attire.”
“Yes,” said the king, “lo! Here my hand.”
“Yea, but wait, king, and hear me awhile;
First you shall swear upon my burnished sword,
To tell me when you come what women
Love best in field and town;
And you shall meet me here without my sending for you,
On the same day in twelve months’ time;
And you shall swear upon my good sword
That none of your knights shall come with
You, by the Cross,
Neither stranger nor friend.
And if you bring no answer without fail,
Your head you shall lose for your trouble –
This shall now be your oath.
What say you king? Let’s see; have done.”
“Sir, I grant you this, now let me be gone;
Though to me it is very loathsome,
I ensure you, as I am a true king,
To come here again in twelve months’ end,
And bring you your answer.”
“Now go your way, king Arthur;
Your life is in my hands, of that I am certain;
Of your sorrow you are not yet aware.
Wait, king Arthur, a little whole;
Do not try today to beguile me,
But keep everything secret;
For if I knew, by mild Mary,
You would betray me in the field,
Your life first you should lose.”
“No,” said king Arthur, “that may not be;
Untrue knight you shall never find me;
To die would be preferable to me.
Farewell, Sir Knight and evil met:
I will come, if I’m alive at the day set,
Even if I do not escape.”
The king blew his bugle,
T’was heard by every knight and recognised;
Unto him they did hasten;
There they found the king and the deer
With visage sad and spirit heavy,
That had no desire for sport:
“Let us go home now to Carlisle;
This hunting pleases me not well” –
So said king Arthur.
All the lords knew by his countenance
That the king had met with some disturbance.
Unto Carlisle then the king came,
But of his grief knew no man;
His heart was very heavy;
In this sadness he did abide,
That many of his knights wondered at that time,
Till at the last Sir Gawain
To the king he said,
“Sir, I wonder very strongly,
What thing you are sorrowful for.”
Then answered the king immediately,
“I shall tell you, gentle Sir Gawain.
In the forest as I was this day,
There I met with a knight in his armour,
And certain words to me he said,
And charged me I should not betray him;
His council I must keep therefore,
Or else I am foresworn.”