“Nay, fear you not, lord, by the flowering Virgin,
I am not that man that would dishonour you,
Neither by evening nor morning.”
“Forsooth I was hunting in Inglewood;
You know that I slew a hart, by the Cross,
All by myself;
There I met with a well-armed knight;
His name he told me was Sir Gromer Somer Joure;
Therefore I make my moan.
There that knight much threatened me,
And would have slain me with great anger,
Except that I spoke back well to him;
Weapons with me I had none.
Alas! My honour therefore is now gone.”
“Why?” said Gawain;
“What more to say? I shall not lie,
He would have slain me there without mercy,
And to me was very hateful;
He made me swear that at the end of twelve months,
That I should meet him there in the same way;
To that I pledged my faith.
And also I should tell him at the same day
What women desire most, in good faith;
My life else should I lose.
This oath I made onto that knight,
And that I should never tell it to no person;
Of this I might not choose.
And also I should come in no other attire,
But even as I was the same day;
And if I fail in my answer,
I know I shall be slain right there.
Blame me not if I be a woeful man;
All this is my dread and fear.”
“Yeah, Sir, make good cheer;
Let make your horse ready
To ride into strange country;
And everywhere you meet either man
Or woman, in faith,
Ask them what they say [as an answer].
And I shall also ride another way
And enquire of every man and woman, and get what I may
Of every man and woman’s answer,
And in a book I shall write them.”
“I grant,” said the king right away,
“It is well advised, good Gawain,
Even by the Holy Cross.”
Soon they were both ready,
Gawain and the king, indeed.
The king rode one way, and Gawain another,
And every man they asked, and woman, and other,
What women hold most dear.
Some said they loved to be well dressed,
Some said they loved to be gallantly courted;
Some said they loved a lusty man
That in their arms can embrace and kiss them then;
Some said one; some said another;
And so Gawain got many an answer.
By then he’d gone as far he may
And return by a certain day.
Sir Gawain had got so many answers
That had made a great book, it’s true;
He returned to the court.
Then the king came with his book,
And either on the other’s book did look.
“This may not fail,” said Gawain.
“By the God,” said the king, “I’m much afraid;
I intend to search a little more
In Inglewood forest;
I have but a month until my set day;
I may chance upon some good tidings to find –
This seems to me now best.”
“Do as you please,” Gawain said then;
“Whatever you do, I consider myself repaid;
It is good to be inquiring;
Doubt you not, lord, you shall well succeed;
Some of your answers shall help at need;
Otherwise it would be bad luck.”
King Arthur rode out on the next day,
Into Inglewood as his way lay,
And then he met with a lady;
She was as an unattractive creature
As any man saw, exceedingly so.
King Arthur marvelled indeed.
Her face was red, her nose all snotty,
Her mouth was wide, her teeth all yellow,
With bleary eyes greater than a ball;
Her mouth was huge;
Her teeth hung over her lips;
Her cheeks were broad as a woman’s hips;
A lute she had upon her back.
Her neck was long and great,
Her hair were clustered in a heap;
In the shoulders she was a yard broad;
Hanging paps big enough to be a horse’s load;
And like a barrel she was made;
And to sum up the foulness of this lady,
There is no tongue that may tell, surely:
Of ugliness enough she had.
She sat on a palfrey that gaily decorated,
With gold beset and many a precious stone;
There was an unseemly sight;
A creature foul without measure