WHEN Sir Gawain was led to his bridal bed, When that evil lady he lay beside
By Arthur’s knights in scorn God-sped:— Bade him turn to welcome his bride,
How, think you, he felt? What, think you, he did?
O the bride within O, to spare her pain,
Was yellow and dry as a snake’s old skin; And let not his loathing her loathliness vain
Loathly as sin! Mirror too plain,
Scarcely faceable, Sadly, sighingly,
Quite unembraceable; Almost dyingly,
With a hog’s bristle on a hag’s chin!— Turned he and kissed her once and again.
Gentle Gawain felt as should we, Like Sir Gawain, gentles, should we?
Little of Love’s soft fire knew he: Silent, all! But for pattern agree
But he was the Knight of Courtesy. There’s none like the Knight of Courtesy.
Sir Gawain sprang up amid laces and curls: Of gentle Sir Gawain they had no sport,
Kisses are not wasted pearls: When it was morning in Arthur’s court;
What clung in his arms? What, think you, they cried?
O, a maiden flower, “Now, life and eyes!
Burning with blushes the sweet This bride is the very Saint’s dream
bride-bower, of a prize,
Beauty her dower! Fresh from the skies!
Breathing perfumingly, See ye not, Courtesy
“Shall I live bloomingly,” Is the true Alchemy,
Said she, “by day, or the bridal hour!” Turning to gold all it touches and tries?
Thereat he clasp’d her, and whisper’d he, Like the true knight, may we
“Thine, rare bride, the choice shall be.” Make the basest that be
Said she, “Twice blest is Courtesy!” Beautiful ever by Courtesy!”