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Sir Gawain, the Green Knight, and the Grail

On the holiest day of winter, when the sky was cold and gray;

Sir Gawain mounted Gringolet, and rode out on Christmas Day.

With a shield that bore a cross, and a sword unadorned;

he left the merriment, to fulfill the quest he’d sworn.

The King and brother knights, he felt all misperceived;

the meaning of the message, and for this his heart was grieved.

They did not perceive the truth, from the visit of the stranger;

thinking a holy object, could save them from heart’s danger.

For Gawain had long observed, a sense of complacency;

a spiritual malaise, and retreat from decency.

Being the nephew of the King, he had a special voice.

He urged the King himself, to make a different choice

But Arthur would not heed, his nephew’s words as wisdom.

Desperate in his heart, to restore greatness in his kingdom.

“The grail is what we need, to restore our faith and land.

All will indeed be well, when I have it in my hand.”

Thus spoke the loving king, in all sincerity,

not realizing thought Gawain, about prosperity.

How it had dulled the sense, of holy righteousness.

Giving rise to a form, of subtle licentiousness.

“What’s needed my dear Lord, is a return to holy virtue.

Not sending us on a quest, for a holy object to go to.”

“No doubt that it is sacred, and should be set apart.

But it is without value, if it does not change the heart.”

“I know that you speak true,” Said Arthur from his throne.

“That is why this quest, from the Green Knight I condone”

“For we are without purpose. All enemies defeated.

Our Knights need this quest. By this deed they will be meted.”

“Hearts always change through action, not endless contemplation.

That is why we’re stuck, in this form of consternation.”

“What you see my nephew, is only on the surface.

For Knights are men of action, in deeds they find their purpose.”

“Nay my gracious Lord, for I must disagree.

Purpose must now be found, in what we cannot see.”

“Through righteous and holy battle, we have earned this time of peace.

But with it comes idleness, that is causing our decrease.”

“But now we must look deeper, within and seek His rest.

The healing of our hearts, will not come with another quest.”

“The time for quests is done. We now seek to maintain;

for what we fought for long, in struggle to attain.”

“Bertilak de Hautdesert, visited us once before.

But that was long ago, in the days of yore.”

“It was a great test, one that caused me shame;

that you and all my brothers, refused give me blame.”

“All was well that time, on that year and a day.

But let us not forget, the role of Morgan Le Fay.”

“She yet still lives, and with Sir Bertilak;

and could still be in league; I think this to be a fact.”

“One test was enough. For I do not see a reason,

for a second one, during this holy season.”

Argued the great Gawain, most noble was this knight.

The favorite of the King, so valued in his sight.

But the King raised his right hand; the time for talk at an end.

His mind was indeed made up. His will he would not bend.

“As the Green Knight said, in a month a day;

I will send out my knights, who will all make their own way.”

“Throughout the entire land, from the mountains to the sea.

My knights will seek the Grail, and bring it back to me.”

“I hear you my great King, for you I’d go anywhere.

But now I beg your leave, for I am a man of prayer.”

“I will do your will, this quest I will pursue.

But first I have this request, from my heart I make to you.”

“Grant me one month’s leave, to the monastery.

To pray and get prepared, to lose this sense of wary.”

“For I clearly have misgivings. But I need to do your will,

without any hesitation, I need my soul to still.”

The King looked on with love, at his kneeling nephew.

He smiled and he said, “Of course this I will grant you”.

Gawain then took his leave, praying for forgiveness;

for what he was going to do, on this day of Christmas.

For it was his intent, to leave after morning Mass;

to seek and find the Grail, before a month would pass.

And save his fellow knights, from this fruitless venture;

Save them from indulging, in unnecessary adventure.

After the church service, he slipped away from the others;

Telling not a soul, not even his three brothers.

Out into the snow, in armor and warm furs;

he urged on Gringolet, with the gentle bite of spurs.

Toward the Green Knight’s castle, he rode on in great haste.

Foreboding on his heart. Time he would not waste.

Over rolling hills, through ice and falling snow;

Gringolet rode on. He knew just where to go.

The Green castle lay within, a forest of many miles;

where Gawain long ago, had greatest trials.

Through the thick black trees, into the forest’s center.

Stood the castle of green stone. He arrived and went to enter.

The drawbridge was now down, to Gawain’s surprise.

Why so this time of night, his mind could not surmise.

The he heard a laugh; a deep and guttural bellow.

“Hello knight Sir Gawain. What brings you my fine fellow?”

The Green Knight had appeared, with is great and booming voice.

He stood now near the entrance. “Come in let us rejoice”

He stood at nine feet tall. From head to toe was green.

He smiled from ear to ear; so happy did he seem.

“Nay” said Sir Gawain. “This is no time for joy.

For in truth I say, I suspect you of a ploy.”

The Green Knight threw back his head, and let out a roaring laugh.

Gawain felt mockery, from the green man’s chaff.

“Nay knight Sir Gawain. I do not mock thee so

I just recalled our time, all those years ago.”

“You experienced great shame. A wounding deep within.

Yet you proved your worthiness. Mild only was your sin.”

“You served as an example, that elevated your brothers

In great unison, they supported one another.”

“So why do you suspect, me of foul designs.

In great intelligence, do you read between the lines?”

“Mock me not Bertilak. You’re a man of clever invention.

I came to find you out. To discover your intention.”

“Come now Sir Gawain. Come in from the cold.

Let us talk like men. There is no need to scold.”

“For I can read your mind. You heart I also see.

Towards me I know you have, a certain enmity.”

“I can only say, it is unnecessary.

I have no ill intent, my purpose is indeed contrary.”

“I sense you don’t believe. I sense your hesitation

I urge your come inside. Let go of your frustration.”

Sir Gawain thought long and hard, but then he rode inside.

A roaring fire was in the hall, and he was tired from the ride.

The Greek Knight clapped his hands. Men appeared who were able.

To tend Gringolet. They took him to the stable.

Gawain removed his furs. By the fire he took a seat.

The servants of the Green Knight, brought out a board of meat.

He quickly filled his stomach, then finally broke the silence.

Content that the Green Knight, would not do any violence.

“So Sir Bertilak. What is it you have to say?

About this quest you said, would begin in a month and a day?”

The Green Knight shook his head. “Gawain it has begun,

when you were discovered missing, at the rising of the sun.”

“Do you still not know, the knights follow your lead.

For they all most admire, your thought, your word and deed.”

“They set out in haste, to join you in this quest.

For they figured you, always know what is best.”

“The quest has now begun, despite your secret designs.

Earlier than it should, because you chose the time.”

“Do you think you are a savior? With no one you have to ask?

To take upon yourself, the hardship of this task?

“Do you think you know what’s best? Perhaps you truly do.

But your wisdom is diminished, if self-will you will pursue.”

“For two men can be right. Each a servant of the truth.

But each can see the other, as departing from what is sooth.”

“Now your brother knights are in peril, because of your lone decision .

It is not good to always trust, so much in your intuition.”

“But now the deed is done. So I too will alter the plan.

I will tell something, for you still are a worthy man.”

“For Castle Carbonek, is your destination.

The problem you will find, is it lacks a fixed location.”

“Yet find it you must and will. For it is your destiny.

There is something you must do. To remove the penalty.”

“Of your fellow Knight’s behavior; in particular there is one.

Who has committed grievous sin, of which worse now there are none.”

“You must prepare the way. There is something you must do.

The Grail Knight you may be. But that depends on you.”

“There’s an action you must take. Of this I’ll say no more.

I speak the truth to you. Of this you can be sure.”

Sir Gawain felt truth’s conviction, in the words of Bertilak.

He looked him in his eyes. No sincerity did they lack.

“You say Carbonek, has no fixed location.

I thought it only legend, the stuff of fabrication.”

“How then will I find it, in time quickly as you urge?

For indeed it is a problem. Will a solution indeed emerge?”

Said knight Sir Gawain, feeling now frustrated.

A sense of great foreboding, came on him unabated.

“Lux et veritas. It is light and truth.

For truth revealed by light, I say again in sooth.”

Said the tall Green Knight. But Gawain had no gleaning.

Of what these strange words meant. For he knew not their meaning.

“Come now Sir Gawain. Take now blessed rest.

For in the early morn, you must resume your quest.”

That night Sir Gawain, dreamt a very strange dream.

Of a great waste land, an old man it would seem.

For in a flowing blue robe, with white hair and beard long.

Frail and much bent over; yet eyes youthful and strong.

Suddenly the man vanished, except for a lone arm.

That now held a bright candle. Gawain woke with alarm.

The sun shone through his window. Thought snow was still falling.

He somehow felt the dream, involved a divine calling.

He rose and wash and dressed. Suited in his armor.

The Green Knight he found waiting, in his bedroom parlor.

It was fitted with a table. Upon it food was laden.

It was also attended, by a serving maiden.

“Eat now Sir Gawain. For the body must be nourished.

This meal has been prepared. So take what we have furnished.”

Said the bright young maiden, then she left the room.

Gawain ate in silence, knowing he must seek his doom.

To go out in the snow, and find the Holy Grail.

For he knew if he did not, Arthur’s kingdom would then fail.

This was on his heart; a conviction in his soul.

Despite his earlier thoughts; the Grail would make them whole.

The Green Knight bade farewell, and led him to his horse.

His only parting words, were to stay the holy course.

“Find the grail my son. Remember my words to you.

Remember your secret dream. Remember to see this through.”

He said with a broad grin; the strange man Bertilak.

Then with his great hand, he gave the horse a whack.

The horse neighed loud and long. Out shot Gringolet.

Galloping with speed; the fasted he’d run yet.

Gawain left the forest, in a direction he know not.

Faster than the wind; like an arrow that’d been shot.

They rode like this all day; the lands passing in a blur.

Yet atop the horse, Gawain did not even stir.

Until the night had come, and the snow had receded.

To a wasted land, as if it had conceded.

For nothing seemed to grow here. A bleak and barren plane.

Of hard and solid dirt, and gravelly terrain.

It was still so cold; perhaps even now more bitter.

It was too pitch black. But then something started to glitter.

It was silver armor; a man crumpled on the ground.

A knight just as he; of the table round.

“Sir Hector!” cried Gawain, immediately dismounting.

He ran to his brother Knight, who gave a brief accounting.

“Gawain” Hector said, opening his eyes.

Cradled in strong arms, his words were a surprise.

“Little faith and poor belief, have indeed blocked my entry.

Said the faceless voice, acting as a sentry.”

“Whatever do you mean? Your words do not make sense.

Sir Hector tell me true. And I’ll make recompense.”

“Nay good Sir Gawain. There is nothing you can do

Each Knight has been judged. If his heart is true.”

“We all road out in quest, seeing you’d done so.

When all went to discover, where the best of us did go.”

“Alas I must return now, to my sinful sleep.

It’s price I have to pay. But please, you should not weep.”

Sir Hector then feel sleeping. Gently he laid his head.

Grateful he was in slumber. Like he was home in bed.

For surely some enchantment, had caused this condition.

But Gawain now felt that, he was in perdition.

Remounting he rode on, passing many other knights.

Each suffering from some private, set of their own blights.

For Palomides it was envy; for Agravaine jealousy.

For Lamerok it was lust; for Lionel idolatry.

For Safer it was sloth; for Dinidan it was greed.

For Uwain it was not helping, when others were in need.

For Bedivere is was lack, of trust and of belief.

For Tristram is was succumbing, to worldly and woeful grief.

For Bors and Percival, it was striving to be perfect.

Not realizing they could not, through will overcome defect.

For good Sir Galahad, who many thought of best.

It was for private thoughts, that he was better than the rest.

For the brother of the King. The man known as Sir Kay.

It was for not striving, for a better way.

All about the wasteland, lay there on the ground.

Knights who made confession, then slept without sound.

Yet Gawain rode on and on, determined but not with pride.

To face whatever he must; and take his place by their side.

Then he heard the gallop, of swift oncoming steed.

He turned and looked behind, to see who rode with speed.

It was Sir Lancelot; the strongest noble knight.

Gawain’s dear best friend, now joining in this plight.

“Good knight Sir Gawain. Long you have I chased.”

Both men then dismounted, and heartily embraced.

“My heart is now swelling, with unbridled confidence.

For you being here now, can be no coincidence.”

Said good Sir Gawain, to his dearest friend.

“Let us now continue. And bring this quest to its end.”

Then they both remounted, and continued to ride on.

When Gawain did say, “I see a light there yon.”

Pointing to the distance. There was a glowing light.

Gawain felt a foreboding, but Lancelot felt a fright.

“Let us now go toward it, and investigate this glow.”

Gawain said to his friend. “What it is we both must know.”

Slowly they rode forward. Now the light was clearer.

With every step they took, as they both got nearer.

It was only an arm. Disembodied in the air suspended.

Holding a lighted candle. They knew not what this portended.

The arm was so adorned, covered in rich fabric.

Glowing in the darkness. It was some kind of magic.

Draping from the elbow, hung there was a bridle.

Gawain bowed his head low. But Lancelot sat their idle.

Then they heard a voice. It spoke from empty air.

“Follow me sir knights. Follow if you dare.”

For many, many miles, it led them at slow pace.

The knights lay all behind them. Sleeping was their grace.

Fixated on the light, were Gawain and Lancelot

Resolute they rode on. Glanced behind them they did not.

Suddenly it stopped, and a man appeared.

The arm indeed was his. It was the old man with a beard.

One Gawain had seen, in his restless dream.

The man was now before them. Very real did he now seem.

A castle then appeared, out of a swirling darkness.

Contrasted in its glowing, in the wasteland with its starkness.

“I am the hermit Naciens, of the Castle Carbonek.

Foretold to you by him, you call Sir Bertilak.”

“In these walls within, there is a holy chapel.

Therein lies the truth, for both of you to grapple.”

“Enter at your peril. And only if you are worthy.

For if you indeed are not, you will need His mercy.”

Then the drawbridge lowered, and Naciens stepped aside.

Then these two great knights, made their way inside.

Both of them dismounted, and walked through the dark halls.

Lit only with soft torches, mounted on the stone walls.

Instinct guided them both, to the chapel door.

“Let us know go in” Lancelot did implore.

“Hold” said Sir Gawain. Sensing something not right.

Then he seemed to see, with a special sight.

Returning to his mind, was Lancelot’s lack of bowing.

To the hermit’s bridle, this door not now allowing.

“Right you are Gawain. You have perceived from the heart.”

Said voice behind them, it gave both men a start

The old hermit stood there stoic. No expression on his face.

His eyes fixed on the knights. He pointed to the holy place.

“You cannot enter sir, for reasons that are two.

The first is you did not bow. The second is known to you.”

His words for Lancelot, cut him to the quick

“Forgive me Lord above. I sinned and I am sick.”

Gawain tried to console, his distraught and grieving friend.

He then said the hermit. “On what does entry depend?”

“Lancelot should have bowed, when he had the chance.

Humility was needed, so that he could advance.”

“But deeper is his sin, known only to a few.

Concern yourself not now. There is something you still must do.”

Naciens raised his hand. The doors of the chapel opened.

Slowly they became ajar, without any words spoken.

Light poured out of the room, from a holy silver alter.

Gawain stood now erect. But Lancelot did falter.

There was the Holy Grail, covered in white samite.

Next to a bleeding spear, and a candlestick of all white.

It had seven candles, with seven lighted flames.

There was golden dish of bread. That glowed with light the same.

There was also a great sword, broken in three shards.

It was used by Balin. Through it the land was marred.

To the right of the holy table, dressed in white the Grail Maiden.

Naciens then advanced. Through the door he came in.

Taking his place at her side. He pulled back the white sheet.

The Grail glowed with glory. Holy light made them retreat.

Naciens then cried out. “Lancelot you must hear!

For you are deemed unworthy. You cannot come near!”

Lancelot fell to the ground, like one suddenly struck dead.

Gawain looked at his body. His heart now filled with dread.

“Humble Sir Gawain. Man of greatest virtue.

Come forward now my son. To the reward now due you.”

“Nay I cannot Naciens. For I am too unworthy.

To look upon this wonder, is enough that God would grant me.”

Naciens face then smiled. “It’s good you think this so.

If you thought you had worth. To the Grail you could not go.”

Now the light was blinding. But Gawain remained unhurt.

To the alter he went and knelt. His face planted on its skirt.

The Grail Maiden then spoke, in a voice full of intent.

Telling Sir Gawain, about the first Sacrament.

“To all of His Disciples, His body and blood He gave to them.

Our sweet and gracious Lord, had already forgave them.

“Take this in your hands. But place it not to your lips.

Hold it most gingerly, between your fingertips.”

Gawain did as he was told. He prayed and held the Grail.

The light shone through his fingers. It brightened his silver mail.

He saw with eyes that see. Truths wonderful to behold.

For he was the Grail Knight. Of whom it was foretold.

Moving to his friend, and very tenderly.

His raised the Grail above him, and prayed for his mercy.

Lancelot then went, into a gentle sleep.

With dreams now free from pain. His soul at last could weep.

Gawain walked out of the chapel, holding the grail above his head.

Outside of the castle walls, to the wasteland that was dead.

With a loud and a clear voice, clearer than any mortal.

It was as if his mouth, spoke from Heaven as a portal.

“Long ago was struck, without any hesitation.

The Dolorous Stroke that caused the Curse of Desolation.”

“Bring me the wounded man, called the Fisher King.

For it is time he is healed, from his suffering.”

Out came many men, bearing a man on a bier.

Bleeding with blood flowing; from his eyes a single tear.

“Now my good King Pelles, last guardian of the Grail.

The women and the mourners, today will cease to wail.”

“Bring me now the Spear, that to this day still bleeds.

For now the King must have it, to meet his mortal need.”

The Grail Maiden came forward, handing Gawain the Spear.

With one hand he took it, and went to the King near.

He then held the holy weapon, dripping blood on the King’s wound.

The one that kept him lame. The one that made him swoon.

At once the King was cured, his sufferings removed.

The King gave thanks to God. His sins not needing reproved.

“Now bring me the broken sword,” shouted Sir Gawain.

“Prepared for this King.” He thus spoke once again.

“I will do just as you say,” in a voice so lyrical,

said the fair Grail Maiden, then came the miracle.

The sword was whole and sharp, no crack was to be found.

It was long and straight. Gawain then thrust it into the ground.

Suddenly the wasteland, became green and growing once more.

The sun shone overhead. Dry rivers flowed as before.

“Take the sword my King. Reclaim Castle Carbonek.

Forever be its King. For always the Grail protect.”

“But there’s one last thing, that I must now do.

Before I give the Grail, Rightfully back to you.”

Said knight Sir Gawain, and again he raised it high.

And with a booming voice, he shouted to the sky.

“Awake my brother knights! Awake now from your sin!

Awake with healed souls and hearts! Awake from deep within!”

One by one the knights, awoke and came to him .

They were now renewed, refreshed in heart and limb.

With them was King Arthur, through a miracle of grace.

Gawain then knelt before him, raising the Grail to his face.

“Drink my Lord and King. God’s representative on the earth.

For then we will be healed, from this spiritual dearth.”

“For we both were in the right, about holy objects and the heart.

Both were clearly needed, so again we’d be set apart.”

“As servants of the Lord, a blessing to this land.

Granting justice and mercy, directly from His hand.”

The King drank from the Grail, and the kingdom was renewed.

He then offered a prayer, of heartfelt gratitude.

Gawain carried the Grail, back to its rightful place.

With the other holies, that had bequeathed this special grace.

The castle then quickly vanished, removed from the world once more.

Back to the stuff of legend, returning now to lore.

The Kingdom was restored, to that which it should be.

Gawain was praised by men, but retained his humility.

The knights became now healers. So ends this righteous tale.

Of the humble Sir Gawain. And the finding of the Grail.


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