This king lay at Camelot nigh on Christmas
with many lovely lords, of leaders the best,
reckoning of the Round Table all the rich brethren,
with right ripe revel and reckless mirth.
There tourneyed tykes by times full many,
jousted full jollily these gentle knights,
then carried to court, their carols to make.
For there the feast was alike full fifteen days,
with all the meat and mirth men could devise:
such clamour and glee glorious to hear,
dear din in the daylight, dancing of nights;
all was happiness high in halls and chambers
with lords and ladies, as liked them all best.
With all that’s well in the world were they together,
the knights best known under the Christ Himself,
and the loveliest ladies that ever life honoured,
and he the comeliest king that the court rules.
For all were fair folk and in their first age
the happiest under heaven,
king noblest in his will;
that it were hard to reckon
so hardy a host on hill.
(Translated from Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight)
Sir Gawaine is a wintry poem set at two Christmases. Gawaine on his search for the Green Knight:-
Sometimes with dragons he wars, and wolves also,
sometimes with wild woodsmen haunting the crags,
with bulls and bears both, and boar other times,
and giants that chased after him on the high fells.
had he not been doughty, enduring, and Duty served,
doubtless he had been dropped and left for dead,
for war worried him not so much but winter was worse,
when the cold clear water from the clouds shed,
and froze ere it fall might to the fallow earth.
Near slain by the sleet he slept in his steel
more nights than enough in the naked rocks,
where clattering from the crest the cold burn runs,
and hung high over his head in hard icicles.
Thus in peril and pain, and plights full hard
covers the country this knight till Christmas Eve
The hazel and the hawthorn were tangled and twined,
with rough ragged moss ravelled everywhere,
with many birds un-blithe upon bare twigs,
that piteously they piped for pinch of the cold….
Now nears the New Year and the night passes,
the day drives away dark, as the Deity bids.
But wild weather awoke in the world outside,
clouds cast cold keenly down to the earth,
with wind enough from the north, to flail the flesh.
The snow sleeted down sharp, and nipped the wild;
the whistling wind wailed from the heights
and drove each dale full of drifts full great.
There’s the cold without, and the warmth and feasting within. And there’s magic and miracles. An ideal Christmas poem.
Merry Christmas, everyone.