The Tale of Gawain

Sir Gawain, that most parfait gentil knight, who killed a woman (just once!) and cut off a man’s head before sleeping with his wife (it’s complicated!), came upon a strange building while out a-questing.

This was all during the search for the Sangreal, of course, and things were different then.

It was almost a ruin, and weirdly built, with columns a-tilt before a garden that bore, beneath the wrack of the weeds, the faint imprint of a careful and miniature design. The doors were flimsy things, and opened sideways. Sir Gawain sent his dwarf ahead to beg admittance, “For here,” (said he) “is doubtless some rare adventure, and, if not apt to the Sangreal, may yet be a tale to amuse the king and eke his queen at Christmastide.”

The dwarf came back and made clear by signs that Sir Gawain was to enter in.

Inside sat a lady and a man, elaborately dressed and strangely, in long sleeves and wide belts, quite alien to Carleon-upon-Usk. The lady was lanky with hair that spread out in a pool around her and a long and red-tipped nose. The man was a paragon of grace and manly beauty. “Indeed,” (said Sir Gawain to himself) “never did I see a comlier, unless it were Sir Launcelot or Sir Galahad his bastard.”

The man rose and drew Sir Gawain aside, and recited this poem, “How comes it that with my sleeve I brushed this saffron-flower that has no loveliness either of shape or hue?”

All of which baffled Sir Gawain, who was much for courting but little for poetry (though gallant!).