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A Lady Slips into Gawain's Chamber


While the lord found delight in the linden-wood,
that good man Gawain had a grand bed
where he dozed while daylight dappled the walls
and crept through the counterpanes and curtains about him.
As he drifted half-dreaming, a delicate noise
sounded softly at the door, which suddenly opened.
When he heard this he heaved his head from the sheets
and pulled a corner of the curtain carefully aside,
warily wondering what it might be.
It was the lady herself, such a lovely sight,
who closed the door carefully and quietly behind her
and bent toward the bed. Blushing the fellow
lay down and lurked there, looking asleep.
Taking step after step, she stole to the bed,
caught up the curtain and crawling inside
sat down beside him with silent motions.
A long while she lingered there to look at him waking.
The man lay unmoving for more than a while,
for his mind was bemused what to make of this
strange situation. It seemed most amazing.
But he said to himself, "It would suit far better
if I let the lady enlighten me herself."
Then he straightened and stretched and stirring toward her
he opened his eyes and acted astounded.
Then he crossed himself as if he claimed protection
from that sight --
                her chin and cheeks were sweet,
                blending red and white;
                her voice a pleasant treat
                where small lips smiled delight.


"Good morning, Sir Gawain!" she gaily exclaimed.
"You're a sound sleeper! I slipped in unnoticed
and you are quite my captive! Unless we come to terms
I shall bind you in your bed -- of that be quite certain."
Delighted the lady laughed as she teased him.
"Good morning, gay lady!" answered Gawain blithely.
"Just decide on my sentence; it will suit me nicely.
I'm your prisoner completely, and plead for your mercy.
It's my best bet, so I had better take it!"
(So he teased her in turn, returning her laughter.)
"But at least, lovely lady, allow me one wish:
pardon your prisoner, please let him rise;
let me be out of bed, in better apparel,
and we'll finish chatting in far greater comfort."
"Certainly not, good sir," that sweet lady said.
"You'll not budge from your bed: I have better plans.
I shall hold you here -- and that other half also --
and get to know the knight I've so neatly trapped.
I know enough after all, to know of Sir Gawain
whom all the world worships; every way you ride
your courteous character is acclaimed most nobly
by lords and by ladies and all living people.
And now you are here, and here we're alone --
my lord and his men will be long afield;
the servants are sleeping; so are my maidens;
I have closed the door, it's securely locked;
and since I have in this house he whom all admire,
I shall spend my time in speech I am sure
to treasure.
                My person's yours, of course,
                to see you take your pleasure;
                I am obliged, perforce,
                to serve you at your leisure."

(adaptation by Paul Deane. Copyright © Paul Deane, 1999. All rights reserved.