Friday, December 25, 2015
A Poem for Christmas Day: "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Parody" by the Editor
Editor’s Note: I submitted the following parody on June 10, 1983 for my final paper for AP English class. I received an A++ with the comments “excellent job.” If you enjoyed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you will probably enjoy this nice Christmas piece. In any case, on behalf of Songs of Eretz, I wish all my faithful readers a Merry Christmas!
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Parody
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
In Camelot, Arthur the King lay at Christmas
Peering, reclined, at his peerless lords.
All of the Knights of the Round Table splendid
Were beating each other with lances and swords.
Then the King called for music to drown out the groans
And scarcely had the music stopped for an instant
That a man dressed in green from his head to his toes
Burst through the hall door without even knocking
Astride a huge horse with a very sore head.
He carried an axe, a most awful weapon,
As green as the hair of the beard on his chin.
And the first thing he said, or should I say questioned,
Was, “Where is your leader? Take me to him!”[i]
That sit at the Round Table with you, noble lord,
And I have reason to test this courage so renowned.
Be there one among you who would dare be so bold
As to assay to strike off my head with this axe,
Let him step forward and I’ll let him do it,
So long as he lets me chop off his in a year.”
All the knights shrank back, for they valued their heads,
That is all but Sir Gawain, a bit smarter than the rest,
He figured, “Quite surely if I first strike his head off
How could he do it to me in a year?”
So Gawain volunteered, and the King gave permission,
And the Green Knight made ready to receive his blow.
With a wink at the crowd Gawain raised the axe high,
The weapon cut swiftly, and the head was laid low.
This wound, however, did not daunt the Knight,
For he picked up his head and mounted his steed.
After Sir Gawain picked his jaw off the floor
And coughed up his tongue and replaced his eyes,
He stood in amazement and starred a the Knight
Who, head in hand, had a look of surprise.
“Did not I tell you that there was a catch?”
“But surely you know about Catch-22?
Catch-22 says that if I let you cut off my head,
I can put it back on and then cut off yours.”[ii]
“Now,” said the Green Knight, “you dealt me a blow
Which I in a year will repay as you know.
So seek the Green Chapel, it’s easy to find,
Or live as a coward with the rest of your kind.”
To find the Green Chapel as he had agreed.
His journey was long; he had many adventures
About which to tell there is really no need.
At last, tired and broken, he came to a castle
And was heartily welcomed by the lord within.
Sir Gawain asked the lord where he might find
The Green Chapel. The lord laughed and said
It was really quite near. Gawain told of his quest,
And the lord asked him to tarry.
He’d show him the way at the end of the year.
“I’ve got an idea,” said the lord to Sir Gawain,
“Let’s make a bargain, a game don’t you know?
I’ll go out hunting and give you what I find,
And you stay in my house and give me what you do.
My wife,” he added slyly, “will stay to entertain you.”
Sir Gawain agreed and with beer sealed the bargain.
And tempted Sir Gawain with her feminine wiles
Quite often whilst her lord was out on the hunt.
But Gawain, who knew sex would be bad for his legs,
Which would be wobbly enough when
The Green Knight he’d face, warded her off,
And only but kissed her, once the first day,
And twice on the next.
The lord, in the meantime, had a successful hunt
And brought back a deer and very nice boar
Which he gave to Sir Gawain, as was the bargain,
And Gawain gave his the kisses, and the lord wanted more.
So once again the lord went to the hunt
And returned with a fox and awaited his due.
Sir Gawain gave him three kisses, and the lord was much pleased.
But three kisses was not actually what Gawain had received,
For the wife of the lord gave to him a green belt
Which would make him invulnerable to the weapons of men.[iii]
“Well, thank you so much for the food and the wine
And the use of your wife (if you know what I mean).
The deer was delicious and so was the boar,
As was the fox (and your lips even more),
But the New Year has come and I must for the Chapel.”
Sir Gawain found the Chapel and boy was it ugly!
Green as if covered with algae and mould.
He called for the Green Knight, and he came as before,
All dressed in green with a big, nasty axe.
“So glad you could come,” said the Knight to our hero.
“Get it over with quickly,” said Gawain with a groan.
The Green Knight said that he would
And Sir Gawain made ready.
Up went the awe, but Gawain’s shoulders decided
That they’d shrink away just in case Greeny
Missed and so would hit them.
“Ha ha! You flinched!” the knight chided Sir Gawain
Who no doubt forgot the belt that he wore.
“Now you just hold still and I’ll try again.”
This time the Knight raised the axe as before
But brought it down not on the neck of Sir Gawain.
Gawain did not flinch, for his shoulders remembered
The green belt he wore though Sir Gawain still did not.
“All right, hurry up!” Sir Gawain told his tormenter.
“In sooth, so I shall,” said the Green Knight.
And so the Knight swung and a nick gave Sir Gawain
Upon his white neck. His neck was quite sad,
But his shoulders were pleased, and he sprang to his feet
And then faced the Green Knight.
“And now I’ll explain,” said the Knight to Sir Gawain,
“I’m the lord of the castle, and my wife, don’t you know,
I sent to tempt you, but you resisted; it is so.
Three strokes I gave you to test your courage
And also to parallel the bargain we made.”
“Wait!” cried Sir Gawain, who really was smart,
“I’ve figured it out; now just see if I’m right.
The first two times at the hunt you gave me your catch,
But, lo! On the third day I was deceitful.
You gave me your fox, but I kept from you
The belt I’d received. Egad! It is true!
The fox could symbolize cunning (he really was smart),
And with cunning I acted and so took a blow.
“So here, take your belt!” for his neck realized
that it could not protect him from the weapons of men.
“No, why don’t you keep it,” said the Knight to Sir Gawain.
“The green’s the wrong shade and it clashes with my beard.
Gawain decided to keep it as a symbol of sin.
He like symbolism a lot, it is true.
The two kissed goodbye, and Gawain went on his way.
Gawain had many adventures ere he reached Camelot
Which are too long to tell of, and so I will not.
Arthur restored him his property, which had been auctioned.
Gawain then told his tale to all of the Knights
And showed them his symbol, the green belt he wore.
“This is a symbol of sin and deceit, and I’ll wear it always
To remind me of when I acted unknightly.”
But the Knights, who were not as smart as Sir Gawain,
And did not even know what a symbol was,
Just laughed and decided to wear similar belts.
In the days of King Arthur these deeds were done.
[i] Scholars have wondered for centuries if this “Knight” was meant to be a big, green Martian, and if his first words indeed should be translated, “Take me to your leader!”
[ii] My AP English class had recently read Joseph Heller’s timeless classic for an assignment.
[iii] Scholars are undecided as to whether Sir Gawain just wanted to keep the belt or if he enjoyed kissing the lord.