Passus I, Stanza 6, Lines 107 through 129:
King Arthur, the “stout young king, stands there in state” (107). The reference to Arthur being “stout” refers to his pride, haughtiness, arrogance and stateliness (107). As Arthur stands there waiting for a tale of marvels, the guests wait to eat. While his guests figure-out a miracles tale to be told, Arthur speaks before the “high table of trifles fair” (108). “Trifles fair” is a foolish, trivial or nonsensical means of saying how things are in general used as vehicle for amusement, jesting or joking (108).
Gawain, a “good Knight, sits by Guenevere” (109), on the other side of Gawain, sits “Agravain à la dure main” (110). The phrase “à la dure main” is French (110). Literally, “à la dure main” means the hard way hand, but figuratively, “à la dure main” means the left hand (110). On the left hand side of Gawain, sits Agravain. Both Gawain and Agravain are “Knights of renown, and nephews of the king” (111). The phrase “Knights of renown” means Gawain and Agravain are Knights of fame or distinction, widely known and celebrated.
At the beginning of the high table, sits “Bishop Baldwin” (112), and “Yvain, son of Urien, ate with him there” (113). The few guests who were positioned at the high table with Queen Guenevere “were fittingly served” (114). Most of the guests in attendance sit at the “side-tables” (115). The “side-tables” are on the main floor and run along the walls at a right angle with the high table. The high table sits on a dais, a raised platform (115). “At the side-tables sat many stalwart knights,” “stalwart” means were strong and stoutly built, resolute and robust, sturdy and severe, unbending and determined in spirit and mind (115).
The first course of the meal is introduced with “clamor of trumpets” (116). The phrase “clamor of trumpets” means the trumpets made a loud noise or cry to attention or announcement (116). The trumpets were “bravely bedecked with bannerets bright” (117). The reference to the trumpets being “bedecked with bannerets bright” means the trumpets are ornamented with a bright small banner, three feet square, displaying the arms of the person in whose honor it is borne (117). The bannerets are borne to honor the Knights of the Round Table. Accompanying the trumpets was noise from “new drums and the noble pipes” (118). The “noble pipes” are bagpipes (118). Bagpipes are a musical instrument of great antiquity and wide diffusion, consisting of an air-tight wind-bag and one or more reed-pipes into which the air is pressed by the performer. During the 14th Century, bagpipes were a favorite rural English musical instrument.
The instruments played in imprecations and invoked an intensive expression of “warbles that wakened that day” (119). A “warble” is a tune or melody of a specific kind performed on an instrument (119). When a “warble” is played by a flourish of trumpets, it is proclamation (119). The phrase a “flourish of trumpets” means several or a mass of trumpets and a “proclamation” is the official giving of public notice. In this case, the flourish of trumpets identifying the public notice, proclaims the commencement of the feast via the first course. The reference being “wakened that day” is a figurative poetic devise, an analogy, signifying time for the guests to eat (119).
The warbles or melodies played in “strains that stirred many strong men’s hearts” (120). The melody’s interpretation and feeling expressed, including tone, style and turn of expression “stirred many strong men’s hearts” (120). The many strong men’s hearts were “stirred” (120). For the men’s hearts to be “stirred” means their hearts and emotions were affected by the music and melody, moved and aroused into an elevated and sensitive state of passion (120).
The first course was “dealt out” with “dainties, dishes rare” (121). A “dainty” is any food pleasing or delicious to the palate, a choice viand or delicacy (121). A “choice viand” refers to articles of food, provisions or victuals of the finest quality. The “victual” means food or provisions for persons. The first course was served with the finest delicacies and other rare dishes. “On so many chargers,” there was “choice fare to choose” (122). A “charger” is a large plate or flat dish for carrying a large joint of meat, a platter, and may be a large soup-plate or vessel for liquids (122). The term “choice fare” means food of the finest quality. There were so many platters of the finest food to choose from that there was hardly in any space on the table for the “service of silver, with sundry meats” on linen (124). The term “sundry meats” means an assortment of meats. Meats were put on linen on top of silver ware for service.
The “fair guests” dined “freely,” guests were civil and courteous, beautiful, handsome and noble, dined without restraint (126). All the guests “Partakes, and nothing loth,” all the guests partook or joined in the celebration, and none of the guests were unwilling or reluctant as well none of the dishes were averse or disinclined (127). Every couple at the table received “twelve dishes,” twelve courses of food (128). The host also provided “good beer and bright wine” (129).
Modern English Translation Text:
So he stand there in state, the stout young king,
Talking before the high table of trifles fair.
There Gawain the good knight by Guenevere sits,
With Agravain à la dure main on his other side,
Both knights of renown, and nephews of the king.
Bishop Baldwin above begins the table,
And Yvain, son of Urien, ate with him there,
These few with the fair queen were fittingly served;
At the side tables sat many stalwart knights.
Then the first course comes, with clamor of trumpets
That were bravely bedecked with bannerets bright,
With noise of new drums and the noble pipes.
Wild were the warbles that wakened that day
In strains that stirred many strong men’s hearts.
There dainties were dealt out, dishes rare,
Choice fare to choose, on chargers so many
That scarce was there space to set before the people
The service of silver, with sundry meats,
Each fair guest freely there
Partakes, and nothing loth;
Twelve dishes before each pair;
Good beer and bright wine both.
Middle English Original Text:
Thus þer stondes in stale þe stif kyng hisseluen,
Talkkande bifore þe hy3e table of trifles ful hende.
There gode Gawan watz grayþed Gwenore bisyde,
And Agrauayn a la dure mayn on þat oþer syde sittes,
Boþe þe kynges sistersunes and ful siker kni3tes;
Bischop Bawdewyn abof biginez þe table,
And Ywan, Vryn son, ette with hymseluen.
Þise were di3t on þe des and derworþly serued,
And siþen mony siker segge at þe sidbordez.
Þen þe first cors come with crakkyng of trumpes,
Wyth mony baner ful bry3t þat þerbi henged;
Nwe nakryn noyse with þe noble pipes,
Wylde werbles and wy3t wakned lote,
Þat mony hert ful hi3e hef at her towches.
Dayntés dryuen þerwyth of ful dere metes,
Foysoun of þe fresche, and on so fele disches
Þat pine to fynde þe place þe peple biforne
For to sette þe sylueren þat sere sewes halden
Iche lede as he loued hymselue
Þer laght withouten loþe;
Ay two had disches twelue,
Good ber and bry3t wyn boþe
Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain reproduced in facsimile from MS. Cotton Nero A. x with Introduction by Sir I. Gollancz, E.E.T.S. 162, 1923.
Syr Gawayne, ed. Sir F. Madden, Bannatyne Club, 1839.
Sir Gawayne and The Green Knight, ed. R. Morris, E.E.T.S. 4, 1864, revd. Sir I. Gollancz 1897 and 1912.
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, Oxford, 1925.
The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Eds. Malcom Andrew, and Ronald Waldron. Exeter: U of Exeter, 1987.
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Middle Ages. 8th ed. Vol. A. Eds. Alfred David, and James Simpson. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. 160-213.
Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2nd ed. 1989. Lane Library, Ripon College, Ripon, WI.