A year passes apace, and proves evernew:First things and final conform but seldom.See Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Part 2 begins with a brief summaryof the New Year’s feast in Part 1. The poetcalls the Green Knight’s game with Gawain King Arthur’s New Year’sgift, since it provided him with the marvelous story he had waitedto hear. The poet describes in elaborate language the change ofseasons, from Christmas to the cold season of Lent with its ritualfasting, to a green young spring and summer, then into harvest time,and finally back to winter. In late autumn, on the Day of All Saints,the knights of Camelot prepare to send a mournful Gawain off onhis quest for the Green Chapel.

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Worried but resigned, Gawain calls for his armor, whichthe poet describes in great detail. He devotes space to each andevery piece, down to the shimmering skirts on Gawain’s horse, Gringolet.The description lingers on Gawain’s shield, which depicts on itsoutside a gold five-pointed star, or pentangle, on a red background.On the inside of the shield is the face of Mary, Christ’s mother.Each of the five points of the pentangle, which is described asan “endless knot” (630), represents a setof Gawain’s virtues: his five senses; his five fingers; his fidelity,founded on the five wounds of Christ; his force, founded on thefive joys of Mary; and the five knightly virtues.

After dressing, Gawain says goodbye to his friends andleaves the court. Sparks fly from Gringolet’s hooves as they rideoff. He heads out into the wilderness, traveling through North Walesand the west coast of England in his search for the mysterious GreenChapel. He encounters various foes—wolves and dragons, bulls andbears, boars and giants—but always prevails over his enemies. Hesleeps in his armor and has frequent nightmares. As the winter growscolder, he nearly freezes to death.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, the desperate Gawain praysto the Virgin Mary that he might find a place to attend ChristmasMass. He repents his sins, crosses himself three times, and, whenhe looks up, he sees a beautiful castle. Surrounded by a green parkand a moat, the castle shimmers in the distance through the trees,and Gawain, full of thanks to God for saving him, approaches thedrawbridge. The castle is so white and its crowns and turrets sotall and intricately carved that the whole building looks as ifit were cut out of paper. Gawain salutes, and a guardian allowshim to enter.

The porter welcomes Gawain warmly, inviting him in tomeet the courtiers and the lord of the castle. The host’s lordsand ladies repeatedly express their joy that Gawain (a minor celebritybecause he is Arthur’s nephew and a knight of the Round Table) canshow them the latest in knightly behavior and help them to becomemore courtly themselves. Like Arthur’s followers, the courtiersseem inexperienced and carefree. But Gawain’s host presents a muchmore imposing figure than Arthur. The lord appears to be middle-aged, witha thick, gray-black beard and solid, sturdy legs. Though the host’sfiery face and stocky figure make him appear fierce, his speech revealshim to be gracious and gentle.

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The lord takes Gawain to a rich chamber, where he feedsGawain sumptuous food and wine, and introduces Gawain to two women. Thehost’s wife is young, beautiful, and elegantly dressed, her firm neckand bosom exposed. The other, an old woman, is wrinkled, stocky,hairy, black-browed, and covered entirely in clothing. Only hernose, eyes, and blistered lips are exposed by the fabric. Afterthe introductions, the lords and ladies play games and celebratelate into the night, when Gawain retires for bed.


Part 2 (lines 491-1125) Quick Quiz" class="tag--moreLikeThis-quickQuiz more-like-this__link more-like-this__link--quickQuiz" href="/lit/gawain/section2/?quickquiz_id=1306">