Stanza 1 of Part 2 of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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This adventure was a fine New Year's gift
Arthur to get, for he loved to have challenges.
If topics were lacking
when they sat to the table,
now they'd much deadly matter to keep their tongues busy.
Gawain was pleased that he'd started these hall games,
but don't be surprised if the outcome is tragic.
Though people
are cheerful when they've all been drinking,
a year passes quickly and changes its moods;
the end rarely matches the spirit it starts in.
Yuletide is past
and the New Year is too,
and each season follows the other in sequence.
After Christmas comes shriveling Lent
that tries
the body with fish and dry bread.
the earth's weather weakens the winter:
cold shrinks underground, the clouds draw up higher.
The bright
rain falls in warming showers,
straight on to
the ground so that flowers appear.
Both meadows and fields are covered in green;
birds hurry to build and sing with excitement
of joy at the summer that follows so sweetly
all over the hills.
Blossoms swell and bloom
in dense, reckless array,
and rich notes, unpausing,
are heard throughout
the wood.

This adventure had Arthur of hand-gifts first
When young was the year
, for he yearned to hear tales;
Though they wanted for words
when they went to sup,
Now are fierce deeds to follow, their fists stuffed full.
Gawain was glad to begin these games in hall,
But if the end be harsher, hold it no wonder,
For though men
are merry in mind after much drink,
A year passes apace, and proves ever new:
First things
and final conform but seldom.
And so this Yule to
the young year yielded place,
And each season ensued at its set time;
After Christmas there came the cold cheer of Lent,
with fish and plainer fare our flesh we reprove;
But then
the world's weather with winter contends;
The keen
cold lessens, the low clouds lift;
Fresh fall the
rain in fostering showers
On the face of the fields; flowers appear.
The ground and the groves wear gowns of green;
Birds build their nests, and blithely sing
That solace of all sorrow with summer comes
ere long
And blossoms day by day
Bloom rich
and rife in throng;
Then every grove so gay
the greenwood rings with song.

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Middle English




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