Great Portland Street
Medieval Arthurian Legend
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
14th century, Middle English, British Museum, London.
Whoever wears this green waistband cannot be wounded by any man in battle, for there is no man on Earth who can kill him.
At the castle at which Sir Gawain is a guest, while he waits to be guided to the Green Chapel for the return stroke of an axe on New Year's Day, the following game is played: the lord goes hunting and Sir Gawain spends the day with the ladies. In particular the lord’s own lady. In the evening, everything that the lord has acquired during the hunt is Sir Gawain’s to keep and everything that Gawain has achieved in the company of the ladies must be given to the lord. Despite the potential for ribaldry, Sir Gawain, having been assured that he will be taken to the Green Chapel at the due time, behaves very correctly. All the kisses that he receives from the lady of the house he gives to the lord on his return from hunting, in exchange for the spoils of the hunt and in compliance with the terms of their agreement. He will not be drawn, however, along the path that the lady of the castle, Lady Bertilak, obviously wishes to lead him.
On the final morning she offers Sir Gawain a ring as a token of her love, which he refuses. Then she offers him a silken girdle with the property that
for what gome so is gurde with this grene lace, while he hit had hemely halched aboute, there is no hathel under heven tohewe him that myght, for he myght not be slain for slyght upon erthe. Whoever wears this green waistband cannot be wounded by any man in battle, for there is no man on Earth who can kill him.' This he accepts gratefully, in view of what he is about to face.