Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SIR GAWAIN, by JOHN HOOKHAM FRERE



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SIR GAWAIN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Sir gawain may be painted in a word
Last Line: And bore down shields, and pikes, and horse, and man.
Subject(s): Cavaliers


SIR Gawain may be painted in a word --
He was a perfect loyal cavalier;
His courteous manners stand upon record,
A stranger to the very thought of fear.
The proverb says, As brave as his own sword;
And like his weapon was that worthy peer,
Of admirable temper, clear and bright,
Polish'd yet keen, though pliant yet upright.

On every point, in earnest or in jest,
His judgment, and his prudence, and his wit,
Were deem'd the very tou hstone and the test
Of what was proper, graceful, just, and fit;
A word from him set every thing at rest
His short decisions never fail'd to hit;
His silence, his reserve, his inattention,
Were felt as the severest reprehension:

His memory was the magazine and hoard,
Where claims and grievances, from year to year,
And confidences and complaints were stored,
From dame and knight, from damsel, boor, and peer:
Loved by his friends, and trusted by his lord,
A generous courtier, secret and sincere,
Adviser-general to the whole community,
He served his friend, but watch'd his opportunity.

One riddle I could never understand --
But his success in war was strangely various;
In executing schemes that others plann'd,
He seem'd a very Caesar or a Marius;
Take his own plans, and place him in command,
Your prospect of success became precarious:
His plans were good, but Launcelot succeeded
And realized them better far than he did.

His discipline was steadfast and austere,
Unalterably fix'd, but calm and kind;
Founded on admiration, more than fear,
It seem'd an emanation from his mind;
The coarsest natures that approach'd him near
Grew courteous for the moment and refined;
Beneath his eye the poorest, weakest wight
Felt full of point of honour, like a knight.

In battle he was fearless to a fault,
The foremost in the thickest of the field;
His eager valour knew no pause nor halt,
And the red rampant lion in his shield
Scaled towns and towers, the foremost in assault,
With ready succour where the battle reel'd:
At random like a thunderbolt he ran,
And bore down shields, and pikes, and horse, and man.





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