Adapted, a little irreverently, from The Knight of the Sword. First draft; lines I want to definitely revisit marked with *.
Bold Sir Gawain rode out one day
Through hill and glen he made his way
Til coming to a castle stout
With tall stone walls all ringed about.
Twas there he sought to spend the night
He hid his name, in case it might
Cause his host to treat him unlike
Any other knight come to spend the night.
Passed under gate and up stairs steep
To hall where supper was laid out
Fine meal it was, there is no doubt
Provided by Sir Gawain's host
Who straightaway proposed a toast
To their wan'dring guest, and one more
For host's own daughter wine was poured.
A fair young maid it's sure she was
Her beauty gave her father cause
To watch close all untested men
He had a test he'd use again
On unsuspecting Sir Gawain
To see how well he could abstain.
"Our feast is done, so now to bed.
Dear worthy guest," the host he said,
"Please sleep within my daughter's arms
And yes, you may enjoy her charms."
Sir Gawain struck all speechless was
But maiden led him without pause
Into a chamber rich and fine
And served him with a glass of wine
Before she took off all her clothes
And on the bed laid in repose.
"Oh knight," she said, "I must confess,
Although my words might cause distress,
That this is not your lucky night.
My father does this out of spite
To all the men who admire me.
I've never gone 'gainst his decree,
But you I'll warn, because you seem
To be a knight of high esteem.
You see the sword on yonder wall?
If you seek to take my all,
It will fly forth and strike you dead.
The thought, it fills me quite with dread."
This was most unwelcome news.
And so Gawain thought best to choose
A quiet night asleep in bed.
But candlelight confused his head
By showing maiden's slender waist,
And hips, and breasts and oh yes - face.
So then he said unto himself,
"That sword can't hurt me on its shelf.
She's playing coy and hard to get.
Will I be cowed by idle threat?"
He started to caress and kiss
But before he could find bliss
The sword flew free, came piercing down
And left a mark across his crown.
"A miracle!" the maiden cried.
"I can't believe you haven't died.
That's never happened here before."
Well-chastened, Gawain cleaned his gore
And tried to sleep again, but found
That all his thoughts went round and round.
Now was enchantment off the sword?
Now could he safely get aboard?
He had to try, lest he be mocked
For leaving maiden all... untouched.*
So love-play he began again
The maiden didn't much complain
Enchantment was not off the sword!
It would not let him get aboard!
It pierced his shoulder through and through
Then back to scabbard duly flew.
Twice was enough for our bold knight
Who no more offered any fight
But tossed and turned the whole night through
Until the day was born anew
And host the doors of chamber ope
To find knight dead was his one hope
But found our hero quite alive
And wondered how he had survived.
"You must be a son of kings
Because that sword I've given wings
Struck you, but it killed you not."
"It's true, I am the son of Lot
The king of Orkney," Gawain said.
"And you've kept an honest bed,"
The host went on, "Or royal blood
Would not have done you any good.
You are in truth a worthy man,
The best I've seen, and so my plan
Is to offer you my daughter's hand.
We'll have a wedding very grand!"
"The wedding night will be sword-free?"
Sir Gawain asked most courteously.
"My word on it," the host he said.
"Then your maid I'll gladly wed!"