leased, and Gawayne knelt down on the floor.
"A boon," he cried, "a boon, my lord and king!
If ever yet in any little thing
These hands have served thee, hear my last request:
Let _me_ adventure this mad monster's jest!"
King Arthur shook his head in dumb denial,
Loth to withdraw his own hand from the trial,
And leave the vengeance that himself had vowed;
But all the people called to him aloud,
"Sir Gawayne! let Sir Gawayne strike the blow!"
And Guinevere, the queen, besought him low
To leave this venture to the lesser man.
He yielded, and the merry jest began.
The visitor, dismounting, made a bow
To Arthur, then to all the court. "And now,"
Said he to Gawayne, "wheresoe'er you choose
To strike your blow, strike on; I'll not refuse;
Head, shoulders, chest, or waist, I little reck;
Where shall it be?" Quoth Gawayne, "In the neck!"
So Gawayne took the axe. The stranger knelt
Before him on the hearth and loosed his belt,