Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
How we cite our quotes:
Then the lord politely enquired of the knight
What pressing need had forced him at that festive time
So urgently from the royal court to travel all alone,
Before the holy days there had completely passed.
[. . .]
"I have now for my business only three short days,
And would rather be struck dead than fail in my quest."
(1046 - 1049, 1066 - 1067)
Lord Bertilak seems to find it strange that Gawain has traveled away from Arthur’s court alone on the holidays, so entrenched is the custom of celebrating that feast at the court of one’s liege lord. But Gawain feels an increasing sense of urgency as New Year’s Day draws nearer.
By the time cock-crow had sounded three times
The lord had leapt out of his bed and each of his men,
So that breakfast and mass were duly done,
And long before daybreak they were all on their way
to the chase.
(1412 - 1416)
The hunting scenes in Sir Gawain are bookended by a reference to the time they begin and end. The lord and his men rise and are on the path before dawn, a necessity when the winter days are so short. They are usually on their way home before sunset, although the foxhunt that follows this boar hunt is so long and difficult that they don’t start home until it’s almost dark.