Hot Best Seller

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: In Prose and Poetry

Availability: Ready to download

While the knights of King Arthur's Round Table are toasting the new year, a colossal stranger clad in green armor bursts in to deliver a formidable challenge: Any of them may strike off the intruder's head as long as he is prepared to receive a similar blow from the Green Knight in one year. Of all the gallant knights in the assembly, only Sir Gawain—brave, gallant, and tr While the knights of King Arthur's Round Table are toasting the new year, a colossal stranger clad in green armor bursts in to deliver a formidable challenge: Any of them may strike off the intruder's head as long as he is prepared to receive a similar blow from the Green Knight in one year. Of all the gallant knights in the assembly, only Sir Gawain—brave, gallant, and true to his word—is willing to answer the dare. So begins this gem of medieval English literature, which traces Gawain's adventures as he endeavors to fulfill his pledge. Dating from the late fourteenth century or earlier, the story blends paganistic elements with Christian ethics to celebrate the virtue of forgiveness, thus forming a classic example of the chivalric tradition. This edition presents the legend in two forms: in prose and in verse, both translated by the distinguished scholar Jessie Weston.


Compare

While the knights of King Arthur's Round Table are toasting the new year, a colossal stranger clad in green armor bursts in to deliver a formidable challenge: Any of them may strike off the intruder's head as long as he is prepared to receive a similar blow from the Green Knight in one year. Of all the gallant knights in the assembly, only Sir Gawain—brave, gallant, and tr While the knights of King Arthur's Round Table are toasting the new year, a colossal stranger clad in green armor bursts in to deliver a formidable challenge: Any of them may strike off the intruder's head as long as he is prepared to receive a similar blow from the Green Knight in one year. Of all the gallant knights in the assembly, only Sir Gawain—brave, gallant, and true to his word—is willing to answer the dare. So begins this gem of medieval English literature, which traces Gawain's adventures as he endeavors to fulfill his pledge. Dating from the late fourteenth century or earlier, the story blends paganistic elements with Christian ethics to celebrate the virtue of forgiveness, thus forming a classic example of the chivalric tradition. This edition presents the legend in two forms: in prose and in verse, both translated by the distinguished scholar Jessie Weston.

30 review for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: In Prose and Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tanja (Tanychy) St. Delphi/James

    I didn't know where to post this so I think this is a good place! It remains me of my Literature professor, in a good way of course! :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Contains the greatest "OH FUCK" moment in medieval literature! Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - listed here as written by Unknown, though I believe it may have been penned by that prolific Greek author Anonymous - is a classic tale from Arthurian legend in which the code of honor attributed to chivalry is heavily ensconced. There are many interpretations of the poem's meaning, and historically speaking it's often dependent on the reader's bias. For instance, Christians latched on to the sex aspe Contains the greatest "OH FUCK" moment in medieval literature! Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - listed here as written by Unknown, though I believe it may have been penned by that prolific Greek author Anonymous - is a classic tale from Arthurian legend in which the code of honor attributed to chivalry is heavily ensconced. There are many interpretations of the poem's meaning, and historically speaking it's often dependent on the reader's bias. For instance, Christians latched on to the sex aspect and pagans saw a Green Man parallel. Me? I just see it as damn good fun, just as I'll wager the eagerly listening common folk heard it told by their smoky peat fires so many hundreds of years ago.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    Enchanting translation that made me love words again. The cadence and rhythm Armitage employed gave life to the modern English rather than direct translation. The Introduction laid out precisely what he would do and why he made the choice he did--to preserve the beauty of the poetry, both the alliterative Anglo-Saxon and the breakout stanzas of continental rhyming. And I fell in love with language again. I found myself speaking aloud or mouthing them to feel the words tumbling out. For that joy, Enchanting translation that made me love words again. The cadence and rhythm Armitage employed gave life to the modern English rather than direct translation. The Introduction laid out precisely what he would do and why he made the choice he did--to preserve the beauty of the poetry, both the alliterative Anglo-Saxon and the breakout stanzas of continental rhyming. And I fell in love with language again. I found myself speaking aloud or mouthing them to feel the words tumbling out. For that joy, I am grateful again. As a selection for my Yuletide reading, I was most fortunate. The tale itself is quite simple, but filled with so many tidbits. It is a heroic story as Sir Gawain is tested. The similarities between the Green Knight and the Green Man mythology was one of the most interesting to me. But, the amalgamation of Christianity and pagan beliefs is fascinating. I'm going to ignore the misogynistic aspects of Christianity and women as the downfall of man when it is clearly their own decisions at play or here specifically, at the behest of another-- Yes, please continue to abdicate personal responsibility. Thus, I found the judgment at the end interesting. Sir Gawain got off lightly, and I concur with his interpretation of his actions over those of the Knights of the Round Table. The poem itself might be only a four star read, but how it made me feel bumps this to five stars, easily.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    The season if not of mellow fruitfulness than of frost and fog brings this back to me with the childhood memory of going to school in a proper pea souper, every familiar landmark lost, only the tarmac footpath remained solid beneath my childish feet, occasionally a hut would burst out of the milkiness to demonstrate that I was making progress. My little quest however did not take a year and a day, as all self respecting quests must. Alas the language is beyond me, I am comfortable with Chaucer (t The season if not of mellow fruitfulness than of frost and fog brings this back to me with the childhood memory of going to school in a proper pea souper, every familiar landmark lost, only the tarmac footpath remained solid beneath my childish feet, occasionally a hut would burst out of the milkiness to demonstrate that I was making progress. My little quest however did not take a year and a day, as all self respecting quests must. Alas the language is beyond me, I am comfortable with Chaucer (though I suspect that's just the false friends fooling me), and I found Langland, with concentration, manageable, but this dialect of English, roughly contemporary to the other two a bit too much, maybe if I knew some Norse or Danish, or had been born and raised in that country where it had been written rather than close to the dark waters of the Thames I would find it easier. But this edition does have a fine cover illustration which takes you to the heart of the matter. If you don't know it all, then it is a medieval English poem dealing with a knight of King Arthur's court, who gets into a beheading game with a wandering Green knight (view spoiler)[ these not too popular today, a kind of sport in which the participants take turns in chopping off each other's heads, the magical ability to stick your decapitated head back on your shoulders was not considered cheating (hide spoiler)] and in order to take his turn at being beheaded Sir Gawain must first find the aforementioned Green knight, so the entire story is about being lost in the fog - a mysterious antagonist cannot be found, playing a game of which you don't know all the rules, mysterious temptations (as illustrated by the front cover), is the hero going to die, what does it all mean? Lost in the fog, wandering, but you reach the destination all the same. I thoroughly enjoyed the Simon Armitage translation if the gentle reader is curious enough. bonus fun

  5. 4 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    Simon Armitage translation (Faber & Faber / Norton), and the Oxford edition's notes I'd half forgotten about Gawain and the Green Knight - and I'd definitely forgotten it was set over Christmas and New Year, until I heard this mid-December episode of In Our Time. As I thought during the programme how bored I now was of Simon Armitage - he's become a very regular fixture on BBC arts shows in the last few years - I didn't expect to end up reading his translation of Gawain. But I looked at a cou Simon Armitage translation (Faber & Faber / Norton), and the Oxford edition's notes I'd half forgotten about Gawain and the Green Knight - and I'd definitely forgotten it was set over Christmas and New Year, until I heard this mid-December episode of In Our Time. As I thought during the programme how bored I now was of Simon Armitage - he's become a very regular fixture on BBC arts shows in the last few years - I didn't expect to end up reading his translation of Gawain. But I looked at a couple of others and they seemed too formal and RP. The poem's northernness (or perhaps more precisely north-west-midlandness) is one of the most distinctive things about it, and is what makes it different from other 14th-century English works like The Canterbury Tales or Piers Plowman, and I wanted that to be evident in the translation. Although the beginning of Armitage version didn't have as many dialect words as I'd hoped (nor did it in the full poem), you can hear an accent in it if you're looking, the way you can't in the Penguin or Oxford translations. However, he says about the translation, "the often-quoted notion that a poem can never be finished, only abandoned, has never felt more true. Even now, further permutations and possibilities keep suggesting themselves, as if the tweaking and fine-tuning could last a lifetime" - and a new revised edition was published in October 2018, so there may even be more dialect in it now. And - its other great advantage I only fully realised after starting to read it properly - Armitage's version uses alliteration like the original, rather than blank verse or a rhymed meter. One edition's introduction explains that Germanic languages frequently use alliteration as a poetic device, whereas romance languages use rhyme. I love alliteration, but it's kind of uncool: done to excess (and excess is easy to do with alliteration) it can seem like the dad-dancing of English wordplay. (Is that anything to do with its being an older, pre-Norman component of the language?) It was perhaps my favourite aspect of Armitage's Gawain, seeing, for the first time, alliteration used in such quantity and so well, and utterly *allowed*, and never once with a need to cringe. On the appearance of the Green Knight at Camelot: The guests looked on. They gaped and they gawked and were mute with amazement: what did it mean that human and horse could develop this hue, should grow to be grass-green or greener still, like green enamel emboldened by bright gold? Some stood and stared then stepped a little closer, drawn near to the knight to know his next move; Gawain's adventures on the journey northwards in winter: Where he bridges a brook or wades through a waterway ill fortune brings him face-to-face with a foe so foul or fierce he is bound to use force. So momentous are his travels among the mountains to tell just a tenth would be a tall order. Here he scraps with serpents and snarling wolves, here he tangles with wodwos causing trouble in the crags, or with bulls and bears and the odd wild boar. Hard on his heels through the highlands come giants. Only diligence and faith in the face of death will keep him from becoming a corpse or carrion. It brings home how bloody cold a medieval winter felt, with so many fewer hopes of getting warm than we have. And the wars were one thing, but winter was worse: clouds shed their cargo of crystallized rain which froze as it fell to the frost-glazed earth. With nerves frozen numb he napped in his armour,… So in peril and pain Sir Gawain made progress, crisscrossing the countryside until Christmas Eve… --- Now night passes and New Year draws near, drawing off darkness as our Deity decrees. But wild-looking weather was about in the world: clouds decanted their cold rain earthwards; the nithering north needled man’s very nature; creatures were scattered by the stinging sleet. Then a whip-cracking wind comes whistling between hills driving snow into deepening drifts in the dales. It's clear how exhausting a journey through this was, with rest and recuperation much needed, and no shame in the knight lying abed while the lord went out hunting. “You were weary and worn, hollow with hunger, harrowed by tiredness, yet you joined in my revelling right royally every night. What a contrast Christmas was with the rest of winter under these conditions: And with meals and mirth and minstrelsy they made as much amusement as any mortal could, and among those merry men and laughing ladies Gawain and his host got giddy together; only lunatics and drunkards could have looked more delirious. Every person present performed party pieces till the hour arrived when revellers must rest, (Which may have been later than you'd think; A Tudor Christmas, which I read a couple of weeks earlier, stated that in 1494, Henry VII processed at 11pm after mass on Twelfth Night.) As with all good long poems, there are a handful of lines that don't work, but those that do outweigh those that don't sufficiently to make the off-notes negligible. Needless to say, all this left me with renewed respect for Armitage, and I enjoyed watching this documentary in which he visited the likely locations the Gawain-poet thought of as he was writing. Lud's Church in North Staffordshire, the probable site of the Green Chapel, really did look like somewhere a high-fantasy film hero would fight a pivotal battle with a monster (or maybe they just filmed it well to make it look that way). If you also remember Armitage from the 90s Mark Radcliffe Radio 1 show, you will probably enjoy the soundtrack too. Armitage's edition has a short - and interesting - intro, but if you want the best historical background info, the Oxford edition is the place to look, at Helen Cooper's introduction and notes. (The Penguin Bernard O'Donoghue version doesn't have nearly as much.) Info like this was exciting (to me at least) after having heard several briefer, less detailed histories of the text: the precise detail of this location may however represent the origin of the scribe who copied the poems into the manuscript rather than of the poet himself, who certainly came from the same region but may not be possible to locate with quite the same degree of exactness. The Wirral was notorious as a refuge for outlaws though the comment here on the wildness of its inhabitants could also be a joke against the poem's first readers since Gawain is travelling into their own home territory. This is, however, the dangerous past, not the familiar present. (So the Liverpool jokes have an ancient history…) Other highlights included various estimates of when wild boar became hunted to extinction in England; the ranked, and also gendered, classification of hunted beasts; when carpets were probably introduced by Eleanor of Castile; mini-biographies of candidates for the authorship and dedication; the influential coterie of Cheshiremen around Richard II in the 1390s; and that Gawain was part of an Alliterative Revival in poetry, all known works written "in the north or west of England or in southern Scotland". For a long time I was not all that interested in reading Gawain because I'd never found chivalric culture very interesting and couldn't help but imagine it taking place in the sanitised scenes of Victorian Gothic revival paintings, even though they were obviously hundreds of years later. Not only did I enjoy the alliteration and the descriptions of the winter weather and its effects in the poem, but it helped me start to see chivalry in a different context: grittier, for want of a better word, and part of what seems to have been a confusing, demanding and perhaps sometimes contradictory set of social standards for medieval nobility which I'd actually like to know a bit more about (but paper-length rather than book-length). The only reason for giving 4 stars rather than 5 is the known fault with the original, that the purported plot by Morgan Le Fay, as explanation for events, is unconvincing. Otherwise, the poem ends with a beautiful and unexpectedly moving final line, as if it were a prayer; although the story is playful and mythical, this reminds the reader of the religion at the heart of medieval life. (read Dec 2018, review Jan 2019)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    One of the best of the 'classic' Arthurian tales. Gawain is presented a bit differently here from many of the other ones. Usually he's a bit of a braggart and kind of a jerk, especially to women, but here he is presented as the perfect exemplar of courtoisie. He's also a bit young and still untried, so maybe that explains it for those who want to be able to have a grand unified theory of Arthuriana. Anyway, you probably all know the story: Arthur is about to have a New Year's feast, but accordin One of the best of the 'classic' Arthurian tales. Gawain is presented a bit differently here from many of the other ones. Usually he's a bit of a braggart and kind of a jerk, especially to women, but here he is presented as the perfect exemplar of courtoisie. He's also a bit young and still untried, so maybe that explains it for those who want to be able to have a grand unified theory of Arthuriana. Anyway, you probably all know the story: Arthur is about to have a New Year's feast, but according to tradition is waiting for some marvel to occur. Right on cue in trots the Green Knight on his horse, a giant of a man who proceeds to trash the reputation of the entire court and dare someone to cut off his head as long as he gets to return the favour. No one makes a move and Arthur decides he better do something about this until Gawain steps up and asks to take on this quest himself. Everyone agrees and Gawain proceeds to smite the green head from the Knight's body. Everyone is fairly pleased with the result until the Green Knight gets up, picks up his smiling head, and says: "See you next year, G. Don't forget that it's my turn then." (I paraphrase, the middle english of the poet is far superior.) Needless to say everyone is a bit nonplussed by this. The year passes and Gawain doesn't seem to do much of anything until he finally decides it's time to get out and find this green fellow and fulfill his obligation...hopefully something will come up along the way to improve his prospects. What follows is a journey to the borders of the Otherworld as well as a detailed primer on just how one ought to act in order to follow the dictates of courtliness. Gawain ends up being the guest of Sir Bertilak, a generous knight who says that the Green Chapel, the destination of Gawain's quest, is close by and Gawain should stay with them for the duration of the holidays. We are treated to some coy (and mostly chaste) loveplay on the part of Bertilak's wife from which Gawain mostly manages to extricate himself without contravening the dictates of politeness, as well as the details of a medieval deer, boar and fox hunt with nary a point missing. In the end Gawain goes to the chapel and finds that his erstwhile host Bertilak was in fact the Green Knight. Gawain submits himself and is left, after three swings, with only a scratch as a reward for his courteous behaviour in Bertilak's castle. Despite the apparent success of Gawain, he views the adventure as a failure since he did not come off completely unscathed and he wears a girdle he was gifted by Bertilak's wife as a mark of shame to remind himself of this. Harsh much? The language of the Gawain poet's middle english is beautiful and I highly recommend reading it in the original with a good translation at hand to catch the nuances of meaning. The poem is replete with an almost dreamlike quality that is made real by all of the exquisite details of medieval life that are interspersed throughout the text. This is a great book to read at Christmas time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 5* of five This is the book to get your poetry-resistant friend this #Booksgiving 2017. I read it on a dare. I don't like poetry very much, it's so snooty and at the same time so pit-sniffingly self-absorbed that I'd far rather stab my hands with a fork repeatedly than be condescended to in rhyming couplets. This tale is fabulous in every sense of the word, which is no surprise since it's survived for so many centuries. But poet and translator Simon Armitage has made the old world new agai Rating: 5* of five This is the book to get your poetry-resistant friend this #Booksgiving 2017. I read it on a dare. I don't like poetry very much, it's so snooty and at the same time so pit-sniffingly self-absorbed that I'd far rather stab my hands with a fork repeatedly than be condescended to in rhyming couplets. This tale is fabulous in every sense of the word, which is no surprise since it's survived for so many centuries. But poet and translator Simon Armitage has made the old world new again. He sucked me right in and never let me come up for air with his gorgeous words and his carefully chosen words and his alliterative rhythmical phrases. If the idea of a Norton Critical Edition is keeping you far away from this delightful read, rest assured it's not stodgy or dry or just plain boring. It's vibrant, alive, shimmering with an inner power, waiting for you to open its covers and fall utterly under its spell. Become happily ensorcelled, gentle reader, relax into the sure and strong embrace of a centuries-old knight and his spectacular tale.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I gave this three stars because it whetted my sapiosexuality for (view spoiler)[Morgan la Fay (hide spoiler)] , because seriously, if you hate women, there's only three things you can do to tide me over with your writing: not write about them, be glorious at everything else, or include a female character who for all your fancy rhythms obviously scares the living shit out of you. In the words of the immortal Shelley, if I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other, and with twenty lines out I gave this three stars because it whetted my sapiosexuality for (view spoiler)[Morgan la Fay (hide spoiler)] , because seriously, if you hate women, there's only three things you can do to tide me over with your writing: not write about them, be glorious at everything else, or include a female character who for all your fancy rhythms obviously scares the living shit out of you. In the words of the immortal Shelley, if I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other, and with twenty lines out of 2530 in this Arthurian tale, a little goes a long way. Moving beyond the author's obvious issues and more towards the stuffs of academia, it's hard to be impressed by this if one encounters Beowulf and The Heptameron first. The former has it beat in terms of pure strength of utterance, while the latter has it beat in, well, everything else. It's the curse of encountering the critique before the critiqued, and while SGatGK has got a lovely sense of nature and hunting and male fashion, it doesn't make up for the utter flatline of the themes. Yes, lack of honor is the worst, yes, all women are lying whores, yes, it sucks that you can't get rid of sin no matter how many people are forgiven by, but guess what? Least you don't have to deal with Eve and all that biblical jazz. Gawain's mark of shame even turns into a fashion accessory of significant social status at the end which, as far as thematic meaning goes, I'm not even going to attempt to contextualize but will tell you for a fact that it must be amazing. What else. If I had to write an essay about this I'd explore the relation of Nature to Humanity and all such Wicker Man themes, but it's not something I'll go after unless I have to. There was rhyme and meter and some interesting stuff about fundamental differences between Germanic and Latin senses of poetry in the introduction, so that'll be useful in the future. Armitage even gives the benefit of the doubt to whether the unknown is indeed male in the ending appendage, but frankly, he can have it. I'll take what bits and pieces I can manage and leave the glory behind. So summer comes in season with its subtle airs, when the west wind sighs among shoots and seeds, and those plants which flower and flourish are a pleasure as their leaves let drip their drink of dew and they sparkle and glitter when glanced by sunlight. Then autumn arrives to harden the harvest and with it comes a warning to ripen before winter. The drying airs arrive, driving up dust from the face of the earth to the heights of heaven, and wild sky wrestles the sun with its winds, and the leaves of the lime lay littered on the ground, and grass that was green turns withered and gray. Then all which had risen over-ripens and rots and yesterday on yesterday the year dies away, and winter returns as is the way of the world through time. At Michaelmas the moon stands like that season's sign, a warning to Gawain to rouse himself and ride.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    An enjoyable translation: Yes, he dozes in a daze, dreams and mutters like a mournful man with his mind on dark matters- how destiny might deal him a death-blow on the day when he grapples with the giant in the green chapel; of how the strike of the axe must be suffered without struggle. But sensing her presence there he surfaces from sleep, drags himself out of his dreams to address her. Laughing warmly she walks towards him and finds his face with the friendliest kiss. In a worthy style he welcomes the An enjoyable translation: Yes, he dozes in a daze, dreams and mutters like a mournful man with his mind on dark matters- how destiny might deal him a death-blow on the day when he grapples with the giant in the green chapel; of how the strike of the axe must be suffered without struggle. But sensing her presence there he surfaces from sleep, drags himself out of his dreams to address her. Laughing warmly she walks towards him and finds his face with the friendliest kiss. In a worthy style he welcomes the woman and seeing her so lovely and alluringly dressed, every feature so faultless, her complexion so fine, a passionate heat takes hold in his heart. Speech tripped from their tongues and they traded smiles, and a bond of friendship was forged there, all blissful and bright. They talk with tenderness and pride, and yet their plight is perilous unless sweet Mary minds her knight. William Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman, Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight all come from the end of the thirteenth century, all written in distinctly different regional styles of English. Distinct is an understatement, in purely personal terms Chaucer I can enjoy, Langland is work to read and understand while I find the language of Gawaine incomprehensible. But there are translations. Armitage in his translation sought to achieve a distinctive Northern flavour, despite being a Southerner this wasn't something that held me away from the text and if he hadn't mentioned it in his introduction I wouldn't have noticed or thought of this as requiring a particular effort or intention on his part. On reflection not paying homage to the Northern origin in the word choice seems a distinctly odd idea. The poem is on the one hand written in a Christian context with a nod as above to the idea of Courtly love while on the other the mutual decapitation challenge (not to be tried at home) that the Green Knight and Sir Gawaine are engaged in reminds me a bit of the Mabinogion in which occasionally the loss of one's own head, while moderately inconvenient, is not necessarily fatal. Then Gawain called as loudly as his lungs would allow, 'Who has power in this place to honour his pact? Because good Gawain now walks on this ground. Whoever will meet him should emerge this moment and he needs to be fast - it's now or it's never.' 'Abide,' came a voice from above the bank. 'You'll cop what's coming to you quickly enough.' Though above all this is a poem that has the taste of childhood about it, not because we enjoyed decapitating each other back down in Sarf London, but because the story of Sir Gwain's quest is interwoven with the memory of walking through the park to school on a foggy autumn morning when the fog was so thick that I could not even see the trees lining the pathway, lost in the wilderness wandering wildly in search of the green chapel with only my little feet to guide me to my destination.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

    I'd been attracted to this poem for years and years, but somehow never read it; tiptoeing 'round it like a gentleman too dignified to display his blood-gorged book lust. The title itself attracted me - the name Gawain and the idea of a Green Knight evoked plenty of mental imagery: greenery and silver clashings in fecund fairy tale landscapes. I also like the way Tolkien's name looks and sounds (evocative of tangled teeming forests clearly delineated) so I dipped into his version a while ago, but I'd been attracted to this poem for years and years, but somehow never read it; tiptoeing 'round it like a gentleman too dignified to display his blood-gorged book lust. The title itself attracted me - the name Gawain and the idea of a Green Knight evoked plenty of mental imagery: greenery and silver clashings in fecund fairy tale landscapes. I also like the way Tolkien's name looks and sounds (evocative of tangled teeming forests clearly delineated) so I dipped into his version a while ago, but it seemed stiff and wooden, even opaque, or something, so I didn't pursue it. Then along came this version, translated by a fairly young English poet, Simon Armitage, with a back blurb by John Ashbery (a favorite poet of mine), so I gave it a whirl. All of these old books should be translated by young poets. What freshness! What verve and bounce! I cantered right through it like a glossy horse over tight green turf. This is a remarkable poem; its literary sophistication tempered by rustic intemperence, striking imagery, bejeweled descriptions of gracile angelic maidens and boar hunting gore, and mysterious castles and the Woodwose (or Wodwo) the Wildman of the Woods. I'm sure scholars have taken issue with Armitage's obvious strayings from literal translation, but who cares! The point is to keep these old texts alive, and Armitage does that in sprightly spades. Instead of dead paper this book should've been printed on live leaves. It's a fairly simple and well-known story, so I won't go into its details, but I must mention the overall chaste (yet pan-sexual) sexiness of it. Gawain is one of the great androgynous heroes in literature, but then the Middle Ages were filled with the likes of him - dandies with blood-smeared swords, lithe curvy athletes in bright body-hugging armor - and his mild, ambiguous undoing in the poem is his acceptance of a green silk girdle proffered to him by a temptress. The author momentarily lingers over his description of this silk garment worn beneath his shining armor, emphasizing the muscled curves. The girdle will protect him from harm; the harm being his accepting as part of a deal to be beheaded by the Green Knight (the Green Knight allowed Gawain to behead him at the beginning, before trotting off with his green head under his green arm). Mutual beheading? Green silken undergarment and a sword? There is some dense pan-sexual coding in that scene. But the sword merely knicks Gawain's extended neck, and he's allowed to return to Camelot lightly shamed, with a fast fading scar.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)

    I first read this in 1975. I've read it several times since. The translation (Marie Borroff) is good. I am entirely taken in by the parallel structures in the story. Sir Gawain comes off as a wonderfully human character in a type of literature not known for well developed characters.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Agha-Jaffar

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by an anonymous late 14th Century author is a chivalric romance written in Middle English. But you don’t have to be proficient in Middle English to read it as there are several excellent translations available, including some on line. This is a delightful Medieval poem about the adventures of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew. The events occur during two consecutive Christmas seasons and involve a jolly green giant, a beheading, a quest, a journey into the wildernes Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by an anonymous late 14th Century author is a chivalric romance written in Middle English. But you don’t have to be proficient in Middle English to read it as there are several excellent translations available, including some on line. This is a delightful Medieval poem about the adventures of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew. The events occur during two consecutive Christmas seasons and involve a jolly green giant, a beheading, a quest, a journey into the wilderness, a magic castle, a beautiful lady, a couple of delightful seduction scenes, a ruse, an unexpected twist, and probably the biggest oops blunder in English literature. The poet gently exposes the foibles of human nature and the difficulty of living up to courtly ideals with their concomitant code of chivalry. And he does so with sympathy and humor neatly gift wrapped in eloquent diction to celebrate the season. Highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Shame be to the man who has evil in his mind Written c. 1375, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian quest fantasy. It has all the elements that make such a fantasy work, the brave and redoubted knight, the alluring lady, the magical and mysterious stranger (after all, the Green Knight is able to have his head removed and then hold it in his hand while it talks to you), the ranging quest and the moment of truth. The poetry is so beautifully written; it sings. I do not know, but I imagin Shame be to the man who has evil in his mind Written c. 1375, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian quest fantasy. It has all the elements that make such a fantasy work, the brave and redoubted knight, the alluring lady, the magical and mysterious stranger (after all, the Green Knight is able to have his head removed and then hold it in his hand while it talks to you), the ranging quest and the moment of truth. The poetry is so beautifully written; it sings. I do not know, but I imagine, this poem being recited to a gathering, perhaps at court, much as Homer sang his poems to the Greeks. To the possible chagrin of my husband, I read this aloud to myself. It seemed to demand it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a medieval poem by which a one of the stories of Arthurian legend is told. It concerns Sir Gawain, youngest Knight of the Round Table who is also King Arthur's nephew. On a New Year's Eve, a strange green knight enters the court of King Arthur and challenges the knights in to a "beheading game" which challenge, sir Gawain accepts. According to the challenge by the green Knight he was to be beheaded by his axe and whoever accepts the challenge to expect the sa Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a medieval poem by which a one of the stories of Arthurian legend is told. It concerns Sir Gawain, youngest Knight of the Round Table who is also King Arthur's nephew. On a New Year's Eve, a strange green knight enters the court of King Arthur and challenges the knights in to a "beheading game" which challenge, sir Gawain accepts. According to the challenge by the green Knight he was to be beheaded by his axe and whoever accepts the challenge to expect the same return in a year and a day. Sir Gawain beheads the green Knight and he retreats with his severed head informing sir Gawain to meet him in the green chapel on the stipulated day. The story progresses as sir Gawain journeys to the green chapel to meet his fate. And on this journey, his honour and loyalty is tested. I'm interested in the legend of King Arthur and his Round Table but cannot recall to have read any other than childhood fables; so this work really piqued my interest. I read the poetic translation and it was quite interesting to read the verses while a story of courage, strength of character, honesty and loyalty is unfolded. The story was good enough though not great as I expected. But I'm happy to have read a proper Arthurian story after all.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cphe

    Thoroughly enjoyed the rousing tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This surprisingly readable story has something for even the most jaded reader. Well worth a look at.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “But mind your mood, Gawain, keep blacker thoughts at bay, or loose this lethal game you’ve promised you will play” In addition to his own made-up bedtime stories, my father loved to tell us tall tales--sagas of heroes and bravery with fantastic, hard-to-believe aspects that made them special and memorable. Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox Babe stand out in my memory. The fantastical elements, when told in just the right way, bring magic and trepidation that make for a mesmerizing and satisfying story. Re “But mind your mood, Gawain, keep blacker thoughts at bay, or loose this lethal game you’ve promised you will play” In addition to his own made-up bedtime stories, my father loved to tell us tall tales--sagas of heroes and bravery with fantastic, hard-to-believe aspects that made them special and memorable. Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox Babe stand out in my memory. The fantastical elements, when told in just the right way, bring magic and trepidation that make for a mesmerizing and satisfying story. Reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight brought back that same gleeful feeling I had as a little girl listening to my father. It’s a tall tale for grownups, about life and decisions and temptation and honor and death. The magic, the suspension of disbelief, works because of the way it is told, in this case with timeless references and delightful alliteration. I was thrilled with Simon Armitage’s translation. There are displays of derring do: “Gawain, with the weapon, walked towards the warrior, and they stood face-to-face, not one man afraid.” There are encounters with the elements: “clouds shed their cargo of crystallized rain which froze as it fell to the frost-glazed earth…” There are humans with hearts: “But what lady in this land wouldn’t latch the door, wouldn’t rather hold you as I do here— in the company of your clever conversation, forgetting all grief and engaging in joy” And in the end, a compelling conclusion complete with timeless takeaway. Storytelling at its finest.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    "Note: you have also reviewed the following editions of this book: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn ) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140440925) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140424539) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0719055172) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0571223281) Sir Gawain & the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0030088801) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 1146360738)" Oops. Anyway, I reread Simon Arm "Note: you have also reviewed the following editions of this book: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn ) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140440925) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140424539) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0719055172) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0571223281) Sir Gawain & the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0030088801) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 1146360738)" Oops. Anyway, I reread Simon Armitage's translation in honour of getting a signed copy (I was going to go to his talk about his new book in Leeds, but I ended up being in Cardiff due to my grandfather's death, so we phoned up and Waterstones arranged for him to sign a copy of Sir Gawain for me, which isn't as good as getting to speak to him but is still pretty good). For my money, though Simon Armitage's translation isn't the most accurate academic translation, it captures something that even Tolkien doesn't manage to grasp, despite the care he took translating the poem, and that I haven't seen anywhere else. I remember doing a course on this poem (in the Middle English), and we talked about the poem being playful, and in part mocking the court and Gawain (but with affection). I feel like Simon Armitage's translation brings out that aspect very well, without losing the sense of nobility and chivalry that the poem is so rightly known for. It also barrels along at a tremendous pace, and reads a lot more like popular literature than Tolkien or Brian Stone's translations. You might not think that a good thing, of course, but I think it suits the story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Graham

    She gave him her 'girdle', did she? A little something to remember her by, hmmmm? Personally, I found it rather hard to believe that a hound dog like Gawain would pass up the opportunity, but I did ultimately enjoy this humorous tale of chivalry and self-imposed cockblockery. Green Knight rules!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark Adderley

    It’s always puzzling to know what to do with a book subtitled “A New Verse Translation.” It’s all very well for the moment, of course, but what about in a few years? When the translation is no longer new, will it need a new title? I have similar reservations about terms like “postmodern.” What comes after it? Post-postmodern? And is modernism now called pre-postmodernism? All of which doesn’t seem strictly relevant, except that I can’t help feeling that there’s something slightly self-conscious a It’s always puzzling to know what to do with a book subtitled “A New Verse Translation.” It’s all very well for the moment, of course, but what about in a few years? When the translation is no longer new, will it need a new title? I have similar reservations about terms like “postmodern.” What comes after it? Post-postmodern? And is modernism now called pre-postmodernism? All of which doesn’t seem strictly relevant, except that I can’t help feeling that there’s something slightly self-conscious about Simon Armitage’s new verse translation of the Middle English masterpiece Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is somehow symbolized by the subtitle. The other thing about the subtitle is that it is exactly the same as Seamus Heaney’s new verse translation of Beowulf, which, since it was published in 1999, isn’t really new any more. On the front cover of Armitage’s translation is a glowing review from Heaney, and in the Acknowledgements section, Armitage acknowledges Heaney himself and his translation as one of his inspirations. Inside the jacket-flap, another reviewer, this one anonymous (like both the Beowulf- and Gawain-poets, ironically) but writing for the Sunday Telegraph, enthuses about how both Armitage and, earlier, Heaney, have helped “to liberate Gawain [or, presumably, Beowulf:] from academia.” Like Heaney’s Beowulf, Armitage’s Gawain has a facing-page original text and translation; like Heaney’s Beowulf, Armitage’s Gawain has a black cover with a stylish armoured figure on it; like Heaney’s Beowulf, Armitage’s Gawain has ragged pages along the vertical edge, making is I suppose equally difficult to turn the page. Heaney’s Beowulf was well known, among other things, for bringing the ancient poem right up-to-date—the new date, that is, not the eighth-century date at which the poem was composed. Thus, Heaney translated the poem’s famous opening word, “Hwæt!” as “So.” Further down the page, the Old English “þæt wæs god cyning!” became “That was one good king.” Such translations as these made many academics wonder about the advisability of providing “new verse translations” of medieval poems. But since, as the Sunday Telegraph’s reviewer enthusiastically proclaimed, the aim of both translations was to liberate the poems from academics, what they thought really didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that Faber and Faber in Britain, and W. W. Norton in America were turning not to translators with a knowledge of the Middle Ages for these translations, but to poets who had to learn the language as they went. I’ll give you some examples from Armitage’s Gawain. Early in the poem, when the feast in Camelot, the Gawain-poet writes that the canopy over the royal dais “were enbrawded and beten wyth the best gemmes / That myght be preved of prys wyth penyes to bye / in daye” (78-80). This can be literally translated as “were embroidered and beaded with the best gems that could be proved of value to buy in that day.” The translation is rough and unpleasant, but it’s literal. Armitage translates that the tapestry was “studded with stones and stunning gems. / Pearls beyond pocket. Pearls beyond purchase.” Here’s it’s not specifically the translation that’s at issue. Armitage has translated into a style that is hip for the moment—the use of parallelism and fragment—but which, for one, gives undue emphasis to a rather unimportant feature of the description and, for another, uses a poetic trick that pulls the reader out of the world of the poem and into the modern world. That was one good canopy. Here’s another example. When Gawain arms to face the Green Knight at the end of the poem, the poet describes his armour as “The gayest into Grece” (2023). Acknowledging that “into” might better be translated as “unto,” we can see that the line is supposed to imply that Gawain’s armour is the most splendid in Europe—in the known world, in fact. in the medieval imagination, Greece was the edge of the civilized world. It included Byzantium, the seat of the eastern Roman Empire, known for its stylized art, gold and blue, richness and wealth. The description places Gawain’s armour in that oriental world, giving audiences a mental image of splendour, brightness, colour, vividness. Armitage writes that “no man shone more, it seemed / from here to ancient Greece.” Armitage specifically limits the reader to thinking not of Byzantine art, but of the Greece of mythology. The original line held both implications. The translation directs us exclusively to one. In all fairness, Armitage defends this practice in his introduction and, as we might expect, his argument is airtight. So would an argument be from the opposite perspective. That’s the nature of argument. But I can’t help wondering if there’s something wrong with entrusting the translation of a masterpiece of medieval literature to someone whose expertise is modern poetry—Ted Hughes and the like. It’s like entrusting brain surgery to a heart specialist. Sure, he knows enough anatomy to get away with it. But I’m not sure that “getting away with it” is really enough. I’d like to be imaginatively transported to the world of medieval romance, not of new verse translations. It’s also only fair to add that this is a highly readable translation. You speed through these pages, and time flies away from you. You’ve just met Arthur at Camelot, and before you know it, you’re reading the concluding lines. Some lines are particularly beautiful, particularly the famous passage of the seasons, and one passage actually made me think about the poem in a different way. (It was the section detailing Camelot’s craven assertion that it would be “Cleverer to have acted with caution and care” [line 677:]; that puts their eventual glib and joyous acceptance of Gawain’s error into a wholly different perspective, for me.) Ultimately, I think, we have to see a book like this not so much as a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but as Simon Armitage’s poem inspired by it. As such, it’s a beautiful achievement—certainly as beautiful as Heaney’s Beowulf—and will hopefully lure many readers to its source, the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Perhaps my favorite Arthurian classic so far. Loved the alliterative verse and the beautiful descriptions of seasons - the conflicting ideas centered on chivalry, courtship, religion, etc. all made the reading much more intellectually stimulating. Not to mention that the ending throws in a wedge that forces one to evaluate the overall theme of the poem, or whether a unifying theme exists at all. Highly recommended for those interested in British literature and for those who want to give it a try Perhaps my favorite Arthurian classic so far. Loved the alliterative verse and the beautiful descriptions of seasons - the conflicting ideas centered on chivalry, courtship, religion, etc. all made the reading much more intellectually stimulating. Not to mention that the ending throws in a wedge that forces one to evaluate the overall theme of the poem, or whether a unifying theme exists at all. Highly recommended for those interested in British literature and for those who want to give it a try; it's much more bearable than Beowulf, and the seduction scene is one of my favorites.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Are you looking for a quick, but violent, Christmas/New Year's poem? How about a poem set during Camelot with witches and heroic fantasy? Maybe something along the lines of Christian Romance? Or simply a good timeless poem? After a quick reread I still love this poem. This isn't the original translation or edition I read, but it felt the same...maybe a little more modern with the language. I'd forgotten how detailed this was and how violent. I remembered some of the plot, but forgot about all hea Are you looking for a quick, but violent, Christmas/New Year's poem? How about a poem set during Camelot with witches and heroic fantasy? Maybe something along the lines of Christian Romance? Or simply a good timeless poem? After a quick reread I still love this poem. This isn't the original translation or edition I read, but it felt the same...maybe a little more modern with the language. I'd forgotten how detailed this was and how violent. I remembered some of the plot, but forgot about all head-chopping and the sexy women. I remember my teacher in college wondered if this was possibly written by a woman because of the description of the clothing, I still wonder that myself, but the parts with the violence I'm not so sure about. This is a Christmas/New Year's read though. It might be a little underrated as something you would read during the season, but it is all about Christianity during the time it was written. It might be propaganda at times, but I liked the allegories and the Christian imagery. I liked the disruptions of the green chapels. If you want to read this poem, I recommended this version or one that you can easily read. The original and non-translated version is in Middle English, which isn't easy. Reading Middle English after college is work rather than reading something for fun or to refresh your memory. Can't say this about other versions, but Bernard O'Donoghue makes Sir Gawain and the Green Knight accessible for people who want to read this with ease.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)

    I actually can't believe how much I loved this! I was looking forward to it, but something about it just enchanted me entirely.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Though I have read this little tale twice now, and have been enchanted both times, I fear I have very little to say about it. The plot combines traditional tropes together in such a way that the story is instantly memorable; and the double action of the knightly pact and a bedroom temptation seems to neatly summarize the twin pillars of chivalric morality—manly combat and womanly tenderness. Literature professors can argue endlessly about the finer symbolism of the book; and general readers can, Though I have read this little tale twice now, and have been enchanted both times, I fear I have very little to say about it. The plot combines traditional tropes together in such a way that the story is instantly memorable; and the double action of the knightly pact and a bedroom temptation seems to neatly summarize the twin pillars of chivalric morality—manly combat and womanly tenderness. Literature professors can argue endlessly about the finer symbolism of the book; and general readers can, with a suitable translation, enjoy an adventure story. Both camps are satisfied, and the book’s place as a classic is thus guaranteed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    I have read Tolkien's Sir Gawain translation many times and will probably read it again this month for our book club, but this poetic translation by Simon Armitage is outstanding in my unscholarly opinion. Perhaps it was the suberb narration. You could really imagine this as a poem that was recited over and over again around those rings of fire. Bill Wallis not only read the translation in a lilting northern accent but then he turned around and read the original. I found the whole experience exc I have read Tolkien's Sir Gawain translation many times and will probably read it again this month for our book club, but this poetic translation by Simon Armitage is outstanding in my unscholarly opinion. Perhaps it was the suberb narration. You could really imagine this as a poem that was recited over and over again around those rings of fire. Bill Wallis not only read the translation in a lilting northern accent but then he turned around and read the original. I found the whole experience exceedingly lovely, hence the 5 stars.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jon(athan) Nakapalau

    A foundational legend that has influenced many other works. One of the best examinations of what chivalry was meant to represent...and for that reason a very important work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Olivia-Savannah Roach

    For what it's worth, this is such a good story! And it makes for such a good moral message about chivalry and honor while also discussing human weakness and how we all have our faults and misgivings too. It was such a creative, and magical story. The descriptions were lovely, and you can tell this was well written. What would have made me enjoy it more: if I was reading a translation. However, as this was a read for uni, we had to translate it ourselves. And as this was my first encounter with m For what it's worth, this is such a good story! And it makes for such a good moral message about chivalry and honor while also discussing human weakness and how we all have our faults and misgivings too. It was such a creative, and magical story. The descriptions were lovely, and you can tell this was well written. What would have made me enjoy it more: if I was reading a translation. However, as this was a read for uni, we had to translate it ourselves. And as this was my first encounter with medieval English, it was quite a trying process. It sucked the fun out of reading it a little, but that is a personal experience and not a criticising of the work.

  27. 4 out of 5

    imts

    "Yet though I must lose my life, fear shall never make me change colour." Those of you who have read my reviews on poetry will know that I do not particularly take to it. The plot of this poem was really good - for which I gave the three stars - but I'm not one to judge the fact that it was written in poetry form in the first place.

  28. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Wha an absolutely eloquent poem! I chose Audi so I heard both modern English and old English. Poet had a strong grasp of alliteration, which made flow just beautiful. Description puts some modern poetry to shame: the sounds of the axe heads, the beauty of the lady's shoulders. It was so gory I read it twice.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nora

    I mean the story is interesting enough, but God is Gawain annoying. For fuck's sake man, you said you were sorry and you gave back the damn girdle. Do you really have to hang your head in shame for the rest of your days? If you're gonna be ashamed of something, it should be that gross misogynistic rant at the end of the poem.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Book Wyrm

    This tale of Sir 'I'm completely dispensable, my Lord' Gawain (famous for this and apparently acting like a gungho twonk in later stories) was just delightful. The characters are cheery, it has a gentle sensuality and slightly more gore than I was expecting, though it does occassionally over-describe feasting and clothing to the point of tediousness, so its no wonder the Aesthete's brought Arthurian canon back into vogue. The overall moral is very commendable too. If this was a fairy tale, Gawain This tale of Sir 'I'm completely dispensable, my Lord' Gawain (famous for this and apparently acting like a gungho twonk in later stories) was just delightful. The characters are cheery, it has a gentle sensuality and slightly more gore than I was expecting, though it does occassionally over-describe feasting and clothing to the point of tediousness, so its no wonder the Aesthete's brought Arthurian canon back into vogue. The overall moral is very commendable too. If this was a fairy tale, Gawain would be eaten by pixies or meet some other gruesome end for snogging someone elses wife, flinching at moments when he must be brave, and breaking promises, but the story doesn't condemn him for any of that. Gawain might slip up, but since his overall character is true and just, he'd needn't be damned for occassional human folly or fear. A mistake is just that, a mistake, and you can live past that and use the experience to be a better person. It's not a dramatic or majestic moral, sure, but it is a perfectly wholesome one.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.