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. Simon Armitage translation Faber Faber Norton , and the Oxford edition s notesI 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 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 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 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 gawkedand were mute with amazement what did it meanthat 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 waterwayill fortune brings him face to face with a foeso foul or fierce he is bound to use force.So momentous are his travels among the mountainsto 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 deathwill 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 rainwhich 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 ChristmasEveNow 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 hillsdriving 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 huntingYou 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 minstrelsythey made as much amusement as any mortal could,and among those merry men and laughing ladiesGawain and his host got giddy together only lunatics and drunkards could have looked delirious.Every person present performed party piecestill 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 textthe 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 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 Amazing Ebook, Gawayn And E Grene Kny T By Unknown This Is Very Good And Becomes The Main Topic To Read, The Readers Are Very Takjup And Always Take Inspiration From The Contents Of The Book Gawayn And E Grene Kny T, Essay By Unknown Is Now On Our Website And You Can Download It By Register What Are You Waiting For Please Read And Make A Refission For You 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 Rating 5 of fiveThis 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. 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 obligationhopefully 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. I gave this three stars because it whetted my sapiosexuality for view spoiler Morgan la Fay hide spoiler An enjoyable translation Yes, he dozes in a daze, dreams and mutterslike a mournful man with his mind on dark matters how destiny might deal him a death blow on the daywhen 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 himand finds his face with the friendliest kiss.In a worthy style he welcomes the womanand 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 blissfuland bright.They talk with tendernessand pride, and yet their plightis perilous unlesssweet 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 enoughThough 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. 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. 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.