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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Gawain…
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

by Gawain Poet, Pearl Poet

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,527731,011 (3.76)275
The famous Middle English poem by an anonymous English poet is beautifully translated by fellow poet Simon Armitage in this edition. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight narrates in crystalline verse the strange tale of a green knight who rudely interrupts the Round Table festivities one Yuletide, casting a pall of unease over the company and challenging one of their number to a wager. The virtuous Gawain accepts and decapitates the intruder with his own ax. Gushing blood, the knight reclaims his head, orders Gawain to seek him out a year hence, and departs. Next Yuletide Gawain dutifully sets forth. His quest for the Green Knight involves a winter journey, a seduction scene in a dream-like castle, a dire challenge answered, and a drama of enigmatic reward disguised as psychic undoing.… (more)
  1. 161
    Beowulf by Beowulf Poet (OwenGriffiths, chrisharpe)
    OwenGriffiths: If you like Old/Middle English texts translated by great poets...
  2. 91
    Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson (chrisharpe)
  3. 60
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / Pearl / Cleanness / Patience by A. C. Cawley (OwenGriffiths)
  4. 50
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo by J. R. R. Tolkien (Muscogulus)
    Muscogulus: Tolkien's fluent translations of "Sir Gawain" and "Pearl" are an excellent introduction to the genius of the anonymous Pearl-Poet. "Sir Orfeo" with its strange images of Faerie makes a good addition to the volume.
  5. 40
    The Sagas of Icelanders by Örnólfur Thorsson (chrisharpe)
  6. 30
    The poems of Ossian by James MacPherson (ghilbrae)
  7. 31
    The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage (jm501, jm501)
  8. 11
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: Two works in older forms of English which play with forms from even older forms of English.
  9. 33
    The Odyssey by Homer (chrisharpe)
  10. 22
    On Hunting by Roger Scruton (bertilak)
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» See also 275 mentions

English (68)  Spanish (3)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
I would never have picked this up if it were not for a project, but I am glad I did. This medieval poem epic is truly that - epic. I was engaged in the story and there was even a twist that had be gasp audibly. This is the only translation I've read, but I really loved how Simon Armitage infused a little bit of modernity into the work. All in all, a fun read! ( )
  bookishtexpat | May 21, 2020 |
While uninteresting for long portions, the writing is vivid. ( )
  peterbmacd | May 17, 2020 |
Chivalry is when you don't make a cuck out of your host ( )
  hatingongodot | May 3, 2020 |
The last time I read this book, it was Simon Armitage’s translation. I’d said at the time I wanted to give that version four stars but the translation just wasn’t that great for me. It didn’t flow and there were some poor word choices.

Now, finally, I can give four stars to W S. Merwin’s version. This is how Gawain should read. A fast story with flowing language that doesn’t get in the way of the tale. I read this in one sitting and took time to glance at the Middle English on each facing page. A perfect companion for the evening. ( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
I enjoyed this translation from Middle English of the great poem of Sir Gawain and his encounters with the Green Knight. The story feel epic, with bits of love, deceit, horror and wanderings.

I wish I could give a 4-star review, but the translation was lacking at points. At times, I felt the translator, Armitage chose lesser words to keep the poetic meter flowing. For example, from line 2273, the original Middle English was "Such cowardise of that knyght cowthe I never here." Armitage translates it as "Never have I known such a namby-pamby knight". The first flows, in my opinion, while the second seems like a schoolyard taunt, and a poor one at that.

I also felt the flow of the poem stuttered at points. That may have been due to the original author in some cases, as far as I could "speak" Middle English to hear the flow.

This is still worth reading, especially if you've never read it. The story is good and you can work through it quickly. For a look at a great translation of another classic, see Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowolf from Old English into modern prose. That and Robert Fagles translations of Homer set the gold standard for rendering in modern, flowing text such ancient classics. ( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (281 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gawain Poetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pearl Poetmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Armitage, SimonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Banks, Theodore HowardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borroff, MarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burrow, J.A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooper, HelenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardner, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, KeithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, GwynTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirtlan, Ernest J.B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kredel, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, FrederickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Markus, ManfredEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merwin, W. S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neilson, William AllanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, M. R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rieu, E. V.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, BrianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tolkien, J. R. R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vantuono, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To
My Lady of Dreams
My Wife
(Ernest Kirtlan edition)
First words
Siþen þe sege and þe assaut watz sesed at Troye,
Þe borȝ brittened and brent to brondeȝ and askez,
Þe tulk þat þe trammes of tresoun þer wroȝt
Watz tried for his tricherie, þe trewest on erþe:
Once the siege and assault of Troy had ceased,
with the city a smoke-heap of cinders and ash,
the turncoat whose tongue had tricked his own men
was tried for his treason - the truest crime on earth.

(translated by Simon Armitage, 2007)
When the war and the siege of Troy were all over
and the city flattened to smoking rubble,
the man who'd betrayed it was brought to trial,
most certainly guilty of terrible crimes.

(translated by Bernard O'Donoghue, 2006)
After the battle and the attack were over at Troy,
The town beaten down to smoking brands and ashes,
That man enmeshed in the nets of treachery—the truest
Of men—was tried for treason; I mean

(translated by Keith Harrison, 1983)
Once the siege and assault had done for Troy,
And the city was smashed, burned to ashes,
The traitor whose tricks had taken Troy
For the Greeks, Aeneas the noble, was exiled

(translated by Burton Raffel, 1970)
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Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine this work with the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight/Pearl/Sir Orfeo or any other omnibus work. Thank you.
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Haiku summary
Gawain chops green neck
But flinches when it's his turn.
He is forgiven.
(bertilak)
The winter axe falls
and the green fruit rolls away;
Gawain will suffer.
(Michael.Rimmer)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393060489, 0393334155

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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