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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Signet…
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Signet Classics) (edition 2001)

by Anonymous, Neil D. Isaacs (Afterword), Burton Raffel (Translator)

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4,75558985 (3.73)204
Member:hemlokgang
Title:Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Signet Classics)
Authors:Anonymous
Other authors:Neil D. Isaacs (Afterword), Burton Raffel (Translator)
Info:Signet Classics (2001), Paperback, 144 pages
Collections:Your library, To read (inactive)
Rating:
Tags:TBR, England, Poetry

Work details

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous

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    Beowulf by Beowulf Poet (OwenGriffiths, chrisharpe)
    OwenGriffiths: If you like Old/Middle English texts translated by great poets...
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    The Sagas of Icelanders by Örnólfur Thorsson (chrisharpe)
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    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo by Anonymous (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.
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    The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage (jm501, jm501)
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    The Odyssey by Homer (chrisharpe)
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    On Hunting by Roger Scruton (bertilak)
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» See also 204 mentions

English (57)  Spanish (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
I would have loved this if for no other reason than that Armitage, in the Introduction, offers support for pronouncing Gawain's name with the stress on the second syllable (pg 15), which is the pronunciation I grew up with but which seems uncommon. If there is scholarly difference of opinion, then I'm not wrong when I slip up and call him Gawain.

Anyway, Armitage's translation has much more going for it than an introduction which favors my pronunciation! It zips along, with modern diction and a translation which is more poetic than literal. A few times I felt like his word choices were a bit too silly but, looking at the original text on the facing page, it always appeared (to my very inexpert eye) that his choices were well supported (the Gawain poet was not above silliness!). It's been a long time since I last read Sir Gawain, and I'd forgotten what a great poem it is – beautiful, funny, and moving. I plan to read Marie Borroff's translation next to compare, but Armitage's looser translation is really marvelous! ( )
  meandmybooks | Nov 13, 2014 |
Isn't this just the creepiest cover? Anyway, I've read this for the thriller category for the Back to the Classics Challenge. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table enjoy a Christmas celebration. But, along comes a huge green knight who goads them into accepting a challenge. In order to protect King Arthur, Sir Gawain agrees to the challenge. He must make one blow with his sword against the Green Knight today, then in one year Sir Gawain must come and find the Green Knight and receive one blow from him. Well, Sir Gawain chops his head off in one blow, but the Green Knight picks up his head and laughingly gallops off. You'll have to read it to see what happens. ( )
  heidip | Nov 1, 2014 |
A very readable version of the poem. Armitage retains the verve of the original story as well as the beat,alliteration and bob-and wheel sections (two syllable lines followed by a quatrain) of the original poetry.

'And they danced and they sang til the sun went down
that day
But mind your mood, Gawain,
keep blacker thoughts at bay,
or lose this lethal game
you've promised you will play.'

The poem was fastened to the page in the late 14thc, in the "alliteration revival" style : it was a style of verse that keeps to an Anglo-Saxon literary style and was almost certainly orally transmitted before. The use of repetition and alliteration are characteristic of the oral tradition: think about how fabulous the rhythm of lines like these sound spoken aloud

'Then they riled the creature with their rowdy ruckus
and suddenly he breaks the barrier of beaters -
the biggest of wild boars has bolted from his cover'

I love that Simon Armitage has let the poem breathe and remain a living thing rather than a dry academic exercise. The loss of a star is due to the fact that occasionally there is a choice of a word that jars, that sounds a bit too modern, chosen for the sake of the alliteration but can feel a bit shoe- horned in. I also prefer a side by side translation, but that is being a bit nit picky as the original is readily available .




( )
  dylkit | Feb 3, 2014 |
This work of translation/poetry enables us to enjoy, and understand, the literature of the middle ages -- an Arthurian romance in alliterative verse. The translator Borroff is a poet. The tale was provided by an anonymous contemporary of Chaucer -- in the 1300s.

Gawain is a knight of his age, expected to adhere to a standard of conduct with established mores of courage, loyalty, and courtesy.

Folkloric "challenges" are included in this story -- the hero agrees to meet the Green Knight in honor of a promise to accept a killing stroke. He is unable to find the Green Chapel on New Years' as instructed, but instead, comes upon a magnificent castle where he is entertained for three days. The hosts' beautiful wife visits his bedchamber and makes amorous overtures. He must refuse the lady's advances without insulting her--this is high comedy.

He finally accepts a green girdle from her which has the power to make its wearer invulnerable. There are hunting scenes, which bracket the bedchamber scenes, in joyous pursuit of deer, boar and fox.

The poet gives the hunt -- with its demanding physical exertions carried on with skill in fine weather with loyal companions -- the kind of "meaning" which is sheer delight. The joy is of the body, of the man who is at one with all animals. The narrator's sense of love for the physical world, juxtaposed -- he loves juxtapositions -- with the urges of sex in the bedchamber.

The subplots are resolved in the last part of the poem when Sir Gawain and the Green Knight meet once more. The narrative clearly presents an honored knight, famed for courage and courtesy, proved fallible. He is in breach of faith with his host, indulged cowardice, and in covetous desires. The final tension is stretched by whether the Green Knight will forgive Gawain for his perfidy. And whether Gawain -- angered by the revelation of his multiple and humiliating faults -- will forgive himself.

The repeated phrase "joy surpassed all measure". [29]

I love the alliteration, the joyfulness of the poetry, and the wicked wit of the plot. This is tragicomedy, not baltering swordplay and handwringing.

There is an odd "religious" motif as well - knights commending each other "to the Prince of Paradise", and crossing themselves and crying "On Christ". The lovers kiss and then "commend each other to Christ". [28] But that is of course, a joke. Christian sanctifications play no part. The poem is completely priest-free until Gawain accepts the unfair power of a magic girdle and then he immediately goes to a priest to pray he "lead a better life and lift up his mind" ! He confesses the sin and then still concealing the girdle, goes right back to making merry with the ladies. [39] This must bring howls of recognition from a medieval court. And the magic -- a woman's loin cloth "green girdle" -- is entirely pagan.

And then the generosity, the inclusion of the blessing:
"Many such, ere we were born,
Have befallen here, ere this,
May He that was crowned with thorn
Bring all men to His bliss!"
  keylawk | Jan 14, 2014 |
During holiday festivities in King Arthur's court, a mysterious green knight appears with a challenge: any knight of Arthur's court may strike the green knight a blow, and the green knight will return the strike in a year's time. The only knight brave enough to face the challenge is young Gawain, who indeed strikes the green knight, chopping off his head. Unperturbed, the green knight picks up his head and tells Gawain to find him in a year's time in order to receive the return blow.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by an unknown fourteenth-century poet, is my favorite of the classic Arthurian tales (so far). The story is vivid and full of gorgeous contrasts, love and death and trust and renewal. The story unfolds with good pacing and entertaining adventures with true courtly manners, all without being redundant or dull (as some unnamed fourteenth-century Arthurian romances can be).

Armitage's translation from the Middle English focuses on the alliterative and poetic structure of the original, rather than being a literal translation. The Middle English version appears on the left hand page with the Modern version on the right, so the reader can compare and see the differences. For the most part his version is surprisingly readable with beautiful phrases and imagery, though in some cases it strays into being a bit too modern (at one point Arthur is described as "keeping his cool"), which can be jarring. My second reading was just as enjoyable as the first, and I would love to add it to my library.

However, since Arimitage's is only the only translation I've read, I'm very curious about trying a more literal translation. Apparently, even J.R.R. Tolkien did a translation, and I'd love to read that.

For audio book lovers, I highly recommend the audio version of Armitage's translation, which is read by Bill Wallis. He does an amazing job highlighting the alliterative aspects of the text, while making it easy to follow. Once the Modern English translation is finished, Wallis then does an amazing reading of the original Middle English version of the book. It's amazing to hear and I found myself understanding more than I thought I would. Fantastic. ( )
  andreablythe | Dec 3, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (106 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anonymousprimary 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
Harrison, KeithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, GwynTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirtlan, Ernest J.B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, FrederickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Markus, ManfredEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merwin, W. S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neilson, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, M. R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, BrianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tolkien, J. R. R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140440925, Paperback)

‘Be prepared to perform what you promised, Gawain;
Seek faithfully till you find me …’

A New Year’s feast at King Arthur’s court is interrupted by the appearance of a gigantic Green Knight, resplendent on horseback. He challenges any one of Arthur’s men to behead him, provided that if he survives he can return the blow a year later. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge and decapitates the knight – but the mysterious warrior cheats death and vanishes, bearing his head with him. The following winter Gawain sets out to find the Knight in the wild Northern lands and to keep his side of the bargain. One of the great masterpieces of Middle English poetry, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight magically combines elements of fairy tale and heroic sagas with the pageantry, chivalry and courtly love of medieval Romance.

Brian Stone’s evocative translation is accompanied by an introduction that examines the Romance genre, and the poem’s epic and pagan sources. This edition also includes essays discussing the central characters and themes, theories about authorship and Arthurian legends, and suggestions for further reading and notes.


@GawainsWorld So listen here, some green man came to the hall and wants someone to cut his head off. Some sort of dare? Could be fun, right?

The deal is I cut off his head now, and he cuts off mine a year later. What a jester, doesn’t he know he’ll be dead?

This goblin fellow is totally dead.

All seemed fine until Ichabod Crane here fell to the floor, stood up, and picked up his head. His head, in his hands. In HIS HANDS!

From Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:43 -0400)

(see all 11 descriptions)

A poetic translation of the classic Arthurian story is an edition in alliterative language and rhyme of the epic confrontation between a young Round Table hero and a green-clad stranger who compels him to meet his destiny at the Green Chapel.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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

Editions: 0393060489, 0393334155

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