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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Gawain…

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

by Gawain Poet, Pearl Poet

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,05362891 (3.74)215
  1. 151
    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 Anonymous (OwenGriffiths)
  4. 40
    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 Unknown (jm501, jm501)
  8. 10
    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 215 mentions

English (61)  Spanish (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
I read this in 2011 for one of my university modules.

I found it interesting to read something as old as this but didn't find it especially entertaining. I only read this because I had to! ( )
  PhilSyphe | Sep 24, 2015 |
Harold Morton Landon Translation Award (W. S. Merwin, 2003). Original Middle English paired with Modern English translation. Words defined for context. Appendix: two contemporary stories, The Feast of Bricriu and The Knight of the Sword, which provide insight on the poem. Senior English.
  CindyMcClain | Jul 20, 2015 |
I wouldn't trust anyone wearing all green in the first place. ( )
  trilliams | May 30, 2015 |
Ah, those dangerous women! The Arthurian romance is replete with wily ladies. A particularly fetching one in this adventure almost lures Sir Gawain into adultery. He remains virtuous but afterward shakes his head and confesses:

“But no marvel it is if made be a fool,
and by the wiles of woman to woe be brought.
For even so Adam by one on earth was beguiled,
and Solomon by several, and to Samson moreover
his doom by Delilah was dealt; and David was after
blinded by Bathsheba, and he bitterly suffered.
Now if these came to grief through their guile, a gain ‘twould be vast
to love them well and believe them not, if it lay in man’s power!”

So correct conduct for a knight is to “love [women] well and believe them not.”

Sir Gawain shows masterful self-control. A pretty wife tries on three successive mornings to seduce him while her husband, lord of the castle, is out hunting. Sir Gawain’s behavior during those three trials helped me understand what is meant by “courtesy” in the code of chivalry. The chivalrous knight is both a fearless warrior and a refined courtier, the original “officer and gentleman.” But Gawain’s “courtesy” is not just the niceties of manners and conversation. It is the ability to remain gracious in a compromising situation, to forfeit one’s own dignity if needed so another person can save face, even if that person does not deserve the kindness. The courteous knight puts the mental and emotional welfare of others before his own.

Sir Gawain is caught between two knightly responsibilities: 1. not to cause distress to a lady and 2. not to cuckold his host.

“For she, queenly and peerless, pressed him so closely,
led him so near the line, that at last he must needs
either refuse her with offense or her favours there take.”

What a dilemma!

“He cared for his courtesy, lest a caitiff he proved,
yet more for his sad case, if he should sin commit
and to the owner of the house, to his host, be a traitor.
‘God help me!’ said he. ‘Happen that shall not!’”

Sir Gawain talks his way out of bedding his hostess with the “I’m not good enough for you,” defense, although he fills many poetic lines in the process.

There is so much to enjoy in this gorgeous poem. The main theme is a complex discussion on the conflict between codes of honor and human nature. It’s also worth reading for the lush depictions of nature, the seasons, and the manly sport of hunting. This translation by J.R.R. Tolkien feels close to the original spirit and tone of the poem. A lyrical but more accessible translation by Jessie Weston is available online at http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/weston-sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight .

The code of chivalry, as symbolized by the pentangle: https://maryoverton.wikispaces.com/Five+Virtues+of+Troth
  maryoverton | May 3, 2015 |
When I found out we had to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for a current university subject, I was a little worried. I often struggle with analysing poetry and something written in Middle English was not going to be easy. Thankfully we had to read the Brian Stone translation, which only hints at being Middle English. This is a famous 14th century Arthurian romance that is often known for the beheading game.

This is a typical quest narrative; The Green Knight exposes the Knights of the Round Table as timid and cowards when he challenges them to the beheading game. The rules are simple, one knight tries to behead the Green Knight and in a year and a day he will meet them for the returning blow. The Arthurian world is governed by a well-established code of behaviour. This code is one of chivalry, a romantic notion that is deeply rooted in Christian morality, being a beacon of spiritual ideals in a fallen world.

The beheading game is a plot device used as a test in the quest narrative, Sir Gawain is thrown into participating in the game and he is left with a choice, to be a man that lives by his code or not. A game that is meant to measure the inner worth of the knights and it does it in a big way, it exposes the Knights as cowards but Gawain steps up, sort of.

There is a whole lot of humour in this story that often gets over looked when trying to analyse this difficult text. The idea of beheading someone and them returning for a reciprocating blow should have given that away. However the supernatural elements might have made this difficult to pick up on the comedic value. The Green Knight can be interpreted as an allusion of Christ and the strong religious overtones might lead you to think that but I saw him more as a plot device to represent life’s challenges.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a rather beautiful and interesting exploration for me. The translation I read did make it easier to understand, I don’t think I could handle learning Middle English. I had to do an assignment on this text and the quest narrative so I feel like I’ve already said plenty about this poem before sitting down to writing this review. I hope there is plenty of information here and gives the reader an idea of what to expect when reading this poem. It isn’t hard to understand if you have the right translation and is well worth reading.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/05/18/sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight-by-an... ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 7, 2014 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gawain Poetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pearl Poetmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Armitage, SimonTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirtlan, Ernest J.B.Translatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tolkien, J. R. R.Translatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Banks, Theodore HowardTranslatorsecondary 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
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
Rieu, E. V.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, BrianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)
Last words
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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.
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
Haiku summary
Gawain chops green neck
But flinches when it's his turn.
He is forgiven.
The winter axe falls
and the green fruit rolls away;
Gawain will suffer.

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:24 -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.

» see all 5 descriptions

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An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

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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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