This volume offers the complete text of a poem which, although an acknowledged masterpiece of medieval literature, makes abnormal demands upon the reader by reason of its subtle exploitation both of a difficult dialect of Middle English and of the special idiom of alliterative verse. There is no short cut through the difficulties, but this edition is designed to enable the modern reader to reach a sensitive first-hand understanding of the text as the only basis for valid literary judgement.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late fourteenth-century Middle English alliterative romance outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. In this poem, Sir Gawain accepts a challenge from a mysterious green warrior. In a struggle to uphold his oath along this quest, Gawain demonstrates chivalry, loyalty, and honor. This new verse translation of the most popular and enduring fourteenth century romance to survive to the present offers students an accessible way of approaching the literature of medieval England without losing the flavor of the original writing. The language of Sir Gawain presents considerable problems to present-day readers as it is written in the West Midlands dialect before English became standardized. With a foreword by David Donoghue, the close verse translation includes facing pages of the original fourteenth-century text and its modern translation.
The adventures and challenges of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew and a knight at the Round Table, including his duel with the mysterious Green Knight, are among the oldest and best known of Arthurian stories. Here the distinguished author and poet John Gardner has captured the humor, elegance, and richness of the original Middle English in flowing modern verse translations of this literary masterpiece. Besides the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this edition includes two allegorical poems, “Purity” and “Patience”; the beautiful dream allegory “Pearl”; and the miracle story “Saint Erkenwald,” all attributed to the same anonymous poet, a contemporary of Chaucer and an artist of the first rank.
“Mr. Gardner has translated into modern English and edited a text of these five poems that could hardly be improved. . . . The entire work is preceded by a very fine and complete general introduction and a critical commentary on each poem.”—Library Journal