Norton Critical Edition Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Paperback – Nov 1 2009
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About the Author
Marie Borroff is Sterling Professor of English, Emeritus, at Yale University. Her verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was first published in 1967; it appeared together with her translations of Patience and Pearl in 2001. The Gawain-Poet: Complete Works, including her translation of Cleanness and St. Erkenwald, is scheduled for publication in 2010. She is the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Stylistic and Metrical Study and of Traditions and Renewals: Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and Beyond (Yale University Press, 1962, 2003).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"And then the season of summer with the soft winds,
When Zephyr sighs low over seeds and shoots;
Glad is the green plant growing abroad,
When the dew at dawn drops from the leaves,
To get a gracious glance from the golden sun.
But harvest with harsher winds follows hard after,
Warns him to ripen well ere winter comes;
Drives forth the dust in the droughty season,
From the face of the fields to fly high in air.
Wroth winds in the welkin wrestle with the sun,
The leaves launch from the linden and light on the ground,
And the grass turns to gray, that once grew green.
Then all ripens and rots that rose up at first,
And so the year moves on in yesterdays many,
And winter once more, by the world's law,
At Michaelmas the moon
Hangs wintry pale in sky;
Sir Gawain girds him soon
For travails yet to try."
Just, come on. That's awesome.
There is a short introduction about how the poem came to be preserved in the library of Robert Cotton, the great Elizabethan antiquary, as well as a description of this Authurian Romance with its theme of the ideal of knightly conduct - of courage, loyalty and courtesy. Equally interesting in this brief introduction is a discussion of the alliterative style of the poem, and the principles the translator had to follow to ensure that her translation into Modern English would be able to adhere as closely as possible to this style. There is a short section at the back of the book on the Metrical form of the original poem which provides a detailed description of the "alliterative long line" of the poem and samples of the original Middle English version for comparison with the translated version.
The poem is about 2500 lines long and the alliterative style can probably be best appreciated if it is read out aloud. I am not going to go into the tale because that might spoil the fun, but it was an unexpectedly enjoyable read and I learnt more than I expected about the form and style of poetry of medieval times.
I have a copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in my library, and perhaps I may renew my acquaintance with that, even though the English which Chaucer used is quite different (and perhaps more modern) from that of this poem - something which might be explained by the fact that mediaeval knights of England were mainly of Norman blood, whose first language was primarily French rather than English. According to my readings on the history of Norman England, it was not until the 14th century that the "English" nobility really started to adopt the use of the language of their native English servants and serfs.
If you like Arthurian Romances, this translation is easy and most enjoyable to read. I thoroughly recommend it!
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