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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight [Hardcover]

Simon Armitage
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Jan 2007
Preserved on a single surviving manuscript dating from around 1400, composed by an anonymous master, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was rediscovered only 200 years ago, and published for the first time in 1839. One of the earliest great stories of English literature, after Beowulf, the poem narrates in crystalline verse the strange tale of a green knight on a green horse, 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 axe. 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. Simon Armitage's new version is meticulously responsible to the tact and sophistication of the original - but responsible equally to its own powerfully persuasive claims to be read as an original new poem. It is as if, six hundred years apart, two northern poets set out on a journey through the same mesmeric landscapes - acoustic, physical and metaphorical - in the course of which the Gawain poet has finally found his true and long-awaited translator

Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First Edition edition (4 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571223273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571223275
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 478,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Armitage rises to the challenge of translating this mysterious tale of chivalry, supernatural forces and seduction.' -- Sunday Times

'Crisp, fun and true to its original alliterative rhythm.' -- Sunday Herald

'It might even be the best translation of any poem I've ever seen.' -- Nicholas Lezard, Guardian Paperback Choice of the Week

'With deceptively simple lyricism and energy the poem sings from the page.'
-- Observer

Book Description

A fantastic revival of an arthurian classic from on of Britain's foremost contemporary poets.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab 29 Mar 2008
By Jonathan Birch VINE VOICE
If you only show your children one poem, make sure it's this one. The touching and powerful Arthurian legend is brought to life miraculously in this rendition by Simon Armitage, which (unlike previous translations) will never leave you scratching your head and saying "What does that mean?" Despite retaining the strange and lovely alliterative verse of the original, the poem is lucid, accessible, fresh and modern. Here is a poem for ordinary people, not just Medievalists and English students.

Armitage adds a nice introduction, suggesting how we can find a contemporary resonance in the poem. Gawain's story is not merely an exploration of Christian morality, but also, through vivid imagery of the natural world, aims to remind us of our own relationship with our nature and with nature as we find it all around us. The Green Knight is green for a reason (he thinks).
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Muscular and modern revival 27 Jan 2007
A terrific book. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an early classic of English Literature - lost until the 19th century. This is a very readable, witty, bright translation with Simon Armitage's customary edge. In places: warm, funny, violent, dramatic, sexual. I've long been a big fan of Armitage - a Yorkshire writer who uses language brilliantly and has proved to be extremely versatile as poet, editor, playwright, novelist, non-fiction prose stylist and more recently translator. His Homer's Odyssey was a pleasure; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a delight. This would make a great Christmas present (much of the setting is Christmas/New Year) for anyone who enjoys literature.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"...It was Christmas at Camelot - King Arthur's Court,
where the great and the good of the land had gathered .."

Hopefully the recent - and excellent - BBC Four documentary in which Simon Armitage guided viewers on a journey through the literal landscape of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight will have brought this poem to the attention of a wider audience.

This book works at every possible level: it's a wonderful translation from the Middle English of the 1400's, it's a rollickingly exciting tale of chivalry, drama and moral dilemma, and, most significantly, it stands as poetry in its own right.

One word of warning: your friends will inevitably soon regard you as dotty, as the book just cries out to be read aloud!

Impossible to recommend strongly enough!
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly compelling 10 Feb 2007
Thoroughly enjoyable, muscular, vivid, exciting rendition of this wonderful poem: I first read the original at university and loved it then. But Armitage's modernisation brings the text to life for those readers who aren't ever going to need or want to tackle Middle English. I can't recommend it too highly. It is beautifully paced, extremely detailed and accessible without in any way dumbing down. I really felt as though I was in the poem, particularly in the third and fourth sections where Gawain faces a moral dilemma.

Terrific. Simon Armitage is the true Poet Laureate of Britain, bringing our literary heritage to a fresh audience.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read 1 Sep 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first encountered Sir Gawain at school, and although the English was hard the underlying story fabulous to uncover. 35 years have intervened - and I never gave Sir Gawain a thought again until it inexplicably re-entered my consciousness a few weeks ago. I trawled - and bought this translation and was immediately captivated by the clarity of this portal into the story. The modern English language still captures the essence of the medieval, and the tongue-twisting alliteration a joy to read (and read aloud!).

With sorrow, I finished the poem, only to find that I had the previous day missed a repeat on BBC4 of a programme by Simon Armitage on the journey of Sir Gawain! How bizarre can that be - it's not crossed my mind for 35 years, and then in the very week I read it again there is a programme by its author! Thankfully, BBC iplayer came to the rescue, and after viewing the programme, I promptly started to re-read the poem to discover new delights. This is a tale worth reading, and re-reading again - since every reading uncovers new details and new wonders at the use of the language.

Simon Armitage has done English literature a massive service via this masterpiece, and I commend this volume to anybody who has read a previous version, anybody who saw the BBC4 programme, and anybody who wants an effortless romp through medieaval humour, chivalry, symbolism, lust, human fraility and moral dilemmas. And don't put it back on the shelf afterwards - keep it handy, because you can always dip-in at random for some choice passages or start from the beginning again and discover new gems.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read 16 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had previously read this poem, as many of us have, as an English student crawling through the very difficult Middle English with the aid of a rather pedestrian prose translation. I then re-read it in the rather prettied-up Penguin translation, which just jettisons the alliteration. Armitage's translation restores all the original joy of a poem designed to be read out loud to a roomful of people. I imagine them bursting out laughing at some of the wordplay, slapping their thighs as they take another swig of mead. Somehow the bizarre mix of Norman courtly love, British-Germanic warrior story (just look at the details of how to butcher an animal), Christian myth and pagan folk tale works, and we end up with a funny, exciting and immensely energetic story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent service.
It's all that I expected, excellent service.
Published 8 days ago by Thomas Walsh
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome edition
I appreciated this 'translation' by Armitage but the Penguin Classic by Brian Stone retains the prize for enjoyment. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Oranmhor
4.0 out of 5 stars A good 14th century read!
Really enjoyed the rhythm of this tale. It provides an interesting window into 14th century court life and, the moral duties of the ruling classes aside, shows that much about the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Robin J. Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic literature brilliantly re-told
If you have enjoyed the original then I recommend this, if you feel daunted by the original then this is a good alternative. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Rumbling Clint
5.0 out of 5 stars Verse form and spirit of the piece were preserved - often with great...
Written with great skill and sympathy with the original, so that the verse form and verve were preserved.I would ry it on teen-agers.l
Published 14 months ago by richard handforth
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing translation of a great epic
Armitage takes on this epic work with an approach not quite like any other translator, looking at it primarily from a poet's perspective. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Thomas Pots
4.0 out of 5 stars A great modern translation
I've been curious to read this 'modern translation' of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - I find the modern translations an interesting phenomenon. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Schiehallion 1977
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Great, book needed for uni studies, good for those who are interested in poetry as I needed this for my creative writing part of my English Degree.
Published 17 months ago by Sharfa Sorwar
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff.
Loved every line of this. Armitage's translation has a rich earthy quality that compliments the sensual undertone of this epic poem.
Published 19 months ago by Peter Leslie Clee
5.0 out of 5 stars My first Poem
Having never been interested in poetry before I fell across this book whilst looking for Arthurian tales. I bought it with some doubt that I would enjoy it but how wrong was I? Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2012 by Jaggededgejess
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