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Sir Gawain and the Green Knig (Penguin Classics)
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This one only provides a useful re-telling of the story in modern English, it is not a poem. It may be useful as an accompaniment to the original middle English version if you are finding the archaic language difficult to follow, as the story line is easy to follow here and this is fairly short so can be read very quickly. There are some useful notes too, explaining the author's decisions when translating into prose etc. If you just want an easy prose version of the poem then this is fine but if you are studying Gawain and the Green Knight and looking for a modern translation go for Simon Armitage.
If you want the original poem there is a scholarly edition by Tolkein and Gordon or Everyman do a version which prints the medieval text in modernised spelling with marginal notes to accompany the text.Sir Gawain And The Green Knight/Pearl/Cleanness/Patience (Everyman's Library (Paper))
This poem has all the hallmarks of being a work of many influences - it has the heroic aspects that one might expect from Old English epics such as Beowulf; it has a decided romantic streak reminiscent of French and Norman influences; it has virtue and church/Christian overlaying influences that come from Latin and ecclesial sources; it has magical and mystical ideas that are most likely Celtic in origin. Perhaps more like a tapestry, the various strands of influence are woven together into a glorious pattern that stands as a towerig achievement of the synthesis of language that Middle English achieved between its Germanic and Latinate streams.
Gawain's story is a very popular one. The most virtuous of the Round Table knights, his bravery and his resourcefulness at seeking the Green Knight, the annual challenger at the court of Arthur, is legendary. Gawain's small fault (and indeed, Gawain was portrayed as a virtuous human, but human nonetheless) warrants a very small penalty, but he is deemed upon reporting back to Camelot that he has brought honour upon the whole fellowship of knights. There is something magical about the Green Knight, however, and this can be seen as metaphor for the way in which temptation seems to have a magical power over humanity.
This is a great edition for those who want the original language text side by side with a good modern translation. There are also good notes and resources, too.
Combining elements of chivalric epic, romance, and morality tales it tells of Gawain's challenge by the Green Knight, and the moral testing of his knightly valour and virtue.
Vivid, lyrical, funny and moral all at the same time, it had a profound influence on later poets, specifically Spenser in his Faerie Queene.
This Brian Stone translation into modern English is old but still my favourite for anyone not comfortable with the original old English.
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