Reviews for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight : A New Verse Translation

Choice Reviews 2008 September
Armitage's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight beautifully captures the wit and verve of the original Middle English poem. Like Seamus Heaney (whose translation of Beowulf appeared almost a decade ago), Armitage brings his own poetic gifts to a difficult project and produces a fine and enjoyable translation. It is no easy task to keep faithful to the demands of the alliterative forms of the poem and the quirks of the northern dialect of Middle English in which it was written while also conveying the soul of the poem itself, but Armitage accomplishes both. This translation will introduce new students to the poem without alienating them with its scholarly difficulties, and it will be a pleasure for the general reader and for all who are interested in the Middle Ages. The original text appears on the facing page, for purposes of comparison; however, the book includes no glossary or notes, so the original, though interesting, will be of limited use to most readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers, all levels. Copyright 2008 American Library Association.

Library Journal Reviews 2007 June #1
A classic newly rendered by an outstanding young poet; there's even a parallel Middle English text. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 August #3

Composed in medieval England by an unknown poet and set in what were (even then) the old days of King Arthur, the tale of Sir Gawain begins when a magical warrior with green skin and green hair interrupts the Christmas party at Camelot with a bizarre challenge: "If a person here present, within these premises,/ is big or bold or red blooded enough/ to strike me one stroke and be struck in return" in once year's time, says the knight, "I shall give him as a gift this gigantic cleaver." Pure, loyal Sir Gawain accepts the agreement: the adventures that ensue include a boar hunt, a deer hunt, and an extended flirtation with a noble lady, designed to test Sir Gawain's bravery, fidelity and chastity, and to explore--with some supernatural help--the true meaning of virtue. The Gawain-poet, as he is known to scholars, wrote in Middle English (reproduced here); though it is slightly harder to read than Chaucer, the grammar is more or less our own. Armitage (The Shout ), one of England's most popular poets, brings an attractive contemporary fluency to the Gawain-poet's accentual, alliterative verse: We hear the knights of Round Table "chatting away charmingly, exchanging views." This is a compelling new version of a classic. (Oct.)

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