Monday, March 24, 2008

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Simon Armitage

... I spent so long in your lordship's land / and was hosted in your house ...

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Simon Armitage

I read Sir Gawain a few years ago, as translated by Brian Stone, and I enjoyed it, but I ended up with very little clear memory of the story. Everything seemed vague and dreamy in retrospect, even shortly after I had read it.

I doubt that will be the case with Simon Armitage's new translation, which is full of energy and clarity. I enjoyed reading it so much that I tried to convince Miles to let me read it out loud to him, and he let me read the first part and a bit of the second part to him before he got bored, wanting more action. The pleasure of reading this:

So summer comes in season with its subtle airs,
when the west wind sighs among shoots and seeds,
and those plants which flower and flourish are a pleasure
as their leaves let drip their drink of dew
and they sparkle and glitter when glanced by sunlight.
Then autumn arrives to harden the harvest
and with it comes a warning to ripen before winter.
The drying airs arrive, driving up dust
from the face of the earth to the heights of heaven,
and wild sky wrestles the sun with its winds,
and the leaves of the lime lay littered on the ground,
and grass that was green turns withered and grey.
Then all which had risen over-ripens and rots
and yesterday on yesterday the year dies away,
and winter returns, as is the way of the world
through time.

Armitage's alliterations never grow stale, and his attention to the form keeps the language focused and clear. Surprise: I recommend this book highly!

5 comments:

Karin said...

I really love W.S. Merwin's translation, but I've heard such great things about Armitage's. I'm excited to read it. I adore the story!

swiss said...

i never thought about it in the context of reading to a child. that sounds great fun!

Andrew Shields said...

Miles enjoyed the part I read to him, I think, but I also think it moved a bit too slowly for his taste. He does not always like long descriptive passages (although he enjoys the descriptions in "Swallows and Amazons").

Katy said...

As much as I love Sean Connery, I bet the book is better than the movie!

Andrew Shields said...

The book is a complete masterpiece, a great narrative poem; the movie, according to EVERY review I have found of it on the web, is trash, trash, trash!