Sir Gawain - This Site Under Construction
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a unique poem which not only tells the tale of a knight (or "knyyt" as it is written in the Middle-English manuscript) on a quest, but also provides a subtle criticism of Arthurian legend by way of telling us how Sir Gawain is a "pearl amid white peas" when he is evaluated by the Green Knight late in the tale (line 2065).
HONI SOYT QUI MAL PENCE*
This poem consists of 2530 lines that are arranged into 101 stanzas. It is commonly considered to be a part of the 14th century "Alliterative Revival" and is written in a language dialect that is from the English northwest Midlands estimated to be in the vicinity of Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. As such, the "Pearl Poet" (most common designation for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight's unknown author) is classified as a "northern poet" in contrast to, for example, a "southern poet" like Geoffrey Chaucer.
The "Alliterative Revival" was a form of poetry that hearkened backward to pre-Norman conquest Anglo-Saxon poetry that emphasized accented meter instead of syllabic rhyming (such as Chaucer).
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is usually described as a fusion between two main poetic subject traditions: French romance and Celtic literature.
The Merwin Translation
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - translation by W. S. Merwin
Published by Alfred A Knopf, 2002, approx 175 pages
The Armitage Translation
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - translation by Simon Armitage
Published by W.W. Norton, 2007, Approx 198 pages
The Tolkien Translation
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Translation by J. R. R. Tolkien
Published by Balantine Books, 1975, Approx 214 pages
The Raffel Translation
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Translation by Burton Raffel
Published by Signet Classics, 2001, Approx 156 pages
The Kerven Translation
Arthurian Legends - by Rosalind Kerven
Published by the National Trust, 2011, 224 pages
This volume of seven Arthurian tales includes a 26 page abridged version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Volume also has a large supplementary note section which discusses the seven stories and Arthurian tales in general, along with a bibliography and list of external sources.
The Gerould Translation
Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Poems of Two Great Eras with Certain Contemporary Pieces
Newly Translated by Gordon Hall Gerould
Professor of English, Princeton University
The Ronald Press Company, New York
Copyright 1929, 1933, 1935
This edition is the one that used to be commony found in public libraries prior to the 21st century digital purge. Gerould's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a dignified version of the tale with attention given to translation into easy to read prose, instead of lines attempting to duplicate the Pearl poet's structure or alliterative rhyme structure.
The end section is a supplementary series of notes on the translation work and is very informative, covering issues important to understanding Sir Gawain up to the time of this books publication..
* The book (from the Cotton Nero A.x. manuscript) ends with "HONI SOYT QUI MAL PENCE" - This is a Anglo-Saxon motto derived from Old French meaning roughly "shame to he who thinks evil of it" though it is more often streamlined to be "shame to him who finds evil here"