Walking, landscape and writers.
Usually at this time of year I thumb through the pages of this medieval classic. Not least because the setting of the tale is probably around Leek in my birth-county of Staffordshire.
I’ve been re-reading a recent translation of this medieval poem, which is appropriate for everyone who loves the British countryside.
Many years ago I struggled through it in the original Middle English, which I think is hard work even if you can manage quite well with Chaucer and Langland – as I could at the time.
This recent translation is by the poet and Oxford don Bernard O’Donoghue (Penguin 2006). This translation concentrates on the tale itself and the rhythm of the original, veering away from the alliteration and half lines of the original. I think O’Donoghue captures the spirit of the poem well.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a beautiful tribute to the English countryside. As Sir Gawain rides on his quest to the castle of the Green Knight we get wonderful pictures of the landscape of England, and possibly Wales, grand vistas of nature and the seasons, with a bit of sexual seduction, courtly love and romance – in the historic sense of the word – thrown in.
The poet is unknown but his words live on.
And this is a very good time of the year to read his words. The castle in the picture, by the way, is not in Staffs but in Cumbria. It just looks appropriate.