from SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT from SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT
Anon.tr. W.S.Merwin (from Middle English)
I

Sithen the sege and the assaut watz sesed at Troye,
The borgh brittened and brent to brondez and askez,
The tulk that the trammes of tresoun ther wroght
Watz tried for his tricherie, the trewest on erthe.
Hit watz Ennias the athel and his highe kynde
That sithen depreced provinces, and patrounes bicome
Welneghe of al the wele in the west iles.
Fro riche Romulus to Rome ricchis hym swythe,
With gret bobbaunce that burghe he biges upon fyrst,
And nevenes hit his aune nome, as hit now hat;
Tirius to Tuskan and teldes bigynnes,
Langaberde in Lumbardie lyftes up homes,
And fer over the French flod Felix Brutus
On mony bonkkes ful brode Bretayn he settez
with wynne;
Where werre and wrake and wonder
Bi sythez hatz wont therinne,
And oft both blysse and blunder
Ful skete hatz skyfted synne.

Ande quen this Bretayn watz bigged bi this burn rych,
Bolde bredden therinne, baret that lofden,
In mony turned tyme tene that wroghten.
Mo ferlyes on this folde han fallen here oft
Then in any other that I wot, syn that ilk tyme.
Bot of alle that here bult, of Bretaygne kynges,
Ay watz Arthur the hedest, as I haf herde telle.
Forthi an aunter in erde I attle to schawe,
That a selly in syght summe men hit holden,
And an outtrage awenture of Arthurez wonderez.
If ye wyl lysten this laye bot on little quile
I schal telle hit as-tit, as I in toun herde,
with tonge,
As hit is stad and stoken
In stori stif and stronge,
With lel letteres loken,
In londe so hatz ben longe.

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I

Since the siege and the assault upon Troy were finished,
The city destroyed and burned down to embers and ashes,
And the man who made the decoys that deceived them
Was tried for his treachery, though no man on earth was more true
It was the noble Aeneas and his high-born kin
Who came to conquer provinces and become the lords
Of almost all the wealth of the Western Isles.
Noble Romulus went to Rome at once.
Proudly he set up that city at the beginning,
Giving it his own name, which it bears to this day.
Ticius to Tuscany, to begin building there.
Longobard builds high houses in Lombardy,
And far across the flood from France Felix Brutus
Is happy to settle the many hills and the whole breadth
of Britain,
Where war and woe and wonder
Have been known frequently,
And by turns bliss and despair
Have changed places suddenly.

And when this Britain was built by this noble knight,
Bold men were bred in it who loved fighting,
And they made trouble in the course of time.
More marvels have happened, often, in this land
Than in any other I know, since that first age.
But of all who lived here as kings of Britain
Arthur was ever the noblest, as I have heard tell.
So I intend to tell of one adventure that happened
Which some have considered a marvel to behold,
One of the wonders that are told about Arthur.
If you will listen for a little while to my lay
I shall tell it as I heard it in the hall
aloud,
As it is set down
In a strong story,
With true letters written
Together in the old way.

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Click here 1 for another translation of this poem.

Transl. copyright © W.S.Merwin 2002, 2003 - publ. Bloodaxe Books


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