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

This hanselle hatz Arthur of aventurus on fyrst
In yonge yer, for he yerned yelpyng to here.

Thagh hym wordez were wane when thay to sete wenten,
Now ar thay stoken of sturne werk, stafful her hond.
Gawan watz glad to begynne those gomnez in halle,
Bot thagh the ende be hevy haf ye no wonder;
For thagh men ben mery quen thay han mayn drynk,
A yere yernes ful yerne, and yeldez never lyke,
The forme to the fynisment foldez ful selden.
Forthi this Yol overyede, and the yere after,

And uche sesoun serlepes sued after other:
After Crystenmasse com the crabbed lentoun
That fraystez flesch wyth the fysche and fode more symple;
Bot thenne the weder of the worlde wyth wynter hit threpez,
Colde clengez adoun, cloudez upliften,
Schyre schedez the rayn in schowrez ful warme,
Fallez upon fayre flat, flowrez there schewen,
Bothe groundez and the grevez grene ar her wendez,
Bryddez busken to bylde, and bremlych syngen
For solace of the softe somer that sues therafter
bi bonk;
And blossumez bolne to blowe
Bi rawez rych and ronk,
Then notez noble innoghe
Ar herde in wod so wlonk -

After the sesoun of somer wyth the soft wyndez,
Quen Zeferus syflez hymself on sedez and erbez,
Wela wynne is the wort that waxes theroute,
When the donkande dewe dropez of the levez,
To bide a blysful blusch of the bryght sunne.
Bot then hyghes hervest, and hardenes hym sone,
Warnez hym for the wynter to wax ful rype.
He dryves wyth droght the dust for to ryse
Fro the face of the folde to flyghe ful hyghe;
Wrothe wynde of the welkyn wrastelez with the sunne,
The levez lancen fro the lynde and lyghten on the grounde,
And al grayes the gres that grene watz ere.
Thenne al rypez and rotez that ros upon fyrst,
And thus yirnez the yere in yisterdayez mony,
And wynter wyndez agayn, as the worlde askez,
no fage;
Til Meghelmas mone
Watz cumen wyth wynter wage;
Then thenkkez Gawan ful sone
Of his anions vyage.

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II

This wonder came as a gift to Arthur in the first
Youth of the year, for he longed to hear of some bold
adventure.
Though their words were few when they first sat to table,
Soon they had more to say than they had words for.
Gawain was glad to begin those games in the hall,
But if the mood grew heavy at last it was no wonder,
For though after strong drink men may be merry in their minds,
A year soon runs its length and never returns the same,
And the end seldom seems to belong to the beginning.
So this Christmas was over then, and the last of the year
followed it,
And the seasons went by in turn one after the other.
After Christmas came crabbéd Lent
That chastises the flesh with fish and plainer food.
But then the weather of the world makes war on winter,
Cold cringes downward, clouds lift,
The shining rain comes down in warm showers,
Falls on the fair meadow, flowers appear there,
Both the open land and the groves are in green garments,
Birds hurry to build, and they sing gloriously
With the joy of the soft summer that arrives
on all the hills,
And blossoms are opening
In thick hedgerows, and then the noblest
Of all songs ring
Through the lovely forest.

Then comes the season of summer with the soft winds,
When Zephyrus breathes gently on the seeds and grasses.
Happy is the green leaf that grows out of that time
When the wet of the dew drips from the leaves
Before the blissful radiance of the bright sun.
But then comes harvest time to hearten them,
Warning them to ripen well before winter.
It brings drought until the dust rises,
Flying up high off the face of the field,
A fierce wind wrestles with the sun in the heavens,
The leaves fly from the lime tree and light on the ground,
And the grass is all withered that before was green.
Then all that was growing at first ripens and decays,
And thus in many yesterdays the year passes
And winter comes back again as the world would have it,
in the way of things.
Until the Michaelmas moon
When first the days feel wintry
And Gawain is reminded then
Of his dread journey.

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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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