Copyright 2024 Simon Armitage.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Author: Simon Armitage

Publisher: Faber & Faber (and Norton in USA)
Buy Armitage's first highly acclaimed translation, 2009  
This story, first told in the late fourteenth century, is one of the most enthralling, enigmatic and beloved poems in the English language.
Simon Armitage's version is meticulously responsive to the tact, sophistication and dramatic intensity of the original. It is as if, six hundred years apart, two poets set out on a journey through the same mesmeric landscape – physical, allegorical and acoustic – in the course of which the Gawain poet has finally found his true translator.

Simon Armitage's highly acclaimed 2009 translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. In 2018, Faber publsihed a new illustrated edition in which the medieval poem's key episodes have been visualised into a series of bold, richly textured screen-prints by British artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. The book reproduces the images alongside Armitage's revised text, to create a special edition of this marvellous classic.

Simon Armitage's BBC documentary on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is available on the BBC website

His lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry about Sir Gawain and the Green Knght is available as a podcast here.

BBC Radio 4's 'In Our Time' discussed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with guests Laura Ashe, Simon Armiatge and Ad Putter. Podcast available here.

Reviews of Simon Armitage's original translation:

'It's not surprising that, as a northerner, Armitage feels a strong affinity with the poem. He has written pleasingly in this paper about the poem's vivid contrasts – standard and colloquial English, order and disorder, "exchanges of courtly love contrasting with none-too-subtle sexual innuendo . . . polite, indoor society contrasting with the untamed, unpredictable outdoors". And what he has done is to adopt and greatly extend this contrast in the language of his translation … I enjoyed it greatly for its kick and music; its high spirits, its many memorable passages. I enjoyed it because, like the Gawain poet, Armitage is some storyteller.' The Guardian

'The story is rich, eerie and intoxicating as it follows Gawain from Camelot to his likely doom among the forests and crags and icy streams of the mysterious north … Armitage never lacks for boldness. His enjoyment of the original's thickly consonantal four-stress alliterative line drives the narrative on at great pace. Nor does he neglect the poem's concern with pattern, colour and bejewelled decoration of castles, ladies' costumes and knightly equipment, seen flashing and glowing amid the inhospitable winter landscapes that dominate the poem … (Armitage) honours the original and will win it readers.' Sean O'Brien, Sunday Times


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