Preserved on a single surviving manuscript dating from around 1400, composed by an anonymous master, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was rediscovered only 200 years ago, and published for the first time in 1839. One of the earliest great stories of English literature, after Beowulf, the poem narrates in crystalline verse the strange tale of a green knight on a green horse, who rudely interrupts the Round Table festivities one Yuletide, casting a pall of unease over the company and challenging one of their number to a wager. The virtuous Gawain accepts, and decapitates the intruder with his own axe. Gushing blood, the knight reclaims his head, orders Gawain to seek him out a year hence, and departs. Next Yuletide Gawain dutifully sets forth.His quest for the Green Knight involves a winter journey, a seduction scene in a dream-like castle, a dire challenge answered - and a drama of enigmatic reward disguised as psychic undoing. Simon Armitage's new version is meticulously responsible to the tact and sophistication of the original - but responsible equally to its own powerfully persuasive claims to be read as an original new poem. It is as if, six hundred years apart, two northern poets set out on a journey through the same mesmeric landscapes - acoustic, physical and metaphorical - in the course of which the Gawain poet has finally found his true and long-awaited translator
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire in 1963. In 1992 he was winner of one of the first Forward Prizes, and a year later was the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. He works as a freelance writer, broadcaster and playwright, and has written extensively for radio and television. Previous titles include Kid, Book of Matches, The Dead Sea Poems, CloudCuckooLand, Killing Time, The Universal Home Doctor, Homer's Odyssey and Tyrannosaurus Rex versus The Corduroy Kid. His acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was published in 2007.
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