Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

What you have here is an old guy. In education for 30 years, started teaching elementary, ended as library and media director of community college. I've enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival, walking and hiking later in life. Now fairly sedentary. Enjoy reading, esp. mysteries and fantasy, but my reading is pretty eclectic. Enjoy movies, giving Netflix a workout.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Not long ago one of the book reviewers for the Seattle Times wrote an interesting article/review of a new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Obviously he had studied this poem by the so-called Pearl Poet in college. As had I more than fifty years ago. I was intrigued by the article and sought out this new translation (there have been many) by Simon Armitage, the British poet. I found the translation to not be a literal translation but one in which the translator tried to match the alliteration of the original. It’s quite a good story. Gawain, a knight of the Round Table, takes up the challenge of the Green Knight to cut his head off. In exchange Gawain must seek out the Green Knight a year later and offer to do the same.

The original text is on the left-hand page and the translation on the right-hand. The further I read the more of the Middle English came back to me. In the end I was able to compare the original text with the translation. I enjoyed the experience greatly. I knew that Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet, had recently translated Beowulf. So I thought I might as well give that a read also. The original of Beowulf is in Old English and though the format is the same, the Old English is beyond me. Heaney’s translation is quite literal and the story reads easily. Beowulf, a Geat, comes to the rescue of the Danes when they are being devastated by Grendel, a monster. He kills him in single combat. Then he must take on Grendel’s mother, who is seeking revenge. He defeats her also. After returning home and becoming king, he is threatened by a dragon and must do combat with him. Ancient heroics.

What next? I may take on The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.


Blogger Bill Crider said...

I taught both BEOWULF and SIR GAWAIN to sophomores. I tried to communicate my enthusiasm for the poems to the students, but somehow I think I failed. Maybe those new translations would have helped. Or not.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I have to admire a guy who takes on such weighty tomes.

4:14 PM  

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