• Evan Symmonds

Reading for January

The picture below is a view of the chained library in Hereford Cathedral.

Not that I'm planning on reading my way through all those ancient texts. I am reading the fourteenth-century middle-English anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. As well as the original text -- with all its strange letters, grammar and vocabulary, I'm helping myself along with different translations made into modern English in the twentieth century. The two most famous are of course Tolkien's and Simon Armitage's. It's interesting to see how loose all of the translations are: the original text is much more detailed and dense in language and imagery than any of the more recent versions.

Actually Armitage's is the most 'free' of all the translations, which is fair enough. In his introduction he says he's aiming to produce poetry, not a crib to the original. I do think his poem sounds very well out loud; I could easily imagine using this text with a class in school.

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