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Ed Hirsch on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Ed Hirsch reviews a new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in this week’s NYT Sunday Book Review:

There have been dozens of translations of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” over the years. J. R. R. Tolkien’s authoritative edition was a gift to readers, though his own translation now seems somewhat flowery. Marie Borroff did an alliterative version that holds up after 40 years. Ted Hughes translated some key sections, newly available in his “Selected Translations,” which marvelously recreate the Gawain poet’s alliterative long line. Five years ago, W. S. Merwin published a learned, lyrical translation. Now Simon Armitage has given us an energetic, free-flowing, high-spirited version. He reminds us that “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” still wields an uncanny power after 600 years. We’re fortunate that “our coffers have been crammed / with stories such as these.”



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