Sunday, 27 December 2009

A Thought for Gawain

From Simon Armitage's 2007 translation.

Now night passes and New Year draws near,
drawing off darkness as our deity decrees.
But wild-looking weather was about in the world:
clouds decanted their cold rain earthwards;
the nithering north needled man's very nature;
creatures were scattered by the stinging sleet.
Then a whip-cracking wind comes whistling between hills
driving snow into deepening drifts in the dales.
Alert and listening, Gawain lies in his bed;
his lids are lowered but he sleeps very little
as each crow of the cock brings his destiny closer.
Before day had dawned he was up and dressed
for the room was livened by the light of a lamp.
To suit him in his metal and to saddle his mount
he called for a servant, who came quickly,
bounded from his bedsheets, bringing his garments.
He swathes Sir Gawain in glorious style,
first fastening clothes to fend off the frost,
then his armour, looked after all the while by the household:
the buffed and burnished stomach and breastplates,
and the rings of chain-mail, raked free of rust,
all gleaming good as new, for which he is grateful
With every polished piece
no man shone more,
from here to ancient Greece.
He sent then for his steed.

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