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Featured Poem: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Written by Isobel Lobo, 5th September 2022

This week's Featured Poem is read by Jemma and features an extract taken from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Bernard O'Donoghue.

For September, all our Featured Poems will be extracts taken from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The epic poem tells the tale of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, as he accepts a bargain from a mysterious stranger who identifies as the ‘Green Knight’. The Green Knight challenges any person in the court to strike him with an axe, and he, in turn, will return the strike in a year.

This text features on this year’s The Reader Bookshelf, which focuses on the theme of Light & Darkness. To find out more about the Bookshelf a link can be found here.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

‘If you, noble lord,’ said Gawain to the king,

‘let me rise from this bench and stand with you there,

to move from this table without giving offence,

if there’s no objection from my lady the queen,

I’ll take over from you before all the court.

For I think it unfitting, as is surely the case,

when this arrogant request is made in your hall,

that you should feel moved to meet it yourself,

while so many brave knights are sitting all round you

than whom no men on earth are more ready and willing

nor abler in body when battle begins.

I’m the weakest, I know, and the feeblest of spirit,

so my life would be the least loss, it is simply true.

My only worth is that you are my uncle;

my body’s sole value that your blood runs through it.

Since this crazy task is not fitting for you,

and since I asked for it first, you should pass it to me.

If I speak out of turn, then don’t let this court be blamed.’

The noble knights consulted,

and all advised the same:

to exempt the royal king

and give Gawain the task.

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