Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo by UnknownSir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl are two poems by an unknown author written in about 1400. Sir Gawain is a romance, a fairy-tale for adults, full of life and colour; but it is also much more than this, being at the same time a powerful moral tale which examines religious and social values.
Pearl is apparently an elegy on the death of a child, a poem pervaded with a sense of great personal loss: but, like Gawain it is also a sophisticated and moving debate on much less tangible matters.
Sir Orfeo is a slighter romance, belonging to an earlier and different tradition. It was a special favourite of Tolkiens. The three translations represent the complete rhyme and alliterative schemes of the originals.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Summary
Maybe you haven't heard of Sir Gawain, but we're willing to bet you definitely know of King Arthur. This poem is part of the medieval romance tradition, which means it focuses on the journey or quest of a single knight here, Sir Gawain and what he learns about himself and his culture in the process of pursuing a great adventure.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight stands in a class by itself as the most ambitious, most accomplished, most enjoyable poetical romance written in the English language during the Middle Ages. Though its language and dialect have challenged readers from the beginning—some of its archaisms must have seemed almost as unusual to medieval audiences as they do in the 21st century—its appeal remains fresh and powerful. Since World War II, it has claimed a central place in any account of writing in medieval England, and at the same time it has been widely taught in survey and introductory courses; it is such a good read that even novice readers immediately recognize its excitement and complexity. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is not only the best, but also in many ways the most unusual or unprecedented of medieval English romances. Its density of meaning, verbal pyrotechnics, fantastic playfulness, and dizzyingly intricate structures will repay any amount of careful reading or imaginative probing, as the hundreds of books and essays written on the poem in the last half century prove.
We know next to nothing about the author of the poem which has come to be called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was probably written around In the early 17th century the manuscript was recorded as belonging to a Yorkshireman, Henry Saville of Bank. It was later acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection also included the Lindisfarne Gospels and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf. The poem then lay dormant for over years, not coming to light until Queen Victoria was on the throne, thus leapfrogging the attentions of some of our greatest writers and critics.
From the SparkNotes Blog
'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' in Middle English (lines 1-19)
The anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is considered one of the masterpieces of Middle English literature — a story of knightly deeds, sexual enticement and wild landscapes. It was composed in the West Midlands region of Britain at the end of the 14th century. Gawain tells the story of a young knight at the legendary court of King Arthur. The poem opens with a description of a Christmas feast at Camelot, the Arthurian court. During the feast a mysterious green knight, with green hair and green skin, riding a green horse, arrives and challenges the assembled crowd to a bizarre game, which sets off a chain of events in which Gawain faces trials and temptations.
It is one of the best known Arthurian stories, with its plot combining two types of folk motifs, the beheading game and the exchange of winnings. Written in stanzas of alliterative verse , each of which ends in a rhyming bob and wheel ,  it draws on Welsh , Irish and English stories, as well as the French chivalric tradition. It is an important example of a chivalric romance , which typically involves a hero who goes on a quest which tests his prowess. It remains popular in modern English renderings from J. Tolkien , Simon Armitage and others, as well as through film and stage adaptations.