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Tony Grist

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Sir Gawain [Jun. 15th, 2011|10:13 am]
Tony Grist
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is all about aristocratic types being polite to one another. It's like Jane Austen with hauberks. The fighting- with bores (boars), bears and etains (giants)- is hurried past so we can get to the really interesting stuff- which is the paying of compliments. These guys eat a lot too. And when they want to reward themselves for some particularly fabulous act of courtesy they tuck into double portions.

I've been meaning to read this since the seventies (when I bought the copy I've been hauling from house to house.) I find I'm getting the hang of Middle English and that much of the obsolete vocabulary is guessable. They have ever so many different words for "man"-but I suppose we do too. I love the rattle of alliterative verse- and the brilliance of the scene-painting- at its best when the weather is worst.:
 
Near slain with the sleet, he slept in his irons
More nights than enough in naked rocks,
There as clattering from the crest the cold burn runs,
And hanged high over his head in hard icicles.*
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: steepholm
2011-06-15 09:20 am (UTC)
"More nights than enough" - I love the fact that English understatement goes back so far (and indeed further). Here we see dimly the antecedents of our present "Mustn't grumble".
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-15 12:51 pm (UTC)
You're right. I picture the poet (whoever he was) in flat cap and tweeds.
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