When Zephyrus himself breathes on seeds and herbs.
In paradise is the plant that springs in the open
When, the dew having dripped and dropped from the leaves,
It bears the blissful gleam of the bright sun.
Then harvest comes hurrying, urging it on,
Warning it because of winter to wax ripe soon;
He drives the dust to rise with the drought he brings,
Forcing it to fly up from the face of the earth.
Wrathful winds in raging skies wrestle with the sun;
Leaves are lashed loose from the trees and lie on the ground
And the grass becomes grey which was green before.
What rose from root and bud now ripens and rots;
So the year in passing yields its many yesterdays,
And winter returns, as the way of the world is,
So came the Michaelmas moon,
With winter threatening there,
And Gawain considered soon
The fell way he must fare.
‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ is a masterpiece of medieval alliterative poetry. The unknown fourteenth century author has imbued his work with the heroic athmosphere of a saga, with the spirit of French romance, and with a Christian consciousness.
The poem could have been written towards the end of the 14th century. Only one manuscript still exists (in the British Museum) and it is sometimes attributed to the so-called Pearl poet, whose identity remains mysterious.
(Penguin Classics, 1959,1970)
Translated by Brian Stone