From wherever-Camelot-was, eight weeks through Wales to the Peak District, in winter: that's a fair hike, says Ronald Turnbull, even in Gore-Tex lined boots with modern footpath signs. These Dark Age verses on an arduous quest must be the first account in English (or thereabouts) of a long-distance bivvying trip.
Simon Armitage is a northern lad and his translation reads well to someone similarly from the north of England.
Thanks, a really enjoyable and evocative piece. That patch of land around Back Forest and Gradbach Hill is pretty much my favourite bit of the Peak District, and perhaps a little bit of that is because of the associations with this great poem (made so much more accessible by the Simon Armitage translation). Walking through those woods and moors on a dark and misty November day brings some of those lines to life.
Probably a Staffordshire accent rather than Derbyshire.
A few years ago the author Alan Garner wrote about this poem in The Times and described its setting in the modern landscape. He tells how he read it to his father, who spoke the old Staffordshire dialect and had far less trouble understanding the language of the poem than Garner's tutors at Oxford.
Thanks, really enjoyed that. If anyone’s interested the Dev Patel film is well worth watching too - suitably atmospheric.
That was wonderful, a reminder of the ancient nature of the places we love. I've read the story a few times (the Tolkien translation) but never realised the Lud's church connection. It adds a new layer to the depth of a place with a beautiful and melancholic history.
> Probably a Staffordshire accent rather than Derbyshire.
> A few years ago the author Alan Garner wrote about this poem in The Times and described its setting in the modern landscape. He tells how he read it to his father, who spoke the old Staffordshire dialect and had far less trouble understanding the language of the poem than Garner's tutors at Oxford.
Good job Garner isn't dead yet, or he'd be turning his grave! He's from Cheshire. The Staffs/ Cheshire border runs along the River Dane just below, and Gawain's journey from the Wirral is all in Cheshire except for the last mile or two where he crosses (barely) into Staffordshire.
My favourite line in the poem is rogh knockled knarres with knorned stones, which as a description of the crags of the Roaches area might not have been bettered.
As you can probably guess, I am from Cheshire. One of the formative experiences of my life was reading The Weirdstone while at school in Alderley Edge. However, such is the gentrification of the north Cheshire commuter belt towns that throughout my childhood I can't recall ever hearing a broad Cheshire dialect spoken. Those people who did have local accents I would place closer to a Potteries accent than Derbyshire though, typically with a Manc burr although that could be a modern twist.
Link to The Times article here (a review by Alan of an earlier translation): http://alangarner.atspace.org/times4.html
Marvellous stuff, Ronald: whether carrying ice-axe or battle-axe, it's all an adventure.
Side note: I lived on the SW fringe of the Peak District many years ago. One of my colleagues, for the cost of a pint, could lapse into fluent Potteries dialect and the effect was spellbinding, like hopping back 700 years.
Fantastic article- fascinating. That old English is very rich and textured.
> Link to The Times article here (a review by Alan of an earlier translation): http://alangarner.atspace.org/times4.html
ooof! Wonder if he’s any more of a fan of the Armitage translation. Nice Tolkien dig too!
> ooof! Wonder if he’s any more of a fan of the Armitage translation.
If you were designing someone to translate Gawain today I reckon you’d come up with something very much like Simon Armitage. I think it’s the best thing he’s done.
Thanks from me too to the OP for taking such an imaginative definition of mountain writing.
> Thanks from me too to the OP for taking such an imaginative definition of mountain writing.
Absolutely. Wouldn't be surprised to see Dante's Purgatorio popping up at some point.
Excellent! We need an audio book (or bok) of this text. Long ago, O-level Eng Lit included Chaucer, and I'm sure we listened to the Neville Coghill recording of the Nun's Priest's Tale. Fancy recording Gawain, Ronald?
we! lorde quoþ þe gentyle knyt
wheþer þis be þe grene chapelle?
here myt aboute mydnyt
þe dele his matynnes telle.