Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight

By Yvor Winters 1900–1968 Yvor Winters
Reptilian green the wrinkled throat,   
Green as a bough of yew the beard;   
He bent his head, and so I smote;   
Then for a thought my vision cleared.

The head dropped clean; he rose and walked;
He fixed his fingers in the hair;
The head was unabashed and talked;   
I understood what I must dare.

His flesh, cut down, arose and grew.   
He bade me wait the season’s round,   
And then, when he had strength anew,   
To meet him on his native ground.

The year declined; and in his keep   
I passed in joy a thriving yule;   
And whether waking or in sleep,   
I lived in riot like a fool.

He beat the woods to bring me meat.   
His lady, like a forest vine,
Grew in my arms; the growth was sweet;   
And yet what thoughtless force was mine!

By practice and conviction formed,   
With ancient stubbornness ingrained,   
Although her body clung and swarmed,   
My own identity remained.

Her beauty, lithe, unholy, pure,   
Took shapes that I had never known;   
And had I once been insecure,
Had grafted laurel in my bone.

And then, since I had kept the trust,   
Had loved the lady, yet was true,   
The knight withheld his giant thrust   
And let me go with what I knew.

I left the green bark and the shade,   
Where growth was rapid, thick, and still;   
I found a road that men had made   
And rested on a drying hill.

Yvor Winters, “Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight” from Collected Poems. Reprinted with the permission of Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio.

Source: The Collected Poems of Yvor Winters (Swallow Press, 1978)

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Poet Yvor Winters 1900–1968

Subjects Heroes & Patriotism, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Yvor  Winters

Biography

Allen Tate once commented on Yvor Winters the poet thus: "If he has been neglected—when he has not been ignored—the reasons are not hard to find. He has conducted a poetic revolution all his own that owes little or nothing to the earlier revolution of Pound and Eliot, and that goes back to certain great, likewise neglected Tudor poets for metrical and stylistic models." Winters commented to Contemporary Authors: "Tate is wrong . . .

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SUBJECT Heroes & Patriotism, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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