Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Verse form

The 2,530 lines and 101 stanzas that make up Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are written in what linguists call the "Alliterative Revival" style typical of the 14th century. Instead of focusing on a metrical syllabic count and rhyme, the alliterative form of this period usually relied on the agreement of a pair of stressed syllables at the beginning of the line and another pair at the end. Each line always includes a pause, called a caesura, at some point after the first two stresses, dividing it into two half-lines. Although he largely follows the form of his day, the Gawain poet was somewhat freer with convention than his or her predecessors. The poet broke the alliterative lines into variable-length groups and ended these nominal stanzas with a rhyming section of five lines known as the bob and wheel, in which the "bob" is a very short line, sometimes of only two syllables, followed by the "wheel," longer lines with internal rhyme.[2]

Gawain Translation

ful clene (wheel) for wonder of his hwe men hade set in his semblaunt sene he ferde as freke were fade and oueral enker grene (SGGK lines 146–150)[13]


(bob) full clean. (wheel) Great wonder of the knight Folk had in hall, I ween, Full fierce he was to sight, And over all bright green. (SGGK lines 146–150)[13]

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