Mist muged on the mor, malt on the mountes

Some of what is best in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are the transit passages – moving through nature in passing from one human zone to another.  For all the poet enjoys describing life at court, he also shows a surprising – for the time – attentiveness to natural landscapes.


And went on his way with his wyye one,
That schulde teche hym to tourne to that tene place
Ther the ruful race he schulde resayve.
They bowen bi bonkkes ther boghes ar bare,
Thay clomben bi clyffes ther clenges the colde,
The heven was up half, bot ugly therunder;
Mist muged on the mor, malt on the mountes,
Uch hille hade a hatte, a myst hakel huge,
Brokes byled and breke bi bonkkes aboute,
Schyre schaterande on schores ther thay doun schowved.
Wela wylle was the way ther thay bi wod schulden…. (2074-2084)

Then he went on his way with the one whose task
was to point out the road to that perilous plcae
where the knight would receive the slaughterman’s strikel
They scrambled up bankings where branches were bare,
clambered up cliff faces crazed by the cold.
The clouds which had climbed now cooled and dropped
so the moors and the mountains were muzzy with mist
and every hill wore a hat of mizzle on its head.
The streams on the slopes seemed to fume and foam,
whitening the waysid with spume and spray.
They wandered onwards through teh wildest woods (Simon Armitage translation)

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