Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Awe and Amazement Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
And far over the French sea Felix Brutus
On many broad hillsides settles Britain
Where war and grief and wonder
Have visited by turns,
And often joy and turmoil
Have alternated since.
(13 - 19)
The emotions that the narrator claims have alternated throughout Britain since its founding are "war and grief and wonder," and "joy and turmoil." The joy and turmoil capture the unique feeling brought about by wonders in this text. They cause both fear and uncertainty in the face of the unfamiliar, but also a kind of elation, or joy.
More wondrous events have occurred in this country
Than in any other I know of, since that same time.
But of all those who dwelt there, of the British kings
Arthur was always judged noblest, as I have heard tell.
And so an actual adventure I mean to relate
Which some men consider a marvellous event,
And a prodigious happening among tales about Arthur.
(23 - 29)
This passage frames the story we are about to hear as a "marvellous event," a "prodigious happening," and one of the many "wondrous events" that have occurred in Britain since its founding. The story of Gawain will bring both pleasure for its entertainment value and angst as we empathize with Gawain during his plight so that, like a wondrous event, it will cause both joy and turmoil.
And another habit influenced him too,
Which he had made a point of honour: he would never eat
On such a special day until he had been told
A curious tale about some perilous thing,
Of some great wonder that he could believe,
Of princes, of battles, or other marvels;
Or some knight begged him for a trustworthy foe
To oppose him in jousting.
(90 - 96)
Arthur has a custom of waiting to eat on a feast day until he has witnessed a wonder, which the poem defines as a story "of princes, or battles, or other marvels." Apparently, a wonder need not be something miraculous, just something entertaining, like the joust that’s also acceptable for Arthur’s pre-feast amusement.