Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Time Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
For though men are light-hearted when they have strong drink,
A year passes swiftly, never bringing the same;
Beginning and ending seldom take the same form.
(497 - 499)
This passage is basically a reverse of the maxim "time heals all wounds." The point is that, in time, people’s moods can change. In this case, people who were merry and celebrating at the end of one year will be somber when the next one rolls around, for then, Gawain will embark on his death-march.
And so that Yule went by, and the year ensuing,
Each season in turn following the other.
After Christmas came mean-spirited Lent,
That tries the body with fish and plainer nourishment.
(498 - 501)
These lines and the ones that follow describe the seasons mostly in terms of what happens in the natural world. The season of Lent, however, is characterized by the deprivation it forces men to endure - the fasting and abstention brought on by the Church’s Lenten fasting.
But then the weather on earth battles with winter,
The cold shrinks downwards, clouds rise higher,
And shed sparkling rain in warming showers,
Falling on smiling plains where flowers unfold.
Both open fields and woodlands put on green dress;
Birds hasten to build, and rapturously sing
For joy of gentle summer that follows next
on the slopes.
And flowers bud and blossom
In hedgerows rich with growth,
And many splendid songs
From woodlands echo forth.
(504 - 515)
The poem’s description of the summer contains a lot of personification - in other words, it attributes human actions to non-human things. The weather does "battle" with winter, like a soldier, and "open fields and woodlands" dress themselves in green like someone preparing for a ball. The emphasis here is on the new life that the rain unleashes. The imagery engages four of the five senses: touch with "warm showers," hearing with its references to birdsong, smell with the suggestion of blossoming flowers and sight with the image as a whole.