First Page of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, from the Cotton Nero A.x manuscript, late 10th century
The siege and assault having ceased at Troy
as its blazing battlements blackened to ash,
the man who had planned and plotted that treason
had trial enough for the truest traitor!
Then Aeneas the prince and his honored line
plundered provinces and held in their power
nearly all the wealth of the western isles.
Thus Romulus swiftly arriving at Rome
sets up that city and in swelling pride
gives it his name, the name it now bears;
and in Tuscany Tirius raises up towns,
and in Lombardy Langoberde settles the land,
and far past the French coast Felix Brutus
founds Britain on broad hills, and so bright hopes
where wonders, wars, misfortune
and troubled times have been,
where bliss and blind confusion
have come and gone again.
From the founding of Britain by this brave prince,
bold men have bred there, burning for war,
stirring up turmoil through the turning years.
More wonders in the world have been witnessed here
than anywhere else from that age forward.
But of all who were crowned kings over Britain
the most honor was Arthur’s, as old tales tell.
So I mean to make known a marvel on earth,
an astonishing sight, as some men would call it,
an extraordinary exploit among Arthur’s wonders.
Listen to this lay for a little while
and as townsmen tell it, so this tale will trip
a story pinned in patterns
steadfast, steady, strong:
aligned in linking letters
as folk have loved so long.