I read a translation of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" last night (Gads! I cannot remember the author's name, he won a Pulitzer and resides in Hawaii) and I want to recommend it to anyone who reads my tiny blog.
The reading goes quickly even though the style is archaic, and it provides a wonderful snapshot into the past. Gawain is actually one of four short poems attributed to "The Pearl Poet", an unknown possible cleric from the 14th century. He offers insights into the chivalric and daily mundane, a view into the old world and a moment of wreathed beauty and savagery twined together in an Aurthurian tale. It begins at Camelot and drags poor noble Gawain on a search for the Green Chapel in order to honorably keep his word. I will not tell more in order to keep it unspoiled (on the chance that you read the poem), but the Green Knight just might be Merlin (I side with the author on this one).
My words are weak here today, but the story is a metaphor for the stories of our own lives--a common theme we humans share--of virtue in a non-virtuous world, of trials and a testing effort to prove one's worth.
If you have an hour or two and want to read something out of the ordinary, pick up the book. You won't be dissaponted. You just may be mildly surprised (as I was) and find yourself wanting more when the tale is finished.