The Quest

I’m going on a hike into the heart of a legend.

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My path skirts the mountainside –
descends a deep forest, densely overgrown
with ancient oaks in huddles of hundreds
and vaulting hills above each half of the valley
“Into a forest ful deep, that ferly was wylde
Highe hilles on uche a halve, and holtwodes under
For hore okes ful huge a hundredth togeder”

 

Here are some clues as to the colour the legend is written in:

 

 

The hazel and the hawthorn were deeply interwoven – “harled al samen”

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With roghe raged moss rayled aywhere

 

 

“…Picks up a path,

Enters a steep-sided grove on his steed

Rides through the roghe bank ryght to the dale

And thenne he wayted hym aboute, and wylde it hym thoght”

 

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I use some stepping stones to precariously wobble and spring across

“Bi a fors of a flode that ferked thare;

The borne blubred therinne as hit boyled hade”

 

Safely on the other side, on I go, “the chapelle to seek”.

I find many tiny caves in mossy banks and under tree-roots. They must be inhabited – I can almost hear the whispers of the green little people into whose neighbourhood I’ve strayed.

I long to shrink my size and pass through the miniature arches into the teeny weeny sanctuary inside.


As I venture on I have to give the password, ‘green-gridle’ to each of the mossy sentinels who guard whatever lies ahead…

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The sentinels let me path, and I feel a cold breath from the mouth shiver through me as I enter

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It swallows me

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Well, have I somehow shrunk myself to two inches high and managed to crawl inside of of the fairy caves…?  A green demon does dwell here, but the scale is gigantic, not miniature.

 

“…With lance in hand

he scrambled to the skylight of that strange abyss”

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“Overgrowen with weeds and moss in glodes aywhere

All was holw inwith, nobot an olde cave,

Or a crevisse of an olde cragge – he couthe hit nought deme with spelle.”

 

“This is a soulless spot,

A ghostly cathedral with herbes overgrowen

Wel bisemes the man wruxled in green

Deal here his devotions on the devil’s wyse.”

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What is that ghostly green gleam caught by my camera – flickering down there in the dark rock? Could it be the spirit of the Green Knight?

 

And is this sleeping dragon his familiar?

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This is the Green Chapel of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Pearl Poet who wrote the legend lived just below, somewhere down in this patchwork of more domesticated emerald green.

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I set off home with my head still on my shoulders, but with the deathless green girdle wound about my heart. What the Pearl Poet says is true – “to pass through that place unscathed is impossible”.

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