This post presents a poem and extract from The Little Book of the Green Man by Mike Harding, which includes photographs by the author. Most of the images are from English medieval churches, though two are from Paris and some are from different regions of India, from Nepal and from Borneo.
The book was published in 1998 and is still in print. I recommend it to anyone interested in Green Man imagery.
I am the face in the leaves,
I am the laughter in the forest,
I am the king in the wood.
And I am the blade of grass
That thrusts through the stone-cold clay
At the death of winter.
I am before and I am after,
I am always until the end
I am the face in the forest,
I am the laughter in the leaves.
The following extract describes green men in the ends of pews at Bishop’s Lydeard, Somerset, my native county. They were carved in the fifteenth century:
“Unlike many Green Men that are hidden on high in roof bosses or on capitals, the bench ends are close to ground level and would have been immediately on view to everybody entering the church.
“Only in Somerset is this tradition of carved pew-ends so widespread and it would appear that the same carvers worked on a number of churches in the area.
“While I was photographing these images a lady who was in the church arranging flowers came up to me quietly and, making sure that nobody else heard, whispered: ‘It’s nice to see that he’s being accepted again, isn’t it?’”
Mike Harding The Little Book of the Green Man London: Aurum Press, 1998.