Jacks-of-the-Green

An early HE 11200s corbel in Bamberg Cathedral

Jacks-of-the-Green

Green men – as grey as stone,
All talking with their mouths full,
Look in any ancient church
And you may find a houseful.
Part of the grotesque gallery
To keep watch on us mortals –
Lurking round the capitals,
And hanging from the corbels.

Green men, as Pagan as they sound,
As yews and birches,
As nature-sprites whose temples got rebuilt
As parish churches.
Or are they jolly demons, greening Hell
And sprouting lies ?
They don’t look very evil, though –
But rather rustic-wise.

Green men, as vigorous as weeds
Where priests don’t mow –
Though Jesus doesn’t mind, it seems,
Content to let them grow.
So are they harvest gods of yore,
Or mistletoes in larches ?
Or are they merely hunkypunks,
To decorate the arches ?

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