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“Lud’s Church” or “The Green Chapel”

after Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

I travel to this place each New Year’s Day,
To where the fluting curlew builds his nest.
Upon these stegosaurus hills I stray,
The Wilderness of Wirral to the West.
The Lollards worshipped here so long ago,
Where dinosaurs once roamed this fetid glade.
I know the Green Knight’s waiting far below,
I hear the scrape of whetstone on his blade.
No sunlight penetrates this moss-filled dell,
I halt my steps for bravery I lack.
No longer on the stairway down to hell,
A grouse calls out, “Go back, go back, go back.”
My friends, they call me coward, “What the heck!”
It isn’t they who’ll get it in the neck.

.

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Jeff Eardley lives in the heart of England near to the Peak District National Park and is a local musician playing guitar, mandolin and piano steeped in the music of America, including the likes of Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, and particularly Hank Williams.


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8 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    Though I’m not entirely sure about the playful ending, it made me laugh.

    A very atmospheric piece. I enjoyed the way you linked today, Arthurian times and 65+ million years ago so seamlessly.

    Thanks for a fine New Year’s Day read, Jeff.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thank you for your kind words Paul and next time I am down there, I will send your regards to the jolly green giant. A Happy New Year to you.

      Reply
  2. Peter Hartley

    Jeff – I read this poem at school as an extracurricular exercise to get brownie points from my English teacher and (mainly) because it is quite short. And how topical it is for New Year’s Day, the very day on which the Green Knight was deftly decollated by Sir Gawain but who still managed to walk off with his head held high! I particularly liked your description of the “stegosaurus” hills (stegosaurus meaning “roof-lizard”) giving a good picture of the Peak District terrain hereabouts. It looks from the photographs to be quite a tight squeeze to get into the Green Chapel and I imagine mass attendances must have been quite low. And how often have I heard the red grouse warning me to “Go back!” on the moors. Like the Green Chapel itself, this poem is very atmospheric.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Peter, thank you for “roof lizard” which will now replace “The Roaches” in future correspondence. I was actually there this morning. The big green guy was flogging off signed leather-bound copies of his poem from a trestle table. He looked immaculate in his bio-degradable face-mask as he posed with passing tourists, all of which were happy to pay for the privilege of handling his cleaver. Apart from that, the rotten log, which has for many generations been a place to insert old pennies, has been replaced by a smart-card reader. Thank you for your comment and if you ever visit, send him my best wishes. Have a Happy and peaceful New Year.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    Jeff, having never visited the “chapel,” I am distressed to learn that the log and the old pennies are gone. Considering how old some of them may have been, I suspect the Green Knight was cheated if they went to pay for a leather-bound publication in which he probably infringed someone else’s copyright. Your original and your review comments are most amusing! I did wear a green dress and veil to my chapel today, but I had made sure there was nothing fetid about them.

    Reply
  4. Jeff Eardley

    Margaret, it is a long foot- slog to get to this iconic land slip. For many years, there was a white statuette, “The Lady of Lud” set high up which has long gone. I often think of the persecuted Lollards and their preacher, Walter de Lud Auk in this place, which is set in a mysterious forest and the recent haunt of England’s only colony of Wallabies.
    Thank you for your kind words and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Reply
  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeff, I love this, and only wish I had ventured to the ‘stegosaurus hills’ where ‘the fluting curlew builds his nest’ when I lived in the UK. You capture all the atmospheric historical and mythical magic in the words of your wonderful sonnet, and I particularly like your bit of wry British humour in the closing couplet. Bravo! and thank you very much!

    Reply
  6. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, thank you as ever for your kind words. The nearby Swythamley Hall was home to Sir Philip Brocklehurst who travelled to Antarctica with Shackleton in 1908. His descendant set up a menagerie in the hall prior to World War II. The Wallabies from there escaped and for decades, lived in Back Forest wherein lies Lud’s Church. I was actually there yesterday and the place terrifies me every time I visit. It is a hauntingly, mysterious place, straight out of Tolkien. We hope you have a fabulous New Year and I can’t believe it is a whole year since the White House incident. Best wishes.

    Reply

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