Finding Gawain – Act Three, part two
By the time Gawain realises he had come back on himself, in a great circle of many day’s ride, he has lost all sense of time. The mighty oak – the largest he has ever seen, mocks him with the purple ribbon, tied around it, days ago, to mark his way. The ribbon was a gift from Guinevere, in the days when he had been her favourite.
The snow and ice have removed even the power of his blue fingers to count. Huddled in caves, or kneeling by frozen streams, breaking the mirror-like ice with the pommel of his sword in order to drink, he lives more like an animal than a Knight.
At night, his loyal horse, Gringolet, lies against him, as they offer each other what meagre warmth their starved bodies can muster. His voice is hoarse, and when they pass through hamlets, the villagers, who should see him warmed and fed, scatter as he shouts his pathetic cry to their fleeing backs, “Do you know of a Green Chapel by here?” They do not speak. Their reply is a shaking of frightened heads, as they flee from this spectre of what was, once, the land’s most famous Knight.
The third time he finds the ribboned oak, he kneels by its huge trunk, puts his arms around it, and cries. There is no logic left in this world, no reasoning. There are no laws by which he can work the miracles of strategy by which he was once known as warrior.
When the sobbing is finished, he takes his sword and kneels before it, praying to Christ and to Arthur, telling him across the leagues that he tried, and has failed…
Moments later, when his face has slid down the ancient bark and into the frozen mud, he hears the sound of hounds baying across the icy meadows, nearby…
First published last June, this Gawain poem fits well this segment of the retelling
Dark Night of the Stone
Freezing fingers clutch the silver cup
The thin but faithful horse stands grace
Equine feelings urge Gawain, “Go on”
The mountain stream adds ice; its own
Completing miseries’ embrace
How did we come to this, Gawain?
His frozen thoughts; the pain, protest
How did we seek a place unknown
To pay the debt we shouldn’t own
From Christmas last, a bitter jest
He fingers coins, full purse of spite
“Perhaps I’ll buy a room!”
But round him snow and frozen streams
Speak far of warming tavern’s dreams
And icy wind that offers only doom
A mind, half starved, breaks off a branch
“May I divine a place to Yule!”
The joke is lost on blackening fells
Which long for village evening bells
Far from that place where death’s the only rule
His strength no more can fight the cold
He draws his sword and drives its mark
Into the earth, then at this cross begins to pray
In deepest heart beloved Arthur finds a way
And fire which needs no place defies the dark
©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2015
The Silent Eye uses a combination of magical ritual and psycho-drama to illustrate its teachings on the journey to the Soul.
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