Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge, also a priest, chaplain, teacher and author of various essays and articles and a book about contemporary Christianity. The Green Man is a collection of songs inspired by everything from his feel for the threatened English country-side to his passionate love of Blues and Americana. Songs range from lyrical love poetry, to righteous rocking and carry echoes of and allusions to the poets and song-writers who have helped form Malcolm’s imagination. The album was put together with contributions from members of Mystery Train, the Cambridge blues rock outfit Malcolm has fronted for the last seven years, but the Green Man sees him in more reflective/acoustic mode. These songs explore some of the realms of sorrow but are in the final analysis, about renewal and transformation.
A word about The Green Man himself:
How come a Christian priest is singing, let alone writing, songs about the green man.? Well I have always been drawn to the strange figures of the green man, carved in the choirs of churches and cathedrals across Europe; a face in the foliage that looks out at you full of mischief and a kind of glorious untamed irreverence, but always linked and rooted, in the lines of the carving, to the very stems and pillars that hold up that sacred place. And it was struck me as a kind of inclusive wisdom from the pre-reformation, pre-enlightenment Christian past that these figures were included in the church incorporated in. Maybe it allowed for the fact that the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ is also the God of nature, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower. maybe it hinted at the deeper truth in Christ's saying unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it bears no fruit but if it dies it bears a rich harvest, there is some mysterious link between the pattern of death and resurrection which is at the heart of salvation and the dying to rise again, the winters before spring, that are patterned into nature herself. However that may be I found myself wondering as I walked along by Granchester meadows what Jesus might have said if he had been born amongst the fields and hedgerows of England rather than the dry valleys of the Judean wilderness. I love his I Am sayings, I am the good shepherd, I am the gate, I am the Way and of course, I am the Vine. And I suddenly thought that on my native soil he might well have said I am the Green Man. The God who made spring itself, himself made flesh, could not be less than the gods we worshipped once in sacred groves. He is more than them of course, he perfects and completes what they only shadowed forth, there is more, not less exuberance in him than in Pan and Apollo, Cernunoss and Herne. He is more than the Green Man but he is also everything the Green man ever was, and we have forgotten the Green Man at our peril. The contempt with which we treat nature will rebound on us. The final verse of my song, with its warning line came to me unbidden, I'll spring back green but you might not survive! Maybe the Green Man himself put that in. Anyway by a strange irony I ended up being involved in the discovery of a hidden green man and an angel facing one another in the roof of a mediaeval church and singing the green man and angels unawares in aid of their restoration, but that's another story… I hope you guys'll stand by me when my heresy trial comes up.
Meantime here's a poem I wrote about the beautiful green man carvings in
Amidst the tympanum
His stone hair startles from
A face in the foliage,
Not just the bearded barleycorn
But a whole field springing,
The vine and all its tendrils,
Unfold from the face,
Trip from the tongue
That speaks the Word
Amidst the tympanum.
But hard by the rood-screen here,
His face is set like flint,
The Word unheard,
He gives his back to the smiters
His cheeks to them that pluck out the hair,
His spring is come to shame and spitting,
Under the blows the cut stones splinter
The Green Man comes to winter,
To the harness and the harrow
As flails fall to split the bearded husk
And seeds fall to the furrow,
Amidst the tympanum,
Hard by the rood-screen here.