Sunday, 24 February 2019

'Under the Greenwood Tree' by Cardinal Cox

Another poetry pamphlet has come winging its way from exotic Peterborough. In his covering letter the poet has added the comment 'Might not be of interest'. I take the point, that this small collection of poems is about a fictionalized Druidic tradition in the 'quasi-history of American Renaissance faires'.

Well, it is interesting, though the title is a mite confusing, as Thomas Hardy used it for his second published novel. Never mind. We begin with ancient Celtic saints in 'The Martyrdom of Saint Pyr', weaving together different traditions to suggest how druids might have survived by become hermetic herbalists and the like. We move on to May Day dances and the busking tradition, another way for old knowledge to survive in apparently harmless forms. Elsewhere, Green Men carved into churches point to strange, visionary experiences - 'chewed leaves to let prophecies flow'.

One of the great pleasures of these poetry pamphlets is that they are rich in ideas. As usual there are fascinating footnotes to the poems, offering a series of insights and connections that connect mythical figures - Arthur, Robin Hood, Prince Madoc - with real historical events. Tom Lock I had not heard of, nor the Greek buried around 110 BC in what would become East Anglia, a 'Spartan spy among savages'.

While not supernatural tales, these poems open windows into the beliefs from which much folklore - and therefore folk horror - is formed. If you'd like to rest 'Under the Greenwood Tree', so to speak, you can get a copy by sending a SAE to:

58 Pennington
Orton Goldhay
Peterborough
PE2 5RB

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