THE GREEN KNIGHT AND THE WHITE
A sestina written in Anglo-Saxon prosody, with bobs and wheels
In mad March the knight in green
Began to waken. The wild wind
Roared at the door, rattled the panes --
He lifted his lids to squint at light
Falling across the frosty sill
Onto the floor where chill tiles
To step into the day
Where sunshine and the grim
Mists of morning lay
In shades both bright and dim.
As time flew it turned the tiles
From bone white to warm green.
Flowers bloomed under the sill,
Soothed by the sun, stroked by the wind
That wandered whispering in the June light
That daily rose and fell through the panes.
Out of the deep
Darkness the knight would awaken
From his sound sleep
And a rest well taken
To daylight’s castle-keep.
In the wildwood beyond his panes
The falcons fledged. Leaves shed tiles
On the forest floor of shadow and light
Until at last a darker green
Began to shimmer in a sharper wind
And colored leaves fell past the sill
like pennants of a boat.
Ripples broke the glass
Of blue that used to float
And reflect on clouds that pass
Over the castle’s moat.
Colors flowed over the sill
Out of the woodland, through his panes
Upon the gusts of October wind
Sweeping the leaves from cold tiles
Into piles not of green,
But rainbow strains in a brown light
that fell sifting
Out of a lowering sky.
The clouds, darkly drifting
Where they used to fly
Fleetly, do little lifting.
Dawns are darker; there is less light
As the days lengthen. The windowsill
Swallows shadows. The good Green
Knight senses approaching pains.
He must fall upon the tiles
That the Knight of winter will scour with the wind.
The blazing altar
Of Yuletide will not dwindle
Nor the solstice falter
Until it cannot longer.
Then the White Knight’ psalter
Will avail no longer. His prayers will wind
Toward the pole where northern light
Will glance from glaciers laid like tiles
Upon the tundra. The Green Knight’s sill
Will melt in the glow of moonlit panes
As April gains a patina of green,
begins to paint
The meadows with hues of spring
And woods without restraint.
The mating birds will sing
Above the dove’s complaint,
The wind will sough over the sill,
Warmth will lighten the night’s panes;
Spring will walk on tiles of green
The White Knight will stay asleep
Despite the freshet’s roar
Until the snow is deep
Around the Green Knight’s door.
By Lewis Turco
This sestina written in Anglo-Saxon prosody, with bobs and wheels, was the original inspiration for The Hero Enkidu, An Epic; it appeared originally in Mea'sure, Volume IX, Issues 1&2, 2014 (which was actually published in May 2015, simultaneously with the epic); it was modified to fit into Enkidu as "Canto III: The Betrayal of Lilitu," on pp.37-42 of The Hero Enkidu: An Epic by Lewis Turco, New York: Bordighera Press (www.BordigheraPress.org), VIA Folios 107, 2015, 101 pp. ISBN 978-1-59954-098-6. Trade paperback.