Given that Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and that I happen to be in the throes of attempting to read as many translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as I can, this still-wet painting/drawing seemed fit to post.
The Green Knight
graphite and watercolor on paper
11 by 11″
As I mentioned I am on a Romantic frenzy with an emphasis on Gawain and the Green Knight. So far the Simon Armitage translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight seems the most expressive and easily holds one’s attention, it is a real page turner. Thankful to Clive Hicks-Jenkins for introducing me to it.
What I love most is Armitage’s almost erotic description of the beastly yet seductive Green Knight. He is clearly a monstrous sight, green of flesh, massive and brutish; yet beautiful, well built and splendidly attired. A radiant greenish-golden yellow glow,save for the flaming red of his eyes, permeates his being. I was seduced immediately. Hence the image.
In my readings I have come upon numerous interpretations of who or what the Green Knight is. Some have understood his unholy skin color to represent death; some believe he is the devil, yet others believe he is a Greenman or the Greenman’s cousin the wodewose. I want to believe he is not anything particularly malevolent but instead an old god, full of contradictions, light and dark, “good” and “evil”. The complicated duality that the chivalric court of Arthur found so difficult to comprehend with its rigid codes of behavior.
I have attempted to fit all of Gawains future into the blanket of the Green Knight’s equally green horse. There is the unholy beheading challenge, the castle/sanctuary of Sir Bertilak ( the Green Knight’s alter ego), the seductive Queen with her charming bosom, and finally the Green Chapel. The Green Knight and his horse are a writing pulsating tangle of vegetation.
Right now I am reading the latest Penguin translation and next I plan to see what Tolkien thought of this grand tale. The following image, which thankfully I did not see until just a moment ago for fear of undue influence, is from an original manuscript-it’s pretty splendid.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!