By all means enter and take sanctuary in the Greensward. But to those who seek comfort in nature’s embrace, remember: “winter’s e’comin’ in” -- for lest we forget, all greenness comes to withering.
“This head of green just like a knave, for such a guest is meat, as if asleep here rests the brave, below the turf three feet.” - Song of the Antiquarius from “The Barrow Diggers”
The Ballad of Greenmeat had yet to be written when Charles Woolls, later the Reverend Woolls, began his nightly pillaging of the local barrows. (It is still quite astonishing to what extent the archaeology og pagan England owes a debt to the clergy.) At this point in his career Woolls’ antiquarianism was an illict habit; having found women and alcohol not to his liking, he chose the comparatively safe pleasures of the illegal dig.
It had been common practice in the Dark Ages in the coastal towns around Porlock to bury your ham or muttonat any sign of marauding troops, whether Roman, Norman, or Dane as they had little else of value to protect in such slender times. A certain rather slow farmer had buried the head and haunch of a fine ham in the odd protuberance that lay in the field just behind the village; thinking the disused grave barrow would act as a signpost to remind him where to retrieve the ham after all danger had past. However, he had little time to cure the ham in salt brine as was customary, so he wrapped it tight in seaweed that he had hastily gathered from the beach when the cry went out that viking ships were abroad. The dim-witted farmer forgot to hide himself in all the commotion and was promptly slaughtered.
1848 arrives and the young Charles Woolls begins to tunnel in the collapsed barrow. The soil is peaty, black and very acidic, the barrow having been built on a bog. (Peat bogs can preserve organic matter indefinately; bones, consisting of calcium, will disappear.) At three feet below the surface of the barrow, Charles encounters some resistence. He scrapes, very carefully, around the perimeter of the deep brown, somewhat resilient object; he believes he has found something quite significant. He lifts the heavy, fragile, waterlogged thing and turns it around to reveal the dark side, allowing the feeble light of his latern to define its contours.
Abhorrence, disgust, then a warped curiousity came over the young reverend to be. A face, neither man nor beast, but vegetable in nature, a mask of leaves that had subsumed into the flesh to become the flesh. Greenmeat.
The features of the swine, long flattened by the weight of soil and debris, lacking a skull to give it structure, melding with the salty leaves, had transcended time. Charles Woolls believed he had uncovered the tomb of the true greenman. The haunch was next to be discovered. A cloven Greenman, he tought, how strange. It was rather handsome, after all. He grew fond of it, cradled it in his arms. He'd write a ballad dedicated to it, as a mark of his love. People would come for miles to see his Head of Greenmeat. It would make Porlock, and himself, famous.
Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick
Source: Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick