We start with a walk, that first walk in thick fog to Thursbitch. A sense of gloom, of haste, of danger hangs over the trip. The escarpment to one side is lost in the low cloud, a myst-hackel huge as the Gawain poet puts it, and perhaps from experience. What we miss in the dark grey cloud is Thoon, what Alan Garner describes as “the bump on the horizon.” Mat and I are pressed for time by a need to get home, but also something else, by a sense of trespass in a sentient landscape that Garner also expresses in his novel , and that I have referred to before: “This place has had enough of us.” And when we left, the exertion – and the haste – left such an impression on me that I felt for weeks that, like the luckless characters in M R James, I was being pursued. Our next visit in 2017 (again, I have discussed this before, although that page was unfortunately lost at the migration of the blog) has easier weather, and I could almost have felt the matter closed but for the texts that return to me – as they did today. Today, nearly a week after the end of September, I sat in the comfortable scriptorium of the Bodelian and picked up the EETS text of Gawain. Like some medievalist’s Sortes Biblicae, this was the text that the book opened on: ”
Watz cumen wyth wynter wage;
Þen þenkkez Gawan ful sone
Of his anious uyage.
Then came from the moor under the misty cliffs
Grendel walking, God’s wrath he bore;
The vile ravager meant from mankind
A sample to snare in the high hall…
Ðá cóm of móre under misthleoþum
Grendel gongan· godes yrre bær.
Long Lankin. The outcast, the destroyer, the eoten. The neighbour from Hell. I am back with my woodwoses., Scaduhelma…wan under wolcnum Shadow-helmets, dark under the skies.