All Things Green Man & The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

Posts tagged “Song

The Green Man Looks On

St Chads, Stafford © Jennie Miller

Many thanks to Eric Payne (see previous blog entry) for allowing us to reproduce his wonderful song “The Green man Looks on” and to Vanessa Piggott  for alerting us to Erics work. For more about Eric go to thanks also to Jennie Miller for another wonderful picture.

‘The Green Man Looks on’

Dowse the lantern, new dawn is at hand,
The team is a-waiting to plough the good land.
Three abreast, they shall stumble and nod,
Heaving the share through the heavy clay sod.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.

Hour after hour the neat furrows climb,
Like the strings of a harp in a regular line;
Till needful of rest, all labour must wait,
The horses have nosebags, the ploughman his bait.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.

Yet steadily on until late afternoon,
The chains chack relentlessly into the gloom,
Till reins through the cringle, less urgent confirm,
The voice of the Ploughman to take the last turn.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.

Then away with the harnesses, off with the plough,
For sweet scented hay bids the steaming team now.
From their stable the low lantern light,
Passes out through the door with the Ploughman’s “Goodnight”.

The Green Man looks on,
And he smiles from the copse as the cycle of death and re-birth never stops,
The wheel of the year,
Turns again and the mythical man watches on.


Copyright: © Eric Payne. January 2010

Jack in the Green

Had to re-produce this at some point as I’m aware that there are some generations out there who sadly may not have heard of Jethro Tull (I can proudly say I once saw them play live, I was of course very young!)

These are the lyrics to their wonderful Jack in the Green, from the album Songs from the Wood. If you would like to hear how it sounds there’s a link to it on our You Tube channel:

Jack in the Green

Have you seen Jack-In-The-Green?
With his long tail hanging down.
He quietly sits under every tree
in the folds of his velvet gown.

He drinks from the empty acorn cup
the dew that dawn sweetly bestows.
And taps his cane upon the ground
signals the snowdrops it’s time to grow.

It’s no fun being Jack-In-The-Green
no place to dance, no time for song.
He wears the colours of the summer soldier
carries the green flag all the winter long.

Jack, do you never sleep
does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
motorways, powerlines,
keep us apart?
Well, I don’t think so
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.

The rowan, the oak and the holly tree
are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green.
Oh Jack, please help me through my winter’s night.
And we are the berries on the holly tree.
Oh, the mistlethrush is coming.
Jack, put out the light.

The Green Man’s Song

At this year’s Fylde Festival COTGM member Sedayne is performing with the Earthbound Souls a show called Demdyke! which explores various aspects of Lancastrian folklore in a sequence of songs penned by local artist & songwriter Ron Baxter and set by the musicians of the Earthbound Souls (Sedayne, Rachel McCarron & Ross Campbell). One of  songs is called The Green man’s Song:

Their God died, nailed to a tree
Why in His temple should I be?
Yet there my image you will see
Carved in wood or stone.
Though He arose, as doth the Spring,
New life unto this world to bring
He’s not me, and I’m not Him
For Him I do not know.

I dwell with the greenwood trees
And when they rustle in the breeze
‘Tis then that folk think they see me,
And perhaps they do.
Through Summer sun, through Winter cold
I’m there with oak, and ash, and thorn.
I’ll never die, ’cause never born,
Forever I’ve been here.

Yet in May some still are found
As the pipe, and tabor sounds
Bedecked in leaves they dance around
Doing homage unto me.
But of their homage I’ve no need
Of their worship I take no heed
Let them believe, what they believe,
It matters not to me.

For I am…..just what I am
Though that you’ll never understand
Jack in the Green, or the Green Man
You may call me what you will.
Though He arose, as doth the Spring,
New life unto this world to bring
He’s not me, and I’m not Him
For Him I do not know.

You can have a listen at:

The Green Man in song

Australian COTGM Member John Thompson has kindly allowed us to use his song  The Green Man. John is a member of the band Cloudstreet

Nicole Murray and John Thompson sing and play Anglo-Celtic traditonal and original music with magnificent harmonies and loads of laughter, all backed on guitar, flute and concertina.. They breathe new life into the Australian tradition – come and fly with cloudstreet

You can find their website here:

and download an MP3 version of this song free here:

You can also donate to the Red Cross Bushfire appeal via their site 

The Green Man

The Green Man’s a traveller, a reveller, unraveller
Of dreams and of fancies, from first to the last.
Older than all men, living in all things
Son, father and sage,
Long live the Green Man!

First light of first morning saw the Green Man there waiting
He saw the creation and joined in the dance
All creatures grew ’round him, he grew with them singing
The first song of all, sing of the Green Man

Quietly watching and waiting and learning
The storms are his fury, the lightning his laugh
The first leaf of spring, his beauty and glory
His stillness his power, in the trees is his path.

There are fewer trees now, but the man is not sleeping
‘Though our ruin brings sorrow to time’s oldest heart
In our souls we may find him and remember his wisdom
And rekindle the flame; once again make a start.


The Green Man comes and he dances all day
The Green Man comes and he is gone away
Turn and he turns in a year and a day
Green Man laughs and he loves to play.

Green Man.

Green Man?s his name, some call him Iron John,
Herne the Hunter, or Herne the Hunter?s son.
Dances the seasons as they spiral on
Call him, call him. He is each and every one.

Green Man.

He is hiding in each and every single tree
He is inside them and in you and in me
He lives he dies, but he will forever be
Grinning his grin, the grin of eternity.

Green Man. Green Man.

This Poem (actually a song) was sent in by COTGM member Mark Newell from London. You can view his book of poetry “Symbolic” at

The Green Man

For many people their first experience of the Green Man is a chance sighting of a strange stone foliate face looking down at them from high above in a church or cathedral. Just what this supposedly pagan representation of fertility and the greenwood is doing in a Christian place of worship, has puzzled people throughout the ages.  A subversive image placed by stone carvers as a link to a pre-Christian religion? A reminder that we all come from the earth and will one day return? Or a representation of evil carefully placed to remind churchgoers to steer away from sin? 

Lady Raglan who coined the term “Green Man” thought that the Green Man of churches and abbeys was one in the same with “the figure known variously as the Green Man, Jack in the Green, Robin Hood, the King of the May, and the Garland who is the central figure in the May Day celebrations throughout northern and central Europe.”  Many people still support these connections, believing that the Green Man has many faces and that each of these do indeed have deep seated and possibly spiritual links via an ancient race memory of a time when the Greenwoods covered most of what is now Britain.  

But many disagree vehemently with these connections arguing that there is no evidence that the Jack-in –the-Green dates back any further than the sweeps processions of the late eighteenth century, (and the Garland only slightly further). That Robin Hood had no connections with The Green Man until Richard Carpenters cult series “Robin of Sherwood” created a link via the shamanic/deific figure of Herne the Hunter and his links with Cernunnos. That if the King of the May had any actual link with the Green Man carvings found in churches and other locations then there would be at least be some evidence that the carvings were in some way made a part of the May celebrations, or at least  mentioned, which it seems they were not! 

And yet others argue that even if these connections never did exist, then they have now been created and therefore will henceforth be forever inseparably entwined in that magical way that myth, legend and folklore seem to take on an unstoppable life force of their own. 

Environmentalists, New Agers, Pagans and neo Pagans all have their own interpretations of who the Green Man is and what he represents to them and their beliefs.  

Even the stone carvings found in churches, cathedrals, castles and varied other locations may not all be as they at first seem. Some Green Man hunters classify them into different types: Leaf masks, simple faces formed from a single leaf. Foliate faces created by more than one leaf. Faces disgorging foliage or vines from mouth, eyes, and/or ears. Other hunters allow inclusion of Cat and other animal faces created from or including leaves or vegetation of some kind. 

Images of the green man are found across England, Great Britain, Europe and parts of Asia and North Africa. He may date back as far as the third millennium BC, and is still being reproduced in stone, wood, art, song, story and poem today.  He may be found in his guise as dusty stone or wood carving looking down from on high in churches cathedrals and abbeys throughout England. He can be seen as a sometimes mischievous, sometimes dark figure found in Morris dances; both traditional and modern. As Jack-in-the-Green leading or included in May Day processions each year, or bought to life in new and vibrant traditions, like the Green Man of Clun who each year battles the Frost Queen on a bridge above the river Clun.  

I believe that the answer to the question of “who is the Green Man” may simply be that there is no single answer, that he is indeed an enigma, not to be solved but to continue to instil curiosity and wonder in past, current and future generations. 

And so, what you at first may have thought a gentle pastime of wandering around quiet parish churches snapping the odd photo of a Green Man on high before retiring to the nearest pub (possibly The Green Man) for a pint of Green Man ale (yes it exists) you may now realise is a pastime fraught with conflict, rivalry and quite possibly intrigue. 

I shall leave the last poignant words to Ronald Millar: 

“Two millennia old or older, the Green Man is the vibrant spirit of the wild wood, of vegetation in leaf or bud, of spring, pool and river, earth and sky, indeed the totality of nature. His voice is the hiss of the high wind in ash and oak. And his profundity those sudden silences of a forest when all Nature seems to hold her breath. When we hear or feel him no more mankind will have run its course.” 

And now over to you: I invite conversation and discourse on your thoughts about the Green Man.
Please feel free to add your comments using the link below or by e-mailing The Company of the Green Man at