[Sir Gawain rides through the lawless wilderness of the Wirral, in search of the Green Man to return his challenge]
"But, if those fights were fierce, winter was worse
Where chilling water spilled out of the clouds
Freezing as it fell, pelting the pale ground.
Almost killed by sleet, he sleeps in all his armour
More nights than enough among the rough rocks,
Where plummeting creeks from the summits ran cold
Or hung above his head in hard ice-blades.
This way, in danger, in pain and hardship,
Over the land the knight rides till Christmas Eve,
Then in despair on his ride,
He cries in a plangent tone
That Mary be his guide
To a house, a warm hearth-stone.
Hunched on bare branches, doleful birds
Piped out pitiful calls in the bitter cold."
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Keith Harrison
© The Folio Society, 1983
Carving at Brant Broughton church, Lincolnshire
© Pitkin Publishing, photocredit T. Negus