Green on green on green
The light befalls me clean,
Beneath the birds.
And how I can capture
This mute green rapture
In blinded words? (7viii21)
This poem is an attempt to describe the impossibility of describing the green light I saw falling through the leaf-layers of a chestnut-tree a few days ago. I wanted a title that compressed the most important images in the poem — trees and greenness — and I remembered a clever portmanteau I’d seen in a Spanish translation of Lord of the Rings. In the translation, the Ent Treebeard, a walking-and-talking tree, was called Barbol, which is a blend of the Spanish words barba, “beard”, and arbol, “tree”. I’ve tried to blend Spanish verde, “green”, and arbol. The resulting portmanteau contained more than I planned: it’s also got ver, Spanish for “to see”, and vēr, Latin for “spring, youth”. And it’s almost “verbal”, but with the “a” replaced by an “o”, representing the sun and its indescribable light. And come to think of it, there’s an important chestnut-tree in Lord of the Rings:
A little way beyond the battle-field they made their camp under a spreading tree: it looked like a chestnut, and yet it still bore many broad brown leaves of a former year, like dry hands with long splayed fingers; they rattled mournfully in the night-breeze. — The Two Towers, ch. 11
That’s when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are camping on the edge of Fangorn, the ancient forest where Treebeard dwells. The broadness of chestnut-leaves is why the light that falls through them is greened and cleaned in a special way.