In light rain, the air is laden with moisture. From Satura Crag at the head of Bannerdale it's an aural experience. The ground falls away steeply and nothing is visible beyond the rocks below. Bannerdale is hidden. LIchened rock, deer grass the colours of red deer pelage, and thick green mosses. Mist, low cloud, aura of red deer and raven. Life and death seem interlocked for these creatures. Their history is charted on the map: Deer Forest, Raven Howe , Buck Crag and sheepfolds. The nature of the place.
Raven fly low, a weird invisible gurgling out of thick white mist, close and secret. If we knew what the ravens say we would learn the arcana of the deer rut, all that is hidden to mere mortals. Ravens are fell scouts with an air of menace.
A memorable poem and folk song, has its origins in early medieval times. A Scots version, The Twa Corbies, is dark and brutal. Carrion crows have found the corpse of a murdered knight and they watch and wait. The knight has been abandoned by his hawks, his hounds and his lady. It's a tale of betrayal. The Three Ravens is elegiac. The knight's body is guarded by his faithful hounds and his hawks. A heavily pregnant doe appears- in some mystical sense we know she is his lover and she kisses his wounds and gives him burial before she dies at the hour of Evensong. The sinister black ravens are a key motif. The spies of moorland and fell, they share secret knowledge, conspiratorial.
I saw three ravens sat in a tree
They were as black as black could be
Counter tenor Andreas Scholl sings the traditional English folksong The Three Ravens
The poem is strikingly visual but the story of the knight's killing is withheld. Our unknowing is its power. It is a beautiful, haunting poem and song.