Glossary entry for
Green Mansions

It seems likely that Van's song "Green Mansions" was partly influenced by the novel of the same name by the writer William Henry Hudson (1841-1922). Hudson was born in Argentina of American parents and he settled in England in 1874. "Green Mansions"(1904), his best known novel, is set in South America. In it, Abel falls in love with Rima, a free-spirited girl of the "green mansions", or unspoilt forest. She is a perfect mimic of birdsong, has bird-like eyes, and can disappear from view with the elusiveness of a bird. Due to her affinity with nature, Rima seems to have cast a spell over the forest and the natives are afraid to enter it. The forest is a haven of peace, beauty and harmony, but in the end all this is shattered by the evil deeds of men.

There are a number of parallels to this novel in Van's song. His "green mansions" is secluded, "quiet and still", and "free from the glamour of the world". It is "In the countryside where birds begin to sing", including a mocking bird. His baby lives there, but he has only the memories of a relationship which is over. The creative artist receives inspiration from many sources, so we really can't say how far this novel influenced the song. However, having read the novel, it has certainly increased my appreciation of Van's song.

Contributed by Alan Pert, Sydney, Australia

Van references in:

Part of the unofficial website