Dedicated to one of the great thinkers and authors of our time: C.S. Lewis.
I hope you find each quotation interesting and inspiring.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Edmund crept up to the arch and looked inside into the courtyard, and there he saw a sight that nearly made his heart stop beating. Just inside the gate, with the moonlight shining on it, stood an enormous lion crouched as if it was ready to spring. And Edmund stood in the shadow of the arch, afraid to go on and afraid to go back, with his knees knocking together. He stood there so long that his teeth would have been chattering with cold even if they had not been chattering with fear. How long this really lasted I don't know, but it seemed to Edmund to last for hours.
Then at last he began to wonder why the lion was standing so still - for it hadn't moved one inch since he first set eyes on it. Edmund now ventured a little nearer, still keeping in the shadow of the arch as much as he could. He now saw from the way the lion was standing that it couldn't have been looking at him at all. ("But supposing it turns its head?" thought Edmund.) In fact it was staring at something else namely a little: dwarf who stood with his back to it about four feet away. "Aha!" thought Edmund. "When it springs at the dwarf then will be my chance to escape." But still the lion never moved, nor did the dwarf. And now at last Edmund remembered what the others had said about the White Witch turning people into stone. Perhaps this was only a stone lion. And as soon as he had thought of that he noticed that the lion's back and the top of its head werecovered with snow. Of course it must be only a statue! No living animal would have let itself get covered with snow. Then very slowly and with his heart beating as if it would burst, Edmund ventured to go up to the lion. Even now he hardly dared to touch it, but at last he put out his hand, very quickly, and did. It was cold stone. He had been frightened of a mere statue!
The relief which Edmund felt was so great that in spite of the cold he suddenly got warm all over right down to his toes, and at the same time there came into his head what seemed a perfectly lovely idea. "Probably," he thought, "this is the great Lion Aslan that they were all talking about. She's caught him already and turned him into stone. So that's the end of all their fine ideas about him! Pooh! Who's afraid of Aslan?"
And he stood there gloating over the stone lion, and presently he did something very silly and childish. He took a stump of lead pencil out of his pocket and scribbled a moustache on the lion's upper lip and then a pair of spectacles on its eyes. Then he said, "Yah! Silly old Aslan! How do you like being a stone? You thought yourself mighty fine, didn't you?" But in spite of the scribbles on it the face of the great stone beast still looked so terrible, and sad, and noble, staring up in the moonlight, that Edmund didn't really get any fun out of jeering at it. ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (1950)
Note to readers: Postings may be sporadic over the holidays. My very best wishes to all of you. Further up and further in! ~Arevanye
One of the first things we have to say to a beginner who has brought us his M.S. is, 'Avoid all epithets which are merely emotional. It is no use telling us that something was "mysterious" or "loathsome" or "awe-inspiring" or "voluptuous". Do you think your readers will believe you just because you say so? You must go quite a different way to work. By direct description, by metaphor and simile, by secretly evoking powerful associations, by offering the right stimuli to our nerves (in the right degree and the right order), and by the very beat and vowel-melody and length and brevity of your sentences, you must bring it about that we, we readers, not you, exclaim "how mysterious!" or "loathsome" or whatever it is. Let me taste for myself, and you'll have no need to tell me how I should react to the flavour.' ~C.S. Lewis, Studies in Words, (1960)
The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. In a sense, I was going up Headington Hill on the top of a bus. Without words and (I think) almost without images, a fact about myself was somehow presented to me. I became aware that I was holding something at bay, or shutting something out. Or, if you like, that I was wearing some stiff clothing, like corsets, or even a suit of armor, as if I were a lobster. I felt myself being, there and then, given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut; I could unbuckle the armor or keep it on. Neither choice was presented as a duty; no threat or promise was attached to either, though I knew that to open the door or to take off the corslet meant the incalculable. The choice appeared to be momentous but it was also strangely unemotional. I was moved by no desires or fears. In a sense I was not moved by anything. I chose to open, to unbuckle, to loosen the rein. I say, "I chose," yet it did not really seem possible to do the opposite. On the other hand, I was aware of no motives. You could argue that I was not a free agent, but I am more inclined to think that this came nearer to being a perfectly free act than most that I have ever done. Necessity may not be the opposite of freedom, and perhaps a man is most free when, instead of producting motives, he could only say, "I am what I do." ~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, (1955) _____________________
We are inveterate poets. Our imaginations awake. Instead of mere quantity, we now have a quality--the sublime. Unless this were so, the merely arithmetical greatness of the galaxy would be no more impressive than the figures in a telephone directory. It is thus, in a sense, from ourselves that the material universe derives its power to over-awe us. To a mind which did not share our emotions, and lacked our imaginative energies, the argument from size would be sheerly meaningless. Men look on the starry heavens with reverence: monkeys do not. The silence of the eternal spaces terrified Pascal*, but it was the greatness of Pascal that enabled them to do so. When we are frightened by the greatness of the universe, we are (almost literally) frightened by our own shadows: for these light years and billions of centuries are mere arithmetic until the shadow of man, the poet, the maker of myth, falls upon them. I do not say we are wrong to tremble at his shadow; it is a shadow of an image of God. But if ever the vastness of matter threatens to overcross our spirits, one must remember that it is matter spiritualized which does so. To puny man, the great nebula in Andromeda owes in a sense its greatness. ~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "Dogma and the Universe", (1970)
Lewis writes to his friend and former pupil Dom Bede Griffiths:
I think that though I am emotionally a fairly cheerful person my actual judgement of the world has always been what yours now is and so I have not been disappointed. The early loss of my mother, great unhappiness at school, and the shadow of the last war and presently the experience of it, had given me a very pessimistic view of existence. My atheism was based on it: and it still seems to me that far the strongest card in our enemies' hand is the actual course of the world: and that, quite apart from particular evils like wars and revolutions. [...]
It is one of the evils of rapid diffusion of news that the sorrows of all the world come to us every morning. I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. (This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know).
A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don't think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we're doing it, I think we're meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds song and the frosty sunrise.
As about the distant, so about the future. It is very dark: but there's usually light enough for the next step or so. ~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, (Letter of Dec. 20, 1946)
As soon as she got her head out of the hole she found that she was looking down as if from an upstairs window, not up as if through a trap-door. She had been so long in the dark that her eyes couldn't at first take in what they were seeing: except that she was not looking at the daylit, sunny world which she so wanted to see. The air seemed to be deadly cold, and the light was pale and blue. There was also a good deal of noise going on and a lot of white objects flying about in the air. It was at that moment that she had shouted down to Puddleglum to let her stand up on his shoulders.
When she had done this, she could see and hear a good deal better. The noises she had been hearing turned out to be of two kinds: the rhythmical thump of several feet, and the music of four fiddles, three flutes, and a drum. She also got her own position clear. She was looking out of a hole in a steep bank which sloped down and reached the level about fourteen feet below her. Everything was very white. A lot of people were moving about. Then she gasped! The people were trim little Fauns, and Dryads with leafcrowned hair floating behind them. For a second they looked as if they were moving anyhow; then she saw that they were really doing a dance - a dance with so many complicated steps and figures that it took you some time to understand it. Then it came over her like a thunderclap that the pale, blue light was really moonlight, and the white stuff on the ground was really snow. And of course! There were the stars staring in a black frosty sky overhead. And the tall black things behind the dancers were trees. They had not only got out into the upper world at last, but had come out in the heart of Narnia. Jill felt she could have fainted with delight; and the music - the wild music, intensely sweet and yet just the least bit eerie too, and full of good magic as the Witch's thrumming had been full of bad magic - made her feel it all the more.
All this takes a long time to tell, but of course it took a very short time to see. Jill turned almost at once to shout down to the others, "I say! It's all right. We're out, and we're home." But the reason she never got further than "I say" was this. Circling round and round the dancers was a ring of Dwarfs, all dressed in their finest clothes; mostly scarlet with fur-lined hoods and golden tassels and big furry top-boots. As they circled round they were all diligently throwing snowballs. (Those were the white things that Jill had seen flying through the air.) They weren't throwing them at the dancers as silly boys might have been doing in England. They were throwing them through the dance in such perfect time with the music and with such perfect aim that if all the dancers were in exactly the right places at exactly the right moments, no one would be hit. This is called the Great Snow Dance and it is done every year in Narnia on the first moonlit night when there is snow on the ground. Of course it is a kind of game as well as a dance, because every now and then some dancer will be the least little bit wrong and get a snowball in the face, and then everyone laughs. But a good team of dancers, Dwarfs, and musicians will keep it up for hours without a single hit. On fine nights when the cold and the drum-taps, and the hooting of the owls, and the moonlight, have got into their wild, woodland blood and made it even wilder, they will dance till daybreak. I wish you could see it for yourselves.
What had stopped Jill when she got as far as the say of "I say" was of course simply a fine big snowball that came sailing through the dance from a Dwarf on the far side and got her fair and square in the mouth. ~C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, (1953)
I had no doubt at all that I was seeing an eldil, and little doubt that I was seeing the archon of Mars, the Oyarsa of Malacandra. [...] I felt sure that the creature was what we call "good," but I wasn't sure whether I liked "goodness" so much as I had supposed. This is a very terrible experience. As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it also is dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can't eat, and home the very place you can't live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played. For a second or two I was nearly in that condition. Here at last was a bit of that world from beyond the world, which I had always supposed that I loved and desired, breaking through and appearing to my senses: and I didn't like it, I wanted it to go away. I wanted every possible distance, gulf, curtain, blanket, and barrier to be placed between it and me. But I did not fall quite into the gulf. Oddly enough my very sense of helplessness saved me and steadied me. For now I was quite obviously "drawn in." The struggle was over. The next decision did not lie with me. ~C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, Chapter 1, (1944)
Then a new thing happened to John, and he began to sing; and this is as much of his song as I remember from my dream:
He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow When I attempt the ineffable name, murmuring Thou; And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart Meanings, I know, that cannot be the thing thou art. All prayers always, taken at their word, blaspheme, Invoking with frail imageries a folk-lore dream; And all men are idolaters, crying unheard To senseless idols, if thou take them at their word, And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address One that is not (so saith that old rebuke) unless Thou, of mere grace, appropriate, and to thee divert Men's arrows, all at hazard aimed, beyond desert. Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense, but in thy great, Unbroken speech our halting metaphor translate.
When he came to think over the words that had gone out of him he began once more to be afraid of them. Day was declining and in the narrow chasm it was already almost dark. ~C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim's Regress, Book Eight, (1933)
My heart shrivelled up cold and abject within me. "If this is true," said I, "I've been deceived. If he had dropped but a word of it, I'd have taken every burden from him, sent him home forever, loaded with every honour I could give."
"You know him little, Queen, if you think he'd ever have spoken that word. Oh, you have been a fortunate queen; no prince ever had more loving servants."
"I know I have had loving servants. Do you grudge me that? Even now, in your grief, will your heart serve you to grudge me that? Do you mock me because that is the only sort of love I ever had or could have? No husband; no child. And you--you who have had all--"
"All you left me, Queen."
"Left you, fool? What mad thought is in your mind?"
"Oh, I know well enough that you were not lovers. You left me that. The divine blood will not mix with subjects', they say. You left me my share. When you had used him, you would let him steal home to me; until you needed him again. After weeks and months at the wars--you and he night and day together, sharing the councils, the dangers, the victories, the soldiers' bread, the very jokes--he could come back to me, each time a little thinner and greyer and with a few more scars, and fall asleep before his supper was down, and cry out in his dream, "Quick, on the right there. The Queen's in danger.' And next morning--The Queen's a wonderful early riser in Glome--the Pillar Room again. I'll not deny it; I had what you left of him."
Her look and voice now were such as no woman could mistake.
"What?" I cried. "Is it possible you're jealous?"
She said nothing.
I sprang to my feet and pulled aside my veil. "Look, look, you fool!" I cried. "Are you jealous of this?"
She started back from me, gazing, so that for a moment I wondered if my face were a terror to her. But it was not fear that moved her. For the first time that prim mouth of hers twitched. The tears began to gather in her eyes. "Oh," she gasped, "Oh. I never knew...you also...?"
"You loved him. You've suffered, too. We both..." ~C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, (1956)
Lewis writes to his brother, Warren, about the children who have arrived at The Kilns (Lewis's residence) as war evacuees from the blitzed areas of London:
Our schoolgirls have arrived and all seem to me--and, what's more important, to Minto--to be very nice, unaffected creatures and all most flatteringly delighted with their new surroundings. They're fond of animals which is a good thing (for them as well as for us).
Life at the Kilns is going on at least as well as I expected. We had our first air raid warning at 7.45 the other morning when I expect you had yours too. Everyone got to the dug-out quite quickly and I must say they all behaved well, and though very hungry and thirsty before the all clear went, we quite enjoyed the most perfect late summer morning I have ever seen. The main trouble of life at present is the blacking out which is done (as you may imagine) with a most complicated Arthur Rackham system of odd rags--quite effectively but at the cost of much labour. Luckily I do most of the rooms myself, so it doesn't take me nearly so long as if I were assisted.
Another thing which would amuse you is the daily bathe (swim)--I've never known the pond so clean at this time of year--which is in two shifts because they have not enough bathing suits to go round, and each shift interminable because of the insatiable appetite of children. In fact we had the whole Dunbar technique--me bawling 'Time to come out' and a head disappearing and then emerging ten yards further away to say 'What?', and then twenty yards further away still to say 'I can't hear what you say.'
Your father had a great deal more patience than we boys thought. But Lord!, what a thing youth is. Last Sunday when I came back from Church--the children had been but gone out after sermon--they met me on the avenue, jumping with joy, to tell me 'War has been declared'--and one added 'Perhaps there'll be an air raid to-night!!' The nicest of the three is a Rose Macaulay child--pure boy in everything except anatomy, a reader of Henty. Quite a new phenomenon to me. ~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letters of Sept. 2 and Sept 10, 1939
"I wonder could we untie him as well?" said Susan presently. But the enemies, out of pure spitefulness, had drawn the cords so tight that the girls could make nothing of the knots.
I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been - if you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you - you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again. At any rate that was how it felt to these two. Hours and hours seemed to go by in this dead calm, and they hardly noticed that they were getting colder and colder. But at last Lucy noticed two other things. One was that the sky on the east side of the hill was a little less dark than it had been an hour ago. The other was some tiny movement going on in the grass at her feet. At first she took no interest in this. What did it matter? Nothing mattered now! But at last she saw that whatever-it-was had begun to move up the upright stones of the Stone Table. And now whatever-they-were were moving about on Aslan's body. She peered closer. They were little grey things.
"Ugh!" said Susan from the other side of the Table. "How beastly! There are horrid little mice crawling over him. Go away, you little beasts." And she raised her hand to frighten them away.
"Wait!" said Lucy, who had been looking at them more closely still. "Can you see what they're doing?"
Both girls bent down and stared.
"I do believe -" said Susan. "But how queer! They're nibbling away at the cords!"
"That's what I thought," said Lucy. "I think they're friendly mice. Poor little things - they don't realize he's dead. They think it'll do some good untying him."
It was quite definitely lighter by now. Each of the girls noticed for the first time the white face of the other. They could see the mice nibbling away; dozens and dozens, even hundreds, of little field mice. And at last, one by one, the ropes were all gnawed through. ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, (1950)
"Ah!" roared Aslan. "You have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindness your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords that bound me on the Stone Table (and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice)... ~C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, (1951)
Dieu a établi la prière pour communiquer à ses creatures la dignité del la causalité* - PASCAL
The Bible say Sennacherib's campaign was spoiled By angels: in Herodotus it says, by mice-- Innumerably nibbling all one night they toiled To eat his bowstrings piecemeal as warm wind eats ice.
But muscular archangels, I suggest, employed Seven little jaws at labour on each slender string, And by their aid, weak masters though they be, destroyed The smiling-lipped Assyrian, cruel-bearded king.
No stranger that onmipotence should choose to need Small helps than great--no stranger if His action lingers Till men have prayed, and suffers their weak prayers indeed To move as very muscles His delaying fingers,
Who, in His longanimity and love for our Small dignities, enfeebles, for a time, His power. ~C.S. Lewis, Poems, "Sonnet", (1st pub. in Oxford Magazine, May 14, 1936)
*God has instituted prayer so as to confer upon his creatures the dignity of being causes.
Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. In this country we hardly ever have any snow worth talking about till January, or later. [...] We had our first frost last night--this morning the lawns are all grey, with a pale, bright sunshine on them: wonderfully beautiful. And somehow exciting. The first beginning of the winter always excites me; it makes me want adventures. I expect our autumn has gentler colours than your fall and it goes far slower. The trees, especially beeches, keep their leaves for weeks & weeks after they have begun to change colour, turning from yellow to gold; from gold to flame-colour.
I never knew a guinea-pig that took any notice of humans (they take plenty of one another). Of those small animals I think Hamsters are the most amusing--. And, to tell you the truth, I'm still fond of mice. But the guinea pigs go well with your learning German. If they talked, I'm sure that is the language that they'd speak.
I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of dissevering power'*--or else not. It is still 'either-or'. If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. ~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, Preface (1946)
*this line is a quotation from Comus by John Milton (line 814)
If we read an old poem with insufficient regard for change in the overtones, and even the dictionary meanings, of words since its date--if, in fact, we are content with whatever effect the words accidentally produce in our modern minds--then of course we do not read the poem the old writer intended. What we get may still be, in our opinion, a poem; but it will be our poem, not his. [...]
Each new speaker learns his native language chiefly by imitation, partly by those hurried scraps of amateur lexicography which his elders produce in answer to the frequent question 'What does that mean?' He does not at first--how should he?--distinguish between different senses of one word and different words. They all have to be learned in the same way. Memory and the faculty of imitation, not semantic gymnastics, enable him to speak about sentences in a Latin exercise and sentences of imprisonment, about a cardboard box and a box at the theatre. He does not even ask which are different words and which merely different senses. Nor, for the most part, do we. How many adults know whether bows of ships and bows taught by the dancing master--or down (a hill) and down (deorsum)--or a boys' school and a school of porpoises--are accidental homophones (like neat and neat or arms and arms) or products of ramification?
A child may, of course be philologically minded. If so, it may construct imaginary semantic trees for itself. But it does so to explain the usages it has already learned; the usage is not a result of the theory. As a child I--probably like many others--evolved the theory that a candle-stick was so called 'because it makes the candle stick up'. But that wasn't why I called it a candlestick. I called it a candlestick because everyone else did. ~C.S. Lewis, Studies in Words, Introduction, (1960)
Aslan solemnly crowned them and led them to the four thrones amid deafening shouts of, "Long Live King Peter! Long Live Queen Susan! Long Live King Edmund! Long Live Queen Lucy!"
"Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well, Sons of Adam! Bear it well, Daughters of Eve!" said Aslan.
And through the eastern door, which was wide open, came the voices of the mermen and the mermaids swimming close to the shore and singing in honour of their new Kings and Queens. So the children sat on their thrones and sceptres were put into their hands and they gave rewards and honours to all their friends, to Tumnus the Faun, and to the Beavers, and Giant Rumblebuffin, to the leopards, and the good centaurs, and the good dwarfs, and to the lion. And that night there was a great feast in Cair Paravel, and revelry and dancing, and gold flashed and wine flowed, and answering to the music inside, but stranger, sweeter, and more piercing, came the music of the sea people.
But amidst all these rejoicings Aslan himself quietly slipped away. And when the Kings and Queens noticed that he wasn't there they said nothing about it. For Mr. Beaver had warned them, "He'll be coming and going," he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion." ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (1950)
"In the plan of the Great Dance plans without number interlock, and each movement becomes in its season the breaking into flower of the whole design to which all else had been directed. Thus each is equally at the centre and none are there by being equals, but some by giving place and some by receiving it, the small things by their smallness and the great by their greatness, and all the patterns linked and looped together by the unions of a kneeling with a sceptred love. Blessed be He!"
He has immeasurable use for each thing that is made, that His love and splendour may flow forth like a strong river which has need of a great watercourse and fills alike the deep pools and the little crannies, that are filled equally and remain unequal; and when it has filled them brim full it flows over and makes new channels. We also have need beyond measure of all that He has made. Love me, my brothers, for I am infinitely necessary to you and for your delight I was made. Blessed be He! [...]
"All that is made seems planless to the darkened mind, because there are more plans than it looked for. In these seas there are islands where the hairs of the turf are so fine and so closely woven together that unless a man looked long at them he would see neither hairs nor weaving at all, but only the same and the flat. So with the Great Dance. Set your eyes on one movement and it will lead you through all patterns and it will seem to you the master movement. But the seeming will be true. Let no mouth open to gainsay it. There seems no plan because it is all plan: there seems no centre because it is all centre. Blessed be He!"
"Yet this seeming also is the end and final cause for which He spreads out Time so long and Heaven so deep; lest if we never met the dark, and the road that leads nowhither, and the question to which no answer is imaginable, we should have in our minds no likeness of the Abyss of the Father, into which if a creature drop down his thoughts for ever he shall hear no echo return to him. Blessed, blessed, blessed be He!" ~C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, Chapter 17, (1944)
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