Sunday, October 31, 2004

Looking 'Along' and Looking 'At'

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, ninety-odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

But this is only a very simple example of the difference between looking at and looking along. A young man meets a girl. The whole world looks different when he sees her. Her voice reminds him of something he has been trying to remember all his life, and ten minutes' casual chat with her is more precious than all the favors that all other women in the world could grant. He is, as they say, 'in love'. Now comes a scientist and describes this young man's experience from the outside. For him it is all an affair of the young man's genes and a recognized biological stimulus. That is the difference between looking along the sexual impulse and looking at it.
~C.S. Lewis, "Meditation in a Toolshed", 1st published in The Coventry Evening Telgraph (17 July 1945)


Cool blog post of the day: On Narni and Narnia

Cool link of the day: Photo Gallery of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Saturday, October 30, 2004

A Very Contented Family

Warnie* has been home since before Christmas and is now retired...He has become a permanent member of our household and I hope we shall pass the rest of our lives together. He has settled down as easily as a man settles into a chair, and what between his reading and working in the garden finds himself busy from morning till night. He and I are making a path through the lower wood - first along the shore of the pond and then turning away from it up through the birch trees and rejoining at the top the ordinary track up the hill. It is very odd and delightful to be engaged on this sort of thing together: the last time we tried to make a path together was in the field at Little Lea when he was at Malvern and I was at Cherbourg. We both have a feeling that 'the wheel has come full circuit', that the period of wanderings is over, and that everything which has happened between 1914 and 1932 was an interruption: tho' not without a consciousness that it is dangerous for mere mortals to expect anything of the future with confidence. We make a very contented family together.
~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter to Arthur Greeves (February 4, 1933)

*Warren Hamilton Lewis, his brother. Note that this letter was written before WWII, when Warnie was again pressed into military service.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Saturn, then Jupiter

Saturn, whose name in the heavens is Lurga, stood in the Blue Room. His spirit lay upon the house, or even on the whole Earth, with a cold pressure such as might flatten the very orb of Tellus to a wafer. Matched against the lead-like burden of his antiquity the other gods themselves perhaps felt young and ephemeral. It was a mountain of centuries sloping up from the highest antiquity we can conceive, up and up like a mountain whose summit never comes into sight, not to eternity where the thought can rest, but into more and still more time, into freezing wastes and silence of unnameable numbers. It was also strong like a mountain; its age was no mere morass of time where imagination can sink in reverie, but a living, self-remembering duration which repelled lighter intelligences from its structure as granite flings back waves, itself unwithered and undecayed but able to wither any who approach it unadvised. ...

Upstairs his mighty beam turned the Blue Room into a blaze of lights. Before the other angels a man might sink: before this he might die, but if he lived at all, he would laugh. If you had caught one breath of the air that came from him, you would have felt yourself taller than before... Kingship and power and festal pomp and courtesy shot from him as sparks fly from an anvil. The pealing of bells, the blowing of trumpets, the spreading out of banners, are means used on earth to make a faint symbol of his quality. It was like a long sunlit wave, creamy-crested and arched with emerald, that comes on nine feet tall, with roaring and with terror and unquenchable laughter. It was like the first beginning of music in the halls of some King so high and at some festival so solemn that a tremor akin to fear runs through young hearts when they hear it. For this was great Glund-Oyarsa, King of Kings, through whom the joy of creation principally blows across these fields of Arbol, known to men in old times as Jove...
~ C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 15: Descent of the Gods (1945)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

On Re-reading Books

(Taking a little break from Planets today)

An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only...

The re-reader is looking not for actual surprises (which can come only once) but for a certain surprisingness... It is the quality of unexpectedness, not the fact that delights us. It is even better the second literature. we do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Til then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness. The children understand this well when they ask for the same story over and over again, and in the same words. They want to have again the "surprise" of discovering that what seemed Little-Red-Riding-Hood's grandmother is really the wolf. It is better when you know it is coming: free from the shock of actual surprise you can attend better to the intrinsic surprisingness of the peripeteia*.
~C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, "On Stories" (1947)

peripeteia: A sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances, especially in a literary work.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Venus Arrives

In the Blue Room also Ransom and Merlin felt about this time that the temperature had risen. The windows, they did not see how or when, had swung open; at their opening the temperature did not drop, for it was from without that the warmth came. Through the bare branches, across the ground which was once more stiffening with frost, a summer breeze was blowing into the room, but the breeze of such a summer as England never has. Laden like heavy barges that glide nearly gunwale under, laden so heavily you would have thought it could not move, laden with ponderous fragrance of night-scented flowers, sticky gums, groves that drop odours, and with cool savour of midnight fruit, it stirred the curtains, it lifted a letter that lay on the table, it lifted the hair which had a moment before been plastered on Merlin's forehead. The room was rocking. They were afloat. A soft tingling and shivering as of foam and breaking bubbles ran over their flesh. Tears ran down Ransom's cheeks. He alone knew from what seas and what islands that breeze blew. Merlin did not; but in him also the inconsolable wound with which man is born waked and ached at this touching. Low syllables of prehistoric Celtic self-pity murmured from his lips. These yearnings and fondlings were however only the fore-runners of the goddess. As the whole of her virtue seized, focussed, and held that spot of the rolling Earth in her long beam, something harder, shriller, more perilously ecstatic, came out of the centre of all the softness. Both the humans trembled--Merlin because he did not know what was coming, Ransom because he knew. And now it came. It was fiery, sharp, bright and ruthless, ready to kill, ready to die, outspeeding light: it was Charity, not as mortals imagine it, not even as it has been humanised for them since the Incarnation of the Word, but the translunary virtue, fallen upon them direct from the Third Heaven, unmitigated. They were blinded, scorched, deafened. They thought it would burn their bones. They could not bear that it should continue. They could not bear that it should cease. So Perelandra, triumphant among planets, whom men call Venus, came and was with them in the room.
~ C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 15: Descent of the Gods (1945)


Cool link of the day - one artist's conception of the surface of Venus: Venus Movie

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Mercury comes down to Earth

There came an instant at which both men braced themselves. Ransom gripped the side of his sofa; Merlin grasped his own knees and set his teeth. A rod of coloured light, whose colour no man can name or picture, darted between them; no more to see than that, but seeing was the least part of their experience. Quick agitation seized them: a kind of boiling and bubbling in mind and heart which shook their bodies also. It went to a rhythm of such fierce speed that they feared their sanity must be shaken into a thousand fragments. And then it seemed that this had actually happened. But it didn't matter: for all the fragments - needle-pointed desires, brisk merriments, lynx-eyed thoughts - went rolling to and fro like glittering drops and reunited themselves. It was well that both men had some knowledge of poetry. The doubling, splitting and recombining of thoughts which now went on in them would have been unendurable for one whom that art had not already instructed in the counterpoint of the mind, the mastery of doubled and trebled vision. For Ransom, whose study had been for many years in the realm of words, it was heavenly pleasure. He found himself sitting within the very heart of language, in the white-hot furnace of essential speech. All fact was broken, splashed into cataracts, caught, turned inside out, kneaded, slain, and reborn as meaning. For the lord of Meaning himself, the herald, the messenger, the slayer of Argus, was with them: the angel that spins nearest the sun. Viritrilbia, whom men call Mercury and Thoth.
~ C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 15: Descent of the Gods (1945)

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Planets III

And finally, the ending for Lewis's alliterative poem, "The Planets".

[Necessity's song.] Soft breathes the air
Mild, and meadowy, as we mount further
Where rippled radiance rolls about us
Moved with music--measureless the waves'
Joy and jubilee. It is JOVE's orbit,
Filled and festal, faster turning
With arc ampler. From the Isles of Tin
Tyrian traders, in trouble steering
Came with his cargoes; the Cornish treasure
That his ray ripens. Of wrath ended
And woes mended, of winter passed
And guilt forgiven, and good fortune
Jove is master; and of jocund revel,
Laughter of ladies. The lion-hearted,
The myriad-minded, men like the gods,
Helps and heroes, helms of nations
Just and gentle, are Jove's children,
Work his wonders. On his white forehead
Calm and kingly, no care darkens
Nor wrath wrinkles: but righteous power
And leisure and largess their loose splendours
Have wrapped around him--a rich mantle
Of ease and empire. Up far beyond
Goes SATURN silent in the seventh region,
The skirts of the sky. Scant grows the light,
Sickly, uncertain (the Sun's finger
Daunted with darkness). Distance hurts us,
And the vault severe of vast silence;
Where fancy fails us, and fair language,
And love leaves us, and light fails us
And Mars fails us, and the mirth of Jove
Is as tin tinkling. In tattered garment,
Weak with winters, he walks forever
A weary way, wide round the heav'n,
Stoop'd and stumbling, with staff groping,
The lord of lead. He is the last planet
Old and ugly. His eye fathers
Pale pestilence, pain of envy,
Remorse and murder. Melancholy drink
(For bane or blessing) of bitter wisdom
He pours out for his people, a perilous draught
That the lip loves not. We leave all things
To reach the rim of the round welkin,
Heaven's heritage, high and lonely.
~C.S. Lewis, "The Planets", Poems (1st pub. May 1935)

Cool link of the day: NASA's Website* for the Cassini Spacecraft Mission/Saturn Exploration
*there is some wonderful flash content on this site--particularly the Cassini photo essay, and Saturn: Journey to a Ringed World

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Planets II

Continuing from yesterday's post:

[By her fingers form'd.] Far beyond her

The heaven's highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv'n thunder
Of SOL's chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle's eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom
Breathes o'er the breast, broadening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos'd garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pure fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth's matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp'd male,
The earth's husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye. But other country
Dark with discord dins beyond him,
With noise of nakers, neighing of horses,
Hammering of harness. A haughty god
MARS mercenary, makes there his camp
And flies his flag; flaunts laughingly
The graceless beauty, grey-eyed and keen,
--Blond insolence--of his blithe visage
Which is hard and happy. He hews the act,
The indifferent deed with dint of his mallet
And his chisel of choice; achievement comes not
Unhelped by him; --hired gladiator
Of evil and good. All's one to Mars,
The wrong righted, rescued meekness,
Or trouble in trenches, with trees splintered
And birds banished, banks fill'd with gold
And the liar made lord. Like handiwork
He offers to all--earns his wages
And whistles the while. White-feathered dread
Mars has mastered. His metal's iron
That was hammered through hands into holy cross,
Cruel carpentry. He is cold and strong,
Necessity's song.
~C.S. Lewis, "The Planets", Poems (1st pub. May 1935)


Head-scratcher link of the day: Why There Are Seven Chronicles of Narnia

Hot Link of the Day: SolarMAX: IMAX movie preview

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Planets I

Today I am starting what I plan to be three or four posts of the poem "The Planets". It is quite a long poem, so I am going to break it up into manageable chunks. You will see that it is written in alliterative verse. If you are not familiar with alliterative verse, then check out Wikipedia's definition, and let me know if you think it works here.

The Planets

Lady LUNA, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us--the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count'nance
Orb'd and ageless. In earth's bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
--Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth. Next beyond her
MERCURY marches;--madcap rover,
Patron of pilf'rers. Pert quicksilver
His gaze begets, goblin mineral,
Merry multitude of meeting selves,
Same but sundered. From the soul's darkness,
With wreathed wand, words he marshals,
Guides and gathers them--gay bellwether
Of flocking fancies. His flint has struck
The spark of speech from spirit's tinder,
Lord of language! He leads forever
The spangle and splendour, sport that mingles
Sound with senses, in subtle pattern,
Words in wedlock, and wedding also
Of thing with thought. In the third region
VENUS voyages...but my voice falters;
Rude rime-making wrongs her beauty,
Whose breasts and brow, and her breath's sweetness
Bewitch the worlds. Wide-spread the reign
Of her secret sceptre, in the sea's caverns,
In grass growing, and grain bursting,
Flower unfolding, and flesh longing,
And shower falling sharp in April.
The metal copper in the mine reddens
With muffled brightness, like muted gold,
By her fingers form'd.
~C.S. Lewis, "The Planets", Poems (1st pub. May 1935)

Friday, October 22, 2004

No Time

The second enemy [of the scholar in war-time] is frustration--the feeling that we shall not have time to finish. If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether, of how many things, even in middle life, we have to say "No time for that," "Too late now," and "Not for me." But Nature herself forbids you to share that experience. A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God's hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment "as to the Lord." It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.
~C.S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time", The Weight of Glory (1st pub. 1949)

On this day:

1939 Lewis preaches "Learning in War-Time" at Evensong in Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Sometimes Fun, Sometimes Not

Dear Joan,

They tell me that one should never try to learn Spanish and Italian at the same time. The fact that they are so alike of course helps one a bit over the meanings of words (but Latin would help you almost equally for both) but it makes a confusion in one's mind about grammar and idioms--in the end one makes a horrid soup out of both. I don't know Spanish, but I know there are lovely things in Italian to read. You'll like Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso. By the way good easy Latin reading to keep one's Latin up with is the New Testament in Latin. Any Roman Catholic bookshop will have one: say you want a copy of the "Vulgate New Testament." Acts goes specially well in Latin.

I don't think being good always goes with having fun: a martyr being tortured by Nero, or a resistance movement man refusing to give away his friends when tortured by the Germans, were being good but not having fun. And even in ordinary life there are things that would be fun to me but I musn't do them because they would spoil other people's fun. But of course you are quite right if you mean that giving up fun for no reason except that you think it's "good" to give it up, is all nonsense...A perfect man would never act from sense of duty; he'd always want the right thing more than the wrong one.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, (Letter to Joan _____, July 18, 1957)

Cute Pic of the Day: Courage

Absolutely Amazing Photography: Paul Schillinger <--you need to see this site, it is breathtaking!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Real Right and Wrong

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, I apologize to them. They had much better read some other book, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:

I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or more likely this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us....I am just the same. That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book One: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, (1952)

On this day:

1949 The Inklings hold their last recorded Thursday night meeting in Lewis's rooms in Magdalen College. The Tuesday morning meetings in the back room at the Eagle and Child pub continue.

Cool link of the day: Read about the C.S. Lewis Collection at Taylor University.

Purchase a copy of the C.S. Lewis print (pictured above) here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

On Enemy Ground

The Devil Screwtape twists the gift of pleasure:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisifying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it's better style. To get the man's soul and give him nothing in return--that is what really gladdens Our Father's heart. And the troughs are the time for beginning the process.
~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 9 (1942)
On this day:

1956 Joy Gresham Lewis is admitted to Wingfield-Morris Hospital with a broken femur, where she is subsequently diagnosed with multiple cancers.

Thoughtful link of the day: British Library Starts Email Archive. How much would have been lost had C.S. Lewis been able to send his letters electronically?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Lewis on Disney

I read this amusing anecdote last night in the book C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Remininscences. It seems that a young American writer, Jane Douglass, had written to C.S. Lewis about making a dramatization of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe but was turned down. He did, however, extend an invitation to Ms. Douglass to stop by and visit if she were ever in Oxford. Undaunted, she headed across the Atlantic to pay him a call:

"He repeated his dread of such things as radio and television apparatus and expressed his dislike of talking films. I said I quite understood this, and that nothing would distress me more than that he should think that I had in mind anything like the Walt Disney shows; I hoped nobody had suggested the book to Mr. Disney. This seemed to relieve Mr. Lewis to such an extent that I thought perhaps Mr. Disney had been after the book, but of course I did not ask. And in his usual generous way, Mr. Lewis said, "Too bad we didn't know Walt Disney before he was spoiled, isn't it?"
~Jane Douglass, "An Enduring Friendship", C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table (1979)

That reminded me of this letter to Alfred Jenkin:

"What did you think of Snowwhite and the vii Dwarfs? I saw it at Malvern last week on that holiday...Leaving out the tiresome question of whether it is suitable for children (which I don't know and don't care) I thought it almost inconceivably good and bad--I mean, I didn't know one human being could be so good and bad. The worst thing of all was the vulgarity of the winking dove at the beginning, and the next worst the faces of the dwarfs. Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs' jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated-- or even brought up in a decent society?"
~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter to A. K. Hamilton Jenkin (January 11, 1939)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Landing

The ship's stride faltered with her change of course, awaking us.

Suddenly I saw the land. Astern, the east was red;
Budding like a flower from the pale and rippled vacancy,
The island rose ahead.

All, then, was true; such lands, in solid verity,
Dapple the last sea that laps against the sky;
Apple-gold, the headlands of the singing Hesperides
On glass-clear water lie.

Once before I'd seen it, but that was from Helicon,
Clear and distinct in the circle of a lens,
Peering on tip-toes, one-eyed, through a telescope
Goddesses' country, never men's.

Now we were landing. Bright beasts and manifold
Came like old familiars, nosing at our knees;
Nameless their kinds--Adam's naming of the animals
Reached not those outer seas

Up from the shore then, benumbed with hope, we went upon
Danceable lawns and under gum-sweet wood,
Glancing ever up to where a green hill at the centre of
The hush'd island stood.

We climbed to the top and looked over upon limitless
Waters, untravelled, further west. But the three
Daughters of Hesperus were only painted images
Hand-fast around a tree,

And instead of the Dragon we found a brazen telescope
That burned our eyes there, flashing in the sun.
It was turned to the west. As once before on Helicon,
We looked through it, one by one.

There, once again, I beheld it, small and perilous,
Distant beyond measure, in the circle of the lens
--But this time, surely, the true one, the Hesperides'
Country which is not men's.

Hope died--rose again--quivered, and increased in us
The strenuous longing. We re-embarked to find
That genuine and utter West. Far astern and east of us
The first hope sank behind.

~C.S. Lewis, Poems (1964)

Wikipedia on The Hesperides.

Click here to view 'The Garden of the Hesperides' c 1892, by Frederic Leighton (1830-1896)

On this day:

1950 The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (the first volume written in The Chronicles of Narnia) is published by Geoffrey Bles, London.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Aslan Roars

The girls watched them out of sight, standing close beside Aslan. The light was changing. Low down in the east, Aravir, the morning star of Narnia, gleamed like a little moon. Aslan, who seemed larger than before, lifted his head, shook his mane, and roared.

The sound, deep and throbbing at first like an organ beginning on a low note, rose and became louder, and then far louder again, till the earth and air were shaking with it. It rose up from that hill and floated across all Narnia. Down in Miraz's camp men woke, stared palely in one another's faces, and grasped their weapons. Down below that in the Great River, now at its coldest hour, the heads and shoulders of the nymphs, and the great weedy-bearded head of the river-god, rose from the water. Beyond it, in every field and wood, the alert ears of rabbits rose from their holes, the sleepy heads of birds came out from under wings, owls hooted, vixens barked, hedgehogs grunted, the trees stirred. In towns and villages mothers pressed babies close to their breasts, staring with wild eyes, dogs whimpered, and men leaped up groping for lights. Far away on the northern frontier the mountain giants peered from the dark gateways of their castles.

What Lucy and Susan saw was a dark something coming to them from almost every direction across the hills. It looked first like a black mist creeping on the ground, then like the stormy waves of a black sea rising higher and higher as it came on, and then, at last, like what it was woods on the move. All the trees of the world appeared to be rushing towards Aslan. But as they drew nearer they looked less like trees; and when the whole crowd, bowing and curtsying and waving thin long arms to Aslan, were all around Lucy, she saw that it was a crowd of human shapes. Pale birch-girls were tossing their heads, willowwomen pushed back their hair from their brooding faces to gaze on Aslan, the queenly beeches stood still and adored him, shaggy oak-men, lean and melancholy elms, shockheaded hollies (dark themselves, but their wives all bright with berries) and gay rowans, all bowed and rose again, shouting, "Aslan, Aslan!" in their various husky or creaking or wave-like voices.
~C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, (1951)

Illustrations by Pauline Baynes

On this day:

1951 Prince Caspian (the second volume written in The Chronicles of Narnia) is published by Geoffrey Bles, London.


Pauline Baynes on Lewis:

"As I remember, he only once asked for an alteration-- and then with many apologies--when I (with my little knowledge) had drawn one of the characters rowing a boat facing the wrong direction!

When he did criticize, it was put over so charmingly, that it wasn't a criticism, i.e. I did the drawings as best I could...and didn't realize how hideous I had made the children--they were as nice as I could get them--and Dr. Lewis said, when we were starting on the second book, 'I know you made the children rather plain--in the interests of realism--but do you think you could possibly pretty them up a little now?'"
~Pauline Baynes, Letter to Walter Hooper, August 15, 1967

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wormwood Blunders

(A letter from the devil Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood)

My dear Wormwood,

It seems to me that you take a great many pages to tell a very simple story. The long and the short of it is that you have let the man slip through your fingers...

And now for your blunders. On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there--a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone. In other words you allowed him two real positive Pleasures. Were you so ignorant as not to see the danger of this? The characteristic of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality....because, of course, five minutes' genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they are and unmask your whole strategem. But you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is by palming off vanity, bustle, irony, and expensive tedium as pleasures. How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn't you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value? And that the sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all? That it would peel off from his sensibility the kind of crust you have been forming on it, and make him feel that he was coming home, recovering himself?...

The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the 'best' people, the 'right' food, the 'important' books.
~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 13

On this day:

1924 Lewis gives his first lecture at the University of Oxford, on "The Good: Its Position Among Values."

Cool link of the day: The Wetplate Collodion Photography of Robert J. Szabo

Click here to learn more about wetplate collodion photography.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Diversion

Please note: This is a long quote today, but I thought it fit with our recent discussion about "numinous".

They talked of the book a little while the Director sat and drank; but presently he took up the plate and tipped the crumbs off onto the floor. "Now, Mrs. Studdock," he said, "you shall see a diversion. But you must be perfectly still." With these words he took from his pocket a little silver whistle and blew a note on it. And Jane sat still till the room became filled with silence like a solid thing and there was first a scratching and then a rustling and presently she saw three plump mice working their passage across what was to them the thick undergrowth of the carpet, nosing this way and that so that if their course had been drawn it would have resembled that of a winding river, until they were so close that she could see the twinkling of their eyes and even the palpitation of their noses. In spite of what she had said she did not really care for mice in the neighbourhood of her feet and it was with an effort that she sat still. Thanks to this effort she saw mice for the first time as they really are--not as creeping things but as dainty quadrupeds, almost, when they sat up, like tiny kangaroos, with sensitive kid-gloved forepaws and transparent ears. With quick, inaudible movements they ranged to and fro till not a crumb was left on the floor. Then he blew a second time on his whistle and with a sudden whisk of tails all three of them were racing for home and in a few seconds had disappeared behind the coal box. The Director looked at her with laughter in his eyes ("It is impossible," thought Jane, "to regard him as old"). "There," he said, "a very simple adjustment. Humans want crumbs removed; mice are anxious to remove them. It ought never to have been a cause of war. "

"How huge we must seem to them," said Jane.

This inconsequent remark had a very curious cause. Hugeness was what she was thinking of and for one moment it had seemed she was thinking of her own hugeness in comparison with the mice. But almost at once this identification collapsed. She was really thinking simply of hugeness. Or rather, she was not thinking of it. She was, in some strange fashion, experiencing it. Something intolerably big, something from Brobdingnag* was pressing on her, was approaching, was almost in the room. She felt herself shrinking, suffocated, emptied of all power and virtue. She darted a glance at the Director which was really a cry for help, and that glance, in some inexplicable way, revealed him as being, like herself, a very small object. The whole room was a tiny place, a mouse's hole, and it seemed to her to be tilted aslant--as though the insupportable mass and splendour of this formless hugeness in approaching, had knocked it askew. She heard the Director's voice.

"Quick", he said gently, "you must leave me now. This is no place for us small ones, but I am inured. Go!"
~C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 7 "The Pendragon" (1945)

*What, or where, is Brobdingnag?

On this day:
1961 An Experiment in Criticism is published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Cool link of the day: Artwork by Marc Brinkerhoff.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Wordsworth, you see, was Enchanted. He got delicious gleams of memory from his early youth and took them at their face value. He believed that if he could have got back to certain spots in his own past he would find there the moment of joy waiting for him. You are Disenchanted. You've begun to suspect that those moments, of which the memory is now so ravishing, weren't at the time quite so wonderful as they now seem. You're right. They weren't. Each great experience is

"a whisper
Which Memory will warehouse as a shout."*

[*footnote: from an unpublished poem by Owen Barfield]

But what then? Isn't the warehousing just as much a fact as anything else? Is the vision any less important because a particular kind of polarized light between past and present happens to be the mechanism that brings it into focus? Isn't it a fact about mountains--as good a fact as any other--that they look purple at a certain distance?
~C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns: Essays by C.S. Lewis, "Talking About Bicycles" (1946)

You can purchase this photograph at Grand Teton Imaging.

Cool link of the day: View time-lapse and panoramic images of the Grand Teton near Driggs, Idaho, USA.

Monday, October 11, 2004

More from Lewis on Friendship

In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself. No one cares twopence about any one else's family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history...That is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts. This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections...Hence (if you will not misunderstand me) the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love. I have no duty to be anyone's Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

From the same chapter:

People who bore one another should meet seldom; people who interest one another, often.
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Chapter 4 (1960)

On this day:
1930 Lewis, his brother Warren, Mrs. Janie Moore, her daughter Maureen, and Mr. Papworth the dog move into their new home, The Kilns, near Oxford. This will be Lewis's home until his death in 1963.

Link of the day: The Most Boring Blog in the World

Dear Readers,

Well, as you can see I am back safe and sound from my trip to Chicago. It was a wonderful experience: I highly recommend seeing the Lord of the Rings Symphony if it comes to a location near you. The best part of the trip was getting to meet so many people from the message boards at (Oh yes, it was a thrill to get to meet Howard Shore as well!) May I just say that you *all* interest me--let's be sure to meet, whether in person or electronically, very often!!


Thursday, October 07, 2004

On Reading Old Books

There are two ways of enjoying the past, as there are two ways of enjoying a foreign country. One man carries his Englishry abroad with him and brings it home unchanged. Wherever he goes he consorts with the other English tourists. By a good hotel he means one that is like an English hotel. He complains of the bad tea where he might have had excellent coffee...

But there is another sort of travelling and another sort of reading. You can eat the local food and drink the local wines, you can share the foreign life, you can begin to see the foreign country as it looks, not to the tourist, but to its inhabitants. You can come home modified, thinking and feeling as you did not think and feel before. So with the old literature. You can go beyond the first impression that a poem makes on your modern sensibility. By study of things outside the poem, by comparing it with other poems, by steeping yourself in the vanished period, you can then re-enter the poem with eyes more like those of the natives; now perhaps seeing that the associations you gave to the old words were false, that the real implications were different than you supposed.

...I am writing to help the second sort of reading. Partly, of course, because I have a historical motive. I am a man as well as a lover of poetry: being human, I am inquisitive, I want to know as well as to enjoy. But even if enjoyment alone were my aim I should still choose this way, for I should hope to be led by it to newer and fresher enjoyments, things I could never have met in my own period, modes of feeling, flavours, atmospheres, nowhere accessible but by a mental journey into the real past. I have lived nearly sixty years with myself and my own century and am not so enamoured of either as to desire no glimpse of a world beyond them.
~C.S. Lewis, "De Audiendis Poetis", Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (written late 1950s?; 1st published 1966)

Dear Readers,

Please take note! I will be leaving tomorrow morning for Chicago to attend The Lord of the Rings Symphony, and immerse myself in the native Chicago"culture" (local brewpubs to feature prominently in my plans...) I promise to be back next week with more daily C.S. Lewis. Until then, feel free to look at the archives, add comments to old posts, and visit the other blogs I have linked on the right side of the page. All new comments come to my email inbox, so I'll be sure to see them! And--please be nice to each other on the tagboard! =)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Not a Fairy Tale, Nor a Nursery Rhyme

Lewis writes to his friend Arthur Greeves about some houseguests he has been entertaining:

"The only member of the visiting family whose society we like is the boy, Michael, about 5. ... Minto* reads him the Peter Rabbit books every evening, and it is a lovely sight. She reads very slowly and he gazes up into her eyes which look enormous through her spectacles -- what a pity she has no grandchildren. Would you believe it, that child had never been read to nor told a story by his mother in his life? Not that he is neglected. He has a whole time Nurse (an insufferable semi-lady scientific woman with a diploma from some Tom-fool nursing college), a hundred patent foods, is spoiled, and far too expensively dressed: but his poor imagination has been left without any natural food at all. I often wonder what the present generation of children will grow up like (how many middle aged men in all generations have said this). They have been treated with so much indulgence yet so little affection, with so much science and so little mother-wit. Not a fairy tale nor a nursery rhyme."

~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II, Letter to Arthur Greeves from The Kilns, (December 7, 1935)

*"Minto" is Mrs. Moore, the mother of his friend Edward "Paddy" Moore, whom he took in after Moore's death in WWI.

Feeling nostalgic? Read some Beatrix Potter books online here.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Concept of "Numinous"

Those who have not met this term may be introduced to it by the following device. Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told 'There is a ghost in the next room', and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is 'uncanny' rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply 'There is a mighty spirit in the room', and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking--a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it--an emotion which might be expressed in Shakespeare's words 'Under it my genius is rebuked'*. This feeling may be described as awe, and the object which excites it as the Numinous.

A modern example may be found (if we are not too proud to seek it there) in The Wind in the Willows where Rat and Mole approach Pan on the island:

'"Rat," he found breath to whisper, shaking, "Are you afraid?" "Afraid?" murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. "Afraid? of Him? O, never, never. And yet--and yet--O Mole, I am afraid."'
~C.S. Lewis, Introductory to The Problem of Pain (1940)

*Macbeth - Act 3, Scene 1

painting by Troy Howell

Monday, October 04, 2004

“Heaven Will Work Backwards”

The Teacher explains Time:

‘Son’, he said, ‘ye cannot in your present state understand eternity: when Anodos looked through the door of the Timeless he brought no message back. But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their early past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “we were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.’

~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946)

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Salamander

I stared into the fire; blue waves
Of shuddering heat that rose and fell,
And blazing ships and blinding caves,
Canyons and streets and hills of hell
Then presently amidst it all
I saw a living creature crawl.

Forward it crept and pushed its snout
Between the bars, and with sad eyes
Into my quiet room looked out,
As men looked out upon the skies;
And from its scalding throat there came
A faint voice hissing like a flame:

'This is the end, the stratosphere,
The rim of the world where all life dies,
The vertigo of space, the fear
Of nothingness; before me lies
Blank silence, distances untold
Of unimaginable cold.

'Faint lights that fitfully appear
Far off in that immense abyss
Are but reflections cast from here,
There is no other fire but this,
This speck of life, this fading spark
Enisled amid the boundless dark.

'Blind Nature's measureless rebuke
To all we value, I received
Long since (though wishes bait the hook
With tales our ancestors believed)
And now can face with fearless eye
Negation's final sovereignty.'

~C.S. Lewis, Poems (first published in The Spectator: June 8, 1945)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The True Nature of Gnomes

New pictures of Roger's tour of Oxford can be found at the bottom of the page here. The Narnia Window at The Quarry Church is beautiful!

Paracelsus somewhere in his writings tells us

A gnome moves through earth like an arrow in the air,
At home like a fish within the seamless, foamless
Liberty of the water that yields to it everywhere.

Beguiled with pictures, I fancied in my childhood
Subterranean rivers beside glimmering wharfs,
Hammers upon anvils, pattering and yammering,
Torches and tunnels, the cities of the dwarfs;

But in perfect blackness underneath the surface,
In a silence unbroken till the planet cracks,
Their sinewy bodies through the dense continuum
Move without resistance and leave no tracks.

Gravel, marl, blue clay--all's one to travel in;
Only one obstacle can impede a gnome--
A cave or a mine-shaft. Not their very bravest
Would venture across it for a short cut home.

There is the unbridgeable. To a gnome the air is
utter vacuity. If he thrust out his face
Into a cavern, his face would break in splinters,
Bursting as a man would burst in interstallar space.

With toiling lungs a gnome can breath the soil in,
Rocks are like a headwind, stiff against his chest,
Chief 'midst his pleasures is the quiet leaf mould,
Like air in meadowy valleys when the wind's at rest.

Like silvan freshness are the lodes of silver,
Cold, clammy, fog-like are the leaden veins
Those of gold are prodigally sweet like roses,
Gems stab coolly like the small spring rains.
~C.S. Lewis, Poems, "The True Nature of Gnomes" (first pub. in Punch, October 14, 1946)

View more gemstone pics at The

Friday, October 01, 2004

Bism II

Wait! Before you read more about Bism, be sure to read the trip report that Roger has posted about his tour of Oxford and C.S. Lewis's home.

Now for more of the chapter "The Bottom of the World", from The Silver Chair:

“Your Honors,” said Golg (and when they turned to look at him they could see nothing but blackness for a few minutes, their eyes were so dazzled). “Your Honors, why don’t you come down to Bism? You’d be happier there than in that cold, unprotected, naked country out on top. Or at least come down for a short visit.”

Jill took it for granted that none of the others would listen to such an idea for a moment.

To her horror she hear the Prince saying:

“Truly, friend Golg, I have half a mind to come down with you. For this is a marvelous adventure, and it may be no mortal man has ever looked into Bism before or will ever have the chance again. And I know not how, as the years pass, I shall bear to remember that it was once in my power to have probed the uttermost pit of the Earth and that I forbore. But could a man live there? You do not swim in the fire-river itself?”

“Oh no, you Honor. Not we. It’s only salamanders live in the fire itself.”

“What kind of beast is your salamander?” asked the Prince.

“It is hard to tell their kind, your Honor,” said Golg. “For they are too white-hot to look at. But they are most like small dragons. They speak to us out of the fire. They are wonderfully clever with their tongues: very witty and eloquent.”…

“Yes,” said Golg. “I have heard of those little scratches in the crust that you Topdwellers call mines. But that’s where you get dead gold, dead silver, dead gems. Down in Bism we have them alive and growing. There I’ll pick you bunches of rubies that you can eat and squeeze you a cupful of diamond juice.”….

At that moment a hissing, scorching voice like the voice of Fire itself (they wondered afterward if it could have been a salamander’s) came whistling up out of the very depth of Bism.

“Quick! Quick! Quick! To the cliffs, to the cliffs, to the cliffs!” it said. “The rift closes. It closes. It closes.”

See more wonderful Narnia illustrations by the artist Edwina Peterson Cross here.