Saturday, April 30, 2005

Learning Charity

Some people are 'cold' by temperament; that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having a bad digestion is a sin; and it does not cut them out from the chance, or excuse them from the duty, of learning charity.

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his 'gratitude', you will probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye for anything like showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.
~C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity, "Charity" (1952)


On this day:

1953 C.S. Lewis gave his last Socratic Club presentation, "Faith and Evidence." This essay is now published as "Obstinancy and Belief."

Friday, April 29, 2005

Deathwater Island

"All the same," said Caspian, "we may as well test it." He stooped down and wrenched up a spray of heather. Then, very cautiously, he knelt beside the pool and dipped it in. It was heather that he dipped; what he drew out was a perfect model of heather made of the purest gold, heavy and soft as lead.

"The King who owned this island," said Caspian slowly, and his face flushed as he spoke, "would soon be the richest of all the Kings of the world. I claim this land for ever as a Narnian possession. It shall be called Goldwater Island. And I bind all of you to secrecy. No one must know of this. Not even Drinian - on pain of death, do you hear?"

"Who are you talking to?" said Edmund. "I'm no subject of yours. If anything it's the other way round. I am one of the four ancient sovereigns of Narnia and you are under allegiance to the High King my brother."

"So it has come to that, King Edmund, has it?" said Caspian, laying his hand on his sword-hilt.

"Oh, stop it, both of you," said Lucy. "That's the worst of doing anything with boys. You're all such swaggering, bullying idiots - oooh! -" Her voice died away into a gasp. And everyone else saw what she had seen.

Across the grey hillside above them - grey, for the heather was not yet in bloom - without noise, and without looking at them, and shining as if he were in bright sunlight though the sun had in fact gone in, passed with slow pace the hugest lion that human eyes have ever seen. In describing the scene Lucy said afterwards, "He was the size of an elephant," though at another time she only said, "The size of a cart-horse." But it was not the size that mattered. Nobody dared to ask what it was. They knew it was Aslan.

And nobody ever saw how or where he went. They looked at one another like people waking from sleep.

"What were we talking about?" said Caspian. "Have I been making rather an ass of myself?"

"Sire," said Reepicheep, "this is a place with a curse on it. Let us get back on board at once. And if I might have the honour of naming this island, I should call it Deathwater."
~C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)


Cool link of the day: All sorts of Narnia Map links

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Screwtape writes to his apprentice-devil nephew:

Music and silence--how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since Our Father entered Hell--though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express--no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominal forces, but all has been occupied by Noise--Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile--Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress. Meanwhile, you, disgusting little --

[Here the MS breaks off and is resumed in a different hand.]

In the heat of composition I find that I have inadvertantly allowed myself to assume the form of a large centipede. I am accordingly dictating the rest to my secretary. Now that the transformation is complete I recognise it as a periodical phenomenon. Some rumour of it has reached the humans and a distorted account of it appears in the poet Milton, with the ridiculous addition that such changes of shape are a 'punishment' imposed on us by the Enemy. A more modern writer---someone with a name like Pshaw--has, however, grasped the truth. Transformation proceeds from within and is a glorious manifestation of that Life Force which Our Father would worship if he worshipped anything but himself. In my present form I feel even more anxious to see you, to unite you to myself in an indissoluble embrace,

(signed) Toadpipe (for his Abysmal Sublimity Under Secretary Screwtape, TE, BS, etc.)

~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Ch. 22, (1942)


Note from Revie: I thought about including a photo of a giant centipede, but got too grossed-out by Google Images to follow through...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Top Ten

C.S. Lewis's Top Ten Books that influenced him:

1. Phantastes by George MacDonald.
2.The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton.
3. The Aeneid by Virgil.
4. The Temple by George Herbert.
5. The Prelude by William Wordsworth.
6. The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto.
7. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.
8. Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell.
9. Descent into Hell by Charles Williams.
10. Theism and Humanism by Arthur James Balfour.

June 6, 1962 issue of The Christian Century

Lewis on George MacDonald, author of Phantastes:

I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him. But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasise it. And even if honesty did not--well, I am a don, and "source-hunting" (Quellenforschung) is perhaps in my marrow.
~C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald: An Anthology, Preface (1947)


On this day:

1939 The Personal Heresy is published by Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lewis on Joy's Death

It is hard to have patience with people who say "There is no death" or "Death doesn't matter." There is death. And whatever is, matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter. I look up at the night sky. Is anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?
~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, Chapter 1 (1961)


On this day:

1917 Lewis (age 18) arrives at Oxford University to begin his studies.

Monday, April 25, 2005


'The story is not quite so simple as that,' said the old woman, 'so many things happened after the eating of the apple. For one thing, the taste created such a craving in the man and the woman that they thought they could never eat enough of it; and they were not content with all the wild apple trees, but planted more and more, and grafted mountain-apple on to every other kind of tree so that every fruit should have a dash of that taste in it. They succeeded so well that the whole vegetable system of the country is now infected: and there is hardly a fruit or a root in the land--certainly none this side of the canyon--that has not a little mountain apple in it. You have never tasted anything that was quite free from it.'

'And what has that got to do with the card of rules?' said John.

'Everything,' said Mother Kirk. 'In a country where all the food is more or less poisoned--but some of it very much less than more--you need very complicated rules indeed to keep healthy.'
~C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim's Regress, Book V, Chapter III, (1933)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Three On the Jewish People

My enjoyment of the Psalms has been greatly increased lately. The point has been made before, but let me make it again: what an admirable thing it is in the divine economy that the sacred literature of the world should have been entrusted to a people whose poetry, depending largely on parallelism, should remain poetry in any language you translate it to.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters (July 16, 1940)

I've been much struck in conversation with a Jewess by the extent to which Jews see humour in the O.T. where we don't. Humour varies so much from culture to culture.
~Letters (December 6, 1956)

I might agree that the Allies are partly to blame, but nothing can fully excuse the iniquity of Hitler's persecution of the Jews, or the absurdity of his theoretical position. Did you see that he said "The Jews have made no contribution to human culture and in crushing them I am doing the will of the Lord." Now as the whole idea of the "Will of the Lord" is precisely what the world owes to the Jews, the blaspheming tyrant has just fixed his absurdity for all to see in a single sentence, and shown that he is as contemptible for his stupidity as he is detestable for his cruelty. For the German people as a whole we ought to have charity: but for dictators, "Nordic" tyrants and so on--well, read the chapter about Mr. Savage in the Regress [The Pilgrim's Regress] and you have my views.
~Letters (November 5, 1933)


On this day:

1956 C.S. Lewis married Joy Davidman in a civil ceremony at the registry office on St. Giles Street, Oxford. The marriage enabled her to stay in England.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Sent in Love

July 2nd 1949

Thanks for your most kind and comforting letter--like a touch of a friend's hand in a dark place. For it is much darker than I feared. W's trouble is to be called 'nervous insomnia' in speaking to Janie and others: but in reality (this for yr. private ear) it is Drink. This bout started about ten days ago. Last Sunday the Doctor and I begged him to go into a Nursing Home (that has always effectively ended previous bouts) and he refused. Yesterday we succeeded in getting him in: but alas, too late. The Nursing Home has announced this morning that he is out of control and they refuse to keep him.

To day a mental specialist is to see him and he will be transferred, I hope for a short stay, to what is called a hospital but is really an asylum. Naturally there is no question of a later Irish jaunt for me this year. A few odd days here & there in England is the best I can hope for.

Don't imagine I doubt for a moment that what God sends us must be sent in love and will all be for the best if we have grace to use it so. My mind doesn't waver on this point: my feelings sometimes do. That's why it does me good to hear what I believe repeated in your voice--it being the rule of the universe that others can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and one can paddle every canoe except ones's own. That is why Christ's suffering for us is not a mere theological dodge but the supreme case of the law that governs the whole world: and when they mocked him by saying 'He saved others, himself he cannot save' they were really uttering, little as they knew it, the ultimate law of the spiritual world.

God bless you.


~Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Fur Coats and Cupboards

Lewis sent the manuscript of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to Owen and Maud Barfield, the parents of his goddaughter Lucy Barfield, to whom he had dedicated the book. Maud Barfield was concerned about the inhumane trapping of animals, and when she read the manuscript, she mentioned this to Lewis, as well as her fear of children locking themselves in wardrobes. Because of this Lewis included a warning in ch. 1 of the story: "[Lucy] had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe." In fact, there are five such warnings in the first five chapters of the book.

Letter to Owen Barfield, May 30, 1949:

...The fur coats can easily be altered...The chances of getting shut in cupboards is much more serious and less easily altered. I don't know why Maud should feel let down: fur is nice, otherwise there would be no temptation to trapping and one does find it in wardrobes. But that will be altered.

The Beavers aren't there to prevent you taking it too seriously, but to supply the snug & homely and to give information. I'd have liked that chapter as a child.



Letter to Maud Barfield, April 6, 1949:

Dear Maud

(If I may venture so far after so many years!) I had a very nice letter from Lucy and will be thinking of her to-day. I also replied.

Owen has told me about the two main snags, from your angle, in the story. The fur can easily be removed. I am afraid I was not thinking of the fur trade at all, but only of the fact that you would almost certainly find fur coats in an old wardrobe. Much more serious is the undesirability of shutting oneself into a cupboard. I might add a caution--or would this only make things worse? With kindest regards,


Jack L.

~From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II

On this day:

1905 The Lewis family -- Albert, Flora, Warnie, and Jack--moved from Dundela Villas to Little Lea, on the outskirts of Belfast.

Cool link of the day: Disney's new Narnia movie website, which DOES NOT HAVE FUR COATS in the wardrobe!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Eldil of Perelandra

A clear voice like a chime of remote bells, a voice with no blood in it, spoke out of the air and sent a tingling through his frame.

"They have already set foot on the sand and are beginning to ascend"," it said.

"The small one from Thulcandra is already here," said a second voice.

"Look on him, beloved, and love him," said the first. "He is indeed but breathing dust and a careless touch would unmake him. And in his best thoughts there are such things as mingled as, if we thought them, our light would perish. But he is in the body of Maleldil and his sins are forgiven. His very name in his own tongue is Elwin, the friend of the eldila."

"How great is your knowledge!" said the second voice.

"I have been down into the air of Thulcandra," said the first, "which the small ones call Tellus. A thickened air is full of the Darkened as Deep Heaven is of the Light Ones. I have heard the prisoners there talking in their divided tongues and Elwin has taught me how it is with them."

From these words Ransom knew the speaker was the Oyarsa of Malacandra, the great archon of Mars. He did not, of course, recognize the voice, for there is no difference between one eldil's voice and another's . ...

"I do not understand," said Ransom. "The Woman told me there were no eldila in this world."

"They have not seen my face till to-day," said the second voice, "except as they see it in the water and the roof-heaven, the islands, the caves, and the trees."
~C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (1943)

On this day:

1943 Perelandra (the second volume of Lewis's Space Trilogy) is published by The Bodley Head, London.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Never Forget to Wipe Your Sword

Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. That stroke never reached the Wolf. Quick as lightning it turned round, its eyes flaming, and its mouth wide open in a howl of anger. If it had not been so angry that it simply had to howl it would have got him by the throat at once. As it was -though all this happened too quickly for Peter to think at all - he had just time to duck down and plunge his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute's forelegs into its heart. Then came a horrible, confused moment like something in a nightmare. He was tugging and pulling and the Wolf seemed neither alive nor dead, and its bared teeth knocked against his forehead, and everything was blood and heat and hair. A moment later he found that the monster lay dead and he had drawn his sword out of it and was straightening his back and rubbing the sweat off his face and out of his eyes. He felt tired all over.

Then, after a bit, Susan came down the tree. She and Peter felt pretty shaky when they met and I won't say there wasn't kissing and crying on both sides. But in Narnia no one thinks any the worse of you for that.

"Quick! Quick!" shouted the voice of Aslan. "Centaurs! Eagles! I see another wolf in the thickets. There - behind you. He has just darted away. After him, all of you. He will be going to his mistress. Now is your chance to find the Witch and rescue the fourth Son of Adam." And instantly with a thunder of hoofs and beating of wings a dozen or so of the swiftest creatures disappeared into the gathering darkness.

Peter, still out of breath, turned and saw Aslan close at hand.

"You have forgotten to clean your sword," said Aslan.

It was true. Peter blushed when he looked at the bright blade and saw it all smeared with the Wolf's hair and blood. He stooped down and wiped it quite clean on the grass, and then wiped it quite dry on his coat.

"Hand it to me and kneel, Son of Adam," said Aslan. And when Peter had done so he struck him with the flat of the blade and said, "Rise up, Sir Peter Fenris-Bane. And, whatever happens, never forget to wipe your sword."
~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)


On this day:

1943 Christian Behaviour: A Further Series of Broadcast Talks is published by Geoffrey Bles/The Centenary Press, London.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Religion of Worshipping Oneself

Q. Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness?

A. While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best.

I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better, but I can't give any advice on it.
~C.S Lewis, God in the Dock, "Answers to Questions on Christianity" (1944)


On this day:

1915 Helen Joy Davidman was born in New York city.

1944 C.S. Lewis spoke on Christianity and Modern Industry, then answered questions from factory workers at Electric and Musical Industries Ltd. in Hayes, Middlesex.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Miracle

From Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis, by George Sayer:

By April (1962) he had recovered sufficiently to be able to return to Cambridge. I drove him there one Monday, and for fun we stopped on the outskirts of the Duke of Bedford's great Woburn estate and entered the woods by a small gate. Almost nervously law-abiding, he was rather unwilling to do this because it was marked "Private," but I assured him that trespassing was no crime in English law, that the trespasser must simply leave when asked to and could only be sued for any damage done. We walked with some hesitation along a narrow path through a wood and suddenly found ourselves in a glade surrounded by a number of miniature deer. Jack was entranced. "You know, while I was writing the Narnia books, I never imagined anything as lovely as this, " he said. We sat on a fallen tree trunk, and Jack gazed radiantly at the elegant little animals and adored the God who had created them. "Pure white magic," he said when we had returned to the car. ...

On another occasion, I drove him back from Cambridge, again via Woburn. We went in through the same private gate, but there were no deer this time. "Well," said Jack, "as I found once before, you can't expect the same miracle twice."
~George Sayer, Jack (1988)


On this day:

1933 C.S. Lewis had an idea for a new book: lost souls going on a visit to Paradise. The result was The Great Divorce, published in 1945.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Cranky Lewis

Tuesday 1 March (1927): Woke up after a good night feeling much better. Spent the morning noting parallels between Donne, Milton and Burton.

Hudson came round from All Souls to give me the recipe for the punch, as I am entertaining the Mermaids* tonight, drat 'em. They are nothing but a drinking, guffawing cry of barbarians with hardly any taste among them, and I wish I hadn't joined them: but I don't see my way out now.

Home for lunch. D. seemed still v. tired. We all tried talking French at lunch. It was not raining when I set out for my walk, over the fields to Stowe Woods but it came on just as I turned homeward on the Crab Apple Road, and I got pelted.

Back to College and had to spend most of the time getting things ready for the sons of Belial. The evening passed off all right I think: Tourneur's Revenger's Tragedy was read, a rotten piece of work, whose merits, pretty small to begin with, were entirely lost in the continual cackling wh. greeted every bawdy reference (however tragic) and every mistake made by a reader. If one spent much time with these swine one would blaspheme against humour itself, as being nothing but a kind of shield with which rabble protect themselves from anything that might disturb the muddy puddle inside them.

Put the room straight after they'd gone, and sorted out clean from dirty things for the benefit of Hatton. Then to bed and slept well, and oh the beautiful silence and fresh air after all that evening!
~C.S. Lewis, All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922 - 1927

* The Mermaid Club was founded in 1902 "to promote the reading and study of the Elizabethan and post-Elizabethan drama."

On this day:

1918 C.S. Lewis is wounded by a British shell on Mount Berenchon during the Battle of Arras.

(am I the only one who didn't realize he was wounded by friendly fire?)

Thursday, April 14, 2005


"Most certainly an artistic failure." All argument is for that conclusion--until you read or see Hamlet again. And when you do, you are left saying that if this is failure, then failure is better than success. We want more of these "bad" plays. From our first childish reading of the ghost scenes down to those golden minutes which we stole from marking examination papers on Hamlet to read a few pages of Hamlet itself, have we ever known the day or the hour when its enchantment failed?...It has a taste of its own, an all-pervading relish which we recognize even in its smallest fragments, and which, once tasted, we recur to. When we want that taste, no other book will do instead.
~C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, "Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?" (1942)

I believe that we read Hamlet's speeches with interest chiefly because they describe so well a certain spiritual region through which most of us have passed and anyone in his circumstances might be expected to pass.

...The real and lasting mystery of our human situation has been greatly depicted.
~C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, "Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?" (1942)

On this day:

1960 C.S. Lewis returned with his wife Joy to England after their tour of Greece.

Guilty pleasure link of the day: Hamlet (Prose adaptation--parallel with original text)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Society for the Prevention of Progress

Warren Lewis writes:

In May 1944 Jack received an amusing letter from the Society for the Prevention of Progress, of Walnut Creek, California, inviting him to become a member and requesting him to forward his credentials. The signature on his reply was instigated by one of the Society's rules to which his attention had been called: Membership and the privileges of the Society are denied to such individuals as Henry A. Wallace and this fellow Beveridge*.

Dear Sir,

While feeling that I was born a member of your Society, I am nevertheless honoured to receive the outward seal of membership. I shall hope by continued orthodoxy and the unremitting practice of Reaction, Obstruction, and Stagnation to give you no reason for repenting your favour.

I humbly submit that in my Riddell Lectures entitled The Abolition of Man you will find another work not all unworthy of consideration for admission to the canon.

Yours regressively,

C.S. Lewis

"Beverages not Beveridges"
(my motto)
~from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lews: Volume II (May 1944)

*William Henry Beveridge, first Lord Beveridge (1879-1963), a social reformer and economist, whose 'Beveridge plan' became the blueprint for the present welfare state.

On this day (evening, actually):

1944 J. R. R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and R. E.Havard listened to Warren Lewis read a chapter of his first book, The Splendid Century.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Where Does Happiness Lie?

'Happiness, my dear Dick,' said the Ghost placidly, 'happiness, as you will come to see when you are older, lies in the path of duty. Which reminds me...Bless my soul, I'd nearly forgotten. Of course I can't come with you. I have to be back next Friday to read a paper. We have a little Theological Society down there. Oh yes! there is plenty of intellectual life. Not of a very high quality, perhaps. One notices a certain lack of grip--a certain confusion of mind. That is where I can be of some use to them. There are even regrettable jealousies...I don't know why, but tempers seem less controlled than they used to be. Still, one mustn't expect too much of human nature. If feel I can do a great work among them. But you've never asked me what my paper is about! I'm taking the text about growing up to the measure of the stature of Christ and working out an idea which I feel sure you'll be interested in. I'm going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he'd lived. As he might have done, with a litte more tact and patience. I am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic much promise cut short. Oh, must you be going? '
~C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946)


On this day:

1917 Inklings member Charles Williams married Florence Conway (they had been engaged for nine years).

Monday, April 11, 2005

Potential for Genius

Lewis writes about a fifteenth century allegorical poem "The Assembly of Ladies":

In many periods the historian of literature discovers a dominant literary form, such as the blood tragedy among the Elizabethans, or satire in the eighteenth century...During the years between Chaucer's death and the poetry of Wyatt, allegory becomes such a dominant form and suffers all the vicissitudes to which dominant forms are exposed. ...

What the writer really wants to describe is no inner drama with Loyalty as its heroine, but the stir and bustle of an actual court, the whispered consultations, the putting on of clothes, and the important comings and goings. She is moved, by a purely naturalistic impulse, to present the detail of everyday life; and if her poem were not hampered by being still attached--as with an umbilical cord--to the allegorical form, it would be an admirable picture of manners. Indeed, if only the first four stanzas survived, we might now be lamenting the lost Jane Austen of the fifteenth century. They read exactly like the beginning of a novel in verse. ...

We cannot call the piece satisfactory as a whole: for the fatal discrepancy between the real and the professional intention is felt at every turn. To read it is to learn why some critics hate allegory; for there the significacio is -- what some suppose it to be in all allegories--a chilling and irrelevant addition to the story. But the detail of the poem shows powers akin to genius, and reveals to us that much neglected law of literary history--that potential genius can never become actual unless it finds or makes the Form which it requires.
~C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, "Allegory as the Dominant Form" (1936)

Relevant link of the day: The Assembly of Ladies (author unknown, dating from the last quarter of the fifteenth century)

Cool link of the day: The Medieval Blogger: what's new and cool in the current Middle Ages

Friday, April 08, 2005

March for Drum, Trumpet, and Twenty-One Giants

With stumping stride in pomp and pride
We come to thump and floor ye;
We'll bump your lumpish heads to-day
And tramp your ramparts into clay,
And as we stamp and romp and play,
Our trump'll blow before us--
Oh tramp it, tramp it, tramp it, trumpet, trumpet blow before us!

We'll grind and break and bind and take
And plunder ye and pound ye!
With trundled rocks and bludgeon blow,
You dunderheads, we'll dint ye so
You'll blunder and run blind, as though
By thunder stunned, around us--
By thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder stunned around us!

Ho! tremble town and tumble down
And crumble shield and sabre!
Your kings will mumble and look pale, your horses stumble or turn tail,
Your skimble-scamble counsels fail,
So rumble drum belaboured--
Oh rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble drum belaboured!
~C.S. Lewis, Poems, "Narnian Suite, 2" (1st published Nov. 4, 1953 in Punch)


On this day:

1973 (April 9) Warren H. Lewis, C.S. Lewis's older brother, dies at age seventy-eight at The Kilns, Oxford.

Note to the blog:

I will be on spring break until next week. See you all then!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Would God Take Her Seriously?

"Religion" ought to mean a realm in which her haunting female fear of being treated as a thing, an object of barter and desire and possession, would be set permanently at rest and what she called her "true self" would soar upwards and expand in some freer and purer world. For still she thought that "Religion" was a kind of exhalation or a cloud of incense, something steaming up from specially gifted souls towards a receptive Heaven. Then, quite sharply, it occurred to her that the director never talked about Religion; nor did the Dimbles nor Camilla. They talked about God. They had no picture in their minds of some mist steaming upward: rather of strong, skillful hands thrust down to make, and mend, perhaps even to destroy. Supposing one were a thing after all - a thing designed and invented by Someone Else and valued for qualities quite different from what one had decided to regard as one's true self? Supposing all those people who, from the bachelor uncles down to Mark and Mother Dimble, had infuriatingly found her sweet and fresh when she wanted them to find her also interesting and important, had all along been simply right and percieved the sort of thing she was? Supposing Maleldil on this subject agreed with them and not with her? For one moment she had a ridiculous and scorching vision of a world in which God Himself would never understand, never take her with full seriousness.
~C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (1946)

On this day:

1930 Warren Lewis writes in his diary that he discovered the writings of poet Francis Thompson.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Nature's Depravity

So much for Nature's imperfection; her positive depravity calls for a very different explanation. According to the Christians this is all due to sin: the sin both of men and of powerful, non-human beings, supernatural but created. .... To be sure, the morbid inquisitiveness about such beings which led our ancestors to a pseudo-science of Demonology, is to be sternly discouraged: our attitude should be that of the sensible citizen in wartime who believes that there are enemy spies in our midst but disbelieves nearly every particular spy story. We must limit ourselves to the general statement that beings in a different, and higher 'Nature' which is partially interlocked with ours have, like men, fallen and have tampered with things inside our frontier. The doctrine, besides proving itself fruitful of good in each man's spiritual life, helps to protect us from shallowly optimistic or pessimistic views of Nature. To call her either 'good' or 'evil' is boys' philosophy. We find ourselves in a world of transporting pleaures, ravishing beauties, and tantalising possibilities, but all constantly being destroyed, all coming to nothing. Nature has all the air of a good thing spoiled.

The sin, both of men and of angels, was rendered possible by the fact that God gave them free will: thus surrendering a portion of His omnipotence (it is again a deathlike or descending movement) because He saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out (and this is the reascent) a deeper happiness and a fuller splendour than any world of automata would admit.
~C.S. Lewis, Miracles (1947)


On this day:

1960 C.S. Lewis visited Daphne, Greece with his wife Joy. Later he said that it was among the supreme days in his life.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sub Creation (cont.)

Long afterwards when she was back in England and talked all these adventures over with Edmund, they thought of a reason and I am pretty sure it is the true one. In the sea, the deeper you go, the darker and colder it gets, and it is down there, in the dark and cold, that dangerous things live - the squid and the Sea Serpent and the Kraken*. The valleys are the wild, unfriendly places. The sea-people feel about their valleys as we do about mountains, and feel about their mountains as we feel about valleys. It is on the heights (or, as we would say, "in the shallows") that there is warmth and peace. The reckless hunters and brave knights of the sea go down into the depths on quests and adventures, but return home to the heights for rest and peace, courtesy and council, the sports, the dances and the songs.

They had passed the city and the sea-bed was still rising. It was only a few hundred feet below the ship now. The road had disappeared. They were sailing above an open park-like country, dotted with little groves of brightly coloured vegetation. And then - Lucy nearly squealed aloud with excitement-she had seen People.

There were between fifteen and twenty of them, and all mounted on sea-horses - not the tiny little sea-horses which you may have seen in museums but horses rather bigger than themselves. They must be noble and lordly people, Lucy thought, for she could catch the gleam of gold on some of their foreheads and streamers of emerald- or orange-coloured stuff fluttered from their shoulders in the current. Then:

"Oh, bother these fish!" said Lucy, for a whole shoal of small fat fish, swimming quite close to the surface, had come between her and the Sea People. But though this spoiled her view it led to the most interesting thing of all.

Suddenly a fierce little fish of a kind she had never seen before came darting up from below, snapped, grabbed, and sank rapidly with one of the fat fish in its mouth. And all the Sea People were sitting on their horses staring up at what had happened. They seemed to be talking and laughing. And before the hunting fish had got back to them with its prey, another of the same kind came up from the Sea People. And Lucy was almost certain that one big Sea Man who sat on his sea-horse in the middle of the party had sent it or released it; as if he had been holding it back till then in his hand or on his wrist.

"Why, I do declare," said Lucy, "it's a hunting party. Or more like a hawking party. Yes, that's it. They ride out with these little fierce fish on their wrists just as we used to ride out with falcons on our wrists when we were Kings and Queens at Cair Paravel long ago. And then they fly them - or I suppose I should say swim them - at the others."

She stopped suddenly because the scene was changing. The Sea People had noticed the Dawn Treader. The shoal of fish hard scattered in every direction: the People themselves were coming up to find out the meaning of this big, black thing which had come between them and the sun. And now they were so close to the surface that if they had been in air, instead of water, Lucy could have spoken to them. There were men and women both. All wore coronets of some kind and many had chains of pearls. They wore no other clothes. Their bodies were the colour of old ivory, their hair dark purple. The King in the centre (no one could mistake him for anything but the King) looked proudly and fiercely into Lucy's face and shook a spear in his hand. His knights did the same. The faces of the ladies were filled with astonishment. Lucy felt sure they had never seen a ship or a human before - and how should they, in seas beyond the world's end where no ship ever came?
~C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)


*Cool link of the day: Victorian Web: The Kraken (1830) (Tennyson's poem, and the history of the legend of the Kraken)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sub(-marine) Creation

"It's our shadow! - the shadow of the Dawn Treader," said Lucy. "Our shadow running along on the bottom of the sea. That time when it got bigger it went over a hill. But in that case the water must be clearer than I thought! Good gracious, I must be seeing the bottom of the sea; fathoms and fathoms down."

As soon as she had said this she realized that the great silvery expanse which she had been seeing (without noticing) for some time was really the sand on the sea-bed and that all sorts of darker or brighter patches were not lights and shadows on the surface but real things on the bottom. At present, for instance, they were passing over a mass of soft purply green with a broad, winding strip of pale grey in the middle of it But now that she knew it was on the bottom she saw it much better. She could see that bits of the dark stuff were much higher than other bits and were waving gently. "Just like trees in a wind," said Lucy. "And do believe that's what they are. It's a submarine forest."

They passed on above it and presently the pale streak was joined by another pale streak. "If I was down there," thought Lucy, "that streak would be just like a road through the wood. And that place where it joins the other would be a crossroads. Oh, I do wish I was. Hallo! the forest is coming to an end. And I do believe the streak really was a road! I can still see it going on across the open sand. It's a different colour. And it's marked out with something at the edges - dotted lines. Perhaps they are stones. And now it's getting wider."

But it was not really getting wider, it was getting nearer. She realized this because of the way in which the shadow of the ship came rushing up towards her. And the road she felt sure it was a road now - began to go in zigzags. Obviously it was climbing up a steep hill. And when she held her head sideways and looked back, what she saw was very like what you see when you look down a winding road from the top of a hill. She could even see the shafts of sunlight falling through the deep water on to the wooded valley - and, in the extreme distance, everything melting away into a dim greenness. But some places - the sunny ones, she thought - were ultramarine blue.

She could not, however, spend much time looking back; what was coming into view in the forward direction was too exciting. The road had apparently now reached the top of the hill and ran straight forward. Little specks were moving to and fro on it. And now something most wonderful, fortunately in full sunlight - or as full as it can be when it falls through fathoms of water - flashed into sight. It was knobbly and jagged and of a pearly, or perhaps an ivory, colour. She was so nearly straight above it that at first she could hardly make out what it was. But everything became plain when she noticed its shadow. The sunlight was falling across Lucy's shoulders, so the shadow of the thing lay stretched out on the sand behind it. And by its shape she saw clearly that it was a shadow of towers and pinnacles, minarets and domes.

"Why! - it's a city or a huge castle," said Lucy to herself "But I wonder why they've built it on top of a high mountain?"
~C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)


On this day:

1945 C.S. Lewis published "The Laws of Nature" in the Coventry Evening Telegraph.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Forms of Things Unknown

As the truth dawned on him an excitement very different from that of terror seized him. He looked at their mis-shaped bodies; then down at his own limbs. Of course; that was what one looked like in a space suit. On his own head there was a similar monstrous globe, but fortunately not an opaque one. He was looking at three statues of spacemen: at statues of Trevor, Woodford, and Fox.

But then the Moon must have inhabitants; and rational inhabitants; more than that, artists.

And what artists! You might quarrel with their taste, for no line anywhere in any of the three statues had any beauty. You could not say a word against their skill. Except for the head and face inside each headpiece, which obviously could not be attempted in such a medium, they were perfect. Photographic accuracy had never reached such a point on earth. And though they were faceless you could see from the set of their shoulders and indeed of their whole bodies, that a momentary pose had been exactly seized. Each was the statue of a man turning to look behind him. Months of work had doubtless gone to the carving of each; it caught that instantaneous gesture like a stone snapshot.

Jenkin's idea was now to send his message once. Before anything happened to himself, Earth must hear this amazing news. He set off in great strides, and presently in leaps--now first enjoying lunar gravitation--for his ship and his own set. He was happy now. He had escaped his destiny. Petrified, eh? No more feelings? Feelings enough to last him forever.

He fixed the set so that he could stand with his back to the sun. He worked the gimmicks. 'Jenkin, speaking from the Moon,' he began.

His own huge black shadow lay out before him. There is no noise on the Moon. Up from behind the shoulders of his own shadow another shadow pushed its way along the dazzling rock. It was that of a human head. And what a head of hair. It was all rising, writhing--swaying in the wind perhaps. Very thick the hairs looked. Then as he turned in terror, there flashed through his mind the thought, 'But there's no wind. No air. It can't be blowing about.' His eyes met hers.
~C.S. Lewis, from the short story "Forms of Things Unknown" first published posthumously in Of Other Worlds, (1966) edited by Walter Hooper


On this day:

1922 C.S. Lewis sat by an open window and began writing his poem Dymer.

"It came in lecture-time one April morning
--Alas for laws and locks, reproach and praise,
Who ever learned to censor the spring days?
A little breeze came stirring to his cheek..."

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Psalms

The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance. I am not saying that this is so pure or so profound a thing as the love of God reached by the greatest Christian saints and mystics. But I am not comparing it with that, I am comparing it with the merely dutiful "church-going" and laborious "saying our prayers" to which most of us are, thank God not always, but often reduced. Against that it stands out as something astonishingly robust, virile, and spontaneous; something we may regard with an innocent envy and may hope to be infected by as we read.
~C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, Chapter V "The Fair Beauty of the Lord" (1958)

On this day:

1957 Joy Gresham Lewis leaves the hospital with little hope of recovery, and is moved to The Kilns as Lewis's wife, joining her sons, David and Douglas.