Monday, October 31, 2005

The Turn of the Tide

Breathless was the air over Bethlehem. Black and bare
Were the fields; hard as granite the clods;
Hedges stiff with ice; the sedge in the vice
Of the pool, like pointed iron rods.
And the deathly stillness spread from Bethlehem. It was shed
Wider each moment on the land;
Through rampart and wall into camp and into hall
Stole the hush; all tongues were at a stand.
At the Procurator's feast the jocular freedman ceased
His story, and gaped. All were glum
Travellers at their beer in a tavern turned to hear
The landlord; their oracle was dumb.
But the silence flowed forth to the islands and the North
And smoothed the unquiet river bars
And levelled out the waves from their revelling and paved
The sea with cold reflected stars.
Where the Caesar on Palatine sat at ease to sign,
Without anger, signatures of death,
There stole into his room and on his soul a gloom,
And his pen faltered, and his breath.
Then to Carthage and the Gauls, past Parthia and the Falls
Of Nile and Mount Amara it crept;
The romp and war of beast in swamp and jungle ceased,
The forest grew still as though it slept.
So it ran about the girth of the planet. From the Earth
A signal, a warning, went out
And away behind the air. Her neighbours were aware
Of change. They were troubled with a doubt.

Salamanders in the Sun that brandish as they run
Tails like the Americas in size
Were stunned by it and dazed; wondering, they gazed
Up at Earth, misgiving in their eyes.
In Houses and Signs Ousiarchs divine
Grew pale and questioned what it meant;
Great Galactal lords stood back to back with swords
Half-drawn, awaiting the event,
And a whisper among them passed, 'Is this perhaps the last
Of our story and the glories of our crown?
--The entropy worked out?--The central redoubt
Abandoned? The world-spring running down?
Then they could speak no more. Weakness overbore
Even them. They were as flies in a web,
In their lethargy stone-dumb. The death had almost come;
The tide lay motionless at ebb. be continued tomorrow! ~Arevanye

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Ancient Rulers of Charn

For a second they thought the room was full of people - hundreds of people, all seated, and all perfectly still. Polly and Digory, as you may guess, stood perfectly still themselves for a good long time, looking in. But presently they decided that what they were looking at could not be real people. There was not a movement nor the sound of a breath among them all. They were like the most wonderful waxworks you ever saw. [...]

"Why haven't these clothes all rotted away long ago?" asked Polly.

"Magic," whispered Digory. "Can't you feel it? I bet this whole room is just stiff with enchantments. I could feel it the moment we came in."

But Digory was more interested in the faces, and indeed these were well worth looking at. The people sat in their stone chairs on each side of the room and the floor was left free down the middle. You could walk down and look at the faces in turn.

"They were nice people, I think," said Digory. Polly nodded. All the faces they could see were certainly nice. Both the men and women looked kind and wise, and they seemed to come of a handsome race. But after the children had gone a few steps down the room they came to faces that looked a little different. These were very solemn faces. You felt you would have to mind your P's and Q's, if you ever met living people who looked like that. When they had gone a little further, they found themselves among faces they didn't like: this was about the middle of the room. The faces here looked very strong and proud and happy, but they looked cruel. A little further on they looked crueller. Further on again, they were still cruel but they no longer looked happy. They were even despairing faces: as if the people they belonged to had done dreadful things and also suffered dreadful things. The last figure of all was the most interesting - a woman even more richly dressed than the others, very tall (but every figure in that room was taller than the people of our world), with a look of such fierceness and pride that it took your breath away. Yet she was beautiful too.
~C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew, "The Bell and the Hammer", (1955)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

On Scientific Theories

A scientific theory must 'save' or 'preserve' the appearances, the phenomena, it deals with, in the sense of getting them all in, doing justice to them. Thus for example, your phenomena are luminous points in the night sky which exhibit such and such movement in relation to one another and in relation to an observer at a particular point, or various chosen points, on the surface of the Earth. Your astronomical theory will be a supposal such that, if it were true, the apparent motions from the point or points of observation would be those you have actually observed. The theory will then have 'got in' or 'saved' the appearances.

But if we demanded no more than that from a theory, science would be impossible, for a lively inventive faculty could devise a good many different supposals which would equally save the phenomena. We have therefore had to supplement the canon of saving the phenomena by another canon--first, perhaps, formulated with full clarity by Occam. According to this second canon we must accept (provisionally) not any theory which saves the phenomena but that theory which does so with the fewest possible assumptions. Thus the two theories (a) that the bad bits in Shakespeare were all put in by adapters, and (b) that Shakespeare wrote them when he was not at his best, will equally 'save' the appearances. But we already know that there was such a person as Shakespeare and that writers are not always at their best. If scholarship hopes ever to achieve the steady progress of the sciences, we must therefore (provisionally) accept the second theory. If we can explain the bad bits without the assumption of an adapter, we must.

In every age it will be apparent to accurate thinkers that scientific theories, being arrived at in the way I have described, are never statement of fact. That stars appear to move in such and such ways, or that substances behaved thus and thus in the laboratory; these are statements of fact. The astronomical or chemical theory can never be more than provisional. It will have to be abandoned if a more ingenious person thinks of a supposal which would 'save' the observed phenomena with still fewer assumptions, or if we discover new phenomena which it cannot save at all.
~C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, "Reservations" (1964)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Pilgrim's Problem

By now I should be entering on the supreme stage
Of the whole walk, reserved for the late afternoon.
The heat was to be over now; the anxious mountains,
The airless valleys and the sun-baked rocks, behind me.

Now, or soon now, if all is well, come the majestic
Rivers of foamless charity that glide beneath
Forests of contemplation. In the grassy clearings
Humility with liquid eyes and damp, cool nose
Should come, half-tame, to eat bread from my hermit hand.
If storms arose, then in my tower of fortitude--
It ought to have been in sight by this--I would take refuge;
But I expected rather a pale mackerel sky,
Feather-like, perhaps shaking from a lower cloud
Light drops of silver temperance, and clovery earth
Sending up mists of chastity, a country smell,
Till earnest stars blaze out in the established sky
Rigid with justice; the streams audible; my rest secure.

I can see nothing like all this. Was the map wrong?
Maps can be wrong. But the experienced walker knows
That the other explanation is more often true.
~C.S. Lewis, Poems, (poem 1st published in The Month, May 1952)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm As Good As You

Screwtape reveals the devilish genius behind getting humans to assert, "I'm as good as you are":

The first and most obvious advantage is that you thus induce him to enthrone at the centre of his life a good, solid resounding lie. I don't mean merely that his statement is false in fact, that he is no more equal to everyone he meets in kindness, honesty, and good sense than in height or waist-measurement. I mean that he does not believe it himself. No man who says I'm as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority. No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food. 'Here is someone who speaks English rather more clearly and euphoniously than I--it must be a vile, upstage, lah-di-dah affectation. Here's a fellow who says he doesn't like hot dogs--thinks himself too good for them no doubt. Here's a man who hasn't turned on the jukebox--he must be one of those highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were the right sort of chaps they'd be like me. They've no business to be different. It's undemocratic.'
~C.S. Lewis, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", The Screwtape Letters (1942)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Better 52 than 16

Today is a "guest" quotation of sorts--an excerpt from the diary of Warren H. Lewis, C.S. Lewis's older brother:

Friday, 4th July, 1947--

After dinner I read about half of the batch of [the new] Hobbit* which Tollers** sent me: how does he keep it up? The crossing of the marshes by Frodo, Sam and Gollum in particular is magnificent....After tea another walk...While I was hesitating in the wet grey twilight, a corncrake started up in a field of young wheat, and no nightingale could have ravished me as did its harsh song...As I plodded home in the rain, under weather conditions themselves extraordinarily reminiscent of old days, my mind was full of pictures evoked by the corncrake: particularly of smoking cigarettes with Jack on the top of the bow of the study window, reached by climbing out of our bedroom window. But while my thoughts are tender, I could not summon a single regret; at 52 I may be nearing the end of the race, but how infinitely preferable it is to be 52 rather than 16! It is astonishing to me that practically the whole weight of literature takes it as axiomatic that nothing can make up for the loss of youth; at least Lamb and Stevenson are the only two men I can think of at the moment who have anything to say on the other side. Meditating as I walked, I came to the conclusion that discontent and envy made the permanent background of my youth--envy, hopeless permanent envy of those who were good at games: of those with attractive manners: of those who got their clothes made in town and owned motor bykes: even of those who were good looking: and all coupled with that self consciousness which at 15 or 16 can be a perfect torment...
No, give me the level road of the 'fifties, and anyone who likes may sigh for the ecstasies of youth. Ecstasies there are to be sure: I remember as if it were last week the first time I walked up College with a double first: but then so do I remember the time when I was senior enough to suffer agonies at being snubbed by the head of the House.
~Warren H. Lewis, Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis, (ed. Clyde S. Kilby & Marjorie Lamp Mead, 1982)

*The Lord of the Rings

**J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tenderhearted Susan

"Will you have a shooting match with my sister? There are no tricks in archery, you know."

"Ah, you're jokers, you are," said the Dwarf. "I begin to see. As if I didn't know how she can shoot, after what happened this morning. All the same, I'll have a try." He spoke gruffly, but his eyes brightened, for he was a famous bowman among his own people.

All five of them came out into the courtyard.

"What's to be the target?" asked Peter.

"I think that apple hanging over the wall on the branch there would do," said Susan.

"That'll do nicely, lass," said Trumpkin. "You mean the yellow one near the middle of the arch?"

"No, not that," said Susan. "The red one up above - over the battlement."

The Dwarf's face fell. "Looks more like a cherry than an apple," he muttered, but he said nothing out loud.

They tossed up for first shot (greatly to the interest of Trumpkin, who had never seen a coin tossed before) and Susan lost. They were to shoot from the top of the steps that led from the hall into the courtyard. Everyone could see from the way the Dwarf took his position and handled his bow that he knew what he was about.

Twang went the string. It was an excellent shot. The tiny apple shook as the arrow passed, and a leaf came fluttering down. Then Susan went to the top of the steps and strung her bow. She was not enjoying her match half so much as Edmund had enjoyed his; not because she had any doubt about hitting the apple but because Susan was so tenderhearted that she almost hated to beat someone who had been beaten already. The Dwarf watched her keenly as she drew the shaft to her ear. A moment later, with a little soft thump which they could all hear in that quiet place, the apple fell to the grass with Susan's arrow in it.

"Oh, well done, Su, " shouted the other children.

"It wasn't really any better than yours," said Susan to the Dwarf. "I think there was a tiny breath of wind as you shot."
~C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, (1951)

Fun link of the day: buy an Apple/Arrow weathervane

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Miracle of the Fig-Tree

Christ's single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God's sentence on all that is 'fruitless' and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance. As a miracle, it again does in focus, repeats small and close, what God does constantly and throughout Nature. We have seen [...] how God, twisting Satan's weapon out of his hand, had become, since the Fall, the God even of human death. But much more, and perhaps ever since the creation, He has been the God of the death of the organisms. In both cases, though in somewhat different ways, He is the God of death because He is the God of Life: the God of human death because through it increase of life now comes--the God of merely organic death because death is part of the very mode by which organic life spreads itself out in Time and yet remains new. A forest a thousand years deep is still collectively alive because some trees are dying and others are growing up. His human face, turned with negation in its eyes upon that one fig-tree, did once what His unincarnate action does to all trees. No tree died that year in Palestine, or any year anywhere, except because God did--or rather ceased to do--something to it.
~C.S. Lewis, Miracles, "Miracles of the Old Creation" (1947)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Geniality of Love

The natural loves are not self-sufficient. Something else, at first vaguely described as 'decency and common sense', but later revealed as goodness, and finally as the whole Christian life in one particular relation, must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.

To say this is not to belittle the natural loves but to indicate where their real glory lies. It is no disparagement to a garden to say that it will not fence and weed itself, nor prune its own fruit trees, nor roll and cut its own lawns. A garden is a good thing but that is not the sort of goodness it has. It will remain a garden, as distinct from a wilderness, only if someone does all these things to it. Its real glory is of quite a different kind. The very fact that it needs constant weeding and pruning bears witness to that glory. It teems with life. It glows with colour and smells like heaven and puts forward at every hour of a summer day beauties which man could never have created and could not even, on his own resources, have imagined. If you want to see the difference between its contribution and the gardener's, put the commonest weed it grows side by side with his hoes, rakes, shears, and packet of weed killer; you have put beauty, energy and fecundity beside dead, sterile things. Just so, our 'decency and common sense' show grey and deathlike beside the geniality of love.
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, "Charity" (1960)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

IV. Victory

Roland is dead, Cuchulain's crest is low,
The battered war-rear wastes and turns to rust,
And Helen's eyes and Iseult's lips are dust
And dust the shoulders and the breasts of snow.

The faerie people from our woods are gone,
No Dryads have I found in all our trees,
No Triton blows his horn about our seas
And Arthur sleeps far hence in Avalon.

The ancient songs they wither as the grass
And waste as doth a garment waxen old,
All poets have been fools who thought to mould
A monument more durable than brass.

For these decay: but not for that decays
The yearning, high, rebellious spirit of man
That never rested yet since life began
From striving with red Nature and her ways.

Now in the filth of war, the baresark shout
Of battle, it is vexed. And yet so oft
Out of the deeps, of old, it rose aloft
That they who watch the ages may not doubt.

Though often bruised, oft broken by the rod,
Yet, like the phoenix, from each fiery bed
Higher the stricken spirit lifts its head
And higher-till the beast become a god.
~C.S. Lewis, Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics (published under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton (1919)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Treasures from Children

Dear Hugh, Anne, Noelie, Nicholas, Martin, Rosamund, Matthew, and Miriam,

You have sent me such a lot of treasures I don't know where to begin. Your story, Martin, is good and keeps one right to the end guessing what is really happening. I am a little bit surprised that the Policeman did not feel at all afraid of such a strange hostess. Or did he, and you didn't tell us? I think just a word about how he felt, and a name for him, are the only improvements I can suggest. The one place where you do tell us what it felt like for him ("He thought a moment") does a bit of good to the story. In Hugh's picture of the Dufflepuds what I like best (though the D's themselves are quite good) is the ship, just the right sort of ship, and the shadow of the ship, and the windiness of the sky. I mean, I like a picture of out-of-door things to look as if it was really out of doors--as this does. But you all seem able to do that. Nicky's Reepicheep shows the sunlight splendidly by the shadows of the trees. But what I like best of all is the "spirit of a tree". It is so beautifully wavy and graceful and is moving so. Bravo!

The typescript of your book went off to the publisher last week, though it will not be out till next year. It is called The Magician's Nephew.* You must have often wondered how the old Professor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe could have believed all the children told him about Narnia. The reason was that he had been there himself as a little boy. This book tells you how he went there, and (of course that was ages and ages ago by Narnian times) how he saw Aslan creating Narnia, and how the White Witch first got into that world and why there was a lamp-post in the middle of that forest. The one before yours (The Horse and His Boy) is also dedicated to two Americans** and will be out "this Autumn" (Fall, as you say). It is still cold here but the snowdrops, crocuses, primroses and daffodils are up and the thrushes are building nests. Love to all,

Yours ever,
C.S. Lewis

~Letters to Children, Letter of March 19, 1954

*Lewis dedicted The Magician's Nephew to this family of American children.
** David and Douglas Gresham

Friday, October 14, 2005

Falling Into Narnia

"I'll smash the rotten thing," cried Eustace; and then several things happened at the same time. Eustace rushed towards the picture. Edmund, who knew something about magic, sprang after him, warning him to look out and not to be a fool. Lucy grabbed at him from the other side and was dragged forward. And by this time either they had grown much smaller or the picture had grown bigger. Eustace jumped to try to pull it off the wall and found himself standing on the frame; in front of him was not glass but real sea, and wind and waves rushing up to the frame as they might to a rock. He lost his head and clutched at the other two who had jumped up beside him. There was a second of struggling and shouting, and just as they thought they had got their balance a great blue roller surged up round them, swept them off their feet, and drew them down into the sea. Eustace's despairing cry suddenly ended as the water got into his mouth.

Lucy thanked her stars that she had worked hard at her swimming last summer term. It is true that she would have got on much better if she had used a slower stroke, and also that the water felt a great deal colder than it had looked while it was only a picture. Still, she kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everyone ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes. She even kept her mouth shut and her eyes open. They were still quite near the ship; she saw its green side towering high above them, and people looking at her from the deck. Then, as one might have expected, Eustace clutched at her in a panic and down they both went.

When they came up again she saw a white figure diving off the ship's side. Edmund was close beside her now, treading water, and had caught the arms of the howling Eustace. Then someone else, whose face was vaguely familiar, slipped an arm under her from the other side. There was a lot of shouting going on from the ship, heads crowding together above the bulwarks, ropes being thrown. Edmund and the stranger were fastening ropes round her. After that followed what seemed a very long delay during which her face got blue and her teeth began chattering. In reality the delay was not very long; they were waiting till the moment when she could be got on board the ship without being dashed against its side. Even with all their best endeavours she had a bruised knee when she finally stood, dripping and shivering, on the deck. After her Edmund was heaved up, and then the miserable Eustace. Last of all came the stranger - a golden-headed boy some years older than herself.

"Ca - Ca - Caspian!" gasped Lucy as soon as she had breath enough. For Caspian it was; Caspian, the boy king of Narnia whom they had helped to set on the throne during their last visit. Immediately Edmund recognized him too. All three shook hands and clapped one another on the back with great delight.
~C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, (1952)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

On Affection

Affection has its own criteria. Its objects have to be familiar. We can sometimes point to the very day and hour when we fell in love or began a new friendship. I doubt if we ever catch Affection beginning. To become aware of it is to become aware that it has already been going on for some time. The use of "old" or vieux as a term of Affection is significant. The dog barks at strangers who have never done it any harm and wags its tail for old acquaintances even if they never did it a good turn. The child will love a crusty old gardener who has hardly ever taken any notice of it and shrink from the visitor who is making every attempt to win its regard. But it must be an old gardener, one who has "always" been there--the short but seemingly immemorial "always" of childhood.

Affection, as I have said, is the humblest love. It gives itself no airs. People can be proud of being "in love", or of friendship. Affection is modest--even furtive and shame-faced. Once when I had remarked on the affection quite often found between cat and dog, my friend replied, "Yes. But I bet no dog would ever confess it to the other dogs."
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, (1960)

On this day:

1961 An Experiment in Criticism is published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (A Year With C.S. Lewis)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The West-Wind Himself

The wind got wilder and wilder. It seemed to be lifting me off the ground so that, if it hadn't been for the iron round my waist, I'd have been blown right away, up in the air. And then--at last--for a moment--I saw him."

"Saw whom?"

"The West Wind"

"Saw it?"

"Not it; him. The god of the wind; West-wind himself."

"Were you awake, Psyche?"

"Oh, it was no dream. One can't dream things like that, because one's never seen things like that. He was in human shape. But you couldn't mistake him for a man. Oh, Sister, you'd understand if you'd seen. How can I make you understand? You've seen lepers?"

"Well of course."

"And you know how healthy people look beside a leper?"

"You mean--healthier, ruddier than ever?"

"Yes. Now we, beside the gods, are like lepers beside us."

"Do you mean this god was so red?"

She laughted and clapped her hands. "Oh, it's no use," she said. "I see I've not given you the idea at all. Never mind. You shall see gods for yourself, Orual. It must be so; I'll make it so. Somehow. There must be a way. Look, this may help you. when I saw West-wind I was neither glad nor afraid (at first). I felt ashamed."

"But what of? Psyche, they hadn't stripped you naked or anything?"

"No, no, Maia. Ashamed of looking like a mortal--ashamed of being a mortal."

"But how could you help that?"

"Don't you think the things people are most ashamed of are the things they can't help?"

I thought of my ugliness and said nothing.
~C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, (1956)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Changes and Disappointments

A note from Lewis's diary from Tuesday, May 22, 1923. Lewis was just finishing a very difficult time in his young life, where he had been working day and night to finish his English schools at Oxford (work normally accomplished in a three-year time span he was attempting to complete in nine months) and caring for the mentally ill brother of Mrs. Moore, Dr. John Askins. After sleepless nights spent caring for the raving, screaming patient, Lewis was attempting to find a permanent work situation to ease their financial woes, and they had to move house to boot:

After my last entry there followed a period so busy and on the whole so miserable that I had neither time nor heart to continue my diary, nor poetry, nor pleasant effort of any sort.

Our move to "Hillsboro" was carried out according to plan: but our friend Tolley (whom we had to turn off) had left so much undone and so much to undo that we had to put off the arrival of the furniture for a fortnight. The interval of "camping"--helped by a spell of delightful weather--was not so uncomfortable as I expected and we sat down so seldom that the scarcity of furniture, borrowed from Miss Featherstone, was hardly noticed. The garden was a great joy and there were some pleasant moments when we saw our chosen wall papers going up[...]

We naturally hoped more and more intensely every day that we should get the Exeter Fellowship: but Carritt told me just before I sent my papers in that Joseph of New College said it was a dud election--they had a candidate of their own already picked out for it. This disappointment threw me into a very childish rage against the old men and I believe I really understood how the Queen Anne satirists used to feel. I have now got over it...

Warnie was here for the Whitsun week end and departed yesterday: this time I thoroughly enjoyed his visit, although it has unsettled me with acute envy of the comfortable, care free, pleasant life by which he has solved the problem of existence: vobis parta quies*. I think I have the curse of something of my father's luck and temperament and shall be in a fidget as long as I am above ground.
~C.S. Lewis, All My Road Before Me (edited by Walter Hooper, 1991)

*from the Aeneid: "You [Andromache and Helenas, survivors from the sack of Troy] have won your rest [unlike me, Aeneas, who has to sail to Italy]."


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 32 years later. (A Year with C.S. Lewis)

Monday, October 10, 2005

And the Sun Rises

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A leap--a cry--flurry of steel and claw,
Then silence. As before, the morning light
And the same brute crouched yonder; and he saw
Under its feet, broken and bent and white,
The ruined limbs of Dymer, killed outright
All in a moment, all his story done.
...But that same moment came the rising sun;


And thirty miles to westward, the grey cloud
Flushed into answering pink, long shadows streamed
From every hill, and the low-hanging shroud
Of mist along the valleys broke and steamed
Gold-flecked to heaven. Far off the armour gleamed
Like glass upon the dead man's back. But now
The sentinel ran forward, hand to brow.


And staring. For between him and the sun
He saw that country clothed with dancing flowers
Where flower had never grown; and one by one
The splintered woods, as if from April showers,
Were softening into green. In the leafy towers
Rose the cool, sudden chattering on the tongues
Of happy birds with morning in their lungs.


The wave of flowers came breaking round his feet,
Crocus and bluebell, primrose, daffodil
Shivering with moisture: and the air grew sweet
Within his nostrils, changing heart and will,
Making him laugh. He looked, and Dymer still
Lay dead among the flowers and pinned beneath
The brute: but as he looked he held his breath;


For when he had gazed hard with steady eyes
Upon the brute, behold, no brute was there,
But someone towering large against the skies,
A wing'd and sworded shape, whose foam-like hair
Lay white about its shoulders, and the air
That came from it was burning hot. The whole
Pure body rimmed with life, as a full bowl.


And from the distant corner of day's birth
He heard clear trumpets blowing and bells ring
A noise of great good coming into earth
And such a music as the dumb would sing
If Balder had led back the blameless spring
With victory, with the voice of charging spears,
And in white lands long-lost Saturnian years.

~C.S. Lewis, Dymer, Canto IX, verses 30 - 35, 1926


Many thanks to Bob for filling in last week!

Friday, October 07, 2005


Shortly after the last apple had been eaten, Susan went out to the well to get another drink. When she came back she was carrying something in her hand.

"Look," she said in a rather choking kind of voice. "I found it by the well." She handed it to Peter and sat down. The others thought she looked and sounded as if she might be going to cry. Edmund and Lucy eagerly bent forward to see what was in Peter's hand--a little, bright thing that gleamed in the firelight.

"Well, I'm--I'm jiggered," said Peter, and his voice also sounded queer. Then he handed it to the others.

All now saw what it was--a little chess-knight, ordinary in size but extraordinarily heavy because it was made of pure gold; and the eyes in the horse's head were two tiny rubies--or rather one was, for the other had been knocked out.

"Why!" said Lucy, "it's exactly like one of the golden chessmen we used to play with when we were Kings and Queens at Cair Paravel."

"Cheer up, Su," said Peter to his other sister.

"I can't help it, said Susan. "It brought back--oh, such lovely times. And I remembered playing chess with fauns and good giants, and the mer-people singing in the sea, and my beautiful horse--and--and--"
~C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (1951)

Note to the blog: Arevanye should be back on Monday. I've enjoyed this week, and thanks to everybody for putting up with a substitute for a week.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Life in the Potiphar family

To his brother

25 February 1940

The vicar preached a very good sermon on Joseph[...]Reflection on the story raised in my mind a problem I never happened to have thought of before; why was Joseph imprisoned and not killed by Potiphar? Surely it seems extraordinary mild treatment for attempted rape of a great lady by a slave? Or must one assume that Potiphar, tho' ignorant of the lady's intention to make him a cuckold, was aware in general that her stories about the servants were to be taken with a grain of salt--that his real view was 'I don't suppose for a moment that Joseph did anything of the sort, but I foresee there'll be no peace till I get him out of the house'? One is tempted to imagine the whole life of the Potiphar family, e.g. how often had he heard similar stories from her before?
~The Letters of C.S. Lewis


You can find the story of Joseph and Potiphar in Genesis 39, which is online here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

You and Me

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: 'What are you asking God to do?' To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.

One caution, and I have done. In order to rouse modern minds to an understanding of the issues, I ventured to introduce in this chapter a picture of the sort of bad man whom we most easily perceive to be truly bad. But when the picture has done that work, the sooner it is forgotten the better. In all discussions of Hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends (since both these disturb the reason) but of ourselves. This chapter is not about your wife or son, nor about Nero or Judas Iscariot; it is about you and me.
~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain Chapter 8, (1940)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Illusions of Independence

Aug 10th 53

Dear Mrs. ------

I have just got your letter of the 6th. Oh I do so sympathise with you; job-hunting, even in youth, is a heartbreaking affair and to have to go back to it now must be simply--I was going to say "simply Hell", but no one who is engaged in prayer and humility, as you are, can be there, so I'd better say "Purgatory". (We have as a matter of fact good authorities for calling it something better than Purgatory. We are told that even those tribulations which fall upon us by necessity, if embraced for Christ's sake, become as meritorious as voluntary sufferings and every missed meal can be converted into a fast if taken in the right way.) I suppose--tho' the person who is not suffering feels shy about saying it to the person who is--that it is good for us to be cured of the illusion of "independence". For of course independence, the state of being indebted to no one, is eternally impossible. Who, after all, is more totally dependent than what we call the man "of independent means". Every shirt he wears is made by other people out of other organisms and the only difference between him and us is that even the money whereby he pays for it was earned by other people. Of course you ought to be dependent on your daughter and son-in-law. Support of parents is a most ancient and universally acknowledged duty. And if you come to find yourself dependent on anyone else you mustn't mind. But I am very, very sorry. I'm a panic-y person about money myself (which is a most shameful confession and a thing dead against our Lord's words) and poverty frightens me more than anything else except large spiders and the tops of cliffs; one is sometimes even tempted to say that if God wanted us to live like the lilies of the field He might have given us an organism more like theirs! But of course He is right. And when you meet anyone who does live like the lilies, one sees that He is. God keep you and encourage you. I am just about to go off to Ireland where I shall be moving about, so I shan't hear from you for several weeks. All blessings and deepest sympathy.

C.S. Lewis

Letters to an American Lady (1967)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Breakfast! Better than talking.

"Come on, then, come on," said the Dwarf, at once throwing his thick little arms round Shasta's waist to support him. "Why, neighbors, we ought all to be ashamed of ourselves! You come with me, lad. Breakfast! Better than talking."

With a great deal of bustle, muttering reproaches to itself, the Dwarf half led and half supported Shasta at a great speed further into the wood and a little downhill. It was a longer walk than Shasta had wanted at that moment and his legs had begun to feel very shaky before they came out from the trees onto bare hillside. There they found a little house with a smoking chimney and an open door, and as they came to the doorway Duffle called out:

"Hey, brothers! A visitor for breakfast."

And immediately, mixed with a sizzling sound, there came to Shasta a simply delightful smell. It was one he had never smelled before, but I hope you have. It was, in fact, the smell of bacon and eggs and mushrooms all frying in a pan.

"Mind your head, lad," said Duffle a moment too late, for Shasta had already bashed his forehead against the low lintel of the door. "Now," continued the Dwarf, "sit you down. The table's a bit low for you, but then the stool's low too. That's right. And here's porridge--and here's a jug of cream--and here's a spoon."

By the time Shasta had finished his porridge, the Dwarf's two brothers (whose names were Rogin and Bricklethumb) were putting the dish of bacon and eggs and mushrooms, and the coffeepot and the hot milk, and the toast on the table.

It was all new and wonderful to Shasta for Calormene food is quite different. He didn't even know what the slices of brown stuff were, for he had never seen toast before. He didn't know what the yellow soft thin they smeared on the toast was, because in Calormen you nearly always get oil instead of butter.[...] It was also rather troublesome having to use dwarf cups and plates and knives and forks. This meant that helpings were very small, but then there were a great many helpings, so that Shasta's plate or cup was being filled every moment, and every moment the Dwarfs themselves were saying, "Butter, please," or "Another cup of coffee," or "I'd like a few more mushrooms," or "What about frying another egg or so?" And when at last they had all eaten as much as they possibly could the three Dwarfs drew lots for who would do the washing-up, and Rogin was the unlucky one.
~C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy (1954)

Note to the blog: I'm sorry that I'm getting this up rather later in the day than Arevanye usually does. I got home to my breakfast late today and this seemed apt.