Friday, May 27, 2005

To Charles Williams

by C.S. Lewis

Your death blows a strange bugle call, friend, and all is hard
To see plainly or record truly. The new light imposes change,
Re-adjusts all a life-landscape as it thrusts down its probe from the sky,
To create shadows, to reveal waters, to erect hills and deepen glens.
The slant alters. I can't see the old contours. It's a larger world
Than I once thought it. I wince, caught in the bleak air that blows on the ridge.
Is it the first sting of a great winter, the world-waning? Or the cold air of spring?

A hard question and worth talking a whole night on. But with whom?
Of whom now can I ask guidance? With what friend concerning your death
Is it worth while to exchange thoughts unless--oh, unless it were you?

* * *

A beautiful poem on the death of a close friend. Lewis's poetry can be hard to understand sometimes, but this poem is very sharp and sweet.

The first section of the poem expresses the speaker's confusion. He doesn't know how to face his friend's death. Everything is different now. The land has not changed, but the light has changed and turned the land to an unfamiliar landscape. There is a chill in the air--is it winter, or just a spring chill? He can't get the perspective to be able to tell.

The last three lines, however, are the really moving part. The speaker wants to talk to someone about what he's going through. But the only one he could have told is the one person he can't talk to anymore. It's contradictory, but a paradox we all have to deal with at some point in our lives.

I think Charles Williams, by the way, was an Inkling. Does anyone know anything else about him?


White Phantom said...

I'm sorry this isn't a very exciting or insightful post, but you've been tagged for the book meme! (And I have no idea what it is either.)

Gene O'Grady said...

Charles Williams was an "Inkling," or at least an Oxford associate of theirs. I believe he wrote some rather good books on Dante that were popular when I was young.

You may be curious to know that Enchiridion includes among its other meanings in Greek "dagger" (since it's held in the hand).

Meredith said...

Charles Williams was definitely an Inkling. Tolkien didn't really like his work and thought that Lewis's Narnia books were spoiled by his influence. Williams wrote a book called The Figure of Beatrice which is a Dante study that I like a lot. He wrote a novel where some of the characters were Platonic forms...

That's pretty much what I know about him.