A Carol of Amen House



Over this house a star
Shines in the heavens high,
Beauty remote and afar,
Beauty that shall not die;

Beauty desired and dreamed,
Followed in storm and sun,
Beauty the gods have schemed
And mortals at last have won.

Beauty arose of old
And dreamed of a perfect thing,
Where none shall be angry or cold
Or armed with an evil sting;

Where the world shall be made anew,
For the gods shall breathe its air,
And Phoebus Apollo there-through
Shall move on a golden stair.

The star that all lives shall seek,
That makers of books desire;
All that in anywise speak
Look to this silver fire:

O'er the toil that is giv'n to do,
O'er the search and the grinding pain
Seen by the holy few,
Perfection glimmers again.

O dreamed in an eager youth,
O known between friend and friend,
Seen by the seekers of truth,
Lo, peace and the perfect end!

(Charles Williams)

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3 comments:

Roger R. said...

Having just returned from a week's Study School in Oxford, I was reminded of this poem by visiting once again Charles and Michal's grave in St. Cross Cemetery; now also the grave of their only son.

Years ago on the anniversary of Charles' death I placed this poem on his grave... changing the word 'house' in the first line to 'grave'.

Iambic Admonit said...

This is a beautiful poem, full of the sehnsucht that characterises all the Inklings' work. Having said that, I pause: Williams, here, focuses more on the fulfillment of the desire than the desire itself in such lines as:
mortals at last have won.
Seen by the seekers of truth,
Lo, peace and the perfect end!

This seems a superficially more orthodox position than Lewis's of a longing that is more desirable than any satisfaction. Does anyone know what Williams's ideas were on Lewis's "joy"?

-- Admonit

Nomad said...

I don’t know when ‘A Carol of Amen House’ was written, but I don’t doubt that there would have been many lively discussions that’d at least involve (if not be wholly consumed by) concepts of Joy and ‘Northernness’, longing, awaiting, between Lewis and Williams-- and various combinations of their friends!-- but yes, I do always think of 'sehnsucht', as well... and these lines remind me of a Christian's living at once 'in the now and the not yet' (which would necessarily be an element in Williams' notion of Co-Inherence, I think). I do think there’s still that tension, if you will, in this poem, between the ‘desired and dreamed’ and ‘won’.
‘You ARE saved and you ARE BEING saved…’ Oh, bother--what’s the verse again?

Beauty which ‘Mortals at last have won’--is this not perhaps in part a reference to Christ’s incarnation and the beginning of His Kingdom on earth (the *beginning*, mind you)? At least, that’s part of what usually comes to mind whenever I read this.

I know still very little of Charles Williams, though, and though this poem's been important to me for a long time, I certainly could be reading too much into it or misinterpreting it.

And I can never think of 'sehnsucht' without thinking of a song I love dearly, Schubert's setting of Friedrich Ruckert's (sorry, don't know how to do umlauts) poem 'Du bist die Ruh' (and a song probably not unknown to either Lewis or Williams)…

…Die Sehnsucht du
Und was sie stillt.

…The longing, you,
And what stills [or 'satisfies'] it.