Coins, his dragon's loins

The king has set up his mint by Thames.
He has struck coins; his dragon's loins
germinate a crowded creaturely brood
to scuttle and scurry between towns and towns,
to furnish dishes and flagons with change of food;
small crowns, small dragons, hurry to the markets
under the king's smile, or flat in houses squat.
The long file of their snout crosses the empire,
and the other themes acknowledge our king's head.
They carry on their backs little packs of value,
caravans; but I dreamed the head of a dead king
was carried on all, that they teemed on house-roofs
where men stared and studied them as I your thumbs' epigrams,
hearing the City say Feed my lambs
to you and the king; the king can tame dragons to carriers,
but I came through the night, and saw the dragonlets' eyes
leer and peer, and the house-roofs under their weight
creak and break; shadows of great forms
halloed them on, and followed over falling towns.
I saw that this was the true end of our making;
mother of children, redeem the new law.

Taliessin's look darkened; his hand shook
while he touched the dragons; he said 'We had a good thought.
Sir, if you made verse you would doubt symbols.
I am afraid of the little loosed dragons.
When the means are autonomous, they are deadly; when words
escape from verse they hurry to rape souls;
when sensation slips from intellect, expect the tyrant;
the brood of carriers levels the good they carry.
We have taught our images to be free; are we glad?
are we glad to have brought convenient heresy to Logres?

Charles Williams ~ ‘Bors to Elayne: on the King’s Coins’
Arthurian Poets (The Boydell Press) 1991 (extract)

---oOo---
Lewis on Taliessin
Dec. 15th 1945
“... I am (these last 6 months) immersed in a v. different poet who I think great – Charles Williams: the two volumes of his Arthurian poems Taliessin and The Region of the Summer Stars. Inexcusably difficult, as I always told him, but here there really is something behind the difficulty – that something wh. we all need most in literature at present & wh. I wd. call opaque splendour – thick, rich, solid, heavy – porphyry, gold diamond.”
CS Lewis ~ Collected Letters

2 comments:

Roger R. said...

There's a brilliant and perceptive discussion on this part of the Taliessin poems -- Bors and Elayne : On the King's Coins -- by John Hibbs on...

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/relin/relin007.pdf

Well worth a read (don't be put off by the title)!

Nomad said...

'Inexcusably difficult, as I always told him, but here there really is something behind the difficulty...'

I do like Lewis’s comment; there is a world of difference between a difficult work with ‘something behind the difficulty’ and denseness and difficulty created for the purpose of appearing deep (or, for that matter, denseness because one's just a bad writer!).

Even Lewis's sometimes getting himself into maddening tangles in his space trilogy can be forgiven because one can see he's trying ever so hard to get at something that he can't quite put into words!