Goblin Feet

I am off down the road
Where the fairy lanterns glowed
And the little pretty flittermice are flying :
A slender band of grey
It runs creepily away
And the hedges and the grasses are a-sighing.
The air is full of wings,
And of blundering beetle- things
That warn you with their whirring and their humming.
O ! I hear the tiny horns
Of enchanted leprechauns
And the padding feet of many gnomes a-coming !

O ! the lights : O ! the gleams : O ! the little tinkly sound
O ! the rustle of their noiseless little robes :
O ! the echo of their feet — of their little happy feet :
O ! their swinging lamps in little starlit globes.

I must follow in their train
Down the crooked fairy lane
Where the coney-rabbits long ago have gone,
And where silverly they sing
In a moving moonlit ring
All a-twinkle with the jewels they have on.
They are fading round the turn
Where the glow-worms palely burn
And the echo of their padding feet is dying !
O ! it's knocking at my heart —
Let me go ! O ! let me start !
For the little magic hours are all a-flying.

O ! the warmth ! O ! the hum ! O ! the colours in the dark !
O ! the gauzy wings of golden honey-flies !
O ! the music of their feet — of their dancing goblin feet !
O ! the magic ! O ! the sorrow when it dies.

J.R.R. Tolkien (Exeter) ~ Oxford Poetry (1915) Blackwell

The Loss of Youth?

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 motorbikes: 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 Meteorite

Among the hills a meteorite
Lies huge; and moss has overgrown,
And wind and rain with touches light
Made soft, the contours of the stone.

Thus easily can Earth digest
A cinder of sidereal fire,
And make her translunary guest
The native of an English shire.

Nor is it strange these wanderers
Find in her lap their fitting place,
For every particle that's hers
Came at the first from outer space.

All that is Earth has once been sky;
Down from the sun of old she came,
Or from some star that travelled by
Too close to his entangling flame.

Hence, if belated drops yet fall
From heaven, on these her plastic power
Still works as once it worked on all
The glad rush of the golden shower.

C.S. Lewis ~ Poems (1964)

"Dyson and Tolkien showed me..."

Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all; again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself, I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god… similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose “what it meant”.

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth, where the others are men’s myth: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call “real things”. Therefore it is true, not in the sense of being a “description” of God (that no finite mind could take in) but in the sense of being the way in which God choose to (or can) appear to our faculties. The “doctrines” we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are translations into our concepts and ideas of that what God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Does this amount to a belief in Christianity? At any rate I am now certain (a) That this Christian story is to be approached, in a sense, as I approach the other myths. (b) That it is the most important and full of meaning. I am also nearly certain that it really happened.

CS Lewis Collected Letters
Letter to Arthur Greeves – 18th October 1931

Of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin

[Image: ‘Tuor follows Voronwë’ by Peter Xavier Price]

When the first glimmers of day filtered grey amid the mists of Dimbar they crept back into the Dry River, and soon after its course turned eastward, winding up to the very walls of the mountains; and straight before them there loomed a great precipice, rising sheer and sudden from a steep slope upon which grew a tangled thicket of thorn-trees. Into this thicket the stony channel entered, and there it was still dark as night; and they halted, for the thorns grew far down the side of the gully, and their lacing branches were a dense roof above it, so low that often Tuor and Voronwë must crawl under like beasts stealing back to their lair.

But at last, as with great labour they came to the very foot of the cliff, they found an opening, as it were the mouth of a tunnel worn in the hard rock by waters flowing from the heart of the mountains. They entered, and within there was no light, but Voronwë went steadily forward, while Tuor followed with his hand upon his shoulder, bending a little, for the roof was low. Thus for a time they went on blindly, step by step, until presently they felt the ground beneath their feet had become level and free from loose stones. Then they halted and breathed deeply, as they stood listening. The air seemed fresh and wholesome, and they were aware of a great space around and above them; but all was silent, and not even the drip of water could be heard. It seemed to Tuor that Voronwë was troubled and in doubt, and he whispered: 'Where then is the Guarded Gate? Or have we indeed now passed it?'

'Nay,' said Voronwë. 'Yet I wonder, for it is strange that any incomer should creep thus far unchallenged. I fear some stroke in the dark.'

But their whispers aroused the sleeping echoes, and they were enlarged and multiplied, and ran in the roof and the unseen walls, hissing and murmuring as the sound of many stealthy voices.

J.R.R. Tolkien ~ Unfinished Tales: The First Age

The Tarot in Williams

"It doesn't matter, anyhow," Nancy hastily said. "Aren't they fascinating? But why are they? And what do they all mean? Henry, why are you looking at them like that?"

Henry indeed was examining the first card, the juggler, with close attention, as if investigating the smallest detail. It was a man in a white tunic, but the face, tilted back, was foreshortened, and darkened by the brim of some black cap that he wore: a cap so black that something of night itself seemed to have been used in the painting. The heavy shadow and the short pointed beard hid the face from the observer. On the breast of the tunic were three embroidered circles--the first made of swords and staffs and cups and coins, balanced one on the other from the coin at the bottom to the apex of two pointing swords at the top; and within this was a circle, so far as Nancy could see, made up of rounded representations of twenty of the superior cards each in its own round; and within that was a circle containing one figure, but that was so small she couldn't make out what it was. The man was apparently supposed to be juggling; one hand was up in the air, one was low and open towards the ground, and between them, in an arch, as if tossed and caught and tossed again, were innumerable shining balls. In the top left-hand corner of the card was a complex device of curiously interwoven lines.

Henry put it down slowly as Nancy spoke and turned his eyes to her. But hers, as they looked to plunge into that other depth--ocean pouring into ocean and itself receiving ocean--found themselves thwarted. Instead of oceans they saw pools, abandoned by a tide already beyond sight: she blenched as a bather might do in the cold wind across an empty shore. "Henry!" she exclaimed.

It was, surely, no such great thing, only a momentary preoccupation. But he was already glancing again at the cards; he had already picked up another, and was scrutinizing the figure of the hierophantic woman. It had been drawn sitting on an ancient throne between two heavy pillars; a cloud of smoke rolled high above the priestly head-dress and solemn veil that she wore, and under her feet were rivers pouring out in falling cataracts. One hand was stretched out as if directing the flow of those waters; the other lay on a heavy open volume, with great clasps undone, that rested on her knees. This card also was stamped in the top left-hand corner with an involved figure of intermingled lines.

Charles Williams – “The Greater Trumps” (Chapter One – The Legacy)

Nicol Williamson's 'Hobbit'

This set of LP records include an eight-page booklet with pictures of J.R.R. Tolkein and reader Nicol Williamson; track list/synopses; notes on the recording by Argo founder Harley Usill; and essay by producer Lissa Demetriou. This rare, eight-side version of 'The Hobbit' is one of the great spoken-word recordings of the past fifty years and a must-have for all lovers of Tolkien's classic.

An anonymous reader/reviewer at Amazon's UK site wrote, "My favourite version is read by Nicol Williamson - This recording is one of the few actually authorised by Professor Tolkien. The story is well edited and Nicol Williamson's narration is brilliant. The accents he uses for the various characters are perfect: Bilbo is from the West Country; the spiders are Irish; Gollum is Welsh; and so on. The edition is a bit difficult to track down now - I wish someone would re-release it."

(Of course, this blogmaster has a copy – but you can listen to it by clicking on the link on the left hand side of this page).