Over this grave a star

Under the Mercy:
On the anniversary of Charles' death in 1998, with a friend I sought out his grave in the unspoilt, beautiful and peaceful graveyard of St. Cross Church, in Oxford. We attached the following of Charles' poems to his grave (changing 'house' in the first line of the original for 'grave') and sat a while in the Spring sunshine thinking and speaking together of him and his work.

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)

It might seem foolish, but that morning lives in my memory.


Anonymous said...

It is beautiful gesture that you and your friend attached a copy of his poem to his grave.
"Beauty desired and dreamed." I love the poem. We went to an astronomy night at a local park here in PA, USA a few dark nights ago. For the last couple of days, I have been walking around with an expanded awareness that there is so much out there, actually there, that I am not aware of and that I can barely appreciate.
In the same way, "Beauty remote and far" alludes me. It's almost not visible, but it is here with us, calling us forward.
I don't know Charles Williams like I know Tolkien and Lewis. But I feel you have introduced him well. He is a new friend!
We're going to be teaching our kids some astronomy this fall and the poem seems fitting to copy out for them.
My hopes- that the kids aim high, that they dream "of a perfect thing," like Charles Williams did so bravely.
Thank you for this great blog! My friend from "Curious Acorn" let me know about you.
I'll be back for more!

Joan Drennen

Arborfield said...

Thank you Joan,

Have you read any of CW's work as yet? I can help you 'start off' with perhaps one of his novels.

Roger R.

Anonymous said...

No,I haven't and I'd really appreciate your suggestion. And I'll pass it on to my kids and hubby, as well,who really love the other Inklings.
Joan Drennen

Arborfield said...

Hello Joan,

Right... Charles Williams is notoriously dense (in the english sense), but I would recommend "Descent into Hell", first published in 1937 but widely available in paperback. Is is (IMHO) the best of his 7 novels, all of which would best be described as 'Supernatural Thrillers' (CS Lewis).

But that description needs some explanation too. Williams can (and does) make the spiritual world as tangible as the physical world, and switches between one and the other, sometimes in the same sentence.

Have look at my 'Inklings' posting of November 25th 2008 for one such excerpt (from All Hallows Eve), and you will get the idea I think:

I have posted other excerpts over the years that you could find pretty easily.

Happy (and exciting) reading. I envy you coming to Williams afresh. Once read he becomes part of your psyche.


Roger R.