The Elves of Nargothrond

The Hills of the Hunters Beren saw 
with bare tops bitten bleak and raw
by western winds; but in the mist
of streaming rains that flashed and hissed
into the meres he knew there lay
beneath those hills the cloven way
of Narog, and the watchful halls
of Felagund beside the falls
of Ingwil
tumbling from the wold.
An everlasting watch they hold,
the Elves of Nargothrond renowned,
and every hill is tower-crowned,
where wardens sleepless peer and gaze
guarding the plain and all the ways
between Narog swift and Sirion pale;
and archers whose arrows never fail
there range the woods, and secret kill           
all who creep thither against their will.
Yet now he thrusts into that land
bearing the gleaming ring on hand
of Felagund, and oft doth cry:
'Here comes no wandering Orc of spy,
but Beren song of Barahir
who once to Felagund was dear.'
So ere he reached the eastward shore
of Narog
, that doth foam and roar
o'er boulders black, those archers green
came round him. When the ring was seen
they bowed before him, though his plight
was poor and beggarly. Then by night
they led him northward, for no ford
nor bridge was built where Narog poured
before the gates of Nargothrond,
and friend nor foe might pass beyond.

(lines 1,734 to 1767)

J.R.R. Tolkien
The Geste of Beren and Lúthien

Tolkien on the death of Lewis

I am sorry that I have not answered your letters sooner; but Jack Lewis's death on the 22nd has preoccupied me.  It is also involving me in some correspondence, as many people still regard me as one of his intimates.  Alas! that ceased to be so some ten years ago. We were separated first by the sudden apparition of Charles Williams, and then by his marriage. Of which he never even told me; I learned of it long after the event.  But we owed each a great debt to the other, and that tie with the deep affection that it begot, remains.  He was a great man of whom the cold-blooded official obituaries only scraped the surface, in places with injustice.  How little truth there may be in literary appraisals one may learn from them – since they were written while he was still alive.  Lewis only met Williams in 1939, and W. died early in 1945.  The 'space-travel' trilogy ascribed to the influence of Williams was basically foreign to Williams' kind of imagination.  It was planned years before, when we decided to divide: he was to do space-travel and I time-travel.  My book was never finished, but some of it (the Númenórean-Atlantis theme) got into my trilogy eventually.

Publication dates are not a good guide. Perelandra is dated 1943, but does not belong to that period. Williams' influence actually only appeared with his death: That Hideous Strength, the end of the trilogy, which (good though it is in itself) I think spoiled it. Also I was wryly amused to be told (D. Telegraph) that 'Lewis himself was never very fond of The Screwtape Letters' – his best-seller (250,000). He dedicated it to me. I wondered why. Now I know – says they.

From a letter to Michael Tolkien (draft)
[Not dated; November or December 1963]

Lecture in Pusey House

My Charles Williams speech last Sunday went off very well indeed.  I was a little nervous about addressing an audience of Oxford undergraduates, expecting them to be hypercritical; but I needn't have worried.  I never had such a good audience, light as Viennese pastry, in contrast to those lumps of soggy dough I used to handle in New York.  They got all my jokes, even the hints of jokes, instantly, and roared aloud; instead of sitting back and waiting to be amused or edified, they came all the way to meet me.  Jack and the Principal of Pusey House were very complimentary afterward.  I'm all the more pleased as I was taking a bit of a chance — I attacked Manichaeism and prudery in the Church.  Nobody liked it better than the parsons!  I suspect I wronged the C.of E. in my last letter; it isn't as bad as its bishops.

Joy Davidman - Out of My Bone
Letter to William Gresham - 29th February 1956
Eerdmans (2009)

The Genesis of Screwtape

“Before the service was over -- one cd. wish these things came more seasonably -- I was struck by an idea for a book wh. I think might be both useful and entertaining. It wd. be called As one Devil to Another and would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first ‘patient’.”

C.S. Lewis - Letter to his brother Warnie, July 20th 1940
"I was often asked or advised to add to the original ‘Screwtape Letters’, but for many years I felt not the least inclination to do it. Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. The ease came, no doubt, from the fact that the device of diabolical letters, once you have thought of it, exploits itself spontaneously... it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp."

C.S. Lewis - Foreward to “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” -- The scene is Hell at the annual dinner of the Training College for young devils.

Lewis on Williams

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

Oxford Poetry 1947

Unique among Blackwell's editions in having a biographical index, revealing that of the 23 contributors 12 had served as officers in the war, and 2 as sergeants. Showing its mixed blood, so to speak, in being the old Blackwell's-style volume allied with the two OP pamphlets of 1946, this volume bears a heraldic cover device divided as the Oxford University crest on the left and a hand and star of David on the right.

Whatever this signified, it did not appear again. Lord David Cecil, who seldom missed an opportunity to pose as an aesthete, praised the earlier look of OP in terms reminiscent of the celebrated blue lily vase which was the only adornment of Oscar Wilde's undergraduate rooms at Magdalen: "Within its elegant blue and white covers the successive literary fashions lie enshrined, ready for the future historian to examine." (It was for examining and failing the graduate degree of Kingsley Amis, editor two years later, that he was much maligned in the latter's Memoirs.)

Introduction by Lord David Cecil

Smoke on the Mountain

[A excerpt from Joy Davidman's prescient 'Smoke on the Mountain' - She could have been writing now, not 60 years ago]

Already our generations are being walled off from each other: teen-agers flock together deaf to all language but their own, young couples automatically drop their unmarried friends, whole magazines address themselves to age groups such as the seventeens or the young matrons or the "older executive type." Vast numbers of people think it "natural" to hate your in-laws, "immature" to ask your parents for advice after your marriage, "abnormal" to value the com­panionship of anyone much older or younger than yourself. And a thousand stories and articles testify to one of the greatest problems of modern life: father and son, mother and daughter, cannot talk to one another with understanding.


Still we are paying too high a price for our gains, paying in terms of juvenile delinquency and adult unhappiness, for those who have never known warmth and love when they were small are seldom capable of much love when they grow big. We pay in restlessness, in desperate pleasure-seeking, in the lack of moral standards—our teeth are set on edge by the sour grapes of our fathers eating. No gain in social efficiency can save a com­munity that offends against the little ones. And let us be honest about it: our modern cities have created a society in which children are in the way.

They are physically in the way, and therefore we find them in the way emotionally too. There are many who do not want them at all, like the girl who recently told this writer that a civilized woman can "realize her creative impulses through self-expression" without needing anything so dirty as a baby! Even those who do want them are sometimes rather shamefaced about it; pregnancy, once something in which a woman gloried, is now treated as a disfigurement to be concealed as long as possible; and giving suck, the greatest joy and greatest need of both mother and child, is quite out of fashion among us. "I'm not a cow!" some women will remark scornfully, as if it were preferable to be a fish.

Worse yet, perhaps, is the taming process we are forced to put our children through in order to keep them alive at all in city streets and city flats. In their infancy we must curb their play, and force adult cautions and restraints on them too soon in their adolescence, on the other hand, we must bend all our efforts to keep them children at an age when our ancestors would have recognized them as grown men and women ready to found families. Our objection to child labour is admirable when it prevents the exploitation of babies in sweatshops, but not when it keeps vigorous young men and women frittering away their energies on meaningless school courses and still more meaningless amusements. Many an eighteen-year-old has declared bitterly that the only time society recognizes him as a man is when it needs him to go out and fight.

Joy Davidman
Smoke on the Mountain (Hodder & Stoughton 1955)
Chapter 5 ‘The Serpent’s Tooth’

"Love would be safe in his own storm"

Sybil Coningsby stepped out into the storm and tried to see before her.  It was becoming very difficult, and the force of the wind for the moment staggered and even distressed her.  She yielded to it a little both in body and mind; she knew well that to the oppositions of the world she could in herself offer no certain opposition.  As her body swayed and let itself move aside under the blast, she surrendered herself to the only certain thing that her life had discovered: she adored in this movement also the extreme benevolence of Love.  She sank before the wind, but not in impotence; rather as the devotee sinks before the outer manifestations of the God that he may be made more wholly one with that which manifests.  Delaying as if both she and it might enjoy the exquisite promise of its arrival, it nevertheless promised, and, as always, came.  She recovered her balance, swaying easily to each moment's need, and the serene content which it bestowed filled again and satisfied her.

It satisfied, but for no more than the briefest second did she allow herself to remain aware of that.  Time to be aware, and to be grateful for that awareness, she enjoyed; literally enjoyed, for both knowledge and thankfulness grew one, and joy was their union, but that union darted out towards a new subject and centre.  Darted out and turned in; its occupation was Lothair Coningsby, and Lothair was already within it.  It did not choose a new resting-place, but rather ordered its own content, by no greater a movement than the shifting of the accent from one syllable back to the other.  So slight a variation as gives the word to any speaker a new meaning gave to this pure satisfaction a new concern.  She was intensely aware of her brother; she drew up the knowledge of him from within her, and gave it back within her.  In wave after wave the ocean of peace changed its "multitudinous laughter" from one myriad grouping to another.  And all, being so, was so.

Such a state, in which the objects of her concern no longer struck upon her thoughts from without, recalled by an accident, a likeness, or a dutiful attention, but existed rather as they did in their own world-a state in which they were brought into being as by the same energy which had produced their actual natures-had not easily been reached.  That sovereign estate, the inalienable heritage of man, had been in her, as in all, falsely mortgaged to the intruding control of her own greedy desires.  Even when the true law was discovered, when she knew that she had the right and the power to possess all things, on the one condition that she was herself possessed, even then her freedom to yield herself had been won by many conflicts.  Days of pain and nights of prayer had passed while her lonely soul escaped; innocent joys as well as guilty hopes had been starved.  There had been a time when the natural laughter that attended on her natural intelligence had been hushed, when her brother had remarked that "Sybil seemed very mopy".  She had been shocked when she heard this by a sense of her disloyalty, since she believed enjoyment to be a debt which every man owes to his fellows, partly for its own sake, partly lest he at all diminish their own precarious hold on it.  She attempted dutifully to enjoy and failed, but while she attempted it the true gift was delivered into her hands.

When the word Love had come to mean for her the supreme greatness of man she could hardly remember: one incident and another had forced it on her mind--the moment when her mother, not long before death, had said to her, "Love, Sybil, if you dare; if you daren't, admit it"; the solemn use of the name in the great poets, especially her youthful reading of Dante; a fanatic in a train who had given her a tract: Love God or go to Hell.  It was only after a number of years that she had come to the conclusion that the title was right, except perhaps for go to--since the truth would have been more accurately rendered by be in Hell.  She was doubtful also about God; Love would have been sufficient by itself but it was necessary at first to concentrate on something which could be distinguished from all its mortal vessels, and the more one lived with that the more one found that it possessed in fact all the attributes of Deity.  She had tried to enjoy, and she remembered vividly the moment when, walking down Kingsway, it had struck her that there was no need for her to try or to enjoy: she had only to be still, and let that recognized Deity itself enjoy, as its omnipotent nature was.  She still forgot occasionally; her mortality still leapt rarely into action, and confused her and clouded the sublime operation of--of It.  But rarely and more rarely those moments came; more and more securely the working of that Fate which was Love possessed her.  For it was fatal in its nature; rich and austere at once, giving death and life in the same moment, restoring beyond belief all the things it took away--except the individual will.

Its power rose in her now and filled her with the thought of her brother.  As she came from the drive into the road she looked as alertly as she could before her in case he staggered into sight.  Whether she was going to find him or not she couldn't tell, but it was apparently her business to look for him, or she wouldn't have felt so strongly the conviction that, of all those in the house, she alone was to go out and search.  That she should be walking so lightly through the storm didn't strike her as odd, because it wasn't really she who was walking, it was Love, and naturally Love would be safe in his own storm.  It was, certainly, a magnificent storm; she adored the power that was displayed in it.  Lothair, she thought, wouldn't be adoring it much at the moment: something in her longed passionately to open his eyes, so that the two of them could walk in it happily together.  And Nancy, and Henry--O, and Aaron Lee, and Ralph, and everyone they all knew, until the vision of humanity rejoicing in this tumultuous beauty seemed to show itself to her, and the delight of creation answered the delight of the Creator, joy triumphing in joy.

Charles Williams
The Greater Trumps (1930)
Chapter Nine - Sybil