The Triumph of the Angelicals


Charles Williams writing about a church of which I was the Pastor in the 1990s.

            As he reached the other side he saw before him a church.   It was a small, old, rather ugly Wesleyan church; the doors were open because of the heat, and apparently the service was not yet over.   Richardson, casually attracted, looked at his watch: nearly nine.   He paused on the pavement and looked in.   It must, he thought, be some kind of after-service, and, after a few moments' search, the notice-board confirmed the idea.   On the third Sunday in the month there was apparently the Breaking of Bread.   It must, he thought, be a rather out-of-date place; most of the Nonconforming Churches had adopted the words "Holy Communion." Besides, this building still called itself "Zion," which was surely a rather old-fashioned title.   But perhaps he was wrong; he didn't pretend to be an expert in ecclesiology.   All that sort of thing was very well for the minds that could use it; he couldn't use it, neither the small dull gatherings of the Evangelicals or the large gaudy assemblies of the Catholics.   "The flight of the alone to the Alone." But no doubt this was proper to them--if it increased their speed upon the Way.   Speed, speed, and always speed! His mind remembered that wild careering herd; so, and swifter than so, he desired the Return.   He seemed to hear the beating hooves again, and while for a moment he attended to that interior echo something huge and rapid drove past him and into the church.   Certainly he had felt it, though there was nothing visible, but he had felt the movement of a body and heard the sound of hooves.   Within him his chief concern renewed itself in a burst of imperious ardour; he burned towards the--no, not fire; no, not darkness; no words, no thought, nothing but...nothing but...well, but--that which was when all other "buts" had been removed, and all hindrances abolished.   For a moment he felt a premonition; something wholly new and exquisite touched him and was gone.


    He was standing in front of the church and looking into it.   There didn't seem to be many there; one or two figures were moving at the upper end; a few more were scattered about the small building.   They were seated as if waiting--perhaps for the Breaking of Bread; and as he gazed a gleam of extreme brightness struck through the building and vanished, for the lights within had flashed upon something moving that caught and reflected their radiance in one shining curve as if a sword had been swung right across the church.   Blinded by its intensity he took a step back, then he recovered and looked again.   


            This time--and his spirit livened again with his habitual desire--he saw it.   It was standing at the other end of Zion; it was something like a horse in shape and size, but of a dazzling whiteness, and from the middle of its forehead there grew a single horn.   He recognized the myth of poems and pictures; he saw the Divine Unicorn gently sustaining itself in that obscure and remote settlement of the faithful.   He recognized the myth, but he recognized something else too, only he could not put a name to it.   The thing moved, pure and stately, a few paces down the aisle, and as it did so he was transported within himself a million miles upon his way.   It moved with the beauty of swiftness, however small the distance was that it went; it lowered and tossed its head, and again that gleaming horn caught all the light in Zion, and gathered it, and flashed it back in a dazzling curve of purity.   As the brightness passed he saw that within they were still intent upon the service; the deacons were bearing the Bread of the Communion to the few who were there, and as they did so it seemed to the watcher that the unicorn moved its head gently in the direction of each, nay, that some eidolon of itself, though it remained unchanged in the centre, went very swiftly to each, and then he lost sight of the images.


            Only now he was aware--and only aware--of a sensation of rushing speed passing through his being; it was not for him to ad or e the unicorn; he was the unicorn.   He and those within, and others--who and when and where he did not know, but others--a great multitude whom no man could number--they went swiftly, they were hastening to an end.   And again the shining horn flung back the earthly lights around it, and in that reflection the seeker knew himself speeding to his doom.   So slow, so slow, the Way had seemed; so swiftly, so swiftly, through aeons and universes, the Principle, the Angel of man's concern, went onwards in unfailing strength.   Yet it had not moved; it stood there still, showing itself, as if in a moment's dream, to the fellows of devotion, so that each beheld and supposing it to be a second's fantasy determined not to speak of it.   But pure and high the ardour burned in every soul, as Zion shone in Zion, and time hastened to its conclusion in them.   The minister gave out a hymn; the voices began it; the great beast of revelation that stood there moved again, and as Richardson unconsciously moved also he felt his arm caught from behind.


            Startled and constraining himself, he turned his head.   Behind him, a little to his left, clutching his arm, and staring at him with fierce bloodshot eyes, stood Foster.   For a few seconds Richardson did not take in the fact; the two remained staring.   Then, he could not have told why, he broke into a little laugh; Foster snarled at him, and the hand that was on the other's arm seemed to clutch and drag at it.   Richardson took a step or two backward, his eyes going once more to the aisle as he did so.   But this time he could see nothing unusual; indeed, he felt doubtful already of what he had seen, only he knew that there was working within him a swiftness more than he had ever dreamed.   The hesitations and sloths that had often hampered him had vanished; he looked at Foster from a distance, down a precipice from the forest of the unicorn to the plain of the lion.


Foster said, "It's here."


"It's always here," the younger man answered, "but we have to go a long

way to find it."


Charles Williams

The Place of the Lion (1933)

Chapter Twelve

A Seminal Book

Peter Kreeft writes in the 'Foreword' :

"The Proverbs of Middle-earth is worth reading, for fun as well as for (mental) profit.  Those two are the twin purposes of books: literary critics used to say that a book should ‘please and instruct,’ while an old Arabic proverb says the same thing: ‘Before you shoot the arrow of truth, dip it in honey.’  This book is both a quiver-full of well-pointed arrows, and a large jar of honey.  It is a romp, as well as a thorough and deeply penetrating exploration of its subject."

David, in his Introduction writes :

"And for those, like me, who know that the longer you get to spend in Middle-earth, the better, I hope that this book and its insights scratch a hitherto-unseen itch, and that your future experience of Middle-earth is enriched as a result."

Published by Oloris Publishing today.  DO hope you enjoy it. 

Tomorrow is Publication Day.

Here is a link to the 'Proverbs of Middle-earth' page on the Oloris Website, including a long excerpt, "What Makes a Proverb a Proverb".

All you have to do is click here >>>  Read more about the book 

2 days...

"Arda, the world of which Middle-earth is but a part and The Lord Of The Rings only a chapter, is Tolkien’s Tree, discovered almost by accident as he was busy painting leaves.  The whole marvellous artwork remains as unfinished as Niggle’s picture, but its details—the leaves—are exquisite, reflecting the near-obsessive priorities of their creator.  In investigating one small aspect of the whole, this book is an exercise in leaf-love, in delighting in the details over which Tolkien niggled."

From the 'Introduction'

David Rowe
Orloris Publishing

Just 3 days...

Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
     [Hail Earendel, brightest of angels]
Ofer middangeard monnum sended
     [Above Middle-earth sent unto men]

In his early twenties, Tolkien read the above lines for the rst time. They are part of an eighth century devotional piece called Crist (‘Christ’), writ- ten in Anglo-Saxon by the poet Cynewulf, in which the planet Venus is described in personal and angelic terms, using the name Earendel. ‘I felt a curious thrill,’ Tolkien later remembered, ‘as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it.’

Forty years later, now in Quenya, Cynewulf’s line reappears in The Two Towers: Frodo, holding the Starglass in the great darkness of Shelob’s Lair, cries out Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!—‘Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!’—a prayer to the mariner who sails the skies with a Silmaril on his brow. The journey from a fragment of Old English to the pass of Cirith Ungol mirrors the journey of Tolkien’s legendarium as a whole. 

Chapter 5 'The Half-Elven'

David Rowe
$15 from Oloris Publishing.

4 days to go...

"The history of Arda repeatedly shows that it is the libido dominandi—the lust for power—that corrupts.  The virtue of creative liberty, inherent in the Great Music, is twisted by the tyrannical desire to direct and dictate.  In Tolkien’s world, power—when it dominates or seeks to dominate other wills and minds—is evil, but that doesn’t make it any less tempting, even to good people."

From the 'Afterword'

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing  

5 days to go...

"In the summer of 1911, Tolkien went on a walking holiday in the high Alps, during which he bought a postcard reproduction of a painting called Der Berggeist, ‘The Mountain Spirit’. The painting shows an old man with a white beard and long cloak sitting on a rock under a pine tree, and from whose hand a young deer is eating.

According to Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien ‘preserved this postcard carefully, and long afterwards he wrote on the paper cover in which he  kept it: ‘Origin of Gandalf’.’ "

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing

6 days to go...

Aragorn’s knowledge of oral tradition is not limited to proverbs: according to Butterbur ‘he can tell a rare tale when he has the mind’; under Weathertop he sings a selection from the Lay Of Leithian (which he clearly knows in multiple languages); faced with the Paths of the Dead he recalls the prophetic-poetic words of Malbeth the Seer; and in the Houses of Healing he recites a Rhyme of Lore:

‘When the black breath blows 
and death’s shadow grows 
and all lights pass,
come athelas! come athelas! 
Life to the dying
In the king’s hand lying! 

In the same way that Gandalf would have recited and repeated such lines and verses in his wanderings as an aid to memory, Aragorn has taken the three strands of oral tradition—songs, stories, and sayings— and made them his companions on his long road. 

Chapter 11 - 'Aragorn'

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing

7 days to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth"

"When Ingold bars Gandalf’s path at the Rammas, citing the proverb Wish for no strangers in the land as his justification, he is not being rude, only professional. And when Gandalf does him the courtesy of arguing his case—that Pippin, though a ‘stranger,’ should be admitted— with a proverb that would appeal to the military mind (Valour... cannot be computed by stature), Ingold acquiesces and then honours Pippin’s humility, saying Many a doer of great deeds might say no more."

Chapter 10 : 'The Peoples of Gondor'

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing 

8 days to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth"

"Butterbur and Bree have a paradox at their heart: they are  open yet closed; hospitable yet suspicious; well-informed yet small- minded and ignorant. This incongruity is not without its causes.  Bree is a welcoming place because it has to be – valuable income is  generated from the business of Outsiders – but at the same time, Outside is also where all things dark and dangerous originate, things to be avoided at all costs. Pulled in both directions at once (and with no military strength nor any other means by which to defendthemselves), the underlying fears of the Bree-folk cause them to 
hold anything untoward or alien at arms length ... "

Chapter 3 : 'The Breelanders'

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing

9 days to go to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle Earth"

"On the long march from Emyn Muil to Mount Doom, Frodo knows that he cannot rely on Sam for more than companionable stolidity, and he is wary of trusting Gollum at all. Proverbs therefore become his primary counsellor at need. Better mistrust undeserved than rash words, he reminds himself when longing and fearing to open up to Faramir; Do not be too eager to deal out death in the name of justice rings through his memory when presented with the chance to kill Gollum; and The servant has a claim on the master for service, even service in fear comes to mind when wishing to be free of his wretched guide."

From Chapter 1 : "'The Hobbits'

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing are now taking pre-publication orders.   

10 days before the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth

"Saruman’s sayings act as a rhetorical technique to shut down debate and to silence others. In this way, he tells the future king of Rohan 'Meddle not in policies which you do not understand', and has the gall to address 'Does an unarmed man come down to speak to robbers out of doors?' to the wizard whom he imprisoned and the king whose kingdom he invaded."

Chapter 4 : 'The Istari'

David Rowe

Oloris Publishing (who are now taking pre-publication orders)

11 days to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth"

"Whilst not being particularly remarkable in other ways, the Bree-hobbits were famous for, and proud of, being the originators of an addictive art: the smoking of sweet galenas or pipe-weed͛.  This habit, championed in Bree, spread around the known world from that acknowledged epicentre."

Chapter 3: 'The Breelanders'

David Rowe

Oloris Publishing

12 days to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth"

"Put Hobbits in counsels of war, discerning the devices of evil, and they will fall silent. But get them discussing ale (Proper fourteen-twenty!) or bath-times (A loon is he that will not sing), rivers (Boats are quite tricky enough for those that sit still) or baby-names (Make it short, then you won't have to cut it short), and a wealth of tried-and-tested sayings leap forth."

From Chapter 1 : 'The Hobbits'
David Rowe
Oloris Publishing

13 days to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth"

... and we have a cover image too.

"Bilbo’s ‘as my father used to say’, Sam’s ‘as my Gaffer used to say’ and Pippin’s ‘as we say in the Shire’ point to an underlying assumption that inherited tradition carries special weight and authority.

From Chapter 1 : 'The Hobbits"

David Rowe 

Oloris Publishing

14 days to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth"

'[Hobbits] have a fund of wisdom and wise sayings that men have mostly never heard or have forgotten long ago.'    (JRRT – The Hobbit, p.83) 

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing 

15 days to the publication of "The Proverbs of Middle-earth"

“The leaf-mould of Tolkien’s mind was extraordinarily rich.  Like Niggle’s Tree, which started simply only to outgrow even its creator’s capacity to complete it, Arda’s vast tapestry had a long germination process and took on a life of its own…”

From the 'Introduction"

David Rowe
Oloris Publishing