A Present (a Pipe) and a poem to go with them

I just spent a wonderful afternoon in the Orchard in Granchester with a group visiting from the Kiln’s CS Lewis’s Oxford home and now a center for Lewis Studies. Among the party was the celebrated Lewis scholar Jerry Root. As conversation deepened and turned to poetry Jerry and Kim Gilnett dug out their pipes and lit up. I ferreted in my pocket and found I had left my trusty Peterson at home when lo and behold Jerry produced a “spare”; a really beautiful old Peterson made in pre-republican days. It drew beautifully, sweet as a nut, and I gave it the care and attention it deserved. but you could have knocked me over with a smoke ring when Dr Root said ‘I can see you apreciate it why dont you keep it!’ A spontaneous act of generosity which perfectly embodied the idea we had been discussing which was the parodoxical  combination of a love for the manifold things of this world but at the same time a sufficient detatchment from them all to keep us alive to our yearning for eternity. We had been quoting the lovely mediaeval couplet with which Jack Bennet, who taught me, had concluded his encomium of Lewis (who taught him):

Love God, your neighbour and be merry

And give not for this world a cherry”

It was great to see that spirit alive in a fellow Lewis scholar. He had himself recieved the pipe as a gift and sometime, at the right moment, I shall pass it on to another amazed and appreciative pipe lover. Anyway this all prompts me to re-post the little poem I wrote about Tolkien and his Pipe, so here is the pipe: :

And here is the poem:

Tree and Leaf

Tolkien is leaning back into an oak
Old, gnarled, distinct in bole and burr
As, from the burr and bowl of his old pipe,
Packed with tightly patterned shreds of leaf,
The smoke ascends in rings and wreathes of air
To catch the autumn light and meet such leaves
As circle through its wreathes and patter down
In patterns of their own to the rich ground.

He contemplates again the tree of tales;
The roots of language and its rings of growth
‘The tongue and tale and teller all coeval’
And he becomes a pattern making patterns,
A tale telling tales and turning leaves,
From the print of thumb and finger on his pipe
To the print and press and pattern of his books
And all their prints and imprints in our minds
Out to this grainy patterned photograph
Of ‘Tolkien, leaning back into an oak’.

Thanks Jerry

5 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Inklings, literature, Poems, Theology and Arts

5 responses to “A Present (a Pipe) and a poem to go with them

  1. Mark Neal

    Thanks for commenting on the brotherhood of the briar blog, Malcolm. My first pipe was a gift from Jerry and I am not alone among those who can attest to his generous spirit over the years. Part of Jerry’s uniqueness is his ability to be detached from his possessions. He has often said that “I get pleasure from my things twice. Once when I get them, and once when I give them away.” And he means it. I enjoyed your alliterative poem about Tolkien; it has a beautiful cadence and wonderful imagery. Perhaps one of these Thursday nights, if you ever happen to be visiting, we’ll welcome you to the brotherhood at Jerry’s around the fire. We’d love to have you. Peace.

  2. Mark Neal

    Thanks for commenting on the brotherhood of the briar blog, Malcolm. My first pipe was a gift from Jerry and I am not alone among those who can attest to his generous spirit over the years. Part of Jerry’s uniqueness is his ability to be detached from his possessions. He has often said that “I get pleasure from my things twice. Once when I get them, and once when I give them away.” And he means it. I enjoyed your alliterative poem about Tolkien; it has a beautiful cadence and wonderful imagery. Perhaps one of these Thursday nights, if you ever happen to be visiting Wheaton, we’ll welcome you to the brotherhood at Jerry’s around the fire. We’d love to have you. Peace.

  3. Pingback: An Oxford Appreciation « brotherhood of the briar

  4. Pingback: The C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog » Blog Archive » “A Present (a Pipe) and a poem to go with them”

  5. I’m continuing my exploration of your blog. Here’s another poem that I’ve read several times now and much appreciate.

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