Category Archives: Inklings

CS Lewis: A Sonnet

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

As well as being the feast of Christ the King and St. Cecilia’s day, 22nd November is also the day CS Lewis died in 1963. I remember the great celebration of his life work and witness we had throughout 2013 and especially the honour and pleasure I had in Lecturing on him at St. Margaret’s Westminster and attending the ceremony whereby his memorial stone was installed in Poet’s corner. an event that would not have taken place without the hard work and forsight of Michael Ward amongst others. I wrote a  sonnet  for Lewis as part of that year of celebration., and so on the Anniversary of his death I am posting it again here. It has now been published in my volume of poems The Singing Bowl, with Canterbury Press.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button, or on the title of the poem

CS Lewis

From ‘Beer and Beowulf’ to the seven heavens,

Whose music you conduct from sphere to sphere,

You are our portal to those hidden havens

Whence we return to bless our being here.

Scribe of the Kingdom, keeper of the door

Which opens on to all we might have lost,

Ward of a word-hoard in the deep hearts core

Telling the tale of Love from first to last.

Generous, capacious, open, free,

Your wardrobe-mind has furnished us with worlds

Through which to travel, whence we learn to see

Along the beam, and hear at last the heralds,

Sounding their summons, through the stars that sing,

Whose call at sunrise brings us to our King.

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds

 

20 Comments

Filed under christianity, Inklings, Poems

CS Lewis: A Sonnet

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

As well as being the feast of Christ the King and St. Cecilia’s day, 22nd November is also the day CS Lewis died in 1963. I remember the great celebration of his life work and witness we had throughout 2013 and especially the honour and pleasure I had in Lecturing on him at St. Margaret’s Westminster and attending the ceremony whereby his memorial stone was installed in Poet’s corner. an event that would not have taken place without the hard work and forsight of Michael Ward amongst others. I wrote a  sonnet  for Lewis as part of that year of celebration., and so on the Anniversary of his death I am posting it again here. It has now been published in my volume of poems The Singing Bowl, with Canterbury Press.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button, or on the title of the poem

CS Lewis

From ‘Beer and Beowulf’ to the seven heavens,

Whose music you conduct from sphere to sphere,

You are our portal to those hidden havens

Whence we return to bless our being here.

Scribe of the Kingdom, keeper of the door

Which opens on to all we might have lost,

Ward of a word-hoard in the deep hearts core

Telling the tale of Love from first to last.

Generous, capacious, open, free,

Your wardrobe-mind has furnished us with worlds

Through which to travel, whence we learn to see

Along the beam, and hear at last the heralds,

Sounding their summons, through the stars that sing,

Whose call at sunrise brings us to our King.

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds

 

12 Comments

Filed under christianity, Inklings, Poems

Off to the Westminster Lewisfest!

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Tomorrow I travel down to Westminster Abbey to give my paper on Lewis and the Truth of Imagination, as well as to enjoy hearing Alastair McGrath, Michael Ward and others. I shall stay the night at the Abbey and then on Friday join the glad throng to hear Rowan Williams preach and see the plaque for Lewis unveiled in Poets’ Corner. Then on Saturday I will join Rowan Williams and Helen Cooper for a further conference on Lewis at Magdalene College in Cambridge. Now both my papers, the one at Westminster and the one at Magdalene, are going to end with poems. So, though I have posted these two poems before, I thought I’d put them together here, by way of a taster for the papers to come.

Both poems come from my new collection The Singing Bowl, and, as usual, you can hear them by clicking on the titles or the ‘play’ button.

So my paper on Lewis’s achievement as a poet and imaginative writer will end with this:

CS Lewis

From ‘beer and Beowulf’ to the seven heavens,

Whose music you conduct from sphere to sphere,

You are our portal to those hidden havens

Whence we return to bless our being here.

Scribe of the Kingdom, keeper of the door

Which opens on to all we might have lost,

Ward of a word-hoard in the deep hearts core,

Telling the tale of Love from first to last.

Generous, capacious, open, free,

Your wardrobe-mind has furnished us with worlds

Through which to travel, whence we learn to see

Along the beam, and hear at last the heralds

Sounding their summons, through the stars that sing,

Whose call at sunrise brings us to our King

Magdalene College Cambridge

Magdalene College Cambridge

And my paper at Magdalene on The Abolition of Man will end with this ‘found sonnet’ drawn entirely from that book:

Imagine

(A found sonnet from The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis)

Imagine a new natural philosophy;

I hardly know what I am asking for;

Far-off echoes, that primeval sense,

With blood and sap, Man’s pre-historic piety,

Continually conscious, continually…

Alive, alive and growing like a tree

And trees as dryads, or as beautiful,

The bleeding trees in Virgil and in Spenser

The tree of knowledge and the tree of life

Growing together, that great ritual

Pattern of nature, beauties branching out

The cosmic order, ceremonial,

Regenerate science, seeing from within…

To participate is to be truly human.

1 Comment

Filed under imagination, Inklings, Poems

CS Lewis and The Inklings ‘Ideas’ with CBC Part 2

lewis-inklings-featuredAs part of the commemorations for Cs Lewis’s ‘Jubilee’ year the Canadian Broadcasting Company have commissioned two in depth programmes on CS Lewis and the Inklings for their Flagship ‘Ideas’ series. I was happy to be involved with Frank Faulk in this endeavour and did an extensive interview with himwhich has been used in both programmes. I was impressed by the research he has done for this programme and the range of people he has speaking on it. Two good results of that research are first that he is not content with second hand cliches about Lewis but goes out of his way to scotch falsehoods, and secondly that he gives due weight to the neglected ‘other inklings’ beyond Lewis and Tolkien, and particularly gives the much-neglected Owen Barfield who is allowed at last to come into hi own. Finally, Faulk has, in my view rightly, identified Imagination, and the truth of Imagination as the key to the whole ‘Inklings endeavour. Here is my post on the first programme. Here us what CBC say to introduce the second program on their website:

C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams were the core of the legendary literary group The Inklings at Oxford University. They were united by a love of myth and the belief that it is through the imagination that reality is illuminated. In Part 2 of this series,  producer Frank Faulk looks at C.S. Lewis’s conversion from atheism to Christianity, and his deep friendship with Tolkien, Barfield and Williams. Together Lewis and his three friends would forge a radical critique of modernity’s reductionist, mechanistic and materialistic understanding of reality. It is a critique that today remains more relevant than ever.

And here is the link to both the first and second programmes:

Lewis and the Inklings Part one

Lewis and the Inklings Part two

I hope you enjoy them.

3 Comments

Filed under Current affairs, Inklings, literature, Theology and Arts

CS Lewis and The Inklings ‘Ideas’ with CBC

lewis-inklings-featuredAs part of the commemorations for Cs Lewis’s ‘Jubilee’ year the Canadian Broadcasting Company have commissioned two in depth programmes on CS Lewis and the Inklings for their Flagship ‘Ideas’ series. I was happy to be involved with Frank Faulk in this endeavour and did an extensive interview with him, some of which is used in this first programme and most of which will be in the second one, to be broadcast on the 17th to which I will post a link next week. I was impressed by the research he has done for this programme and the range of people he has speaking on it. Two good results of that research are first that he is not content with second hand cliches about Lewis but goes out of his way to scotch falsehoods, and secondly that he gives due weight to the neglected ‘other inklings’ beyond Lewis and Tolkien, and particularly gives the much-neglected Owen Barfield who is allowed at last to come into hi own. Finally, Faulk has, in my view rightly, identified Imagination, and the truth of Imagination as the key to the whole ‘Inklings endeavour. Here us what CBC say to introduce the program on their website:

C.S. LewisJRR TolkienOwen Barfield and Charles Williams were the core of the legendary literary group The Inklings at Oxford University. They were united by a love of myth and the belief that it is through the imagination that reality is illuminated. In this two-part series producer Frank Faulk first explores the early life of C.S. Lewis, and the experiences that would shape him on his journey to becoming one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers and writers on Christianity. Part 2 airs Thursday, October 17.

And here is the link to the page from which you can listen to and download the program:

Lewis and the Inklings Part one

 

I hope you enjoy it.

7 Comments

Filed under Current affairs, Inklings, literature, Theology and Arts

Oxford, Winnipeg, Houston, Westminster!

oxford-collegesI mentioned Greenbelt in my last post, but I thought I’d cast my eye a little further ahead, up to the end of the year and let you know what else I am doing, in case any of my readers might be able to get to any of these events!

First up is the CS Lewis Jubilee Festival based at Holy Trinity church Headington, in Oxford. Holy Trinity was CS Lewis’s local parish church, and amidst all the grand institutional celebrations of his Jubilee ots great that his local parish church is putting on events too, and particularly good that these will also inclyde games and explorations for children in ‘Lewis Reserve’ the nature reserve that was part of the grounds of Lewis’s Oxford Home The Kilns. I will be giving a talk at 7:30pm Celebrating Lewis’s Imaginative writing, during which I will also play some songs and read some sonnets that he has inspired

winnipegThe following week I am flying to Winnipeg to hang out with the amazing Steve Bell and maybe write some songs. We will do a concert together in Winnipeg on thursday 26th. Full details here.

This is followed by a retreat on poetry, prayer and imagination, on the 27th and 28th September at the St. Benedict’s retreat centre in Winnipeg. Here is their poster with all the details: Malcolm guite

Downtown-main-artThen from November 8-10th I will be at the CS Lewis Foundations Fall conference in Houston Texas where I will be leading a ‘writers track’ on both the spiritualities and the practicalities of creative writing, and also leading meditations and performing some of my songs and sonnets. I hoe this conference will also be the occasion for the American Launch of my new book of poems The Singing Bowl (US Amazon page here)

100_8915_westminsterThen I will be back in the UK getting ready for the big celebration of Lewis on 21-22nd November at Westminster Abbey and unveiling of his memorial in poets corner. I will be speaking at the conference on 21st. Full details here.

Finally I will be back in Cambridge for a day conference on the 23rd in Magdalene, his old college, where I shall give a paper on the contemporary relevance of Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man. Rowan Williams and Helen Cooper will also be speaking at the Cambridge conference. The web page for the conference is here

Please keep an eye on the website for information as it will be updated frequently in the coming weeks with details of registration, information about the speakers and their paper titles. In the meantime, if you have any queries, please feel free to contact lewisascritic@gmail.com

8 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Inklings

CS Lewis: A Sonnet

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

As I mentioned in my last post, this is a Jubilee year for CS Lewis as, fifty years after his death, we reassess his extraordinary legacy. That can be done in lots of ways and I will be participating in some of the conferences that will hilight the sheer weight and power of his academic work, and explore the depth and richness of his imaginative writing. But for many of us the debt we owe to Lewis is more personal, and more poetic; it is a debt to someone who has opened a spiritual door, someone who has baptised the imagination. As I worked on academic papers I found that what I also needed to do was write a poem! So here is a sonnet articulating something of who Lewis is and what we owe to him. It will be appear as part of a sequence called ‘The Household of Faith’ in The Singing Bowl, my next volume of poetry with the Canterbury Press, which should be out in November.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button, or on the title

CS Lewis

From ‘Beer and Beowulf’ to the seven heavens,

Whose music you conduct from sphere to sphere,

You are our portal to those hidden havens

Whence we return to bless our being here.

Scribe of the Kingdom, keeper of the door

Which opens on to all we might have lost,

Ward of a word-hoard in the deep hearts core

Telling the tale of Love from first to last.

Generous, capacious, open, free,

Your wardrobe-mind has furnished us with worlds

Through which to travel, whence we learn to see

Along the beam, and hear at last the heralds,

Sounding their summons, through the stars that sing,

Whose call at sunrise brings us to our King.

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds

10 Comments

Filed under imagination, Inklings, literature, Poems

From San Diego To Westminster Abbey – a big year for CS Lewis

cs_lewisMany of you will know that I am a great admirer and, as far as I am able, a follower of CS Lewis, without doubt one of he most influential people in my life. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of his death. There will be many events, conferences and meetings across the world to celebrate and commemorate his life and legacy, but I thought it might be useful for readers of my blog to let you know which of these various events I will be involved in. (also a useful reminder to me, so that I can try to be in the right place at the right time!) In this post I’ll give you the lowdown about the first one, the San Diego Summer Conference, and then list the others about which I’ll blog in more detail later.

So first up is the CS Lewis Summer Conference in San Diego June 21-23rd. This is going to be a major event focusing on Vision and Vocation in Lewis, both his own and the new vision and sense of vocation he can inspire in us, all focused through listening for his distinctive and unique voice amidst the modern cacophony. I will be giving the daily meditations at this conference, reading poetry and also performing with the amazing Steve Bell who will also be there as one of the resident artists and performers. But the real heart of these CS Lewis Foundation events is not just the lectures and seminars, good as they are, but the sense of community and interconnection, the friendships inspired, the new projects begun. I have seen the genesis of new books, plays, poems and songs, new collaborations and scholarly projects, all happening over coffees in corridors at these conferences, or over a beer in the famous evening sessions known collectively as ‘The Bag End Cafe”. I’m really looking forward to this one. My collaboration with Steve Bell on his last album started at the Foundations Oxbridge Conference in 2011 and we are going to be working on some new material after the San Diego meet. Steve has blogged about it here. They have assembled a great team of speakers including Peter Kreeft, James Como, Diana Glyer and Andrew Lazo. Check them all out here: Speakers and Artists. There are ‘early bird’ discounts on booking this conference still available until the April 25th.

July 14-19th there will be an Inklings Week in Oxford with all kinds of talks and events. I’ll be speaking on the Friday 19th July

On the 21st and 22nd of September there is going to be the CS Lewis Jubilee Festival, a weekend of events and talks on Lewis in Headington, centred on the church where he worshipped. I will be speaking on the evening of Saturday 21st on Lewis’s poetry and science fiction. Alister McGrath will also be speaking at this event.

Then in November around the anniversary of his death itself there is going to be a major conference and event at Westminster Abbey leading up to the ceremony on the 22nd of November when Lewis will be inducted into poet’s corner.  At the conference I will be speaking on Lewis’ use of imagination as a truth-bearing faculty, in a lecture complementing a talk by Alister McGrath on Lewis’s use of Reason in apologetics.

Then on the 23rd November there will be a conference in Magdalene College Cambridge, where Lewis was a fellow. I will be giving a paper on the contemporary relevance of Lewis’s prophetic words in The Abolition of Man.

Phew! well I hope I’m able to meet some of the readers of this blog afresh, or for the first time at one or other of these events.

8 Comments

Filed under imagination, Inklings

The Inklings; Fantasists or Prophets? The Complete Set.

CS Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams. JRR Tolkien: The Inklings!

Over the last month I have given a series of five talks at St. Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge, exploring the thesis that far from being backward-looking, reactionary or escapist, the Inklings were fully and prophetically engaged with the main streams of modernity, that they forsaw the coming crisis of meaning in the materialist West, and in particular the attendant crises of violence and environmntal degradation. I have tried to explain the way they forged a coherent alternative vision, which called for us to reintegrate Imagination and Reason as ways of knowing truth and relating to one another and the world. These talks have been recorded as audio and the last four were also filmed, and I have assembled on this page the complete set of links to these recordings so that anyone who wishes can return to this page when they have the time and follow the talks through in sequence.

Its been a remarkable experience putting together and delivering these talks, at once draining and exhilarating, and I have had a sense as they were delivered of a new synthesis coming together in my mind.  I hope therefore, when I have the opportunity, to write these talks up and tfurther explore and develop these ideas in book form. Watch this space!

I will give the audio links first and then the video. I should say that the sound level is very low for the third talk, on Charles williams so people may prefer to take that talk from the video. I am very grateful to Daniel Son for filming the last four talks.

Part 1 The Inklings Fantasists or prophets

Part 2 CS Lewis and the Cosmic Summer

Part 3 Owen Barfield; poetry and participation

Part 4 Charles Williams; the Pattern and Glory of Love (you will need to turn up the volume on this one!)

Part 5: Tolkien; Roots and Branches

 

Now here are the links to the youtube video of the last four talks, on the individual Inklings, kindly provided by Daniel Son. The CS Lewis video starts a couple of minutes into the talk but the rest are complete.

1 CS Lewis and the Cosmic Summer

2 Owen Barfield: Poetry and participation

3 Charles Williams, the Pattern and Glory of Love

4 Tolkien; Roots and Branches

15 Comments

Filed under christianity, ecology, imagination, Inklings, literature, St. Edward's, Theology and Arts

CS Lewis’s Lost Aeneid a brief review

CS Lewis’s Lost Aeneid; Arms and the Exile

edited by A.T. Reyes

Continuing my theme this year of Translation, I would like to share my toughts on a wonderful ‘new’ translation of parts of the Aeneid.

Lewis scholars have known for some time that he had been working on a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, a poem which he loved, lived with, and learned from throughout his life. But only in the last few years has it been recovered and edited, and now it has been published and made available for everyone, and it has certainly been worth the wait! I had expected only fragments, perhaps no more than  a dozen lines here and another half dozen there, but what we get is the whole of book 1, most of book 2, substantial parts of the vital book 6 and then tantalising fragments from the other books. AT Reyes has done a splendid job of editing it all, giving a full facing page Latin text, writing fine summaries to fill in the gaps, and providing an excellent introduction which draws together Lewis’s many appreciations of Virgil in his critical prose and also his various discussions of the art of translation. The introduction alone will be a real resource both for Lewis scholars and for those for whom translation, its losses and gains is an endless fascination. But the heart of he book is in Lewis’s own long, loping, rangey verse translation, full of felicities and an unashamedly, beautiful, romantic and adventurous ‘take’ on its original.  Lewis has chosen rhyming couplets in English Alexandrines and deployed them to great efect. the Alexandrine is essentialy a line of iambic pentameter with an extra ‘foot’, an extra two syllables with a single stress, tacked on. This is what gives the verse its sense of bounding length, of stride, for an ear attuned to the more usual five stress line.

We know from various letters that Lewis read substantial parts of this translation at meetings of the Inklings, and it is clearly designed to be read aloud, and reads suerbly. To give you a flavour of what I mean I have read three passages for you onto audio boo, the links are below and I have chosen them to suggest the sheer range of effects Lewis is able to achieve with this verse form. They are all from book 1 and I hope they will whet your appetite to go out and read the whole thing for yourself.

As always you can hear the reading either by clicking on the play button if it appears in your browser, or if no play button appears you can click on the title of the extract and be taken to my audioboo page and play it there

The first passage is a description of the storm Juno sends to wreck the trojan fleet, lines 102-123. Reyes points out in his introduction that there are some striking paralells between this description, as Lewis translates it here, and his own description of the great storm in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Its stirring stuff. See what you think.

Juno’s Storm

The second passage is the one where Dido first sees Aeneas I give more of the context in the audioboo. This is line 585-609

Dido Meets Aeneas

The third passage tells how Venus sends her son Cupid in disguise to the feast dido has given Aeneas and causes her to fall in lve with him. this passage particularly shows Lewis power to summon sensuous and romantic language and imagery even in the sound of his words. as before I have given a little context and commentary as part of the audioboo recording. these are lines 683-720

Dido Falls in Love

For Lewis Virgil was a poet who could both celebrate the beauty and majesty of life in this world and at the same time keep the soul attuned to longing, kindle its desire, for the ‘ever-receding  shore’, for the land we long for. Virgil’s epic of the founding of the City of Rome becomes in his imagination, as it did in the imagination of Dante before him, the epic of our wondering, always longing journey towards the City of God.

3 Comments

Filed under imagination, Inklings, literature