Saturday, April 10, 2010


Well, I never was very faithful in the blogging department, but since I've been at Uni, I've been perfectly hopeless. I took to writing poetry over the summer... a requirement for the course I was doing. And would have enjoyed it, too, if it weren't for the deadlines. This is the one I think is best.

Westward lies a distant land
Where faeries dance ‘pon elven strand
By lee of hill all crowned in white:
A city fair and bathed in light.

A chink into another wood
Where summer’s golden grace’s withstood.
Encastled thrones, the Lion’s breath,
A deeper life beyond the death.

The Alder, Ash and lovely Beech,
The winding road, no end in reach,
The haunted shadow found and lost,
Redemption gained at greater cost.

And down the hill the war-horn cries:
Come thund’ring hooves! Come foe’s demise!
Come flash of steel! Come quick’ning dawn!
Come ev’ry man to goodness sworn!

This call is loud, this yearning strong,
A weighty, trembling, broad’ning song;
Its shafts return to strike anew
And pierce my bursting organ through.

A Elbereth Gilthoniel!
And unto Aslan’s sake as well!
His golden mane, Her glint of stars,
I’ll gladly bear their joyous scars.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Adjectives in the Spring

I don't know how many of you will "get" this. It spilled out hurriedly when I intended to do something else.

It was October. And October meant spring: sharp, wild storms followed by wide, crisp, sunny days still yet too cold for much outdoor activity without a thick coat; orchards roofed with a delicate thatch of white and pink blossoms; green buds opening to the chilly nip of the wind; days beginning to grow longer and richer golden light in the evenings.
It also meant white-baiters. In their tall black boots and heavy ugly waders, they tramped along the sands of the beach and rivers, despoiling the banks with haphazard baiting-stands and deep, muddy trails: the new flowers uncaringly trampled underfoot. Axes hewed the bothersome branches off trees who had stood quietly in the river-woods minding their own business until the white-baiters decreed in their foolhardiness their ruin only to erect their corrugated iron squatter’s huts. The sacred glades were defiled, ancient treasure troves broken open and rifled, filth strewn on the dancing lawns.
Deep in the woods the black hearts of the trees were stirred to wrath. In the eyes of the woodland lords a deep green flame was kindled. The Lesser Folk showed to them their unbounded sorrow: the houses destroyed and wives, children and brothers slain by ignorance and pride. Mighty they rose up: the woodland kings and their fair queens. Their spears shone bright like the gleam of dawn, their helms like the sun and paling stars. They allied with the dark savages, their natural foe, whose hands were ready on their deadly bows, against the common threat. The blood of the faeries was swift to rise, and they harkened at the silver horns of the Kings and Queens.
And there was battle ‘neath the trees.
The invaders were put to fight. Like madmen they fled and lamented loudly when they saw their brothers laid low. Their huts given over to the flame, their stands cast deep into the river-water. The dirty white nets were set on high poles to fly loose in the wind as white banners of victory.
‘Now, children!’ cried the woodland king, ‘May we feast and dance through the night. May songs be sung and may a great victory fire be set on the silver sands to roar with warmth. May there be joy and merriment forevermore!”
From the safe shadows afar lurked the pirates, in the outer darkness. They watched the jamboree in darkling dismay, but they were barred from joy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I started reading Beowulf again the other day. I read it once several years ago (Seamus Heaney's translation. No, as much as I would like to, I don't read it in Anglo-Saxon. I only know about four words of the language. Hwaet, werguild, wyrd, and wyrm, if you care to know.) I wasn't that impressed with it then. The story was good - I could see that - but I felt let down by the words Heaney used to translate it. They didn't seem to me to fit, somehow. The story would be soaring along and then some jarring, modern word would intrude. I suspect that this was chiefly because I had just finished reading Tolkien's The Lay of Leithian (which is an awesome epic poem, by the way, though it be incomplete) and he matches his style his theme. This time round I laid hold of different translation. Strange to say, I'm finding I don't really care about the style it's told in - the story's simply too wonderful. It feels almost as if I'm reading Lord of the Rings in verse, even to the point where they seem to share the same characters. Its even set in Middle-earth, or Middangeard.I read somewhere recently (can't remember where) that Tolkien himself said that Beowulf was one of the greatest influences on his work.
I took the book to the beach with me yesterday, found a lonely rock upon the silver strand and, to the sound of the waves (I can never decide if they sound mournful or joyous) read a good bit of it aloud to myself - the part where Beowulf is preparing himself to wrest with the demon Grendel. Ah! But it was stirring!
I remember the basic plot line, but not the details of the rest of the story - may it meet my expectations and hopes!
And just for the record: Beowulf is NOTHING like the despicable film that has been made based on it. Beowulf is really a hero! Suffice to say, I have not seen the film, but when I heard the movie had been released, I read a review and was shocked - nay - scandalized by the changes they'd made.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Some New Words

I found these in a book about books (or matters literary). I believe they are from yet another book by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd called "The Meaning of Liff." They've taken town names (mostly British) and given them useful meanings. These following examples seem to apply to either me or folk I know.

- the way people stand when examining other people's bookshelves.

Ainderby Quernhow
- one who continually bemoans the "loss" of the word "gay" to the English language, even though they never used the word in any context at all until they started complaining they couldn't use it anymore.

Bathel - to pretend you have read a the book under discussion, when in fact you've only seen the TV series.
- the triumphal slamming shut of a book after reading the final page.

Dalmilling - continually making small talk to someone who is trying to read.
Frithram - a paragraph that gets you stuck in a book . The more you read it, the less it means to you.
Great Wakering
- the panic that sets in when you badly need to go to the lavatory and cannot make up your mind about what book to take with you.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Dashed Good Book, This One

Originally it was called Alec Forbes of Howglen.

Instead of the one, near perfect (but somehow still likeable) character I encountered in his The Shepherd’s Castle pitted against narrow minded, hypocritical “Calvinists,” MacDonald has here a whole array of imperfect characters simply living (or not living) their faith and growing in it. He never expressly says “this is the wrong doctrine” or this is “right,” whereas in Shephard’s Castle his attacks on what he considers wrong is sometimes almost rabid. Thomas Crann the stonemason thinks it’s his duty to “dangle souls over the hell-fire” and frighten them into repentance and love, but for all that, he is a very lovable character, as is Mr. Malison, the school master who beats his pupils up quite badly. I won’t say why I love him – would spoil the story and ruin a truly MacDonaldian moment in the book. There’s old Mr. Cowie, Robert Bruce (no, not that one), Curly, blind Tibbie, and, of course, Alec Forbes and Annie Anderson. But the character who outshines them all is old Mr. Crupples the alcoholic librarian. And Crann wouldn’t even call him a Christian! Well, he doesn’t attend the Missionary Church, which is a great pity, if not a minor sin in the stonemason’s reckoning. You just enjoy all these characters, and see how they change as the story goes on. There’s something hobbitish or Austenian about their lives and about Glammerton and the countryside about. The rest of the world exists, they don’t deny that, but somehow it doesn’t effect them overly. They are quiet self-contained with their two churches, four seasons and converted and unconverted on their doorstep. Only when Alec goes off to University do we catch a glimpse of the rest of the world, but it is still only that which pertains directly to events and people in Glammerton. It would make a great BBC drama, if only they kept it faithful to the strong Christian message and themes throughout (is that asking too much?)
I still can’t decide whether the fact that it has been edited is to be mourned over or blessed. The editor, Michael Phillips, I think (to hear him tell it) has done a pretty good job. but I've never been able to get my hands on an unedited novel of MacDonald's. If he has actually changed anything essential, I don’t know. But one of the chief edits he has done is remove the heavy Scots dialect of the dialogue and replace it with English most everyone can understand. (In his introduction he includes a piece of the original for comparison. Does anyone know what a “clanjamfrie” is? Or what it means to “sook o’ the tappit hen?”)
In his books (that I’ve read) George MacDonald really does attempt to show the love of God. Not just the “God loves you anyway” approach or assume that everyone is at least a nominal christian as many nineteenth century authors seem to do, but he has a real John-Piper-reminiscent “God delights in you, and calls you to delight yourself in Him” message, which is always very edifying.
If you've read Tolkien and Lewis, then you really must explore MacDonald, if you haven't already. His novels are remarkably good, but his fairytales and fantasies are simply incredible.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Balrog in the Bible?

I couldn't help but smile when I read this verse the other morning: "Then I saw another beast, coming up out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon." (Revelation 13:11) It goes on to describe how he calls down fire from heaven too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tolkien On Imagination

From the Notion Club Papers, which is included in Sauron Defeated. I thought it rather interesting.

‘When you are writing a story, for instance, you can (if you’re a vivid visualizer, as I am, and are clearly visualizing the scene) see two places at once. You can see (say) a field with a tree and sheep sheltering from the sun under it, and be looking round your room. You are really seeing both scenes, because you can recollect details later. … As far as my own visualizing goes, I’ve always been impressed by how often it seems independent of my own will or planning mind (at the moment). Often there is no trace of composing a scene or building it up. It comes before the mind’s eye, as we say, in a way that is very similar to opening closed eyes on a complete waking view. I found it difficult, usually quite impossible, to alter these pictures myself, that is my purpose. As a rule I find it better, and in the end more right, to alter the story I’m trying to tell to suit the pictures. If the two really belong together – they don’t always, of course. But in any case, on such occasions you are really seeing double, or simultaneously.’

C. S. Lewis mentioned something like this, too, I think, when talking about how he came to write Narnia. He had ‘pictures’ of such things such as a faun standing in the snow with an umbrella. I wonder if the pictures they talk about predate the stories they wrote, or as they wrote the stories or thought them out, the pictures cropped up. Hm.
If these pictures are such as I suppose them to be, then I know of one instance where I had to alter my story to fit the ‘picture’ that I have of a scene. Not very interesting to others, perhaps, but my hero was meant to be walking through a valley that came out onto a plain, but instead I saw him standing on top of a cliff looking out over that same plain. And the mountains that I’d put in my map were in different places in the picture. Darn.
But they do seem to come prefabricated, to a certain degree, which helps in describing detail. Anyhow, I, as I said, thought it was an interesting quote.