More Middle Earth Proverbial sayings

"out of the frying pan, into the fire"

"It's an ill wind as blows nobody no good"

"Better late than never"

"All's well as ends Better"

"But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know"

"May the hair on your toes never fall off"

"Never laugh at live dragons"

"Dont let your heads get too big for your hats"

"Where will wants not, a way opens"

"Need brooks no delay, yet late is better than never"

Middle Earth Proverbs and Traditional Sayings

"He can see through a brick wall in time" - A reference to Barliman by Gandalf (FOTR - Many Meetings).
"Glory and trumpets" from Sam. (same chapter)
"Faithful heart may have forward tongue" - Theoden (TTT, King of Golden Hall)
"Oft evil will shall evil mar" Theoden (TTT, The Palantir)
"Our Enemy's devices oft serve us in his despite" Eomer (ROTK, Ride of Rohirrim)
"Twice blessed is help unlooked for" Eomer (ROTK, Battle of P. Fields)
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us" Gandalf (FOTR, Shadow of the Past)

Cast of Characters

[The Wedding Feast of Cana - Gerard David – 1500]

THE final Bishop of Winchester who haunted my sermon was John V. Taylor, who suspended his episcopal duties in the 1980s to spend several months directing a Passion and resurrection play in his own cathedral.

Having mentioned this in my sermon, I was besieged by a queue of people at coffee who had been part of the cast, eager to tell me how even the most minor roles had been totally life-changing.

It all reminded me of a poem by Charles Williams, much loved by Taylor, with the catchy title “Apologue on the Parable of a Wedding Guest”. Williams’ poem imagines a fancy dress ball hosted by Prince Immanuel. Everyone is invited, but everyone must wear fancy dress, must dare to pose as the selves they would be had they been granted their heart's desire.

Revd David Wilbourne [Vicar of Helmsley in the diocese of York]
Church Times – 5 October 2007

Apologue on the Parable of a Wedding Guest (part)
This guest his brother's courage wore,
that his wife's zeal, while, just before,
she in his steady patience shone;
there a young lover had put on
the fine integrity of sense
his mistress used; magnificence
a father borrowed from his son,
who was not there, ashamed to don
his father's wise economy.
No he or she was he or she


Oxford, 5 February 1940. Monday morning in the Divinity School, Oxford University's splendid fifteenth-century Gothic lecture hall. The stone-carved room, with its magnificent fan-vaulted ceiling, is crammed with students, the mixed student body of wartime Oxford: a larger proportion than usual of young women; young men straight from school, many of them awaiting call up; a few in uniform, who will be training later in the day. Britain has been at war with Nazi Germany for five months: Hitler has recently invaded Poland and Finland, and is expected soon to attack France.

But it is not news from the war that causes the buzz of suppressed excitement pervading the room. Usually the audience for the second lecture of a series is smaller than for the first. This time it is larger: many who were here last week have brought their friends, to see and hear something out of the ordinary. Most are muffled up in overcoats and scarves against the chill of the poorly-heated building.

As the nearby clock of St Mary's Church strikes eleven, three men sweep into the hall and make their way up the central aisle between the chairs. At left and right, their black gowns billowing behind them, are two well-known characters, leading members of the English Faculty: on one side, the domed forehead and burly physique of C.S.Lewis, Fellow in English at Magdalen College; on the other, slighter, smaller, with down-turned mouth and piercing eyes, J.R.R.Tolkien, the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon. Between them strides an unlikely figure. Tall and angular, gownless, in a blueish-grey business suit and round spectacles, darting quick glances around the room, he seems as full of anticipation as the students, and when he mounts the platform, leaving his companions to find their seats in the front row, there is a glint of something like mischief in his eyes as he surveys his audience.

This is Charles Williams, the new Honorary Lecturer in English Literature. He clutches a rolled-up sheaf of papers in one hand but having set them on the lectern he never looks at them again. He launches into his lecture, which is on Milton's poetic masque Comus -- the second of an entire term's course on Milton's works -- and those already startled by his unacademic appearance are further shocked by his voice: not the usual refined ‘Oxford’ accent, but a sharp, plebeian enunciation. Almost Cockney, and certainly some sort of ‘London’ accent, it comes close to grating on the ear. But within a minute or two any resistance aroused by these unorthodox tones melts away.

Williams speaks as if Comus were of immediate and vital importance to himself and to every member of the audience, and needs urgently to be discussed and understood. He seems to know Comus -- and indeed all of Milton's poetry -- by heart, and plucks apt illustrations and quotations out of the air as he goes. He charms the audience with his wit, his irony, his passionate urgency. He strides about the stage, gesturing with his tense but expressive hands, clutching for the exact word and then firing it off with a piercing look at this or that student. He seems to speak out of the side of his mouth, and this -- together with the harsh accent -- gives his words a curious personal intensity. Reciting poetry, he makes it a hypnotic incantation but also a sensuous delight, enjoying it as if the sounds and rhythms of the words can be savoured like nectar, and sure that the audience will relish them too.

But he also understands the students' resistances, their scepticism, their doubts. Comus, he explains, is about chastity. A virtue undervalued in the present age but of the utmost importance, which we may choose to reject -- that is our right -- but which we must first understand. His hearers are spellbound. They sense that they are listening to someone who knows (and means) what he says; someone who has lived poetry, who has it in his blood and bones, and who can speak to them also about vital issues in their lives. The beauty of Milton's verse and the sacred loveliness of virginity become, for an hour, the most important things in the world.

Then, far too quickly, time is up; Williams has indicated the theme of next week's lecture and is already off the platform, with a quick conspiratorial smile to his friends in the front row, and is making his way briskly out of the room, leaving his audience dazed, exhilarated, inspired. Most leave the lecture determined to read Comus as soon as possible. Some are already planning to persuade their colleges -- by hook or by crook -- to let them have Charles Williams as their tutor, next term if not this.

Even those few who have remained sceptical, or been antagonised by the lecture, cannot help being impressed. For the reticent, ruminative Tolkien, Williams’s platform manner is perhaps rather too histrionic. Impressed by his friend’s intelligence and range of knowledge, he nonetheless decides to attend the lectures no further (after all, very little poetry worth the name has been written in England since the Norman Conquest). Lewis, on the other hand, has no doubts. ‘Simply as criticism’, he will later recall, ‘it was superb because here was a man who really started from the same point of view as Milton and really cared with every fibre of his being about “the sage and serious doctrine of virginity” ’. Indeed, ‘That beautiful carved room had probably not witnessed anything so important since some of the great mediaeval or Reformation lectures. I have at last, if only for once, seen a university doing what it was founded to do: teaching wisdom.’

That wisdom was hard-won and fraught with bitter paradox. The charismatic
lecturer who celebrated chastity bore the emotional scars of a painfully unconsummated fourteen-year love-affair which had brought his marriage close to breaking-point.

With an encyclopaedic knowledge of English poetry and unrivalled critical insight, he had no university degree (as his lack of an academic gown indicated) and could lecture at Oxford only because war had called away so many of the usual staff.

A brilliant Anglican theologian and interpreter of Christian doctrine, he was a trained occultist who continued to practise what can only be called magical rituals with a sexual and even sadistic tinge to them. At Oxford he was an anomaly: a restless Londoner who found ‘Oxford, however nice, still a kind of parody of London’; a worldly-wise publisher with a good head for business, more at home with a cigarette and a sandwich in a Ludgate Hill wine bar than with the pipesmoke and claret of an Oxford common-room. He was beginning to be recognised as an important poet with the first volume of a brilliantly original cycle of Arthurian poems whose style would influence the Four Quartets of his friend T.S.Eliot. And a little over five years later, at the height of his reputation and influence, he would die, to be celebrated briefly and then, for the most part, forgotten.

Who was Charles Williams, this man who changed so many people's lives -- often at a single meeting -- and yet has largely disappeared from our maps of twentieth-century writing? It will be the task to this book to find out, to explore a literary life rich and strange almost beyond belief.

Grevel Lindop (As yet unpublished)

Williams again...

Williams was an extraordinary person, a writer and thinker of unique charisma and complexity, whose life was rich and tumultuous. His relationships span a vital era in English literature. The friend and associate of Yeats and Eliot, the spiritual inspirer of Auden and Dorothy L. Sayers, he was also a valued associate of the young Larkin and Amis. He is in many ways the vital missing 'jigsaw piece' in our picture of twentieth-century literature.

From a poor London background Williams made his way through the literary salons of 1920s London and the hierarchy of the Oxford University Press, to write a series of seven remarkable novels, 'spiritual thrillers' which still have a cult following. He was also the greatest twentieth-century poet to take the Arthurian legends for his theme. C. S. Lewis wrote of his poems, “They seem to me, both for the soaring and gorgeous novelty of their technique and for their profound wisdom, to be among the two or three most valuable books of verse produced in the century.” A recent critic has stated simply, “They are the great modern Grail poem.”

Next: An excerpt from Grevel’s new book

The Last Magician

There are signs that Charles Williams is being reassessed. Recent reprints of his novels, and editions of his letters, in Britain and North America, as well as increasing presence on the internet, indicate that there is a new groundswell of interest in him. A full biography is urgently needed, for its own interest and to further not just Tolkien studies but an understanding of the whole of mid-twentieth-century English writing. He is 'the last magician' both as the last of the magically creative 'Inklings' to receive due attention, and as the last major writer to emerge, as Yeats did before him, from the Western Occult tradition.

A new biography by Grevel Lindop, based on a wealth of hitherto unused archive material and many hours of candid interviews with those who knew Williams, will open up an astonishing life to 21st century readers. The biography is planned for publication by Oxford University Press in 2008 or soon thereafter.

Grevel Lindop

Seed of Adam

I was Julius, and I am Octavianus,
Augustus, Adam, the first citizen,
the power in the world, from brow to anus,
in commerce of the bones and bowels of men;
sinews' pull, blood's circulation,
Britain to Bagdad. I in brawn and brain
set knot by knot and station by station.
I drive on the morrow all things to begin again.
Look, children, I bring you peace;
I bring you good luck; I am the State; I am Caesar.
Now your wars cease; what will you say?

Seed of Adam ~ Charles Williams (pub. 1948)

Narnian Ulster (Final)

It may be the fault of some Ulster people that they feel too much responsibility, too much in control of their own characters and destiny, and that, with their endurance, their practical experience, and with their strong sense of obligation and commitment, they deserve success, here and hereafter. This may be true, but in The Silver Chair, Aslan tells Jill and Eustace that they are not in Narnia because they made the decision and called to Aslan to rescue them from the school bullies. Aslan’s answer is, ‘You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you... This is the reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there’ (that is, on earth.) The initiative came from Aslan.

Lewis understood this in his own case, and it answers my question as to why he was prepared to endanger his academic career by his apologetic writings. He knew that the initiative had been God’s in calling him back to Christianity, using, of course, his Inkling friends and his understanding of mythology, his search for Joy and truth. Por tanto quid. In return for so much, he felt he must give back to God his best efforts towards the redemption of others.