Ch. 1, pg. 7: a votary of the Blue Flower

The blue flower was a symbol for the German Romantic movement. It originated in the works of the German author Novalis, and eventually came to represent bittersweet longing, the Sehnsucht that Lewis spoke of.

“The ‘blue flower’ is unattainable and is to remain unattainable. Romantics expressed a longing for home and a longing for what is far off; Schiller called the romantics ‘exiles pining for a homeland’,” write Finnish authors Petri Liukkonen and Ari Pesonen on their page on Novalis.


The blue flower, or "Blaue Blume," of Sehnsucht

The blue flower, or "Blaue Blume," of Sehnsucht

"Klingsors Zaubergarten (The Magic Garden of Klingsor)" by Gemälde von Angerer dem Älteren. Note the blue flower gleaming in the center.

"Klingsors Zaubergarten (The Magic Garden of Klingsor)" by Gemälde von Angerer dem Älteren. Note the blue flower gleaming in the center.

(I read no German, so if I got any of the above wrong, I would appreciate knowing about it.)
Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 1:37 am  Comments (1)  
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Ch. 1, Pg. 5: Tennyson, indeed, my father liked

…But it was the Tennyson of In Memoriam and Locksley Hall. I never heard from him of the Lotus Eaters or the Morte D’Arthur.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

That is, the more realistic Tennyson rather than the Tennyson of fantasy and myth.

“In Memoriam A. H. H.” is an extended meditation on the death of Tennyson’s friend Arthur Henry Hallam; it addresses the very Victorian themes of conflict within religious faith and omnipresent death and grief. “Locksley Hall” is a bitter lament for a lost love who has chosen a less worthy man than the narrator; it includes casual sexism that hints at its Victorian origins. “Locksley Hall” contains disconnected dream imagery verging on the fantastic, but is far more grounded overall than the “The Lotus Eaters” or the Arthurian poems.

“The Lotus Eaters” is based on Odysseus’s encounter with an island of, unsurprsingly, lotus eaters. The poem resembles Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in its fantastic content, maritime themes, eerie tone and its firmly established place in the English canon. 

Lewis might have slightly misspoken with his reference to the “Morte D’Arthur.” Tennyson did write a poem titled “Morte D’Arthur,” but it was part of his larger collection of Arthurian poems titled Idylls of the King, based on Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. Lewis likely meant to refer to the larger work.

Ch. 1, Pg. 4: Quixotic

Don Quixote and Sancho, by Gustave Dore

Generally, quixotic is an adjective meaning optimistic to the point of foolishness, derived from Miguel de Cervantes’s character Don Quixote. However, Lewis here refers to another aspect of the character of Don Quixote–his overdeveloped sense of chivalry and correspondingly, his Spanish sense of honor.

Full text of Don Quixote (English translation) at Project Gutenberg

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ch. 1, Pg. 3: Happy, but for so happy ill secured. Milton

The epigraph to Chapter 1 comes from Book 4, line 378 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which Satan gazes upon the beauties of the earth and the happiness of Adam and Eve in the garden:

Ah! gentle pair, ye little think how nigh
Your change approaches, when all these delights
Will vanish, and deliver ye to woe;
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy;
Happy, but for so happy ill secured…

By quoting this passage at the beginning of his life story, Lewis compares the destruction of his early childhood happiness to the entrance of evil into the world in the garden of Eden. Lewis would not have meant to imply any sort of victimization; rather, he merely connects himself to the plight of all humanity–that is, that even innocents are touched by sin, no matter idyllic their lives may seem.

I was helped to find this information by page 2 of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Alan Jacobs.

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preface, vii: Confessions..of Rousseau

Far less famous and more secular than Augustine’s memoir, Jean-Jacques’s Rousseau’s Confessions was published posthumously in 1782. Because Rousseau included some events that show him in an unfavorable light—including the fate of his five illegitimate children—his memoir has been noted for its candor. In addition to this soul baring, Rousseau also denounces fellow authors who he imagines to be jealously conspiring against him. Today the work is most notable as an early instance of the autobiography.

Full text (English translation) at the Gutenberg project

Published in: on March 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preface, vii: Confessions…of St. Augustine

vii: Confessions…of St. Augustine: Written 397-398 A.D. by Augustine of Hippo, the Confessions of St. Augustine relate the saint’s experience of sinfulness and eventual Christian conversion. The book is widely considered both a great Christian classic and the first modern autobiography.

A free copy of a 1955 translation of the Confessions (various formats)

For more info:
How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill discusses both Augustine’s life and the Confessions‘s impact on history.

Published in: on March 10, 2008 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment