The Shape of the Cross in C.S. Lewis’ Writing: My Oct 23rd Talk at the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society

I’m pleased to announce that I will be giving a talk at the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society next week (Tues, Oct 23rd, 8pm for 8.15pm start at Pusey House). The Society was very kind to fit me in on my short UK trip and allow me to talk about my research. I am talking about the word images in C.S. Lewis’ work and how they relate to spiritual life. To get a sense of what I’m talking about you can read my guest blog at Theological Miscellany or my post on the Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis’ Work. I am quite excited and a bit nervous to test my ideas in the crucible of readers of Lewis so close to his home.

If you are coming to the talk and want to prep by reading something of Lewis’, pick up The Problem of PainMere Christianity, The Pilgrim’s RegressThe Great Divorce, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or Till We Have Faces–whatever one you feel like reading. But as you read ask yourself the question: In what ways is Lewis trying to shape the way I live my spiritual life?

Whether Oxford-bound or stuck at home, I will leave you where I will begin on Tuesday. This is the fifth canto of Dymer, a poem of some beauty but more than just a little difficult to discern in meaning. I am going to start my talk with this scene, with Dymer (hero? villain? dupe of fate?) as he sits in the bracing cold of the mountaintop. I hope, at the very least, it will encourage you to look at the poem again.

Dymer, Canto V


Meanwhile the furrowed fog rolled down ahead,
Long tatters of its vanguard smearing round
The bases of the crags. Like cobweb shed
Down the deep combes it dulled the tinkling sound
Of water on the hills. The spongy ground
Faded three yards ahead: then nearer yet
Fell the cold wreaths, the white depth gleaming wet.


Then after a long time the path he trod
Led downward. Then all suddenly it dipped
Far steeper, and yet steeper, with smooth sod.
He was half running now. A stone that slipped
Beneath him, rattled headlong down: he tripped,
Stumbled and clutched—then panic, and no hope
To stop himself, once lost upon that slope.


And faster, ever faster, and his eye
Caught tree-tops far below. The nightmare feeling
Had gripped him. He was screaming: and the sky
Seemed hanging upside down. Then struggling, reeling,
With effort beyond thought he hung half kneeling,
Halted one saving moment. With wild will
He clawed into the hillside and lay still,


Half hanging on both arms. His idle feet
Dangled and found no hold. The moor lay wet
Against him and he sweated with the heat
Of terror, all alive. His teeth were set.
“By God, I will not die,” said he. “Not yet.”
Then slowly, slowly, with enormous strain,
He heaved himself an inch: then heaved again,


Till saved and spent he lay. He felt indeed
It was the big, round world beneath his breast,
The mother planet proven at his need.
The shame of glad surrender stood confessed,
He cared not for his boasts. This, this was best,
This giving up of all. He need not strive;
He panted, he lay still, he was alive.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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10 Responses to The Shape of the Cross in C.S. Lewis’ Writing: My Oct 23rd Talk at the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Best wishes for an enjoyable evening together, this evening! (And, blushingly apologetic greetings (should you think of it) to the old friends and new I’ve been neglecting so outrageously as correspondent since I last visited almost exactly 3 years ago!) Wish I could be there!

    And, isn’t Dymer fascinating? What’s ‘going on’, there, stylistically – stanzaicly, with all that enjambment – intertextually? What possible play with Wordsworth and Byron (or do I but dully burble?)? And, with who more modern?

    And, this passage suddenly makes me want to compare it with something in a novel Charles Williams was writing about the same time (1926)… Hamiltonian influence on the early prose fiction of C.W.? – probably not, but, what, then?

    And, how have I never seen that Dutton dustjacket before (or, worse thought, can I have forgotten seeing it?)? – wow! (What doe one say? ‘Interaesthetically’? Or, ‘interartifactually’?) What a different impression its visual and Lewis’s verbal styles make!)


    • Yes, Dymer is fascinating. I keep seeing new rich things in it. I haven’t even begun, yet, on intertextuality! I’m still working out the philosophical ideas, which are resonant.
      It seems to me the dust cover has absolutely nothing to do with the text! It is a beautiful dissension.


  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    And here’s hoping you had a good old continuing-on-into-the-Bird-&-Baby discussion, and are merrily back to work!


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