Taliessin through Logres

We’ve recently published the second of Charles William’s collections of Arthurian poetry.

In them, Charles Williams, a friend and comrade of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, weaves his own version of the legends of King Arthur with his imaginative accounts of Byzantium and Christendom.

Dense, subtle and full of astonishing turns of phrase, the poems bring together history, theology, myth and literature in a prodigious work of intellect and imagination. Their style varies from ringing rhymes and cunningly wrought stanzas, to alliterative lines recalling Anglo-Saxon poetry, as Williams retells the stories that have inspired writers from Malory to Tennyson to Zimmer Bradley.

Over at Quite Irregular, Jem Bloomfield has written a post about Taliessin through Logres.

Region of the Summer Stars begins: the theme is what was anciently called the Matter of Britain; that is, the reign of King Arthur in Logres and the Achievement of the Grail … The time historically is after the conversion of the Empire to Christianity but during the expectation of the Return of Our Lord (the Parousia).

It’s the beginning of a gripping, readable set of poems about the Matter of Britain.

The stars vanished; they gone, the illumined dusk
under the spell darkened to the colour of porphyry,
the colour of the stair of Empire and the womb of woman,
and the rich largesse of the Emperor; within was a point,
deep beyond or deep within Logres,
as if it had swallowed all the summer stars

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The Descent of the Dove

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The Descent of the Dove is Charles Williams’ audacious and passionate history of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Written at the beginning of the Second World War, by a close colleague of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, it is an invaluable glimpse into the mind of a major Christian thinker at a turning point in history. Williams’ vivid style and deep erudition are brought to bear on an almost impossible task: a history of the Spirit which blows wherever it wills, and confounds logic or expectation. The result is a radical and fascinating vision of Christianity’s history, which has a lot to suggest about its potential futures.

When St. Paul preached in Athens, the world was thronged with crosses, rooted outside cities, bearing all of them the bodies of slowly dying men. When Augustine preached in Carthage, the world was also thronged with crosses, but now in the very centre of cities, lifted in processions and above altars, decorated and jewelled, and bearing all of them the image of the Identity of dying Man. There can hardly ever have been—it is a platitude— a more astonishing reversion in the history of the world. It is not surprising that Christianity should sometimes be regarded as the darkest of superstitions, when it is considered that a thing of the lowest and most indecent horror should have been lifted, lit, and monstrously adored, and that not merely sensationally but by the vivid and philosophic assent of the great intellects of the Roman world.

Witchcraft

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Charles Williams was one of the Inklings, the circle of literary and theological writers which centred on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In Witchcraft, he provides an esoteric and intellectually provocative history of witchcraft and magic in the Christian era.

As readable as a thriller but full of profound theological insight, Williams’ book explores the sombre and lurid history of the reaction to witchcraft as well as its most famous cases.

Written before the rise of Wicca and the feminist embracing of witchcraft, this is a rediscovered classic, by one of the major minds of English Christianity in the twentieth century.