21 outubro 2009

The Planets

Lady LUNA, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us--the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count'nance
Orb'd and ageless. In earth's bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
--Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth. Next beyond her
MERCURY marches;--madcap rover,
Patron of pilf'rers. Pert quicksilver
His gaze begets, goblin mineral,
Merry multitude of meeting selves,
Same but sundered. From the soul's darkness,
With wreathed wand, words he marshals,
Guides and gathers them--gay bellwether
Of flocking fancies. His flint has struck
The spark of speech from spirit's tinder,
Lord of language! He leads forever
The spangle and splendour, sport that mingles
Sound with senses, in subtle pattern,
Words in wedlock, and wedding also
Of thing with thought. In the third region
VENUS voyages...but my voice falters;
Rude rime-making wrongs her beauty,
Whose breasts and brow, and her breath's sweetness
Bewitch the worlds. Wide-spread the reign
Of her secret sceptre, in the sea's caverns,
In grass growing, and grain bursting,
Flower unfolding, and flesh longing,
And shower falling sharp in April.
The metal copper in the mine reddens
With muffled brightness, like muted gold,
By her fingers form'd.

Far beyond her
The heaven's highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv'n thunder
Of SOL's chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle's eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom
Breathes o'er the breast, broadening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos'd garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pure fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth's matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp'd male,
The earth's husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye. But other country
Dark with discord dins beyond him,
With noise of nakers, neighing of horses,
Hammering of harness. A haughty god
MARS mercenary, makes there his camp
And flies his flag; flaunts laughingly
The graceless beauty, grey-eyed and keen,
--Blond insolence--of his blithe visage
Which is hard and happy. He hews the act,
The indifferent deed with dint of his mallet
And his chisel of choice; achievement comes not
Unhelped by him; --hired gladiator
Of evil and good. All's one to Mars,
The wrong righted, rescued meekness,
Or trouble in trenches, with trees splintered
And birds banished, banks fill'd with gold
And the liar made lord. Like handiwork
He offers to all--earns his wages
And whistles the while. White-feathered dread
Mars has mastered. His metal's iron
That was hammered through hands into holy cross,
Cruel carpentry. He is cold and strong,
Necessity's song.

Soft breathes the air
Mild, and meadowy, as we mount further
Where rippled radiance rolls about us
Moved with music--measureless the waves'
Joy and jubilee. It is JOVE's orbit,
Filled and festal, faster turning
With arc ampler. From the Isles of Tin
Tyrian traders, in trouble steering
Came with his cargoes; the Cornish treasure
That his ray ripens. Of wrath ended
And woes mended, of winter passed
And guilt forgiven, and good fortune
Jove is master; and of jocund revel,
Laughter of ladies. The lion-hearted,
The myriad-minded, men like the gods,
Helps and heroes, helms of nations
Just and gentle, are Jove's children,
Work his wonders. On his white forehead
Calm and kingly, no care darkens
Nor wrath wrinkles: but righteous power
And leisure and largess their loose splendours
Have wrapped around him--a rich mantle
Of ease and empire. Up far beyond
Goes SATURN silent in the seventh region,
The skirts of the sky. Scant grows the light,
Sickly, uncertain (the Sun's finger
Daunted with darkness). Distance hurts us,
And the vault severe of vast silence;
Where fancy fails us, and fair language,
And love leaves us, and light fails us
And Mars fails us, and the mirth of Jove
Is as tin tinkling. In tattered garment,
Weak with winters, he walks forever
A weary way, wide round the heav'n,
Stoop'd and stumbling, with staff groping,
The lord of lead. He is the last planet
Old and ugly. His eye fathers
Pale pestilence, pain of envy,
Remorse and murder. Melancholy drink
(For bane or blessing) of bitter wisdom
He pours out for his people, a perilous draught
That the lip loves not. We leave all things
To reach the rim of the round welkin,
Heaven's heritage, high and lonely.

Because of this book.

Reviewed here by the TLS:

The hidden medieval message at the heart of C. S. Lewis's classic Chronicles

Our age is dominated by Saturn, and it is time to rediscover Jupiter. It is safe to say that few if any of the millions who have read C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia would have summarized their message in those terms, taken from medieval planetary lore. Michael Ward, who with Planet Narnia has established himself not only as the foremost living Lewis scholar, but also as a brilliant writer in his own right, well knows that in advancing such an argument he risks being lumped with Dan Brown and other so-called discoverers of hidden codes. But his cumulative case for reading the Narnia books in terms of the planets (a brief preliminary account of which was given in the TLS of April 25, 2003) is overwhelming. These stories and their author deserve to be taken far more seriously in literary, cultural and philosophical terms than has hitherto been supposed.

Other controlling themes – the seven deadly sins, for instance – have been suggested for the seven Narnia stories (first published in the 1950s), but none has found much favour. Ward proposes, instead, that the books reflect and embody the thematic characteristics accorded in the medieval world-view to the seven planets, ie including the Sun and the Moon but excluding Uranus, Neptune and the now demoted Pluto. Thus The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe embodies Jupiter, Lewis’s favourite planet (a picture of which, accompanied by Earth, tiny on the same scale, adorns the book’s cover). This explains, and gives coherence to, the otherwise puzzling jumble of themes and characters (including Father Christmas) that Lewis’s friend J. R. R. Tolkien so disliked. Prince Caspian, with its military theme and imagery, embodies Mars. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, journeying towards an ever- larger Sun and discovering its aurifying influence, Ward regards as the “most obvious” novel to interpret under his scheme. Luna is seen to fine effect in The Silver Chair, and perhaps with more subtlety than Ward has yet explored; so too Mercury in The Horse and his Boy; Venus, initially surprisingly but with increasing conviction, in The Magician’s Nephew; and, climactically, Saturn, the planet of old age, despair and death, in The Last Battle. Here, however, there is a new turn. Once deception and decay have done their depressing work, Jupiter returns with the new creation of Narnia and its loyal inhabitants. The cosmos is after all a comedy, albeit dark and deep, not a tragedy.

If the books as a whole reflect the atmosphere or tone suggested by the different planets, their central character, the lion Aslan, takes on at least some of those same characteristics. Aslan is not simply a Christ-figure. Within and behind that obvious reference we are to discern the more subtle and varied tones of the planets – which themselves, as in the medieval writers who shaped Lewis’s world-view, are part of the good creation which is summed up, but not thereby diminished, in Christ. Here the interplay between Lewis’s professed Christianity and his mythic imagination is at its most profound.

To advance this remarkable thesis, Ward employs three interlocking strategies. The first, and most abstract, is to explore Lewis’s own theoretical musings about the “atmosphere” of a book or story. Lewis emphasized the difference between “contemplation” and “enjoyment”, between knowledge by observation and knowledge by acquaintance: between looking at a sunbeam and looking along it. The planetary mood or atmosphere of each book is not held up for “contemplation”, partly because Lewis himself, outwardly a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of person, actually believed in the equal importance of literary (and perhaps personal) concealment. Ward has discovered, in the one surviving typescript, a reference to Saturn which, in the published version, comes out as “old Father Time”. Lewis wanted to make people look along the planetary mood, not at it. That mood was to be “enjoyed”, tasted in the way a blindfolded person might taste seven dishes, savouring each without knowing their content or provenance. Ward is aware that by spilling the beans he may appear to jeopardize this strategy, but he argues convincingly that a more mature “enjoyment” is fully compatible with the new “contemplated” knowledge he expounds.

Lewis the critic referred to the “atmosphere” of a story as the “kappa element”, taking the term from the initial Greek letter of krypton (hidden). Ward, developing this, picks up a further coinage. Speaking of the “taste” or “atmosphere” of a particular place, Lewis says that we go back “to Donegal [a favourite of his] for its Donegality and London for its Londonness”. Ward boldly gives the word “donegality” a new metonymic meaning: not now the flavour of Donegal itself, but the idea of a particular flavour, atmosphere or mood, imparted to or expressed through a story. Lewis, he suggests, was attempting something quite new, calling for new terminology:

For the quality or atmosphere which arises out of a novel or a romance we may conveniently go on using such terms as “quality” and “atmosphere”, but for the deliberate encapsulation . . . of a pre-existing quality along with the presentation of an individual, Christological incarnation of that quality, it will be useful to have a new term.

Lewis was aiming at the literary equivalent of a musical effect. The obvious parallel with Holst’s Planets makes the point (Lewis admired the work, though he thought Holst’s “Jupiter” itself less than adequate, and his “Mars” too unremittingly evil). I do not know whether this kind of effect is actually unprecedented, but Ward has certainly detected and described it cogently. Whether the term “donegality” will catch on, or whether it will remain a quirky and somewhat awkward signpost to a previously unlabelled phenomenon, remains to be seen.

Ward’s second, more concrete, strategy is to lay bare the explicit role and meaning of the seven planets in Lewis’s other works. He has ransacked Lewis’s writings, not least his letters and the underlinings in his own copies of key poets, to show how well he knew the planets; he possessed his own telescope, was fond of pointing out particular planetary conjunctions to friends, and pondered long and deeply on their ancient meanings. Three writings in particular evince a universe of discourse within which the Narnia sequence fits like the wrought-iron key in a great medieval lock: “The Planets”, his alliterative poem of 1935, in relation to which Lewis said that “the characters of the planets” had “a permanent value as spiritual symbols”; the climax of That Hideous Strength, the finale of his science-fiction trilogy, in which the planetary spirits descend to Earth one by one, infusing the heroes of the story with their characteristic moods; and The Discarded Image, his full-on introduction to the medieval world-view. Ward expounds the narrative and meaning of each book to show, in outline and detail, how the story in general, and the characterization of Aslan in particular, fits with the atmosphere of the relevant planet as Lewis has elsewhere expounded it.

The match is not uniform, nor the world-view utterly consistent. How can there apparently be evil beyond the Moon’s orbit? (For the medievals, evil was only “beneath the moon”.) Why, in The Magician’s Nephew, reflecting Venus, is Aslan not female? Lewis has difficulty with the martial theme in Prince Caspian; he overdoes the word “pale” in The Silver Chair. But these are problems of detail, which Ward discusses with shrewd sensitivity, not threats to the theory.
Lewis himself warned against using authorial biography as a clue to critical analysis, but Ward’s third strategy, advanced cautiously but tellingly, is to read the Narniad and its planetary meanings within the setting of Lewis’s own life and lifelong concerns. He shows, against some of the biographers, that Lewis’s turn to children’s fiction was not so much an escape from the wounding public argument he had with the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe about the nature of miracles, but, rather, a deliberate re-examination of the same topic by a more thoroughgoing way. Reason and Imagination, Athene and Demeter, must now work together: “maid and mother must be thus combined before one can conceive the universe aright, let alone envisage the God who made it”.

Overall, Ward locates Lewis’s underlying aim in the books as an expression of his oft- repeated opinion: Britain in the twentieth century was gripped by a Saturn-like mood, and needed to be reawakened to Jupiter. This explains Lewis’s strong reaction not only against his earlier favourite, Donne, but also against T. S. Eliot. Sadly, little is said (by Ward, certainly; by Lewis himself, so far as I know) about Lewis’s reading of Four Quartets, where Eliot might be supposed to be making a slow but powerful turn in the same direction, and where the theme of linguistic chaos redeemed at last echoes the closing stages of That Hideous Strength. And Ward demonstrates that Lewis, sometimes supposed to have been almost dualistic in his supernaturalism, was, in fact, not least as a reader of Hooker, a believer in the hierarchically layered unity of all created things and of their significance within the saving self-revelation of the Creator. Though intellectually a trinitarian Christian, imaginatively Lewis lived in the world of ancient paganism, finding in the medievals, particularly his beloved Dante, a way to reconcile the two, and in the Narniad a way to express that reconciled complexity. Lewis himself declared that “In Spenser, as in Milton and many others, Jove is often Jehovah incognito”. Yes, comments Ward, and “in The Lion, the divine figure [Aslan, playing the part of Christ] is Jove incognito”. Those who think they have discerned, and perhaps debunked, the Christian allegory in the Narniad have only traced the outskirts of Lewis’s ways. Perhaps Aslan’s, too.
This introduction to a masterpiece is something of a masterpiece in its own right. Lewis’s ghost (whom Lewis envisaged as a possible benign presence around Magdalene College, Cambridge) has reason to be grateful that the crucial discovery was made by someone capable of expounding it with such subtlety and depth. There are tiny blemishes, of which the reversal of the kappa and chi in the Greek word for character is perhaps the most obvious, but the overall effect is remarkable. Michael Ward has written a book whose “donegality” is the medieval scholarship, the poetic craftsmanship, the philosophical acumen and the imaginative genius of the self-consciously Jovial Lewis himself. It would be a great pity if the still prevailing Saturnine mood of our times, which has belittled and sometimes even reviled Lewis as a thinker, were to blind us to his remarkable literary, philosophical, cosmological and theological achievement.

Sem comentários: