Two of Three Lewis Poems in New Book are Altered

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 86, Autumn 2000 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

Of all Lewis’s poems there were to choose from for the collection MagdalenPoets, published in 2000 by Magdalen College, Oxford, one of the three that editor Robert MacFarlane selected by Lewis is “After Prayers, Lie Cold.” “Arise My Body” appeared in 1944 in Fear No More. In 1964 Walter Hooper published it as “After Prayers, Lie Cold,” with changes in eight of the fourteen lines and omission of the stanza break. Lewis’s last line ends with “the riot of warm blood and breath,” but Hooper’s version ends inappropriately with “the riot of our blood and breath.”

Another of the three poems chosen by MacFarlane is “Le Roi S’Amuse,” first published in Punch on 1 October 1947. Among other things, the posthumous version inexplicably changes “making, remaking, exalting” to “ravaging, savaging, creating.” It changes “strove” to “wove.” And it changes “The blazing planets on an azure field” to “It was gay Behemoth on a sable field.” (It is slightly possible that the phrase “gay Behemoth” was [consciously or unconsciously] inserted because gay means homosexual and behemoth means something enormous in size or power.) In his introduction to the book, MacFarlane remarks “But ‘Dawdlin’ and ‘Magdalen’, as Ezra Pound pointed out, go well together, and others apart from Wilde have spent their time strolling the grounds, reflecting, and writing. C. S. Lewis scribbled a poem about spring birdsong on Addison’s Walk…” MacFarlane was no doubt referring to “What the Bird Said Early in the Year,” a careless 12-line adaptation of “Chanson D’Adventure,” a 14-line poem that Lewis published in 1938.