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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 77, Summer 1998

Lindskoog/Ward Correspondence about the "Bird" Poem in April 1997 Original Article

27 April 1997Dear Mr. Ward,
I was delighted to learn about the Lewis centenary stone planned for
Addison’s Walk. I hope that enough donors are stepping forward, and I’ll
greatly appreciate it if you can let me know what the situation is now. (I
would gladly contribute if that were possible, but it is not; I am a
helpless invalid, and my husband is my full-time caregiver.)
Do you have a tentative date for installation of the stone?
I wonder if those planning the stone have considered using the original
published version titled “Chanson D’Aventure” rather than the version
titled “What the Bird Said Early in the Year.” The former seems superior
and has a little more historic interest. Either way, I send my sincere good wishes for the project.

Kathryn Lindskoog

28 April 1997
Dear Mrs Lindskoog,
Thank you for your good wishes regarding the Addison’s Walk stone. At
present, we plan to unveil it around this time next year, but the precise
date has not been settled. The Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society
decided upon ‘What the Bird Said Early in the Year’, in preference to any
one of the three previous versions, because it is Lewis’s final revision of
the poem.

Yours sincerely,
Michael Ward,
Centenary Secretary

28 April 1997
Dear Michael Ward,
Thank you for taking the time to answer my inquiry. I’m glad to hear that
the stone may be erected in about a year. I’m surprised to hear that there are three revisions of “Chanson D’Aventure” instead of just one. Can you tell me where the two unpublished versions are located?

Kathryn Lindskoog

Although Michael Ward is a friend of Walter Hooper’s and would supposedly
be more apt than anyone else to know where the two unpublished versions
were located, his failure to answer suggests that he did not know. Four
months later Hooper deposited an unpublished version of the poem in the
Bodleian. It is easy to imagine that Hooper created this inferor version
to buttress his claim that after Lewis’s death he found an abundance of
alternative versions of Lewis’s poems, versions that Lewis kept working on
and saving through the decades.

WALTER HOOPER’S “BIRD” DOCUMENT
PLACED IN THE BODLEIAN IN OCTOBER 1997

A page of good quality writing paper watermarked Macadam Bond Rag bears the
following version of “Chanson D’Aventure.”

“What the Bird said early in the Year”

1. I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear
2. “This summer will come true. This year. This year.

3. “Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
4. “This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

5. “This year time’s nature will no more defeat you,
6. “Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

7. “This time they will not lead you round and back
8. “To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

9. “This year, this year, as all the flowers foretell,
10. “We shall escape the circle and undo the spell

11. “Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
12. Look, look, look, look! the gates are drawn apart

The next two lines are deleted by a single line but still legible:

13. I said “This might prove truer than you know,
14. Some year. And yet your singing will not make it so.

According to Walter Hooper, the foregoing is a transitional version of
“Chanson D’Adventure” that Lewis wrote sometime after he pubished the poem
in 1938 and whenever he wrote the version that Hooper published in 1964.
Therefore it is not quite the same as the latter, although (not
surprisingly) it is far more like Hooper’s 1964 version than Lewis’s 1938
version.

Like Hooper’s final version, this one inexplicably moves the poem from May
to early in the year, omits the key theme of medieval pilgrimage or
chivalric quest, omits the key word summer in line 7, and switches the
fourth and fifth stanzas (which were originally in logical order). As in
Hooper’s 1964 version, this new one ends with a line 12 that did not exist
in Lewis’s 1938 poem. In this version, however, the phrase “Quick, quick,
quick, quick!” is changed to “Look, look, look, look!”

An extra feature of this version is that lines 13 and 14 from Lewis’s 1938
poem have both been ineptly reworded before being crossed out. It is hard
to imagine Lewis spoiling the meaning and meter of his closing couplet
this way. (See Legacy 75 for Lewis’s 1938 version and Hooper’s 1964
version.)