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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 85, Summer 2000

by Nevill Coghill

Upon a hill towards the sun,
When part of my pilgrimage was done,
I found my lover in a tree,
Gathering bitter fruit for me.
The branches tore his hands and feet,
Yet, on the fruit he bade me eat,
The bitterness was washed away;
And in a year that was a day
The tree was sometimes wild with flower,
Sometimes a green and leafy bower,
Sometimes naked, dead and bare.
But dead or living, he was there
And in all changes was the same,
For though a sudden darkness came
About me and I could not see,
I knew he still was in the tree
With stretched and bleeding hands, to take
Fruit for his beloved’s sake.

From Nine (Number Eight, Spring 1952)
Perry Bramlett discovered a copy of this magazine in a used book shop in Oxford early in 2000 and provided it.

Nevill Coghill (1899-1980) and C. S. Lewis were both veterans of World War One and students at Oxford when they became friends in 1923. In Surprised by Joy Lewis says “I soon had the shock of discovering that he – clearly the most intelligent and best-informed man in that class — was a Christian and a thoroughgoing supernaturalist.” They were good friends for the rest of their lives.

Coghill was not only a scholar of Middle English literature, but a drama producer. In 1944 he chose young Richard Jenkins for a part in Measure for Measure. In 1945 he directed John Wain in The Taming of the Shrew. Richard Jenkins later changed his name to Burton, and their friendship continued. In 1967 Coghill directed Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Dr. Faustus, and in 1968 he co-directed the film version with Burton in Rome.