Friday, 17 April 2015

I have seen a dragon...

F.E Brightman (1856-1932), as liturgical scholars all know, was a distinguished ecclesiastical scholar and tutor at Magdalen College, Oxford. Apropos of fiery dragons, C.S Lewis wrote these alliterative staves:

We were talking of dragons, Tolkien and I
In a Berkshire bar. The big workman
Who had sat silent and sucked his pipe
All the evening, from his empty mug
With gleaming eye, glanced towards us;
"I seen 'em myself," he said fiercely.

This short poem is a fictionalized account of a meeting between Lewis and Brightman at some point (we're not told when). Brightman used to sit quietly in the Common Room of Magdalen College, saying nothing except on rare occasions. It transpired that they were all talking about dragons one evening and Brightman said: "I have seen a dragon." Nobody said a word for a moment, until: "where was that?" "On the Mount of Olives," he said. He went quiet again and never, even to his death, explained what he meant. This story can be read in Tolkien's letters (no.300) and in Carpenter's The Inklings: C.S. Lewis,  J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their friends, chapter 4.

O, to have been a fly on the wall in the Bird and Baby in the 1940's!

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