A Strange Bugle Call

On this day in 1945, Charles Williams died suddenly. C.S. Lewis wrote this little poem out of his grief:

Your death blows a strange bugle call, friend, and all is hard
To see plainly or record truly. The new light imposes change,
Re-adjusts all a life-landscape as it thrusts down its probe from the sky,
To create shadows, to reveal waters, to erect hills and deepen glens.
The slant alters. I can’t see the old contours. It’s a larger world
Than I once thought it. I wince, caught in the bleak air that blows on
the ridge.
Is it the first sting of the great winter, the world-waning? Or the cold of

A hard question and worth talking a whole night on.
But with whom? Of whom now can I ask guidance? With what friend concerning your death
Is it worth while to exchange thoughts unless—oh unless it were you?

About Sørina Higgins

Sørina Higgins is a PhD student in English and Presidential Scholar at Baylor University. She also serves as Chair of the Language and Literature Department at Signum University, online. Her latest publication is an academic essay collection on "The Inklings and King Arthur" (Apocryphile Press, December 2017). Her interests include British Modernism, the Inklings, Arthuriana, theatre, and magic. She holds an M.A. from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Sørina blogs about British poet Charles Williams at The Oddest Inkling, wrote the introduction to a new edition of Williams’s "Taliessin through Logres" (Apocryphile, 2016), and edited Williams’s "The Chapel of the Thorn" (Apocryphile, 2014). As a creative writer, Sørina has published two books of poetry, "The Significance of Swans" (2007) and "Caduceus" (2012).
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20 Responses to A Strange Bugle Call

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thank you for reprinting this!

    Walter Hooper notes it as first published in Britain To-day, and I see that worldcat.org notes that journal as published by the OUP and for its ‘Author’ lists the British Council, the British Library of Information (New York, N.Y.), and British Information Services, which I suppose means this poem would have had something like world-wide distribution.


    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Here’s an example of Britain To-day (the only one I have easily found online), from earlier in 1945:



      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Wow, no, I commented too soon – this includes all the issues from January through August, and so includes Lewis’s poem in the August issue (on p. 14 = 342/388 of the scan) – as well as a posthumously-published review by Williams, in the same issue (on pp. 40-41 = 376/388),right after a review of Ruth Pitter’s The Bridge (on pp. 39-40, so, starting on 374/388).

        Moving through the volume, January has a review of a Dorothy Sayers book (p. 44 = 56/388), and there is another review by Williams in the July issue (p. 42 = 324/388, curiously, without note that it is posthumous). Beyond that, it looks like it would provide fascinating glimpses of that last year of the war, in Britain.


    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      If you will excuse the tangent of ‘other things online’, I have just become aware of all the works by Williams now out of copyright which are available online thanks to Faded Page – with a couple more noted as “under development” (with my apologies if you have pointed it out elsewhere already and I have somehow missed it!):



  2. L Keith Whitney says:

    Strange. God’s providence? I just learned of the death of an old friend, one I knew as a young man, newly married, a time when confusion still reigns, floating between and among competing futures. He, an unlikely voice, a God’s Squad member (founder?) turned singing Christ’s love, Horizons, eventual Ph.D in English Literature, then he and his wife move to Calvin, and we lost all contact over time. As with Lewis, his life ending too soon for most, his light on literature and faith, his joy in learning and teaching; I, learning nearly a half a decade later of his untimely death, feel the loss of his light, sense Jack’s struggle, when friend who stimulates spiritual and intellectual growth dies. I, like Jack, at least I hope, I too believe even more strongly in life after death and that God raises up new lights, new Inklings like you, to replace the old voices of men like Dr. Dale Brown.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    We may now mourn the death of that young Inkling friend of both Lewis and Williams, who, after Lewis went to Cambridge, succeeded him in teaching the background material later distilled in The Discarded Image, Christopher Tolkien.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    In these times of amazing proliferation of televised Church services, I just noticed, in a Chapel of the Thorn context, that the Veneration of the Parisian relic of the Crown of Thorns on Good Friday will this year be livestreamed from Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 April, starting at 11:30 a.m. Paris time (which I reckon to be 5:30 a.m. EST (!), as both Europe and the U.S. are now on daylight saving time). The website of the Archdiocese of Paris says that this livestreaming will be on KTO, by which I assume they mean the KTOTV YouTube channel – and I expect that it will then be added to the more than 29,000 videos already available there. (I hope so, for everyone who does not want to be up in the wee hours to watch it, in the western hemisphere!)

    Meanwhile, my good wishes and prayers for you and my fellow readers, here!


  5. dalejamesnelson says:

    Is it that, now that the book is published, this blog is dormant? : ( Surely there’s more to say about Williams — ?


  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Reading a hair-raising account (full of quotations from contemporary sources and focussed on Hagia Sophia) of the fall of Constantinople on 29 May 1453, I suddenly wondered if there might also be a reference to some personal significance tie-in, in Williams’s use of the fall of Constantinople in his Heroes & Kings/’Advent of Galahad’ Arthurian poetry – e.g., in connection with 475th aniversary, in 1928. (I also wondered how much from such contemporary accounts Williams had read, and how much he might then expect the reader might bring to his very streamlined references in the earlier and later poetry.)


  7. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    With Williams being out of copyright in most of the world, now, it is pleasant to see the volunteers at fadedpage have gone on transcribing his works and making them available online (as recently as April 2021, in one case – though I have not checked all transcription dates). – with 32 listed, at present.


    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Meanwhile “Books to Borrow” by and about him are also growing in number in the Internet Archive. And, I have recently learned, in another context, that it is always worth checking the WorldCat to see if a particular title has been scanned and made freely available online (but I have not yet tried this for any Williams titles!).


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I just ran into a scan in the Internet Archive of a copy of The Decent of the Dove in the Clermont School of Theology collection – with W.H. Auden’s interesting eight-page introduction.


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