Thursday, 19 March 2015

CS Lewis, The Last Battle and The Total Eclipse

Back in 1999 when Britain was getting ready to watch only the second total eclipse of the twentieth century, the Daily Mail ran an article about the first one which took place on June 29th 1927.
The best place to view it was the Yorkshire Dales, and to quote the paper, people arrived there 'by plane, ship, railway, car, charabanc, omnibus, motorcycle and pushbike'.
Virginia Woolf even arrived by train with other members of the Bloomsbury set.
The Mail included the report of their very own correspondent who described seeing the total eclipse through a break in the clouds with a crowd of fifty thousand on Richmond racecourse.
He (or she!) described the increasing chill in the air as the light 'insensibly decreased', until the sun hung in the east like the brightest and most splendid new moon. The world now waited, dark and cold in a 'ghastly grey-yellow, gloom'.
'The waves of blackness, accompanied by an icy breath, were rushing on faster and faster as though the sky was full of groups of lights that were being put out one by one, and suddenly, as if with one fell swoop, it was night - night dense, sinister, an muffled in silence'.
Anyone watching the eclipse could not help believing, for the few minutes of totality, that the end of the world was at hand.
It was interesting to read that amongst the crowds heading for Yorkshire, the Daily Mail correspondent mentioned that there were some 'college dons'.
Now, in 1925, CS Lewis became a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Magdelen College, Oxford, so it's quite possible that he made the trip up to witness the eclipse.
This is even more likely if you read his account of  the end of Narnia, in The Last Battle.
In the chapter, Night Falls on Narnia, he describes the moon coming up close to the sun and how the sun's great red tentacles reach out for it and surround it until they were like one huge ball of burning coal. Then Aslan asks a giant to squeeze the sun as he would an orange. And instantly, there was total darkness.
It's nice to think that that CS Lewis might have witnessed the eclipse in 1927 and made some notes to be used nearly thirty years later in his final Chronicle of Narnia.

No comments:

Post a Comment