C.S. Lewis Meets Squirrel Nutkin….

by Bernie Bell - 12:08 on 20 October 2022

C.S. Lewis Meets Squirrel Nutkin….

I’m reading ‘Surprised by Joy’ – C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, in which he writes of the instances or encounters which woke him up to the Joy in life.

He writes…

“ The first is itself the memory of a memory.  As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery.  It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s “enormous bliss” of Eden ( giving the full, ancient meaning to “enormous”) comes somewhere near it.  It was a sensation, of course, of desire;  but desire for what?  Not, certainly, for a biscuit-tin filled with moss, not even (though that came into it ) for my own past.  'Іοϋλίαν ποθω ‘ – ‘Oh, I desire too much’ – and before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased.  It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison.

The second glimpse came through Squirrel Nutkin; through it only, though I loved all the Beatrix Potter books.  But the rest of them were merely entertaining; it administered the shock; it was a trouble.  It troubled me with what I can only describe as the Idea of Autumn. It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamoured of a season, but that is something like what happened; and, as before, the experience was one of intense desire.  And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire ( that was impossible – how can one possess Autumn?) but to re-awake it.  And in this experience also there was the same surprise and the same sense of incalculable importance.  It was something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure; something, as they would now say, “in another dimension.”

I realised that I’ve never read Squirrel Nutkin.  The world around me is very Autumnal at the moment and I love it – the smells, the colours and the birds so busy. So I looked along the bookshelves and found Mike’s copy of Squirrel Nutkin bought for him by his father, and I read it. 

My impression is…..that Squirrel Nutkin is Puck – The Wild.   The other squirrels stand in line and bow down to the Owl, ask ‘Please may we?’. 

Nutkin runs ahead, dances, plays ninepins, sings cheeky songs.

I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis poem ‘In Praise Of Solid People’ - which isn’t really in praise of them at all…

In Praise Of Solid People

Thank God that there are solid folk
Who water flowers and roll the lawn,
And sit and sew and talk and smoke,
And snore all through the summer dawn.

Who pass untroubled nights and days
Full-fed and sleepily content,
Rejoicing in each other’s praise,
Respectable and innocent.

Who feel the things that all men feel,
And think in well-worn grooves of thought,
Whose honest spirits never reel
Before man’s mystery, overwrought.

Yet not unfaithful nor unkind,
With work-day virtues surely staid,
Theirs is the sane and humble mind,
And dull affections undismayed.

O happy people! I have seen
No verse yet written in your praise,
And, truth to tell, the time has been
I would have scorned your easy ways.

But now thro’ weariness and strife
I learn your worthiness indeed,
The world is better for such life
As stout suburban people lead.

Too often have I sat alone
When the wet night falls heavily,
And fretting winds around me moan,
And homeless longing vexes me

For lore that I shall never know,
And visions none can hope to see,
Till brooding works upon me so
A childish fear steals over me.

I look around the empty room,
The clock still ticking in its place,
And all else silent as the tomb,
Till suddenly, I think, a face

Grows from the darkness just beside.
I turn, and lo! it fades away,
And soon another phantom tide
Of shifting dreams begins to play,

And dusky galleys past me sail,
Full freighted on a faerie sea;
I hear the silken merchants hail
Across the ringing waves to me

—Then suddenly, again, the room,
Familiar books about me piled,
And I alone amid the gloom,
By one more mocking dream beguiled.

And still no nearer to the Light,
And still no further from myself,
Alone and lost in clinging night
—(The clock’s still ticking on the shelf).

Then do I envy solid folk
Who sit of evenings by the fire,
After their work and doze and smoke,
And are not fretted by desire.

C.S. Lewis

This is the second book by C.S Lewis which I’ve read recently that I hadn’t read before.  The first one was ‘The Great Divorce’ which isn’t about what you might be thinking it would be about.  It’s …something to do with….how little proving that you’re ‘right‘ matters or being ‘wrong’ for that matter – and how it’s more important to…be.

And after ‘Surprised by Joy’  I’ll embark on ‘The Screwtape Letters’  which I get the impression might be disturbing – sometimes being disturbed out of their ‘sleep’ can be A GOOD THING for a person.


Here’s one I made earlier……. https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/01/05/orkney-walks-more-matters-geological/



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