Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Young Drummer Returns

Many years ago a village stood in the hollow which is now filled up by the mere. But the inhabitants were a wicked race... they scorned to bend the knee, save in mockery, to the White Christ who had died to save their souls. – “Bomere Pool” from English Folk and Fairy Tales


Interviewer: There is a moment in C. S. Lewis’s novel The Silver Chair in which the two children begin to doubt the existence of Narnia. Puddleglum, however, pulls them through:
“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pail. "One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world.
If two modern children were to ask you if Christian Europe ever existed, what would you tell them?

Young Drummer: I would tell them a story – actually, I would tell them many stories – of a time when the European’s heart was a flame and he blended his blood and soul with Jesus Christ. I would not read to the children from a philosophical treatise; if I did that, I would be placing them in the hands of the Gnostics, because nothing delights the Gnostic more than to turn everything into philosophical speculation.

Many white moments from the European story-telling tradition – those moments of white heat which enable us to recognize our Lord in the faces of His creatures – parallel incidents from the Gospel. What could be more natural since Western Culture was formed by Christianity?

One of my favorite Gospel stories is the account of the redemption of the good thief. What a moment! “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” And the good thief didn’t win his salvation on the cheap, simply catching our Lord in one of those weak, sentimental moments that the Gnostics deplore. No, there had to have been something monumental going on in Dismas’s soul that enabled him to see that Christ was something more than mere man. Dismas had pity for Jesus the man, suffering on the cross unjustly, and he had faith in Jesus the Lord: “Remember me when you shall come into your kingdom.”

It is usually pity, compassion, or love for an individual human being that awakens the soul of a sinner and inspires him to heroic efforts and to a heroic faith in Him, who enjoined us to have pity, compassion, and love for our fellow human beings. The modern liberal, the Gnostic, by attempting to bypass humanity, never really knows the God who saved and pardoned Dismas. We are saved because our humanity reaches out to respond to Christ’s humanity. That human embrace allows us to touch the divine; without it, there can be no redemption.


Sidney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities finds redemption for a sinful wasted life by voluntarily taking the place of another man destined for the guillotine. On the way to the guillotine Carton also comforts a young woman, destined, like Carton, for Madame Guillotine.
"Do you think:" the uncomplaining eyes in which there is so much endurance, fill with tears, and the lips part a little more and tremble: "that it will seem long to me, while I wait for her in the better land where I trust both you and I will be mercifully sheltered?"

"It cannot be, my child; there is no Time there, and no trouble there."

"You comfort me so much! I am so ignorant. Am I to kiss you now? Is the moment come?"


She kisses his lips; he kisses hers; they solemnly bless each other. The spare hand does not tremble as he releases it; nothing worse than a sweet, bright constancy is in the patient face. She goes next before him--is gone; the knitting-women count Twenty-Two.

"I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."

The murmuring of many voices, the upturning of many faces, the pressing on of many footsteps in the outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward in a mass, like one great heave of water, all flashes away. Twenty-Three.

Rake Windermere, in the poem of the same name, like Sidney Carton, also “steps out,” and finds redemption:

Disgrace he’d brought on an ancient name
A smirch on an honoured crest
He’d blotted the page of glorious fame
That his family once possessed
Eton he’d left beneath a cloud
And left in the greatest haste
He’d proceeded whilst there in revels loud
Life’s choicest hours to waste.

Sent down from Oxford next was he
The result of orgies wild
He’d filled the cup of vice with glee
And a noble stock defiled
A nickname he’d earned by his acts of shame
‘Mong comrades of many a bout
From the broken shell of his own true name
“Rake” Windermere stepped out.

As a fitting end to a family scene,
He had quitted the family home
With a tearless eye and a smile serene
He had started the world to roam
Still lower he’d sunk than ever before
And never a vice he’d shun
Till even his roystering friends of yore
Forsook him one by one.

He’d drifted at length with a tourist band
To the land of the war-like Moor
And there on the dreary desert sand
Had disaster attacked the tour
Approached by a tribe of bandit brand
The party had turned and fled
But first a shot, fired by some foolish hand
Had pierced a Moorish head.

Besieged for a week on a mound of stone
And with water getting low
The bandit chief appeared alone and said
“Thou art free to go.
If thou deliverest first up to me
Of thy number any one
So that True Believer’s blood may be
Avenged ere tomorrow’s sun.”

Each looked at each as he rode away
Grim silence reigned supreme
The sun went down, and the Moon held sway
Flooding all with silver stream
Then a muffled form crept down the mound
With a wistful glance about
Then with head erect, but without a sound
“Rake” Windermere stepped out.
by Leonard Pounds and Herbert Townsend

We must return to Charles Dickens for an incredible moment of redemption for two sinners. Pip’s “great expectations” have raised his material prospects in life but degraded his soul. He is deteriorating inwardly from overweening pride even as he learns more and more of the outward habits of a gentleman. It is only when he realizes that his great expectations come from the blood and sweat of Magwitch, an “exiled for life” convict, that he begins to understand that true gentlemanliness comes from within and works its way outward, not vice versa.

Magwitch, another sinner like the good thief, finds redemption through his love for Pip. And Pip finds redemption by overcoming his initial revulsion for Magwitch by pledging that:

‘I will never stir from your side,’ said I, ‘when I am suffered to be near you. Please God, I will be as true to you as you have been to me!’

And both sinners are permanently bound to each other in Christ when Pip commends the dying Magwitch’s soul to God:
Mindful, then, of what we had read together, I thought of the two men who went up into the Temple to pray, and I knew there were no better words that I could say beside his bed, than ‘O Lord, be merciful to him a sinner!’
Such white moments come only from a storytelling heritage steeped in the Gospel of Christ.

St. Paul tells us that the last enemy to be defeated is death. Even in Christian circles these days there is grave doubt that the “fell sergeant” will truly be defeated. But in the storytelling tradition of the West, a belief is firmly ingrained that at the last trump, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be delivered from the clutches of death. The great fairy tales speak to this hope.


Two excellent fairy stories that end with glorious white moments of deliverance are The March of the Wooden Soldiers with Laurel and Hardy, and the 1954 “children’s” opera-musical of the Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.

In The March of the Wooden Soldiers (a movie that defies classification, being part opera, part musical, part epic, and all fairy tale), the bogeymen, lead by the wicked Barnaby, are invading Toyland. The situation seems hopeless, but two inept toy makers, Laurel and Hardy, suddenly remember that because of their ineptness, 100 six-foot-tall toy soldiers are on hand. They quickly wind the soldiers up, and in a magnificent ending, the wooden soldiers drive the bogeymen into the sea.

Is this a prefiguration of the final fight between good and evil and Christ’s destruction of that last enemy called death? Yes! I also think it is entirely in keeping with divine metaphysics that two bumbling, but pure of heart, toy makers are used by God to combat evil. “What your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light.”

In the 1954 production of Hansel and Gretel (adapted for the screen by Padraic Colum and composed by Engelbert Humperdinck) the father, who has been searching through the woods for his lost children, sums up the miracle of Hansel and Gretel’s triumph over the witch in his song:
And so you see that Heaven will bend
And to evil make an end
And when hope is nearly gone
God’s relief to us is surely won.

And when hope is nearly gone
God’s relief by us is won.
There is a spiritual virility represented by the words of Hansel and Gretel’s father that we have lost. And we won’t regain it by listening to the siren song of the Gnostics.

“Heaven will bend.” Everything is contained in that line. A belief that heaven will bend connotes a childlike faith in our blessed Lord. When we face our final hour we need to believe, like Hansel and Gretel’s father, that our Holy Savior will bend and make an end to that last great enemy.

Since I am a mortal man who fears death, and since I don’t possess any secret documents containing inside information about the afterlife, it is indeed a comfort to know that we need not know of hidden things on secret scrolls, we need only a childlike faith in Christ. Jesus, at the hour of my death and that of my loved ones, please bend.


Another theme that we see represented in the storytelling tradition of the West has its origins in the ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ incident in the Gospels. In it, the Pharisees rebuke Christ for disobeying the law and healing on the Sabbath.
And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?

And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was a hungered, and they which were with him;

How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?

And he said unto then, That the Son of Man is Lord also of the sabbath.

(6 Luke: 2-5)
The Pharisees, like all formalists, were unimpressed.

There is an exquisite balance in all of Christ’s actions. He follows most of the older Jewish laws, even assuring his followers that He comes not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. But the laws are made for man, by God, out of love. They are His laws; He can abrogate or bend any one of them. In point of fact, when He does abrogate or bend a law, it is always out of charity. And it is our Lord Himself who tells us that charity is the essence of all true laws.

I have quoted from the story The King of the Golden River before and will continue to do so because it speaks so directly against the Gnostics, the Feeneyites, and all those who would deny that Christ is Lord even of the sabbath day.

The two cruel brothers in the story follow all of the rules; they even possess the holy water necessary to obtain the riches from the Golden River. And yet, they are turned to stone! On this earth the cruel brothers who follow the formula while violating the laws of charity usually win. But in the European fairy tales that prefigure the Kingdom of Heaven, they lose.

The King of the Golden River speaks in the language of the Gospels and St. Paul when he says, “...the water which has been refused to the cry of the weary and dying, is unholy, though it has been blessed by every saint in heaven; and the water which is found in the vessel of mercy is holy, though it had been defiled with corpses.”

God bless Gluck, the third “dumb” brother. May we all be filled with such holy dumbness.
And Gluck went out and dwelt in the valley, and the poor were never driven from his door; so that his barns became full of corn, and his house of treasure. And, for him, the river had, according to the dwarf’s promise, become a River of Gold.

In the 1954 movie Brigadoon, we also see the theme of God making a rule for the good of His people, and then bending that rule for the benefit of an individual, or (in this case) for two individual human beings.

The beautiful Scottish village of Brigadoon and its inhabitants have been preserved from corruption because of a special prayer request: Their village and its inhabitants come to life only one day in each century, thereby avoiding the special corruptions of any one century.

But what if a poor weary traveler from the 20th century happens upon the village during the one day it appears in the 20th century? And what if he falls in love with a Scottish lass from the village of Brigadoon and she with him?

Well, we know what a Gnostic would do. He would sneer at and condemn the very notion that romantic love can be a source of divine grace. But Christ, who blessed the married couple at Cana, does not disdain legitimate romantic love. When heaven bends at the foot bridge of Brigadoon, it is a glorious white moment.


Scenes of genuine forgiveness always remind us of our Lord’s divine mercy and His very human compassion, thus striking a blow against the entire Gnostic tradition and the modern hate-filled destroyers of white Christian Europe. Where will mercy be found now that Christian Europe is gone? Only in the European mists.

Genuine forgiveness doesn’t mean liberal forgiveness: “I forgive you for murdering Charlie, whom I didn’t really care for anyway because he was overweight and politically incorrect.” Genuine European, Christian forgiveness consists of Cordelia’s forgiveness of her father, King Lear.
Cordelia: O, look upon me, sir,
And hold your hands in benediction o'er me.
No, sir, you must not kneel.

Lear: Pray, do not mock me.
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks I should know you, and know this man;
Yet I am doubtful; for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me;
For (as I am a man) I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.

Cordelia: And so I am! I am!

Lear: Be your tears wet? Yes, faith. I pray weep not.
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong.
You have some cause, they have not.

Cordelia: No cause, no cause.
And genuine forgiveness is also shown by Prospero in The Tempest. He renounces magic and pardons the deceiver – and prays to the God of mercy, who has taught us to render the deeds of mercy.
Now my charms are all overthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint. Now 'tis true
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

Shortly after the reconciliation scene between Prince Hal and his father Henry IV, there is another reconciliation scene between Prince Hal (now Henry V) and the Lord Chief Justice, which highlights the difference between the pagan and the Christian. The one knows noting of mercy and the other has it in his blood.

Having rebuked Prince Hal quite justly when he was a young, riotous youth, the Chief Justice now has reason to fear the new king’s wrath. But a Christian king, which Prince Hal is determined to be, knows the difference between the English and the Turkish courts. He knows he must not only forgive the Lord Chief Justice’s rebukes of his own youthful miscreant person, he must also commend his actions as befitting the Chief Justice of a Christian king:
How might a prince of my great hopes forget
So great indignities you laid upon me?
What, rate, rebuke, and roughly send to prison,
Th' immediate heir of England! Was this easy?
May this be wash'd in Lethe and forgotten?

CHIEF JUSTICE. I then did use the person of your father;
The image of his power lay then in me;
And in th' administration of his law,
Whiles I was busy for the commonwealth,
Your Highness pleased to forget my place,
The majesty and power of law and justice,
The image of the King whom I presented,
And struck me in my very seat of judgment;
Whereon, as an offender to your father,
I gave bold way to my authority
And did commit you. If the deed were ill,
Be you contented, wearing now the garland,
To have a son set your decrees at nought,
To pluck down justice from your awful bench,
To trip the course of law, and blunt the sword
That guards the peace and safety of your person;
Nay, more, to spurn at your most royal image,
And mock your workings in a second body.
Question your royal thoughts, make the case yours;
Be now the father, and propose a son;
Hear your own dignity so much profan'd,
See your most dreadful laws so loosely slighted,
Behold yourself so by a son disdain'd;
And then imagine me taking your part
And, in your power, soft silencing your son.
After this cold considerance, sentence me;
And, as you are a king, speak in your state
What I have done that misbecame my place,
My person, or my liege's sovereignty.

KING. You are right, Justice, and you weigh this well;
And I will stoop and humble my intents
To your well-practis'd wise directions.
A king that can “stoop and humble” his intents to wise direction follows the way of the cross. He is Christlike in that he willingly chooses to hide the outward shows of majesty so that the inner majesty, the real majesty of kingship, will show itself the more brightly.


Let me also point out to the children another white moment from the Chronicles of Narnia in the seventh book, The Last Battle. (Incidentally, it is in the realm of so-called children’s literature that the best writing in the 20th century has been done. When we try to write like adults, we write like rationalists, without hope or joy.)

The Narnian white moment occurs when Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and the whole Narnian cast are getting ready to embark on the ‘real’ journey. (Lewis has the metaphysical virility to hope for the giddiest of happy endings; it is more and more difficult to maintain such a hope, in the face of Gnostic modernity, but the men of the Christian West used to have it.)
“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for every: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Are white moments from the Western tradition merely false shadows? Or are they prefigurations of the Kingdom of Heaven? Dear children, I believe they are not false shadows; they emanate from the depths of human hearts connected to His Heart.

They must be real. It is the Gnostic’s promise of salvation through the intellectual knowledge of God’s divinity alone, divorced from His humanity, that is an illusion.

That, or something like it, is what I would say to modern children who have never known Christian Europe.

Interviewer: Would it do any good? Aren’t the stories from Christian Europe as alien to modern children as hieroglyphics are to the non-Egyptian?

Young Drummer: Quite probably. But that’s the only approach I know. And maybe my approach will be just foolish enough to work.

Interviewer: “What your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light?”

Young Drummer: Precisely, it takes a wise man to play the fool. The European people, the Christ-bearing Europeans, were foolish, from a worldly perspective, to carry the Christ child on their shoulders, but if those modern European children could just see a glimmer of what their ancestors saw, they would be on their way to the castle of the King of Fairyland, the Knight Errant of Heaven, who, in direct contrast to Midas, turns every heart He touches into a burning flame of charity. Those foolish Europeans who saw beauty on a cross were wiser than the geniuses of Liberaldom who have no honor, no faith, and no vision. We will not perish so long as their vision of His Europe remains our vision. +

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