C.S. Lewis Wrote Two Narnia Poems

Look for “Did You Know” articles on the first of every month.

Readers of The Chronicles of Narnia will note that C.S. Lewis occasionally slipped poetry into the series. But while it is hard to miss such instrumental verses such “When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone…” from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe[1]or “Where sky and water meet…” from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,[2] did you know that C. S. Lewis also wrote two full-length Narnian battle marches?

Collectively known as the “Narnian Suite,” they both appear in the book Poems, a compilation of several of Lewis’ shorter poetic works.

March for Strings, Kettledrums,
and Sixty-Three Dwarfs

The dwarf’s march is four stanzas, each consisting of four lines each followed by a parenthetical statement that is reminiscent of stage directions.

Excerpt:

With plucking pizzicato and the prattle of the kettledrum
We’re trotting into battle mid a clatter of accoutrement;
Our beards are big as periwigs and trickle with opopanax,
And trinketry and treasure twinkle out on every part of us—
(Scrape! Tap! The fiddle and the kettledrum).[3]

The poem goes on to warn against underestimating the dwarfs’ army. After describing various battle tactics, they sing of returning to their caverns upon victory. 

“March for Drum, Trumpet,
and Twenty-One Giants”

Although the giants’ three-stanza march is currently numbered second, it was actually published first (the same year as The Silver Chair), in a 1953 issue of the periodical Punch.[4]

Like the dwarfs, the giants also boast threats against the opposing army, though in taller stanzas of shorter lines.

Excerpt:

Ho! tremble town and tumble down
And crumble shield and sabre!
Your kings will mumble and look pale,
Your horses stumble or turn tail,
Your skimble-scamble counsels fail,
So rumble drum belaboured—
(diminuendo)
Oh rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble drum belaboured![5]

Eagle-eyed fans may notice that an excerpt from this giants’ song, albeit slightly different, was featured in chapter 8 of The Last Battle [6]:

Although not overly long, Narnia fans may nevertheless be glad of these two poems for their extra insight into Narnian dwarfish and giant culture.

Read Poems.

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 87.

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 22.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Poems (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1977), 6-7.

[4] J. R. Christopher, “An Introduction to Narnia: Part 1,” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature: Vol. 2: No. 2, Article 5. 
(October 15, 1970): 23, https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol2/iss2/5.

[5] C.S. Lewis, Poems (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1977), 7.

[6]C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 108.

Sources

7 Responses

  1. Col Klink says:

    Wow, I did NOT know that! Thanks for the info.

  2. Eustace says:

    You know it would be cool if they referenced these poems or quoted from these poems in the movie/tv shows coming out.

  3. Cleander says:

    Would be cool if a special one-volume edition was released with these in the appendix.

  4. ian says:

    I miss my favourite childhood movie

  5. the4signs(repeat) says:

    Great article! I love the whimsy of Lewis’s specification that this is for precisely 63 dwarfs and 21 giants. The dwarf march looks strange, but when you say it out loud there is a fun rhythm to it. It reminds me of “a modern major general” somehow. And the giant march reminds me of the goblins’ song in The Hobbit (Pound, pound far underground! Ho ho! my lad!). I wonder what poems influenced Lewis and Tolkien when they were young?

    That’s interesting that the giant poem has “taller” stanzas of simpler words, and the dwarf stanzas are “shorter” but the lines are longer and the words more complex. I’m sure Lewis has also woven in specific meters and emphasis on certain syllables to make these poems sounds so appropriate for dwarfs and giants respectively. To alter a quote from Mr. Tumnus… if only I had worked harder at poetry when I was a little faun!

  6. JMats says:

    I had no idea this existed!!! I even have his collected poems!

    I’m actually working on a series of hand bound copies of the books… this will DEFINITELY feature, though in which volume? Hmmmmm