5 JUNE 1964, Page 20

Grand Design

The Discarded Image. By C. S. Lewis. (C.U.P, 22s. 6d.)

THIS short but packed and various book wa put together by C. S. Lewis, about a year befon his death, from a celebrated course which ht used to ,give when a don at Oxford. Modestly he introduces it as a preliminary survey of thi mediaeval world view such as may help thos4 who get stuck with the hard passages in reading Unwisely, his publishers add their bolder anc juster claims as a mere tailpiece to this. In fact the book must be out and away the best account in its field and of its size.

The mediaeval Grand Design, as the argument succinctly shows, was a cosmic picture that squared with the Christian faith but was far frotr a mere part of it, and was usually passed over by the more devoutly religious writers. Its majestic spheres of music- and light-filled mho were the creation of classical authors (among whom Ovid is ignored as too familiar) and those seminal writers, from the third to the sixth cen- tury, who were Christian in a loose sense if al all. The relating of these immensely influential but now unread writers to the Mediaeval Model is superb; and Lewis then briefly shows how the unity which resulted made medieval biology, psychology, history, witch- and fairy-lore, even education, all follow smoothly from its ordered 'splendour, sobriety and coherence.'

Over sobriety, I venture to think Professot Lewis partly wrong. The grand outlines had it as they had splendour and coherence; but theil proliferations (bees loved to be chaste, the beryl stone maintained family harmony and the rest were often a riot of insobriety. Sometimes, else where, his argument is cut rather short. To sett the mediaeval 'Image' as facilitating love of the created cosmos says too little of the great tradl tion of repairing home from worldly vanity thal Chaucer's 'yonge fresshe folkes' were invited to endorse; and something important is left out when mediaeval realism (that, to be sure, is real enough) is linked with the loved cosmic order and then the unhappy nineteenth century turn! out more realist still.

The author's interest declines, in fact, earliel than the nineteenth century, for the book hardly an 'Introduction to . . . Renaissance Literature' as it is to medieval: the break frost Dante and Chaucer to Tasso and Spenser is not discussed. Moreover, in concluding that bolt the mediaeval World Image and the modern otli for which it was 'discarded' issue from men1 psychic needs, Lewis does not quite do justice to the bleak integrity of the latter. The modert scientist's findings meet one psychic need alone: they issue from what he thinks the valid mods of inquiry.

What meets this need commands the field though it may disappoint all others. Macrobiu5

Boethius and the rest make one feel that the didn't know, and perhaps couldn't have made so greyly courageous a move. But my criticism do not affect the high value of this book—ii range, its lucid learning, its luminous style and its being perhaps the final memorial to th work of a great scholar and teacher, and a vils' and noble mind.