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From the Collected Works of Solwing: 'England'

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From The Collected Works of Solwing, ed. Calpurnia Bright, published at Cair Paravel in the first year of the reign of King Tirian, first of that name.

Editor's Introduction

Although the Owls of Narnia have been noted more for their contributions as philosophers and, occasionally, historians, the eldest chick of the court historian Glimfeather, Solwing, was something of a renegade from the start, choosing poetry over philosophy and making noted contributions to Narnian literature in the years between Prince Rilian's enchantment and enthronement. Solwing edited her father's papers as well as collections of her own work, the last of which appeared on the night that she drank poison at the order of Rilian, now King and called the Disenchanted, on charges that she had kept her nest in Lantern Waste and thus violated his newly promulgated Ban. Then and now, the general consensus has been that the charges were essentially trumped up by the King to make an example of Solwing to the rest of the court and of Cair Paravel. Solwing's death might have prefigured an age of calamities of the scholars--at least five other similar figures were also awaiting execution at the time of her death, and their sentences were commuted to exile only when the Marshwiggle Sir Puddleglum arrived at Cair Paravel and interceded on their behalf with the King. For his pains, and though he was a Knight of Narnia, Puddleglum was banished from the royal presence thenceforth; he never saw the King again.

For her part, it was widely reported that Solwing's last words to Rilian were genuinely disrespectful, if not outright treasonous: "No matter how many of us you kill, O King," she is said to have told him, "you cannot kill your successor, and you cannot kill Aslan, and you cannot kill the Kings and Queens of Summer, whose trust in stewardship you have disgraced." So saying, she commended her soul into the keeping of the King of Evening, for to intercede on her behalf with Aslan and so find his country, and drank the poison straight off. Her wings flapped for the final time minutes later.

From these words and from the content of the following poem, one of Solwing's most famous, it can be readily deduced that she was New Narnian to the core, another renegade sentiment among Owls: most members of the Parliament have tended to keep what are today called Old Narnian beliefs, and reverenced Aslan alone. Solwing's poetry is also technically innovative, and this poem in particular reflects her fascination with the ancient kings and queens of the Golden Age, on the subject of whom she was recognized during her lifetime as an authority. During the season in which Sir Puddleglum and the Lord Eustace and the Lady Jill were seeking Prince Rilian in his enchantment, and King Caspian the Seafarer had sailed East to search out Aslan again, Solwing fell to dreaming every day; she would wake up each evening and immediately (with the help of an ammanuensis, of course) record what she had dreamt. Those journals have not survived, but the content of this poem was drawn from her visions.


What womb holds Narnia's deliverance,
What holt shelters them? What is England
To they whose thrones shall never be overturned?
Morning: the hill whose crown blazes up at dawn
Knows not of valiant deeds, of strong hearts
Stolen forth and summoned back, in Time.
When Aslan bares His teeth, Winter meets its death.
Evening: the shield of the realm covers no head
Without a strong arm and a silver tongue
To bear it and to pronounce its justice.
When Aslan shakes His mane, we shall have Spring again.
Spring: the sun shines on the queen of every hive
Warmth without heat, gentle light unavailing.
Summer: the tomb of Narnia's hope lies
Quiet as the Golden Age, when four thrones
Filled admitted no breath of Autumn.
When the Lion roars, the world shall come to
Lantern Waste: at Night, who but the High King
Strides forth out of His country of legend?