Charles Williams>
Charles Walter Stansby Williams
Novelist, Poet, Theologian & Critic 1886 - 1945
Drawing by Anne Spalding
Drawing by Anne Spalding

Charles Williams attended S. Silas Church for many years with his wife and child. In 1917 Williams married Florence, youngest daughter of James Edward Conway, ironmonger, of St Alban's, and had one son. Their home was at 18 Parkhill Road, off Haverstock Hill. He contributed a number of poems between 1920 and 1928 which were printed in the Monthly and Bi-Monthly Papers (Parish Magazine) of the time. 

It is thought that he first met TS Eliot (who is also believed to have attended S. Silas') about 1930. In 1930 his book 'Poetry at Present was published and this included an essay on Eliot. Eliot was conneceted with Faber & Faber, who published a good many of Charles William's books.

He died at Oxford 15 May 1945

List of Poems from the Monthly and Bi-Monthly papers of S. Silas Church

Bethlehem - A poem -- December 1920 page 14
Friday -- Feb - March 1921 page 12
Pentecost "Who spake by the Prophet"  -- April - May 1921 pages 11-12
Pentecost (from "Poems of Conformity") -- May - June 1922 page 13
Easter -- March - April 1922 page 6
To You -- March - April 1922 page 8
St. Michael -- Fifteenth Anniversary Number  Sept - Oct 1922 page 12
Bethlehem -- December 1922 page 14
St. Matthias -- Jan - Feb 1923 page 16
The Adventure of the Holy Week -- March - April 1923 page 15
The Feast of St. Silas, and Patron of this Place -- July - August 1923 page 7
Night -- March - April 1924 page 18 - 19
Christmas -- Nov - Dec 1924 page 17
Hymn for Septuagesima Sunday -- Jan - Feb 1925 page 19
Vision -- Sept - Oct 1928 Sept page 25
A short critical article -- March - April 1922 page 8

After the poems by Williams there is :-

A Short Biography

Details of the Charles Williams Society

A list of some of Charles Williams works

A Poem

A star of travel shines above,
The small town sleeps below,
How shall I find the Mother of Love,
As through the world I go?
The emperors sit at their table bright,
To bring great things to pass,
But the Mother of Love is hid in the night,
With the ox and the ass.

How shall I find the Mother of Love
Amid all heads defiled
And her holy hands of succour that move,
About her holy Child?
Her eyes are lit and her footfall sings
As Eve's through Eden grass,
But she dwells to-night with all toil-worn things
And the ox and the ass.

What are the days that walk with her,
That shall be friends to me?
Days of incense and gold and myrrh,
Days of epiphany,
Days that follow a noble vow,
And the heavy days that pass
In labour of hammer and pen and plough,
And the ox and the ass.

If Love at last by cruel men
And the spear of Fate be slain,
Who shall bear witness to him then
Till he shall come again?
The Mother of Love, and the marching guilds,
And the priest that sings the Mass,
And the man that ploughs and the man that builds,
And the ox and the ass.


To-day at morn I set the dish aside,
Saying: "Since to fast so many mortals choose
Shall not I too the ceremony use?"
Small place had love therein, or aught but pride.

Too swift, too sure, the sudden grace replied!
For though my heart, thinking of nothing less,
That we the outer world all cease to press,
And lightly there Love sets its dish aside.

"Who spake by the Prophets"

Language he gave and as men from their homes,
In fen or jungle climbed bade it increase
In power till Tully's word protected Rome
And all of Athens mourned with Pericles.

Then moved the songs of poets; then began
The Iscian shout of prophecy; then, last,
The whole world's voices, gathered in a Man,
Sounded and spoke till in a cloud He passed.

But, lest His subtler language should be lost,
Thereafter to His orators there came,
Borne on a blast of breath, the Holy Ghost,
And riding within syllables of flame.

Then, apt to learn as he was apt to teach,
The topmost souls of the world there caught and spoke.
That old yet new, that now-perfected speech,
And heaven in earth heard in its sleep and woke.

Forgotten heavens, neglected sanctities,
Shut in the deepest, prisons of the soul,
Rose, freed from chains and cleansed from leprosies,
Redeemed, delivered, manifest, and whole.

Now between heaven and earth lies no long way,
Since what is here is there, and there shall be,
And all our English speech of every day
Is mystical and immortality. 


'Let us go a journey,'
Quoth my soul to my mind,
'Past the plains of darkness
Is a house to find
Where for my thirsting
I shall have my fill,
And from my torment
I shall be still.'

'Let us go a journey,'
Quoth my mind to my heart,
'Past the hills of questing,
By our ghostly art,
We shall see the high worlds,
Holy and clear,
Moving in their order
Without hate or fear.'

'Let us go a journey,'
Quoth my heart to my soul,
'I shall thrive never
On the world's dole.
Past the streams of cleansing
Shall a house be found
Where the peace and healing
For my aching wound.'

By the streams of cleansing,
By the hill of quest,
By the plains of darkness,
They came to their rest.
As the kings of Asia,
They went to a far land;
As the early shepherds,
They found it close at hand.

When they saw Saint Joseph
By their ghostly art,
'Forget not thy clients,
Brother', quoth my heart,
When they saw Our Lady
In her place assigned,
'Forget not thy clients,
Mother', quoth my mind.

But my soul hurrying
Could not speak for tears,
When she saw her own Child,
Lost so many years.
Down she knelt, up she ran
To the Babe restored:
'O my Joy,' she sighed to it,
She wept, 'O my Lord!'


What great Apostle,
When the Christ rose,
Met with him secretly
In the garden close?
Fast ran Saint Peter,
Fast ran Saint John,
When they heard the rumour,
But the Lord was gone.
Only in the morning
He was earliest seen
By a weeping spirit,
Mary Magdalene.

Once in a glory
To my heart he came,
Born by a maiden,
With love for his name!
But what bitter passion
On myself for tree
Has his bounty suffered;
Now deep in me,
Silent, unmanifest,
Hiding his power,
During a time and times,
Waits he his hour.

High imaginations,
Wait, sad and still.
Till a sudden rumour
Your desire fulfil.
But, O blessed Magdalene,
When the first dawn
Shines across my spirit
From that garden lawn,
Watch with me, speak with me,
Blind me with tears,
When angels fall silent
And Himself appears.

To you
Who paid the price,
Bearing the Cross, for others made
The Sacrifice;
Dauntless and swift to hear the call,
Losing so much, yet gaining all;
To you the glory and the fame;
Whilst we
Are but a name.
from 'Poems of Conformity'

When the porter let me in
Out there flew a Dove;
Down It vanished through your din,
The name of It was Love
O, so softly It would coo,
So sweet It was to see!
O who hath found My Dove? O who
Will bring It back to me.

Must I go search again
Through the weary earth?
It would be frighted at your pain,
And startled at your mirth.
It flies so quick, 'twould fly right through
The gates of destiny;
O who has found My Dove? O who
Will bring It back to me?

It will come at your command,
Nor doubt nor flutter much;
If you should take It in your hand
It will not fear your touch.
But they how do It wrong shall rue
Their shameless cruelty;
O who has found My Dove? O who
Will bring It back to me?

My Father will come down to him,
And give him many things;
The Dove will overshadow him
With beating of Its wings;
And I Myself to him will sue
For grace of amity.
O who has found My Dove? O who
Will bring It back to me?

Saint Michael

There was a motion within Deity,
And the first seraph lived, saw, and became
One cry through all his nature and his name,
Mi-ca-El: Who is like to Thee? Thence to be,
Began the hierarchic mystery
Of spirit, where, though he be first be in fame-
Goldenly helmed, thrice ringed, thrice winged with flame-
Yet each of his angels is hardly less than he.

But all his angels and he, gathered into one
Fire, as a lantern high upon the mast
Of the Admiral's vessel shine; and in their track,
With night watch set and guards at every gun,
Float through the ocean of the unknown vast
The twelve huge ships of the labouring Zodiac.

Saint Matthias

I am Matthias; I am he who covers
The cloudy opening of the uttermost prison,
Where on went down - and is not re-arisen,-
Out of the Twelve who were the Lord Christ's lovers,
About my name upon this day there hovers
A rumour of despair and desolation;
And even the Holy City's glad salvation
Sighs for the memory of its exciled rovers.

I am Matthias, yea, and am another,
Installed within the bishopric of my brother;
I who am his oblivion am his fame.
I am the dream, upon your strife attending,
That all things, bound to a most perfect ending,
Shall be made one by Christ's invincible Name.

The Adventures of the Holy Week

When our Lord came riding,
Through the midst of them,
The children ran and shouted
In Jerusalem,
Throwing down their palm-leaves,
Throwing up their caps;
All the babies crowed to him
From their mother's laps.

When the Lord came swiftly
Through the place of shades,
All the children thronged to Him,
Fresh from Herold's blades:
The sad dusk was full of them
Whom He did retrieve,
And first the smallest of them all
From the lap of Eve.

Socrates and Caesar
Though He met them there,
Though He went a thousand miles
To the bottom of hell-stair,
Yet He came again to them
When, turning from their play,
All those little Jewish souls
Observed the Sabbath day.

But within the garden
He slept in double ward;
Armed and still and silent
Watched the Roman guard;
Watched the high prince Michael,
Astonished and aware
Of a new thing moving
As dawn filled the air.

And within the chamber
He slept in single ward;
All the rock was conscious
Of the heavenly guard.
From the air within the air
A soft wind came,
And above the silent head
Burned the tongues of flame.

The Feast of St. Silas, Martyr, and Patron of this Place

All Doctors and Confessors,
Martyrs and holy Souls,
Lighten my path of darkness
With your aureoles,
When I come to die.

Three times shall I perish:
Once when my will,
Loathing itself for learning,
Learns a heavenly skill
To bring itself to die

Once when my tired body
Death touches with his hand,
Wrapping all my movements
In a ghostly band,
And to earth I die

Once, O Soul too happy,
If it probe the gloom
Of its last deprival
In the mystic tomb,
Where the elect must die.

If its find the inmost
Final mystery
Of dying even from Heaven,
And that death is He!
If it come to die.

Pray, all you Confessors.
And, O crowned with palm,
Silas and all Martyrs,
That I find your calm,
When I come to die.


i. Christmas
Through His first darkness here He sleeps at ease
Happy and still, whose light is the sun's Sun;
And the rising day the portal sees
Whence issue and return the Three-in-One.

ii. Epiphany
Sleep takes Him, but a little His small eyes
Still search the room where the kings but lately were;
Small hands play with the gold; beside Him lies
The dull neglected casket of the myrrh.

iii. Maundy Thursday
Torches and lamps, now that day is done,
Another city than His own makes bright,-
Man's heart of terror: where by clouds the Sun
Is judged, condemned, obscured, and put to night.

iv. Good Friday
Farther than all created things He goes
Through the dim bottom and abyss of shades
Where the black wind of retribution blows;
Lo, peace! lo, joy! lo, 'tis Himself He raids.

v. Easter
Now night of night and Day of day returns
Upon the earth which but their image knew;
Which now in slumber and in waking learns
The double symbols of the only True.

vi. Prayer
Now rests the body and now rests the mind;
But for the soul the stars of heavenly things
Illumine space: a sweet celestial wind
Stirs in the lattice, and the sound of wings.

vii. The Dark Night of the Soul
Naked and stripped of all things but desire
(And even desire to its last sickness drawn)
The forlorn soul, crouched by a dying fire,
Remembers only that there once was dawn.

viii. The Consummation
Now the long day of His creation ends;
In that perfection which at first was willed
Activity its happy speed susupends.
Nothing is lost and nothing unfulfilled.


He who knows all things knows not now
Whither He came, or why, or how.

He who sees all things can but see
A dim and clear Maternity:

Whose mortal mouth alone can teach
Omniloquence its human speech.

But, as from those soft wandering hands,
A universal grace expands.

His blood, in motion regular,
Decrees the course of sun and star.

Creation, leaning o'er the Child,
Beholds its image undefiled.

And His fine breath, in sweet recall,
Draws all things to the heart of all.

Hymn for Septuagesima Sunday

 Out of the deep they arose,
Measure in measure they came,
On the mighty wind that blows
Creation in paths of flame;
Sun with each farther sun
Trod the dance of the sky,
And in the thin air was begun
The journey of God Most High.

Out of Himself He came
In the vibrating light;
The fire of Himself the flame
Shone in Himself the night,
Far in Himself for rest
All things were born to be,
Who move in a royal quest
Of the end that is only He.

Note upon rising note
Through the times and the spaces heard,
Archangel, planet and mote
Sang but the single Word:
The Word He uttered of old
IN the haunts of eternity
All things to all things told,
The Word that is only He.

Voice of the Lord, arise
Through man, in darkness and flame,
Till through his inner skies
Sounds the Unnameable Name;
Fashion the heavenly way
Till, last of His creatures, we,
In His union of night and day,
Know ourselves naught but He.


I saw the happy spirits all in bliss
beholding and beheld with heavenly sight,
contemplative of that now and of this,
and still rejoiced with subtle new delight;

feeling the universal lordship run,
illumining infinities of joy,
till contemplation, mounting in each one,
became infinity and had no cloy;

no cloy of all desire, now cloy of dread,
because desire and dread are but one name,
but studious evermore in lowlihead
to see the shape he wore, the road he came,

to each of all that multitude; in each
tender and terrible epiphany
beholding more than even himself could teach
and still expanding in felicity.

All ways they saw his motion and were seen,
and were adorable and were adored,
each by all those its peers; and still between
heir knowledge was his newer coming toward.

And all their past was with them, and they sang,
and therein only sweetly were disposed,
each to some other, and love's memories range
within the Eternal that about them closed.

And up at once a myriad ways he passed,
and out of all these myriad spirits shone,
and was made perfect in them all at last,
and did them wholly as himself put on;

and they were gathered and became the Child,
and he, more fast than any thought could know,
beyond all names wherewith he should be styled,
was with his own devised joy aglow;

Crimson and fiery-thunderous he stood;
in his one hand a bow, in one a shaft.
so young, and yet so apt in hardihood,
that out of very tenderness he laughed;

then, all delight, he, lifting up his bow,
aiming at my immortal heart, let fly
his arrow, and was gone, and all the glow
passed, and the moon rode in a sober sky.

A short critical article
Recent Verse
Mr. John Light says of the poems in this little book Two Gardens, and other poems (Mowbray's 2/6 net) that 'if they bring a ray of sunshine into some weary soul they will not have been written in vain.'  It is therefore from this point of view that they must be read and appreciated.  There are many who will find in these verses, which are divided into 'War Poems' and 'Other Poems,' a satisfaction often not easily discovered in more ambitious volumes.  In this sense the only criticism which might be made is a doubt of the fitness of 'The Outcast,' a denunciation of the ex-Emperor, among poems intended 'to bring comfort and courage,' such as;- To You.
Short Biography
Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886 - 1945), lived for most of his adult life in London. He grew to love it and a persistent image in his work is 'the City' as a symbol of community and right relationship. He worked all his life at the Oxford University Press, mainly in the London office, just by St. Paul's, and also, during the war years, in Oxford. At the same time he lectured extensively and was a prolific correspondent. He had a great capacity for friendship with widely differing people, as is still apparent in those who knew him.
He married in 1917 Florence Conway (1886-1970) and had one son, Michael. His earliest publications were volumes of poetry, followed by several most unusual novels in the 'thirties. These were interspersed by biographies and two deeply valued religious works. The richly productive last years of his life, in which he found a new voice in his poetry, coincided with the war years when book production was severely limited. Books were snapped up and not reprinted and this has hindered a full appreciation of his work. There is now, however, a growing body of scholarly study of his writings and their still widening influence, both literary and theological.
He made many literary friendships, including those with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (both fellow members of the 'Inklings'), Dorothy L. Sayers and T.S. Eliot. He was honoured by the University of Oxford, in which he lectured to spell bound audiences.
Charles Williams was wholly original in his own work. He writes profoundly and relevantly about common and fundamental concerns: love, poetry, the nature of the body, marriage, money, our relationships with others and with God.
The Society was founded in 1975, thirty years after Charles Williams's sudden death at the end of the Second World War. It exists to celebrate Charles Williams and to provide a forum for the exchange of views and information about his life and work.
Facilities for members include a postal lending library as well as the reference library housed at: King's College, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS.
There is a quarterly newsletter and Society meetings are held usually three times a year, two in London and one in Oxford.
Charles Williams works include:
War In Heaven
The Place of the Lion
Descent into Hell
All Hallows' Eve
Taliessin Through Logres
The Region of the Summer Stars
Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury
Seed of Adam
Henry VII
Queen Elizabeth
He Came Down from Heaven
The Descent of the Dove
The Figure of Beatrice
The Image of the City, ed. Anne Ridler (This is a collection of some of the most noteworthy of Charles Williams's articles and reviews and reflects much of the thought found elsewhere in his work).
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