[Literary passage] The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

As his characters drift on the waters of the mysterious Silver Sea unto the very rim of the world, C. S. Lewis gives them a glimpse of the ineffable.

There was no need to row, for the current drifted them steadily to the east. None of them slept nor ate. All that night and all next day they glided eastward, and when the third day dawned — with a brightness you or I could not bear even if we had dark glasses on — they saw a wonder ahead.

It was as if a wall stood up between them and the sky, a greenish-grey, trembling, shimmering wall. Then up came the sun, and at its first rising they saw it through the wall and it turned into wonderful rainbow colours. Then they knew that the wall was really a long, tall wave — a wave endlessly fixed in one place as you may often see at the edge of a waterfall. It seemed to be about thirty feet high, and the current was gliding them swiftly towards it. You might have supposed they would have thought of their danger. They didn’t. I don’t think anyone could have in their position.

For now they saw something not only behind the wave but behind the sun.

They could not have seen even the sun if their eyes had not been strengthened by the water of the Last Sea. But now they could look at the rising sun and see it clearly and see things beyond it. What they saw — eastward, beyond the sun — was a range of mountains.

It was so high that either they never saw the top of it or they forgot it. None of them remembers seeing any sky in that direction. And the mountains must really have been outside the world. For any mountains even a quarter of a twentieth of that height ought to have had ice and snow on them. But these were warm and green and full of forests and waterfalls however high you looked.

And suddenly there came a breeze from the east, tossing the top of the wave into foamy shapes and ruffling the smooth water all around them. It lasted only a second or so but what it brought them in that second none of those three children will ever forget. It brought both a smell and a sound, a musical sound. Edmund and Eustace would never talk about it afterwards. Lucy could only say, “It would break your heart.” “Why,” said I, “was it so sad?” “Sad! No,” said Lucy.

No one in that boat doubted that they were seeing beyond the end of the world into Aslan’s country.

Image: Detail of “Bay of Naples” by Ivan Aivazovsky.

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Did you like C. S. Lewis’s vision of essential beauty? Then you will also enjoy this short passage from Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery.

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