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Charles Williams and The Region of the Summer Stars

12/13/2010

Recently in class Dr. Ralston brought up Charles Williams’ theory about women not being able to serve as priests–that in menstruating they symbolized Christ’s victimization and only Christ could be both victim and priest, so men had to serve as priests in the Catholic Church instead.

She liked that Williams tried to come up with more than “you just can’t.” I’d like to know more about his theory because his poetry–while extremely beautiful–is very difficult to understand (apparently this is normal experience for most first-time Williams readers).

Currently I’m finishing up the excerpt from The Region of the Summer Stars by Williams and came across the part that hints at this theory. (Williams had somewhat Romantic theology–brought the courtliness/courtesy concept into it. We didn’t discuss it in depth, but his fascination with courtliness shows up throughout his work, including the novel War in Heaven–definitely recommend that one)

From the chapter “Taliessin in the Rose Garden”:

And I there climbing in the night’s distance

till the clear light shone on the height’s edge:

out of the pit and the split zodiac I came

to the level above the magnanimous stair, and saw

the Empire dark with the incoherence of the houses.

Nay, there, as I looked on the stretched Empire

I heard, as in a throb of stretched verse,

the women everywhere throughout it sob with the curse

and the altars of Christ everywhere offer the grails.

Well are women warned from serving the altar

who, by the nature of their creature, from Caucasia to Carbonek,

share with the Sacrifice the victimization of blood.

Flesh knows what spirit knows,

but spirit knows it knows–categories of identity:

women’s flesh lives the quest of the Grail

in the change from Camelot to Carbonek and from Carbonek

to Sarras,

puberty to Carbonek, and the stanching, and Carbonek to

death.

Blessed is she who gives herself to the journey.

 

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