THE VISION OF STEPHEN: An Elegy by Lolah Burford


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Like the hero of Iolanthe whose mixed immortal/human parentage caused him to be stuck halfway in keyholes, Ms. Burford's Stephen, who commutes on some sort of mystic wavelength from 7th century to Victorian England, makes arresting but not completely successful transitions. Stephen is the son of King Elfrith of Northumbria who loves him but yet must put him to torture for withholding information about an enemy prince he saved in an act of mutual trust and friendship. In his agony Stephen is transported to a handsome 19th century home, where two children, Marjorie and Peter, spot him in the grate behind the pianoforte. Back in the 7th century, Stephen, accepting the fate determined by both God and his father, is given as a hostage and then fatally wounded by the King in battle. However, once back in the 19th century, Stephen is saved by modern medicine. But his memory of a 7th century life, enriched by knowledge of what is to come, is gone. Although Stephen's mix of Anglo Saxon attitudes, linguistics, and humanistic ethic is often confusing and unconvincing, the author's occasional probes into ancient dark certainties of death and war are stimulating and there are some delightfully imaginative flourishes such as a dying Stephen descending in a 19th century balloon. A Narnian Peter Pan -- half realized -- but that half may hold the more fanciful reader.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1972
Publisher: Macmillan