C.S. Lewis: Water
from “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
“Where the waves grow sweet, Doubt not, Reepicheep, There is the utter East” … The King took the bucket in both hands, raised it to his lips, sipped, drank deeply and raised his head. His face was changed. Not only his eyes but everything about him seemed to be brighter. “Yes”, he said, “it is sweet. That’s real water, that. I’m not sure it isn’t going to kill me. But it is the death I would have chosen – if I’d known about it till now.”
“What do you mean?” said Edmund.
“It’s like light more than anything else, said Caspian.
“That’s what it is” said Reepicheep. “Drinkable light. We must be very near the end of the world now.”
There was a moment’s silence and then Lucy knelt down on the deck and drank from the bucket.
“It’s the loveliest thing I have ever tasted” she said with a kind of gasp.
“But oh – it’s strong. We shan’t need to eat anything now.”
And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it; and presently they began to notice another result … there had been too much light … the sun too large (though not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now the light grew no less – if anything it increased – but they could bear it. They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before.
And the deck and the sail and their own faces and bodies became brighter and brighter and every rope shone. … for many days, without wind in her shrouds or foam at her bows, across a waveless sea, the Dawn Treader glided smoothly east. Every day and every hour the light became more brilliant and still they could bear it. No one ate and slept and no one wanted to, but they drew buckets of dazzling water from the sea, stronger than wine and somehow wetter, more liquid, than ordinary water, and pledged one another silently in deep draughts of it.
And one or two of the sailors who had been oldish men when the voyage began now grew younger every day. Everyone on board was filled with joy and excitement, but not an excitement that made one talk. The further they sailed the less they spoke, and then almost in a whisper. The stillness of that last sea laid hold of them. … if their eyes had not by now grown as strong as eagles’ the sun on all that whiteness – especially in early morning when the sun was hugest – would have been unbearable. And every evening the same whiteness made the daylight last longer. There seemed no end to the lilies.