Here we have a description of the author’s (Lewis) experience of Bragdon Wood, part of the grounds of Bracton College. He feels quite lucky to have had the chance to enter as only “very few people are allowed into Bragdon Wood” (18). Once present he falls asleep in this peaceful place until he is awakened by his host (20).
Much can be said of this passage, but first I will remark on the seeming mundaneness. Its just an extended description of some college grounds. Nothing much seems remarkable at first. As the story progresses we will see that this is indeed a special place and a place that plays a part in the events of THS. Here we have a humble introduction.
Despite this humble start there is a feeling of the author’s revering this area of Bracton college, referring to it as a “holy of holies” (18) and he had the “sense of being received” into this area of “peculiar quality” (19). It is felt worthy of giving it a detailed description, which I will not recount here. It is a varied ground which changes as you go further and further in finally coming to “the thing I had chiefly come to see,” Merlin’s Well (19-20). The fact that this was Merlin’s well had led to several controversies over time. Several people had wanted to demolish the whole thing since they saw Merlin’s association with it as somewhat sullying. This “profane and heathenish” area had nearly fallen victim to those wanting to “destroy ‘the groves and high places'” (20).
The history of the Wood recounted reveals that there is no direct link between “Bracton” College and “Bragdon” Wood except that the similarity in names probably lent the Bractons some air of authority over the place. There is much more history tangentially mentioned involving George the Third among others.
Then there is this bit of verse, reportedly from Strabo’s Balachthon:
In Bragdon bricht this ende dai
Herde ich Merlin ther he lai
Singende woo and welawai
I know little about this. There is some discussion of it on this site. I will offer a bit of an untrained translation:
In Bragdon bright, this ending [of the] day
Here is Merlin, there he lays
Singing [sad] and [lonely]
Just a guess. But I like guessing. Of course mine doesn’t rhyme.