Thursday, June 09, 2005


by C.S. Lewis

No; the world will not break,
Time will not stop.
Do not for the dregs mistake
The first bitter drop.

When first the collar galls
Tired horses know
Stable's not near. Still falls
The whip. There's far to go.

* * *

I can't quite figure out C.S. Lewis. Some of his poems are pessimistic, like the one above. Others are wry and funny, like this one:

"Lady, a better sculptor far
Chiselled those curves you smudge and mar,
And God did more than lipstick can
To justify your mouth to man."

Either way, he has a plain-spoken style not diluted in the least by his sharp metaphors. His subjects deal a lot with classical themes, but sometimes he talks about futuristic ones. He is a modern, as Tolkien, though chronologically modern, was not. (He has some modern traits, but in a way, he was living in the middle ages, still. It's one of the things I like about Tolkien.)

This poem deals with suffering far more pessimistically than Hopkins did in one of his sonnets: "Let me be fell; force I must be brief." Lewis doesn't see why if suffering is fell, it must be brief. He gives no comfort, only a reminder that things will yet get worse.

But in a way, he's very much right. It's not at 4:45 I think I can go on at work no longer. It's at 1:00, when I still have four hours ahead of me. And yet somehow I do.


Mark said...

Have you read "Till We Have Faces"? If you think Lewis is hard to figure out now, wait until you've read that one...

Sheila said...

I read half of it while browsing the library for something completely different. Would you say I should finish it? I'm kind of worried it will be depressing.

Mark said...

Well, it's been awhile since I last read it cover-to-cover (I'm just about to read it again myself, which is why it's on my mind), but I've certainly never found it depressing. If I really wanted to reassure you, I could divulge more specifics about the book - but I don't want to give away the ending. ;-)

Anyhow, it's one of my all-time favorites; definitely, finish it. I'd love to hear what you think of it once you've read the whole thing.

J. A. Broussard said...

The first poem was written, I believe, in the aftermath of his wife's death, while the second was written to her.

There is a book of poetry that he published at the age of nineteen or twenty called Spirits in Bondage that is very illuminating and quite a worthwhile read, though it is appalling: "Come, let us curse our Master ere we die,
for all our hopes in endless ruin lie.
The good is dead. Let us curse God Most High."

Excellent post, and Till We Have Faces is magnificent.


Jesse Broussard