Christian Poems XII: Three by C.S. Lewis

The Naked Seed [1943]

My heart is empty.  All the fountains that should run
With longing, are in me
Dried up.  In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free from pain.
Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
–No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
–Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.

——

The Apologist’s Evening Prayer [1964]

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no signs, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins.  Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

——

Dungeon Grates [1919]*

So piteously the lonely soul of man
Shudders before this universal plan,
So grievous is the burden and the pain,
So heavy weighs the long, material chain

From cause to cause, too merciless for hate,
The nightmare march of unrelenting fate,
I think that he must die thereof unless
Ever and again across the dreariness

There came a sudden glimpse of spirit faces,
A fragrant breath to tell of flowery places
And wider oceans, breaking on the shore
For which the hearts of men are always sore.

It lies beyond endeavour; neither prayer

Nor fasting, nor much wisdom winneth there,
Seeing how many prophets and wise men
Have sought for it and still returned again

With hope undone.  But only the strange power
Of unsought Beauty in some casual hour
Can build a bridge of light or sound or form
To lead you out of all this strife and storm;

When of some beauty we are grown a part
Till from its very glory’s midmost heart
Out leaps a sudden beam of larger light
Into our souls.  All things are seen aright

Amid the blinding pillar of its gold,
Seven times more true than what for truth we hold
In vulgar hours.  The miracle is done
And for one little moment we are one
With the eternal stream of loveliness
That flows so calm, aloof from all distress

Yet leaps and lives around us as a fire
Making us faint with overstrong desire
To sport and swim for ever in its deep–
Only a moment.

O! but we shall keep
Our vision still.  One moment was enough,
We know we are not made of mortal stuff.
And we can bear all trials that come after,
The hate of men and the fools loud bestial laughter
And Nature’s rule and cruelties unclean,
For we have seen the Glory–we have seen.

CS Lewis - mystery photo (modified from internet image).
CS Lewis – mystery photo (modified from internet image).

——

* This poem speaks of Lewis’ moments of “joy,” spiritual glimmers of God, prior to his actual conversion to faith.  Of the book that this poem was published in, Spirits in Bondage; A Cycle of Lyrics, in Three Parts (pp 40-42), Lewis wrote his friend Arthur Greeves “. . . nature is wholly diabolical & malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in opposition to the cosmic arrangements” (CS Lewis by B Gormley, p 61).  Stanza breaks were added by me . . . for ease of reading.

The other two poems can be found in CS Lewis: Poems (1964), pp 117 and 129.

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