Saturday, October 14, 2006

As The Ruin Falls

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love--a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

--C.S. Lewis

I don't know the history behind this poem. I found it while looking for reviews and commentary on his book, _Til We Have Faces_. I am rereading that book right now, and it is no easier than the first time.

My favorite line in this poem is, "I never had a selfless thought since I was born."

Mr. Honey's favorite is, "I talk of love-- a scholar's parrot may talk Greek-- but, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin."

While reading reviews and commentaries on _Til We Have Faces_, I came across one that referred to Eustace, of _The Voyage of the Dawn Treader_ fame. That has always been one of my favorite books, especially because of Reepicheep. But I identify more with Eustace. Layer after layer comes off, and yet I cannot make an end of it. I am Eustace, I'm afraid.

I do not yet know if that makes me Orual. I am definitely not Psyche, and I'm not Redival either. The subtlety of Lewis' writing in _Faces_ is difficult for me to follow, especially when compounded by unreliable first person narration. I wish I could read the story in the third person. I need a little more guidance through this book!

After I am done with this book, I am going to read _The Great Divorce_ again. I read that this summer, but was so surprised and befuddled by Lewis' devices that I couldn't understand the message. Now I think I will understand _Til We Have Faces_ a little better if I read _The Great Divorce_! I may be going in circles. I don't know. But I want to know.


Krakovianka said...

"But I want to know."

The cry of the ages, from Eve onward...

I know just how you feel...

G.L.H. said...

I just finished Till We Have Faces. Thank you for sharing the poem!

Phyllis said...

I love Till We Have Faces, but it always makes me feel so uneducated. I can just scratch the surface of understanding it.