Monday, August 4, 2008

As the Ruin Falls.

Apart from Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant, As the Ruin Falls by C.S. Lewis has to be my favorite poem of all:

All this is 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.

This poem was written about his wife, Joy Davidman Gresham. This is who Lewis is speaking of when he uses the personal pronoun 'you'. During this time she was battling bone cancer (a battle to which she ultimately succumbed). In the third stanza when Lewis writes, "And now the bridge is breaking," you can see how he is suffering alongside his wife, 'dying' as she is. It helps to know what Lewis was going through, to understand his suffering as you understand his wife's. This, for me, has made this one of the most compelling poems ever written. And how profoundly romantic that last statement: "The pains you give me are more precious than all other gains."

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