Saturday, September 29, 2012

Poem: Cliche Came Out of its Cage by CS Lewis

Apologies to my readership for the recent silences! Life has been a little brisk for me lately to get a lot of reading and reviewing done.

That said, I'm very excited about some new books on their way to me. Vision Forum has a new two-book series, Men of Grit, which looks to be a twenty-first-century slant on one of my favourite genres: the nineteenth-century boys' adventure story. While many contemporary authors have tried their hands at writing stories "in the style of (Jane Austen, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or whoever)," these are usually not as satisfying as the originals because the solid worldview underpinning the originals is missing, replaced by cringeworthy political correctness or simply an unquestioning acceptance of ideas like feminism and Marxism. Men of Grit, on the other hand, appears to be written in a twenty-first century style but from a worldview as outdated as it is true, good, and beautiful. I'll look forward to reviewing those in due course.

In other news, I have been reading a very interesting book lately: The City of God by Saint Augustine of Hippo. If you could credit one book with constructing western Christendom as we know it, after the Bible, this would be it. Augustine can be challenging, but he is always interesting!

I started to read The City of God in order to learn more about the legal and historical roots of Christendom. I never expected to find myself neck-deep in one of my favourite subjects: cosmology. Other excellent books on this topic include Planet Narnia by Michael Ward and The Discarded Image by CS Lewis. Ever since I read Planet Narnia I've been trying to find out more on the hows and whys of medieval cosmology. One of my biggest questions was how medieval Christendom ever came to use pagan gods as symbols of the true, good, and beautiful. Amazingly, unexpectedly, I've discovered some incredible answers in The City of God. I'll look forward to sharing those with you at some future date, but right now I need to keep things short.

So, because I'm thinking of paganism, Christendom, and CS Lewis, I'll leave you with one of my favourite CS Lewis poems:

Cliche Came Out of Its Cage


You said 'The world is going back to Paganism.'
Oh bright Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
And Leavis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with flutes,
Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
Hestia's fire in every flat, rekindled, burned before
The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
Tended it. By the hearth the white-armed venerable mother
Domum servabat, lanam faciebat. At the hour
Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
Arose (it is the mark of freemen's children) as they trooped,
Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears ...
You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.


Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
But the bond will break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
Scarred with old wounds the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a hand,
Will limp to their stations for the Last Defence. Make it your hope
To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs;
You that have Vichy water in your veins and worship the event
Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet Fortune). 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd not read this poem of Lewis' before today. Much to ponder here...


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