C. S. Lewis ~ “Poetry”

 

c-s-lewisClive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was born in Belfast, Ireland, the son of a solicitor and a clergyman’s daughter. He taught medieval literature at Oxford University and at Cambridge University and was a prolific writer. C. S. Lewis’ better known works include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in his space trilogy.

The following is an excerpt from Out of the Silent Planet.

It is a conversation between Ransom, an earthman and Hyoi, a Martian. Hyoi is speaking.

“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory is another. It is all one thing. The seroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem.

“What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly; it was nothing. Now it is growing (into) something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?”

“Perhaps some of them do,” said Ransom. “But even in a poem does a hross never long to hear one splendid line over again?”

Hyoi’s reply unfortunately turned on one of those points in their language, which Ransom had not mastered. There were two verbs which both, as far as he could see, meant to long or yearn; but the hrossa drew a sharp distinction, even an opposition, between them. Hyoi seemed to him merely to be saying that everyone would long for it (wondelone) but no one in his senses could long for it (hlutheline).

“And indeed,” he continued, “the poem is a good example. For the most splendid line becomes fully splendid only be means of all the lines after it; if you went back to it you would find it less splendid than you thought. You would kill it. I mean in a good poem.”

“But in a bent poem, Hyoi?”

“A bent poem is not listened to, Hman.”

 

As I grow older, I see that the human I am at this moment is the result of all the years that I have lived. Sometimes I ask myself whether I would forego the hard times I have been through if it meant giving up the lessons I have learned. Would I trade knowledge for ease and comfort? The answer is no. As the old song says, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.”

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