C. S. Lewis’ poems didn’t come out very lyrical, but there is one I like!
From what I understand about it, C.S. Lewis dreamed of becoming a poet during his earlier adult years, before he got to know himself better and realized his writing gifts lay strongly in writing in other genres and not in poetry.
There is, actually, a little-known, older book comprised solely of all of C.S. Lewis’ poetry, called, simply “POEMS, C.S. Lewis”. It’s one of the volumes put together by Walter Hooper.
I haven’t seen this volume in recent years anywhere, browsing in bookstores, or advertised online. That’s not to say it’s not still out there.
Our copy, like so many of our beloved books, came to us in huge rough burlap mail sacks, USED books, a THEN category that the U.S. Postal System had, from “Readers’ Service” for overseas workers in outreaching.
I pulled it out from my shelf the other day, blew some Cochabamba Avenida Blanco Galindo dust off of the top of the slim volume, and dipped in.
Of all the poems in it, I find that there is only ONE I like, but I like it very much. It’s about a dragon, and it’s about the selfishness found in the human heart. It’s terribly, scathingly FUNNY!
I’m going to share it for part of today’s blogpost.
THE DRAGON SPEAKS by C.S. Lewis
Once the worm-laid egg shattered in the wood.
I came forth shining into the trembling wood;
The sun was on my scales, dew among the grasses,
The cold, sweet grasses and the sticky leaves.
I loved my speckled mate. We played at druery
And sucked warm milk dripping from the ewes’ teats.
Now I keep watch on the gold in my rock cave
In a country of stones: old deplorable dragon,
Watching my hoard. In winter night the gold
Freezes through tough scales my cold belly;
Jagged crowns, cruelly twisted rings,
Icy and knobb’d, are the old dragon’s bed.
Often I wish I had not eaten my wife
(Though worm grows not to dragon ’til he eats worm).
She could have helped me, watch and watch about,
Guarding the gold. The gold would have been safer.
I could uncoil my tired body and take
Sometimes a little sleep, while she was watching.
Last night under the moonset a fox barked,
Startled me; then I knew I had been sleeping.
Often an owl, flying over the country of stones
Startles me; then I think that I must have slept,
Only a moment. That very moment a Man
Might have come from the towns to steal my gold.
They make plots in the towns to take my gold,
They whisper of me in the houses, making plans,
Merciless men. Have they not ale upon the benches,
Warm wives in bed, and song, and sleep the whole night?
I leave my cave once only in the winter
To drink at the rock pool; in summer twice.
They have no pity for the old lugubrious dragon.
Lord that made the dragon, grant me thy peace,
But say not that I should give up the gold.
Nor move, nor die. Others would have the gold.
Kill, rather, Lord, the Men, and the other dragons;
Then I can sleep, go when I will to drink.