C. S. Lewis



By Clive Hamilton [C. S. Lewis]

In Three Parts

I. The Prison House

II. Hesitation

III.The Escape

"The land where I shall never be

The love that I shall never see"

Historical Background

Published under the pseudonym, Clive Hamilton, Spirits in Bondage was C.

S. Lewis' first book. Released in 1919 by Heinemann, it was reprinted in

1984 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and included in Lewis' 1994 Collected

Poems. It is the first of Lewis' major published works to enter the

public domain in the United States. Readers should be aware that in

other countries it may still be under copyright protection.

Most of the poems appear to have been written between 1915 and 1918, a

period during which Lewis was a student under W. T. Kirkpatrick, a

military trainee at Oxford, and a soldier serving in the trenches of

World War I. Their outlook varies from Romantic expressions of love for

the beauty and simplicity of nature to cynical statements about the

presence of evil in this world. In a September 12, 1918 letter to his

friend Arthur Greeves, Lewis said that his book was, "mainly strung

around the idea that I mentioned to you before--that nature is wholly

diabolical & malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in

opposition to the cosmic arrangements." In his cynical poems, Lewis is

dealing with the same questions about evil in nature that Alfred Lord

Tennyson explored from a position of troubled faith in "In Memoriam A.

H." (Stanzas 54f). In a letter written perhaps to reassure his father,

Lewis claimed, "You know who the God I blaspheme is and that it is not

the God that you or I worship, or any other Christian."

Whatever Lewis believed at that time, the attitude in many of these

poems is quite different from the attitude he expressed in his many

Christian books from the 1930s on. Attempts in movies and on stage plays

to portray Lewis as a sheltered professor who knew little about pain

until the death of his wife late in life, have to deal not only with the

many tragedies he experienced from a boy on, but also with the

disturbing issues he faced in many of these early poems.


As of old Phoenician men, to the Tin Isles sailing

Straight against the sunset and the edges of the earth,

Chaunted loud above the storm and the strange sea's wailing,

Legends of their people and the land that gave them birth--

Sang aloud to Baal-Peor, sang unto the horned maiden,

Sang how they should come again with the Brethon treasure laden,

Sang of all the pride and glory of their hardy enterprise,

How they found the outer islands, where the unknown stars arise;

And the rowers down below, rowing hard as they could row,

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