Critical Analysis of C.S Lewis Poetry
Molly McGregor Creative Writing – Poetry October 2nd 2012 Critical Analysis of “As the Ruin Falls” by C. S. Lewis Many of C. S. Lewis’ poems have spoken to me on a deep level over the last few years, this one in particular holds the most meaning for me and has impacted my life in multiple ways. In this paper, I will first discuss why I believe this piece to be about the regret Lewis felt in regard to the negative effect his selfishness had upon a relationship that he was a part of and how this relationship was with a woman he cared for deeply and romantically.
I will then discuss how it has affected me on an emotional level and applies to my life personally as a follower of Christ. This poem is written in the sonnet form consisting of fourteen lines total, the first three stanza’s have four lines each and rhymes every other line while the last stanza only two lines rhyming perfectly together. The style alone impresses me since I have tried to write sonnets before and found it to be too difficult to follow the strict structural guidelines (although I do aim to master a sonnet of my own one day, maybe even in this class! . Interestingly enough upon my first exposure to this poem, I thought it was written from the eyes of a sinful, selfish man sorrowfully thanking God for teaching him through inner reflection and difficulty in life how to love more perfectly. Upon further inspection of the content though I noticed that in the last line of the first stanza, his wording of “I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn” led me to the realization that by his use of “you” after the listing of “God” he was speaking directly to another person and not to his creator.
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After coming to that conclusion, I then wondered what sort of person he was writing to and his relation with them. Since he mentioned “all friends” this poem could possibly be in regard to a close friendship, but the tone of the whole piece speaks more of a romantic love to me than that of friendship. One of the reasons I view his tone through a romantic lens would lie in the fact that he begins the poem with “All this flashy rhetoric about loving you. ”, which in my mind conjures mages of the regret he felt in trying to prove his love for a woman using superficially vacuous methods, instead of meaningful and lasting actions. It also seems visible to me that in this line: “Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack. ”, the woman he spoke of was trying to show him what real love was supposed to look like and how he was lacking in that area. For him to speak so fondly of her she must have been extremely patient with his shortcomings yet able to speak up in a productive manner when he missed the mark.
In the third stanza he mentions, “… everything you are was making / My heart into a bridge by which I might get back / From exile, and grow man. ” by stating that this person helped him heal the bridge of his heart leading him out of emotional exile and guiding him into true manhood, completely affirms my belief that it was a woman he was writing about- for whom else could be better suited to the cause of men becoming real men than women?
As Eve was given to Adam to complete and help him in the Bible, I am of the mindset that one of our roles as godly women is to do the same for the men in our lives. By gently affirming and setting an example of love ourselves, we do our part to help close the gap of miscommunication and unspoken bitterness which has a tendency to grow between the sexes. This poem meant a lot to me even before knew it was a poem. I had grown up reading the Chronicles of Narnia series and was aware that C. S.
Lewis had authored several other books, but really had no idea he was a poet as well. That is, until I was researching one of my favorite bands four years ago (I was going to see them in concert the following week with my then-boyfriend Steve), and learned that many of their lyrics were taken directly from Lewis’ poetry! The band’s name is Thrice and although they have evolved musically as well as stylistically quite a bit over the years, one thing that hasn’t changed in their music is their consistent referencing too and influence from Lewis’ poetic works.
I soon after bought his whole book of poetry and have ever since enjoyed his soulful descriptions on how he relates to God as a sinful man in need of a savior. His poetry is so applicable to my life, in fact I get emotional reading this poem lately because of a pretty rough break up I recently went through. My ex-boyfriend Steve and I were together for five years until this last summer. Whenever we would have an argument, I assured myself it was all his fault and not a bit f my own, for I was the one who professed my love on a daily basis in an extravagant manner and I was the one who (supposedly) knew exactly what loving someone was supposed to look like. This is why Lewis’ line in the second stanza hits my heart the closest “I talk of love- a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek- / But, self imprisoned, always end where I begin. ”; I had become a prisoner in my way of thought and my pride had blinded me to some of the huge holes which had grown in my philosophy and definition of love.
I was daily missing the mark that Christ had set before me and didn’t even stop for a moment to consider my shortcomings. As Lewis puts it in the second stanza, I could not “crawl one inch outside my proper skin:”to reflect upon my sinfulness and make the corrections I now know God was begging me to make. One of the things I love most about this specific poem is the humble and introspective stance he takes throughout the entire thing, all the while freely admitting his arrogance and the negative effect that had on his relationship with the woman he loved.
In the second stanza by listing seemingly positive emotional qualities “Peace, re-assurance, pleasure” as a negatively selfish goal I was brought into a place of deep reflection. I am told by others, as well as my own deceptive heart that to aim for those items of peace, re-assurance or pleasure are worthy and admirable goals. In reality they are all centered around the self, and while they are not bad things to have in our lives shouldn’t be our ultimate aim. I hope to one day reflectively convey the lessons’ God has taught me over the years through my own writing of poetry, just as C. S. Lewis has done.