“…the pains you give…”

As the Ruin Falls
by C.S. Lewis

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

What can you say about such a poem? I will only say that I view this as I do much of CSL’s work. That is that it works on two different, but not necessarily competing, scales. I find the measure on the scale of art high, but not the highest. I find the measure on the scale of significance to be, well, atmospheric.

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