Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Atheist C.S. Lewis: Filth and Strain

I recently came across a collection of poems entitled Spirits in Bondage. Though written under the pen name of Clive Hamilton, these are the first published works of C.S. Lewis. However, I was struck by how un-Lewisian they were. This is because the poems were written directly after the First World War, an era that deeply scarred the young Lewis and sealed his turning from the Christainity of his youth to the militant atheism of his middle years.

The later C.S. Lewis would be characterized by joy and wit. Even a causual reading of his works will reveal to the reader that the author was a happy man. However, the godless Lewis was anything but happy. I desire to share one of these poems with you in order to illustrate the hopelessness of a world without God. Reading this poem made me very greatful for the God who is. It caused me to realize that He alone is my hope and without Him the world is a cruel place. Even as an atheist Lewis understood this (at least in part). Though the first lines of the peom expressly deny the existence of anything outside of the physical universe, the poem is interestingly titled "Satan Speaks". In other words, if there is no God than all that's left is Satan (i.e. Evil and Cruelty).

"Satan Speaks:

I am Nature, the Mighty Mother,
I am the law: ye have none other.

I am the flower and the dewdrop fresh,
I am the lust in your itching flesh.

I am the battle's filth and strain,
I am the widow's empty pain.

I am the sea to smother your breath,
I am the bomb, the falling death.

I am the fact and the crushing reason
To thwart your fantasy's new-born treason.

I am the spider making her net,
I am the beast with jaws blood-wet.

I am a wolf that follows the sun
And I will catch him ere day be done."

All is vanity of vanities. All is Satan. Unless God is real. Thus the later Lewis would discover that in the worship of God joy could be found and completed: "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation."

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