July 05, 2009

A Confession

by C.S. Lewis

I am so coarse, the things the poets see
Are obstinately invisible to me.
For twenty years I've stared my level best
To see if evening--any evening--would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table;*
In vain. I simply wasn't able.
To me each evening looked far more
Like the departure from a silent, yet crowded, shore
Of a ship whose freight was everything, leaving behind
Gracefully, finally, without farewells, marooned mankind.

Red dawn behind a hedgerow in the east
Never, for me, resembled in the least
A chilblain** on a cocktail-shaker's nose;
Waterfalls don't remind me of torn underclothes,
Nor glaciers of tin-cans. I've never known
The moon look like a hump-backed crone--
Rather, a prodigy, even now
Not naturalized, a riddle glaring from the Cyclops' brow
Of the cold world, reminding me on what a place
I crawl and cling, a planet with no bulwarks, out in space.

Never the white sun of the wintriest day
Struck me as un crachat d'estaminet.***
I'm like that odd man Wordsworth knew, to whom
A primrose was a yellow primrose, one whose doom
Keeps him forever in the list of dunces,
Compelled to live on stock responses,
Making the poor best that I can
Of dull things... peacocks, honey, the Great Wall, Aldebaran,
Silver weirs, new-cut grass, wave on the beach, hard gem,
The shapes of horse and woman, Athens, Troy, Jerusalem.

* - This is referring to T.S. Eliot's famous poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", in which Prufrock compares the sunset to an etherized patient.

** - Inflammatory swelling or sore caused by exposure to severe cold.

*** - I had to look this one up. It's referencing a poem by Jules Leforgue, and as for it's meaning... I found this quite helpful.

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