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Westminster Abbey Agrees: C.S. Lewis Brought Poetry to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

By Harriet Staff


Though C.S. Lewis wasn’t known for his poetry, he revered the form. On the anniversary of his death on November 22, 1963—50 years ago—theNew York Times reports that Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner will pay tribute to his devotion.

Lewis, an admirer of William Butler Yeats, wanted desperately to succeed as a poet. He published his first volume of verse, “Spirits in Bondage,” in 1919 under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton, from his mother’s maiden name. At 19, he fought in the Battle of the Somme. The poems were largely written in the trenches and evinced the early atheism he left behind. His second volume of poetry, “Dymer,” published in 1926 also under the name Clive Hamilton, was largely ignored.

In a 1995 essay in Seven: An Anglo- American Literary Review, Don W. King of Montreat College gives a generous view of the Lewis output of poetry and cites Lewis’s own tongue-in-cheek “Confession” of 1954:

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.

In a 1922 diary entry, Lewis confided that “I have leaned much too much on the idea of being able to write poetry, and if this is a frost, I shall be rather stranded.” And although frustrated by the failure of his early ambitions to be a poet, he wrote verse from time to time.

Read on at NYT.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, November 21st, 2013 by Harriet Staff.