C.S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse

C.S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse

C.S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse

C.S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse


"In C. S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse Don W. King contends the Lewis's poetic aspirations enhanced his prose and helped make him the master stylist so revered by the literary world. With its careful examination of early diaries and letters, and the inclusion of four of Lewis's previously unpublished narrative poems and eleven of his previously unpublished short poems, this important book explains the man through his writing and considers how Lewis's lifelong devotion to poetry is best realized in his work of prose. Readers and admirers of Lewis will certainly find their understanding of his writing greatly enhanced by this perceptive book." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Poets do not merely pass on the torch in a relay race; they toss the ball to one another, to and fro, across the centuries. Dante would have been different if Virgil had never been, but if Dante had never been we should know Virgil differently; across both their heads Ezekiel calls to Blake, and Milton to Homer.

—Dorothy Sayers, Further Papers on Dante

While C. S. Lewis's poetry may never be ranked with that of Homer, Ezekiel, Dante, Virgil, Milton, or Blake, it is no hyperbole to claim that from the ages of twelve to thirty, Lewis lusted to achieve acclaim as a poet. His deeply held poetic aspirations are well documented in his letters, journals, and diary entries; in addition, his first two published works, Spirits in Bondage (1919) and Dymer (1926), volumes of poetry, testify to this judgment. Scholarly interest in the poetry, while slow at first, accelerated in the 1970s and has held steady since then. Since 1952 over sixty scholarly articles and theses have been written on Lewis's poetry.

As this activity suggests, scholarly interest in Lewis as a poet has become sustained. However, scholarly investigation of Lewis's poetry has been neither thorough nor systematic. Because there is no substantial critique of his poetry, this work attempts to remedy the deficiency. My intention is to bring a new focus upon Lewis's poetry, one that embraces diverse critical readings of the poems while seeking to discover whether a unified reading is possible. Avoiding hagiography as well as the assumption that Lewis's poetry is a poor relation to his prose, this study attempts to apply thoughtful scholarship to Lewis's poetry in a comprehensive, critical manner. Furthermore, I attempt to connect Lewis's efforts at poetry to his greater success at prose. Accordingly, I survey and comment upon his significant poetry, with an eye to noting how a fuller understanding of Lewis's poetry and his desire to achieve acclaim as a poet informs a deeper understanding of his prose, both the fiction and nonfiction. In a sense I am a miner seeking to tap into the vein of Lewis's lifelong desire to achieve acclaim as a poet, in order to show the source of his golden prose.

Chapter 1 begins with a review of Lewis's early letters, diaries, and journal entries where we see his aspirations to write great poetry and achieve literary acclaim . . .

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