Spirits in Bondage & Dymer

C.S. Lewis

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Spirits in Bondage

A Cycle of Lyrics

Prologue

As of old Phoenician men, to the Tin Isles sailing Straight against the sunset and the edges of the earth, Chaunted loud above the storm and the strange sea's wailing, Legends of their people and the land that gave them birth- Sang aloud to Baal-Peor, sang unto the horned maiden, Sang how they should come again with the Brethon treasure laden, Sang of all the pride and glory of their hardy enterprise, How they found the outer islands, where the unknown stars arise; And the rowers down below, rowing hard as they could row, Toiling at the stroke and feather through the wet and wary weather, Even they forgot their burden in the measure of a song, And the merchants and the masters and the bondsmen all together, Dreaming of the wondrous islands, brought the gallant ship along;

So in mighty deeps alone on the chainless breezes blown In my oracle of verses I will sing of lands unknown, Flying from the scarlet city where a Lord that knows no pity, Mocks the broken people praying round his iron throne, —Sing about the Hidden Country fresh and full of quiet green. Sailing over seas uncharted to a port that none has seen.

Part I - The Prison House

I - 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.

II - French Nocturne (Monchy-le-Preux)

Long leagues on either hand the trenches spread And all is still; now even this gross line Drinks in the frosty silences divine The pale, green moon is riding overhead.

The jaws of a sacked village, stark and grim; Out on the ridge have swallowed up the sun, And in one angry streak his blood has run To left and right along the horizon dim.

There comes a buzzing plane: and now, it seems Flies straight into the moon. Lo! where he steers Across the pallid globe and surely nears In that white land some harbour of dear dreams!

False mocking fancy! Once I too could dream, Who now can only see with vulgar eye That he's no nearer to the moon than I And she's a stone that catches the sun's beam.

What call have I to dream of anything? I am a wolf. Back to the world again, And speech of fellow-brutes that once were men Our throats can bark for slaughter: cannot sing.

III - The Satyr

When the flowery hands of spring Forth their woodland riches fling, Through the meadows, through the valleys Goes the satyr carolling.

From the mountain and the moor, Forest green and ocean shore All the faerie kin he rallies Making music evermore.

See! the shaggy pelt doth grow On his twisted shanks below, And his dreadful feet are cloven Though his brow be white as snow-

Though his brow be clear and white And beneath it fancies bright, Wisdom and high thoughts are woven And the musics of delight,

Though his temples too be fair Yet two horns are growing there Bursting forth to part asunder All the riches of his hair.

Faerie maidens he may meet Fly the horns and cloven feet, But, his sad brown eyes with wonder Seeing-stay from their retreat.

IV - Victory

Roland is dead, Cuchulain's crest is low, The battered war-rear wastes and turns to rust, And Helen's eyes and Iseult's lips are dust And dust the shoulders and the breasts of snow.

The faerie people from our woods are gone, No Dryads have I found in all our trees, No Triton blows his horn about our seas And Arthur sleeps far hence in Avalon.

The ancient songs they wither as the grass And waste as doth a garment waxen old, All poets have been fools who thought to mould A monument more durable than brass.

For these decay: but not for that decays The yearning, high, rebellious spirit of man That never rested yet since life began From striving with red Nature and her ways.

Now in the filth of war, the baresark shout Of battle, it is vexed. And yet so oft Out of the deeps, of old, it rose aloft That they who watch the ages may not doubt.

Though often bruised, oft broken by the rod, Yet, like the phoenix, from each fiery bed Higher the stricken spirit lifts its head And higher-till the beast become a god.

V - Irish Nocturne

Now the grey mist comes creeping up From the waste ocean's weedy strand And fills the valley, as a cup Is filled of evil drink in a wizard's hand; And the trees fade out of sight, Like dreary ghosts unhealthily Into the damp, pale night, Till you almost think that a clearer eye could see Some shape come up of a demon seeking apart His meat, as Grendel sought in Harte The thanes that at by the wintry log- Grendel or the shadowy mass Of Balor, or the man with the face of clay, The grey, grey walker who used to pass Over the rock-arch nightly to his prey. But here at the dumb, slow stream where the willows hang, With never a wind to blow the mists apart, Bitter and bitter it is for thee, O my heart, Looking upon this land, where poets sang, Thus with the dreary shroud Unwholesome, over it spread, And knowing the fog and the cloud In her people's heart and head Even as it lies for ever upon her coasts Making them dim and dreamy lest her sons should ever arise And remember all their boasts; For I know that the colourless skies And the blurred horizons breed Lonely desire and many words and brooding and never a deed.

VI - Spooks

Last night I dreamed that I was come again Unto the house where my belovèd dwells After long years of wandering and pain.

And I stood out beneath the drenching rain And all the street was bare, and black with night, But in my true love's house was warmth and light.

Yet I could not draw near nor enter in, And long I wondered if some secret sin Or old, unhappy anger held me fast;

Till suddenly it came into my head That I was killed long since and lying dead- Only a homeless wraith that way had passed.

So thus I found my true love's house again And stood unseen amid the winter night And the lamp burned within, a rosy light, And the wet street was shining in the rain.

VII - Apology

If men should ask, Despoina, why I tell Of nothing glad nor noble in my verse To lighten hearts beneath this present curse And build a heaven of dreams in real hell,

Go you to them and speak among them thus: "There were no greater grief than to recall, Down in the rotting grave where the lithe worms crawl, Green fields above that smiled so sweet to us."

Is it good to tell old tales of Troynovant Or praises of dead heroes, tried and sage, Or sing the queens of unforgotten age, Brynhild and Maeve and virgin Bradamant?

How should I sing of them? Can it be good To think of glory now, when all is done, And all our labour underneath the sun Has brought us this-and not the thing we would?

All these were rosy visions of the night, The loveliness and wisdom feigned of old. But now we wake. The East is pale and cold, No hope is in the dawn, and no delight.

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