LE ROI S’AMUSE
On woven mazes
Of patterned movement as the atoms whirled.
His glance turned
Into dancing, burning
Colour-gods who rushed upon that sullen world,
Waking, re-making, exalting it anew –
Silver and purple, shrill-voiced yellow, turgid crimson, and virgin blue.
And aching splendour of the naked rocks.
Where his gaze smote,
To mount like thistledown in countless flocks,
Fruit-loving, root-loving gods, cool and green
Of feathery grasses, heather and orchard, pollen’d lily, the olive and the bean.
Lightning, his laughter into brightness broke.
From every dint
Where the severed splinters
Had scattered a Sylvan or a Satyr woke;
Ounces came pouncing, dragon-people flew,
There was spirited stallion, squirrel unrespectful, clanging raven and kangaroo.
The hoving tide of
Ocean trembled at the motion of his breath.
The sigh turned
Into white, eternal,
Radiant Aphrodite unafraid of death;
A fragrance, a vagrant unrest on earth she flung,
There was favouring and fondling and bravery and building and chuckling music and suckling of the young.
He strove and wrought at
A thousand clarities; from his brows sprang
With earnest mien
The cold armour on her shoulders rang.
Our sires at the fires of her lucid eyes began
To speak in symbols, to seek out causes, to name the creatures; they became Man.
World and Man
Unfurled their banner –
It was gay Behemoth on a sable field.
In flesh, the ennobled
Spirits carousing in their myriads reeled;
There was frolic and holiday. Jove laughed to see
The abyss empeopled, his bliss imparted, the throng that was his and no longer he.
Lewis’s poetry did not meet with much success in his lifetime, and sometimes it is opined that he was not a good poet. I don’t agree with this at all. I suspect that his lack of success at the time had more to do with reigning poetical Zeitgeist, which he mocked, but later, I think, grew to like a bit more.
Lewis had an exceptionally vivid notion of Creation. I love the passages of Aslan singing Narnia into being, and also this image of Jove which is so alive, and joyful, and shot full of glory. Note that there are six stanzas here as in the Bible there are six days, but the events of each “day” are different.
I love the squirrel unrespectful, and this: Our sires at the fires of her lucid eyes began
To speak in symbols, to seek out causes, to name the creatures; they became Man, and this: the throng that was his and no longer he.
I like to think about that rather stolid, uninteresting-looking man with all this wonder going around in his head.
—Janet Cupo is a great-grandmother (and a great grandmother) on temporary (maybe) sabbatical from the workaday world.
Update 3/15/2018: There's a discussion in the comments about the layout of this poem. Courtesy of Marianne, here's the way it looked when it was first published in Punch in 1947. Click on the image to see it in something like full size.