The Poetry of C.S. Lewis

It seems to me that Lewis wrote poetry to argue a point. All his poems, from what I can tell, are arguments. If he has an argument to make, he uses the music of rhyme and meter and the charm of a good turn of phrase to make it. But he is always making a point.

Someone once told me his poetry is very accessible. I think it is perhaps more than that: it is very obvious, and it is obvious because he wants you to get the point. If you think about it, this is what he was always trying to do: find formal expression to an argument he wanted to get across. Even his advice about prose style is always to make sure you leave no room for misunderstanding.

But gaining others over to your point of view is not the chief aim of poetry, only sometimes is it the incidental result. True, poets are trying to show us something they’ve seen, but they are not also evaluating it in absolute terms, only summoning it to view. Of course, there is appraisal implied in language, and poetry takes advantage of this. But there is a more contemplative appraisal and a more scrutinized. There is an invitation to appreciation and the more narrow instruction that says: this but no other appreciation.

I don’t know to what extent I can say art works by suggestion. I do know it does, just not to what extent: whether always somewhat or whether always chiefly or only a little. But I do know that poetry works what it does best when it accomplishes most by suggestion, and I conclude that that’s the problem with Lewis’s poems: they do not suggest, they go always go further rather than leaving the conclusion in the person. He was too much of an objectivist, I think, a bit too didactic with poems. If that is right, then there should be a kind of thickness about them, a grossness rather than delicacy, a sclerosis of determined vision. He was always a robust chap, from all I’ve read.

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