Lewis, C.S.

Ireland, (1898-1963)

Vitrea Circe

  1. The name of Circe
  2. Is wrongly branded
  3. (Though Homer’s verses
  4. Portrayed her right)
  5. By heavy-handed
  6. And moral persons
  7. Misunderstanding
  8. Her danger bright.
  9.  
  10. She used not beauty
  11. For man’s beguiling,
  12. She craved no suitor;
  13. Sea-chances brought
  14. To her forest-silent
  15. And crimson-fruited
  16. And snake-green island
  17. Her guests unsought.
  18.  
  19. She watched those drunken
  20. And tarry sailors
  21. Eat nectar-junket
  22. And Phoenix-nests;
  23. Each moment paler
  24. With pride, she shrank at
  25. Their leering, railing,
  26. Salt-water jests.
  27.  
  28. They thought to pluck there
  29. Her rosial splendour?
  30. They thought their luck there
  31. Was near divine?
  32. When the meal ended
  33. She rose and struck them
  34. With wand extended
  35. And made them swine.
  36.  
  37. With smiles and kisses
  38. No man she tempted;
  39. She scorned love’s blisses
  40. And toils, until
  41. There came, undream’t of,
  42. The tough Ulysses,
  43. From fate exempted
  44. By Pallas’ will.
  45.  
  46. Then flashed above her
  47. (Poor kneeling Circe,
  48. Her snares discovered)
  49. The Hero’s blade.
  50. She lay at his mercy,
  51. His slave, his lover,
  52. Forgot her curses,
  53. Blushed like a maid.
  54.  
  55. She’d none to warn her,
  56. He hacked and twisted
  57. Her hedge so thorny;
  58. It let him pass.
  59. Her awful distance,
  60. Her vestal scornings,
  61. Were bright as crystals,
  62. They broke like glass.

© C.S. Lewis. Poems. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, (1964).

About the Poet

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), (C.S. Lewis) was an Irish novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist, who was also known for his fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia and Out of the Silent Planet.

Besides writing, Lewis held the position of Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University for twenty-nine years and later accepted the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, where he finished out his teaching career. Lewis was a close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, another leading figure in the English faculty at Oxford University, with whom he formed the informal Oxford literary group known as the “Inklings.”

During his time at Oxford, Lewis went from being an atheist to being one of the most influential Christian writers of the 20th century. He credited his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as the writings of the converted G.K. Chesterton, as influencing his conversion. [DES-11/10]

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