Saturday, November 1, 2008

Learning from bees & Lewis (Long post but worth it)

This is one of my all-time favorite poems. It was composed by the late-great C.S.Lewis, and I've been wanting to share it with all of you since I started blogging. Unfortunately, I've tried looking for it everywhere on the web and found, at best, only fragments of it. The books I own which contain this poem were placed in storage, and since my house is getting revamped, I had the opportunity to retrieve them when some of the materials for the renovation were warehoused in the same area.

This poem is about you. It's about me, my friends, your friends, your significant others, and anyone else who has had to endure the uncertainty of the trials and tribulations that life throws at us. It's about those trails in life which many of us are forced to walk, and reflect with anxiety and exasperation at those other paths we wish we had taken. But fear not the road you walk. Those paths that forces beyond our control sweep us into might be nothing more than God tweaking us in the right direction. The bee in this poem found her way to the laden flowers, but not before anguishing a change in direction.

Of this we are certain; no one who dares knock
At heaven's door for earthly comfort found
Even a door- only smooth endless rock,
And save the echo of his cry no sound.
It's dangerous to listen; you'll begin
To Fancy that those echoes (hope can play
Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;
Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.
Heaven cannot thus, Earth cannot ever, give
The thing we want. We ask what isn't there
And by our asking water and make live
That very part of love which must despair
And die and go down cold into the earth
Before there's talk of springtime and rebirth.

Pitch your demands heaven-high and they'll be met.
Ask the Morning Star and take (thrown in)
Your earthly love. Why, yes; but how to set
One's foot on the rung, how to begin?
The silence of one voice upon our ears
Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seem
A lying brag; the face we loved appears
Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.
'That long way round which Dante trod was meant
For mighty saints and mystics not for me,'
So Nature cries. Yet if we once assent
To Nature's voice, we shall be like the bee
That booms against the window-pane for hours
Thinking that way to reach the laden flowers.

'If we could speak to her,' my doctor said,
'And told her, "Not that way! All, all in vain
You weary out wings and bruise your head,"
Might she not answer, buzzing at the at the pane,
"Let queens and mystics and religious bees
Talk of such inconceivables as glass;
The blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,
Look there--ahead, ahead--the flowers, the grass!
We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows
What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)
And shake her out--and gaily out she goes
Where quivering flowers stand thick in summer air,
To drink their hearts. But left to her own will
She would have died upon the wind-sill.'


Shirley said...

Tom, I love that poem! THanks for sharing it with us. I really do feel like that bee a lot, especially when I am working with my new filly.
"The blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,
Look there--ahead, ahead--the flowers, the grass!"
That's me!

Rita said...

Thank you, Tom.

I knew nothing about that poem, I didn't even know CS Lewis wrote poetry. What a find!

Debs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie Alender said...

Beautiful! I feel a lot of truth in that poem. Thanks for sharing it, Tom.

(I especially like the part about how the bee feels terrified when she's being rescued... I have always held that against insects when I rescue them. Yes, because I'm petty and apparently a little crazy. But the least they could do is show some gratitude. ...I'd better stop now before I present myself with some universal truth.)

Tracy said...

Thank you for sharing Tom:)

Tom in Vegas said...


That's one of my favorite parts of the poem, too. With my favorite being, "But left to her own will
She would have died upon the wind-sill."


C.S. Lewis wrote many poems. I will try to post some of my other favorites in the near future.


I agree. I don't like unappreciative insects. There is a snail that likes emerges from my front lawn unto the concrete at night, and I've saved him from getting crushed multiple times by gently tapping him back in the grass. Not once has he ever thanked me. Now I just walk by him and don't even say hi anymore.



Kirk said...

Now here I am posting way late on your blog about this post!
I love this poem too. I think that C S Lewis had such a way with words that really speaks to a person - or to me anyway.
As for your snail, there are some worms around here like that. I seem to be constantly moving them out of the way when they insist on dicing with death by going on the path where I ride my bike.