Clive Staples Lewis

(29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963 / Belfast)

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As the Ruin Falls


All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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  • Freshman - 1,793 Points Savita Tyagi (7/2/2014 8:19:00 AM)

    This poem writes about a reality that always looks in eyes no matter how much we want to cover it. A beautiful poem. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,793 Points John Young (6/21/2014 8:00:00 PM)

    Really points out that until someone has truly loved they will never truly know themselves. I loved it! (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,793 Points John Hardesty (7/2/2013 11:07:00 AM)

    Man's exile, as Napoleon, John of Patmos, Dante, and Aristotle, always an alienated being in the third sense, pure selfishness of a mortal god, indeed! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,793 Points Terence George Craddock (7/2/2012 10:29:00 PM)

    'As the Ruin Falls' by Clive Staples Lewis is a wonderful contrast between the uninhibited declaration of the speaker being not just a hedonist, 'through and through', but the ultimate 'mercenary and self-seeking' hedonist. The juxtaposition of the irony and reverse satire of the lines immediately before and after this glorious confession is quite delightful. 'I never had a selfless thought since I was born' is wonderfully pious and in reality impossible, setting up the character of utter selfishness 'I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through: ' before the incredible line 'I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.'
    'Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, ' are normal human goals; yet the line 'I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin: ' is an ultimate refusal to compromise with others. Great love is supposed to be selfless thus 'I talk of love -a scholar's parrot may talk Greek-' highlights hollow meaningless words spoken as false declarations of love, as meaningless as a parrot, which could be taught to speak Greek but without real wisdom and understanding. 'Love is not self seeking' is an appropriate Bible reference reinforcing this line in western literature.
    This concept of being unable to love in sincerity enfolds the entire poem, 'All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you' spoken in the first line implies false words of love. This theme continues in the second stanza and develops into 'Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek, ' not love. An unexpected love is born and stated with 'Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack' in the third stanza. The speaker has learned some imperfect lessons from love yet is still incapable of committing to true love.
    The title 'As the Ruin Falls' beautifully encapsulates the theme of love causing ruin to lovers, and in the fourth stanza, the speaker thankfully says to his lover 'For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains/ You give me are more precious than all other gains.' This is the entire content of the concluding stanza and nothing more needs to be said. The chasm is upon him. Examine the last lines of the third stanza. 'I see the chasm. And everything you are was making/ My heart into a bridge by which I might get back/ From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.' No he will not grow into the man, despite everything she is, because this bridge of love 'is breaking.' Such a beautiful clever insightful endearing poem, wonderfully written. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 40 Points Karen Sinclair (7/2/2012 6:00:00 PM)

    I love the silence i felt when reading this piece... there seems to be a need of the writer to return full circle and i wonder the significance of that... is it a hope to return to younger innocence and belief before the ruins collapse... not sure...

    You, all friends merely to serve my turn is intriguing to me.. perhaps i should re-read at another time and it will all slot happily into place...
    Enjoyable and just wish i was a bit brighter :) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 40 Points Phillip Freebourn (2/8/2008 2:25:00 PM)

    I learned this poem through Phil Keaggy when he put a tune to it and placed it on his Love Broke Thru album back in the early 70's. I was in love with Lewis (and Keaggy's) work ever since. What a profound ability to capture our spiritual struggle and place it in words that resound through ages. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 40 Points Jan How (11/3/2005 4:42:00 AM)

    How true is this. It's a really honest way to pray. Seeing myself as i really am actually draws me closer to God. CS Lewis had such insight. (Report) Reply

Read all 9 comments »

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