Against too Many Writers of Science Fiction

An Expostulation
Against too many writers of science fiction

Why did you lure us on like this,
Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,
Building (as though we cared for size!)
Empires that cover galaxies
If at the journey’s end we find
The same old stuff we left behind,
Well-worn Tellurian stories of
Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,
Whose setting might as well have been
The Bronx, Montmartre, or Bedinal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the Unearthly waits
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one’s heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason’s grasp had just gone by?

C. S. Lewis

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When fear is stilled

Though the whole heaven be one-eyed with the moon,
Though the dead landscape seem a thing possessed,
As one that singeth through the flowers of June.
Yet I go singing through that land oppressed

No more, with forest-fingers crawling free
O’er dark flint wall that seems a wall of eyes,
Shall evil break my soul with mysteries
Of some world-poison maddening bush and tree

No more shall leering ghosts of pimp and king
With bloody secrets veiled before me stand.
Last night I held all evil in my hand
Closed; and behold it was a little thing.

I broke the infernal gates and looked on him
Who fronts the strong creation with a curse;
Even the gods of a lost universe,
Smiling above his hideous cherubim.

And pierced far down in his soul’s crypt unriven
The last black crooked sympathy and shame
And hailed him with that ringing rainbow name
Erased upon the oldest book in heaven.

Like emptied idiot masks, sin’s loves and wars
Stare at me now: for in the night I broke
The bubble of a great world’s jest, and woke
Laughing with laughter such as shakes the stars.

G.K. Chesterton, The End of Fear

                                                                                                             Taken from atop Mount Eden.

Glencoe

As another semester of university ends and life settles into a different rythme, the expanse of free time I always anticipate enjoying never quite seems to arrive. Nonetheless, in stolen moments I have been able to assail my reading list, long neglected in the last few months.

At the moment I am devouring the poetry of G K Chesterton. I have encountered Chesterton before. More than that, in fact; I can say I have greatly profited from his durable and peerless wisdom in reading some of his essays and non-fiction work. A good friend, however, recently exposed me to some of his poems and admittedly, I was instantly snared.

Chesterton was able to write with that unique ability to see the sublime in the commonplace, and the commonplace in the sublime. His roles were multifold – from social critic to novelist – yet each string of words read as a carnival to the imagination, stupefying the mind as much as his sharpened, capricious wit jars our funny bone.

I have to confess too, I’m a sponge for poetry about the natural world and so this particular poem of his easily garnered my eye. It’s theology might be somewhat precarious, but for Chesterton, I believe one is able to overlook such faults. The poem is called Glencoe:

The star-crowned cliffs seemed hinged upon the sky,
The clouds are floating rags across them curled,
They open to us like the gates of God
Cloven in the last great wall of the world.

I looked and saw the valley of my soul
Where naked crests fight to achieve the skies,
Where no grain grows nor wine, no fruitful thing,
Only big words and starry blasphemies.

But you have clothed with mercy like a moss
The barren violence of its primal wars,
Sterile although they be and void of rule,
You know my shapeless crags have loved the stars.

How shall I thank you, O courageous heart,
That of this wasteful world you had no fear;
But bade it blossom in clear faith and sent
Your far flower-feeding rivers: even as here

The peat burns brimming from their cups of stone
Glow brown and blood-red down the vast decline
As if Christ stood on younder clouded peak
And turned its thousand waters into wine.