As the Ruin Falls

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When I became a Christian years ago I bought an album by Phil Keaggy called Love Broke Through. As I was surfing tonight I came across a link to his song “As the Ruin Falls” and discovered that the song itself was a sonnet written by C.S. Lewis which was put to music (quite superbly I might add). I’d forgotten about the song, and though I’d read some of C.S. Lewis’ work (mostly books) I hadn’t come across this sonnet. Here it is…

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.

I know the breaking of which C.S. Lewis speaks, and it is indeed a precious and beautiful thing.

I posted earlier about writing and how I felt as if the juices had dried up. I think it’s because I’m not writing what I want to write. As the Ruin Falls is how I want to write, as is Beneath Thy Cross (Rossetti) and Batter My Heart (Donne), and I just don’t seem to be able to do it, and it’s frustrating.

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2 responses »

  1. I really like this post, Patti. I have a couple of thoughts. Both John Donne in Easter Monday…. and As the Ruin Falls address Christ in the way secular poets address a lover; there is that intimacy, which leads to and informs imagery. Been awhile since I’ve read the Donne poem– it has been one of my favorites– in a sense both poets talk about breaking the heart open, i.e. Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God… and then the bridge back or away, collapses, as I read this poem….

    T.S. Eliot wrote The Four Quartets after his conversion/return to Anglicanism. In my experience it’s very hard to write about faith without falling into cliche’s’ we need to find imagery and metaphor that conveys feeling.

    An excercise that might help would be to approximate the Donne poem with different imagery and in contemporary language– don’t worry about rhyme and meter…. you could also write about trying to write about it, if you know what I mean. xj

    • I’m going to have to check on the history of As the Ruin Falls. I’m curious to see if he wrote this to Joy, if she is the “you” in that line, “I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn” that made me wonder. In any event, it certainly could be addressing Christ, too (and for all I know is), as it has that intimacy. I hope to have some time soon to work on that exercise you suggested, although I’m far too anal to write free verse anymore! I’m afraid I’m a goner–I need the structure and discipline of rhyme and meter most times when I write and find free verse much harder! Anyway, stay tuned. Hopefully I’ll actually get back in the saddle soon! ~p

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