Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Landing


The ship's stride faltered with her change of course, awaking us.

Suddenly I saw the land. Astern, the east was red;
Budding like a flower from the pale and rippled vacancy,
The island rose ahead.


All, then, was true; such lands, in solid verity,
Dapple the last sea that laps against the sky;
Apple-gold, the headlands of the singing Hesperides
On glass-clear water lie.


Once before I'd seen it, but that was from Helicon,
Clear and distinct in the circle of a lens,
Peering on tip-toes, one-eyed, through a telescope
Goddesses' country, never men's.


Now we were landing. Bright beasts and manifold
Came like old familiars, nosing at our knees;
Nameless their kinds--Adam's naming of the animals
Reached not those outer seas


Up from the shore then, benumbed with hope, we went upon
Danceable lawns and under gum-sweet wood,
Glancing ever up to where a green hill at the centre of
The hush'd island stood.


We climbed to the top and looked over upon limitless
Waters, untravelled, further west. But the three
Daughters of Hesperus were only painted images
Hand-fast around a tree,


And instead of the Dragon we found a brazen telescope
That burned our eyes there, flashing in the sun.
It was turned to the west. As once before on Helicon,
We looked through it, one by one.


There, once again, I beheld it, small and perilous,
Distant beyond measure, in the circle of the lens
--But this time, surely, the true one, the Hesperides'
Country which is not men's.


Hope died--rose again--quivered, and increased in us
The strenuous longing. We re-embarked to find
That genuine and utter West. Far astern and east of us
The first hope sank behind.

~C.S. Lewis, Poems (1964)
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Wikipedia on The Hesperides.

Click here to view 'The Garden of the Hesperides' c 1892, by Frederic Leighton (1830-1896)


On this day:

1950 The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (the first volume written in The Chronicles of Narnia) is published by Geoffrey Bles, London.

2 Comment(s):

At Sun Oct 17, 03:38:00 PM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

I like the images that this poem evokes: an island at the edge of the world, in a place where the sun never sets, so there is still hope, though it is dying.

The sailors find the lovely ladies of the Hesperides, but they're not what the crew expected: they've been modernized.

I guess this is supposed to be people who are searching for something magical of the old world. They don't find it and take their journey elsewhere.

(P.S. Helicon is the mountain where the Muses lived.)

Gah, I'm all mytholgied out. I just spend two hours writing an essay on The Odyssey. No more! No more!

 
At Sun Oct 17, 06:23:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

One thing I really liked was his description of the color of the headlands:

"Apple-gold, the headlands of the singing Hesperides"

..when one reads the mythology to find that Heracles' task was to pluck the golden apples from the tree. Clever use of the reference.

The other thing I noticed is the turning around of the direction in which these men's hope of fulfillment lies--the Utter West, in comparison to Narnia, where the Emperor beyond the Sea's lands lie to the Utter East. Perhaps it is a very logical difference, as this poem talks of the Pagan mythology, and Narnia deals with Christian "mythology".

 

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