"Death in Battle," by C. S. Lewis

A poem, mentioned in passing here, Lewis wrote about his experiences in the first world war for an audience of veterans. This is what he said to them, knowing they might understand.

"Death in Battle"

Open the gates for me,
Open the gates of the peaceful castle, rosy in the West,
In the sweet dim Isle of Apples over the wide sea’s breast,

Open the gates for me!

Sorely pressed have I been
And driven and hurt beyond bearing this summer day,
But the heat and the pain together suddenly fall away,
All’s cool and green.

But a moment agone,
Among men cursing in fight and toiling, blinded I fought,
But the labour passed on a sudden even as a passing thought,

And now—alone!

Ah, to be ever alone,
In flowery valleys among the mountains and silent wastes untrod,
In the dewy upland places, in the garden of God,
This would atone!

I shall not see
The brutal, crowded faces around me, that in their toil have grown
Into the faces of devils—yea, even as my own—
When I find thee,

O Country of Dreams!
Beyond the tide of the ocean, hidden and sunk away,
Out of the sound of battles, near to the end of day,
Full of dim woods and streams.


Eric Blair said...

I admit that I don't really get that. Too much artifice.

But this I got immediately:

Prayer before Battle

The troops are singing fervently, each for himself:
God, protect me from misfortune,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
That no grenades strike me,
That the bastards, our enemies,
Do not catch me, do not shoot me,
That I don't die like a dog
For the dear fatherland.
Look, I would like to go on living,
Milk cows, bang girls
And beat the bastard, Sepp,
Get drunk often
Until my blessed death.
Look, I eagerly and gladly recite
Seven rosaries daily,
If you, God, in your grace
Would kill my friend Huber or Meier,
And not me.
But if the worst should come,
Let me not be too badly wounded.
Send me a slight leg wound,
A small injury to the arm,
So that I may return as a hero,
With a story to tell.

Alfred Lichtenstein (KIA, Vermandovillers, France, 1914)

raven said...

Ple'xxus Prosper
Soldat Belge
2 Septembre 1916

Carefully inscribed inside a lovely chip carved cabinet with panels of bucolic farm scenes and a heart shaped panel of a lone sailboat, lit by sun through breaking clouds.
Painted panels made from salt fish boxes.

Can someone tell me if the first line is a name, or a invocation?

Grim said...

Oddly enough, C.S. Lewis got something like the fate Lichtenstein prayed for; and Lichtenstein, the fate Lewis imagined for himself.

In any case, it's a good day to remember and be thankful; for whatever we got out of it.

HoldenSukut said...

"Death in Battle" is the title of the poem. It was Lewis' first published work, besides some small bits for his school.