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Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics

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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  815 ratings  ·  134 reviews

A repackaged edition of the revered author’s first book—a collection of poems, written in the wake of World War I, in which the young intellectual and soldier wrestles with the perplexing polarities of life, including love and war, evil and goodness, and other complex dichotomies.

In 1919, C. S. Lewis—the great British writer, scholar, lay theologian, broadcaster, Christian

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Kindle Edition, 55 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by HarperOne (first published March 20th 1919)
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Genni
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first published work by Lewis, and the first to enter the public domain. I listened to it today while traveling, but I didn't know quite what I was getting myself in to. It was a rainy, gloomy day and Lewis's poetry did nothing to alleviate that atmosphere.

I am not really qualified to assess the success of his art, not being well-versed in poetry (ha). But his pre-conversion struggle with God and evil is something that many can relate to. It struck me that it took 40 poems in his cyc
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Jeremy
Jan 06, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, milton, inklings
I received a copy as a gift from Lexham Press for providing a reader report (Spring 2020).

Written while an Oxford student and a soldier in WWI. Published in 1919, when Lewis was twenty (and still an atheist), about ten years before his conversion in 1931. He originally used the pseudonym "Clive Hamilton." The book title comes from Milton's Paradise Lost (1.658; Satan speaking).

Milton tangent (CL1 = Collected Letters, Vol. 1)
Poem XIX in the first section of Spirits is titled "Milton Read Again,"
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Jesse Broussard
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-class
Horrific. Pre-Christian poetry from a 19 year old Lewis. Shattering.
Christine
Wow, you say, Lewis wrote poetry.

Well, techincally he did. Trust me, you really don't want to read these.

I mean there is a reason no one talks about Lewis the poet.
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Brian Eshleman
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty dark. Good reminder, as was a song from Jars of Clay that I've heard many times but just recently revealed listened to, that the very person who seems so far from a deep and intimate faith in Christ one day, we have no reason to believe they can't be changed. ...more
MisterFweem
It's good to see that even accomplished authors like CS Lewis went through that phase where they wrote absolutely rotten poetry. Gives the rest of us rotten poets hope. Or delusions of adequacy. ...more
Dave Maddock
Jul 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Inklings fans
I quite enjoyed reading this little collection of early poems, although the poetry is merely decent bordering on bad. For instance, he uses the forced "the XXX green" (where XXX is a noun of something from Nature) about 10 times to end a rhyming line. Here's the most cringe-worthy abuse of syntax: "His eyes stared into the eyes of me / And he kissed my hands of his courtesy." The eyes of me, LOL.

There are some good passages though too. Here's my favorite:
I lost my way in the pale starlight
And sa
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Jon Nakapalau
The first major published work by C.S. Lewis. Here we see many of the issues he would struggle with in his better known works in embryotic form.
Khari
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This book was not at all what I expected.

I recently re-read Mere Christianity and finally understood it, so I went ahead and marked all of C.S. Lewis to read/re-read and this one was included.

I thought it was going to be more thought provoking theology from Lewis, it wasn't. It was a little book of poetry.

I haven't read any poetry since college.

It was so soul lifting. I'd forgotten how poetry can wring you dry and fill you up again. I'd forgotten the joy of discovering a buried gem. When I r
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Carly
I'll be honest and say I'm biased because C.S. Lewis is most definitely my favorite author. Nonetheless, this cycle of lyrics told a beautiful tale in a rhyme scheme and language only Lewis is capable of. His wit is prevalent as well as his sarcasm and skepticism towards the notion of God. He stated at one point that when he wrote this, he was angry at God for not existing, and at the same time angry at God for creating the universe and for existing. This ambiguity shows in the poetry and it's f ...more
Samuel Parkison
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lexham Press has done all Lewis enthusiasts a great service by publishing this new edition of Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics. The introduction by Karren Swallow Prior would alone be worth the price of the book, but the real prize is the window we receive into the pre-conversion heart of Lewis through these poems. Here we are introduced to a Lewis many of us have heard of, but have never met. There are certain enriching continuities—the love of words, the love of nature, the love of fantas ...more
Carol Bakker
Sometimes a book repels me; I don't want to be repelled but I find every excuse to read anything else BUT that book. This small book of 40 poems practically derailed my C.S. Lewis Reading Project. I couldn't read it; I couldn't skip it. It's not that I wanted to like it; I needed to understand it. What did Lewis mean by these poems written between 1915-1918?

Reading poems on a Kindle [free, btw] did not work for me. I needed to see the poem's bones on the page. Reading the print book was better,
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Kelly Head
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are a few books that I think every cradle-to-grave Christian ought to read in order to get some perspective on a non-Christian worldview. G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, a book Chesterton called "pre-Christian" because its publication preceded his conversion, presents God as both the Chief of Police and the head of the Anarchist revolutionaries. This book along with C.S. Lewis's Sprits in Bondage ought to be required reading for every sheltered Christian who has never experienc ...more
John Martindale
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, poetry
One needn't read many of these poems before they're struck by how embittered Lewis was towards the God he didn't believe in; he was wounded, melancholy and aware of the cruel world of which he was born. Though he rejected God, it seems he was often conscious and haunted by Him. Seeing a little of how he saw things before his conversion, helps explain in part why his reflections on God later on had so much depth.
For me it seems my story is a bit in reverse. At the start I saw God as wonderfully
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Drake
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short but enjoyable collection of poems from Lewis's pre-Christian years during World War I. His poetry really showcases the conflict within his own mind between his atheistic rationalism and his romanticism, between a worldview that reacts cynically to all the pain and suffering in the world and a worldview that yearns for something beyond this world. An interesting and fun read for sure.

Edit: I waffled between 3 and 4 stars but finally went with four due to the fact that, even though it’s s
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Jana
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poetry by a searching soul...a couple gems contained therein.
Matt Pitts
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lewis never fails to fascinate, and that remains true even in this pre-conversion cycle of poems. As one endorsement said, the seeds of Lewis's later writing are here, having already fertilized his imagination. More than that, some of the questions he later answered for himself and his hearers are here raised with the angst and anger of youthful atheism. Perhaps some who scoff at Lewis's apologetic work will glimpse from this work how hard-won those answers were.

More than that, these poems comm
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Scott
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at the early Lewis. This edition is lovely.

Note: I work for the publisher.
Angela Blount
I didn't realize that Clive Staples Lewis was such a talented poet until I took some time with this. His innate poignancy and lyrical storytelling is ever-present throughout this collection, sprinkled with imagery that could only come from the bared heart of a sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast -- Satyr, Spooks, Wizards, Nereids, and cosmic wonders abound.

Given the frequent undertones of turmoil and cynicism, I would have guessed these works came out of the author's mourning period....after the death of
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Joy Schultz
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Grim stuff, this pre-conversion poetry, but well-structured nonetheless. "Dungeon Grates" is a shining light in the middle of it, as is "Oxford."
"In Praise of Solid People" has been edited in my mind to "In Praise of Hobbits" because it honestly sounds like his own take on the Professor's creation.
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Olivia
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lewis is not known as a poet for a reason. The poetry is ghastly. But I did appreciate the insight into the mind of a post-WW1, atheist Lewis.

Don’t bother to read for the poetry. Read for the C.S. Lewis history.
Chris Huff
This was...interesting.

Spirits in Bondage was written by a young C.S. Lewis prior to his conversion to Christianity. It was his first published work, after returning home from fighting in World War I, when he was just 19 years old (although he hinted in letters that some of the poems contained within were written even earlier).

I enjoyed parts of this work immensely. Other parts were extremely uninteresting, probably because I couldn't follow Lewis's thought process. Some entire poems (especially
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Ben
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inklings, poetry
This new edition of CS Lewis' Great War poems is beautifully produced by Lexham Press. The size, cover artwork, end pages, and typesetting give these 100-year-old poems a haunting feel, a literary momento mori. The helpful introduction from Karen Swallow Prior sets the context for the poems and prepares the reader for the Lewis they are about to meet: a young Lewis, more derivative than original, more pagan than Christian, yet with all the indicators of an author who is going places.

The poems th
...more
Alli
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read poetry and it’s not a genre I know my way around. As other reviewers have said, this book of Lewis’ is only read because of his later greater works, and it’s place is to gain understanding of a post-war pre-Christian legendary novelist. The sense I got from lewis in his poetry was an inner struggle against a God who (he deems) cannot both be loving and in control of a self-destructing universe.

“Come let us curse our Master ere we die,
For all our hopes in endless ruin lie.
The good
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Cassie Troja
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Unexpectedly poignant

In 2021, I’m endeavoring to read all of CS Lewis’ works in chronological order. I honestly did not know what to expect from this little tome since it predates Lewis dramatic conversion. I was shocked at how moving these poems were! They are clearly a window into his tormented soul as he sought to reconcile the idea of a just and loving God with the horrors of World War I. In fact, so scarred was he by what he saw in the trenches and the losses he suffered, he swore he would
...more
Sohair Elmowafy
3.5/5 stars. I’ve never read C.S. Lewis before so this was a lovely surprise. His style, rhyme, non-cliché nature imagery are superb as he struggles with his belief in God. “Spooks” and “To Sleep” where my favorite. “Song of the Pilgrims” broke my heart even as a non-Christian.

Also, does Lewis have any writings in French? Many of his poem titles were in French and it has me intrigued.
Parker
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look into the mind of a young, atheistic Lewis. This is definitely a work of relative literary immaturity, and I'm also not great at reading poetry anyway, so I didn't enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed any of Lewis's prose. But I also expected that. This is worth reading for anybody who is interested in what Lewis was writing in the trenches of WW1. ...more
Jeremy Johnston
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
C.S. Lewis is not known for his poetry. Although he aspired to be a poet as a young man, he eventually came to consider himself a better writer of prose. Nevertheless, this collection of poems written before his conversion to Christianity, reveals a man who was keenly aware of the world around him, as well as humanity's deep longings for joy and beauty. We also see the beginnings of Lewis's mastery as a wordsmith. I highly recommend this attractive edition as well, with a helpful introduction by ...more
Riley Nevarez
I feel like I can’t rate this work. It’s not terrible though I found myself not understanding what he was trying to grasp. But there are some beautifully written lyrics in this book that I adored. I will say it’s also interesting to read this collection of poems having read his later works. It’s a completely different Lewis, which is to be expected.
Matthew Richey
Written by a young atheist C. S. Lewis. Darker and harder to follow than most of Lewis' writings (in my observation his writing is more accessible as he gets older). Interesting. ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Spirits in Bondage: A cycle of lyrics by C.S Lewis 8 12 Mar 02, 2015 08:21PM  

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