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Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  632 ratings  ·  99 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 January 1st 1919)
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3.57  · 
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 ·  632 ratings  ·  99 reviews


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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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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.
Chris
Oct 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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.
Jon(athan) 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.
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
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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Krista
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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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
Jana
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poetry by a searching soul...a couple gems contained therein.
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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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.
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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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.
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.
Joy Schultz
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5/18/15 review: 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.

10/16/18 review: I'm starting here to read/reread Lewis's work (that I own/can access) in publishing order (so far as I can discern without getting bogged down by the question). On thi
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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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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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Rebecca M.
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating cycle of poems from 20-year-old, pre-conversion C.S. Lewis. Pessimism and anger weave in and out of the poems. In particular, like Orual in Lewis's later novel Till We Have Faces, Lewis expresses resentment of God:

"The sky above is sickening, the clouds of God's hate cover it,
Body and soul shall suffer beyond all word or thought,
Till the pain and noisy terror that these first years have wrought
Seem but the soft arising and prelude of the storm
That fiercer still and heavier with sharp
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Nicolas
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
meh.
Peter Codington
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful poetry from a young, twenty-one year old C. S. Lewis. Beautiful and melancholic, and they give a picture into the early thoughts and beliefs of Lewis.
Neil Gussman
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely book of poems.
John
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetics
This is an early C.S. Lewis, his first published poetry collection, and it gives a glimplse into his early mind and influence. To understand Lewis this belongs into that kind of work. You get to see some of his influneces from old mythology, greek and norse and some of his literary heroes like Milton. On the other side, one can recognize themes that reoccure in the Narnia books, Pilgrims Regress, Scretape Letters and much more of his work. For this it is kind of interesting, even for a non poetr ...more
Ian Galey
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As one of the few works by Lewis that is not well read, Spirits in Bondage is certainly more inaccessible than most of his work (aside from it being poetry). Yet it bears a remarkable poetic style that is reminiscent of the epic, mythic, and spiritual quality of the great classics that Lewis was very familiar with and adored. Throughout this collection of poems, Lewis—as a "blaspheming atheist"—explores the duality between matter which equaled nature which equaled Satan and beauty which equaled ...more
Stephen Angliss
This is a side of C.S. Lewis I have never read. I am used to the warm, gray, scholarly, Christian C.S. Lewis. This book featured the young, angsty, melancholic, atheist C.S. Lewis. What a difference!

These poems were written by C.S. Lewis as a young adult fighting in World War I. Some were even written during his teenage and childhood years. If anything, this work reminded me a bit of Poe. It was deeply introspective and gloomy. It often described chilling nature scenes and even described the bu
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Steve Campbell
This is C. S. Lewis's first published work, and while the quality of the poetry in this collection is generally mediocre at best, but more important than the quality of the poetry is the insight these poems give us into the thinking of the pre-Christian Lewis. While Lewis may have been an atheist before his conversion to Christianity, like many atheists, he seemed to be angry with the God that didn't exist. Several of the poems express this anger, which partly grew out of his experiences in Worl ...more
Daniel
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, fiction
Undergrad Clive wrote this, and it exemplifies his fascination with spiritual power, his theological impulse, his interest in Norse and Greek mythology, and his Romantic-nature tendency. He wrote it when he was 21, and the only reason why anyone cares about it now is because he wrote better things later.

I give it a 2/5, here's why:

Unclear narrative voice:
The title of the work is Spirits in Bondage and the sections are titled, "The Prison House," "Hesitation," and "Escape." Presumably the narrato
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Jamie Howard
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being Lewis’s first book, and being published when he was only 21, this collection of poetry was very interesting.

While this was written many years before his conversion to Christianity, it was intriguing how many early hints of later writing appeared within the poems. You could see the precursors of Tumnus, Puzzle, and others from Narnia. Even the parade of fairies and dryads surrounding the holy woman in The Great Divorce.

I recommend for any fan of Lewis wanting to see his pre-Lewis days. My
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2015 Reading Chal...: Spirits in Bondage: A cycle of lyrics by C.S Lewis 8 11 Mar 02, 2015 08:21PM  
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Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge
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“I look around the empty room,
The clock still ticking in its place,
And all else silent as the tomb,
Till suddenly, I think, a face”
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“As of old Phoenician men, to the Tin Isles sailing
Straight against the sunset and the edges of the earth,
Chaunted loud above the storm and the strange sea's wailing,
Legends of their people and the land that gave them birth-
Sang aloud to Baal-Peor, sang unto the horned maiden,
Sang how they should come again with the Brethon treasure laden,
Sang of all the pride and glory of their hardy enterprise,
How they found the outer islands, where the unknown stars arise;
And the rowers down below, rowing hard as they could row,
Toiling at the stroke and feather through the wet and weary weather,
Even they forgot their burden in the measure of a song,
And the merchants and the masters and the bondsmen all together,
Dreaming of the wondrous islands, brought the gallant ship along;
So in mighty deeps alone on the chainless breezes blown
In my coracle of verses I will sing of lands unknown,
Flying from the scarlet city where a Lord that knows no pity,
Mocks the broken people praying round his iron throne,
-Sing about the Hidden Country fresh and full of quiet green.
Sailing over seas uncharted to a port that none has seen.”
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