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Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  754 ratings  ·  124 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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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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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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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.
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.
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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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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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.
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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William
5 stars for reading in context with C.S. Lewis' past and future at the time of the piece. But, 1 star for the content of the book. This poetry is pretty... bad. Here's my favorite poem (public domain now):

Spooks

Last night I dreamed that I was come again
Unto the house where my beloved dwells
After long years of wandering and pain.

And I stood out beneath the drenching rain
And all the street was bare, and black with night,
But in my true love's house was warmth and light.

Yet I could not draw near nor
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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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Preston Blakeley
Wow—just wow. I have been trying to read more poetry, so glad I picked this one up. “Spirits in Bondage” is Lewis’ first work, a collection of wartime poems published in 1919. Each poem is intensely rich. Many follow themes of his early struggle with Christianity, war, and modernism. What surprised me was that, even in the midst of terror, Lewis finds wonder—wonder that is usually wrapped up in his love of fairy tails, myths, and magic.
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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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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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“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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“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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