Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nearly They Stood...

This is one of my favorite C.S. Lewis poems. First he talks about those who lost a race, or even the race of their own existence, by one tiny mishap, one slip. Then he discusses those who by a thread, or by a small event saved something large, perhaps even their lives.

   Nearly they stood who fall.
   Themselves, when they look back,
   See always in the track
   One torturing spot where all
   By a possible quick swerve
   Of will yet unenslaved–
By the infinitesimal twitching of a nerve–
   Might have been saved.

  Nearly they fell who stand.
   These with cold after-fear
   Look back and note how near
   They grazed the Siren’s land,
   Wondering to think that fate,
   By threads so spidery-fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great,
   Should thus entwine.

If we take the poem out of the realm of life and death, and into that of mere success and failure, we see that there are many such times as this: times when a decision, sometimes a split-second decision, determines the future for us in a huge way. We look back and say: It was that second, that momentous choice, or effort, that deposited me on this path or that one. Loyalty/betrayal. Obedience/rebellion. Decision/hesitation:  Some things are worth our extra resolve.

And how are we so quick to judge the "nearly stood"s? We, ourselves, only made it by an inch--that's no wide, flat ground for boasting!

  Therefore I sometimes fear
   Lest oldest fears prove true,
   Lest, when no bugle blew
   My mort, when skies looked clear,
   I may have stepped one hair’s
   Breadth past the hair-breadth bourn
  Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
   Forbids return.

 In the third verse, Lewis ponders how, on some perfectly normal day, though far removed from the threat of disaster, he too may step over that edge and not return.

We live on the brink of our eternity.


Khaalidah said...

This is a beautiful poem. You explained it so well and so aptly plaed it within the context of our NOW lives. The first stanza sort of smacks me in the face. Haven't we all been there? One teeny tiny false move. The thing you look back and say, "if only" about.

oldegg said...

Great post Lilibeth. C.S. Lewis was a truly inspiring writer. We seemed to snapped on our response to Nearly!

Carina said...

I was unfamiliar with this one, but love it.

Catherine Denton said...

This is wonderfully thought-provoking. I love C.S. Lewis! You helped me see his poem more clearly. Great post!
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Lisa said...

Beautiful Lilbeth!

WarmSunshine said...

We truly live on the brink of eternity. I have such moment in my life, so I can relate to this one. I guess, all of us can. Thanks for sharing this wonderful, wonderful poem :)

aftergrace said...

This one is new to me, very nice. :)

Anonymous said...

The poem is explicitly Christian in a way that is not recognized here. It is talking about something so much more important than a "big change" in our life or even our life itself! It is talking about eternity, and how close some of us came to losing it to sin and death and ourselves. It is talking about the regret those that did lose salvation later feel. It deserves more credit as an idea than was given.