Monday, April 11, 2011


For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is as bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:3-4)

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[John, accompanied by a Guide, is traveling to the Landlord’s Island and passes through Luxuria where he sees a great crowd of men “so disfigured that he had not recognized them for men,” who are being given drink from a cup held by a “dark but beautiful woman.” The witch, for so she is, follows John offering him a drink from her cup over and over again, using soothing and almost truthful words, but John steadfastly walks on in silence.]

So she accompanied him for a long way, till the weariness of her importunity tempted him far more than any positive desire. But he forced his mind to other things and kept himself occupied for a mile or so by making the following verses:

                When Lilith means to draw me
                Within her secret bower,
                She does not overawe me
                With beauty’s pomp and power,
                Nor, with angelic grace
                Of courtesy, and the pace
            Of gliding ships, comes veiled at evening hour.

                Eager, unmasked, she lingers
                Heartsick and hunger sore;
                With hot, dry, jewelled fingers
                Stretched out, beside her door,
                Offering with gnawing haste
                Her cup, whereof who taste,
            (She promises no better) thirst far more.

                What moves me, then, to drink it?
                —Her spells, which all around
                So change the land, we think it
                A great waste where a sound
                Of wind like tales twice told
                Blusters, and cloud is rolled
            Always above yet no rain falls to ground.

                Across drab iteration
                Of bare hills, line on line,
                The long road’s sinuation
                Leads on. The witch’s wine,
                Though promising nothing, seems
                In that land of no streams,
            To promise best—the unrelished anodyne.

And by the time he had reached the word anodyne the witch was gone. But he had never in his life felt more weary, and for a while the purpose of his pilgrimage woke no desire in him.

[The Pilgrim's Regress, C.S. Lewis]

1 comment :

  1. Pilgrim's Regress is moving higher and higher on my to-be-read book list.

    Thanks for sharing this excerpt.


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