Lent 2023, Day 31: Sonnets on Heaven.

From the book Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C.S. Lewis, sonnets on Heaven:


You think that we who do not shout and shake

Our fists at God when youth or bravery die

Have colder blood or hearts less apt to ache

Than yours who rail. I know you do. Yet why?

You have what sorrow always long to find,

Someone to blame, some enemy in chief;

Anger’s the anaesthetic of the mind,

It does men good, it fumes away their grief.

We feel the stroke like you; so far our fate Is equal.

After that, for us begin

Half-hopeless labours, learning not to hate,

And then to want, and then (perhaps) to win

A high, unearthly comfort, angel’s food,

That seems at first mockery to flesh and blood.


There’s a repose, a safety (even a taste

Of something like revenge?)

in fixed despair

Which we’re forbidden.

We have to rise with haste

And start to climb what seems a crazy stair.

Our consolation (for we are consoled,

So much of us, I mean, as may be left

After the dreadful process has unrolled)

For one bereavement makes us more bereft.

It asks for all we have, to the last shred;

Read Dante, who had known its best and worst—

He was bereaved and he was comforted —

No one denies it, comforted—

but first

Down to the frozen centre, up the vast

Mountain of pain,

from world to world,

he passed.

Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash


Of this we’re certain; no one who dared knock

At heaven’s door for earthly comfort found

Even a door—only smooth, endless rock,

And save the echo of his cry no sound.

It’s dangerous to listen; you’ll begin

To fancy that those echoes (hope can play

Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;

Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.

Heaven cannot thus,

Earth cannot ever, give

The thing we want.

We ask what isn’t there

And by our asking water and make live

That very part of love which must despair

And die and go down cold into the earth

Before there’s talk of springtime and re-birth.


Pitch your demands heaven-

high and they’ll be met.

Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)

Your earthly love.

Why, yes; but how to set

One’s foot on the first rung, how to begin?

The silence of one voice upon our ears

Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seems

A lying brag; the face we loved appears

Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.

‘That long way round which

Dante trod was meant

For mighty saints and mystics not for me,’

So Nature cries.

Yet if we once assent

To Nature’s voice, we shall be like the bee

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that way to reach the laden flowers.


‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said,

‘And told her, “Not that way!

All, all in vain

You weary out your wings and bruise your head,”

Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,

“Let queens and mystics and religious bees

Talk of such inconceivables as glass;

The blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,

Look there—ahead, ahead—the flowers, the grass!”

We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows

What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)

And shake her out—and gaily out she goes

Where quivering flowers stand thick in summer air,

To drink their hearts.

But left to her own will

She would have died upon the window-sill.’

Read much more in the book.

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