Friday, July 6, 2012

A Dragon's Psalm

I took this from The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis.  It is one of my favorite books by him, as it is just so packed with symbolism you almost need a philosophical encyclopedia with you when you read it.  It is the first book written by Lewis after his conversion, and tells the allegorical struggle of a young man from the town of Puritania as he goes on a quest after a vision of an Island.

At some point, there is a miserly dragon living in a frozen waste, living alone over a hoard of gold, and it sings this song to itself.

Illustration by Michael Hague
Once the worm-laid egg broke in the wood.
I came forth shining into the trembling wood,
The sun was on my scales, dew upon the grasses,
The cool, sweet grasses and the budding leaves.
I wooed my speckled mate.  We played at druery
And sucked warm milk dripping from the goats' teats.

Now I keep watch on the gold in my rock cave
In a country of stones: old, deplorable dragon,
Watching my hoard.  In winter night the gold
Freezes through toughest scales my cold belly.
The jagged crowns and twisted cruel rings
Knobbly and icy are old dragon's bed.

Often I wish I hadn't eaten my wife,
Though worm grows not to dragon till he eat worm.
She could have helped me, watch and watch about,
Guarding the hoard.  Gold would have been safer.
I could uncoil my weariness at times and take
A little sleep, sometimes when she was watching.

Last night under the moonset a fox barked,
Woke me.  Then I knew I had been sleeping.
Often an owl flying over the country of stones
Startles me, and I think I must have slept.
Only a moment.  That very moment a man
Might have come out of the cities, stealing, to get my gold.

They make plots in the towns to steal my gold.
They whisper of me in a low voice, laying plans,
Merciless men.  Have they not ale upon the benches,
Warm wife in bed, singing, and sleep the whole night?
But I leave not the cave but once in winter
To drink of the rock pool: in summer twice.

They feel not pity for the old, lugubrious dragon.
Oh, Lord, that made the dragon, grant me Thy peace!
But ask not that I should give up the gold,
Nor move, nor die; others would get the gold.
Kill, rather, Lord, the men and the other dragons
That I may sleep, go when I will to drink.

I think it is beautiful for its ugliness.  It describes a miserable and wretched creature whose obsession is the source of all its misery.  The dragon yearns for surcease from the cold, hungry loneliness that it has caused itself, yet asks for it on its own terms, in the terms that let it keep the source of all its misery and remain essentially the same pitiful worm it always has been.  It does not want any change, rather that the entire world be bent around it and all the men and dragons slain so that it may have the peace it could have if it would just forget about its silly golden hoard.

I think it is such a complete picture of the fallen state of humans, how our own pride and desires generate all of our misery, and how we reject the insurmountable joy of God, being unwilling to let go of our golden hoards.

That's all I have for today.

1 comment:

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