Some Help With Our Anglo-Saxon Challenge: From the Nameless Isle by C. S. Lewis

Here’s an excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ poem ‘From the Nameless Isle.’ I believe this is an early effort, but it demonstrates, with admirable aplomb, the modernized Anglo-Saxon verse style that we are attempting.

Read aloud for best effect, and with the speech rhythms of daily speech, except that you should stress slightly more than normally the stressed syllables, pause a bit longer than you usually would at the ceasura, and give the heavy, or long, syllables their full weight, or length.

My excerpt begins just after a castaway from a wrecked ship has been cast ashore by a giant wave.

…That wave returned into the wastes, its home,
And would have sucked me back as I sank wearied,
But that there was grass growing where I gripped the land,
And roots all rough: so that I wrestled, clinging,
Against the water’s tug. The wave left me,
And I grovelled on the ground, greatly wearied.
How long I lay, lapped in my weariness,
Memory minds not. To me it seems
That for one full turn of the wheels above
I slept. Certainly when the sleep left me
There was calm and cool. No crashing of the sea,
But darkness all about. Dim-shadowed leaves
In mildest air moved above me,
And, over all, earth-scented smell
Sweetly stealing about the sea-worn man,
And faintly, as afar, fresh-water sounds,
Runnings and ripplings upon rocky stairs
Where moss grows most. Amidst it came,
Unearthly sweet, out of the air it seemed,
A voice singing to the vibrant string,
‘Forget the grief upon the great water,
Card and compass and the cruel rain.
Leave that labour; lilies in the green wood
Toil not, toil not. Trouble were to weave them
Coats that come to them without care or toil.
Seek not the seas again; safer is the green wood,
Lilies that live there have labour not at all,
Spin not, spin not. Spent in vain the trouble were
Beauty to bring them that better comes by kind.’

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