Slide 2 of 10
Before Lewis became a well-known apologist and author of various novels, he hoped to become known as a poet. He published two books of poetry under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton during the 1920s: a collection of poems titled Spirits in Bondage and the epic poem Dymer.
Dymer follows a hero of the same name who lives in a controlled society. After breaking free of authority and going on the run, he has many strange experiences—from meeting a woman to almost being killed by a magician. Ultimately, Dymer must fight against a terrible foe: a monster he conceived with a mysterious woman.
Lewis observes in the 1950 reprint that when Dymer was first published, “like many better books, [it] found some good reviews and almost no readers.” Today, different scholars debate whether the poem is great or underdeveloped. Regardless, it’s an engaging story that shows some ideas (magic, romanticism, antiseptic societies cutting people off from nature) Lewis would explore in his later books. It’s also interesting to note this was written before Lewis’ 1930s conversion to Christianity, yet it has a mythic tone that suggests reaching for something beyond the material world. Later, during a 1931 walk with J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis would discuss his love of myths, which Tolkien connected to the “true myth” of Jesus Christ. So, Dymer may be seen as a poem where the author wrestles with feelings slowly tearing him in two different directions.
Jerry Root’s book Splendour in the Dark reprints Dymer with annotations by David C. Downing, plus three essays where scholars talk about why the poem matters.
Further Reading: Who Were the Inklings Besides C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien?
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