Othello and Desdemona

Othello bold: when charge of blackest art
Was brought before Venetian lords to try
His claim upon Desdemona's honest heart,
"My life upon her faith," was his reply.
Strong Desdemona: young as Spring and firm
As Winter, intrigue called her conquered Moor
Away from consummating secret terms
Of marriage; Iago, rather, at the door.
With honest testimony she disproved
Her father's claim, Othello thus redeemed.
Such love looked made of adamant. What moved
Him so to doubt his wife was what she seemed?
     With killing kiss he smothered her last cry,
     Impaled himself upon Iago's lie.


The following is a sonnet I wrote a few years back while pondering Lewis’ account of his conversion to Christianity. The form of the sonnet is Petrarchan. Thematically the narrative voice is wrestling with the problem posed by relenting to the promptings of faith, a prospect he views as an admission of weakness. In the octet, the narrator is hedging, looking for that treaty that can allow for acceptable terms in the worldly sense. The all or nothing prospect God offers is unsettling. At the turn, where the sextet begins in italics, it is the voice of Lewis speaking to this poor soul trembling upon the threshhold of belief in what he cannot see or understand. The conclusion of things, both in this poem and in Lewis’ own description of that first night when he prayed as “the most reluctant convert in all of England”, could be viewed as little more than a compromise, such as Pascal’s wager. The most remarkable journey begins with a single, ordinary step. I do not know if Lewis wrote anything of note prior to his conversion. The ensuing 35 years are well documented. The struggling soul in this poem is at the point of that first step, which is a kind of wager when one cannot see where the second step is.

“The reality with which no treaty can be made was upon me […] In the Trinity Term of 1929, I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed…”

C.S. Lewis                                                                                                                 Surprised by Joy

Pride disavows surrender so complete.                                                                       Without negotiation, how  proceed?                                                                                Some temporal rights must here be guaranteed,                                                     Arrangements made for dignified retreat.                                                                Damascus roads, with history replete,                                                                        Remind me now of God’s perduring greed                                                                         For souls resisting His redeeming deed:                                                                            That grisly cross and crown consign defeat.                                                                Retreat offends the privilege of youth                                                                             Which laughs at time and dickers with truth.                                                                      Yet youth’s inheritance is quickly spent,                                                                           Soon one must choose: resist or relent.                                                                         This Oxford prig came finally to see                                                                               Man’s greatest bargain is a bended knee                                                                           

March 2006