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Maia Piechocki
Poetry Explication
As the Ruins Fall by C.S. Lewis
Thesis-What does this poem mean?
C.S. Lewis is a profound author that is primarily associated with writing with the inspiration of
Christianity. Though many of his works are more focused on his faith, this poem's inspiration is
derived from the loss of Clive's wife, Joy. Her death was such a significant incident in his life
that he wrote a heart breaking book called, “A Grief Observed”, as well as “as the Ruins Fall”.
This loose metered poem follows an ABAB rhyme scheme and is written with a very melancholy
and mournful tone. Lewis expresses the tremendous impact his wife has made on his life and
describes the painful heartbreak resulting from her death.
The first sentence of this elegy, “All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you”, reveals why
Lewis wrote this poem; to appreciate and remember his wife. After explaining the author’s
agenda, he begins to list his flaws which consist of never thinking selflessly, being greedy, and
behaving with self interest constantly. These innate actions are committed by everyone even if
no one admits them, unlike Lewis who possesses the courage to confess them during this time of
lament and reflection. Lewis lastly states in the first stanza that he wishes for, “God, you(his
wife), all friends, merely to serve my turn,”. This contradicts his previous claims of being selfish,
since he wants the best for his loved ones, which is for them to prioritize their interests instead of
continually tending to his needs.
In the second stanza Clive explains his earthly goals and that he “cannot crawl one inch outside
his proper skin,” meaning that he cannot live without his flesh which contains his innate behavior
and worldly ambitions. When he talks about love Lewis compares himself to a "scholar’s parrot”
who “may talk Greek”. This metaphor refers to God, the creator of everything including love, as
being the scholar, and Lewis, the parrot, merely learning things from God here and there.
However, like a parrot in a cage, Lewis claims that he is “self-imprisoned” and never progresses
in life. It’s a shame he felt like this while mourning his wife’s death since he has made advanced
as an individual and as a christian.
These last two stanzas are particularly addressed to C.S. Lewis’s wife. Clive informs her that
he finally understands what she’s been attempting to teach him. Unfortunately this lesson was
learned too late in life for him. His wife had been leading him away from “exile” and aided
Lewis in growing as a man. But, since she’s gone, he has no one to help assist him in this
transition, resulting in the “bridge to break”. Just like this breaking bridge, his heart too is
shattering. Despite these afflictions to his heart, Lewis tells her that “ the pains … are more
precious than all other gains”. This sentence reveals that though Clive’s wife had helped him
evolve as an individual in life, her death has been a greater lesson to him.
C.S. Lewis opens this poem with a regretful tone, confessing his innate sins and explaining the
trauma that was a product of the passing of his dearly adored wife. However, despite this grave
beginning, he closes with an optimistic voice, stating that her death is not in vain and blesses her
“as the ruin falls”. This falling ruin is not a describing a crumbling building, but a metaphor for
Lewis falling. This ruin was being held up by his wife, but since she is now deceased, he
crumbles away. “As the Ruin Falls” is a sorrow filled poem littered with metaphors and
melancholy for his wife.