Magazine April 19, 2021, Issue

C. S. Lewis as Anti-war Poet

From the cover of Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics (Lexham Press)
Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics, by C. S. Lewis (Lexham Press, 256 pp., $14.99)

Barely a week after arriving at the Western Front in France in November 1917, Second Lieutenant C. S. Lewis found himself under enemy fire. Nothing could have prepared him for the wretched realities of trench warfare. With the sound of guns all about him, he wrote a poem, “French Nocturne,” as cynical and bereft of hope as anything produced by anti-war poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen:

What call have I to dream of anything?
I am a wolf. Back to the world again,
And speech of fellow-brutes that once were men
Our throats can bark for slaughter: cannot sing.

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Joseph Loconte is the director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at the Heritage Foundation and the author of God, Locke, and Liberty. His most recent book is A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War, which is being made into a documentary film at

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