On Being Human

On Being Human by C. S. Lewis

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence

Behold the Forms of nature. They discern

Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities

Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.

Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying,

Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear,

High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal

Huge Principles appear.

The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of

Arboreal life, how from earth’s salty lap

The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness

Enacted by leaves’ fall and rising sap;

But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance

Of sun from shadow where the trees begin,

The blessed cool at every pore caressing us

-An angel has no skin.

They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it

Drink the whole summer down into the breast.

The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing

Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.

The tremor on the rippled pool of memory

That from each smell in widening circles goes,

The pleasure and the pang –can angels measure it?

An angel has no nose.

The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes

On death, and why, they utterly know; but not

The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.

The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot

Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate

Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf’s billowy curves,

Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.

—An angel has no nerves.

Far richer they! I know the senses’ witchery

Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see;

Imminent death to man that barb’d sublimity

And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.

Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior,

This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares

With living men some secrets in a privacy

Forever ours, not theirs.


~ by thelastinkling on June 29, 2009.

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