22 December 2010

The Turning of the Tide, part 2

Salamanders in the Sun that brandish as they run
Tails like the Americas in size*
Were stunned by it and dazed; wondering, they gazed
Up at Earth, misgiving in their eyes.
In Houses and Signs Ousiarchs divine**
Grew pale and questioned what it meant;
Great Galactal lords stood back to back with swords
Half-drawn, awaiting the event,
And a whisper among them passed, 'Is this perhaps the last
Of our story and the glories of our crown?
--The entropy worked out?--The central redoubt
Abandoned? The world-spring running down?
Then they could speak no more. Weakness overbore
Even them. They were as flies in a web,
In their lethargy stone-dumb. The death had almost come;
The tide lay motionless at ebb.


*Here Lewis begins a catalogue of extraterrestrial beings, most of them taken from medieval cosmology and astrology, and describes how they react to the Incarnation. (This is one of the reasons I love this poem-- Lewis, as usual, takes a wide-sweeping look at his topic that makes us see larger implications than usual.) Anyway. Legendary salamanders, as opposed to real salamanders, were supposed to be at home in the element of fire. So it makes sense that giant salamanders would reside in the sun, the fieriest place we know of.
**Houses and Signs are here "places" in the solar system, as determined on an astrological map; for example, the House of Leo being associated with the constellation Leo. Ousiarchs are celestial rulers in the Neoplatonist conception of the cosmos.

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