Liebestod by S. M. Hutchens


by S. M. Hutchens

Harry Lee Poe cites the young C. S. Lewis as writing to his brother that engagement to be married is "that fatal tomb of all lively and interesting men." Lewis's early  association of marriage with death is in at least one sense appropriate, for in marriage the lively and interesting young man as the pre-Christian Lewis perceived him is burying himself in another—with the prospect of children, and so with all the wonder, liveliness, and interest implied in the procreation of persons other than himself. He no longer dabbles in the poetry of creation solitarily as he once did, but is now fully engaged in writing it, since he has fallen into his wife and died.

What Christianity teaches hungry and ambitious young pagans (or pseudo-Christians) like Lewis about death is that there is an end, a telos in every respect, to the life they prize as lively and interesting, and the only way to find it is through death—that is, to enter the life of the Liveliest and Most Interesting of Young Men, the fons et origo of the good they hope to enjoy in all that is justly perceived as attractive.

It is the devil's business to make marriage and child raising appear drab, painful, and stultifying, when instead its divinely implanted potential is to contain the happiness on this earth that is closest to that of heaven. It was on the tombstone of his wife that Lewis, with infinitely deeper perception than he had as a young man, could write:

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind). . . .

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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