A Clichè Came Out of its Cage

By C.S. Lewis

1

You said ‘The world is going back to Paganism’.
Oh bright Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
And Leavis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with flutes,
Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
Hestia’s fire in every flat, rekindled, burned before
The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
Tended it By the hearth the white-armd venerable mother
Domum servabat, lanam faciebat. at the hour
Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
Arose (it is the mark of freemen’s children) as they trooped,
Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears …
You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.

2

Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
But the bond wil1 break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
Scarred with old wounds the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a hand,
Will limp to their stations for the Last defence. Make it your hope
To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs;
You that have Vichy water in your veins and worship the event
Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet Fortune).

St Paul as a Type of the Roman Church

Ss. Peter and Paul are often compared to Romulus and Remus, “Romae parentes, arbitrique gentium.” I written about St Peter and Rome before (or rather quoted Solovyev and Pope Benedict XVI on the subject), but St Paul in his own person foreshadows the transformation of Rome that will be founded by his and St Peter’s blood. St Paul is not only a Roman citizen, but also a son of Benjamin, “the wolf;” and his temperament has something of Rome’s wolf-like, war-like violence. Like Rome itself he is highly gifted and full of zeal for justice and law, but his zeal leads him for a while to persecute the Church. The Roman Empire saw itself as destined to bring peace by imposing law on all peoples. But to the Chosen People Rome appeared as a tyrannical power contrary to the Law of God. The Messiah is expected to defeat Rome. But following His usual method, our Lord does not defeat Rome by force, from outside, but by conversion from within. And this is foreshadowed in the conversion of St Paul. St Paul persecutes the new way, but when he is converted he becomes its greatest missionary spreading throughout the earth. The Acts of the Apostles ends with Paul arriving in Rome. Through Peter and Paul the Messiah does indeed conquer Rome, but in such a way as to transform it and preserve all that was good in it, so that through the Roman Church Rome can indeed bring peace to the whole world.

 

Rerum Pulcherrima Roma

hanc olim veteres vitam coluere Sabini,
hanc Remus et frater, sic fortis Etruria crevit
scilicet et rerum facta est pulcherrima Roma,
septemque una sibi muro circumdedit arces.

Such a life the old Sabines once lived, such Remus and his brother. Thus, surely, Etruria waxed strong; and Rome has thus become the fairest thing on earth, and with a single city’s wall enclosed her seven hills. (Virgil, Georgics 2.532-534)


O Roma felix, quae duorum Principum
Es consecrata glorioso sanguine:
Horum cruore purpurata ceteras
Excellis orbis una pulchritudines.

O happy Rome! who in thy martyr princes’ blood,
A twofold stream, art washed and doubly sanctified.
All earthly beauty thou alone outshinest far,
Empurpled by their outpoured life-blood’s glorious tide. (Hymn at Vespers of the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul)


 

Romulus excipiet gentem, et Mavortia condet
moenia, Romanosque suo de nomine dicet.
His ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono;
imperium sine fine dedi…

Then Romulus his grandsire’s throne shall gain,
Of martial tow’rs the founder shall become,
The people Romans call, the city Rome.
To them no bounds of empire I assign,
Nor term of years to their immortal line. (Aeneid, I.276-279)


 

Mundi Magister, atque caeli Janitor,
Romae parentes, arbitrique gentium,
Per ensis ille, hic per crucis victor necem
Vitae senatum laureati possident.

The teacher of the world and keeper of heaven’s gate,
Rome’s founders twain and rulers too of every land,
Triumphant over death by sword and shameful cross,
With laurel crowned are gathered to the eternal band. (Hymn at Vespers of the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul)


 

But, besides that reverence which today’s festival has gained from all the world, it is to be honoured with special and peculiar exultation in our city, that there may be a predominance of gladness on the day of their martyrdom in the place where the chief of the Apostles met their glorious end. For these are the men, through whom the light of Christ’s gospel shone on you, O Rome, and through whom you, who wast the teacher of error, wast made the disciple of Truth. These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid: and of whom the one that gave you your name defiled you with his brother’s blood. These are they who promoted you to such glory, that being made a holy nation, a chosen people, a priestly and royal state, and the head of the world through the blessed Peter’s holy See you attained a wider sway by the worship of God than by earthly government. For although you were increased by many victories, and extended your rule on land and sea, yet what your toils in war subdued is less than what the peace of Christ has conquered. For the good, just, and Almighty God, […] by lowering His Nature to the uttermost has raised our nature to the highest. But that the result of this unspeakable Grace might be spread abroad throughout the world, God’s Providence made ready the Roman empire, whose growth has reached such limits that the whole multitude of nations are brought into close connection. For the Divinely-planned work particularly required that many kingdoms should be leagued together under one empire, so that the preaching of the world might quickly reach to all people, when they were held beneath the rule of one state. (St Leo the Great, Sermon on the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul)


ch’e’ fu de l’alma Roma e di suo impero

ne l’empireo ciel per padre eletto:
la quale e ’l quale, a voler dir lo vero,
fu stabilita per lo loco santo
u’ siede il successor del maggior Piero.
Per quest’andata onde li dai tu vanto,
intese cose che furon cagione
di sua vittoria e del papale ammanto.

For he* was of great Rome, and of her empire
In the empyreal heaven as father chosen;
The which and what, wishing to speak the truth,
Were stablished as the holy place, wherein
Sits the successor of the greatest Peter.
Upon this journey, whence thou givest him vaunt,
Things did he hear, which the occasion were
Both of his victory and the papal mantle. (Dante, Inf. 2.20-28)

*Aeneas