News from a Far Country


If we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object… 

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness.  I’m almost committing an indecency.  I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence… 

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that settled the matter.  Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past.  But all this is a cheat.  If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself be remembering.  The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune and we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.  Do you think I am trying to weave a spell?  Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales.  Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.  And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us.

C.S. Lewis

“The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Harper Collins, 1976, 29-31.