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Dymer is a narrative poem by C.S. Lewis published by J.M. Dent in 1926 under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton. Lewis worked on this poem, his most important poem, as early as 1916, then just a lad of seventeen, and completed it in 1925. He thought of himself writing in the tradition of Homer, Milton, Spenser, Wordsworth, and others. George Sayer's analysis suggests that the book is about the temptation of fantasies, "the fantasies of love, lust, and power."

Plot Overview

Dymer follows the adventures of its titular protragonist from his birth in an Totalitarian Orwellian state, mockingly referred to as 'The Perfect City', to the events leading to his death at the hands of a monster he begat.

From the opening, Dymer grows to the age of nineteen under the control of the state, until, under the influence of Spring and the sight of a songbird, he rises in his lecture-hall and murders the aged lecturer before his class, then leaves the stunned civilians behind as he wanders outside of The City.

Dymer then regresses to a more base state, casting off clothing along with the civilization, and wandering in the forests until he comes upon an empty mansion, with food prepared. After eating, and dressing himself again with finer clothing, then verbally accepting 'sin' if these things represent it, Dymer sleeps with a she-monster, unwittingly, when they encounter each other in the darkness of the mansion. Upon awakening Dymer steps outside of the palace, and discovers the creature he begat, flees through the palace in terror. In denial of the creature he encountered, Dymer calls out for his idealized lover, and hearing no returning cry, searches the palace grounds for her. Instead he encounters a tall, regal woman, guarding a door, to where he is uncertain, except it is the only place he has not searched. After pleading with her to 'yield but one inch; once only from your law', Dymer approaches the woman with intent to fight his way past her. What happens at this point is uncertain, only that Dymer emerges wounded from the palace and limps into the woodlands.

It begins to rain that night in the woods, and Dymer encounters yet another person he cannot see in the dark, this time a wounded man. This man also hails from The Perfect City, and tells Dymer of what happened in his absence, specifically that a revolutionary named Bran used Dymer's actions and name to instill violent protest in the citizens, who then went on to sack and raze the city. Dymer is dumbfounded at this information, and stays silent in the night until the man's wounds prove fatal, then sets out again for the wilderness.

Dymer encounters another individual in the wilderness, a man who uses a liquid to put himself into an extended dreaming state. Convincing Dymer that the answer to his anguish is in the dreaming world, Dymer swallows a cup of the liquid. In his hallucination, Dymer encounters his once-lover from the mansion, but realizes she is monstrous. Instead of accepting this as the truth, he flees the scene as demons rise to assault him. Upon awakening, Dymer is threatened by the dreaming man, and sets off into the wilderness again.

Bibliography

  1. Hodgens, Richard. "Notes on Narrative Poems." CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society. 7 no. 78 (April 1976):1-14.
  2. King, Don W. "Dymer." The C.S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia. Pages 144-146.
  3. Lewis, C.S. Preface to the 1950 edition of Narrative Poems. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1950.
  4. Murphy, Patrick. "C.S. Lewis's Dymer: One More with Hesitation." CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society. 17 no. 200 (June 1986):1-8.
  5. Sayer, George. "C.S. Lewis's Dymer." VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review. 1980.
  6. Slack, Michael. "Sehnsucht and the Platonic Eros in Dymer." CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society. 11 no. 130 (August 1980):3-7.
  7. Walsh, Chad. The Literary Legacy of C.S. Lewis. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.
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