Annotations and Notes from Reading ~ A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

On the second day of twenty twenty-one, in the early pre-dawn darkness, I read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. Having recently experienced the death of my spouse, I felt it apropos to absorb Jack’s observations to understand my own. The following are highlighted quotes that leapt off the page and resonated within me.

Chapter Two

Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.

. . . time itself is one more name for death,

Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.

Chapter Three

What’s wrong with the world to make it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking? Then I remember.

And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world.

Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?

But now there’s an impassable frontierpost across it. So many roads once; now so many culs de sac.

They say, ‘The coward dies many times’; so does the beloved. Didn’t the eagle find a fresh liver to tear in Prometheus every time it dined?

Chapter Four

Thus up from the garden to the Gardener, from the sword to the Smith. To the life-giving Life and the Beauty that makes beautiful.

It is simply the leaping into imaginative activity of an idea which I would always have theoretically admitted—the idea that I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.

Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

The sense that some shattering and disarming simplicity is the real answer.

We didn’t idealize each other. We tried to keep no secrets. You knew most of the rotten places in me already. If you now see anything worse, I can take it. So can you. Rebuke, explain, mock, forgive. For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives—to both, but perhaps especially to the woman—a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

She smiled, but not at me. Poi si tornò all’ eterna fontana.

My Notes/Research into a translation of the last sentence (quoted above) found the following post in a forum:

I’m Italian and I can confirm that that is Italian (very old Italian); C.S. Lewis quoted Dante.
“Then she turned back to the eternal fountain” is the translation, just like “lynx” said. In the Divine Comedy, this is referred to Beatrice, who smiled at Dante, and then turned back to the “eternal fountain”, who is God.
Also, the Italian “fontana” (fountain) indeed comes from the Latin “(aqua) fontana”, which means “(water) that gushes from a spring”. The nuance between spring and fountain here is not really important.
C.S. Lewis is comparing himself to Dante and H. (his wife) to Beatrice. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Annotations and Notes from Reading ~ A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis”

  1. Oh my, your writing caught me unaware and brought tears to my eyes.
    I am Jan from the KC library reading group which is about to discuss “Lovecraft Country.”
    I am quietly “meeting” the different members this afternoon, and I came to your response about Goodreads. We have so much loss during this silent year. Your words and photos of Terry were so eloquent and deeply heartfelt, and I was stunned and touched. Please know: I didn’t want to be rude yet found comfort for those I’ve lost even though I don’t know you, your daughter, or Terry. Please enjoy a peaceful evening.
    P.S. Perhaps for a simple, light ending – Today marks J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday. He, C.S. Lewis, and you all created such beautiful expressions for us.

    1. Jan,

      Thank you for your kind heartfelt condolences. And don’t worry about being rude. I’ve got a thick skin – I’ve had to have one for several years now. I’m going to need all the friends I can going forward.

      Take care,


  2. Totally Awesome.
    I read A Grief Observed several times years ago. It was painful then; I can’t imagine how deep it must cut now.
    But he survived and thrived.
    The wound will heal; the scar will remain.

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