A Gymnosperm by Another Name

Here is a poem by C.S. Lewis.  It’s one of my favorites, kept in a folder to be deployed when necessary.  I’ve posted half of it before, back in 2011, but recent days have demanded that I bring it out again, so I thought I’d share it around.

Gymnosperm comes from the Greek for “naked seeds,” so there you have it.  Whether Lewis had conifers in mind or not, I can only wonder.

The Naked Seed

My heart is empty. All the fountains that should run
With longing, are in me
Dried up. In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free from pain.
Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
— No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
— Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.


Here’s the thing.  My heart doesn’t feel empty.  It’s full of thoughts, of considerations, of half-filled timetables, of a plethora of worries: my job, my car, the friends I don’t write to, the friends I do write to, my parents’ health, my brother’s wedding, etc., etc., etc.

But it isn’t full of what ought to fill it, this heart of mine.  The longing and the love which should fill it and flow from it: they are a mere trickle.  To borrow another of Lewis’s metaphors, the gas tank is empty, or else full of the wrong thing.  I can feel the transmission seizing up, or whatever it is that transmissions do when something’s wrong.  Slipping, I suppose.  Not getting into the correct gear and getting stuck in neutral!  That is surely me this past fortnight (or two, or three).

Lewis is, as always, more eloquent than I; in this poem, he is also more hopeful than I tend to be.  Who will save me from this heart full of death?  Thank God for the heavens remembering when the seed forgets!


3 thoughts on “A Gymnosperm by Another Name

  1. “Thank God for the heavens remembering when the seed forgets!”

    Aye and indeed — I have heard many people balk at the idea of submission to God that Christianity calls for, but that very submission is our salvation. I forget so often what is good for me, I *need* my Lord to know my good and shepherd me toward it!

  2. Beautiful words, and fully relevant to me, as well, at the moment. I’m totally with you here.

    “I have no care for anything thy love can grant
    Except the moment’s vain
    And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
    And to be free from pain.”

    I’ve been praying against this lately.

    Thanks ever so for this post. Quite what I needed. I pray you come out of this soon, as well.

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