Monday, March 7, 2016

Sheldon Vanauken

Sheldon Vanauken (1914—1996) is an American writer, best known for his autobiographical book A Severe Mercy (1977). It tells the story of the extremely devoted relationship he and his wife Davy shared, about their conversion to Christian faith, and about how he coped with her death when she was just 40 years old.

After World War II, while he was on sabbatical from his teaching position at Lynchburg College in Virginia, they were living in Oxford. Through the influence of some Christian students who had befriended them, they came to embrace Christianity. C.S. Lewis was a significant influence over their circle, and their growing faith. Included in the book are 18 letters written by Lewis to Vanauken, which helped him through this difficult time. A movie version of A Severe Mercy is presently in production.

The following poem comes from Mercies: Collected Poems (1988).

The Sands

The soul for comfort holds herself to be
Inviolate; but like the blowing sands
That sift in shuttered houses, Christ’s demands
Intrude and sting, deny her to be free

She twists and turns but finds it vain to flee,
The living Word is in the very air,
She can’t escape a wound that’s everywhere,
She can but stand or yield—to ecstasy

Her Lord is seeking entrance; she must choose.
A thickening callous can withstand the pain
Of this rough irritant, the sands that swirl
Against her thus defied. But if she lose
Her self, Christ enters in—the sharp-edged grain
Of sand embedded grows a shining pearl”

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.