He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian* fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I Know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in Thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.
*Pheidias was a Greek artist famous for his sculptures of the gods.
I love how Lewis describes our inability to capture the God of the Universe in words. Our best attempts– educated by the scriptures, processed in meditation, and submitted to the community of faith–all fail to describe Him as he truly is. The image we conjure in our minds deceives us and, unless he mercifully draws our approximations to himself, we are blasphemers worshiping the “coinage of our own unquiet thoughts.”