All that I wanted
Was to be wanted
I’ll never wander London streets
Alone and haunted

Born into nothing
With them, I have something
Something to cling to
I never knew I’d love this world they’ve let me into

And the memories were lost long ago
So I’ll dance with these beautiful ghosts
[1]

– Taylor Swift, “Beautiful Ghosts” / Cats

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time . . .
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea
.[2]

– TS Eliot, “Little Gidding” / The Four Quartets

The word life I did not fully understand . . . [the philosopher] Bergson showed me, He did not abolish my old loves, but he gave me a new one. From him I first learned to relish energy, fertility, and urgency; the resource, the triumphs, and even the insolence, of things that grow. I became capable of understanding artists who would, I believe, have meant nothing to me before; all the resonant, dogmatic, flaming unanswerable people like Beethoven . . . Goethe . . and the more exultant Psalms.[3]

– C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

T.S. Wift, T.S. Eliot, and C.S. Lewis: The Fundamentals

Taylor Swift has captured national attention with her Eras tour which celebrates the ten albums of her meteoric career. The scale of the tour, which she felt was overdue because of COVID, is likely to earn $1 billion in the U.S. (and an estimated $5 billion globally after touring Europe, Asia and Australia). The Taylor Swift phenomenon is documentably huge, as the Federal Reserve has applauded its impact on the economy while geologists claim crowd applause amounted to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake.[4][5] An “Influencer” and arguably the most popular lyricist of her generation, her insights into human nature have proven remarkably difficult to distinguish from those of Jane Austen and William Shakespeare in online quizzes.[6] But when Taylor Swift introduced her talents into the world of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), whose poems constitute (all the rest of) the lyrics of the musical Cats, she joined forces with the premier poet of the twentieth century in the quest for wellness and meaning. Swift’s lyrics, which at first blush appear tailored to the angst of young romance, can be shown to echo the insights of such renowned literary figures as the Nobel-prize-winning poet Eliot and his contemporary, Oxford and Cambridge Literature Professor C.S. Lewis, best known for authoring The Chronicles of Narnia, in addition to over thirty books for academic and Christian audiences. Swift’s “Beautiful Ghosts” lyrics introduce the appeal of her music remarkably well, as it is symbolic of how she shares her own experiences and struggles in song to uplift her adoring fans.

At first blush, claiming any similarity between Swift and Eliot would seem strained. She achieved her first musical contract (for country music no less) at age fourteen (writing her own lyrics) and became a music and pop culture icon by her early twenties. By contrast, Eliot was a Harvard academic (and an often over-erudite one) who all but completed a dissertation in philosophy, though, like Swift, he began penning poems at the tender age of fourteen. Swift’s crew of friends include other pop culture icons, while Eliot (along with his wife) once roomed with British philosopher Bertrand Russell, worked with poet Ezra Pound, and socialized with novelist James Joyce. Lewis was similarly erudite, triple-majoring in philosophy, classics, and English literature before settling into life as an Oxford professor.

All three, however, were both highly talented and understood how to connect with their audiences. Swift’s songs range from Shania Twain-playful to Peter Gabriel-prophetic, Eliot captured the mood of his generation while searching for enduring solutions, and Lewis made the courageous search for the good into a matter of beauty. Eliot’s poetry was so influential and popular that Russell Kirk declared the first half of the twentieth century as “The Age of Eliot.”[7] Lewis was so prolific in giving lectures to and writing for the general public that he evoked “extraordinary animosity” from his academic colleagues, leading to his being turned down for various promotions at Oxford University.[8] Swift is likewise considered ingenious for her ability to connect with her audience, doing so almost effortlessly, though she admits she has to “write one hundred songs before [I] write the first good one.”[9] Swift’s connection with audiences on her Eras tour is attested by reviews with such titles as “The Startling Intimacy of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour” and “Swift’s Eras Concert felt a lot like going to Mass.”[10] [11] Reviewer Amanda Petrusich claims the intimacy between Swift and her fans is real: Swift is known to personally respond to Facebook fans which number near 200,000 and expresses sincere gratitude to them, though Petrusich claims the tour particularly responds to the “death of monoculture” phenomenon in which we are so media-connected that we rarely experience together. Reviewer Kevin Christopher Robies adds that Swift’s confessions (“I’m the problem,” then likening herself to a giant monster attacking a village in “Anti-Hero” Midnights, or Lover’s “Afterglow” in which she confesses “I’m the one who burned us down”) cause him to wonder if the church might connect better if they followed Swift’s example. Petrusich cites Swift’s “22” (Red) lyrics in which life is said to be “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time” as telling of the Swiftie audience (which Petrusich pegs as typically female and between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five). Petrusich and Robies both cited the special performance of “False God” (Lover) at the concert they both attended, in which romantic love is likened to an altar of worship while admitting it may be an insufficient substitute for faith: “They all warned us about times like this / They say the road gets hard and you get lost / When you’re led by blind faith, blind faith.”

Like Swift, however, Eliot and Lewis each had their own versions of an Eras tour of sorts, though for such well-read academics their tour included nearly the whole of recorded human history and literature. Eliot achieved fame for his poem of 1922, “The Wasteland,” depicting the moral and spiritual exhaustion of the West after “The Great War,” a brutal World War I (1914-1918) marked by trench warfare and massive casualties. That it came on the heels of a century of optimism was nearly as bad as the happy banality of the “Roaring Twenties” which sought to forget, chastened abruptly by a “Great Depression” which paralleled the somber verse of Eliot. In the epic poem, Eliot traverses ancients like Augustine and Buddha and medievals such as Dante in pondering the futility of human desire and ambition. Nearly a decade later, Eliot shocked the literary world by coming to Christian faith, using the experience to find answers to his questions, as seen in later poems such as “Ash Wednesday” and “The Four Quartets.” Just as Swift seeks inclusion and respect for her generation, so Eliot sought to not dismiss the spiritual longings of previous generations and other cultures, but to learn from them, declaring that

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His own significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. . . . Someone said: “The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.” Precisely, and they are that which we know.[12]

Lewis’s journey likewise embraced the best of human thought, as the atheist Oxford don was nourished from his youth onwards by ancient mythologies, medieval stories, and modern era novels from Christian and non-Christian writers alike. Tales of Norse sagas often evoked a wistful reverie of longing, ‘Joy’ as he called it, as

instantly I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote).[13]

The common-sense atheism Lewis adopted in his college years (“I had wanted (mad wish) ‘to call my soul my own’”), however, erased any hopes such joys brought him.[14]  Nevertheless, as he tells the story, “a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.”[15] Besides philosophical reasoning leading him to accept the idea of some sort of absolute being behind existence, the stories he read kept prodding him towards the conviction that we were made for more significance than to simply become dust. He picked up a copy of George MacDonald’s Phantastes in a train station while on break, in which he “saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet unchanged.”[16] Other writers were stimulating, but he found that it was the religious authors, such as Plato, Aeschylus, Virgil, and John Milton, who had more depth, eventually declaring that “Christians are all wrong, but the rest are all bores.”[17] A breakthrough came while reading an ancient Greek story, when

in one chorus all that world’s end imagery which I had rejected . . . rose before me . . . there was a transitional moment of delicious uneasiness, and then – instantaneously – the long inhibition was over, the dry desert lay behind, I was off once more into the land of longing, my heart broken and exalted as it had never been since the old days.[18]

Swift’s own lyrics admit to Christian faith, as in her Holiday Collection (2009) when she asks in “Christmas Must Be Something More”

What would happen if Christmas Carols told a lie
Tell me what you would find

then answers

You’d say that today holds something special
something holy and not superficial . . .

So here’s something you should know that is for sure
Christmas must be something more . . .

So here’s to Jesus Christ who saved our lives
It’s something we all try to ignore
And put a wreath up on your door . . .
There’s gotta be more [19]

More recently, in “Soon You’ll Get Better” (Lover) with the often irascibly honest  Dixie Chicks and co-writer Jack Antonoff, she finds solace with

Each night I pray to you
Desperate people find faith
So now I pray to Jesus too
And I say to you
Ooh, soon you’ll get better

But, as God (or the devil) is “in the details,” we look to specific lyrics and thoughts for comparison.

Swiftvolution: Which Era are You?

Swift’s journey from early teens to early thirties is chronicled in her ten albums, with ardent followers claiming to identify themselves with one or another of her albums in answering the question “What Era are you?” Swift’s evolution as both a young woman and artist can be traced by a brief review of her six earlier albums. Taylor Swift (2006) showed her country roots mixing with rock and pop genres in exploring romance and heartache in such songs as “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on My Guitar,” adding that it takes courage to fully embrace love in “Fearless” from her next album, Fearless (2008). That courage strengthens in Speak Now (2010) as she responds to critics in some songs, and confides in others to specific people in her life, prefacing the album with advice that

Words can break someone into a million pieces, but they can also put them back together. I hope you use yours for good, because the only words you’ll regret more than the ones left unsaid are the ones you use to intentionally hurt someone.[20]

The raw, tumultuous emotions of love return to the fore in Red (2012), with the explanation that “the world is a different place for the heartbroken . . . Time skips backwards and forwards fleetingly . . . moments of strength, independence, and devil-may-care rebellion are intricately woven together with grief, paralyzing vulnerability and hopelessness . . . a fractured mosaic of feelings,” though the journey (hers, and the album’s) arrive at a place of healing.[21] 1989 (2014) is an album of rebirth (and thus titled after the year of her own birth) as she declares she has found courage to change her musical style to reflect her changing persona, just as she had finally learned to embrace her new home in New York City, adding that her songs were to be more about her fans’ lives than her own; such courage surfaces when she sings “Haters gonna hate . . . I’m just gonna shake it off” in the album’s “Shake It Off.” Reputation (2017) further responded to critics and tabloid obsession.

Swift’s four latest albums, however, are the focus here. As a late arrival to Swiftmania, this reviewer has been able to semi-saturate himself only with Lover (2019), Folklore (2020), Evermore (2020) and Midnights (2022). While some of my musical tastes align with music she has cited as influences (Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain), others appear a far cry from her country roots (Yes, Rush, Supertramp, Pink Floyd). Lover is a lighter-toned celebration of love after the turf wars of Reputation, and shows her moving further from her country roots in an electro-pop style. Lover does continue her stand for inclusion by fantasizing how much easier life would be if she were a man (“The Man”) instead of a girl, and telling counter demonstrators at a LGBT march that “you are coming at my friends like a missile” in “You need to calm down.” Folklore and Evermore, released in lieu of a tour during the COVID-19 pandemic (and within a remarkable five months of each other) are a tribute to not just Swift’s commitment to her fans but to her 1989 album prologue promise to make her songs about her fans rather than herself, as the combined thirty-four songs are largely ballad retelling of stories gathered from friends, family, and her imagination. Finally, Midnights (2022) produced more introspective and anxious lyrics inspired by the “journey through terrors and sleepless dreams” one ponders during sleepless nights, armed with the hope and courage to “meet ourselves” there. Critically acclaimed musical innovations match the tone, as in the opening song, “Lavender Haze.”

Comparisons: On Deep Thinking and On Love

Swift, Eliot, and Lewis all devote significant time to reflection; to get us started, try to assign these thoughts on contemplation to their source. Quotes may or may not be easy to place (check the footnotes):

You can’t get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.[22]

At the beach . . . time you enjoyed wasting is not time wasted.[23]

My glitter nail polish says “party” but my sweatpants / bun on top of head ensemble say “room service and journaling my feelings.”[24]

Love, however, is the central phenomenon addressed by Swift, by Eliot, and even by Lewis. Of love, we find these statements by our illustrious group

I don’t wanna look at anything else now that I saw you
I don’t wanna think of anything else now that I thought of you
I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty year dark night
And now I see daylight
I only see daylight [25]

Love’s as warm as tears . . .
Love’s as fierce as fire . . .
Love’s as fresh as spring . . .
Love’s as hard as nails . . . [26]

On a summer night you can hear the music
And see them dancing around the bonfire . . .
Round and round the fire, leaping through the flames
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter . . .
Feet lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under the earth. [27]

The “I wanna” likely gives away Swift’s authorship as much as the barely rhyming snippets of the third selection gives away modernist poet Eliot, with Lewis lines from a poem on love obviously what’s left in the middle. Swift leads the group’s praise of love by highlighting the consuming nature of romantic love, but Lewis and Eliot keep pace by likening love to fire, then seeking a source to ensure it burns long and bright.

Lewis portrays (in the same poem) love’s obsession as a “pressure within the brain, tension at the throat,” but claiming it can find its only source in an “empyreal [heavenly] flame, whence all loves came.”[28]

Eliot likewise claims that such love burns brightest when divinely ignited, as he likens love to a shirt designed to engulf its wearer in flame, once a device for torture but for Eliot a symbol of life-giving divine purification and redemption. In “Little Gidding,” the last of his Four Quartets written after his conversion, Eliot declares

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove

then contrasts our choice between human and divine passion,

We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.[29]

Finding passion that endures drove the otherwise gentlemanly academic known as T.S. Eliot. That the ability to love had foundered in his time he demonstrated by having the unsure J. Alfred Prufrock feebly ask in 1917, “Do I dare disturb the universe . . . do I dare eat a peach?”[30] Bored spouses idly pass time in “The Waste Land” of 1922 and young, lustful lovers couple in a canoe on the polluted Thames.[31] Eliot traced this lost ability to love, the central problem he could not overcome in “The Waste Land” which garnered him fame, to not just his “Era” but to all, citing Augustine’s critique of the burning passions of the ancient world, and Buddha’s prescriptive advice of self-denial.

Lewis was so enamored of the problem of love that he wrote an entire book on it, The Four Loves. He applauds not just affection and eros/romantic loves, but friendship (of which Swift has much to say) and the ultimate form of love, charity. Charity is a love that gives rather than takes (“Gift-love” rather than “Need-love”), and thus relies on the infinite resources of divine love. It is thus the source of all other loves, so that in yielding to it, all other loves “are taller when they bow” and are thus freed to fully be as they were intended.[32] Lewis admits, as Swift does so poignantly time and again, that “to love at all is to be vulnerable, love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.”[33] To be well, we must condemn ourselves to such danger, as Lewis adds that “the alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation,” so that “the only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” This solution of Lewis’s can be found in the verse in which he declares love to be “as hard as nails,” as the nails turn out to be those hammered through the nerves of Christ’s hands, so that he can know both “Our cross, and his.”[34]

On Friendship

Closely related to love is friendship. As far back as Aristotle the value of friendship was recognized, as he claimed that “without friends, no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.”[35] Thus, Swift depicts the stages of friendship (that can lead to romance) with

School bell rings / walk me home / Sidewalk chalk . . . It’s nice to have a friend
Sun sinks down / No curfew / 20 questions / we tell the truth . . . It’s nice to have a friend
Church bells ring / Carry me home / Rice on the ground / Looks like snow . . . It’s nice to have a friend;[36]

and,

I hope I never lose you  / Hope it never ends / I’d never walk Cornelia Street again . . . Sacred new beginnings / That became my religion / I hope I never lose.

She admits that on a personal level,

I’m not that complicated . . . All you need to do to be my friend is like me . . . and listen.[37]

She depicts such friendship in tales like that of “betty” (folklore) or the earnest confession of “this is me trying” (folklore).

Eliot describes the work of saints as the same as that of an enduring friendship,

To apprehend / The point of intersection of the timeless / with time, is an occupation for the saint . . . something given / And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love, / Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.[38]

In Cats, Eliot displays the loyalty and faith found in friendship, perhaps best brought out in a moving moment of the film regarding the magical character of Mr. Mistoffelees, as his cat-panions encourage him with,

And we all say Oh! / Well I never! / Was there ever / A Cat so clever / As Magical Mister Mistoffelees,[39]

to drag him from the discouragement of repeated failures to finally succeed in conjuring his friends back from the beyond.

Lewis declares of friendship

Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?[40]

Then he explains more prosaically,

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. Friendship . . . [is] freely chosen . . . this alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels. . . . Friendship is even, if you like, angelic. But man needs to be triply protected by humility if he is to eat the bread of angels without risk.[41]

Lewis and Swift alike enjoy how friendship can turn to romance. Swift playfully admits

I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this [42]

Lewis explains that basic affection and comfortable familiarity is first required, as well as that friendship exists on a higher, less hormonal level than either affection or romance. All three aspects are amusingly intertwined by characters from his Chronicles of Narnia:

Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that, years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.[43]

On Justice

The bitter underside of love is often anger fueled by injustice. “Anger is a physiological reaction to injustice; don’t tell me when to be angry” I once read on a college hallway bulletin board. Justice done for harms given and received is a strong and ever-present theme in Swift’s songs.[44] The list of songs chronicling offenses or retributions prevent Swift from being characterized as a mere romance singer (though romance often provides the context), including the playful “I Forgot That You Existed,” “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” “You Need To Calm Down,” “The Man” (and how her life would be easier as one), and “The Archer” (in which she opens “Combat / I’m ready for combat”) all from Lover. Selections from Midnights round out the theme, with the titles alone of “Vigilante Shit” and “Karma” sufficient to explain.

Lewis was so preoccupied with the problem of evil and injustice that it led to his conversion. Of himself, he admitted that, despite his best and highly philosophically motivated efforts to model the best of virtues and so to please the absolute being,

For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me: a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.[45]

Not that Lewis didn’t find evil and injustice in others, as he explained in an essay titled “De Futilitate,” his search for a way to make sense of the cosmos:

Unless we allow ultimate reality to be moral, we cannot morally condemn it . . . the defiance of a good atheist hurled at an apparently ruthless and idiotic cosmos is really an unconscious homage to something in or behind that cosmos which he recognizes as something infinitely valuable.[46]

Lewis thus affirms Swift in the right of diatribe.

Our trio have made the following statements about the fight for justice:

I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey. [47]

Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia, who stood firm at the darkest hour. [48]

There is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory, though the victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph. [49]

The justice that Swift dispenses in her songs has a feeling of innocence and fairness to it (granting that I know little of the particular relationships of which so much has already been written), relying ultimately on an aspect of God too easily forgotten, the holiness safeguarded by justice. “Karma” (Midnights) highlights her take on justice, as she declares

It’s coming back around
And I keep my side of the street clean . . .
Cause karma is my boyfriend
Karma is a god
Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend.

Eliot sought such peace himself, concluding in “The Wasteland” (before he came to faith),

Shantih shantih shantih (and explained in his notes “Shantih. Repeated here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. “The Peace which passeth all understanding” [Philippians 4:7] is our equivalent to this word.” [50]

Though once he found faith, he instead echoed the words of Christian mystic Julian of Norwich (1343-1416):

And all shall be well and / All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded / Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and rose are one.[51]

This is an allusion to the yielding of secular power (the rose a symbol of English monarchy) to divine guidance (fire as divine spark).

Lewis similarly finds God at the heart of the issue, as when discussing the problem of pain he claims

God whispers to us in pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pain:
It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.[52]

That God, like Swift’s cosmically nondescript and anonymous karma, is at work unloading the dice of those who can inflict harm and pain, Lewis underscores with brilliant imagery from Aslan, the Christ-figure lion king of Narnia, in The Horse and His Boy:

“I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead . . . who drove the jackals from you while you slept . . . who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile . . . who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death.”

To which the boy Shasta asks “Who are you?” and Aslan replies,

“Myself” said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again
“Myself,” loud and clear and gay: and then the third time
“Myself” whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.” [53]

Aslan’s ‘Myself’, playing out the three natures of the Trinity (awe-inspiring Father, loving Son, and ubiquitous Spirit) is just like God’s “I AM that I AM” from the burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3:14), and Jesus’s

“Have courage, it is I. Don’t be afraid,”

to the disciples on the stormy waters as he walked to them (Matthew 14:27). The divine guarantor of justice, of comfort, and of courage, is the same as the God of previous Eras, of previous ages, who commanded the prophet Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence,” so that

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake . . . . After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.[54]

After this God comforts and instructs Elijah, who despairs that, despite his zeal for the “Lord God of Armies,” all other prophets had been slain, he alone had been left and his head was being sought.

Swift’s sense for justice (or karma), mimics the divine sense, as Eliot and Lewis show.

On Individuality and Self-Worth

Individuality is both the blessing and bane of the modern world: hard-fought freedoms are great accomplishments of our history, though our penchant for individuality can be overdone. Canadian Christian Philosopher Charles Taylor cites expressive individualism as a disease that has accompanied our march towards freedom the past two hundred years.[55] Lewis himself admits that the incessant historical drive towards some new bright and shiny version of humanity runs into the stubborn fact that “even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth . . . you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”[56]

Swift’s originality is aided by a continually evolving musical style, but it just may be that it is her honesty that is the key to her popularity. It allows one’s true originality to shine, and one can almost sense the sincerity from the cadence of proclamations in her music (I’m listening to Lover’s bold-to-defiant “I’d Be the Man” right now, and am reminded of her musical appreciation for Peter Gabriel). Just a few confessional songs make the point, many found on her most recent, most introspective album, Midnights. “Anti-Hero” heads the list, likely the first song to ever feature the term “narcissism,” as she admits “I’m the problem, it’s me,” similar to folklore tracks: “this is me trying” and “The Lakes” in which she yearns to “bathe in cliffside pools / With my calamitous love and insurmountable grief.”[57]

Swift’s celebrations of individuality – her own and that of others – are fun, in quips such as

If they don’t like you for being yourself, be yourself even more.[58]

and lyrics

I promise that you’ll never find another like me . . .
But one of the things is not like the other
Like a rainbow with all of the colors . . .
I’m the only one of me / Baby that’s the fun of me
You’re the only one of you, / Baby that’s the fun of you.[59]

In a similar vein, Eliot declared,

You are the music while the music lasts.[60]

Lewis provides beautiful and powerful examples of the value of self-worth, as when he says of Psyche (in his own retelling of the ancient Greek story in Till We Have Faces, his favorite amongst the various fictional novels he wrote), after her own purification by way of trials,

she was the old Psyche still [but] a thousand times more her very self
than she had been before.[61]

Of his own wife’s individuality, Lewis is instructive. Admitting in A Grief Observed that he had been selfish as when lamenting his loss, forgetting to rejoice for her entry into a new and exalted state, he pries open the divine source of our value, likening her to

a garden. Like a nest of gardens, wall within wall, hedge within hedge, more secret, more full of fragrant and fertile life, the further you entered . . . In some way, in its unique way, like Him who made it. Thus up from the garden to the Gardener . . . to the life-giving Life and the Beauty that makes beautiful.[62]

Lewis elsewhere explained:

Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions . . . If all experienced God in the same way, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony; it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note.[63]

In The Great Divorce, his fictional account of a bus journey between Hell and Heaven, Lewis shows both the perils and the promise of individuality. He first cautions by stampeding a herd of unicorns across the path of a self-absorbed soul, explaining that “if it took her mind for a moment off of herself, there might, in that moment, be a chance. I have seen them saved so.”[64] However, he then applauds the value of individual choice, declaring,

Freedom: the gift whereby you most resemble your Maker and are yourselves part of eternality.[65]

Elsewhere he explains the divine origin of our originality:

It is also said ‘To him that overcometh I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receiveth it.’ What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him.[66]

Of untethered individuality, Lewis further explains in The Great Divorce,

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God in the end says ‘Thy will be done’ . . . the choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.’[67]

Imagination and Imagery

Swift, the country-turned-pop singer, resonates on nearly every account with fundamental insights by renowned academics T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis on matters of love, friendship, injustice, and individual self-worth. Or it might be said that the great academics resonate with her insights, though as dedicated Christian poets, playwrights, novelists, and writers, they take their explanations to a realm beyond. They further all have in common a reliance on the imaginative arts (poetry, music, novels) to make their arguments. Swift pays homage to the imagination with such albums as Red and Midnights and in the many tales related or authored found in folklore and evermore; she admits to always having had an active imagination, explaining “I had the most magical childhood, running free and going anywhere I wanted to in my head,” though later confessed that “my imagination is a twisted place.”[68] [69] Swift’s tales of imagination would be heartily applauded by Lewis:

For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.[70]

In other words, only once we have felt what a storm or falling in love is about (their meaning) can we proceed to adequately reason about it (the truth).

One of my favorite bits of imagery from Swift is found in “Snow on the Beach” from Midnights. She there likens the feeling of falling in love to

Snow on the beach / Weird but <food-trucking> wonderful
Flying in a dream / Stars by the pocketful
You wanting me / Tonight / Feels impossible
But it’s coming down / no sound, it’s all around.[71]

and further compares it to the aurora borealis. The song’s title image, “Snow on the Beach” at once reminded me of Lewis’s sci-fi trilogy. The image on the cover of my copy of the opening book, Out of the Silent Planet, shows a canoe landing on a shore surrounded by icy white vegetation and mountains. The story itself requires another volume for discussion, but shows how Lewis can parallel Swift in imagination.[72] [73] [74] Lewis’s skills are at their peak in Perelandra (also from the sci-fi trilogy) in illustrating a theme dear to Swift’s heart, the worth of the individual, which turns out to be ensured by a romance of sorts:

He thought he saw the Great Dance. It seemed to be woven out of the intertwining undulation of many cords or bands of light, leaping over and under one another and mutually embraced in arabesques and flower-like subtleties . . . He could see also wherever the ribbons or serpents of light intersected . . . were secular generalities of which history tells – peoples, institutions . . . that piped their short song and vanished . . .

Far above these in girth and luminosity and flashing with colors from beyond our spectrum were the lines of personal beings, yet as different from another in all their splendor as all of them from the previous class.[75]

Elsewhere, Lewis stated more succinctly:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.[76]

But the source of our individuality, according to Lewis, comes from beyond ourselves,

But not all the cords were individuals: some were universal truths or universal qualities . . . [but all these] were suddenly revealed as the mere superficies of a far vaster pattern . . . simplicity beyond all comprehension, ancient and young as spring . . . [which] drew him with cords of infinite desire into its own stillness.[77]

a truly “weird” place! This place is an homage to the God of the Bible, as “Simplicity beyond comprehension” speaks of a God who declared “my ways are above your ways” (Is. 55:9).

“Ancient and young as spring” of a God who declared himself both Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13) and “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2); one gets the same sense of a youthful yet ancient God in Rublev’s painting of a youthful Trinity (“The Trinity,” 1411).

The “cords of infinite desire” are rich imagery suggesting God: in contrasting a soulless, unfeeling natural universe to a divinely enchanted one, Lewis highlighted the divine pursuit of our souls with the imagery,

God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband. [78]

Finally, “its own stillness” echoes an image of Eliot’s which points towards our divine source, as he declares

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is . . .
Except for the still point . . . there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.[79]

Swift’s use of starry lights (as also in describing love as not “burning red, but . . . golden like daylight” in “Daylight,” Lover), parallels Lewis’s use of the image of light. When famously pondering a beam of light filtering through the haze of a toolshed, Lewis claimed we should value the experience of seeing things through the light rather than merely examining the light itself. The point explains both Lewis’s own explanation of Joy, the transcendent signpost to a divine source which led him to faith, as well as Swift’s conveying the experience of love in so many songs. Lewis explains the “daylight of faith” explicitly with

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.[80]

which adorns his plot in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, alongside the likes of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Jane Austen.

Swift is on the trail to finding Lewis’s source of imagination when singing in “the lakes” (folklore), a region of the English countryside “where all the poets went to die,” she finds a respite for her soul, a place where she can find “what are my Wordsworth” and pine for “auroras and sad prose,” bathing in her “calamitous love and insurmountable grief.” But it is the “sad prose” of Wordsworth that led to Lewis’s search for joy and ultimately faith. Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, adopts its title verbatim from the title of a Wordsworth poem. However, Wordsworth’s moment of being “surprised by joy – impatient as the wind” was incomplete, Lewis claimed:

Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past . . . a cheat . . . a [mere] remembering . . . The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through was longing.[81]

Time and Courage

While Lewis buttresses Swift on the use of imagination, Eliot does the same for her on the nature of time, which leads to pondering the courage we use with the time we have. Swift often reminisces over relationships from past times, as when “August slipped away / Into a moment of time” (“August,” folklore) or when she muses about “Time, curious time” (“Invisible String,” evermore). For the historically aware Eliot, such reminiscences were also common as seen in the poems of his Four Quartets, though his key insight was that, after pondering,

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past,[82]

he concluded,

In my beginning is my end . . .
In my end is my beginning.[83]

Eliot plays on the double meaning of “end” as both final destination and purpose. The purpose that Eliot found, basically “Love” but from a divine source, gave him the courage to continue, en-couraged him, so that he could declare,

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.[84]

Such courage is the hallmark of Swift’s honest lyrics, in both her confessions and indictments, highlighted in early albums such as Fearless (2008) and Speak Now (2010) or when asking in “Question . . . ?” (Midnights)

Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room
And every single one of your friends was making fun of you
But fifteen seconds later they were clapping too?
Then what did you do?

Lewis claimed courage to be the most fundamental virtue:

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its breaking point. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.[85]

Swift asks for the courage of courtesy and respect when addressing controversial issues, when stating,

We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful;[86]

or when advising in “marjorie” (folklore),

Never be so clever you forget to be kind.

Fortunately, those on other sides of such issues from Swift often (though not always) show the same respect, as when Finding Guy’s Guy Hammond addresses sexuality issues and advocates,

Everyone should be treated with dignity, kindness, and respect.[87]

Summary: The Journey of Love

Growing into oneself is a journey: that is the clear message of the Eras tour. Love itself is a journey, as we are defined by our loves, Swift confides at the end of “daylight” (Lover),

I want to be defined by the things I love, not the things I hate, not the things I’m afraid of, not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night . . . you are what you love.

Love is a journey unforgettably flavored by those whom we love, and who love us. Each particular love has its own unique color, as Swift sings,

I don’t remember who I was before you
Painted all my nights a color I have searched for since.[88]

“Lavender Haze,” “Maroon,” and the entire Red album echo the point.

Lewis once made a similar observation:

A love for one woman differs from a love for another woman in the very same way and the very same degree as the two women differ from another. Even our desire for one wine differs in tone from our desire for another.[89]

One’s romantic companion on the journey also molds us. Swift’s exploration of fears and hopes in both friendship and love largely explains her popularity among her largely young female audience. Although Swift stands for their aspirations, she also allows for strong male partners. Thus in “Willow” (evermore) she admits,

Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind . . .
I’m begging for you to take my hand
wreck my plans
that’s my man;

similar to “Mirrorball” (folklore):

I’ll show you every version of yourself tonight . . .
I can change everything about me to fit in
You are not like the regulars.

In the same spirit, Eliot asked that all be fully heard and appreciated, as in “The Naming of Cats,”

The naming of cats is a difficult matter . . .
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.[90]

Lewis the erstwhile lover and theologian Lewis follows suit, declaring in his sci-fi Space Trilogy series (a tale of gender as much as any other theme) that “Equality is not the deepest thing” and that “humility is an erotic necessity.” He draws the parallel between human and divine love with “the masculine none of us can escape [as] what is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.”[91]

The torture found on love’s journey offers a penultimate commonality among our group. We already saw Eliot liken love to a purifying but “intolerable shirt of flame;” Swift follows suit with “Cornelia Street” and “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” (Lover), and “the last great American dynasty” (folklore) just for starters, so as to remind that even the best-intentioned of friends and romantic companions can fail us.

Lewis offers a solution from an ancient voice, the persecuted Roman philosopher Boethius. Boethius knew the journey of history, of ages and eras, was no smooth ride. He gave us the imagery of Lady Philosophy spinning the wheel of fortune. However, Lewis explains it is most cruel to those on its edges, and most kind to those near its center and He who spins it:

As in a wheel the nearer we get to the center the less motion we find, so every finite being, in proportion as it comes nearer to participating in the Divine (unmoving) nature, becomes less subject to Destiny, which is merely a moving image of eternal Providence.[92]

In moving nearer to that divine center, the still point, we find ourselves transformed. Thus our final point: the enduring struggle with our glorious yet flawed human nature. Swift recognizes the knife’s edge on which our actions and character balance, including both the confessional “Anti-Hero” and celebratory “Bejewelled” on the same album (Midnights), and advising in evermore’s “marjorie”:

Never be so polite, you forget your power
Never wield such power
you forget to be polite.

Lewis captured this tension in my wife’s favorite passage from his beloved Chronicles of Narnia:

‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve’, said Aslan. ‘And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content’.[93]

Epilogue

I have no idea what new eras will ensue for Swift, and what albums will follow. I do know that the feelings, the problems, and the solutions will remain the same, as they have throughout all ages and all eras. As she continues singing so ably about these, one wonders if she may find inspiration from her forbears Eliot and Lewis, or their contemporary representatives, such as the following.

Cambridge poet-chaplain-musician (Lewis did teach at Cambridge later in his career) Malcolm Guite’s poetry in “Singing Bowl,” for instance, advises a hopeful honesty:

Begin the song exactly where you are
Remain within the world of which you’re made
Call nothing common in the earth or air.[94]

Guite was once described by musician-theologian Jeremy Begbie with imagery from both Lewis and Eliot: as someone able to allow us to hear the music we had not thought to look for.[95] [96]

The grace found in such poems would parallel that of fellow (country) artist Faith Hill, whom Swift lauded as the most gracious woman she had known, whose songs parallel Swifts in many ways, including matching Swift’s youthful “Christmas Must Be Something More” with “There Will Come a Day” (Breathe)’s comfort that,

There’s a better place
Where our Father waits . . .
Hold on to your faith.[97]

But of these connections and others, we will wait for another day, or another album.


Citation Information

Seth Myers, “Taylor Swift, T.S. Eliot, and C.S. Lewis: Eras for the Ages,” An Unexpected Journal: Leisure 6, no. 3. (Fall 2023), 49-92.


Endnotes

[1] Taylor Swift, “Beautiful Ghosts,” Cats. Universal Pictures, 2019.

[2] T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” The Four Quartets in The Complete Poems and Plays: 1919-1950 (New York: Harcourt, 1971).

[3] C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: HarperOne, 2017), Ch. XIII, 242.

[4] Matthew Fox, “Taylor Swift’s effect on the economy has caught the eye of the Federal Reserve,” Business Insider, July 14, 2023, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/taylor-swifts-economic-impact-catches-attention-federal-reserve-hotel-revenue-2023-7.

[5] As discussed in Jack Hobbs, “Taylor Swift gave dozens of ‘Eras’ tour truckers a $100k raise,” New York Post, August 1, 2023. https://nypost.com/2023/08/01/taylor-swift-gave-dozens-of-eras-tour-truckeers-a-100k-raise/amp/.

[6] “Who said it: Austen or Swift?” Bitesize, at https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zmtrbqt; Elodie, “Quiz: Is This a Taylor Swift Lyric or a Pride and Prejudice Quote?” Nov. 12, 2021,  https://www.sparknotes.com/blog/quiz-is-this-a-taylor-swift-lyric-or-a-pride-and-prejudice-quote/; “Taylor Swift Songs that are Actually about Jane Austen Heroines” at https://www.heroinetraining.com/taylor-swift-feat-jane-austen/; An Open Book, “Taylor Swift Songs for Jane Austen Couples | Persuasion, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park,” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9JvxXx5wXE; Ryan Win, “Taylor Swift or Shakespeare?” The Sporcle, at https://www.sporcle.com/games/RyanWin/taylor-swift-or-shakespeare; Danielle Cohen, “Who Said It? Taylor Swift or a Fortune Cookie?” The Cut, May 19, 2022 at https://www.thecut.com/2022/05/who-said-it-taylor-swift-commencement-speech-or-fortune-cookie.html; Bitesize, BBC, “Quiz: Beyonce or the Bard,” https://www.bbb.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zjg947h.

[7] Russell Kirk, Eliot and His Age: T.S. Eliot’s Moral Imagination in the Twentieth Century (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2008), Digital edition. Chapter 1, loc. 482. .

[8] Alister McGrath, Eccentric Genius: Reluctant Prophet. C.S. Lewis: A Life (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale, 2013), Digital edition. 229,

[9] Vanity Fair, April 2013 as cited in The Little Guide to Taylor Swift Unofficial and Unauthorized: Words to Shake It Off (London: OH!, 2022), 30.

[10] Amanda Petrusich, “The Startling Intimacy of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour,” The New Yorker Magazine, June 12, 2023, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/06/19/taylor-swift-eras-tour-review.

[11] Kevin Christopher Robies, “Taylor Swift’s Eras Concert felt a lot like going to Mass,” American Magazine, June 16, 2023, https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2023/06/16/taylor-swift-eras-tour-245498.

[12] T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (Mansfield Centre: Martino Publishing, 2015), 44, 46, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69400/tradition-and-the-individual-talent.

[13] C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 19.

[14] Ibid., 278.

[15] Ibid., 276.

[16] Ibid., 222. See also the AUJ issue on George MacDonald with reviews of Phantastes among other of his works, Advent 2020, Vol. 3, Issue 4, https://anunexpectedjournal.com///archive/v3-issue-4-george-macdonald/.

[17] Ibid., 264.

[18] C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, 265.

[19] Taylor Swift, “Christmas Must Be Something More,” The Taylor Swift Christmas Collection (Big Machine, 2009).

[20] Taylor Swift, “Prologue” from Speak Now (Big Machine Records, 2010).

[21] Taylor Swift, “Prologue” from Red: Taylor’s Version (Republic Records, 2021).

[22] Attributed to C.S. Lewis by Walter Hooper in preface to Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories by C.S. Lewis (New York: Harcourt, 2002), v.

[23] Attributed to T.S. Eliot, though my small cadre of Eliot experts have been unable to turn up any actual written source of it. https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/06/11/time-you-enjoy/ discusses its possible attribution to Eliot, Bertrand Russell, and Soren KIerkegaard among others Michael J. Pettine affirms, per his copy of an interview in Time magazine, that Eliot despised (surprising, given his upper crust credentials) yachting.

[24] Taylor Swift. Twitter, October 5, 2012 in The Little Guide to Taylor Swift, 20.

[25] Taylor Swift, “Daylight,” Lover (Sony, 2019).

[26] C.S. Lewis, “Love’s as Warm as Tears,” Poems, ed. Walter Hooper (Harcourt: New York, 1992), 123.

[27] T.S. Eliot, “East Coker” / Four Quartets in The Complete Poems and Plays: 1909-1950 (New York: Harcourt, 1971), 124.

[28] C.S. Lewis, “Love’s as Warm as Tears,” Poems, 123.

[29]  T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” / Four Quartets in The Complete Poems and Plays. Little Gidding was the site of an early faith community in England. The burning fire of the Spirit of God appears earlier in the short stanza, paralleling the image of a German fighter plane of which Eliot’s WW2 British audience was painfully aware, with “The dove descending breaks the air / With flame of incandescent terror / Of which the tongues declare / The one discharge from sin and error.”

[30] T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland” in Collected Poems and Plays, III, p. 45.

[31] T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in Collected Poems and Plays, 4-7.

[32] C.S. Lewis, “Charity” in The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, 1991), 119.

[33] Ibid., 121.

[34] Ibid., 124.

[35] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, 1155a in Great Books of the Western World, ed. Mortimer J. Adler (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2003), 406.

[36] Taylor Swift, “It’s Nice To Have A Friend,” Lover (Sony, 2019).

[37] Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift (Big Machine, 2006), in The Little Guide to Taylor Swift, 44.

[38] T.S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages,” in The Complete Poems and Plays, 136.

[39] T.S. Eliot, “Mister Mistoffelees” in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats in Complete Poems and Plays, 161-2.

[40] C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: Collier Books, 1977), 159.

[41] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 57-59, 87.

[42] Taylor Swift, “Paper Rings,” Lover.

[43] C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy (New York: Collier Books, 1977), 216.

[44] This reviewer remains blissfully unaware of so many details of Swift’s often overhyped romances and fallings out; credit is due her for such statements as “I’m not the girl who always has a boyfriend. I’m the girl who rarely has a boyfriend” and “Guys get what they deserve in my songs, and if they deserve an apology they should get one;” one has to chuckle at “I had a guy say as we were breaking up ‘You better not write a song about this.’ At which point I proceeded to write an entire album about it.” MTV.com, Nov. 17, 2010. In The Little Guide to Taylor Swift, 47; Parade, October 22, 2010 in The Little Guide, 82; Daily Beast, July 14, 2017, in The Little Guide, 90.

[45] C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, 276.

[46] C.S. Lewis, “De Futilitate” in Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 70.

[47] Taylor Swift, “The Archer,” Lover.

[48] C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: Collier, 1977), 146.

[49] T.S. Eliot, cited in Benjamin G. Lockerd Jr., preface to Russell Kirk, Eliot and His Age. Nook, loc. 143.

[50] T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland” in The Complete Poems and Plays, 50, 54.

[51] T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” in The Complete Poems and Plays, 145.

[52] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 91.

[53] C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy (New York: Collier, 1977), 158-9.

[54] 1 Kings 19: 10 – 18. Full credit to musician-turned-rocket-scientist-turned-pastor Mike Castelli for highlighting this passage in a recent sermon.

[55] Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 368.

[56] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 226.

[57] Taylor Swift, “the lakes,” Midnight.

[58] Taylor Swift, Huffington Post, Sept. 3, 2014. In The Little Guide to Taylor Swift, 114.

[59] Taylor Swift, “Me!” Lover.

[60] T.S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages” in Complete Poems and Plays, 136.

[61] C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (New York: Harvest, 1984), 306.

[62] C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 63.

[63] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 152, 155.

[64] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 79.

[65] Ibid., 141.

[66] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 154. Revelation 2:17 is the verse cited.

[67] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 75, 71.

[68] Taylor Swift, Rolling Stone, March 5, 2009. In The Little Guide to Taylor Swift, 10.

[69] Taylor Swift, Rolling Stone, February 4, 2010. In The Little Guide to Taylor Swift, 33.

[70] C.S. Lewis, “Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare,” in Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 265.

[71] Taylor Swift, “Snow on the Beach,” Midnights. Swift occasionally resorts to a certain brief but strong lyric in her songs; undoubtedly it asserts strong emotion and conviction, but for purposes here, I instead resort to a less descriptive term. In fact my niece owns and operates a delightful food truck business, Sandy Bottom Bowls, so I use the opportunity to here promote her delicious mobile Acai smoothie business, the first ever!

[72] Seth Myers, “Abolition of Man as Sci-Fi: C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy,” An Unexpected Journal, Vol. 1, Issue 1, Spring 2018. https://anunexpectedjournal.com///abolition-of-man-as-sci-fi-c-s-lewis-space-trilogy/

[73] Annie Nardone, “Gender, Not Sex: Presentation of Gender Roles in Lewis’s The Ransom Trilogy,” An Unexpected Journal Vol. 3, issue 2, Summer 2020, https://anunexpectedjournal.com///gender-not-sex-roles-in-lewiss-the-ransom-trilogy.

[74] Josiah Peterson, “Illustrating Faith: Faith in the Ransom Trilogy,” An Unexpected Journal Vol. 3, Issue 2, Summer 2020.https://anunexpectedjournal.com///illustrating-faith/.

[75] C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (New York: Scribner, 2003), 187.

[76] C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory and Other Essays (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 46.

[77] Lewis, Perelandra, 188.

[78] C.S. Lewis, Miracles (Now York: HarperOne, 2017), 150.

[79] T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” in Collected Poems and Plays, 119.

[80] C.S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 140.

[81] C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” The Weight of Glory and Other Essays (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 30. The Wordsworth quote appears as a preface to Lewis’s Surprised by Joy.

[82] T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” in Collected Poems and Plays, 117.

[83] T.S. Eliot, “East Coker” in Collected Poems and Plays, 123, 129.

[84] T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” in Collected Poems and Plays, 145.

[85] C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 161.

[86] Taylor Swift, Seventeen, March 1, 2009, in The Little Guide to Taylor Swift, 178. The most obvious and controversial issue for Swift likely is her song “You Need To Calm Down” (Lover) in which she lampoons demonstrators at a gay pride march for “Coming at my friends like a missile . . . you need to . . . control your urges to scream about all the people that you hate.”

[87] www.strengthinweakness.org; similar tones are found in Rosaria Butterfield (www.rosariabutterfield.com) and Rachel Gilson (www.rachelgilson.com).

[88] Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff, “Question . . .?” Midnights (Republic, 2022).

[89] C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, 269.

[90] T.S. Eliot, “The Naming of Cats,” Collected Poems and Plays,149.

[91] C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (New York: Scribner, 2003), 145, 146, 313.

[92] C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 87.

[93] C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (New York: Collier, 1977), 211. Kudos to both my partner who ennobled our family driving vacations by playing The Chronicles of Narnia on disk, and to my Professor in all things C.S. Lewis, Michael Ward, who otherwise despises the hackneyed phrase “beloved Chronicles of Narnia,” see more on his thought in our Ward festschrift issue, An Unexpected Journal“Planet Narnia,” Vol. 1, Issue 4, 2018, https://anunexpectedjournal.com///archive/v1-issue-4-advent-2018/.

[94] Malcolm Guite, “Singing Bowl” in The Singing Bowl: Collected Poems by Malcolm Guite (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2013), ix, xv.

[95] C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” 31 declares the ephemeral and fading joys of this world are “not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited,” while in Surprised by Joy, 268 Lewis describes such experiences as “not the wave, but the wave’s imprint on the sand.”

[96] Malcolm Guite and Michael Ward, “Above Us Only Sky? Reimagining the Cosmos with Dante and C.S. Lewis,” Duke Initiatives in the Arts, 2019, https://soundcloud.com/duke-initiatives-in-theology-arts/above-us-only-sky-reimagining-the-cosmos-with-dante-and-cs-lewis?fbclid=IwAR2JoG_E0oTrbDdWBVsAhP5OWjZg1koFFTZB8khJ37-ZHBMrrP5bK7MTWEw.

[97] Faith Hill, “There Will Come a Day,” Breathe (Warner Brothers, 1999).