This poem has multiple meanings. Lewis, Tolkien and the Inklings were veterans of the Great war and their sons (apart from Lewis, he married late and had no sons of his own) fought in the second worold war.
To Lewis, Oxford was a shelter, a reminder that there was more than conflict. That Oxford is being shredded by the woke.
And to this reader, what was praise is now elegy.
It is well that there are palaces of peace
And discipline and dreaming and desire,
Lest we forget our heritage and cease
The Spirit’s work-to hunger and aspire:
Lest we forget that we were born divine,
Now tangled in red battle’s animal net,
Murder the work and lust the anodyne,
Pains of the beast ‘gainst bestial solace set.
But this shall never be: to us remains
One city that has nothing of the beast,
That was not built for gross, material gains,
Sharp, wolfish power or empire’s glutted feast.
We are not wholly brute. To us remains
A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams,
A place of visions and of loosening chains,
A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.
She was not builded out of common stone
But out of all men’s yearning and all prayer
That she might live, eternally our own,
The Spirit’s stronghold-barred against despair.
C. S. Lewis