Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Law Like Love"--7th Myth--Determinism

Others say, Law is our Fate;

This short stanza refers to those who predicate law on materialistic philosophies of a deterministic or fatalistic strain, in particular those established on philosophical Marxism or social Darwinism. During his younger years, Auden adopted such materialistic philosophies, as he hankered after a better future that was bound willy nilly to come. He told his elders: “Go down with your world,” which inexorably, “had had its day.”[i] According to the Marxist philosophy to which Auden subscribed in the 1930s, it was fated that world would end in violence, and from the ashes of that violence, like a phoenix, a new world would rise.

Yesterday the belief in the absolute value of Greece, . . . .
But to-day the struggle,

wrote Auden, in the poem “Spain” in 1937 written during the end of his brief flirtation with communism which started in the early 1930s.[ii] It was a poem which, along with his adoption of Communist political theory, he was later to reject.

Auden was deeply unsettled at the destruction and the boarding up of the churches in Spain and the absence of clergy when visiting Barcelona in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.[iii] He recognized that the forces of the Left and Liberalism were equally bereft of justice and prone to propaganda. It was there that he confronted the sour fruit of a materialist philosophy, that of Marxism, whose doctrine included the principles of historical and economic determinism. Marx’s atheistic fatalism was no less ironclad and exceptionless than Calvin’s warped and equally wrong theistic version of predestination. All forms of fatalism—atheistic, agnostic, theistic—were eventually to be spurned by Auden.

What, then, about the power of the State, the sovereign, the Hobbesian “Mortal God on Earth”? Could this be the source of Law? That is the view of some advocates, as Auden next observed. It was a view, however, that through all of his stages he always spurned. Auden had a natural aversion to the powerful central State.

[i] “I have a handsome profile,” from the English Auden, 123, quoted in Mendelson, The Early Auden, 144.
[ii] Auden’s Communism, like his Christianity was to be, was idiosyncratic, as he was too much ensconced with the bourgeoisie and its privileges to abandon it for the working class. His ties to Communism were, in any event, informal as Auden never joined the Communist party. Mendelson, The Early Auden, 137-39. As Auden later put it: “Looking back, ti seems to me that the interest in Marx taken by myself . . . was more psychological than political; we were interested in Marx in the same way that were interested in Freud, as a technique of unmasking middle-class ideologies. . . . Nobody I know who went to Spain during the Civil War who was not a dyed-in-the-wool stalinist came back with his illusions intact.” Quoted in Mendelson, Early Auden, 307.
[iii] Kirsch, 22; Mendelson, Later Auden, 91. Auden observed this in supposedly Republican Spain, i.e., the Spain whose government was supposed to be based upon Liberalism.

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