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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Law Like Love"--What "Is" the "Law That Is" Can't Be Answered

If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,
No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.

Yet the urge, the “universal wish” to try to fathom or understand, in a manner of speaking to “guess” at the meaning of Law, is no less real than the certainty of our death and our need to understand what mystery exists beyond our earthly existence (“slip out of our position/Into an unconcerned condition” = death).[i] The epistemological issue which puts into doubt knowledge notwithstanding, we are not allowed the luxury of burying our heads in the sand with respect to either Law or Death. These are two realities, two givens of the human condition, which warrant attention and demand an answer, however tenuous, incomplete, or riddled by mystery. And we are compelled to try to understand these mysteries without succumbing to the hubris that we can comprehend them completely (i.e., “timidly”). We must, in other words, recognize that our understanding of Law partakes in the same sort of understanding of our minds when it comes to understanding God. We only understand darkly, through the use of imperfect analogy (“timid similarity”), and in a sort of negative, tentative way.

And with all these caveats, these limitations, Auden then turns to his theory of law. He will not answer the question, "What is Law?" but he will answer the question, "What is Law like?"

[i] Fuller, 251.

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