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, January 25, 2010

Pedro Calderón de la Barca and the Natural Law, Part 7

AFRICA IS DRESSED AS A MOOR, accompanied by men and women, feverishly dancing, perhaps not unlike David before the Ark or as a whirling dervish, as music sings the following refrain, one may imagine in the strains of the muezzin to come:

Bailad, africanos, bailad,
que ya se os acerca el profeta
de Alá.

Dance, Africans, dance,
As soon to you is coming the prophet
Of Allah.

Africa, we learn, has misconstrued the prodigies that accompanied the death of Christ on the Cross, and erroneously interpreted them as signs of the coming of its anticipated prophet, Muhammad.

Intellects asks her:

¿Cómo, África hermosa, el día
de tan grande sentimiento
en tierra, agua, fuego y viento,
celebras con alegría?
¿Qué causa te mueve?

How is it, beautiful Africa, in a day
Of such great expression
On earth, water, fire, and wind
You celebrate with happiness?
What is it that moves you?

Whirling Dervish

Africa recalls meeting Intellect, but cannot recall his name, and admits she does not know him well. Intellect, in a self-deprecating way, suggests that few men know him well: El Ingenio soy humano. And that introduction refreshes Africa's memory.

Africa remembers knowing Intellect in the house of Abraham, who worshiped one sovereign God, and remembers him in Ishmael, source of her monarchy. But from the time Ishmael was cast out from Abraham's tribe because he fancied some idols, she no longer remembers knowing him. Idolatry, Intellect points out, is inconsistent with his presence. But the days of idolatry appear cast aside, as Africa worships one God.

Que un Dios se ha de venerar
ni lo niego ni lo dudo.

That one ought to venerate one God
I neither deny nor doubt.

And this warms Intellect heart to Africa, so that he asks what feast they celebrate, and Africa's answer spills over into her history. She is a descendant of Ishmael and Hagar, both Ishmaelite and Hagarite, who now shuns idols and worships but one God, and yet she has no law. She worships

sin preceptos, porque espero
que de este Dios verdadero
un profeta me los dé,

Without law, because I await
That from this true God
A prophet will give them to me.

So she has been promised by her wise men(morabitos sabios). She celebrates in anticipation of this prophet's imminent coming. So the earthquake, thunder, lightning, all assuage the confident yet anxious anticipation of Muhammad's birth. After patient listening, Intellect states that if that is so, then Africa still does not know him (or his companion Thought) well.

ÁFRICA: ¿Por qué?
INGENIO Porque si buscando
hoy a un Dios vamos los dos,
adonde no hay ley no hay Dios,
y pues le estás esperando,
es precisa consecuencia
que mientras sin ley estés,
estés sin Dios, con que es
más justo hacer de ti ausencia
que no asistirte.

INTELLECT: Because if today us two
Are looking for one God,
Where there is no law there is no God,
And so it is that you are awaiting it,
And the precise consequence is
That while you remain without law
You are without God, in which case
It is more just for us to absent ourselves
And not assist you.

(Calderón here displays a knowledge of Islam. Generally speaking, in Islam, the only law, Shari'a (شَرِيعَةٌ), is God's revealed or positive law as contained in the Qur'an (القرآن‎ al-qur’ān) and the Hadith (الحديث al-ḥadīth) as may be interpreted by religious authority. All law is revealed. All law is will. Law is good because commanded by Allah. It is true that in the 9th century, the mu`tazilah or mutazilite school (المعتزلة al-mu`tazilah) advanced the concept that good and evil were intrinsically so, and not simply because commanded so. They saw some behaviors as good or bad in themselves, and indeed bad or good by their nature, even prior to the divine law that commands them or forbids them. The mutazilites believed that human beings could know by reason good and bad, and so it may be said that they recognized a natural law. However, this school represents a small minority in Islam. The Ash’ari school or asharites (الأشاعرة al-asha`irah), which are dominant in the Sunni orthodoxy, support a contrary theory. They propose a theory of moral occasionalism, do not recognize any consistency in nature, advance the notion that only the positive revelation of God defines good and evil, the just and the unjust, and so do not believe in the natural law. Following the majority school, then, there could not have been a natural law prior to the coming of Islam. Law only came with Muhammad. Prior to his coming, all was a state of ignorance, of Jahiliyah (جاهلية). So Intellect is right according to Islam's own teaching, Africa is worshiping one God in ignorance since they do so, in this point in history, without Law.

Africa's worship of God without law in the times of the Jahiliyah were thus, in Intellect's view, in error. "A donde no hay ley no hay Dios," where there is no law there is not God. That is as true as the Latin statement, ubi caritas, ibi Deus est, God is where love is. Thus, the presence of both love and law is evidence that God is in the room.)

Africa is, however, satisfied in her present state of lawlessness, and retreats into relativism to justify her condition. But Intellect will have none of that. If God is one, there can only be one law. He cannot be served by the anticipated law of the Muslims on the one hand, and the law of the Jew on the other or any other law for that matter. If there is one God, there must be one Law, as the law points to an end, and if the end is the same one God, all law must be one. And so for Intellect there is no cause for celebration. Africa, however, disdains argument:

A mí
no me toca disputar
ley, que espero no tener;
sólo el acero ha de ser
el que la ha de sustentar;
y así, si apurar no quieres,
mira, has de ver y callar,
vuelva a cantar y bailar
cada uno con sus mujeres.

To me
I am not disposed to dispute
Law, which I expect not to have;
Only steel is what ought to be
That which should sustain;
And so, if you do not wish to hurry,
Look, you ought to see and hush,
Return to singing and dancing,
Each one with his women.

Women? Intellect asks. Africa explains that his rite allows for polygamy, that any man may marry as many women as he can support. Thought thinks (with sarcasm? and maybe lasciviously or with incipient chauvinism?): ¡Linda ley! "Pretty law!" This concept offends the more sober Intellect, as it is to him against the natural law, nay, against even love itself, to support a contract wherein a man expects each woman to give her entire self to him, and he gives her but a portion.

Si es contrato natural
amor que confirma el trato,
¿cómo puede ser contrato
lícito el que no es igual?
¿Yo he de querer y ofender
a sus ojos lo que quiero?
¿Pues cómo ofendida espero
que no ofenda la mujer?
Si aun obligada no es prenda
segura en ellas amor,
¿cómo lo será el honor

If it is a natural contract
love that confirms the agreement,
How can it be a licit contract
When it is not equal?
I ought to both love and also cause offense
To the eyes of the one I love?
How, love and fairness offended, can I expect
That such a contract will not offend the woman?
Though she is obligated, she has no surety
Of love in such contracts.
How can it be with honor offended?

African polygamist

Intellect then asks Africa if the anticipated prophet will change or will preserve this barbaric law.

INGENIO ¿Y este precepto también
has de conservar en ti
venido el Profeta?

INTELLECT: And this precept will also
be preserved in you,
the Prophet having come?

This clinches it for both Intellect and Thought. Not only is Africa operating under no law, and acting against natural law principles in their marriage customs, but the very prophet that they anticipate will confirm them in their barbarism.

PENSAMIENTO Y aun hongo.

THOUGHT: What is this?
THOUGHT: And yet still a sickness.

Africa resumes her singing, refusing to entertain any more argument, and sings for the coming of her anticipated prophet, Thought joins, and Intellect mutters:

¿De un abismo en otro abismo,
dónde, Pensamiento, vas?

From one abyss into another abyss,
Where, Thought, are you going?

Thought observes that Africa has one and only God. Yet Intellect insists that they are without Law, and that is equivalent to not having God. To which Thought suggests they pay visit to the Synagogue, as it has both one God and one Law. And they see Synagogue and Paul (before his conversion) advancing.

At first, Intellect is pleased, as he remembers Paul who was his faithful friend when he studied at the school of Gamaliel. But Intellect sees Paul speaking with Synagogue enveloped in anger and zeal, and he wisely decides it is not time to speak, and retires. Thought ends the scene saying:

No es bueno lo que hablan, pues
el Ingenio se retira.

What they are speaking about is not good, as
Intellect retires.

Calderón de la Barca

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