PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 3) by C. S. Lewis

February 19, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms By this assurance they put themselves, implicitly, on the right side of a controversy which arose far later among Christians.  There were in the eighteenth century terrible theologians who held that “God did not command certain things because they are right, but certain things are right because God commanded them.”  To make the position perfectly clear, one of them even said that though God has, as it happens, commanded us to love him and one another, he might equally well have commanded us to hate him and one another, and hatred would then have been right.  It was apparently a mere tossup which he decided on.  Such a view, of course, makes God a mere arbitrary tyrant.  It would be better and less [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

February 12, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms As everyone knows, the psalm specially devoted to the Law is 119, the longest in the whole collection.  And everyone has probably noticed that from the literary or technical point-of-view, it is the most formal and elaborate of them all.  The technique consists in taking a series of words which are all, for purposes of this poem, more or less synonyms (word, statues, commandments, testimonies, etc.), and ringing the changes on them through each of its eight-verse sections – which themselves correspond to the letters of the alphabet.  (This may have given an ancient ear something of the same sort of pleasure we get from the Italian meter called the sestina, where instead of rhymes we have the same end [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

February 5, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms In Racine’s tragedy of Athalie the chorus of Jewish girls sing an ode about the original giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which has the remarkable refrain ô charmante loi (Act I, scene iv).  Of course it will not do – it will border on the comic – to translate this, “oh charming Law.”  Charming in English has come to be a tepid and even patronizing word; we use it of a pretty cottage, of a book that is something less than great or a woman who is something less than beautiful.  How we should translate charmante I don’t know; “enchanting”? – “delightful”? – “beautiful”?  None of them quite fits.  What is, however, certain is that Racine ( a mighty poet and steeped in the [...]