I was sent this brilliant W.H. Auden poem about Law
‘Law Like Love’
Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.
Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.
Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.
Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I’ve told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.
Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Law is Good morning and Good night.
Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.
And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.
If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
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.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.
Like love we don’t know where or why,
Like love we can’t compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.
– W. H. Auden
Almost as a rebuttal, I was reminded of this Wendel Berry poem:
The Law That Marries All Things
The cloud is free only
to go with the wind.
The rain is free
only in falling.
The water is free only
in its gathering together,
in its downward courses,
in its rising into the air.
In law is rest
if you love the law,
if you enter, singing, into it
as water in its descent.
Or song is truest law,
and you must enter singing;
it has no other entrance.
It is the great chorus
of parts. The only outlawry
is in division.
Whatever is singing
is found, awaiting the return
of whatever is lost.
Meet us in the air
over the water,
sing the swallows.
Meet me, meet me,
the redbird sings,
here here here here.
~ Wendell Berry ~
Is Law a repressive regime? A standard up against which we do not measure? A collective illusion?
Or is true Law simply a state of natural being in which we are both free and bound?
They say that rules are made to be broken. I figure that only rules that are made can be broken. Rules that simply are can neither be followed or broken.
Now that’s clear as mud, right? “And always the soft idiot softly Me.” I love that line….
Must be time to start the weekend.