Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sweeter Than Honey?

"More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb"*. One can well understand this being said of God's mercies, God's visitations, His attributes. But what the poet is actually talking about is God's law, His commands; His "ruling" as Dr. Moffatt well translates in verse 9 (for "judgements" here plainly means decisions about conduct). What is being compared to gold and honey is those "statutes" (in the Latin version "decrees") which, we are told, "rejoice the heart". For the whole poem is about the Law, not about "Judgement" in the sense to which Chapter I was devoted.

This was to me at first very mysterious. "Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery"--I can understand that a man can, and must, respect these "statutes", and try to obey them, and assent to them in his heart. But it is very hard to find how they could be, so to speak, delicious, how they exhilarate. If this is difficult at any time, it is doubly so when obedience to either is opposed to some strong, and perhaps in itself innocent, desire. A man held back by his unfortunate previous marriage to some lunatic or cfiminal who never dies from some woman whom he faithfully loves, or a hungry man left alone, without money, in a shop filled with he smell and sight of new bread, roasting coffee, or fresh strawberries--can these find the prohibition of adultery or of theft at all like honey? They may obey, they may still respect the "statute", but surely it could be more aptly compared to the dentists's forceps or the front line than to anything enjoyable and sweet.
~C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, Chapter VI "Sweeter Than Honey" (1955)

*Psalm 19


Interesting Link of the Day: Proppian Fairy Tale Generator

6 Comment(s):

At Wed Feb 23, 11:30:00 AM EST, Anonymous Amatire said...

Here's the quote.

"What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard."

I was thinking about it the other day, and couldn't exactly put into words what I was thinking, but this says it pretty well!

At Wed Feb 23, 04:03:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Thanks for that quote, Ammi! That does feel very true, doesn't it?

This part of today's post caught my eye:

A man held back by his unfortunate previous marriage to some lunatic or criminal who never dies from some woman whom he faithfully loves,I was wondering if he was thinking about Joy, and her marriage to the "lunatic" back in the U.S.

At Thu Feb 24, 03:40:00 AM EST, Blogger Roger R. said...

It's Jack being honest again... so honest it can hurt. Thanks K for the post... I am going to use it on the Inklings site!


At Thu Feb 24, 02:47:00 PM EST, Blogger Roger R. said...

Kathleeen, follow the link to the BBC's (rerun) serial of Jack's 'Perelandra':

At Thu Feb 24, 02:55:00 PM EST, Blogger Roger R. said...

See my Inklings site for the link and a review.

At Mon Feb 28, 10:36:00 AM EST, Anonymous Amatire said...

Hooray!! I've been looking for a way to get hold of Perelandra, I've read the first one, and I've got That Hideous Strength sitting on my sideboard ready to read, but no copy of the voyage to venus.. I shall enjoy listening to this! Thanks Roger!

This whole passage seems emotionally raw. It comes across as a touchy subject for him. Don't you think?


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