Last night I was reading the second chapter of Seth Lerer’s Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language (Amazon), and was struck by a phrase from Archbishop Wulfstan’s 1014 sermon Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, a phrase that Lerer calls “as powerfully alliterative as anything in poetry” (35): “Ac worhtan lust us to lage” (or as Lerer renders it: “but we have made pleasure our law”).
That’s a chilling idea, although I suppose it’s a bit comforting that it could be said almost 10 centuries ago. But it’s also, as Lerer notes, a wonderfully evocative way of putting things. It sent my mind spinning off in to the world of language and especially of phrases that poetically call to me and it soon lit on another phrase, one used by that great post-punk-inflected-with-funk Minneapolis band the Suburbs (Wikipedia), a band that has been on my mind lately because of the death of guitarist Bruce Allen, and used to great effect, I think, because it captures the inherent contradictory impulses of our fallen natures (but that need not contradict because of the atonement, there’s always that caveat, thank goodness), that is Love is the Law. Continue reading “Lust, lage, love, feeling, sensation, soul”