Pain Sonnet 9: Unmaking Language
This sonnet takes its theme from a line in CS Lewis’ poem “Re-Adjustment” (found in Poems): “For devils are unmaking language.” In our culture today we often use words to draw veils over sin so as not to be confronted with it so forcefully. As a writer and speaker, I sometimes have to negotiate the tricky boundary between truth-telling and wounding words.
I profoundly dislike controversy and heated rhetoric; the thought of upsetting other people with my words makes my stomach go into knots. My temptation is always to dodge the difficult issues, speak around them: to have ‘nothing to say’ and find, in the end, the truth of the words CS Lewis gave to the character of the demon Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters: “The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why…”
Some words are curiosities, survivals
From times when sin was something to avoid.
Repentance, judgment; wicked, evil, vile:
These words with antique flavor, once employed
In earnest, now belong to history,
That dull and unsophisticated time
Before the acid touch of irony
Corroded that which once we called sublime.
And so we cut our bodies with no pain;
We numb with loveless sex with no release;
We look within but nothing there remains;
We make a ceaseless noise and have no peace.
Unmaking language, nothing left to say,
We’ve no word now but whim that we obey.