Around the beginning of Lent, I wrote a Shakespearian sonnet cycle on the Seven Deadly Sins. I was feeling pompous and puritanical and began hallucinating that I was an Elizabethan. Writing the sonnets got it out of my system.
I mourn the age when Gluttony was young–
Synonymous in valor and in arts –
And never ending even when the tongue
Falls deadened and the stomach, filling, starts
To beg for moderation. Appetite
Was paradoxical as genius, spent.
‘Twas all-consuming, joyous, and contrite
In nothing – mad, and all exuberant
To-ward its own annihilation. How
We did excel in ravenous decay,
Creative, past what temp'rance could allow!
A suicidal bloating marked the way
To greatness. Now, though artifice is dulled,
In private heart, few wish it full annulled.
Desire is a thing that loathes an end
And dies upon achieving what it seeks.
Desire’s not quite foe and never friend,
And, through it, lustful excess loudly speaks.
With Lechery, prodigious love is reckoned;
In Compulsion, weakened souls are driven:
Love for others, first – for God comes second.
Blind devotion to our passion’s given
And we fall, addicted to the thought –
Impure. In fornication, incest, rape,
And rank obsessions, heedless ones are caught
And walk in Dante’s flames through which they gape
Unpenitent of their transgressions, all.
The truth in Lust lasts only to enthrall.
A hearty sin of excess we call Greed.
Aquinas writes that avarice will hoard
Temporal things which into wealth may lead
Condemning things eternal, ever stored
In Heaven. Greed may come in many forms
In service to the constant urge to gain.
It drowns the soul beneath the righteous storms
That seek with holy rage to bleach its stain.
Materiality’s the only goal
That Constant Greed can recognize in full.
Yet no abiding fullness fills the hole –
It deepens all the more, insatiable.
There’s quite a loyal rigor that attends
The work of Greed that with addiction blends.
Sloth, the saddest of the sins, has changed
And changes still. At first was named Despair,
Then Apathy, then Discontent. It ranged
And ranges still in restlessness and care
Of anxious thoughts and ever failing faith.
It is a lack, a paucity, of Love –
The Middle Sin, per Dante, and the pathos
Of the undecided mind. And of
This vice – indifference, laziness, now named –
It’s said to cause our love for God to fail
Through our own apathy. Omission’s blamed,
As opposite to virtuous travail.
Insidious for wanting of the fact
Of action: sinful deed without an act.
Beyond all right, Wrath seeks perverted law.
Beyond all love of law, Wrath seeks to right
The wrong which Mind Subjective turns to. Raw,
And fetishized, and bathed in famished light,
The object loved by Wrath is great, indeed
Because it overpowers (with the rage
Of vengeance born like fertile bursting seed)
The one who would impatient truth engage
Toward its obliteration. Suicide –
With Wrath directed toward the self – designs
Its own destruction inwardly. Abiding
Self-transgression, Wrath, as spite, maligns
The sweetened justice it forever seeks...
Regression drives the tongue through which it speaks.
Envy can’t abide another’s good,
Resents that others have what it has not,
And wishes fervently for ill which would
Deprive them of it. Envy’s petty lot
Resembles Greed with want it cannot sate,
But Greed consumes material alone
While Envy soaks whate’er it lacks in hate
And chews the prosperous body to the bone
With all adverse effect non-various:
Envy wounds itself with wishing will.
Its gains are naught but hurt, precarious
That keeps it barely balanced, loud and still
Between exquisite loathing and the drive
To fuel its rage toward those which, heedless, thrive.
Most deadly of the seven sins is Pride
And from it, ultimately, rise the rest.
Remember how the Spirit Proud decried
The Lord, and his dominion did contest?
His competition with the God of All
(Though really not a competition, true)
Resulted in his own eternal fall
To Hell wherein the other evils grew
As demons utterly apart from God.
Though nothing on this scale occurs with us,
We nonetheless beneath our slabs have trod
The more to gain humility. The truss
Of our own greatness binds us fast and sure
And vanity contaminates the pure.