There's an importance to words, to oaths.
I've retreated to a new concentration. A philologist, semanticist, hermeneutic etymologist, semiotic linguistic analyst. Amant des mots. Ha!
Three scenes from A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt’s play about the elevation and martyrdom of St. Thomas More, could have been the inspiration for the monumental task of selecting and editing the writings by and about More that comprise The Essential Works of Thomas More.
In the first, More’s daughter Margaret and (then-future) son-in-law William Roper want More to arrest the scoundrel Richard Rich because, as Margaret says, “Father, that man’s bad.” More refuses on the grounds that there is no law against being a bad man, and that Rich should be free to go “if he was the Devil himself until he broke the law.” After Roper objects to giving even the Devil the benefit of the law, this famous exchange occurs:
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? … And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? … Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
In the second, Margaret and Roper encounter More with the news that Parliament is about to pass the Succession to the Crown Act of 1534, requiring an oath recognizing Anne Boleyn as King Henry VIII’s lawful wife, and their children as legitimate heirs to the throne. When Roper vaguely tells More that the oath is “about the Marriage,” More asks, “But what is the wording?” Roper contemptuously dismisses the question, saying, “We don’t need to know the wording—we know what it will mean!” More exclaims in reply, “It will mean what the words say! An oath is made of words! It may be possible to take it. Or avoid it.”
The third scene occurs after More’s arrest, when Margaret visits him in the Tower of London and urges More to “say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise.” But More could not do that because, as he asks rhetorically, “What is an oath then but words we say to God?” And he continues, “When a man takes an oath … he’s holding his own self in his hands. Like water.… And if he opens his fingers then—he needn’t hope to find himself again. Some men aren’t capable of this, but I’d be loathe to think your father one of them.”
Robert Creeley points in a similar direction:
(by Robert Creeley)
Words need not be noisy. Need not be sounded at all. Worlds without verbiage does not mean a wordless world. Words have their own horizon and depth of perception. They know how to be imperceptible and without echo. They are both cataphatic and apophatic. Words are energy wrapped in potential audience.
Hence, this world, and all possible worlds.