However, the same friend, who lost touch with the author until the war years, was disillusioned to hear that White had tried to join up, 8 which would seem to indicate that White's political ideas had changed somewhat from those he held at the start of his literary enterprise. In a passage which survived the transformation from The Witch in the Wood to The Queen of Air and Darkness , a different perspective on the problem of war is provided. Kay asks Merlin how one can determine who is the guilty party in the event of war.
Once & Future by Cori McCarthy - Review | BookPage | BookPage
Kay asks Merlin—who is living his life backwards—to explain about Mafeking Night, but Arthur interrupts and the event is not mentioned again. The passage also indicates that more than one character has a potentially valid point of view. Merlin insists that he was a pacifist and opposed war on a specific occasion when his country was morally wrong, but he does not endorse it as a desirable general rule the detail about the young woman and the squeaker, which seems to be unnecessary, makes it clear that not everyone agreed with his judgement, i.
If anything is to be endorsed by the reader here, it is surely Merlin's assertion that "there are many wars in which aggression is as plain as a pikestaff," a reference to White's not uncontroversial diagnosis of the origins of the Second World War. A more usual judgement of the work is that White eventually despaired of humanity and gives free rein to his misanthropy, particularly in his preferred conclusion to the sequence, The Book of Merlin. Stephen Knight comments, "White's urge to escape is in many ways simplistic, avoiding the historical and political reasons why cities and nations have become as they are ….
The views put forward are narrow and extreme: White's hatred and contempt for politicians has become a general misanthropy. Elisabeth Brewer, for example, assumes an equation of author and character takes place when she interchanges them in consecutive sentences: "we see White propounding the idea that it is 'communal property' rather than the ownership of private property that leads to war.
Nationalism is the curse of man, and for this Merlyn has a simple, easy solution to propose. All you have to do is abolish nations, 'tariff barriers, passports and immigration laws, converting mankind into a federation of individuals.
It is certainly arguable that Merlin is always meant to be right, or always in control of what he teaches Arthur the Wart. Arthur's first lesson in The Sword in the Stone is to be turned into a perch, which concludes with his meeting the king of the moat, Mr. He was remorseless, disillusioned, logical, predatory, fierce, pitiless—but his great jewel of an eye was that of a stricken deer, large, fearful, sensitive, and full of griefs.
The interview ends with Mr. He conjures up a desolate universe, empty of warmth, affection, or any other human bond and he prefigures the Wart's most disturbing sojourn with the explicitly Nazi ants later. At this stage in his education, the Wart can only run from the likes of Mr. Can the Wart escape this legacy?
Or is he doomed to be tainted by the effects of power even if he strives to be a good ruler?
Once & Future
The novel sequence gives equivocal answers to such questions, partly owing to an issue raised by Mr. If so, it would seem that in a certain sense Mr. Nevertheless, Arthur does marry Guenever and events unfold as they would have done anyway despite Merlin's interventions: there is a limit to how much a tutor—especially one who is living his life backwards—can change the future.
Merlin is constrained by the inevitable, just as White the novelist is constrained by the material he is choosing to retell: both are free to intervene only in a circumscribed manner. It is indicative of this that the lesson takes place on two interrelated but separate levels: there is the answer of Mr. The implication is that this might be what the reader of the sequence will find happens to Arthur, despite his own qualities and noble sentiments. Secondly there is the visual image of Mr.
White is obviously referring to the American recruitment posters of First World War vintage, which might imply that Mr. At the start of The Queen of Air and Darkness , Arthur starts to realise this after enthusing about the first battle of the Gaelic wars described in the novel until Merlin forces him to consider the kerns and ordinary foot soldiers killed. Arthur craves a response from his tutor, but instead Merlin turns to look at the ceiling and says "the first few words of the Nunc Dimittis" It begins:.
Now he can disappear satisfied with his efforts, to be imprisoned by the witch, Nimue, an event foretold in chapter two The point is that we do not have to accept Merlin's reading of Arthur's coming of age as the only one possible.
Subsequent incidents in The Queen of Air and Darkness can be read to undermine his position as omniscient sage which would tend to cast his singing of the "Nunc Dimittis" in a somewhat ironic light. On the eve of the Battle of Beldegraine, Merlin starts to become concerned that he needs to tell Arthur something before he departs, but he cannot remember what it is. Arthur tries to help jog his memory, suggesting that it might be Nimue's impending betrayal; Merlin asks whether he has told Arthur about Lancelot and Guenever and Arthur replies that he has and that not only does he not believe it, but the warning "would be a base one anyway, whether it was true or false" Eventually, Arthur urges Merlin to stop thinking about the problem and take a holiday, "Then, when you come back, we can think of something to prevent Nimue" Once again, the ironies abound in this exchange.
In the denouement of the final book in the published version, The Candle in the Wind , Arthur confesses to Lancelot and Guenever that he had tried to have Mordred killed via a proclamation which demanded that all babies born on a certain day "be put on a big ship and floated out to sea" Whilst Merlin is cheerful about the effects of his imminent fate on the eve of the battle, he forgets to tell Arthur of the parallel case which will not only destroy everything, but bring back the threat of ugly violence which Arthur's plan, backed up by Merlin's approval of it, appeared to have solved.
We are also forced to consider the implications of Merlin's claimed omniscience. When Arthur asks why he does not do anything about Nimue, Merlin tells him the parable of the man who encountered the surprised figure of death in Damascus, fled to Aleppo to escape the spectre, only to meet him there and learn that death had looked surprised because he had been told to meet him in Aleppo on that day and therefore had not expected to meet him in Damascus.
Arthur deduces from this tale that Merlin's trying to escape Nimue is not much good and his tutor assents: "Even if I wanted to … it would be no good. There is a thing about Time and Space which the philosopher Einstein is going to find out. Some people call it Destiny" If this is so, then why do we have to worry about Merlin telling Arthur that Morgause is going to seduce him?
What actually happens is that Arthur's attempts to prevent the future taking place make matters even worse than they need to have been and ensure disaster: the innocent Adam who was Wart has turned into a monstrous Herod. We only have Merlin's word that he can see the future as it will definitely take place. The narrative demonstrates that he is not necessarily always right, in a moral and factual sense, as his own actions and those of his pupil illustrate. Either way, Merlin is trapped by his own logic and cannot be seen as the key to all the mythologies of the work.
For all his fine ideals, Arthur is clearly either a badly flawed ruler or one who is unable to escape the inherent dangers of kingship. In King Lot's castle in the Orkneys, the children, Gawaine, Gareth, Gaheris and Agravaine tell their version of the story of the events leading to the birth of Arthur, Uther's rape of Igraine, their grandmother, and the narrator comments, "They considered the enormous English wickedness in silence, overwhelmed by its denouement " Arthur confesses that the Orkney faction do have a case against his father, but Merlin corrects him, alleging that King Lot's reasons are no more than personal ones and merely repeat the cycle of violence that Uther started off: "if we go on living backward like that, we shall never come to the end of it.
Arthur is clearly persuaded by such logic when he decides to harness might in the service of right to Merlin's obvious approval see above. One might also note that in accepting that nothing can be achieved without power, he is not that far from endorsing the argument of Mr. White as most readers seem to have assumed? To do so we must assume that there is no intentional irony in the phrase "living backwards" when Merlin speaks about the Gaelic league as an atavistic alliance, for he himself only knows what he does through "living backwards.
In a devastating addition to the text, White includes an exchange before the Battle of Bedegraine between Kay and Merlin which deserves quotation at some length. Kay tells Merlin that he has just thought of a good reason for fighting a war and Merlin, who initially freezes, asks him to explain exactly what it is:.
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Merlin then continues to contrast the aggressive imposition of ideas on people by Hitler to the passive process of reformation inaugurated by Jesus Christ who simply made ideas available to people: "Kay looked pale but obstinate. This is an extraordinarily scandalous passage which has received only perfunctory analysis from critics. One cannot escape from the need to use force in governing because systems of order do not appear from nowhere: in seeking to unite one may actually destroy, so that Merlin's assumption of a linear narrative progression of history towards greater reason, bigger "imagined communities," better government and so on is disrupted as it is, in fact, by his own choice of the examples of Hitler and Jesus Christ.
In the same way his increasingly strident assertions of his moral correctness undermine his attempts to educate his pupils by allowing them to find things out for themselves: in the final analysis, they are supposed to discover what the tutor wants them to discover but, ironically, Kay seems to have proved Merlin's point by disagreeing with him. This lecture reviews the physics of matter, and follows the evolution of the expanding Universe from the first instants after the Big Bang, when all 4 forces of nature were unified in a single grand-unified superforce until the emergence of the visible Universe we see around us today.
Lecture The Whispers of Creation. Is there any evidence that the Universe was very hot and dense in the distant past as predicted by the Big Bang model of the expanding Universe? This lecture examines observational tests of the Big Bang Model. We have already covered expansion in the previous lecture. Today we look at Primordial Nucleosynthesis, the creation of light elements from fusion during the first minutes of the hot phases of the Big Bang, and the Cosmic Background Radiation, the relic blackbody radiation remaining from when the Universe became transparent to light , years after the Big Bang.
Both predictions of the Big Bang Model have been spectacularly confirmed by observations of the present-day Universe. These give us confidence that the Big Bang, in broad outline, is the correct physical model of our expanding Universe. Lecture The Big Bang. The Universe today is old, cold, low-density, and expanding. If we run the expansion backwards, we will eventually find a Universe where all the matter was in one place where the density and temperature are nearly infinite.
We call this hot, dense initial state of the Universe the Big Bang. This lecture introduces the Big Bang model of the expanding universe, and how the history of the Universe depends on two numbers: the curretn expansion rate H0 , and the relative density of matter and energy Omega0. Combined with observations, these give us an estimate of the age of the Universe of Lecture The Cosmic Distance Scale.
How do we measure distances on cosmic scales? This lecture describes the rungs in the cosmic distance ladder from measuring the AU in our own Solar System out into the Hubble expansion of the universe.
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These distances form the basis of the measurements that let us piece together the present, past, and future history of the expanding Universe, setting the stage for next week's lectures.