Like a Solid Thing

Here’s another favorite passage from That Hideous Strength.  A few good characters are searching for the historical Merlin, come back from the dead.  One of them, Dimble, a scholar, is more aware of their danger than the others, and is reflecting on the significance of the person they are about to meet.  Its a great description of the medieval world:

Out here, with only the changing red light ahead and the black all round, one really began to accept as fact this tryst with something dead and yet not dead, something dug up, exhumed, from that dark pit of history which lies between the ancient Romans and the beginning of the English. “The Dark Ages” thought Dimble; how lightly one had read and written those words. But now they were going to step right into that Darkness. It was an age, not a man, that awaited them in the horrible little dingle.

And suddenly all that Britain which had been so long familiar to him as a scholar rose up like a solid thing. He could see it all. Little dwindling cities where the light of Rome still rested – little Christian sites, Camalodunum, Kaerleon, Glastonbury – a church, a villa or two, a huddle of houses, an earthwork. And then, beginning scarcely a stone’s-throw beyond the gates, the wet tangled, endless woods, silted with the accumulated decay of autumns that had been dropping leaves since before Britain was an island; wolves slinking, beavers building, wide shallow marshes, dim horns and drummings, eyes in the thickets, eyes of men not only Pre-Roman but Pre-British, ancient creatures, unhappy and dispossessed, who became the elves and ogres and wood-wooses of the later tradition. But worse than the forests, the clearings. Little strongholds with unheard-of kings. Little colleges and covines of Druids. Houses whose mortar had been ritually mixed with babies’ blood. They had tried to do that to Merlin. And now all that age, horribly dislocated, wrenched out of its place in the time series and forced to come back and go through all its motions yet again with doubled monstrosity, was flowing towards them and would, in a few minutes, receive them into itself.

Share this post


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *