The Book of Merlyn (The Once and Future King #5)

But they woke him with words, their cruel bright weapons.

Grown-ups have developed an unpleasant habit of comforting themselves for their degradation by pretending that children are childish.

Guenever never cared for God. She was a good theologian, but that was all. The truth was that she was old and wise: she knew that Lancelot did care for God most passionately, that it was essential he should turn in that direction. So, for his sake, to make it easier for him, the great queen now renounced what she had fought for all her life, now set the example, and stood to her choice. She had stepped out of the picture.

Lancelot guessed a good deal of this, and, when she refused to see him, he climbed the convent wall with Gallic, ageing gallantry. He waylaid her to expostulate, but she was adamant and brave. Something about Mordred seems to have broken her lust for life. They parted, never to meet on earth.

he began to see why Merlyn had always clowned on purpose. It had been a means of helping people to learn in a happy way.

He caught a glimpse of that extraordinary faculty in man, that strange, altruistic, rare, and obstinate decency which will make writers or scientists maintain their truths at the risk of death. Eppur si muove, Galileo was to say; it moves all the same. They were to be in a position to burn him if he would go on with it, with his preposterous nonsense about the earth moving round the sun, but he was to continue with the sublime assertion because there was something which he valued more than himself. The Truth. To recognize and to acknowledge What Is. That was the thing which man could do, which his English could do, his beloved, his sleeping, his now defenceless English. They might be stupid, ferocious, unpolitical, almost hopeless. But here and there, oh so seldome, oh so rare, oh so glorious, there were those all the same who would face the rack, the executioner, and even utter extinction, in the cause of something greater than themselves. Truth, that strange thing, the jest of Pilate's. Many stupid young men had thought they were dying for it, and many would continue to die for it, perhaps for a thousand years. They did not have to be right about their truth, as Galileo was to be. It was enough that they, the few and martyred, should establish a greatness, a thing above the sum of all they ignorantly had.

I am an anarchist, like any other sensible person.
~ Merlyn

I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

In the course of a long experience of the human race, I have learned that you can never make them understand anything, unless you rub it in.

I see what you think you mean," said the magician, "but you are wrong. There is no excuse for war, none whatever, and whatever wrong which your nation might be doing to mine-short of war-my nation would be in the wrong if I started a war so as to redress it. A murderer, for instance, is not allowed to plead that his victim was rich and oppresing hhim, so why should a nation be allowed to? Wrongs have to be redressed by reason, not force.

It is a pity that there are no big creatures to prey on humanity. If there were enough dragons and rocs, perhaps mankind would turn its might against them. Unfortunately man is preyed upon by microbes, which are too small to be appreciated.

Neither force, nor argument, nor opinion,” said Merlyn with the deepest sincerity, “are thinking. Argument is only a display of mental force, a sort of fencing with points in order to gain a victory, not for truth. Opinions are the blind alleys of lazy or of stupid men, who are unable to think.

Neither force, nor argument, nor opinion," said Merlyn with the deepest sincerity, "are thinking. Argument is only a display of mental force, a sort of fencing with points in order to gain a victory, not for truth. Opinions are the blind alleys of lazy or of stupid men, who are unable to think. If ever a true politician really thinks a subject out dispassionately, even Homo stultus will be compelled to accept his findings in the end. Opinion can never stand beside truth. At present, however, Homo impoliticus is content either to argue with opinions or to fight with his fists, instead of waiting for the truth in his head. It will take a million years, before the mass of men can be called political animals.

Nobody can be saved from anything, unless they save themselves.

One more try,' he asked, 'We are not quite done.' 'What is the use of trying?' 'It is a thing which people do.

People are dupes, and wicked too. That is what makes it interesting to get them better.

To disbelieve in original sin, does not mean that you must believe in original virtue. It only means that you must not believe that people are utterly wicked.

We find that at present the human race is divided into one wise man, nine knaves, and ninety fools out of every hundred. That is, by an optimistic observer. The nine knaves assemble themselves under the banner of the most knavish among them, and become 'politicians'; the wise man stands out, because he knows himself to be hopelessly outnumbered, and devotes himself to poetry, mathematics, or philosophy; while the ninety fools plod off under the banners of the nine villains, according to fancy, into the labyrinths of chicanery, malice and warfare. It is pleasant to have command, observes Sancho Panza, even over a flock of sheep, and that is why the politicians raise their banners. It is, moreover, the same thing for the sheep whatever the banner. If it is democracy, then the nine knaves will become members of parliament; if fascism, they will become party leaders; if communism, commissars. Nothing will be different, except the name. The fools will be still fools, the knaves still leaders, the results still exploitation. As for the wise man, his lot will be much the same under any ideology. Under democracy he will be encouraged to starve to death in a garret, under fascism he will be put in a concentration camp, under communism he will be liquidated.