As he often did. From That Hideous Strength, Merlin and Ransom discussing the state of affairs:
“This Saxon king of yours who sits at Windsor, now–is there no help in him?”
“He has no power in this matter.”
“Then is he not weak enough to be overthrown?”
“I have no wish to overthrow him. He is the king. He was crowned and anointed by the Archbishop. In the order of Logres I may be Pendragon, but in the order of Britain I am the King’s man.”
“Is it, then, his great men–the counts and legates and bishops–who do the evil and he does not know of it?”
“It is–though they are not exactly the sort of great men you have in mind.”
“And are we not big enough to meet them in plain battle?”
“We are four men, some women, and a bear.”
“I saw the time when Logres was only myself and one man and two boys, and one of those was a churl. Yet we conquered.”
“It could not be done now. They have an engine called the Press whereby the people are deceived. We should die without even being heard of.”
“But what of the true clerks? Is there no help in them? It cannot be that all your priests and bishops are corrupted.”
“The Faith itself is torn in pieces since your day and speaks with a divided voice. Even if it were made whole, the Christians are but a tenth part of the people. There is no help there.”
“Then let us seek help from over sea. Is there no Christian prince in Neustria or Ireland or Benwick who would come in and cleanse Britain if he were called?”
“There is no Christian prince left. These other countries are even as Britain, or else sunk deeper still in the disease.”
“Then we must go higher. We must go to him whose office it is to put down tyrants and give life to dying kingdoms. We must call on the Emperor.”
“There is no Emperor.”
“No Emperor . . .” began Merlin, and then his voice died away. He sat still for some minutes wrestling with a world which he had never envisaged. Presently he said, “A thought comes into my mind and I do not know whether it is good or evil. But because I am the High Council of Logres I will not hide it from you. This is a cold age in which I have awaked. If all this west part of the world is apostate, might it not be lawful, in our great need, to look further . . . beyond Christendom? Should we not find some even among the heathen who are not wholly corrupt? There were tales in my day of some such: men who knew not the articles of our most holy Faith but who worshipped God as they could and acknowledged the Law of Nature. Sir, I believe it would be lawful to seek help even there–beyond Byzantium. It was rumoured also that there was knowledge in those lands–an Eastern circle and wisdom that came West from Numinor. I know not where–Babylon, Arabia, or Cathay. You said your ships had sailed all round the earth, above and beneath.”
Ransom shook his head. “You do not understand,” he said. “The poison was brewed in these West lands but it has spat itself everywhere by now. However far you went you would find the machines, the crowded cities, the empty thrones, the false writings, the barren beds: men maddened with false promises and soured with true miseries, worshipping the iron works of their own hands, cut off from Earth their mother and from the Father in Heaven. You might go East so far that East became West and you returned to Britain across the great Ocean, but even so you would not have come out anywhere into the light. The shadow of one dark wing is over all Tellus.”
“Is it, then, the end?” asked Merlin.
I don’t think it’s the end yet, for whatever my opinion is worth (hint: not much). But a sense of dread grows, one I never before felt even as a small child when we worried seriously about getting nuked.
The solution? A walk in the California sunshine, and maybe some fresh home-grown cucumbers. That ought to do it for me, for now. As for the problems on a larger scale, those are in the hands of the Oyéresu, thanks be to Maleldil. We don’t have to figure out how to win, we just have to do the best we can in the face of the ever more strident and diabolical requirement that we get in line. This fate is glorious in the infinite and divine sense – in this world, there will be only shame and destruction in standing firm. But a servant is not superior to his Master.