Why could Tolkien not be more like Sir Thomas Malory, asked [Edwin] Muir, in the third Observer review of those cited above, and give us heroes and heroines like Lancelot and Guinevere, who ' knew temptation, were sometimes unfaithful to their vows, ' were engagingly marked by adulterous passion? But T.H. White had already considered that paradigm, was indeed rewriting it at the same time as Tolkien in The Once and Future King; and he had seen the core of Malory's work not in romantic vice but in the human urge to murder. In White the poisonous adder that provokes the last disastrous battle is no adder but a harmless grass-snake, and the flash of the sword which brings on the two armies is not natural self-defense but natural blood-lust, creating a continuum from cruelty to animals to world wars and holocausts. Malory has to be rewritten to encompass a new view of evil.
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I wish, my dear Kepler, that we could have a good laugh together at the extraordinary stupidity of the mob. What do you think of the foremost philosophers of this University? In spite of my oft-repeated efforts and invitations, they have refused, with the obstinacy of a glutted adder, to look at the planets or the Moon or my glass [telescope].
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No language can fitly express the meanness, the baseness, the brutality, with which the world has ever treated its victims of one age and boasts of the next. Dante is worshipped at that grave to which he was hurried by persecution. Milton, in his own day, was "Mr. Milton, the blind adder, that spit his venom on the king's person"; and soon after, "the mighty orb of song." These absurd transitions from hatred to apotheosis, this recognition just at the moment when it becomes a mockery, saddens all intellectual history.
Edwin Percy Whipple
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The young mouse's eyes snapped open, clear and bright. He swung the ancient sword high and struck at the giant adder. He struck for Redwall! He struck against evil! He struck for Martin! He struck for Log-a-Log and his shrews! He struck for dead Guosim! He struck as Methuselah would have wanted him to! He struck against Cluny the Scourge and tyranny! He struck out against Captain Snow's ridicule! He struck for the world of light and freedom! He struck until his paws ached and the sword fell from them!
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You must realize... that the men of the Valley have built their houses and brought up their families without help from others, without a word from the Government. Their lives have been ordered from birth by the Bible. From it they took their instructions. They had no other guidance, and no other law. If it has produced hypocrites and pharisees, the fault is in the human race. We are not all angels. Our fathers upheld good conduct and rightful dealing by strictness, but it is in Man Adam to be slippery, and many are as slimy as the adder. The wonder is to me that the men of the Valley are as they are, and not barbarians at all.I was sorry for Meillyn Lewis, too. But that session of the deacons was helpful as a preventative. It was cruel, but it is more cruel to allow misconduct to flourish without check.
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She gathered a circle of children around her and commenced singing 'For Those Who Peril on the Sea' over their little heads. But no, 'safety from storms' wasn't enough for her. God had to keep them from being blown up too. She set about ordering the poor things to pray for their parents every night- who knew what the German soldiers might do to them? Then she said to be especially good little boys and girls so Mama and Daddy could look down on them from heaven and BE PROUD OF THEM... she had those children crying and sobbing fit to die. I was too shocked to move, but no, not Elizabeth. No, quick as an adder's tongue, she had ahold of Adelaide's arm and told her to SHUT UP. 'Let me go!' Adelaide cried. 'I am speaking the Word of God!' Elizabeth, she got a look on her that would turn the devil to stone, and then she slapped Adelaide right across the face!
Mary Ann Shaffer
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From p. 40 of Signet Edition of Thomas Wolfe's _You Can't Go Home Again_ (1940): Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen. The voice of forest water in the night, a woman's laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children's voices in bright air-these things will never change. The glitter of sunlight on roughened water, the glory of the stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbors, the feathery blur and smoky buddings of young boughs, and something there that comes and goes and never can be captured, the thorn of spring, the sharp and tongueless cry-these things will always be the same. All things belonging to the earth will never change-the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of lovers long since buried in the earth-all things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all things that lapse and change and come again upon the earth-these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever. The tarantula, the adder, and the asp will also never change. Pain and death will always be the same. But under the pavements trembling like a pulse, under the buildings trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the beast above the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a flower, something bursting from the earth again, forever deathless, faithful, coming into life again like April.
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