Book Excerpts
Thread for posting good short excerpts from books.
From "The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature" by CS Lewis.

Quote:The nearest we get to a widespread ‘philosophy of history’ in the Middle Ages is, as I have said, the frequent assertion that things were once better than they are now. As we read in Wulfstan’s sermon: ‘The world hurries on (is on ofste) . . . and speeds to its end . . . thus, for men’s sins it must worsen day by day.’ It was long ago, said Gower, that the world stood ‘in all his welthe’ (Prologue, 95). Love is not now as it was in Arthur’s time, said Chrétien in the opening lines of Yvain. Malory agreed (XVIII, 25). Yet I do not find that in reading either chronicle or romance we really get an impression of gloom. The emphasis usually falls on the past splendour rather than on the subsequent decline. Medieval and nineteenth-century man agreed that their present was no very admirable age; not to be compared (said one) with the glory that was, not to be compared (said the other) with the glory that is still to come. The odd thing is that the first view seems to have bred on the whole a more cheerful temper. Historically as well as cosmically, medieval man stood at the foot of a stairway; looking up, he felt delight. The backward, like the upward, glance exhilarated him with a majestic spectacle, and humility was rewarded with the pleasures of admiration. And, thanks to his deficiency in the sense of period, that packed and gorgeous past was far more immediate to him than the dark and bestial past could ever be to a Lecky or a Wells. It differed from the present only by being better. Hector was like any other knight, only braver. The saints looked down on one’s spiritual life, the kings, sages, and warriors on one’s secular life, the great lovers of old on one’s own amours, to foster, encourage, and instruct. There were friends, ancestors, patrons in every age. One had one’s place, however modest, in a great succession; one need be neither proud nor lonely.

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