shamanism and totemistic disguises.nNikolai Tolstoy’s Merlin, like Geoffreynof Monmouth’s, is an inventionnbased upon a few hints, and it suffersnfrom the lack of resistance that suchnamorphous material offers to the imagination.nAt its best it is a good read, fullnof curious, startling, misleading, sometimesntitillating matter. Its style is bestndescribed as high pastiche, with echoesnof Ossian, of Waverley, of Lady CharlottenGuest’s Mabinogion, of RobertnGraves and other more popular writers.nNew Agers will enjoy Merlin’s Gnosticndualism and fatalism, his ecumenicalnand comparative mythology, his transmigrations,nshamanism, and numerology—nand his prose will notnbother them. Many other readers willnfind it a disturbing book, an essay innrevisionism with little or no relationshipnto real history, which it remakesnunder the weight of some modernn28/CHRONICLESnLIBERAL ARTSnBLOODLESS ABSTRACTIONSnBut modern liberalism does not offernordinary men compelling motives fornpersonal suffering, sacrifice and death.nThere is no tragic dimension in itsnpicture of the good life. Men becomenwilling to endure, sacrifice and die fornGod, family, king, honor, country, fromna sense of absolute duty or an exaltednvision of the meaning of history. It isnsuch traditional ideals and the institutionsnslowly built around them that are innpresent fact the great bulwarks, spiritualnas well as social, against the tidal advancenof the wodd communist enterprise. Andnit is precisely these ideals and institutionsnthat liberalism has criticized, attackednand in part overthrown as superstitious,narchaic, reactionary and irrational. Inntheir place liberalism proposes a set ofnpale, and bloodless abstractions—palenand bloodless for the very reason thatnthey have no roots in the past, in deepnfeeling and in suffering. Except for mercenaries,nsaints and neurotics, no one isnwilling to sacrifice and die for progressiveneducation, medicare, humanity in thenabstract, the United Nations and a tennpercent rise in Social Security payments.n—from The Suicide of the West bynJames Burnhamnpreoccupations.nConsider the role of Beowulf, thenonly surviving hero of the epic poetrynof the Old English people. His poet,nwho knew something of Vergil and thenBible, portrayed him as a good, brave,ngenerous man, an asserter of ordernagainst evil and death. He is a father tonhis people, who in old age goes out tonhis last fight in their defense. Beowulfnis one of the first works of EnglishnChristian humanism, possibly firstncomposed in Northumbria as early asnthe age of Bede and the LindisfarnenGospels. The poem is unique testimonynto a people, its hero a forerunner ofnthe chivalry to come.nTolstoy’s Beowulf, on the contrary,nis a bestial Goliath, killed in a rampagenof bloodlust, his mail-coat “encrustednwith broken flesh and running gore,”nand his nails and jaws dripping blood.nLike so much else in the book, that isnnnpure, or impure, invention, and itnseems a pointless revision of a characternthat has survived a thousand yearsnof violence and change. It also givesnthe lie to one of the few evidences wenhave of the mentality of that age.nAdmittedly Beowulf is a poem, andnso a fiction; but so are the sources ofnMeriin, and so are all our myths, byndefinifion. It is a question of the valuenof our ficfions, and of the beliefs theyncarry. Did Vergil prophesy the comingnof Christ? Did Constantine give thensuccession of the Western empire tonthe Church? Did Arthur and his companionsnpreserve an idea of civil andnimperial order in the anarchy that followednthe fall of Rome? The revisionistnanswers no, and goes on to researchnand imagine real Vergils, real Constantines,nand real Arthurs. Vergil, he says,nwas a clever poet who lined his pocketsnby flattering the most important mannhe knew. Constantine was a soldierpoliticiannwho used a new religion fornhis own ends. Arthur, if he existed atnall, was a British chieftain who fought anbriefly successful rear-guard actionnagainst the Saxon invaders, and nondoubt suffered from fleas.nThe trouble with this attitude is thatnwithout the prophetic Vergil therenwould be no Chrisfian humanist poetrynas we know it. The Donation of Constantinenmay be a forgery, but withoutnthe idea of it there would be no Europenof the many parishes and the greatncathedrals, nor, to come a litfle closernto our English-speaking place of origin,nwould Gregory the Great havensent Augustine and his 40 companionsnto restore the lost province of Britain tonthe Church. Without Arthur and hisnround table, the history and the socialnforms of Western Europe, especially ofnBritain and France, would be quitendifferent from those we know. Then”real” Vergil, Constantine, and Arthurnare phantasms of the modern imagination,nand they are quite unimportant.nVergil of the prophecy, Constantine ofnthe gift, and Arthur of the round tablenare the historical reality of the Europenwe all know. They are the myths wenthink we have lost, and they are here, atnhome, on our own bookshelves. AndnMerlin and Beowulf are with them.nF.W. Brownlow is a professor ofnEnglish at Mount Holyoke innMassachusetts.n