Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Changing Times

Poul Anderson's Rogue Sword (New York, 1960) shows the fourteenth century as a time of change. Is every century?

Lucas, the hero of Rogue Sword, is a transitional figure and a modern man:

the illegitimate son of a Venetian father and a Cretan mother;
learned the handling of boats from his stepfather;
learned Greek and Latin from mother's uncle, a monk;
at eleven, thanks to his natural father's family, was apprenticed to a Venetian counting house;
learned half a dozen languages in the cosmopolitan Republic but left urgently because of an affair with his employer's wife;
became a knight's attendant;
travelled with a Venetian merchant to the Crimea, Bokhara and Samarkand;
was captured and imprisoned by the Genoese but escaped;
travelled with a Tartar merchant and spent time in Cathay;
homesick, returned to the West but no longer felt at home there;
familiar from childhood with Catholic-Orthodox conflict, was influenced by the Cathayan belief in many (or no) roads to God;
found no reasonable answer to the question of what God wanted of men;
valued Oriental hygiene and Cathayan police procedures that prevented the planting of evidence after an accusation had been made;
gains an ambiguous social standing -

" 'If you were clearly of gentle rank...you're no simple commoner who must be punished for assaulting a cavalier. Confound it, Lucas, you aren't anything! Neither in birth nor nation nor way of thinking. Does anyone alive understand you? Do you understand yourself?' " (p. 146)

Maybe he is an American?

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