Thursday, 18 December 2014
"...If The Saints is Left Us"
"'I would advise we pray to the saints, except I wonder if the saints is left us.'"
-Poul Anderson, Mirkheim (New York, 2011), p. 286.
Does he mean "...if the saints have left us" or "...if the saints are left to us"?
In both historical and futuristic fictions by Poul Anderson, many characters invoke a supernatural realm inhabited by gods or, in this case, saints. Such a realm is not always regarded as permanent. The Norse universe ends with the Ragnarok. The Olympians, the Three of Ys and Mithras withdraw before a new God.
Catholics believe that their Heaven is permanent although I remember an old woman interviewed on Irish television saying, "I suppose I'll go to Heaven..." but then adding resentfully, "...if there's any of Heaven left when I get there!" Great changes in the visible world make people imagine corresponding changes in the invisible realm. Van Rijn's civilization is changing and he wonders "...if the saints is left us." Most readers do not expect van Rijn's religion still to exist in an indefinite future.
Although I take issue with many of van Rijn's views, I accept his predictions about the direction of the corporate state in the Solar Commonwealth so I think that he is right to take the measures that he does before, hopefully, leading an expedition into unknown space.