C.S. Lewis wrote an introduction to the Arthurian poetry of his Inklings
friend Charles Williams, titled Williams and the Arthuriad
. It appears in one volume with Williams' two poetry collections; you can find it
on Amazon.com. It was published by Wm B. Eerdmans in 1974.
Here is an extended quote in which Lewis comments on the figure of Palomides, a Saracen knight who comes to Logres to find out the Christian secret. In a surprisingly effective way, he manages to hit many topics of interest today: Islam, moralism vs. Christianity, and the resurgent-Gnostic "spirituality" that deprecates the material aspects of God's world.
Since this quote is extended, I will only use blockquote tagging where Lewis uses it (to quote Williams). Enjoy! --Joe
Palomides the Saracen Knight, the unsuccessful lover of Iseult, comes out of Mohammedan Spain ‘through the green-pennon-skirted Pyrenees’ and the ‘cross-littered land of Gaul’ to Cornwall and the house of King Mark. The anachronism whereby Islam is made contemporary with Arthur is deliberate: Islam was for Williams the symbol (as it is certainly the greatest historical expression) of something which is eternally the opposite of Sarras and Carbonek. Islam denies the Incarnation. It will not allow that God has descended into flesh or that Manhood has been exalted into Deity. It is
the sharp curved line of the Prophet’s blade
that cuts the Obedience from the Obeyed.
It stands for all religions that are afraid of matter and afraid of mystery, for all misplaced reverences and misplaced purities that repudiate the body and shrink back from the glowing materialism of the Grail. It stands for what Williams called ‘heavy morality’—the ethics of sheer duty and obedience as against the shy yet (in the long run) shameless acceptance of heaven’s courtesies flowing form the ‘homely and courteous lord’. It is strong, noble, venerable; yet radically mistaken. It had nibbled at Christianity almost form the beginning in the swarm of heresies which denied the full doctrine of Incarnation. That is the point of the Prelude to The Region of the Summer Stars. St. Paul preached ‘the golden Ambiguity’—the irony beyond all ironies which the manger in the Bethlehem stable presents, the ‘physiological glory’. But the ‘ancient intellect’ shrank back from the new doctrine,
The converted doctors turned to their former confessions,
the limitary heresiarchs feared the indiscretions of matter…
Professing only a moral union they fled
from the new-spread bounty.
The Prelude to Taliessin Through Logres is also concerned with this conflict between the ‘ambiguity’ of Incarnation and the heavy lucidity of mere Monotheism. On the historical level it is a fact that ‘the Moslem stormed Byzantium’. On the spiritual level huge areas of the world fell back from the subtler and more ‘scandalous’ Faith—and fall back daily in the sub-Christian doctrines of Christ’s person which are dear to the modern world. This is not the defeat of truth by simple error or of good by simple evil: it is the loss of living, paradoxical truths (for mere Monotheism blinds and stifles the mind like noonday sun in the Arabian deserts till we may well ‘call on the hills to hide us’). It is the defeat of fine and tender and even frolic delicacies of goodness by iron legalism, the ‘fallacy of rational virtue’. Islam is true so far as it affirms: we must rejoice that it conquered the old Dualism of Persia. But it affirms unity in such a way that ‘union is breached’; and then, however truly and with whatever grandeur the muezzin cried ‘Good is God’,
Lost is the light on the hills of Caucasia,
glory of the Emperor, glory of substantial being.