Helena on the course of modern politics

St. Helena with the True Cross , by Lucas Cranach the Elder

St. Helena with the True Cross, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

I'm currently reading Helena, Evelyn Waugh's novel of emperor Constantine's saintly mother, and the author's personal favorite among his many books. The story is a beautiful meditation on motherhood and religious faith, but Waugh has a number of jabs to throw at the modern world.

Here, in conversation with her power-mad son, Helena reflects on the dangers of power:

“Sometimes," Helena continued, "I have a terrible dream of the future. Not now, but presently, people may forget their loyalty to their kings and emperors and take power for themselves. Instead of letting one victim bear this frightful curse they will take it all on themselves, each one of them. Think of the misery of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.”

Power Without Grace would be an excellent title for a study of post-Enlightenment political thought.

I've just discovered Waugh in the past year, when I read Sword of Honor. I'm digging fervently into his work, and Helena is wonderful so far. Check it out.