THE GOLDEN AGE
Sleep and slothful beds and gluttonyPetrarch, Canzoniere book 1, no. 7.
have banished virtue from the world of men,
so that our nature, by such use undone,
is almost exiled from its proper way;
and every kindly light that from the sky
shapes human life so spent that anyone
who strives to bring new streams from Helicon
is pointed out as some strange prodigy.
Who cares for myrtle now, who for the bay?
'Naked and poor you walk, Philosophy',
the crowd, intent on wretched profit, cries.
You'll have few fellows on the other way;
thus all the more, O gentle soul, I pray,
abandon not your noble enterprise.
MOOR: I hate this age of scribblers, when I can pick up my Plutarch and read of great men.Schiller, The Robbers, scene 2.
SPIEGELBERG: Josephus is the man you should read.
MOOR: The bright spark of Promethean fire is burnt out. All we have now is a flash of witch-meal - stage lightning, not flame enough to light a pipe of tobacco. [...] An age of eunuchs, fit for nothing but chewing over the deeds of bygone days, mutilating the heroes of old with their learned interpretations and mocking them with their tragedies. The strength of their loins is dried up, and the dregs of a beer-barrel must help to propagate mankind.
Listen to Nestor. You are both younger than I,Nestor is speaking to Menelaus and none other than Achilles. Iliad, book 1.
and in my time I struck up with better men than you,
even you, but never once did they make light of me.
I've never seen such men, I never will again...
men like Pirithous, Dryas, that fine captain,
Caeneus and Exadius, and Polyphemus, royal prince,
and Theseus, Aegeus' boy, a match for the immortals.
They were the strongest mortals ever bred on earth [...]
None of the men who walk the earth these days
could battle with those fighters, none, but they,
they took to heart my counsels, marked my words.
Recently read for the book group: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Good, not great, but recommended nonetheless. Someone from the group summed it up as, "Ye cannae say that", which is terrifically accurate: it's basically about what happens when a government tries to tell people how or what to think, in this instance by making letters of the alphabet verboten. Perhaps surprisingly, it's a light, entertaining read, though that doesn't undermine its effectiveness as fable.