Thursday, July 09, 2009

What it takes to make men and boys flourish

Finding the Masculine Genius - Interview With English Professor Anthony Esolen

Q: From your study of ancient and medieval works, such as Dante, what remedies could be applied to the many relational ills that plague society, such as high divorce rates, low birthrates and high numbers of children born out of wedlock?

Esolen: A good question. People can learn from both the Catholic and the Protestant literature of the past an appreciation for the wonder of the body, and of the virtue of chaste love.

They can learn from Dante that the love of man and woman is a glorious motif in the symphony of love fashioned by him who moves the sun and the other stars.

From Torquato Tasso and Edmund Spenser they can learn that the typical sin against love, occasioned by unchastity, does not so much stoke the flame of desire as it dampens it, making both the heart and the mind feeble, ineffectual.

From Spenser they can learn that marriage is not a private matter -- one of our greatest and silliest errors -- but a deeply social bond that unites those two fascinatingly different sorts of creatures, man and woman, in such a way as to link them to the families who have gone before them and to the families that will be born from their love.
Maybe the most important thing they (the old poets) teach, though, is the delightfulness of the good: the lovely and modest woman -- Miranda in Shakespeare's "Tempest" -- and the brave and gentle young man -- Florizel in Shakespeare's "Winter's Tale."

Our children's imaginations now are a war zone, or what is left of fields and hills after the bombs have blasted them and the poison gas has infested them for 15 years.

Even fairy tales, those deeply Christian and incarnational folk parables of the West have been poisoned by feminist revisers.

So I guess I am saying that we will cure none of those ills, not one, unless we rediscover the virtue of purity, and we will not rediscover that virtue unless our imaginations are engaged by its beauty, and that from our childhoods.

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