Older & Wiser

Nostalgia Endures While Optimism Fades

In the fall of 1998, I was traveling with my family in Italy, doing work for my translation of Torquato Tasso’s epic centered on the first crusade, Jerusalem Delivered. I found a few pirated printings that Tasso had not authorized, along with early printings that came out before he had done with his revisions. Actually, the poor fellow never did have done with those. He was prone to fits of depression and madness, and from the last manifestation of the poem, Jerusalem Conquered, he had scrubbed out almost all traces of romance and charm, as too tempting for young souls.

I recall the time, though, because perhaps some of the poet’s madness had gotten into me. It was the time of the midterm elections, in Bill Clinton’s second term, and instead of the Republican wave I had expected, the Democrats surged; and I remember calling my sister back in the United States, frantic for information, as if the future of the world hung upon the result. Back then, too, I was the head of our state homeschooling organization, and I held out what I might have called hope, though it was really part hope and part optimism, that young Christians not poisoned by the schools would begin to change the whole tenor of our politics and what remained of American culture. John Paul  II was the head of my church, Joseph Ratzinger was the most intelligent and energetic protector of its deposit of faith, my children were young, I had just become my college’s youngest full professor ever; in other words, I was prone to an odd brew of youth and illusion, which I sometimes might mistake for hope, the theological virtue.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

Online
Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.


more on politics from the online archives

18.4—May 2005

The Absurd Reich

on the Politics of Demonic Nothingness by Gary Inbinder

14.2—March 2001

The God of Princes

on the Political Use of Religion by Wilfred M. McClay

32.2—March/April 2019

What Gives?

on Properly Rendering Things to Caesar & to God by Peter J. Leithart


more from the online archives

19.8—October 2006

The Best Fears of Our Lives

on the Good Father’s Quiet Desperation by Russell D. Moore

27.4—July/August 2014

The Things Freely Given

The Bible, Sacred Theology & the Mind of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon

33.2—March/April 2020

The Fairy Tale Wars

Lewis, Chesterton, et al. Against the Frauds, Experts & Revisionists by Vigen Guroian

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

00