Sunday, January 15, 2006

Veni Vidi Ambiguity

Steve Burt (who should, as of yesterday, be a new father), writes in with regard to my Robert Hass post made about Robert Lowell calling for a "return to Rome":

Aren't you being a bit unfair to Lowell? He "advocated a return to Rome" in the sense that in the 1940s he was a Roman Catholic, but I think you mean his Juvenal adaptations and other pseudo-neo-Latin work from the Sixties, especially Near the Ocean -- & the point of that work was not that we should become more like ancient Rome, but that we (the US) were too much like Rome and didn't know it, that if we all knew more Roman history and literature we wouldn't be repeating Rome's dreadful mistakes,

in small war after small
war, to police the earth, a ghost
orbiting forever lost
in his monotonous sublime.

(He was right, too!)

You know, I think I let the fact that three of my degrees are from Notre Dame blind me to the fact that "returning to Rome" can mean different things to different people. I was thinking about Lowell's turn to Catholocism in the 40s -- a longing for a more hierarchical/theologically clear religion, in contradistinction to the world of Hass, with its "flexidoxy" in religion.