Renaissance Roundtable: Is A Renaissance Possible Today?
In our age of accelerated technological progress, rapid mobility, and lightspeed communication, our world may appear more complex than one might imagine the age of, say, Dante, Homer, or Shakespeare. From the quick spread of new ideas and narratives to cutting-edge forms of behavioral science and modern propaganda, while civilization has experienced many new degrees of complexity, unleashing both good and bad changes, we believe that although the details are infinite the Truth remains simple.
Perhaps more than any other medium, poetry serves to remind us of the simple Truth, which however complex or advanced a society becomes, must still be rediscovered with each new generation. As Robert Frost famously said, “Poetry serves as a reminder of those things which it would impoverish us to forget.”
While our modern Brave New World may offer many novel distractions and titillating imitations capable of distracting us from “the real thing,” despite a seemingly endless web of complexity, we believe the Truth remains just as simple, mysterious and beautiful. Poetry is above all else a reminder of this simple Truth. Thus, poetic genius—which as Shelley observed is the root of all genius—may treat great arcs of complexity with a sublime simplicity or reveal the seemingly simple to be infinitely rich in its complexity. So, Shelley wrote in his “Defence of Poetry”:
Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar; it reproduces all that it represents, and the impersonations clothed in its Elysian light stand thenceforward in the minds of those who have once contemplated them, as memorials of that gentle and exalted content which extends itself over all thoughts and actions with which it coexists.
The best a Brave New World can do is attempt to draw us away from such deeper a deeper awareness. However, while the predicates may change, and time and place alter, mankind has no greater shortage of Shakespearean tragedies, compelling mysteries and beautiful paradoxes today than it did centuries ago. Indeed, the mysteries may only be getting clearer as mankind matures. And so, as T.S. Eliot famously wrote in his fourth and final quartet:
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.
Each new generation must learn what those before painstakingly struggled to birth and bring forward within the species. The Socratic midwives of the spiritual, artistic, and philosophical world are, therefore, no less necessary today than they were in the age of Classical Greece, Renaissance Italy, or Shakespearean England. In every age, they are those who make the mysteries of the world, God, and our own deeper selves the clear, visceral and inescapable realities that they are.
Awakening and cultivating our sensibilities through Beauty, poetry and great art thus serve as a “middle world,” a bridge between the heart and mind. Through great art, the intangibles of absolute Goodness, Truth, Justice and Wisdom become the immediate objects of our attention. Regardless of how infinite or distant they may appear, the great artist captures and distills them in new timeless forms.
Thus, New Lyre’s fourth issue features an extensive offering of original poetry by both new and seasoned voices, showcased through a wide range of themes and forms. These include an extensive selection of sonnets, a form which first came to full fruition in the days of Dante and Petrarch, and later reached new heights with Shakespeare.
Among our rich selection of original translations, we offer a number of Dante’s sublime canzoni. There, Dante carves out his vision of saintliness in extensive lyrical forms, which would later culminate in the Beatific vision of the Commedia. These singular lyrics offer one of the most unique and intimate glimpses into the mind that would go on to craft the greatest epic in Western literature.
As poet and composer Adam Sedia writes in our featured essay, “The Worlds Needs a Renaissance, Not an Enlightenment,” Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch invented what we know as the literature of the Italian vernacular. While ideas in Europe had remained for centuries in the language of the grammarians, Latin, a triumvirate of poets created a new literary vehicle by which they helped restore, preserve and advance the greatest traditions of classical civilization. They did so not by simplistically trying to recreate the past, but by breathing new life into it through new metaphors and stories. Through their works, these poet-sages captured not only the soul of a native people, but the very heart of mankind.
Finally, our issue concludes with a contemporary travel review of Florence by the American poet Daniel Leach. Mr. Leach recently had the opportunity to experience the magic of the city for himself. His review offers us a friendly first-hand reminder of how civilizations are created or reborn.
We therefore invite you gently to read, and kindly to judge, our journal.