Archive for February 23rd, 2009

February 23, 2009

Cyclical patterns in history (or, the mental incapacity of Geoffrey Chaucer)

Context: Fourteen year old characters in an Angela Brazil book (The Princess of the School, 1920) encounter Theocritus in translation.

“It’s exactly like anybody going out to-day!” commented Carmel, as Miss Adams came to a pause.

“Why does it seem so modern?” asked Dulcie.

“Because it was written during the zenith of Greece’s history, and one great civilization always resembles another. England of to-day is far more in touch with the times of ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome, than with the Middle Ages. Read Chaucer, and you find his mental outlook is that of a child of seven. In the days of the Plantagenets grown men and women enjoyed stories of a crude simplicity that now only[97] appeals to children. The human race is always progressing in great successive waves of civilization; after each wave breaks, a time of barbarism prevails, till man is again educated to a higher growth. We’re living at the top of a wave at present!”