I think I have a disease. It’s called, if I’m not mistaken, nostalgia. You know, that homesickness originally ascribed to Swiss merchants plying their wares in the lowlands of France? In a lesser form, this sickness is the over-merchandized appeal of the golden age transferred from the shining future of idealists to the glimmering past age of the cynic—i.e., Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae.
Either way, perhaps, the view that the Golden Age is somewhere distant from the now is as dangerous as longing for some philosophically abstract perfection. The Platonic Theory of Forms, for example, holding that there is an abstraction called ‘form’ that is the true reality. It is unreachable and unknowable, but it is there. We can not approach this blazing world of perfect forms, and only create mere mimics.
When hearing this argument about the abstract perfect world, I often wonder what person can conceive the perfect form. I attempt to reject the idea, arguing internally that there is no way to conceive of this perfect form, that there is not this golden double of this world. In as much honesty as I can conjure, the whole argument Theory of Forms confuses and angers me. I’ve written this paragraph out several times in attempt to explain my disdain; I still feel my explanation is weak at best.
But, despite my emotional rejection of the idea of the golden double of this world, I find myself stricken with that disease—nostalgia. My daydreams and phantasms take on the hazy quality of a Norman Rockwell poster, and all too often I find myself contemplating a Levittown of desire, or a Puritanical Country House where one is barely seen, and hardly heard between winding passages and suppers lit carefully by Dutch masters. The poet I, surely the worst symptom of the disease, drifts towards a pastoral greenery filled with lilacs pushing scented smells against upstate Appalachian barnyards, and sighs for stick-twined poles casting twine lines down into the crick or an ice cream social with the plainest lovely of the gilded age.
That’s when I, either poet-I or another eye, turn to some green poetry for advice. And yet whatever song I read cuts like a knife to the grass. Consider Marvell’s Mower poems, for example. “Luxurious man, to bring his vice in use,” the Mower Damon rages, “did after him the world seduce…” this same mower, who thought joyous in song with nature, with the glowworms that light his meeting, can never be with his dream. His Juliana is always in a state of just coming or just going, always stinging, always cutting. There is no peace for the idyll. Despite the scenic beauty backing the piece, there seems only to be one...