The Noble Art Is Not So Noble

The signs of the degenerative disease that has struck the West are everywhere to be seen. They are indeed so numerous that, although they are in full view, they have become almost invisible. The symptoms of moral, cultural, and political decay have become part of the very air we breathe, prompting us to consider as normal what is patently abnormal and to grow oblivious to the climate of decline we now inhabit. Inflammatory issues are reported in the news—riots, jihadist attacks—but remain for the most part unrelated in the public mind to the vast tectonic shift taking place.

But if we pay attention, the indices of pervasive decadence across the board—the absence of intelligence, courage, common sense, ordinary decency, skill and competence—cannot be doubted. Whether it is encroaching statism, corrupt journalism, third-wave feminism, the academic betrayal of its educating mandate, the gender war against natural biology, escalating racial tensions, redistributive economics, judicial activism and faux “social justice” legislation, a reinvigorated anti-Semitism, the plague of political correctness, and the now-customary exaltation of feeling over thought—the writing is on the wall.

The writing is also on the page. In my own lifelong discipline, the craft of poetry, I have noticed, at any rate among English language poets, that the general quality of what was once regarded as the “noble art”—so defined by Sir Philip Sidney in his The Defence of Poesie and in the pseudonymous Letters of Junius—has deteriorated to the level of parochial inconsequence, much of it either fashionably obscure or portentously insignificant, or both.