It seems to me that the last several decades in America have been a weird echo of the decades in Europe around the coming of the nineteenth century—and that no figure can serve as a better guide to both wisdom and error than William Wordsworth, one of the greatest of the British Romantic poets and, in many ways, the very model of a modern neoconservative, defending the West’s liberal tradition against radicalism. My argument in brief is this. The French Revolution was the historical tragedy that recurred as farce in America’s 1960s. Cranky-cons like myself tend, when thinking of the Revolution, to skip right ahead to the bloody parts, like a 12-year-old watching Friday the 13th on DVD. But the French overthrow of what Wordsworth called “the meagre, stale, forbidding ways of custom, law and statute” provided young Europeans with the same sort of goose of utopian hope that the Age of Aquarius gave the young here. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” Wordsworth famously recalled in later years. “But to be young was very heaven!” What aging boomer boring his grandchildren with tales of Woodstock wouldn’t say much the same? The young and blissful Wordsworth had a good view of the action. . . .
Read the rest here: http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_3_wordsworth.html.