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Click for excerpt from book

Click for excerpt from Shepherd

THE READER INTERESTED in a summary of the book’s plot is invited to review the back cover, to the left; the reader curious to see more precisely what the book contains is requested to seek out an excerpt, by clicking instead on the front cover. Neither the one nor the other will be repeated here; I should rather prefer to make a note on the conditions of thought and spirit which induced the author to pen this most unmodern book.

A CERTAIN DETACHMENT from “civilization,” only to find that no matter where one goes nowadays, “civilization” follows; a certain disgust with technology, its absurd pretensions to make life easier and simpler, shepherdbookspinesmallits awful ubiquity, and the gross complacency with which its alterations on our lives are everywhere merely accepted; a certain dangerous idealization of the past and the way of life of the past—all of this gave birth in the author to Sammos Vixài, that noble remnant of a passing day, who finds himself standing at the end of his family’s generations, gazing for the first time with open eyes into the abyss of the future.
     Modernity is a great problem. It is so, above all, because it is supra-national. All past epochs were delimited geographically as well as temporally. We speak of the Italian Renaissance, the Victorian period in England, the reign of the Sun King in France. Those who lived in these epochs had but to leave their nation to leave their “time” as well. Not for nothing did so many American and European families of wealth and rank think fit to send their sons and daughters on tour of Europe: by this means, they not unreasonably believed, they would open the eyes of the new generation to the virtues and limitations of their own times. Travel, in the past, was an integral part of moral education.
    But Modernity founds itself on an ecumenical democratic humanitarianism—which has taken hold of the entire Western landscape—and on science and science’s technology—which are fundamentally universal, nationless, and catholic. Hence a startling consequence: almost anywhere one goes today, in all the world, and surely in all the West, one remains in Modernity.
     The modern situation thus makes any kind of super-historical perspective (which even in the most favorable of times are rare and difficult) that much more difficult today. It is a leveling power unlike any ever dreamed, this Modernity—a leveling power that invests in the flattest parts of human society a horrific gravity, capable of bringing even great mountains to rubble, and dropping many an Icarus from the sky.
     Some, sensing this state of affairs, have sought escape from Modernity, attempting to step beyond it either by fleeing to the wilds or by delving into the lives and ways of primitive peoples. But these two routes, for all that they might be beautiful or full of interest, are barren of consequences so far as any critique of Modernity is concerned: the first, because nature-going submerges one into the very world that Modernity bends itself to master at all costs, so that it is difficult any longer even to look upon Nature genuinely, without first in some way counteracting the effects of Modernity in one’s soul; and the second, because the conclusions that may be drawn from primitive cultures, fascinating though these often be, are too radically foreign to the mindset and worldview of the West to be of any moral value to it. A third way had to be devised—I was forced to invent another road
     Rather say: I discovered it, there glowing in the lapping waves of the Mediterranean. I came upon it whilst I drifted rudderless, as though in a circumnavigator’s dream, and, having found it, could do no less than dedicate some portion of my life to it, as any good explorer would do, intent if need be even to die on that distant soil, as if I myself were blood of its blood. And I have been privileged there to meet Sammos Vixài roving his hills, and Faéréa Lútrarì turning her back upon them, and the young poet Áthelles Vixài, whose English verse has furnished me the lines that ornament the portal to this journal—and many more souls, as well, some small and some splendid, some wretched and some loathsome, others beautiful with strange beauty, and noble as nothing today is noble—yes, many more souls, and many that I have yet to sing. For I swear, there is more to be extracted from Ipiphantur, than mere critique
     Ipiphantur has become my home, and any who would like to visit it, even if only to look back for a brief hour on their own ways and lands from its gleaming shores, will find perhaps good introduction to the Blessed Isle here, in my book Shepherd, this modest tale of a pastor’s parlous way, and that simpler, often darker, but often also much brighter life which our Modernity is even now supplanting, and yet which stands still as a reproach to our glittering, gilded contemporary ways—