Why progress fails: Poem

There are those who say that we must move forward. That the past is behind us, and those who look back are fools. There is a truth there: there is not one thing we can do about the past. It is fixed. What we do in the present does drive the future. But there is an untruth. The past may have been more human, because the past let God into civil conversation.

I have a soft spot for those who are prepared to start an argument with negation. Lewis is correct about his use of Vulgar: the error is common, and it is a sign of the less learned. The issue he implied is that the common error he discusses happens too often in the senior common room, and in parliament.

On a Vulgar Error

No. It’s an impudent falsehood. Men did not
Invariably think the newer way Prosaic
mad, inelegant, or what not.

Was the first pointed arch esteemed a blot
Upon the church? Did anybody say How
modern and how ugly? They did not.

Plate-armour, or windows glazed, or verse fire-hot
With rhymes from France, or spices from Cathay,
Were these at first a horror? They were not.

If, then, our present arts, laws, houses, food
All set us hankering after yesterday,
Need this be only an archaising mood?

Why, any man whose purse has been let blood
By sharpers, when he finds all drained away
Must compare how he stands with how he stood.

If a quack doctor’s breezy ineptitude
Has cost me a leg, must I forget straightway
All that I can’t do now, all that I could?

So, when our guides unanimously decry
The backward glance, I think we can guess why.

C. S. Lewis