INVENTING LOST WORLDS
The American tourists were visiting Rome for the first time and asked the owner of their pensione what to see. He urged them not to miss the Roman Forum. When they returned for lunch, they were quiet and grim mouthed. Finally, he asked them why, and the man burst out, "We never dreamed that you Italians were such chauvinists. We ask a polite question in good faith and you send us to some place we bombed during the war."
It is sometimes hard for the reader of the daily newspapers to remember that there are ruins not created by the 20th century. Among the ancient wrecks tourists visit is the doctus poeta, as the Romans called him, the scholar-poet; unlike the ruins he haunted, however, he really is a victim of this century. Virgil, Dante, Milton, and Tasso have no successors as the twentieth century draws to a close. Today's universities may provide refuge for a few poets and token "creative writers," but