A commenter last week repeated a common charge against Russell Kirk, which is a common charge against half a dozen great Conservatives, beginning with Burke: that he was “more a poet than a philosopher,” that he was imaginative in his wording, that, in short, his verbal talent exceeded his philosophic. To answer this charge, I call on Mr. Kirk himself, proffering his summary of the Middle Age: “Two types of humanity were the wonder of mediaeval Europe: the great saint and the great knight. In later ages, their descendents would be the scholar and the gentlemen.” That magical and masterful literary summary appears in what I regard as his masterpiece: The Roots of American Order.
There, friends, is a gift for your recent graduate. For this book abounds in such philosophic poetry as that. A young man or woman who regards him- or herself as educated may graduate knowing little of the Middle Age (this is a condition common enough to be a mark against our institutions of learning): now he or she will knowing something at least, and a precious thing, the truth.
And of course there is a whole chapter on the Middle Ages to follow. So let us have done with this notion that men of letters cannot teach because they are more poet than philosopher.