The Origins and Destiny of Imperial Britain - Nineteenth Century Europe
by J. A. Cramb
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In the historical and speculative literature of Hellas and Rome war occupies a position essentially identical with that which it occupies in the Hebrew. It is the assertion of right by violence, or it is the pursuit of a fate-appointed end. Aristotle, with his inveterate habit of subjecting all things—art, statesmanship, poetry—to ethics, regards war as a valuable discipline to the State, a protection against the enervating influence of peace. As the life of the individual is divided between business and leisure, so, according to Aristotle, the life of the State is divided between war and peace. But to greatness in peace, greatness in war is a primal condition. The State which cannot quit itself greatly in war will achieve nothing great in peace. "The slave," he bitterly remarks, "knows no leisure, and the State which sets peace above war is in the condition of a slave." Aristotle does not mean that the slave is perpetually at work, or that war is the sole duty of a great State, but as the soul destined to slavery is incapable even in leisure of the contemplations of the soul destined to freedom, so to the nation which shrinks from war the greatness that belongs to peace can never come. Courage, Plato defines as "the knowledge of the things that a man should fear and that he should not fear," and in a state, a city, or an empire courage consists in the unfaltering pursuit of its being's end against all odds, when once that end is manifest. This ideal element, this formative principle, underlies the Hellenic conception of war throughout its history, from its first glorification in Achilles to the last combats of the Achaean League—from the divine beauty of the youthful Achilles, dazzling as the lightning and like the lightning pitiless, yet redeemed to pathos by the certainty of the quick doom that awaits him, on to the last bright forms which fall at Leuctra, Mantinea, and Ipsus. It requires a steadfast gaze not to turn aside revolted from the destroying fury of Greeks against Greeks—Athens, Thebes, Sparta, Corinth, and Macedon—and yet even their claim to live, their greatness, did in this consist, that for so light yet so immortal a cause they were content to resign the sweet air and the sight of the sun, and of this wondrous fabric of a world in which their presence, theirs, the children of Hellas, was the divinest wonder of all.

Of the grandeur and elevation which Rome imparted to war and to man's nature it is superfluous to speak. As in statesmanship, so in war, he who would greatly praise another describes his excellence as Roman, and thinks that all is said. The silver eagle which Caius Marius gave as an ensign to the legions is for once in history the fit emblem of the race that bore it to victory and world-dominion. History by fate or chance added a touch of the supernatural to the action of Marius. The silver eagle announced the empire of the Caesars; the substitution of the Labarum by Constantine heralded its decline. With the emblem of humiliation and peace, the might of Rome sinks, yet throughout the centuries that follow, returns of galvanic life, recollections of its ancient valour—as in Stilicho, Belisarius, Heraclius, and Zimisces[4]—bear far into the Middle Age the dread name of the Roman legion, though the circuit of the eagle's flight, once wide as the ambient air, is then narrowed to a league or two on either side of the Bosphorus.


To push the survey further would but add to the instances, without deepening the impression, of the measureless power of the ideal element in war, alike in the history of the great races of the past and of the present. Even the wars which seem most arbitrary and, to the judgment of their contemporaries, purposeless, acquire, upon a deeper scrutiny and in after ages, a profound enough significance. Behind the immediate occasion, trivial or capricious, sordid or grandiose, the destiny of the race, like the Nemesis of Greek Tragedy, advancing relentlessly, pursuing its own far-off and lofty ends, constantly reveals itself.

War, therefore, I would define as a phase in the life-effort of the State towards completer self-realization, a phase of the eternal nisus, the perpetual omnipresent strife of all being towards self-fulfilment. Destruction is not its aim, but the intensification of the life, whether of the conquering or of the conquered State. War is thus a manifestation of the world-spirit in the form the most sublime and awful that can enthrall the contemplation of man. It is an action radiating from the same source as the heroisms, the essential agonies, agoniai, conflicts, of all life. "In this theatre of a world," as Calderon avers, "all are actors, todos son representantes." There too the State enacts its tragedy. Nation, city, or empire, it too is a representante. Though the stage is of more imposing dimensions, the Force of which each wears the mask is one with the Force which sets the stars their path and guides the soul of man to its appointed goal. A war then is in the development of the consciousness of the State analogous to those moments in the individual career when, in Hamlet's phrase, his fate "crying out," death is preferable to a disregard of the Summoner. The state, the nation, or the empire hazards death, is content to resign existence itself, if so be it fulfil but its destiny, and swerve not from its being's law. Not to be envied is that man who, in the solemn prayer of two embattled hosts, can discern but an organized hypocrisy, a mockery, an insult to God! God is the God of all the earth, but dark are the ways, obscure and tangled the forest-paths, in which He makes His children walk. A mockery? That cry for guidance in the dread ordeal, that prayer by the hosts, which is but the formulated utterance of the still, the unwhispered prayer in the heart of each man on the tented field—"Through death to life, even through death to life, as my country fares on its great path through the thickening shadows to the greater light, to the higher freedom!"—is this a mockery? Yet such is the prayer of armies. War so considered ceases to be an action continually to be deplored, regretted, or forgiven, ceases to be the offspring of human weakness or human crime, and the sentence of the Greek orator recovers its living and consoling power—"Of the dead who have fallen in battle the wide earth itself is the sepulchre; their tomb is not the grave in which they are laid, but the undying memory of the generations that come after them. They perish, snatched in a moment, in the height of achievement, not from their fear, but from their renown. Fortunate! And you who have lost them, you, who as mortal have been born subject unto disaster, how fortunate are you to whom sorrow comes in so glorious a shape!"

Thus the great part which war has played in human history, in art, in poetry, is not, as Rousseau maintains, an arraignment of the human heart, not necessarily the blazon of human depravity, but a testimony to man's limitless capacity for devotion to other ends than existence for existence' sake—his pursuit of an ideal, perpetually.


Those critics of the relations of State to State, of nation to nation, to whom I have more than once referred, have recently found in their condemnation of diplomacy and war a remarkable and powerful ally. Amongst the rulers of thought, the sceptred sovereigns of the modern mind, Count Tolstoi occupies, in the beginning of the twentieth century, a unique position, not without exterior resemblance to that of Goethe in the beginning of the nineteenth, or to that of Voltaire in the great days of Louis XV. In the gray and neutral region where the spheres of religion and ethics meet and blend, his words, almost as soon as spoken, rivet the attention, quicken the energies, or provoke the hostility of one-half the world—when he speaks, he speaks not to Russia merely, but to Europe, to America, and to the wide but undefined limits of Greater Britain. Of no other living writer can this be said. Carlyle had no such extended sway in his lifetime, nor had Hugo so instantly a universal hearing.

How then does Tolstoi regard War? For on this high matter the judgment of such a man cannot but claim earnest scrutiny. Examining his writings, even from The Cossacks, through such a masterpiece as War and Peace, colossal at once in design and in execution, on to his latest philosophical pamphlets or paragraphs, one phase at least of his thought reveals itself—gradually increasing vehemence in the expression of his abhorrence of all war as the instrument of oppression, the enemy of man's advance to the ideal state, forbidden by God, forbidden above all by Christ, and by its continued existence turning our professed faith in Christ into a derision. This general impression is deepened by his treatment of individual incidents and characters. Has Count Tolstoi a campaign to narrate, or a battle, say the Borodino, to describe? That which rivets his attention, absorbs his energies, is the fatuity of all the generals indiscriminately, even of Kutusov; it is the supremacy of Hazard; and in the hour of battle itself he sees no heroisms, no devotions, or he turns aside from such spectacles to fasten his gaze upon the shuddering heart, the blanched countenance, the agonizing effort of the combatants to conquer their own terror, their own dismay; and to close the scene he throws wide the hospital, and points to the wounds, the mutilated bodies, the amputated limbs yet quivering, to the fever, and the revel of death. Has he the enigma of modern times to solve, Napoleon I? In Napoleon, who in the sphere of action is to Modern History what Shakespeare is in the sphere of art, Tolstoi sees no more than the clerical harlequin, Abbe de Pradt, sees, a stage conqueror, a charlatan devoured by vanity, without greatness, dignity, without genius for war yet impatient of peace, shallow of intellect, tricking and tricked by all around him, dooming myriads to death for the amusement of an hour, yet on the dread morning of Borodino anxious only about the quality of the eau de Cologne with which he lavishly sprinkles his handkerchief, vest, and coat. And the campaigns of Napoleon, republican, consular, imperial? Lodi, Arcola, Marengo, Austerlitz, Eyiau, Friedland, Wagram, Borodino, Leipzig, Champaubert, and Montmirail? These all are the deeds of Chance, of happy Chance, the guide that is no guide, of the eyeless, brutal, dark, unthinking force resident in masses of men. This is Tolstoi's conception of the man who is to the Aryan race what Hannibal is to the Semitic—its crowning glory in war.

Consider in contrast with this the attitude towards war of a thinker, a visionary, not less great than Tolstoi—Carlyle. Like Tolstoi, Carlyle is above all things a prophet, that is to say, he feels as the Hebrew prophet felt deeply and with resentful passionateness, the contrast between what his race, nation, or people is, and what, by God's decrees, it is meant to be. Yet what is Carlyle's judgment upon war? His work is the witness. After the brief period of Goethe-worship, from 1834 on through forty years of monastic seclusion and labour not monastic, but as of a literary Hercules, the shaping thought of his work, tyrannous and all-pervading, is that of the might, the majesty, and the mystery of war. One flame-picture after another sets this principle forth. What a contrast are his battle-paintings to those of Tolstoi! Consider the long array of them from the first engagements of the French Revolutionary chiefs at Valmy and Jemappes. These represent Carlyle in the flush of manhood. His fiftieth year ushers in the battle-pictures of the Civil War—Marston Moor, Naseby, and Dunbar, when Cromwell defeats the men of Carlyle's own nation. The greatest epoch of Carlyle's life, the epoch of the writing of Frederick, is also that of the mightiest series of his battle-paintings. And finally, when his course is nearly run, he rouses himself to write the last of all his battles, yet at once in characterization and vividness of heroic vision one of his finest, the death of the great Berserker, Olaf Tryggvason, the old Norse king. In the last sea-fight of Olaf there flames up within Carlyle's spirit, now in extreme age,[5] the same glory and delight in war as in the days of his early manhood when he wrote Valmy and Jemappes. Since the heroic age there are no such battle-pictures as these. The spirit of war that leaps and laughs within these pages is the spirit of Homer and Firdusi, of Beowulf and the Song of Roland, and when it sank, it was like the going down of a sun. The breath that blows through the Iliad stirs the pages of Cromwell and of Frederick; Mollwitz, Rossbach, Leuthen, Zorndorf, Leignitz, and Torgau, these are to the delineation, the exposition of modern warfare, the warfare of strategy and of tactics, what the combats drawn by Homer are to the warfare of earlier times.

Now in a mind not less profoundly religious than that of Tolstoi, not less fixedly conscious of the Eternal behind the transient, of the Presence unseen that shapes all this visible universe, whence comes this exaltation of war, this life-long pre-occupation with the circumstance of war? To Carlyle, nineteen centuries after Christ, as to Thucydides, four centuries before Christ, war is the supreme expression of the energy of a State as such, the supreme, the tragic hour, in the life-history of the city, the nation, as such. To Carlyle war is therefore neither anti-religious nor inhuman, but the evidence in the life of a State of a self-consecration to an ideal end; it is that manifestation of the world-spirit of which I have spoken above—a race, a nation, an empire, conscious of its destiny, hazarding all upon the fortunes of the stricken field! Carlyle, as his writings, as his recorded actions approve, was not less sensitive than Tolstoi to the pity of human life, to the "tears of things" as Virgil would say; but are there not in every city, in every town, hospitals, wounds, mangled limbs, fevers, that make of every day of this sad earth of ours a day after Borodino? The life that pants out its spirit, exultant on the battlefield, knows but its own suffering; it is the eye of the onlooker which discovers the united agony. It was a profounder vision, a wider outlook, not a harder heart, which made Carlyle[6] apparently blind to that side of war which alone rivets the attention of Tolstoi—the pathological. And yet Tolstoi and his house have for generations been loyal to the Czars; he has proved that loyalty on the battlefield as his fathers before him have done. Tolstoi has no system to crown, like Auguste Comte or Mr. Herbert Spencer, with the coping-stone of universal peace and a world all sunk in bovine content. Whither then shall we turn for an explanation of his arraignment of war?


Considering Tolstoi as a world-ruler, as Goethe was, as Voltaire was, a characteristic differentiating him from such men at once betrays itself. The nimble spirit of Voltaire in its airy imaginings seems a native, or at least a charming visitant, of every clime, of every epoch; Goethe, impelled more by his innate disposition than by any plan of culture, draws strength and inspiration from a circuit even wider than Voltaire's—Greece, Rome, Persia, Italy, the Middle Age, Mediaeval Germany; Carlyle's work made him, at least in spirit, a native of France for three or four years, and for twelve a German; even Dr. Henrik Ibsen in his hot youth essayed a Catiline, and in later life seeks the subject of what is perhaps his masterpiece, the Emperor and Galilean, in the Rome of the fourth century. But in Russia Tolstoi begins, and in Russia he ends. As volume after volume proceeds from his prolific pen—essays, treatises theological or social, tales, novels, diaries, or confessions—all alike are Russian in scenery, Russian in character, Russian in temperament, Russian in their aspirations, their hopes, or their despairs. Nowhere is there a trace of Hellas, Rome does not exist for him, the Middle Age which allured Hugo has for Tolstoi no glamour. In this he but resembles the Russian writers from Krilov to the present day. It is equally true of Gogol, of Poushkine, of Tourgenieff, of Herzen, of Lermontoff, of Dostoievsky. If Tourgenieff has placed the scene of one of his four longer works at Baden, yet it is in the Russian coterie that the tragedy of Irene Pavlovna unfolds itself. Thus confined in his range, and in his inspiration, to his own race, the work of a Russian artist, or thinker, springs straight from the heart of the race itself. When therefore Tolstoi speaks on war, he voices not his own judgment merely but the judgment of the race. In his conception of war the force of the Slavonic race behind him masters his own individual genius. Capacity in a race for war is distinct from valour. Amongst the Aryan peoples, the Slav, the Hindoo, the Celt display valour, contempt for life unsurpassed, but unlike the Roman or the Teuton they have never by war sought the achievement of a great political design, or subordinated the other claims of existence, whether of the nation or the individual, for the realization of a great political ideal. Thus the history of the two western divisions of the Slavonic race, Poland and Bohemia, reads like the history of Ireland. It is studded with combats, but there is no war. The downfall of Bohemia, the surrender of Prague, the Weissenberg, are but an illustration of this thesis. And three centuries earlier Ottokar and his flaunting chivalry go down before the charge of Rudolf of Hapsburg, like Vercingetorix before Caius Julius. Ziska's cry of havoc to all the earth is not redeemed by fanaticism and has no intelligible end. And the noblest figure in Czech history, George of Podiebrad, whose portrait Palacky[7] has etched with laborious care and unerring insight, is essentially a statesman, not a warrior.

Similarly the history of the Russian Slav has marked organic resemblances with that of the Poles and the Czechs. His sombre courage, his enduring fortitude, are a commonplace. Eyiau and Friedland attested this, and many a later field, and the chronicle of his recent wars, from Potiamkin to Skobeleff, from Kutusov to Todleben, illustrate the justice of Napoleon's verdict, "unparalleled heroism in defence." And yet out of the sword the Slav has never forged an instrument for the perfection of a great political ideal. War has served the oppression, the ambition of his governments, not the aspirations of his race. Conceived as the effort within the life of the State towards a higher self-realization, the Slav knows not war. He has used war for defence in a manner memorable for ever to men, or for cold and pitiless aggression, but in the service of a constructive ideal, stretched across generations or across centuries, he has never used it. Even the conquest of Siberia, from the first advance of the Novgorod merchants in the eleventh century, through the wars of Ivan IV, and his successors, attests this. The Don Cossacks destroy the last remnant of the mighty Mongol dynasty, a fragment flung off from the convulsion of the thirteenth century, ruled by a descendant of Ginghis. The government of the Czars astutely annexes the fruits of Cossack valour, but in the administration of its first remarkable conquest the irremediable defect of the Slavonic race declares itself. The innate energy, the determining genius for constructive politics which marks races destined for empire, everywhere is wanting. Indeed the very despotism of the Czars, alien in blood, foreign in character, derives its present security, as once its origin, from the immovable languor, the unconquerable tendency of the Slav towards political indifferentism. Nihilism, the tortured revolt against a secular wrong, is but a morbid expression of emotions and aspirations that have marked the Slav throughout history. Catherine the Great felt this. Its spirit baulked her enterprise in the very hour when Voltaire urged that now if ever was the opportunity to recover Constantinople from "the fanaticism of the Moslem." The impressive designs of Nicholas I left the heart of the race untouched, and in recent times the cynicism which has occasionally startled or revolted Europe is but a pseudo-Machiavellianism. It does not originate, like the policy which a Polybius or a Machiavelli, a Richelieu or a Mirabeau have described or practised, in the pursuit of a majestic design before whose ends all must yield, but from the absence of such design, betraying the camerilla which has neither race nor nation, people nor city, behind it. Russia's mightiest adversary, Napoleon, knew the character of the race more intimately than its idol, Napoleon's adroit flatterer and false friend, the Czar Alexander, knew it; yet the enthusiast of Valerie, supple and calculating even in his mysticism, is still the noblest representative of the oppressive policy of two hundred years.[8]

Such is the light which the temperament of his race and its history throw upon Count Tolstoi's arraignment of war. The government perceives in the solitary thinker its adversary, but an adversary who, unlike a Bakounine, a Nekrasoff, or a Herzen, gives form and utterance not to the theories, the social or political doctrines of an individual or a party, but to the universal instincts of the whole Slavonic people. Therefore he will not die in exile. The bigotry of a priest may deny his remains a hallowed resting-place, but the government, instructed by the craft of Nicholas I, and the fate of Alexander III, will allow the creator of Anna Karenina, of Natascha, and of Ivan Illyitch, to breathe to the last the air of the steppes.


There remains an aspect of this question, frequently dealt with in the writings of Tolstoi, but by no means confined to these writings, to which I must allude briefly. There are many men within these islands, if I mistake not, who regard with pride and emotion the acts of England in this great crisis, but nevertheless are oppressed with a vague consciousness that war, for whatever cause waged, is, as Tolstoi declares, directly hostile to the commands, to the authority of Christ. This is a subject which I approach with reluctance, with reverence, more for the sake of those amongst you upon whom such conviction may have weighed, than from any value I attach to the suggestions I have now to offer.

First of all, as we have seen from this brief survey of the wars of the past, the most religious of the great races of the world, and the most religious amongst the divisions of those races—the Hebrews, the Romans, the Teutons, the Saracens, the Osmanii—have been the most warlike and have pursued in war the loftiest political ends. This fact is significant, because war, like religion and like language, represents not the individual but the race, the city, or the nation. In a work of art, the Phaedrus of Plato or the Bacchus and Ariadne of Titian, the genius of the individual is, in appearance at least, sovereign and despotic. But as a language represents the happy moments of inspiration of myriads of unremembered poets, who divined the fit sound, the perfect word, harmonious or harsh, to embody for ever, and to all succeeding generations of the race, its recurring moods of desire or delight, of pain, or sorrow, or fear; and as in a religion the heart-aspirations towards the Divine of a long series of generations converge, by genius or fortune, into a flame-like intensity in a Zerdusht, a Mohammed, or a Gautama Buddha; so war represents the action, the deed, not of the individual but of the race. Religion incarnates the thought, language the imagination, war the resolution, the will, of a race. Reflecting then on the part which war has played in the history of the most deeply religious races, and of those States in which the attributes of awe, of reverence are salient features, it is surely idle enough to essay an arraignment of war as opposed to religion in general?

Secondly, with regard to a particular religion, the Christian, it is remarkable that Count Tolstoi, who has striven so nobly to reach the faith beyond the creeds, and in his volume entitled My Religion has thrown out several illuminating ideas upon the teachings of Christ as distinct from those of later creeds or sects, should not have perceived, or should have ignored the circumstance that in the actual utterances of Christ there is not to be found one word, not one syllable, condemnatory of war between nation and nation, between State and State. The locus classicus, "All that take the sword," etc., is aimed at the impetuosity of the person addressed, or at its outmost range against civic revolt. It is only by wrenching the words from their context that it becomes possible to extend their application to the relations of one State to another. The organic unity, named a State, is not identical with the units which compose it, nor is it a mere aggregate of those units. If there is a lesson which history enforces it is this lesson. And upon the laws which regulate those unities named States, Christ nowhere breathes a word. The violence of faction or enthusiasm have indeed forced such decision from his utterances. Camille Desmoulins, in a moment of rash and unreasoning rhetoric, styled Him "le bon sans-culotte," and in the days of the Internationale, Michel Bakounine traced the beginnings of Nihilism to Galilee; just as in recent times the Anarchist, the Socialist have in His sanction sought the justification of their crimes or their fantasies. But in His whole teaching there is nothing that affects the politics of State and State. Ethics and metaphysics were outlined in His utterances, but not politics. His solitary reference to war as such contains no reprobation; a perverse ingenuity might even twist it into a maxim of prudence, a tacit assent to war. And the peace upon which Christ dwells in one great phrase after another is not the amity of States, but a profounder, a more intimate thing. It is the peace on which the Hebrew and the Arab poets insist, the peace which arises within the soul, ineffable, wondrous, from a sense of reconciliation, of harmony with the Divine, a peace which may, which does, exist on the battlefield as in the hermit's cell, in the fury of the onset as deep and tranquil as in the heart of him who rides alone in the desert beneath the midnight stars. Tolstoi's criticism here arises from his extension to the more complex and intricate unity of the State of the same laws which regulate the simpler unity of the individuals who compose the State. And of such a war as this in which Britain is now engaged, a war in its origin and course determined by that ideal which in these lectures I have sketched, a war whose end is the larger freedom, the higher justice, a war whose aim is not merely peace, but the full, the living development of those conditions of man's being without which peace is but an empty name, a war whose end is to deepen the life not only of the conquering, but of the conquered State—who shall assert, in the face of Christ's reserve, that such a war is contrary to the teachings of Galilee?

Finally, as the complement of this condemnation of war as the enemy of religion, men are exhorted, by the refusal of military service or other means, to strive as for the attainment of some fair vision towards the establishment of the empire of perpetual peace. The advent of this new era, it is announced, is at hand.


Now the origins of this ideal are clear. It is ancient as life, and before man was, it was. It is the transference to the sphere of States of the deepest instinctive yearning of all being, from the rock to the soul of man, the yearning towards peace, towards the rest, the immortal leisure which, to apply the phrase of Aristotle, the soul shall know in death, the deeper vision, the unending contemplation, the theoria of eternity. The error of its enthusiasts, from Saint-Pierre and Vauvenargues to Herbart and Count Tolstoi, lies in the interpretation of this cosmic desire, deep as the wells of existence itself, and in the extension to the Conditioned of a phase of the Unconditioned.

Will War then never cease? Will universal peace be for ever but a dream? Upon this question, a consideration of the ideal itself, of the forms in which at various epochs it has presented itself, and of the crises at which, appearing or reappearing, it most profoundly engages the imagination of a race, is instructive.

In Hebrew history, for instance, it arises in the hour of defeat, in the consternation of a great race struck by irretrievable disaster. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!" In this and in other splendid pages of Isaiah we possess the first distinct enunciation of this ideal in world-history, and with what a transforming radiance it is invested! In what a majesty of light and insufferable glory it is uplifted! But it is a vision of the future, to be accomplished in ages undreamed of yet. It is the throb of the Hebrew soul beyond this earthly sphere and beyond this temporal dominion, to the immortal spheres of being, inviolate of Time. Yet even this vision, though co-terminous with the world, centres in Judaea—in the triumph of the Hebrew race and the overthrow of all its adversaries.

Similarly, to Plato and to Isocrates, to Aristotle and to Aeschines, if peace is to be extended to all the earth "like a river," Hellas is the fountain from which it must flow. It is an imperial peace bounded by Hellenic civilization, culture, laws. It is a peace forged upon war. Rome with her genius for actuality discovers this.

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, 'Peace be within thee.'" Substituting Hellas for Jerusalem, this is the prayer of a Greek of the age of Isocrates, of Cleanthes, and of Alexander.

Rome by war ends war, and establishes the Pax Romana within her dominions, Spain, Gaul, Africa, Asia, Syria, Egypt. Disregarding the dying counsels of Augustus, Rome remains at truceless war with the world outside those limits. St. Just's proud resignation, "For the revolutionist there is no rest but the grave," is for ever true of those races dowered with the high and tragic doom of empire. To pause is disaster; to recede, destruction. Rome understood this, and her history is its great comment.

To Islam the point at which she can bestow her peace upon men is not less clear, fixed by a power not less unalterable and high. Neither Haroun nor Al-Maimoun could, with all their authority and statecraft, stay the steep course of Islam; for the wisdom of a race is wiser than the wisdom of a man, and the sword which, in Abu Bekr's phrase, the Lord has drawn, Islam sheathes but on the Day of Judgment. Then and then only shall the Holy War end.

The Peace of Islam, Shalom, which is its designation, is the serenity of soul of the warriors of God whose life is a warfare unending. And Virgil—in that early masterpiece, which in the Middle Age won for all his works the felicity or the misfortune attached to the suspicion of an inspiration other than Castalian, and drew to his grave pilgrims fired by an enthusiasm whose fountain was neither the ballad-burthen music of the Georgics, nor the measureless pathos and pity for things human of the Aeneid—has sung the tranquil beauty of the Saturnian age; yet the peace which suggests his prophetic memory or hope is but the peace of Octavianus, the end of civil discord, of the proscriptions, the conflicts of Pharsalia, Philippi, Actium, a moment's respite to a war-fatigued world.

Passing from the ancient world to the modern, we encounter in the Middle Age within Europe that which is known amongst mediaeval Latinists as the Treva or Treuga Dei. This "Truce of God" was a decree promulgated throughout Europe for the cessation at certain sacred times of that feudal strife, that war of one noble against another which darkens our early history. It is the mediaeval equivalent of the Pax Romana and is but dimly related to any ideal of Universal Peace. Hildebrand, who gave this Truce of God more support than any other Pope in the Middle Age, lights the fire of the crusades, giving to war one of the greatest consecrations that war has ever received. And the attitude of Mediaeval Europe towards eternal peace is the attitude of Judaea, of Hellas, and of Rome.[9] This is conspicuous in Saint Bernard, the last of the Fathers, and three centuries later in Pius II, the last of the crusading Pontiffs, the desire of whose life was to go even in his old age upon a crusade. This desire uplifts and bears him to his last resting-place in Ancona, where the old man, in his dying dreams, hears the tramp of legions that never came, sees upon the Adriatic the sails of galleys that were to bear the crusaders to Palestine—yet there were neither armies nor ships, it was but the fever of his dream.

During the Reformation the ideal of Universal Peace is unregarded. The wars of religion, the world's debate, become the war of creeds. "I am not come to bring peace among you, but a sword." Luther, for instance, declares war against the revolted peasants of Germany with all the ardour and fury with which Innocent III denounced war against the Albigenses. War in the language and thoughts of Calvin is what it became to Oliver Cromwell, to the Huguenots, and to the Scottish Covenanters, to Jean Chevallier and the insurgents of the Cevennes. As Luther in the sixteenth century represents the religious side of the Reformation, so Grotius in the seventeenth century represents the position of the legists of the Reformation. In his work, De Jure Belli ac Pacis, Universal Peace as an object of practical politics is altogether set aside. War is accepted as existent between nation and nation, State and State, and Grotius lays down the laws which regulate it. Similar attempts had been made in the religious councils of Greece, and when the first great Saracen army was starting upon its conquests, the first of the Khalifs delivered to that army instructions which in their humanity have never been surpassed; the utmost observances of chivalry or modern times are there anticipated. But the treatise of Grotius is the first elaboration of the subject in the method of his contemporary, Verulam—the method of the science of the future.

In the eighteenth century the singular work of the mild and amiable enthusiast, the Abbe de Saint-Pierre,[10] made a profound impression upon the thought not only of his own but of succeeding generations. Kings, princes, philosophers, sat in informal conference debating the same argument as has recently occupied the dignitaries at The Hague. It inspired some of the most earnest pages of D'Alembert and of the Encyclopedie. It drew from Voltaire some happy invective, affording the opportunity of airing once more his well-loved but worthless paradox on the trivial causes from which the great actions of history arise. Saint-Pierre's ideal informs the early chapters of Gibbon's History, but its influence disappears as the work advances. It charmed the fancy of Rousseau, and, by a curious irony, he inflamed by his impassioned argument that war for freedom which is to the undying glory of France.[11]

Frederick the Great in his extreme age wrote to Voltaire: "Running over the pages of history I see that ten years never pass without a war. This intermittent fever may have moments of respite, but cease, never!" This is the last word of the eighteenth century upon the dream of Universal Peace—a word spoken by one of the greatest of kings, looking out with dying eyes upon a world about to close in one of the deadliest yet most heroic and memorable conflicts set down in the annals of our race. The Hundred Days are its epilogue—the war of twenty-five years ending in that great manner! Then, like a pallid dawn, the ideal once more arises. Congress after congress meets in ornamental debate, till six can be reckoned, or even seven, culminating in the recent conference at The Hague. Its derisive results, closing the debate of the nineteenth, as Frederick's words sum the debate of the eighteenth century, are too fresh in all men's memories to require a syllable of comment.

Thus then it appears from a glance at its history that this ideal of Universal Peace has stirred the imagination most deeply, first of all in the ages when an empire, whether Persian, Hebraic, Hellenic, or Roman, conterminous with earth, wide as the inhabited world, was still in appearance realizable; or, again, in periods of defeat, or of civil strife, as in the closing age of the Roman oligarchy; or in the moments of exhaustion following upon long-continued and desolating war, as in Modern Europe after the last phases of the Reformation conflict, the wars of Tilly and Wallenstein, of Marlborough and Eugene, and of Frederick. The familiar poetry in praise of peace, and the Utopias, the composition of which has amused the indolence of scholars or the leisure of statesmen, originate in such hours or in such moods. On the other hand, the criticism of war, scornful or ironic, of the great thinkers and speculative writers of modern times, when it is not merely the phantom of their logic, an eidolon specus created by their system, arises in the most impressive instances less from admiration or desire or hope of perpetual peace than from the arraignment of all life, and all the ideals, activities, and purposes of men.

Hence the question whether war be a permanent condition of human life is answered by implication. For the history of the ideal of Universal Peace but re-enforces that definition of war set forth above, as a manifestation of the world-spirit, co-extensive with being, and as such, inseparable from man's life here and now. In all these great wars which we have touched upon, the conflict of two ideas, in the Platonic sense of the word, unveils itself, but both ideas are ultimately phases of one Idea. It is by conflict alone that life realizes itself. That is the be-all and end-all of life as such, of Being as such. From the least developed forms of structural or organic nature to the highest form in which the world-force realizes itself, the will and imagination of Man, this law is absolute. The very magic of the stars, their influence upon the human heart, derives something of its potency, one sometimes fancies, from the vast, the silent, mighty strife, the victorious energy, which brings their rays across the abysses and orbits of the worlds.

What is the art of Hellas but the conquest of the rock, the marble, and the fixing there in perennial beauty, perennial calm, the thought born from the travail of the sculptor's brain, or from the unrecorded struggle of dark forces in the past, which emerge now in a vision of transcendent rapture and light? By this conflict, multiplex or simple, the conquering energy of the form, the defeated energy of the material, the serenity of the statues of Phidias, of the tragedies of Sophocles, is attained. They are the symbol, the visible embodiment of the moment of deepest vision, and of the deepest agony now at rest there, a loveliness for ever. And as the aeons recede, as the intensity of the idea of the Divine within man increases, so does this conflict, this agonia increase. It is in the heart of the tempest that the deepest peace dwells.

The power, the place of conflict, thus great in Art, is in the region of emotional, of intellectual and of moral life, admittedly supreme. Doubt, contrition of soul, and the other modes of spiritual agonia, are not these equivalent with the life, not death, of the soul?

And those moments of serenest peace, when the desire of the heart is one with the desire of the world-soul, are not these attained by conflict? In the life of the State, the soul of the State, as composed of such monads, such constituent forms and organic elements, each penetrated and impelled by the divine, self-realizing, omnipresent nisus, how vain to hope, to desire, to pray, that there this mystic all-pervading Force, this onward-striving, this conflict, which is as it were the very essence and necessary law of being, should pause and have an end! War may change its shape, the struggle here intensifying, there abating; it may be uplifted by ever loftier purposes and nobler causes—but cease? How shall it cease?

Indeed, in the light of History, universal peace appears less as a dream than as a nightmare which shall be realized only when the ice has crept to the heart of the sun, and the stars, left black and trackless, start from their orbits.


If war then be a permanent factor in the life of States, how, it may be asked, will it be affected by Imperialism and by such an ideal as this of Imperial Britain? The effects upon war, will, I should say, be somewhat of this nature. It will greaten and exalt the character of war. Not only in constitutional, but in foreign politics, the roots of the present lie deep in the past. In the wars of an imperial State the ideals of all the wars of the past still live, adding a fuller life to the life of the present. From the earliest tribal forays, slowly broadening through the struggles of feudalism and Plantagenet kings to the wars of the nation, one creative purpose, one informing principle links century to century, developing itself at last in the wars of empire, wars for the larger freedom, the higher justice. And this ideal differs from the ideal of primitive times as the vast complexity of races, peoples, religions, climates, traditions, literatures, arts, manners, laws, which the word "Britain" now conceals, differs from the 'companies' and 'hundreds' of daring warriors who followed the fortunes of a Cerdic or an Uffa. For the State which by conquest or submission is merged in the life of another State does not thereby evade that law of conflict of which I have spoken, but becomes subject to that law in the life of the greater State, national or imperial, of which it now forms a constituent and organic part. And looming already on the horizon, the wars of races rise portentous, which will touch to purposes yet higher and more mystic the wars of empires—as these have greatened the wars of nationalities, these again the wars of feudal kings, of principalities, of cities, of tribes or clans.

Secondly, this ideal of Imperial Britain will greaten and exalt the action of the soldier, hallowing the death on the battlefield with the attributes at once of the hero and the martyr. Thus, when M. Bloch and similar writers delineate war as robbed by modern inventions of its pomp and circumstance, when they expatiate upon the isolation resulting from a battle-line extended across leagues, and upon the "zone of death" separating the opposing hosts, one asks in perplexity, to what end does M. Bloch consider that war was waged in the past? For the sake of such emotional excitement or parade as are now by smokeless powder, maxims, long-range rifles, and machine guns abolished? These are but the trappings, the outward vesture of war; the cause, the sacred cause, is by this transformation in the methods of war all untouched. Was there then no "zone of death" between the armies at Eyiau or at Gravelotte? Let but the cause be high, and men will find means to cross that zone, now as then—by the sapper's art if by no other! And as the pride and ostentation of battle are effaced, its inner glory and dread sanctity are the more evinced. The battlefield is an altar; the sacrifice the most awful that the human eye can contemplate or the imagination with all its efforts invent. "The drum," says a French moralist, "is the music of battle, because it deadens thought." But in modern warfare the faculties are awake. Solitude is the touchstone of valour, and the modern soldier cast in upon himself, undazzled, unblinded, faces death singly. Fighting for ideal ends, he dies for men and things that are not yet; he dies, knowing in his heart that they may never be at all. Courage and self-renunciation have attained their height.

Nor have strategy and the mechanical appliances of modern warfare turned the soldier into a machine, an automaton, devoid of will and self-directing energy. Contemporary history makes it daily clearer that in modern battles brain and nerve count as heavily as they ever did in the combats by the Scamander or the Simois. Another genius and another epic style than those of Homer may be requisite fitly to celebrate them, but the theme assuredly is not less lofty, the heroism less heroic, the triumph or defeat less impressive.

Twice, and twice only, is man inevitably alone—in the hour of death and the hour of his birth. Man, alone always, is then supremely alone. In that final solitude what are pomp and circumstance to the heart? That which strengthens a man then, whether on the battlefield or at the stake or in life's unrecorded martyrdoms, is not the cry of present onlookers nor the hope of remembering fame, but the faith for which he has striven, or his conception of the purposes, the ends in which the nation for which he is dying, lives and moves and has its being. Made strong by this, he endures the ordeal, the hazard of death, in the full splendour of the war, or at its sullen, dragging close, or in the battle's onset, or on patrol, the test of the dauntless, surrendering the sight of the sun, the coming of spring, and all that the arts and various wisdom of the centuries have added of charm or depth to nature's day. And in the great hour, whatever his past hours have been, consecrate to duty or to ease, to the loftiest or to the least-erected aims, whether he is borne on triumphant to the dread pause, the vigil which is the night after a battle, or falling he sinks by a fatal touch, and the noise of victory is hushed in the coming of the great silence, and the darkness swoons around him, and the cry "Press on!" stirs no pulsation any longer—in that great hour he is lifted to the heights of the highest, the prophet's rapt vision, the poet's moment of serenest inspiration, or what else magnifies or makes approximate to the Divine this mortal life of ours.

War thus greatened in character by its ideal, the phrase of the Greek orator, let me repeat, is no longer an empty sound, but vibrates with its original life—"How fortunate the dead who have fallen in battle! And how fortunate are you to whom sorrow comes in so glorious a shape!" An added solemnity invests the resolutions of senates, and the prayer on the battlefield, "Through death to life," acquires a sincerity more moving and a simplicity more heroic. And these, I imagine, will be the results of Imperialism and of this deepening consciousness of its destiny in Imperial Britain, whether in war which is the act of the State as a whole, or in the career of the soldier which receives its consummation there in the death on the battlefield.

[1] The sea and the invincible might of Athens on the waves formed the connecting ideas of the three dramas, Phineus, Persae, Glaucus. The trilogy was produced in 473 or 472 B.C., whilst the memory of Salamis was still fresh in every heart. The Phoenissae, the "Women of Sidon," a tragedy on the same theme by Phrynichus, had been acted five years earlier. The distinction of these works lay in the presentation to the conquering State of a great victory as a tragedy in the life of the vanquished. The cry in the Persae, "opaides hellenoite", still echoes with singular fidelity across 3,000 years in the war-song of modern Greece: "deute paides ton hellenon."

[2] Thus in speaking of the ancient life of the Teutonic peoples: "Doch alles das (Neigung zum Kampf mit den Nachbarn und zu kriegerischen Zuegen in die Ferne) hat nicht gehindert, dass, wo die Deutschen sich niederliessen, alsbald bestimmte Ordnungen des oeffentlichen und rechtlichen Lebens begruendet wurden."—Verfassungsgeschichte, 3rd ed., i, p. 19; cf. also i, pp. 416-17: "Es hat nicht eigene Kriegsvoelker gegeben, gebildet durch und fuer den Krieg, nicht Kriegsstaaten in solchem Sinn, dass alles ganz und allein fuer den Krieg berechnet gewesen waere, nicht einmal auf die Dauer Kriegsfuersten, deren Herrschaft nur in Kriegfuehrung und Heeresmacht ihren Grund gehabt."

[3] The lapse of ages, enthusiasm, or carelessness, tribal jealousies or the accidental predilections of an individual poet or historian, combine to render the early history of the Arabs, so far as precision in dates, the definite order and mutual relations of events, characters, and localities are concerned, perplexing and insecure, or tantalizing by the wealth of detail, impressive indeed, but eluding the test of historical criticism. Their tactics and the composition of their armies make the precise share of this or that general in determining the result of a battle or a campaign difficult to estimate. Yet by (he concord of authorities the glory of the overthrow of the Empire of the Sassanides seems to be the portion, first of Mothanna, who sustained the fortunes of Islam at a most critical hour, A.H. 13-14, and by his victory at Boawib just warded off a great disaster; and secondly of Saad, the victor of Kadesia, A.H. 15, A.D. 636-7, the conqueror and first administrator of Irak. The claims of Amr, or Amrou, to the conquest of Egypt, Pelusium, Memphis, Alexandria, A.D. 638, admit of hardly a doubt; whilst the distinction of Khalid, "the Sword of God," in the Syrian War at the storming of Damascus and in the crushing defeat of Heraclius at the Yermuk, August, A.D. 634, may justly entitle him to the designation—if that description can be applied to any one of the devoted band—of "Conqueror of Syria."

[4] "The twelve years of their military command (i.e., of Nicephorus and Zimisces) form the most splendid period of the Byzantine annals. The sieges of Mopsuestia and Tarsus in Silicia first exercised the skill and perseverance of their troops, on whom at this moment I shall not hesitate to bestow the name of Romans."—Gibbon, chap. lii. The reign of Zimisces, A.D. 969-76, forms the subject of the opening chapters, pp. 1-326, of Schlumberger's massive work, L'epopee Byzantine a la fin du dixieme siecle, Paris, 1896, which exhausts every resource of modern research into this period. Zimisces' rise to power, and the career of the other heroic figure of the tenth century in Byzantine history are dealt with not less exhaustively in Schlumberger's earlier volume, Un Empereur byzantin, Paris, 1890.

[5] Carlyle was in his seventy-seventh year when he completed the Early Kings of Norway. "Finished yesterday that long rigmarole upon the Norse kings" is the comment in his Journal under date February 15th, 1872.—Froude, Carlyle's Life in London, vol. ii, p. 411.

[6] Mr. Herbert Spencer's characterization of Carlyle as a devil-worshipper (Data of Ethics, Sec. 14) must be regarded less as an effort in serious criticism than as the retort, perhaps the just retort, of the injured evolutionist and utilitarian to the Pig Philosophy of the eighth of the Latter-Day Pamphlets.

[7] The Revolution of 1848 made the appearance of Palacky's work in the native language of Bohemia possible. Two volumes had already been issued in German. If ever the work of a scholar and an historian had the effect of a national song, this virtue may be ascribed to the Czech version of Palacky's Geschichte Boehmens. After two centuries of subjection to the Hapsburgs and apparent oblivion of her past, Bohemia awoke and discovered that she had a history. Of the seven volumes of the German edition, the period dominated by the personality of George of Podiebrad forms the subject of the fourth (Prague, 1857-60).

[8] France has given the world the Revolution; Germany, the Reformation; Italy, modern Art; but Russia? "We," Tourgenieff once said, "we have given the samovar." But that poet's own works, the symphonies of Tschaikowsky, the one novel of Dostoievsky, have changed all this.

[9] Nevertheless the Truce of God is one of the noblest efforts of mediaeval Europe. It drew its origins from southern France, arising partly from the misery of the people oppressed by the constant and bloody strife of feudal princes and barons, heightened at that time by the fury of a pestilence, partly also from a widespread and often fixed and controlling persuasion that with the close of the century the thousand years of the Apocalypse would be fulfilled, and that with the year A.D. 1000 the Day of Judgment would dawn. Ducange has collected the evidence bearing on the use of the Latin term, and Semichon's admirable work, La Paix et la Treve de Dieu, premiere edition, 1857, deuxieme edition revue et augmentee, 1869, sketches the growth of the movement. With the eleventh century, though the social misery is unaltered, the force of the mystic impulse is lost; at the synod of Tuluges in 1027 the days of the week on which the Truce must be observed are limited to two. But towards the close of the century the rising power of Hildebrand and the crusading enthusiasm gave the movement new life, and the days during which all war was forbidden were extended to four of the seven days of the week, those sacred to the Last Supper, Death, Sepulture, and Resurrection. With the decline of the crusading spirit and the rise of monarchical principles the influence and use of the Treuga waned. The verses of the troubadour, Bertrand le Born, are celebrated—"Peace is not for me, but war, war alone! What to me are Mondays and Tuesdays? And the weeks, months, and years, all are alike to me." The stanza fitly expresses the way in which the Truce had come to be regarded by feudal society towards the close of the twelfth century.

[10] St.-Pierre's work appeared in 1712, three years after Malplaquet, the most sanguinary struggle of the Marlborough wars. It is thus synchronous with the last gloomy years of Louis XIV, when France, and her king also, seemed sinking into the mortal lethargy of Jesuitism. St.-Simon in his early volumes has written the history of these years. Voltaire accuses St.-Pierre of originating or encouraging the false impression that he had derived his theory from the Dauphin, the pupil of Fenelon and the Marcellus of the French Monarchy. An English translation of St.-Pierre's treatise was published in 1714 with the following characteristic title-page: "A Project for settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe, first proposed by Henry IV of France, and approved of by Queen Elizabeth and most of the Princes of Europe, and now discussed at large and made practicable by the Abbot St. Pierre of the French Academy."

[11] As late as 1791 we find Priestley looking to the French Revolution as the precursor of the era of Universal Peace. In a discourse delivered at "the Meeting House in the Old-Jewry, 27th April, 1791," he describes the "glorious enthusiasm which has for its objects the flourishing of science and the extinction of wars." France, he declares, "has ensured peace to itself and to other nations at the same time, cutting off almost every possible cause of war," and enables us "to prognosticate the approach of the happy times in which the sure prophecies of Scripture inform us that wars shall cease and universal peace and harmony take place."



[Tuesday, July 3rd, 1900]

Having considered in the first lecture a definition of Imperialism, and traced in the second and third the development in religion and in politics of the ideal of Imperial Britain, and having afterwards examined the relations of this ideal to the supreme questions of War and Peace, an inquiry not less momentous, but from its intangible and even mystic character less capable of definite resolution, now demands attention. How is this ideal of the Imperialistic State related to that from which all States originally derive? How is it related to the Divine? From the consideration of this problem two others arise, that of the vicissitudes of States and Empires, and that of the destiny of this Empire of Imperial Britain.

From the analogy of the Past is it possible to apprehend even dimly the curve which this Empire, moved by a new ideal, and impelled by the deepening consciousness of its destiny, will describe amongst the nations and the peoples of the earth?

Empire, we have seen, is the highest expression of the soul of the State; it is the complete, the final consummation of the life of the State. But the State, the soul of the State, is in itself but a unity that is created from the units, the individuals which compose it. Nevertheless the unity of the State which results from those units is not the same unity, nor is it subject to, or governed by, the same laws as regulate the life of the individual. Not only the arraignment of the maxims of statesmen as immoral, but the theories, fantastic or profound, of the rise and fall of States, are marred or rendered idle utterly by the initial confusion of the organic unity of the State with the unity of the individual. But though no composite unity is governed by the same laws as govern its constituent atoms, nevertheless that unity must partake of the nature of its constituent atoms, change as they change, mutually transforming and transformed. So is this unity of the State influenced by the units which compose it, which are the souls of men.


Consider then, first of all, in relation to the consciousness which is the attribute of the life of the State, the consciousness which is the soul of man. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, as we have seen, the saintly ideal which had hitherto controlled man's life dies to the higher thought of Europe. The saint gives place to the crusader and scholastic, and the imagination of the time acknowledges the spell of oriental paganism and oriental culture.

Certain of the most remarkable minds of that epoch, men like Berengarius of Tours, for instance, or St. Victor, and Amalrich, are profoundly troubled by a problem of the following nature. How shall the justice of God be reconciled with the destiny He assigns to the souls of men? They are sent forth from their rest in the Divine to dwell in habitations of mortal flesh, incurring reprobation and exile everlasting, or after a season returning, according as they are appointed to a life dark to the sacrifice on Calvary, or to a life by that Blood redeemed. By what law or criterion of right does God send forth those souls, emanations of His divinity, to a doom of misery or bliss, according as they are attached to a body north of the Mediterranean, or southward of that sea, within the sway of the falsest of false prophets, Mohammed? This trouble in the heart of the eleventh century arose from the insight which compassion gives; the European imagination, at rest with regard to its own safety, is for the first time perplexed by the fate of men of an alien race and faith, whose heroism it has nevertheless learnt to revere, as in after-times it was perplexed in pondering the fate of Greece and Rome, whose art and thought it vainly strove to imitate. Underlying this trouble in their hearts is the assumption to which Plato and certain of his sect have leanings, that within the Divine there is as it were a treasury of souls from which individual essences are sped hither, to dwell within each mortal body immediately on its birth.

Now in an earlier age than the age of Berengarius and St. Victor, there arose within Alexandria one whose thought in its range, in the sweep of its orbit, was perhaps the widest and most distant amongst the children of men. In the most remarkable and sublime of his six Enneads, another theory upon the same subject occurs.[1] The fate of the soul in passing from its home with the Everlasting is like the fate of a child which in infancy has been removed from its parents and reared in a foreign land. The child forgets its country and its kindred as the soul forgets in the joy of its freedom the felicity it knew when one with the Divine. But after the lapse of years if the child return amongst its kindred, at first indeed it shall not know them, but now a word, now a gesture, or again a trick of the hand, a cadence of the voice, will come to it like the murmur of forgotten seas by whose shores it once had dwelt, awaking within it strange memories, and gradually by the accumulation of these the truth will at last flash in upon the child—"Behold my father and my brethren!" So the soul of man, though knowing not whence it came, is by the teachings of Divine wisdom, and by inspired thinkers, quickened to a remembrance of its heavenly origin, and its life henceforth becomes an ever-increasing, ever more vivid memory of the tranced peace, the bliss that it knew there within the Everlasting.

Let me attempt to apply this thought of the Egyptian mystic to the problem before us. Disregarding the theory of an infinite series of successive incarnations from the inexhaustible treasury of the Divine, permit me to recall the observations made in an earlier lecture on the contrast between the limited range of man's consciousness, and the measureless past stretching behind him, the infinite spaces around him.

Judged by the perfect ideal of knowledge, the universe is necessary to the understanding of a flower, and the dateless past to the intelligence of the history of a day. But as the beam of light never severs itself from its fountain, as the faintest ray that falls within the caverns of the sea remains united with the orb whence it sprang, so the soul of man has grown old along with nature, and acquainted from its foundations with the fabric of the universe.

Therefore when it confronts some simple object of sense or emotion, or the more intricate movements and events of history, or the rushing storm of the present, the soul has about it strange intimacies, it has within it preparations drawn from that fellowship with nature throughout the aeons, the abysses of Eternity. And as the aeons advance, the soul grows ever more conscious of the end of all its striving, and its serenity deepens as the certainty of the ultimate attainment of that end increases.

Baulked of its knowledge of an hour by its ignorance of Eternity, it attains its rest in the Infinite, which seeking it shall find, piercing through every moment of the transient to the Eternal. What are the spaces and the labyrinthian dance of the worlds to the soul which is ever more profoundly absorbed, remembering, knowing, or in vision made prescient of its identity with the soul of the universe? And as the ages recede, the immanence of the Divine becomes more consciously, more pervadingly present. Earth deepens in mystery; premonitions of its destiny visit the soul, falling manifold as the shadows of twilight, or in mysterious tones far-borne and deep as the chords struck by the sweeping orbs in space.

The soul thus neglects the finite save as an avenue to the infinite, and holds knowledge in light esteem unless as a path to the wonder, the ecstasy, and the wisdom which are beyond knowledge. The past is dead, the present is a dream, the future is not yet, but in the Eternal NOW the soul is one with that Reality of which the remotest pasts, the farthest presents, the most distant futures, are but changing phases.

If then we regard the soul, its origin and its destiny, in this manner, what a wonder of light invests its history within Time! Banished from its primal abode beyond the crystal walls of space, with what achievements has not the exile graced the earth, its habitation! Wondrous indeed is man's course across the earth, and with what shall the works of his soul be compared? From those first uncertainties, those faltering elations, the Vision, dimly discerned as yet, lures him with tremulous ecstasies to eternise the fleeting, and in columned enclosure and fretted canopy to uprear an image which he can control of the arch of heaven and the unsustained architecture of the stars. These out-reach his mortal grasp, outwearying his scrutiny, blinding his intelligence; but, master of the image, his soul knows again by reflection the felicity which it knew when one with the Shaper of the worlds.

And thus the soul mounts, steep above steep, from the rudely hewn granite to the breathing marbles of the Parthenon, to the hues of Titian, to the forests in stone, the domes and minarets, and the gemmed splendour of later races, to the drifted snows of the Taj-Mahal, iridescent with diamond and pearl.

Yea, from those first imaginings, caught from the brooding rocks, and moulded in the substance of the rocks, still it climbs, instructed by the winds, the ocean's tidal rhythm, and the tumultuous transports of the human voice, its raptures, sorrows, or despairs, to the newer wonder, the numbered cadences of poetry, the verse of Homer, Sophocles, and Shakespeare.

And at the last, lessoned by those ancient instructors, winds and tides, and the ever-moving spheres of heaven, how does the soul attain its glory, and in Music, the art of arts, the form of forms, poise on the starry battlements of God's dread sanctuary, tranced in prayer, in wonder ineffable, at the long pilgrimage accomplished at last—in the adagio of the great Concerto, in the Requiem, or those later strains of transhuman sadness and serenity trans-human, in which the soul hears again the song sung by the first star that ever left the shaping hands of God and took its way alone through the lonely spaces, pursuing an untried path across the dark, the silent abysses—how dark, how silent!—a moving harmony, foreboding even then in its first separate delight and sorrow of estrangement all the anguish and all the ecstasy that the unborn universes of which it is the herald and precursor yet shall know!

Aristotle indeed affirms that in the universe there are many things more excellent than man, the planets, for instance. He is thinking of the mighty yet perfect curve which they describe, though with all the keenness of his analytic perception, he is in this judgment not unaffected by the fancy, current in his time, that those planets are living things each with its attendant soul, which shapes its orbit and that fixed path athwart the night. How much higher a will that steadfast motion argues than the wavering purposes, the unstable desires of human life. But we know that the planet with all its mighty curve is but as the stage to the piece enacted thereon; it is the moving theatre on which the drama of life, from its first dark unconscious motions to the freest energy of the soul in its airy imaginings, is accomplished. And the thought of Pascal which might be a rejoinder to this of Aristotle is well known, that though the universe rise up against man to destroy him, yet man is greater than the universe, because he knows that he dies, but of its power to destroy the universe knows nothing.

If this then be the origin of the individual soul, and if its recorded and unrecorded history and action in the universe be of this height, it is not astonishing that the laws and operations of the soul of the State, which is of an order yet more complex and mysterious, should baffle investigation, and foil the most assiduous efforts to reduce them to a system, and compel speculation to have recourse to such false analogies and misleading resemblances as those to which reference has in these lectures more than once been made.


Thus we trace the unity of the State to the unity of the individual soul, and thence to the Divine unity. The soul of the State is the higher, the more complex unity, and it is not merely in the actions of the individual in relation to or as an organic part of the State that we must seek for the entire influence of the State upon individual life, or for the perfect expression of the abstract energy of the State in itself and by itself. Man in such relations does often merit the reprobation of Rousseau, and his theory of the deteriorating effects of a complex unity upon the single unity of the individual soul seems often to find justification. Similarly, the exclusive admiration of many unwitting disciples of Rousseau for the deeds of the individual as opposed to the deeds of the State, for art as opposed to politics, discovers in a first study of these relations strong support. But the artist is not isolated and self-dependent. If the supreme act of a race is war, if its supreme thought is its religion, and its supreme poems, its language—deeds, thoughts, and poems to which the whole race has contributed—so in manifold, potent, if unperceived ways the State affects those energizings in art and thought which seem most independent of the State. The sentence of Aristotle is familiar, "The solitary man is either a brute or a god," but the solitariness whether of the Thebaid or of Fonte Avellano, of Romualdo, Damiani, or of that Yogi, who, to exhibit his hate and scorn of life, flung himself into the flames in the presence of Alexander, is yet indebted and bound by ties invisible, mystic, innumerable, to the State, to the race, for the structural design of the soul itself, for that very pride, that isolating power which seems most to sever it from the State.[2] And who shall determine the limits of the unconscious life which in that lonely contemplation or that lonelier scorn, the soul receives from the State? For from the same source the component and the composite, the constituent and the constituted unity alike arise, and the Immanence that is in each is One. "Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee."

The everyday topic which makes man "the creature of his time" derives whatever truth it possesses from this unity, but Sophocles did not write the Ajax because Miltiades fought at Marathon, nor Tirso, El Condennado because Cortez defeated Montezuma. Whatever law connect greatness in art and greatness in action, it is not the law of cause and effect, of necessary succession in time. They are the mutually dependent manifestations of the same immortal energy which uplifts the whole State, whose motions arise from beyond Time, the roots of whose being are beyond the region of cause and effect.

Consider now as an illustration of the interdependence of the soul of the individual and of the State, and of the immanence in each of the Divine, the relation which world-history reveals as existing between the higher manifestations of the life of the individual and of the State. The greatest achievements of individual men, whether in action, or in art, or in thought, are, it will generally be found, coincident with, and synchronous with, the highest form which in its development the State assumes, that is, with some form or mode of empire. For it is not merely the art of Phidias, of Sophocles, that springs from the energy aroused by the Persian invasions; the energy which finds expression in the Empire of Athens is to be traced thither, empire and art arising from the same exaltation of the State and of the individual. But they are not related as cause and effect, nor is the art of Sophocles caused by Marathon; but the Agamemnon and Salamis, the Parthenon and the Ajax, are incarnations in words, in deeds, or in marble of the divine Idea immanent in the whole race of the Hellenes. A race capable of empire, the civic form of imperialism, thus arises simultaneously with its greatest achievements in art. Similarly in the civic State of mediaeval Florence, the age of Leonardo and of Savonarola is also the age of Lorenzo, when in politics Florence competes with Venice and the Borgias for the hegemony of Italy, and the actual bounds of her civic empire are at their widest. So in Venetian history empire and art reach their height together, and the age which succeeds that of Giorgione and of Titian is an end not only to the painting but to the political greatness of Venice.

As in civic so in national empires. In Spain, Charles V and the Philips are the tyrants of the greatest single military power and of the first nation of the earth, and have as their subjects Rojas and Tirso, Lope and Cervantes, Calderon and Velasquez. Racine and Moliere serve le grand Monarque, as Apelles served Alexander. The mariners who sketched the bounds of this empire, which is at last attaining to the full consciousness of its mighty destinies, were the contemporaries of Marlowe and Webster, of Beaumont and Ford.

Napoleon's fretful impatience that its victories should have as their literary accompaniments only the wan tragedies of Joseph Chenier and the unleavened odes of Millevoye was just. An empire so glorious, if based on the people's will, should not have found in the genius of the age its sworn antagonist. This stamped his empire as spurious.

But these simultaneous phenomena, these supreme attainments at once in action and in art, are not connected as cause and effect. For the roots of their identity we must search deeper. The transcendent deed and the work of art alike have their origin in the elan of the soul, the diviner vision or the diviner desire. The will which becomes the deed, the vision which becomes the poem or the picture, are here as yet one; and this elan, this energy of the soul, what is it but the energy of the infinite within the finite, of the eternal within time? Art in whatever perfection it attains is but an illustration, imperfect, of the spirit of man. The greatest books that ever were written, the most exquisite sculptures that ever were carved, the most delicate temples that ever were reared, the richest paintings that ever came from Titian are all in themselves ultimately but the dust of the soul of him who composes them, builds them, carves them. The unrevealed and the unrevealable is the soul itself that in such works is dimly adumbrated. The most perfect statue is but an imperfect semblance of the beauty which the sculptor beheld, though intensifying and reacting upon, and even in a sense consummating, that inward vision; and the sublimest energy of imperial Rome derives its tragic height from the degree to which it realizes the energy of the race.

In the Islam of Omar this law displays itself supremely, and with a flame-like vividness. There the divine origin of the State which in the Athens of Pericles is hidden or revealed in the myriad forms of art, plastic or poetic, in the Rome of Sulla or Caesar in tragic action, displays itself in naked purity and in majesty unadorned. If artistic loveliness marks the age of Sophocles, tragic grandeur the Rome of Augustus, mystic sublimity is the feature of the Islam of Omar. The thought and the deed, logos kai poiesis, here are one.


We have now reached the final stage of our inquiry. Is there any law by which the vicissitudes of the States, whose origin has been traced through the individual to a remoter and more awful source, are fixed and directed? And can the decay of empires, those supreme forms in the development of States, be resolved into its determining causes, or do we here confront a movement which is beyond the sphere ruled by cause and effect?

In Western Europe a broken arch and some fragments of stone are often all that mark the place where stood some perfect achievement of mediaeval architecture, a feudal stronghold or an abbey. But on the lower plains of the Euphrates and Tigris, a ruin hardly more conspicuous may denote the seat of an empire. Such a region, fronting the desert, formed a fit theatre for man's first speculations upon his own destiny and that of the nations. Those two inquiries have proceeded together. His vision of the universe, original or accepted, inevitably shapes and transforms the poet's, the prophet's, or the historian's vision of any portion of that universe, however limited in time and space.

Hebrew literature, affected by the revolutions of Assyria, Chaldaea, Media, and Egypt, already discloses two theories which, modified or applied, mould man's thought when bent to this problem down to the present hour. Round one or other of these conceptions the speculations of over two thousand years naturally group themselves.

The first of these theories, which may be styled the Theory of Retribution, attributes the decay of empires to the visitation of a divine vengeance. The fall of an empire is the punishment of sin and of wrong-doing. The pride and iniquity of the few, or the corruption and ethical degeneration of the mass, involves the ruin of the State. Regardless of the contradictions to this law in the life of the individual, its supremacy in the life of empires has throughout man's history been decreed and proclaimed. Hebrew thought was perplexed and amazed from the remotest periods at the felicity of the oppressor and the unjust man, and the misery of the good. But the sublime and inspired rhetoric of Isaiah rests upon the assumption that the punishment of wrong, uncertain amongst men, is sure amongst nations and States.

In a more ethical form this conception is easily traced throughout Greek and Roman thought. In St. Augustine it reappears in its original shape, and invested with the dignity, the fulness, and the precision of an historical argument. A Roman by birth, culture, and youthful sympathies, loving the sad cadences of Virgil like a passion, admitted by Cicero to an intimacy with Hellenic thought, he is, later in life, attracted, fascinated, and finally subdued by the ideal of the Nazarene, and by the poetry and history behind it. He sees Rome fall; and what the fate of Babylon was to the Hebrew prophet the fate of Rome becomes to Augustinus—the symbol of divine wrath, the punishment of her pride, her idolatry, and her sin. Rome falls as Babylon, as Assyria fell; but in the De Civitate, to which he devotes some fifteen years of his life, is delineated the city which shall not pass away.[3] The destruction of Rome, limited in time and space, coalesces with the wider thought of the Stoics, the destruction of the world.

So to the Middle Age the fall of Rome was but an argument for the theme of the passing away of earth itself and all earthly things like a scroll. Before its imagination, as along a highroad, moved a procession of empires—Assyria, Media, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Persia, and at the last, as a shadowy dream of all these, the Empire of Charlemagne and of the Othos. Their successive falls point to man's obstinacy in sin, and the recurrence of the event to the nearness of the Judgment.

The treatises of Damiani, Otho of Freisingen,[4] and of the Cardinal Lothar, formulate the argument, and as late as the seventeenth century Bossuet dedicates to this same theme an eloquence not less impressive and finished than that of Augustine himself. In recent times this theory influences strongly the historical conceptions of Ruskin and Carlyle. It is the informing thought of Ruskin's greatest work, The Stones of Venice. The value of that work is imperishable, because the documents upon which it is based are by the wasting force of wind and sun and sea daily passing beyond scrutiny or comparison. Yet its philosophy is but an echo of the philosophy of Carlyle's second period, and as ever, the disciple exaggerates the teachings of the master. The bent of Carlyle's genius was nearer that of Rousseau than he ever permitted himself to imagine. In the Cromwelliad Carlyle elaborates the fancy that the one great and heroic period of English history is that of Cromwell, and that in a return to the principles of that era lies the salvation of England. Similarly Ruskin allots to Venice its great and heroic period, ascribing that greatness to the fidelity of the people of Venice to the standard of St. Mark and the ideal of Christianism of which that standard was the emblem. But in the sixteenth century Venice swerved from this ideal, and her fall is the consequence.

In all such speculations a method has been applied to the State identical with that indicated in the second lecture. They exhibit the effort of the human mind to discover in the universe the evolution of a design in harmony with its own conception of what individual life is or ought to be. Genius, beauty, virtue, the breast consecrated to lofty aims, are still the dearest target to disaster, and to the blind assaults of fate and man. In individual life, therefore, the primitive conception has been modified, but in the wider and more intricate life of a State the endless variety of incidents, characters, fortunes, the succession of centuries, and of modes of thought, literatures, arts, creeds, the revolutions in political ideals, offer so complex a mass of phenomena that the breakdown of the theory, patent at once in the narrower sphere of observation, is here obscured and shielded from detection. Man's intellect is easily the dupe of the heart's desire, and in the brief span of human life willingly carries a fiction to the grave. And he who defends a pleasing dream is necessarily honoured amongst men more than the visionary whose course is towards the glacier heights and the icy solitudes of thought.


The second theory is that of a cycle in human affairs, which controls the rise and fall of empires by a law similar to that of the seasons and the revolutions of the heavenly bodies. This theory varies little; the metaphors, the figures by which it is darkened or made clearer change, but the essential idea remains one in the great myth of Plato or in the Indian epics, in the rigid steel-clasped system of Vico, or in the sentimental musings of Volney. The vicissitudes are no more determined by the neglect or performance of religious rites or certain ethical rules. Man's life is regarded as part of the universal scheme of things, and the fate of empires as subject to natural laws. The mode in which this theory originates thus connects itself at once with the mode of the Chaldean astrology and modern evolution.

It appears late in the development of Hebrew thought, and finds its most remarkable expression in the fragment, the writer of which is now not unfrequently spoken of as "Khoeleth."[5] "One generation passeth away and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place, where he arose. The wind goeth towards the south and turneth about unto the north, it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after."

The writings of Machiavelli reveal a mind based on the same deeps as Khoeleth, brooding on the same world-wide things. Like him, he looks out into the black and eyeless storm, the ceaseless drift of atoms; like him, he surveys the States and Empires of the past, and sees in their history, their revolutions, their rise and decline, but the history of the wind which, in the Hebrew phrase, goes circling in its circles, sovăv sovēv, and returneth to the place whence it came, and universal darkness awaits the world, and oblivion universal the tedious story of man. In work after work of Machiavelli, letters, tales, dramas, historical and political treatises, this conception recurs. It is the central and informing thought of his life as a philosophical thinker. But unlike Vico, Machiavelli avoids becoming the slave of a theory. He shadows forth this system of some dim cycle in human affairs as a conception in which his own mind finds quiescence if not rest. Its precise character he nowhere describes.

Amongst philosophical historians Tacitus occupies a unique position. He rivals Dante in the cumulative effect of sombre detail and in the gloomy energy which hate supplies. In depth and variety of creative insight he approaches Balzac,[6] whilst in his peculiar province, the psychology of death, he stands alone. His is the most profoundly imaginative nature that Rome produced. Three centuries before the fall of Rome he appears to apprehend or to forbode that event, and he turns to a consideration of the customs of the Teutonic race as if already in the first century he discerned the very manner of the cataclysm of the fourth. Both his great works, the Histories and the Annals, read at moments like variations and developments of the same tragic theme, the "wrath of the gods against Rome," the deum ira in rem Romanam of the Annals; whilst in the Histories the theory of retribution appears in the reflection, non esse curae deis securitatem nostrum, esse ultionem, with which he closes his preliminary survey of the havoc and civil fury of the times of Galba—"Not our preservation, but their own vengeance, do the gods desire." It is as if, transported in imagination far into the future, Tacitus looked back and pronounced the judgment of Rome in a spirit not dissimilar from that of Saint Augustine. Yet the Rome of Trajan and of the Antonines, of Severus and of Aurelian, was to come, and, as if distrusting his rancour and the wounded pride of an oligarch, Tacitus betrays in other passages habits of thought and speculation of a widely different bearing. His sympathies with the Stoic sect were instinctive, but in his reserve and deep reticence he resembles, not Seneca, but Machiavelli or Thucydides.

A passage in the Annals may fitly represent the impression of reserve which these three mighty spirits, Tacitus, Thucydides, and Machiavelli, at moments convey. "Sed mihi haec ac talia audienti in incerto judicium est, fatone res mortalium et necessitate immutabili an forte volvantur; quippe sapientissimos veterum, quique sectam eorum aemulantur, diversos reperias, ac multis insitam opinionem non initia nostri, non finem, non denique homines dis curae; ideo creberrime tristia in bonos, laeta apud deteriores esse; contra alii fatum quidem congruere rebus putant, sed non e vagis stellis, verum apud principia et nexus naturalium causarum; ac tamen electionem vitae nobis relinquunt, quam ubi elegeris, certum imminentium ordinem; neque mala vel bona quae vulgus putet."[7]

And yet the theory of retribution had not been without its influence upon Thucydides. It even forces the structure of his later books into the regularity of a tragedy, in which Athens is the protagonist, and a verse of Sophocles the theme. But his earlier and greater manner prevails, and from the study of his work the mind passes easily to the contemplation of the doom which awaited the destroyers of Athens, the monstrous tyrannies in Syracuse, and Lacedaemon's swift ruin.

Another phase of the position of Tacitus deserves attention. It was a habit of writers of the eighteenth century, in treating of the vicissitudes of empires, to state one problem and solve another. The question asked was, "Is there a law regulating the fall of empires?"; but the question answered, satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily, was, "Is there a remedy?" Like the elder Cato, Tacitus seems in places to refer the ruin which he anticipated to Rome's departure from the austerity and simplicity of the early centuries. In the luxury of the Caesars he discerns but another condemnation of the policy of Caius Julius.

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