페이지 이미지

ut of fut nothincted nothiña caricatat,

verted and preconceived idea, he lays stress on the differential in such a manner and to such an extent as to lose sight of the more vital generic content of his conceptions; he is biassed, a special pleader, an out-and-out partisan. It is especially in his treatment of the eighteenth century that he comes before us in this light. Not, it must be admitted, in dealing with its leading men: his summing up of Voltaire, perhaps its most representative figure, though unfriendly, is not, taken as a whole, unjust. But his antipathy to the temper and tendencies of the period is so strong that, while too veracious to tamper with his facts, to produce or omit them arbitrarily, he exaggerates its defects and minimises its excellencies till the result is a caricature rather than a portrait. He has asserted nothing that is contrary to fact, he has left out nothing that is essential; but the whole is seen out of focus, the impression left on the reader is onesided and untrue to life. One error in an account invalidates the whole calculation : his misconception of the age of the Encyclopædists and the Revolution results in a tendency to misconceive later problems, from which, though he struggles against it with greater success than might have been anticipated, he never wholly frees himself. 'I am not

going to lay hands on my father Parmenides’ is sense as well as piety; what the Eleatic teaching was to Socrates and his disciples the solvents of the Illumination are to the thinkers of our own time. Vainly would we forget the pit out of which we were taken. 'Honour thy father and thy 'mother' is a condition of valid thinking as well as of length of days.

We stand in an exceptionally favourable position for a review of this chapter of our spiritual history. The conventional divisions of time seldom correspond exactly with its real measurement: centuries overlap one another, because the forces that are at work in them are immaterial and escape our categories. But, allowance being made for the want of perspective inseparable from a contemporary standpoint, it is difficult not to believe that the new century coincides roughly with a new age. Partly from religious and political enthusiasm, partly from necessity, the nineteenth century addressed itself to the work of reconstruction: the preceding century had destroyed the fabric of society; the walls of Jerusalem must be rebuilt. The attempt was unsuccessful; in some cases the reconstruction was premature, in others artificial, in all inadequate, because stereotyped. Salvation was to be found in a dogma-monarchy, the

point, it only with a neartly from ne of rec

republic, the papacy—or in a system—the philosophy of Hegel, or Comte, or Aquinas. That a given number of such solutions should have been advanced would not in itself indicate a new age, for the questions which they profess to solve remain open, and further solutions similar to those already attempted might be proposed indefinitely. But we should be dull indeed had we not learned by experience that ready-made solutions of this kind are worthless, that no one formula is large enough to embrace the infinite complexity of things. Dogma, be its content what it may, is provisional and relative : it is like the stream whose waters, though flowing between the same banks, are for ever changing; nay, the permanency of whose banks is apparent only, since these too, worn by the current and acted upon by the forces of sun, rain, and frost, change. The value of systems is historical :

Our little systems have their day,

They have their day and cease to be.' Scholasticism, for example, is a moment in the history of thought, vitally connected with its previous and subsequent movements; but to identify it with thought in itself is to lose sight of its real significance, and misconceive the whole problem of philosophy. It is a pseudo-science which puts forward pretensions of this kind; the veil of the temple is not so easily lifted. Things are not simple; their explanations, therefore, cannot be simple. “Teach thy tongue to

say, “I do not know," said the wisest of the Rabbis : we must wait.

Our stock of ideas, it has been said, is limited. Is Virtue one? Is Virtue knowledge? What is the definition of Justice ? Such questions as these, familiar to Plato and the Sophists, are discussed under a slightly altered phraseology to-day. Of these questions that of the relation of the One to the Many is perhaps the deepest and the most farreaching: a commonplace of Greek philosopy, a theme for the rhetoric of the orator and the declamation of the schoolboy, it underlies every political revolution, every social and economical developement, every religious reform.

"The One remains, the Many change and pass.' As soon as men began to reflect, the contrast between the two forced itself upon them; as they emphasised one or other they leaned to this or that philosophical school. A Parmenides, contemplating the unity and permanence of the universe, overlooked the endless process of life into which thought resolves

it—as one who, lost in wonder at the first view of the infinite expanse of ocean, should conceive it, as did the Seer of the • Apocalypse, a sea of glass, like unto crystal,' forgetting the many waters of which it is composed : à Democritus or a Leucippus, fascinated by the endless play of the atoms out of which the world, as we know it, is constructed, forgets that these have meaning and value only inasmuch as they serve and constitute an order outside and beyond themselves. How many antitheses does this original divergence of view cover!-law and liberty, the static and the dynamic element in society, socialism and individualism, orthodony and free thought. In the first stages of society the community is paramount; it is more important that men should act according to law than that they should act freely or even rationally. There is a certain reason implicit in law; and in early days the advantage to be gained by improving on this is more than counterbalanced by the discipline of submission, the subjection of the ungoverned passions of semi-civilised man to control. But as time goes on a certain amount of self-restraint becomes habit, and so second nature; and the welfare of society demands not only the maintenance of the social tie, but, to a greater or less extent, the emancipation of the individual, self-realisation on his part over against as well as in the community, freedom to initiate, to think, and act on his own responsibility. Neither factor, the pressure of the One or the action of the Many, can be left out of account with impunity; but, according to circumstances, this or that is the more prominent of the two.

Mankind does not progress in a straight line, but, like a ship, tacking. On the whole, and taking a wide field of observation, there is advance; but at a particular time or place there may be retrogression, real or apparent: obser- vation with extensive view' is necessary to determine the drift of tendency and purpose in human affairs. The Middle Ages are often misjudged for want of this extended vision; it is easy to see in them nothing but violence and darkness, the abuses of feudalism, the tyranny of the secular and the crushing weight of the spiritual arm. That crimes of violence were rifer, that pestilence and famine were more frequent, that less value was attached to human life as such than now, is true. But no picture is all shadow; and, in particular, to regard the period as one of intellectual stagnation is a vulgar error. Scholasticism, which we are apt to identify with the systematised orthodoxy of St. Thomas,

produced mystics like Erigena and critics like Ockham ; there were thinkers at Paris and Oxford as hardy and as unfettered by tradition as at Berlin and Tübingen to-day. The sense of confinement that characterised the age as a whole was due to the material limitations under which it suffered. Ideas appealed to a larger public than had been the case in the slave States of antiquity, where a high culture limited to the governing class contrasted sharply with the degradation of the proletariate, on which this rested. But a vehicle was wanting; the mechanical means of the diffusion of knowledge fell short of the growing desire to know. The invention of printing marked the end of the old and the opening of the new era. Tbe Sorbonne, in calling for its abolition, and coupling the demand with another for the suppression of heresy, showed a true appreciation of cause and effect. The mediæval idea was outgrown: it survived only by reason of the material conditions in which medieval society found itself; when these disappeared it fell to dust, like a mummy taken from a vault into the open air. The printing press was a circulating medium of intellectual commerce; knowledge became current; everywhere there was a ferment and a stir. The coincidence of this invention with the discovery and diffusion of classical manuscripts was opportune; had it been discovered earlier or later its results on civilisation would have been other than they were.

Dès lors un départ très net s'établit : d'une part le livre critique et le livre du xvie siècle, ceux-ci imprimés, portatifs, facilement lisibles, incroyablement multipliés, d'autre part le livre du moyen âge, manuscrit, peu maniable, susceptible, peu lisible, et introuvable.' (Seizième Siècle, p. x.) It came at the psychological moment when the literature of Greece and Rome, over and above its intrinsic worth, had the charm of novelty, and so imposed itself to the exclusion of all other :

"L'imprimerie a à peu près supprimé le moyen âge. ... De là pour un temps qui a été long, qui à certains égards dure encore, cette idée assez répandue que le moyen âge n'existe pas, qu'il est comme un grand vide dans l'histoire de la pensée humaine. De là ce mot si étrange et si significatif de Renaissance, désignant l'esprit antique comme esprit de vie, le seizième siècle comme résurrection, le moyen âge comme mort, mise au sépulcre et long anéantissement de la pensée humaine. Jamais peut-être, et non pas même aux commencements du christianisme, et non pas même, en France, à la fin du xviiie siècle, l'orgueil humain ayant pour forme la réaction contre le passé et le mépris de la tradition, quitte à remplacer celle qu'on laisse par une

autre, ne s'est déclaré avec une telle force et un pareil enivrement.' (Seizième Siècle, p. x.) Hence an immense sense of liberation; it was as if the prison doors had been opened and the captive set free. M. Faguet remarks justly that the Renaissance, like humanism and the Reformation, was a return to the past; but it was to a past which was conceived as the golden age of humanity: men had lived in a cloister since it had been left behind them; now they came out into the light and air and picked up the thread of life where it had been dropped. The joie de vivre pervaded existence; the sun rose again over the horizon, the lurid mists with the shapes of darkness that peopled them fled before the advancing day. The imitation of ancient models, which subsequently became a conventionalism, was at first a spontaneous reaction against the archaic stiffness and constraint of mediæval standards. The Voti Solutio' of Joachim du Bellay has all the freshness and charm of Catullus

* Jam mihi mea reddita est Columba ;

Vos tristes elegi, valete longum :
At vos molliculi venite versus,
Dum cano reditum meæ Columbæ.
Quam plus oculis meis amabam,
Cujus basia blandulumque murmur,
Lusus, nequitiæ proterviores,
Et morsus poterant micante rostro,
Ipsum vincere passerem Catulli.
Nam mellita fuit, venusta, bella,
Pulchra, candidula, atque delicata
Nil mage ut queat esse delicatum
Mellitum magis aut magis venustum.
At vos hendecasyllabi frequentes,
Versus molliculi venustulique,
Adeste huc precor, et quot estis omnes
Formosæ Veneri bonisque divis

Votum solvite pro meâ Columbâ '-while Marot developed the capacity of the vernacular as the vehicle of a subtler sentiment than that of antiquity :

• Puisque de vous je n'ai autre visage,

Je m'en vais rendre hermite en un désert,
Pour prier Dieu, si un autre vous sert,
Qu'autant que moi en votre honneur soit sage.
• Adieu amours, adieu gentil corsage,
Adieu ce teint, adieu ces friands yeux !
Je n'ai pas eu de vous grand avantage ;
Un moins amant aura peut-être mieux.'

« 이전계속 »