Historical Lecturers and Essays
Charles Kingsley

Part 1 out of 3

Historical Lectures and Essays by Charles Kingsley


The First Discovery of America
Cyrus, Servant of the Lord
Ancient Civilisation


Let me begin this lecture {1} with a scene in the North Atlantic 863
years since.

"Bjarne Grimolfson was blown with his ship into the Irish Ocean; and
there came worms and the ship began to sink under them. They had a
boat which they had payed with seals' blubber, for that the sea-
worms will not hurt. But when they got into the boat they saw that
it would not hold them all. Then said Bjarne, 'As the boat will
only hold the half of us, my advice is that we should draw lots who
shall go in her; for that will not be unworthy of our manhood.'
This advice seemed so good that none gainsaid it; and they drew
lots. And the lot fell to Bjarne that he should go in the boat with
half his crew. But as he got into the boat, there spake an
Icelander who was in the ship and had followed Bjarne from Iceland,
'Art thou going to leave me here, Bjarne?' Quoth Bjarne, 'So it
must be.' Then said the man, 'Another thing didst thou promise my
father, when I sailed with thee from Iceland, than to desert me
thus. For thou saidst that we both should share the same lot.'
Bjarne said, 'And that we will not do. Get thou down into the boat,
and I will get up into the ship, now I see that thou art so greedy
after life.' So Bjarne went up into the ship, and the man went down
into the boat; and the boat went on its voyage till they came to
Dublin in Ireland. Most men say that Bjarne and his comrades
perished among the worms; for they were never heard of after."

This story may serve as a text for my whole lecture. Not only does
it smack of the sea-breeze and the salt water, like all the finest
old Norse sagas, but it gives a glimpse at least of the nobleness
which underlay the grim and often cruel nature of the Norseman. It
belongs, too, to the culminating epoch, to the beginning of that era
when the Scandinavian peoples had their great times; when the old
fierceness of the worshippers of Thor and Odin was tempered, without
being effeminated, by the Faith of the "White Christ," till the very
men who had been the destroyers of Western Europe became its

It should have, moreover, a special interest to Americans. For--as
American antiquaries are well aware--Bjarne was on his voyage home
from the coast of New England; possibly from that very Mount Hope
Bay which seems to have borne the same name in the time of those old
Norsemen, as afterwards in the days of King Philip, the last sachem
of the Wampanong Indians. He was going back to Greenland, perhaps
for reinforcements, finding, he and his fellow-captain, Thorfinn,
the Esquimaux who then dwelt in that land too strong for them. For
the Norsemen were then on the very edge of discovery, which might
have changed the history not only of this continent but of Europe
likewise. They had found and colonised Iceland and Greenland. They
had found Labrador, and called it Helluland, from its ice-polished
rocks. They had found Nova Scotia seemingly, and called it
Markland, from its woods. They had found New England, and called it
Vinland the Good. A fair land they found it, well wooded, with good
pasturage; so that they had already imported cows, and a bull whose
lowings terrified the Esquimaux. They had found self-sown corn too,
probably maize. The streams were full of salmon. But they had
called the land Vinland, by reason of its grapes. Quaint enough,
and bearing in its very quaintness the stamp of truth, is the story
of the first finding of the wild fox-grapes. How Leif the
Fortunate, almost as soon as he first landed, missed a little
wizened old German servant of his father's, Tyrker by name, and was
much vexed thereat, for he had been brought up on the old man's
knee, and hurrying off to find him met Tyrker coming back twisting
his eyes about--a trick of his--smacking his lips and talking German
to himself in high excitement. And when they get him to talk Norse
again, he says: "I have not been far, but I have news for you. I
have found vines and grapes!" "Is that true, foster-father?" says
Leif. "True it is," says the old German, "for I was brought up
where there was never any lack of them."

The saga--as given by Rafn--had a detailed description of this
quaint personage's appearance; and it would not he amiss if American
wine-growers should employ an American sculptor--and there are great
American sculptors--to render that description into marble, and set
up little Tyrker in some public place, as the Silenus of the New

Thus the first cargoes homeward from Vinland to Greenland had been
of timber and of raisins, and of vine-stocks, which were not like to

And more. Beyond Vinland the Good there was said to be another
land, Whiteman's Land--or Ireland the Mickle, as some called it.
For these Norse traders from Limerick had found Ari Marson, and
Ketla of Ruykjanes, supposed to have been long since drowned at sea,
and said that the people had made him and Ketla chiefs, and baptized
Ari. What is all this? and what is this, too, which the Esquimaux
children taken in Markland told the Northmen, of a land beyond them
where the folk wore white clothes, and carried flags on poles? Are
these all dreams? or was some part of that great civilisation, the
relics whereof your antiquarians find in so many parts of the United
States, still in existence some 900 years ago; and were these old
Norse cousins of ours upon the very edge of it? Be that as it may,
how nearly did these fierce Vikings, some of whom seemed to have
sailed far south along the shore, become aware that just beyond them
lay a land of fruits and spices, gold and gems? The adverse current
of the Gulf Stream, it may be, would have long prevented their
getting past the Bahamas into the Gulf of Mexico; but, sooner or
later, some storm must have carried a Greenland viking to San
Domingo or to Cuba; and then, as has been well said, some
Scandinavian dynasty might have sat upon the throne of Mexico.

These stories are well known to antiquarians. They may be found,
almost all of them, in Professor Rafn's "Antiquitates Americanae."
The action in them stands out often so clear and dramatic, that the
internal evidence of historic truth is irresistible. Thorvald, who,
when he saw what seems to be, they say, the bluff head of Alderton
at the south-east end of Boston Bay, said, "Here should I like to
dwell," and, shot by an Esquimaux arrow, bade bury him on that
place, with a cross at his head and a cross at his feet, and call
the place Cross Ness for evermore; Gudrida, the magnificent widow,
who wins hearts and sees strange deeds from Iceland to Greenland,
and Greenland to Vinland and back, and at last, worn out and sad,
goes off on a pilgrimage to Rome; Helgi and Finnbogi, the
Norwegians, who, like our Arctic voyagers in after times, devise all
sorts of sports and games to keep the men in humour during the long
winter at Hope; and last, but not least, the terrible Freydisa, who,
when the Norse are seized with a sudden panic at the Esquimaux and
flee from them, as they had three weeks before fled from Thorfinn's
bellowing bull, turns, when so weak that she cannot escape, single-
handed on the savages, and catching up a slain man's sword, puts
them all to flight with her fierce visage and fierce cries--Freydisa
the Terrible, who, in another voyage, persuades her husband to fall
on Helgi and Finnbogi, when asleep, and murder them and all their
men; and then, when he will not murder the five women too, takes up
an axe and slays them all herself, and getting back to Greenland,
when the dark and unexplained tale comes out, lives unpunished, but
abhorred henceforth. All these folks, I say, are no phantoms, but
realities; at least, if I can judge of internal evidence.

But beyond them, and hovering on the verge of Mythus and Fairyland,
there is a ballad called "Finn the Fair," and how

An upland Earl had twa braw sons,
My story to begin;
The tane was Light Haldane the strong,
The tither was winsome Finn.

and so forth; which was still sung, with other "rimur," or ballads,
in the Faroes, at the end of the last century. Professor Rafn has
inserted it, because it talks of Vinland as a well-known place, and
because the brothers are sent by the princess to slay American
kings; but that Rime has another value. It is of a beauty so
perfect, and yet so like the old Scotch ballads in its heroic
conception of love, and in all its forms and its qualities, that it
is one proof more, to any student of early European poetry, that we
and these old Norsemen are men of the same blood.

If anything more important than is told by Professor Rafn and Mr.
Black {2} be now known to the antiquarians of Massachusetts, let me
entreat them to pardon my ignorance. But let me record my opinion
that, though somewhat too much may have been made in past years of
certain rock-inscriptions, and so forth, on this side of the
Atlantic, there can be no reasonable doubt that our own race landed
and tried to settle on the shore of New England six hundred years
before their kinsmen, and, in many cases, their actual descendants,
the august Pilgrim Fathers of the seventeenth century. And so, as I
said, a Scandinavian dynasty might have been seated now upon the
throne of Mexico. And how was that strange chance lost? First, of
course, by the length and danger of the coasting voyage. It was one
thing to have, like Columbus and Vespucci, Cortes and Pizarro, the
Azores as a halfway port; another to have Greenland, or even
Iceland. It was one thing to run south-west upon Columbus's track,
across the Mar de Damas, the Ladies' Sea, which hardly knows a
storm, with the blazing blue above, the blazing blue below, in an
ever-warming climate, where every breath is life and joy; another to
struggle against the fogs and icebergs, the rocks and currents of
the dreary North Atlantic. No wonder, then, that the knowledge of
Markland, and Vinland, and Whiteman's Land died away in a few
generations, and became but fireside sagas for the winter nights.

But there were other causes, more honourable to the dogged energy of
the Norse. They were in those very years conquering and settling
nearer home as no other people--unless, perhaps, the old Ionian
Greeks--conquered and settled.

Greenland, we have seen, they held--the western side at least--and
held it long and well enough to afford, it is said, 2,600 pounds of
walrus' teeth as yearly tithe to the Pope, besides Peter's pence,
and to build many a convent, and church, and cathedral, with farms
and homesteads round; for one saga speaks of Greenland as producing
wheat of the finest quality. All is ruined now, perhaps by gradual
change of climate.

But they had richer fields of enterprise than Greenland, Iceland,
and the Faroes. Their boldest outlaws at that very time--whether
from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, or Britain--were forming the imperial
life-guard of the Byzantine Emperor, as the once famous Varangers of
Constantinople; and that splendid epoch of their race was just
dawning, of which my lamented friend, the late Sir Edmund Head, says
so well in his preface to Viga Glum's Icelandic Saga, "The Sagas, of
which this tale is one, were composed for the men who have left
their mark in every corner of Europe; and whose language and laws
are at this moment important elements in the speech and institutions
of England, America, and Australia. There is no page of modern
history in which the influence of the Norsemen and their conquests
must not be taken into account--Russia, Constantinople, Greece,
Palestine, Sicily, the coasts of Africa, Southern Italy, France, the
Spanish Peninsula, England, Scotland, Ireland, and every rock and
island round them, have been visited, and most of them at one time
or the other ruled, by the men of Scandinavia. The motto on the
sword of Roger Guiscard was a proud one:

Appulus et Calaber, Siculus mihi servit et Afer.

Every island, says Sir Edmund Head, and truly--for the name of
almost every island on the coast of England, Scotland, and Eastern
Ireland, ends in either EY or AY or OE, a Norse appellative, as is
the word "island" itself--is a mark of its having been, at some time
or other, visited by the Vikings of Scandinavia.

Norway, meanwhile, was convulsed by war; and what perhaps was of
more immediate consequence, Svend Fork-beard, whom we Englishmen
call Sweyn--the renegade from that Christian Faith which had been
forced on him by his German conqueror, the Emperor Otto II.--with
his illustrious son Cnut, whom we call Canute, were just calling
together all the most daring spirits of the Baltic coasts for the
subjugation of England; and when that great feat was performed, the
Scandinavian emigration was paralysed, probably, for a time by the
fearful wars at home. While the king of Sweden, and St. Olaf
Tryggvason, king of Norway, were setting on Denmark during Cnut's
pilgrimage to Rome, and Cnut, sailing with a mighty fleet to Norway,
was driving St. Olaf into Russia, to return and fall in the
fratricidal battle of Stiklestead--during, strangely enough, a total
eclipse of the sun--Vinland was like enough to remain still
uncolonised. After Cnut's short-lived triumph--king as he was of
Denmark, Norway, England, and half Scotland, and what not of Wendish
Folk inside the Baltic--the force of the Norsemen seems to have been
exhausted in their native lands. Once more only, if I remember
right, did "Lochlin," really and hopefully send forth her "mailed
swarm" to conquer a foreign land; and with a result unexpected alike
by them and by their enemies. Had it been otherwise, we might not
have been here this day.

Let me sketch for you once more--though you have heard it,
doubtless, many a time--the tale of that tremendous fortnight which
settled the fate of Britain, and therefore of North America; which
decided--just in those great times when the decision was to be made-
-whether we should be on a par with the other civilised nations of
Europe, like them the "heirs of all the ages," with our share not
only of Roman Christianity and Roman centralisation--a member of the
great comity of European nations, held together in one Christian
bond by the Pope--but heirs also of Roman civilisation, Roman
literature, Roman Law; and therefore, in due time, of Greek
philosophy and art. No less a question than this, it seems to me,
hung in the balance during that fortnight of autumn, 1066.

Poor old Edward the Confessor, holy, weak, and sad, lay in his new
choir of Westminster--where the wicked ceased from troubling, and
the weary were at rest. The crowned ascetic had left no heir
behind. England seemed as a corpse, to which all the eagles might
gather together; and the South-English, in their utter need, had
chosen for their king the ablest, and it may be the justest, man in
Britain--Earl Harold Godwinsson: himself, like half the upper
classes of England then, of the all-dominant Norse blood; for his
mother was a Danish princess. Then out of Norway, with a mighty
host, came Harold Hardraade, taller than all men, the ideal Viking
of his time. Half-brother of the now dead St. Olaf, severely
wounded when he was but fifteen, at Stiklestead, when Olaf fell, he
had warred and plundered on many a coast. He had been away to
Russia to King Jaroslaf; he had been in the Emperor's Varanger guard
at Constantinople--and, it was whispered, had slain a lion there
with his bare hands; he had carved his name and his comrades' in
Runic characters--if you go to Venice you may see them at this day--
on the loins of the great marble lion, which stood in his time not
in Venice but in Athens. And now, king of Norway and conqueror, for
the time, of Denmark, why should he not take England, as Sweyn and
Canute took it sixty years before, when the flower of the English
gentry perished at the fatal battle of Assingdune? If he and his
half-barbarous host had conquered, the civilisation of Britain would
have been thrown back, perhaps, for centuries. But it was not to

England WAS to be conquered by the Norman; but by the civilised, not
the barbaric; by the Norse who had settled, but four generations
before, in the North East of France under Rou, Rollo, Rolf the
Ganger--so-called, they say, because his legs were so long that,
when on horseback, he touched the ground and seemed to gang, or
walk. He and his Norsemen had taken their share of France, and
called it Normandy to this day; and meanwhile, with that docility
and adaptability which marks so often truly great spirits, they had
changed their creed, their language, their habits, and had become,
from heathen and murderous Berserkers, the most truly civilised
people of Europe, and--as was most natural then--the most faithful
allies and servants of the Pope of Rome. So greatly had they
changed, and so fast, that William Duke of Normandy, the great-
great-grandson of Rolf the wild Viking, was perhaps the finest
gentleman, as well as the most cultivated sovereign, and the
greatest statesman and warrior in all Europe.

So Harold of Norway came with all his Vikings to Stamford Bridge by
York; and took, by coming, only that which Harold of England
promised him, namely, "forasmuch as he was taller than any other
man, seven feet of English ground."

The story of that great battle, told with a few inaccuracies, but
told as only great poets tell, you should read, if you have not read
it already, in the "Heimskringla" of Snorri Sturluson, the Homer of
the North:

High feast that day held the birds of the air and
the beasts of the field,
White-tailed erne and sallow glede,
Dusky raven, with horny neb,
And the gray deer the wolf of the wood.

The bones of the slain, men say, whitened the place for fifty years
to come.

And remember, that on the same day on which that fight befell--
September 27, 1066--William, Duke of Normandy, with all his French-
speaking Norsemen, was sailing across the British Channel, under the
protection of a banner consecrated by the Pope, to conquer that
England which the Norse-speaking Normans could not conquer.

And now King Harold showed himself a man. He turned at once from
the North of England to the South. He raised the folk of the
Southern, as he had raised those of the Central and Northern shires;
and in sixteen days--after a march which in those times was a
prodigious feat--he was entrenched upon the fatal down which men
called Heathfield then, and Senlac, but Battle to this day--with
William and his French Normans opposite him on Telham hill.

Then came the battle of Hastings. You all know what befell upon
that day; and how the old weapon was matched against the new--the
English axe against the Norman lance--and beaten only because the
English broke their ranks. If you wish to refresh your memories,
read the tale once more in Mr. Freeman's "History of England," or
Professor Creasy's " Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World," or
even, best of all, the late Lord Lytton's splendid romance of
"Harold." And when you go to England, go, as some of you may have
gone already, to Battle; and there from off the Abbey grounds, or
from Mountjoye behind, look down off what was then "The Heathy
Field," over the long slopes of green pasture and the rich hop-
gardens, where were no hop-gardens then, and the flat tide-marshes
winding between the wooded heights, towards the southern sea; and
imagine for yourselves the feelings of an Englishman as he
contemplates that broad green sloping lawn, on which was decided the
destiny of his native land. Here, right beneath, rode Taillefer up
the slope before them all, singing the song of Roland, tossing his
lance in air and catching it as it fell, with all the Norse
berserker spirit of his ancestors flashing out in him, at the
thought of one fair fight, and then purgatory, or Valhalla--
Taillefer perhaps preferred the latter. Yonder on the left, in that
copse where the red-ochre gully runs, is Sanguelac, the drain of
blood, into which (as the Bayeux tapestry, woven by Matilda's maids,
still shows) the Norman knights fell, horse and man, till the gully
was bridged with writhing bodies for those who rode after. Here,
where you stand--the crest of the hill marks where it must have
been--was the stockade on which depended the fate of England.
Yonder, perhaps, stalked out one English squire or house-carle after
another: tall men with long-handled battle-axes--one specially
terrible, with a wooden helmet which no sword could pierce--who
hewed and hewed down knight on knight, till they themselves were
borne to earth at last. And here, among the trees and ruins of the
garden, kept trim by those who know the treasure which they own,
stood Harold's two standards of the fighting-man and the dragon of
Wessex. And here, close by (for here, for many a century, stood the
high altar of Battle Abbey, where monks sang masses for Harold's
soul), upon this very spot the Swan-neck found her hero-lover's
corpse. "Ah," says many an Englishman--and who will blame him for
it--"how grand to have died beneath that standard on that day!"
Yes, and how right. And yet how right, likewise, that the Norman's
cry of DEXAIE!--"God Help!"--and not the English hurrah, should have
won that day, till William rode up Mountjoye in the afternoon to see
the English army, terrible even in defeat, struggling through copse
and marsh away toward Brede, and, like retreating lions driven into
their native woods, slaying more in the pursuit than they slew even
in the fight.

But so it was to be; for so it ought to have been. You, my American
friends, delight, as I have said already, in seeing the old places
of the old country. Go, I beg you, and look at that old place, and
if you be wise, you will carry back from it one lesson: That God's
thoughts are not as our thoughts; nor His ways as our ways.

It was a fearful time which followed. I cannot but believe that our
forefathers had been, in some way or other, great sinners, or two
such conquests as Canute's and William's would not have fallen on
them within the short space of sixty years. They did not want for
courage, as Stamford Brigg and Hastings showed full well. English
swine, their Norman conquerors called them often enough; but never
English cowards. Their ruinous vice, if we are to trust the records
of the time, was what the old monks called accidia--[Greek text]--
and ranked it as one of the seven deadly sins: a general careless,
sleepy, comfortable habit of mind, which lets all go its way for
good or evil--a habit of mind too often accompanied, as in the case
of the Angle-Danes, with self-indulgence, often coarse enough. Huge
eaters and huger drinkers, fuddled with ale, were the men who went
down at Hastings--though they went down like heroes--before the
staid and sober Norman out of France.

But those were fearful times. As long as William lived, ruthless as
he was to all rebels, he kept order and did justice with a strong
and steady hand; for he brought with him from Normandy the instincts
of a truly great statesman. And in his sons' time matters grew
worse and worse. After that, in the troubles of Stephen's reign,
anarchy let loose tyranny in its most fearful form, and things were
done which recall the cruelties of the old Spanish CONQUISTADORES in
America. Scott's charming romance of "Ivanhoe" must be taken, I
fear, as a too true picture of English society in the time of
Richard I.

And what came of it all? What was the result of all this misery and

This, paradoxical as it may seem: That the Norman conquest was the
making of the English people; of the Free Commons of England.

Paradoxical, but true. First, you must dismiss from your minds the
too common notion that there is now, in England, a governing Norman
aristocracy, or that there has been one, at least since the year
1215, when Magna Charta was won from the Norman John by Normans and
by English alike. For the first victors at Hastings, like the first
conquistadores in America, perished, as the monk chronicles point
out, rapidly by their own crimes; and very few of our nobility can
trace their names back to the authentic Battle Abbey roll. The
great majority of the peers have sprung from, and all have
intermarried with, the Commons; and the peerage has been from the
first, and has become more and more as centuries have rolled on, the
prize of success in life.

The cause is plain. The conquest of England by the Normans was not
one of those conquests of a savage by a civilised race, or of a
cowardly race by a brave race, which results in the slavery of the
conquered, and leaves the gulf of caste between two races--master
and slave. That was the case in France, and resulted, after
centuries of oppression, in the great and dreadful revolution of
1793, which convulsed not only France but the whole civilised world.
But caste, thank God, has never existed in England, since at least
the first generation after the Norman conquest.

The vast majority, all but the whole population of England, have
been always free; and free, as they are not where caste exists to
change their occupations. They could intermarry, if they were able
men, into the ranks above them; as they could sink, if they were
unable men, into the ranks below them. Any man acquainted with the
origin of our English surnames may verify this fact for himself, by
looking at the names of a single parish or a single street of shops.
There, jumbled together, he will find names marking the noblest
Saxon or Angle blood--Kenward or Kenric, Osgood or Osborne, side by
side with Cordery or Banister--now names of farmers in my own
parish--or other Norman-French names which may be, like those two
last, in Battle Abbey roll--and side by side the almost ubiquitous
Brown, whose ancestor was probably some Danish or Norwegian house-
carle, proud of his name Biorn the Bear, and the ubiquitous Smith or
Smythe, the Smiter, whose forefather, whether he be now peasant or
peer, assuredly handled the tongs and hammer at his own forge. This
holds true equally in New England and in Old. When I search through
(as I delight to do) your New England surnames, I find the same
jumble of names--West Saxon, Angle, Danish, Norman, and French-
Norman likewise, many of primaeval and heathen antiquity, many of
high nobility, all worked together, as at home, to form the Free
Commoners of England.

If any should wish to know more on this curious and important
subject, let me recommend them to study Ferguson's "Teutonic Name
System," a book from which you will discover that some of our
quaintest, and seemingly most plebeian surnames--many surnames, too,
which are extinct in England, but remain in America--are really
corruptions of good old Teutonic names, which our ancestors may have
carried in the German Forest, before an Englishman set foot on
British soil; from which he will rise with the comfortable feeling
that we English-speaking men, from the highest to the lowest, are
literally kinsmen. Nay, so utterly made up now is the old blood-
feud between Norseman and Englishman, between the descendants of
those who conquered and those who were conquered, that in the
children of our Prince of Wales, after 800 years, the blood of
William of Normandy is mingled with the blood of the very Harold who
fell at Hastings. And so, by the bitter woes which followed the
Norman conquest was the whole population, Dane, Angle, and Saxon,
earl and churl, freeman and slave, crushed and welded together into
one homogeneous mass, made just and merciful towards each other by
the most wholesome of all teachings, a community of suffering; and
if they had been, as I fear they were, a lazy and a sensual people,
were taught

That life is not as idle ore,
But heated hot with burning fears,
And bathed in baths of hissing tears,
And battered with the strokes of doom
To shape and use.

But how did these wild Vikings become Christian men? It is a long
story. So stanch a race was sure to be converted only very slowly.
Noble missionaries as Ansgar, Rembert, and Poppo, had worked for 150
years and more among the heathens of Denmark. But the patriotism of
the Norseman always recoiled, even though in secret, from the fact
that they were German monks, backed by the authority of the German
emperor; and many a man, like Svend Fork-beard, father of the great
Canute, though he had the Kaiser himself for godfather, turned
heathen once more the moment he was free, because his baptism was
the badge of foreign conquest, and neither pope nor kaiser should
lord it over him, body or soul. St. Olaf, indeed, forced
Christianity on the Norse at the sword's point, often by horrid
cruelties, and perished in the attempt. But who forced it on the
Norsemen of Scotland, England, Ireland, Neustria, Russia, and all
the Eastern Baltic? It was absorbed and in most cases, I believe,
gradually and willingly, as a gospel and good news to hearts worn
out with the storm of their own passions. And whence came their
Christianity? Much of it, as in the case of the Danes, and still
more of the French Normans, came direct from Rome, the city which,
let them defy its influence as they would, was still the fount of
all theology, as well as of all civilisation. But I must believe
that much of it came from that mysterious ancient Western Church,
the Church of St. Patric, St. Bridget, St. Columba, which had
covered with rude cells and chapels the rocky islets of the North
Atlantic, even to Iceland itself. Even to Iceland; for when that
island was first discovered, about A.D. 840, the Norsemen found in
an isle, on the east and west and elsewhere, Irish books and bells
and wooden crosses, and named that island Papey, the isle of the
popes--some little colony of monks, who lived by fishing, and who
are said to have left the land when the Norsemen settled in it. Let
us believe, for it is consonant with reason and experience, that the
sight of those poor monks, plundered and massacred again and again
by the "mailed swarms of Lochlin," yet never exterminated, but
springing up again in the same place, ready for fresh massacre, a
sacred plant which God had planted, and which no rage of man could
trample out--let us believe, I say, that that sight taught at last
to the buccaneers of the old world that there was a purer manliness,
a loftier heroism, than the ferocious self-assertion of the
Berserker, even the heroism of humility, gentleness, self-restraint,
self-sacrifice; that there was a strength which was made perfect in
weakness; a glory, not of the sword but of the cross. We will
believe that that was the lesson which the Norsemen learnt, after
many a wild and blood-stained voyage, from the monks of Iona or of
Derry, which caused the building of such churches as that which
Sightrys, king of Dublin, raised about the year 1030, not in the
Norse but in the Irish quarter of Dublin: a sacred token of amity
between the new settlers and the natives on the ground of a common
faith. Let us believe, too, that the influence of woman was not
wanting in the good work--that the story of St. Margaret and Malcolm
Canmore was repeated, though inversely, in the case of many a
heathen Scandinavian jarl, who, marrying the princely daughter of
some Scottish chieftain, found in her creed at last something more
precious than herself; while his brother or his cousin became, at
Dublin or Wexford or Waterford, the husband of some saffron-robed
Irish princess, "fair as an elf," as the old saying was; some
"maiden of the three transcendent hues," of whom the old book of
Linane says:

Red as the blood which flowed from stricken deer,
White as the snow on which that blood ran down,
Black as the raven who drank up that blood;

- and possibly, as in the case of Brian Boru's mother, had given his
fair-haired sister in marriage to some Irish prince, and could not
resist the spell of their new creed, and the spell too, it may be,
of some sister of theirs who had long given up all thought of
earthly marriage to tend the undying fire of St. Bridget among the
consecrated virgins of Kildare.

I am not drawing from mere imagination. That such things must have
happened, and happened again and again, is certain to anyone who
knows, even superficially, the documents of that time. And I doubt
not that, in manners as well as in religion, the Norse were
humanised and civilised by their contact with the Celts, both in
Scotland and in Ireland. Both peoples had valour, intellect,
imagination: but the Celt had that which the burly angular Norse
character, however deep and stately, and however humorous, wanted;
namely, music of nature, tenderness, grace, rapidity, playfulness;
just the qualities, combining with the Scandinavian (and in Scotland
with the Angle) elements of character which have produced, in
Ireland and in Scotland, two schools of lyric poetry second to none
in the world.

And so they were converted to what was then a dark and awful creed;
a creed of ascetic self-torture and purgatorial fires for those who
escape the still more dreadful, because endless, doom of the rest of
the human race. But, because it was a sad creed, it suited better,
men who had, when conscience re-awakened in them, but too good
reason to be sad; and the minsters and cloisters which sprang up
over the whole of Northern Europe, and even beyond it, along the
dreary western shores of Greenland itself, are the symbols of a
splendid repentance for their own sins and for the sins of their

Gudruna herself, of whom I spoke just now, one of those old Norse
heroines who helped to discover America, though a historic
personage, is a symbolic one likewise, and the pattern of a whole
class. She too, after many journeys to Iceland, Greenland, and
Winland, goes on a pilgrimage to Rome, to get, I presume, absolution
from the Pope himself for all the sins of her strange, rich, stormy,
wayward life.

Have you not read--many of you surely have--La Motte Fouque's
romance of "Sintram?" It embodies all that I would say. It is the
spiritual drama of that early Middle Age; very sad, morbid if you
will, but true to fact. The Lady Verena ought not, perhaps, to
desert her husband, and shut herself up in a cloister. But so she
would have done in those old days. And who shall judge her harshly
for so doing? When the brutality of the man seems past all cure,
who shall blame the woman if she glides away into some atmosphere of
peace and purity, to pray for him whom neither warnings nor caresses
will amend? It is a sad book, "Sintram." And yet not too sad. For
they were a sad people, those old Norse forefathers of ours. Their
Christianity was sad; their minsters sad; there are few sadder,
though few grander, buildings than a Norman church.

And yet, perhaps, their Christianity did not make them sad. It was
but the other and the healthier side of that sadness which they had
as heathens. Read which you will of the old sagas--heathen or half-
Christian--the Eyrbiggia, Viga Glum, Burnt Niall, Grettir the
Strong, and, above all, Snorri Sturluson's "Heimskringla" itself--
and you will see at once how sad they are. There is, in the old
sagas, none of that enjoyment of life which shines out everywhere in
Greek poetry, even through its deepest tragedies. Not in
complacency with Nature's beauty, but in the fierce struggle with
her wrath, does the Norseman feel pleasure. Nature to him was not,
as in Mr. Longfellow's exquisite poem, {3} the kind old nurse, to
take him on her knee and whisper to him, ever anew, the story
without an end. She was a weird witch-wife, mother of storm demons
and frost giants, who must be fought with steadily, warily, wearily,
over dreary heaths and snow-capped fells, and rugged nesses and
tossing sounds, and away into the boundless sea--or who could live?-
-till he got hardened in the fight into ruthlessness of need and
greed. The poor strip of flat strath, ploughed and re-ploughed
again in the short summer days, would yield no more; or wet harvests
spoiled the crops, or heavy snows starved the cattle. And so the
Norseman launched his ships when the lands were sown in spring, and
went forth to pillage or to trade, as luck would have, to summerted,
as he himself called it; and came back, if he ever came, in autumn
to the women to help at harvest-time, with blood upon his hand. But
had he stayed at home, blood would have been there still. Three out
of four of them had been mixed up in some man-slaying, or had some
blood-feud to avenge among their own kin.

The whole of Scandinavia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Orkney, and the
rest, remind me ever of that terrible picture of the great Norse
painter, Tiddeman, in which two splendid youths, lashed together, in
true Norse duel fashion by the waist, are hewing each other to death
with the short axe, about some hot words over their ale. The loss
of life, and that of the most gallant of the young, in those days
must have been enormous. If the vitality of the race had not been
even more enormous, they must have destroyed each other, as the Red
Indians have done, off the face of the earth. They lived these
Norsemen, not to live--they lived to die. For what cared they?
Death--what was death to them? what it was to the Jomsburger Viking,
who, when led out to execution, said to the headsman: "Die! with
all pleasure. We used to question in Jomsburg whether a man felt
when his head was off? Now I shall know; but if I do, take care,
for I shall smite thee with my knife. And meanwhile, spoil not this
long hair of mine; it is so beautiful."

But, oh! what waste! What might not these men have done if they had
sought peace, not war; if they had learned a few centuries sooner to
do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God?

And yet one loves them, blood-stained as they are. Your own poets,
men brought up under circumstances, under ideas the most opposite to
theirs, love them, and cannot help it. And why? It is not merely
for their bold daring, it is not merely for their stern endurance;
nor again that they had in them that shift and thrift, those steady
and common-sense business habits, which made their noblest men not
ashamed to go on voyages of merchandise. Nor is it, again, that
grim humour--humour as of the modern Scotch--which so often flashes
out into an actual jest, but more usually underlies unspoken all
their deeds. Is it not rather that these men are our forefathers?
that their blood runs in the veins of perhaps three men out of four
in any general assembly, whether in America or in Britain?
Startling as the assertion may be, I believe it to be strictly true.

Be that as it may, I cannot read the stories of your western men,
the writings of Bret Harte, or Colonel John Hay, for instance,
without feeling at every turn that there are the old Norse alive
again, beyond the very ocean which they first crossed, 850 years

Let me try to prove my point, and end with a story, as I began with

It is just thirty years before the Norman conquest of England, the
evening of the battle of Sticklestead. St. Olaf's corpse is still
lying unburied on the hillside. The reforming and Christian king
has fallen in the attempt to force Christianity and despotism on the
Conservative and half-heathen party--the free bonders or yeoman-
farmers of Norway. Thormod, his poet--the man, as his name means,
of thunder mood--who has been standing in the ranks, at last has an
arrow in his left side. He breaks off the shaft, and thus sore
wounded goes up, when all is lost, to a farm where is a great barn
full of wounded. One Kimbe comes, a man out of the opposite or
bonder part. "There is great howling and screaming in there," he
says. "King Olaf's men fought bravely enough: but it is a shame
brisk young lads cannot bear their wounds. On what side wert thou
in the fight?" "On the best side," says the beaten Thormod. Kimbe
sees that Thormod has a good bracelet on his arm. "Thou art surely
a king's man. Give me thy gold ring and I will hide thee, ere the
bonders kill thee."

Thormod said, "Take it, if thou canst get it. I have lost that
which is worth more;" and he stretched out his left hand, and Kimbe
tried to take it. But Thormod, swinging his sword, cut off his
hand; and it is said Kimbe behaved no better over his wound than
those he had been blaming.

Then Thormod went into the barn; and after he had sung his song
there in praise of his dead king, he went into an inner room, where
was a fire, and water warming, and a handsome girl binding up men's
wounds. And he sat down by the door; and one said to him, "Why art
thou so dead pale? Why dost thou not call for the leech?" Then
sung Thormod:

"I am not blooming; and the fair
And slender maiden loves to care
For blooming youths. Few care for me,
With Fenri's gold meal I can't fee;"

and so forth, improvising after the old Norse fashion. Then Thormod
got up and went to the fire, and stood and warmed himself. And the
nurse-girl said to him, "Go out, man, and bring some of the split-
firewood which lies outside the door." He went out and brought an
armful of wood and threw it down. Then the nurse-girl looked him in
the face, and said, "Dreadful pale is this man. Why art thou so?"
Then sang Thormod:

"Thou wonderest, sweet bloom, at me,
A man so hideous to see.
The arrow-drift o'ertook me, girl,
A fine-ground arrow in the whirl
Went through me, and I feel the dart
Sits, lovely lass, too near my heart."

The girl said, "Let me see thy wound." Then Thormod sat down, and
the girl saw his wounds, and that which was in his side, and saw
that there was a piece of iron in it; but could not tell where it
had gone. In a stone pot she had leeks and other herbs, and boiled
them, and gave the wounded man of it to eat. But Thormod said,
"Take it away; I have no appetite now for my broth." Then she took
a great pair of tongs and tried to pull out the iron; but the wound
was swelled, and there was too little to lay hold of. Now said
Thormod, "Cut in so deep that thou canst get at the iron, and give
me the tongs." She did as he said. Then took Thormod the gold
bracelet off his hand and gave it the nurse-girl, and bade her do
with it what she liked.

"It is a good man's gift," said he. "King Olaf gave me the ring
this morning."

Then Thormod took the tongs and pulled the iron out. But on the
iron was a barb, on which hung flesh from the heart, some red, some
white. When he saw that, he said, "The king has fed us well. I am
fat, even to the heart's roots." And so leant back and was dead.


I wish to speak to you to-night about one of those old despotic
empires which were in every case the earliest known form of
civilisation. Were I minded to play the cynic or the mountebank, I
should choose some corrupt and effete despotism, already grown weak
and ridiculous by its decay--as did at last the Roman and then the
Byzantine Empire--and, after raising a laugh at the expense of the
old system say: See what a superior people you are now--how
impossible, under free and enlightened institutions, is anything so
base and so absurd as went on, even in despotic France before the
Revolution of 1793. Well, that would be on the whole true, thank
God; but what need is there to say it?

Let us keep our scorn for our own weaknesses, our blame for our own
sins, certain that we shall gain more instruction, though not more
amusement, by hunting out the good which is in anything than by
hunting out its evil. I have chosen, not the worst, but the best
despotism which I could find in history, founded and ruled by a
truly heroic personage, one whose name has become a proverb and a
legend, that so I might lift up your minds, even by the
contemplation of an old Eastern empire, to see that it, too, could
be a work and ordinance of God, and its hero the servant of the
Lord. For we are almost bound to call Cyrus, the founder of the
Persian Empire, by this august title for two reasons--First, because
the Hebrew Scriptures call him so; the next, because he proved
himself to be such by his actions and their consequences--at least
in the eyes of those who believe, as I do, in a far-seeing and far-
reaching Providence, by which all human history is

Bound by gold chains unto the throne of God.

His work was very different from any that need be done, or can be
done, in these our days. But while we thank God that such work is
now as unnecessary as impossible; we may thank God likewise that,
when such work was necessary and possible, a man was raised up to do
it: and to do it, as all accounts assert, better, perhaps, than it
had ever been done before or since.

True, the old conquerors, who absorbed nation after nation, tribe
after tribe, and founded empires on their ruins, are now, I trust,
about to be replaced, throughout the world, as here and in Britain
at home, by free self-governed peoples:

The old order changeth, giving place to the new;
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

And that custom of conquest and empire and transplantation did more
than once corrupt the world. And yet in it, too, God may have more
than once fulfilled His own designs, as He did, if Scripture is to
be believed, in Cyrus, well surnamed the Great, the founder of the
Persian Empire some 2400 years ago. For these empires, it must be
remembered, did at least that which the Roman Empire did among a
scattered number of savage tribes, or separate little races, hating
and murdering each other, speaking different tongues, and
worshipping different gods, and losing utterly the sense of a common
humanity, till they looked on the people who dwelt in the next
valley as fiends, to be sacrificed, if caught, to their own fiends
at home. Among such as these, empires did introduce order, law,
common speech, common interest, the notion of nationality and
humanity. They, as it were, hammered together the fragments of the
human race till they had moulded them into one. They did it
cruelly, clumsily, ill: but was there ever work done on earth,
however noble, which was not--alas, alas!--done somewhat ill?

Let me talk to you a little about the old hero. He and his hardy
Persians should be specially interesting to us. For in them first
does our race, the Aryan race, appear in authentic history. In them
first did our race give promise of being the conquering and
civilising race of the future world. And to the conquests of Cyrus-
-so strangely are all great times and great movements of the human
family linked to each other--to his conquests, humanly speaking, is
owing the fact that you are here, and I am speaking to you at this

It is an oft-told story: but so grand a one that I must sketch it
for you, however clumsily, once more.

In that mountain province called Farsistan, north-east of what we
now call Persia, the dwelling-place of the Persians, there dwelt, in
the sixth and seventh centuries before Christ, a hardy tribe, of the
purest blood of Iran, a branch of the same race as the Celtic,
Teutonic, Greek, and Hindoo, and speaking a tongue akin to theirs.
They had wandered thither, say their legends, out of the far north-
east, from off some lofty plateau of Central Asia, driven out by the
increasing cold, which left them but two mouths of summer to ten of

They despised at first--would that they had despised always!--the
luxurious life of the dwellers in the plains, and the effeminate
customs of the Medes--a branch of their own race who had conquered
and intermarried with the Turanian, or Finnish tribes; and adopted
much of their creed, as well as of their morals, throughout their
vast but short-lived Median Empire. "Soft countries," said Cyrus
himself--so runs the tale--"gave birth to small men. No region
produced at once delightful fruits and men of a war-like spirit."
Letters were to them, probably, then unknown. They borrowed them in
after years, as they borrowed their art, from Babylonians,
Assyrians, and other Semitic nations whom they conquered. From the
age of five to that of twenty, their lads were instructed but in two
things--to speak the truth and to shoot with the bow. To ride was
the third necessary art, introduced, according to Xenophon, after
they had descended from their mountain fastnessess to conquer the
whole East.

Their creed was simple enough. Ahura Mazda--Ormuzd, as he has been
called since--was the one eternal Creator, the source of all light
and life and good. He spake his word, and it accomplished the
creation of heaven, before the water, before the earth, before the
cow, before the tree, before the fire, before man the truthful,
before the Devas and beasts of prey, before the whole existing
universe; before every good thing created by Ahura Mazda and
springing from Truth.

He needed no sacrifices of blood. He was to be worshipped only with
prayers, with offerings of the inspiring juice of the now unknown
herb Homa, and by the preservation of the sacred fire, which,
understand, was not he, but the symbol--as was light and the sun--of
the good spirit--of Ahura Mazda. They had no images of the gods,
these old Persians; no temples, no altars, so says Herodotus, and
considered the use of them a sign of folly. They were, as has been
well said of them, the Puritans of the old world. When they
descended from their mountain fastnesses, they became the
iconoclasts of the old world; and the later Isaiah, out of the
depths of national shame, captivity, and exile, saw in them brother-
spirits, the chosen of the Lord, whose hero Cyrus, the Lord was
holding by His right hand, till all the foul superstitions and foul
effeminacies of the rotten Semitic peoples of the East, and even of
Egypt itself, should be crushed, though, alas! only for awhile, by
men who felt that they had a commission from the God of light and
truth and purity, to sweep out all that with the besom of

But that was a later inspiration. In earlier, and it may be
happier, times the duty of the good man was to strive against all
evil, disorder, uselessness, incompetence in their more simple
forms. "He therefore is a holy man," says Ormuzd in the Zend-
avesta, "who has built a dwelling on the earth, in which he
maintains fire, cattle, his wife, his children, and flocks and
herds; he who makes the earth produce barley, he who cultivates the
fruits of the soil, cultivates purity; he advances the law of Ahura
Mazda as much as if he had offered a hundred sacrifices."

To reclaim the waste, to till the land, to make a corner of the
earth better than they found it, was to these men to rescue a bit of
Ormuzd's world out of the usurped dominion of Ahriman; to rescue it
from the spirit of evil and disorder for its rightful owner, the
Spirit of Order and of Good.

For they believed in an evil spirit, these old Persians. Evil was
not for them a lower form of good. With their intense sense of the
difference between right and wrong it could be nothing less than
hateful; to be attacked, exterminated, as a personal enemy, till it
became to them at last impersonate and a person.

Zarathustra, the mystery of evil, weighed heavily on them and on
their great prophet, Zoroaster--splendour of gold, as I am told his
name signifies--who lived, no man knows clearly when or clearly
where, but who lived and lives for ever, for his works follow him.
He, too, tried to solve for his people the mystery of evil; and if
he did not succeed, who has succeeded yet? Warring against Ormuzd,
Ahura Mazda, was Ahriman, Angra Mainyus, literally the being of an
evil mind, the ill-conditioned being. He was labouring perpetually
to spoil the good work of Ormuzd alike in nature and in man. He was
the cause of the fall of man, the tempter, the author of misery and
death; he was eternal and uncreate as Ormuzd was. But that,
perhaps, was a corruption of the purer and older Zoroastrian creed.
With it, if Ahriman were eternal in the past, he would not be
eternal in the future. Somehow, somewhen, somewhere, in the day
when three prophets--the increasing light, the increasing truth, and
the existing truth--should arise and give to mankind the last three
books of the Zend-avesta, and convert all mankind to the pure creed,
then evil should be conquered, the creation become pure again, and
Ahriman vanish for ever; and, meanwhile, every good man was to fight
valiantly for Ormuzd, his true lord, against Ahriman and all his

Men who held such a creed, and could speak truth and draw the bow,
what might they not do when the hour and the man arrived? They were
not a BIG nation. No; but they were a GREAT nation, even while they
were eating barley-bread and paying tribute to their conquerors the
Medes, in the sterile valleys of Farsistan.

And at last the hour and the man came. The story is half legendary-
-differently told by different authors. Herodotus has one tale,
Xenophon another. The first, at least, had ample means of
information. Astyages is the old shah of the Median Empire, then at
the height of its seeming might and splendour and effeminacy. He
has married his daughter, the Princess Mandane, to Cambyses,
seemingly a vassal-king or prince of the pure Persian blood. One
night the old man is troubled with a dream. He sees a vine spring
from his daughter, which overshadows all Asia. He sends for the
Magi to interpret; and they tell him that Mandane will have a son
who will reign in his stead. Having sons of his own, and fearing
for the succession, he sends for Mandane, and, when her child is
born, gives it to Harpagus, one of his courtiers, to be slain. The
courtier relents, and hands it over to a herdsman, to be exposed on
the mountains. The herdsman relents in turn, and bring the babe up
as his own child.

When the boy, who goes by the name of Agradates, is grown, he is at
play with the other herdboys, and they choose him for a mimic king.
Some he makes his guards, some he bids build houses, some carry his
messages. The son of a Mede of rank refuses, and Agradates has him
seized by his guards and chastised with the whip. The ancestral
instincts of command and discipline are showing early in the lad.

The young gentleman complains to his father, the father to the old
king, who of course sends for the herdsman and his boy. The boy
answers in a tone so exactly like that in which Xenophon's Cyrus
would have answered, that I must believe that both Xenophon's Cyrus
and Herodotus's Cyrus (like Xenophon's Socrates and Plato's
Socrates) are real pictures of a real character; and that
Herodotus's story, though Xenophon says nothing of it, is true.

He has done nothing, the noble boy says, but what was just. He had
been chosen king in play, because the boys thought him most fit.
The boy whom he had chastised was one of those who chose him. All
the rest obeyed: but he would not, till at last he got his due
reward. "If I deserve punishment for that," says the boy, "I am
ready to submit."

The old king looks keenly and wonderingly at the young king, whose
features seem somewhat like his own. Likely enough in those days,
when an Iranian noble or prince would have a quite different cast of
complexion and of face from a Turanian herdsman. A suspicion
crosses him; and by threats of torture he gets the truth from the
trembling herdsman.

To the poor wretch's rapture the old king lets him go unharmed. He
has a more exquisite revenge to take, and sends for Harpagus, who
likewise confessed the truth. The wily old tyrant has naught but
gentle words. It is best as it is. He has been very sorry himself
for the child, and Mandane's reproaches had gone to his heart. "Let
Harpagus go home and send his son to be a companion to the new-found
prince. To-night there will be great sacrifices in honour of the
child's safety, and Harpagus is to be a guest at the banquet."

Harpagus comes; and after eating his fill, is asked how he likes the
king's meat? He gives the usual answer; and a covered basket is put
before him, out of which he is to take--in Median fashion--what he
likes. He finds in it the head and hands and feet of his own son.
Like a true Eastern he shows no signs of horror. The king asks him
if he knew what flesh he had been eating. He answers that he knew
perfectly. That whatever the king did pleased him.

Like an Eastern courtier, he knew how to dissemble, but not to
forgive, and bided his time. The Magi, to their credit, told
Astyages that his dream had been fulfilled, that Cyrus--as we must
now call the foundling prince--had fulfilled it by becoming a king
in play, and the boy is let to go back to his father and his hardy
Persian life. But Harpagus does not leave him alone, nor perhaps,
do his own thoughts. He has wrongs to avenge on his grandfather.
And it seems not altogether impossible to the young mountaineer.

He has seen enough of Median luxury to despise it and those who
indulge in it. He has seen his own grandfather with his cheeks
rouged, his eyelids stained with antimony, living a womanlike life,
shut up from all his subjects in the recesses of a vast seraglio.

He calls together the mountain rulers; makes friends with Tigranes,
an Armenian prince, a vassal of the Mede, who has his wrongs
likewise to avenge. And the two little armies of foot-soldiers--the
Persians had no cavalry--defeat the innumerable horsemen of the
Mede, take the old king, keep him in honourable captivity, and so
change, one legend says, in a single battle, the fortunes of the
whole East.

And then begins that series of conquests of which we know hardly
anything, save the fact that they were made. The young mountaineer
and his playmates, whom he makes his generals and satraps, sweep
onward towards the West, teaching their men the art of riding, till
the Persian cavalry becomes more famous than the Median had been.
They gather to them, as a snowball gathers in rolling, the picked
youth of every tribe whom they overcome. They knit these tribes to
them in loyalty and affection by that righteousness--that
truthfulness and justice--for which Isaiah in his grandest lyric
strains has made them illustrious to all time; which Xenophon has
celebrated in like manner in that exquisite book of his--the
"Cyropaedia." The great Lydian kingdom of Croesus--Asia Minor as we
call it now--goes down before them. Babylon itself goes down, after
that world-famed siege which ended in Belshazzar's feast; and when
Cyrus died--still in the prime of life, the legends seem to say--he
left a coherent and well-organised empire, which stretched from the
Mediterranean to Hindostan.

So runs the tale, which to me, I confess, sounds probable and
rational enough. It may not do so to you; for it has not to many
learned men. They are inclined to "relegate it into the region of
myth;" in plain English, to call old Herodotus a liar, or at least a
dupe. What means those wise men can have at this distance of more
than 2000 years, of knowing more about the matter than Herodotus,
who lived within 100 years of Cyrus, I for myself cannot discover.
And I say this without the least wish to disparage these
hypercritical persons. For there are--and more there ought to be,
as long as lies and superstitions remain on this earth--a class of
thinkers who hold in just suspicion all stories which savour of the
sensational, the romantic, even the dramatic. They know the
terrible uses to which appeals to the fancy and the emotions have
been applied, and are still applied to enslave the intellects, the
consciences, the very bodies of men and women. They dread so much
from experience the abuse of that formula, that "a thing is so
beautiful it must be true," that they are inclined to reply:
"Rather let us say boldly, it is so beautiful that it cannot be
true. Let us mistrust, or even refuse to believe e priori, and at
first sight, all startling, sensational, even poetic tales, and
accept nothing as history, which is not as dull as the ledger of a
dry-goods' store." But I think that experience, both in nature and
in society, are against that ditch-water philosophy. The weather,
being governed by laws, ought always to be equable and normal, and
yet you have whirlwinds, droughts, thunderstorms. The share-market,
being governed by laws, ought to be always equable and normal, and
yet you have startling transactions, startling panics, startling
disclosures, and a whole sensational romance of commercial crime and
folly. Which of us has lived to be fifty years old, without having
witnessed in private life sensation tragedies, alas! sometimes too
fearful to be told, or at least sensational romances, which we shall
take care not to tell, because we shall not be believed? Let the
ditch-water philosophy say what it will, human life is not a ditch,
but a wild and roaring river, flooding its banks, and eating out new
channels with many a landslip. It is a strange world, and man, a
strange animal, guided, it is true, usually by most common-place
motives; but, for that reason, ready and glad at times to escape
from them and their dulness and baseness; to give vent, if but for a
moment, in wild freedom, to that demoniac element, which, as Goethe
says, underlies his nature and all nature; and to prefer for an
hour, to the normal and respectable ditch-water, a bottle of
champagne or even a carouse on fire-water, let the consequences be
what they may.

How else shall we explain such a phenomenon as those old crusades?
Were they undertaken for any purpose, commercial or other?
Certainly not for lightening an overburdened population. Nay, is
not the history of your own Mormons, and their exodus into the far
West, one of the most startling instances which the world has seen
for several centuries, of the unexpected and incalculable forces
which lie hid in man? Believe me, man's passions, heated to
igniting point, rather than his prudence cooled down to freezing
point, are the normal causes of all great human movement. And a
truer law of social science than any that political economists are
wont to lay down, is that old DOV' E LA DONNA? of the Italian judge,
who used to ask, as a preliminary to every case, civil or criminal,
which was brought before him, Dov' e la donna? "Where is the lady?"
certain, like a wise old gentleman, that a woman was most probably
at the bottom of the matter.

Strangeness? Romance? Did any of you ever read--if you have not
you should read--Archbishop Whately's "Historic Doubts about the
Emperor Napoleon the First"? Therein the learned and witty
Archbishop proved, as early as 1819, by fair use of the criticism of
Mr. Hume and the Sceptic School, that the whole history of the great
Napoleon ought to be treated by wise men as a myth and a romance,
that there is little or no evidence of his having existed at all;
and that the story of his strange successes and strange defeats was
probably invented by our Government in order to pander to the vanity
of the English nation.

I will say this, which Archbishop Whately, in a late edition,
foreshadows, wittily enough--that if one or two thousand years
hence, when the history of the late Emperor Napoleon the Third, his
rise and fall, shall come to be subjected to critical analysis by
future Philistine historians of New Zealand or Australia, it will be
proved by them to be utterly mythical, incredible, monstrous--and
that all the more, the more the actual facts remain to puzzle their
unimaginative brains. What will they make two thousand years hence,
of the landing at Boulogne with the tame eagle? Will not that, and
stranger facts still, but just as true, be relegated to the region
of myth, with the dream of Astyages, and the young and princely
herdsman playing at king over his fellow-slaves?

But enough of this. To me these bits of romance often seem the
truest, as well as the most important portions of history.

When old Herodotus tells me how, King Astyages having guarded the
frontier, Harpagus sent a hunter to young Cyrus with a fresh-killed
hare, telling him to open it in private; and how, sewn up in it was
the letter, telling him that the time to rebel was come, I am
inclined to say, That must be true. It is so beneath the dignity of
history, so quaint and unexpected, that it is all the more likely
NOT to have been invented.

So with that other story--How young Cyrus, giving out that his
grandfather had made him general of the Persians, summoned them all,
each man with a sickle in his hand, into a prairie full of thorns,
and bade them clear it in one day; and how when they, like loyal
men, had finished, he bade them bathe, and next day he took them
into a great meadow and feasted them with corn and wine, and all
that his father's farm would yield, and asked them which day they
liked best; and, when they answered as was to be expected, how he
opened his parable and told them, "Choose, then, to work for the
Persians like slaves, or to be free with me."

Such a tale sounds to me true. It has the very savour of the
parables of the Old Testament; as have, surely, the dreams of the
old Sultan, with which the tale begins. Do they not put us in mind
of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, in the Book of Daniel?

Such stories are actually so beautiful that they are very likely to
be true. Understand me, I only say likely; the ditch-water view of
history is not all wrong. Its advocates are right in saying great
historic changes are not produced simply by one great person, by one
remarkable event. They have been preparing, perhaps for centuries.
They are the result of numberless forces, acting according to laws,
which might have been foreseen, and will be foreseen, when the
science of History is more perfectly understood.

For instance, Cyrus could not have conquered the Median Empire at a
single blow, if first that empire had not been utterly rotten; and
next, if he and his handful of Persians had not been tempered and
sharpened, by long hardihood, to the finest cutting edge.

Yes, there were all the materials for the catastrophe--the cannon,
the powder, the shot. But to say that the Persians must have
conquered the Medes, even if Cyrus had never lived, is to say, as
too many philosophers seem to me to say, that, given cannon, powder,
and shot, it will fire itself off some day if we only leave it alone
long enough.

It may be so. But our usual experience of Nature and Fact is, that
spontaneous combustion is a rare and exceptional phenomenon; that if
a cannon is to be fired, someone must arise and pull the trigger.
And I believe that in Society and Politics, when a great event is
ready to be done, someone must come and do it--do it, perhaps, half
unwittingly, by some single rash act--like that first fatal shot
fired by an electric spark.

But to return to Cyrus and his Persians.

I know not whether the "Cyropaedia" is much read in your schools and
universities. But it is one of the books which I should like to
see, either in a translation or its own exquisite Greek, in the
hands of every young man. It is not all fact. It is but a historic
romance. But it is better than history. It is an ideal book, like
Sidney's "Arcadia" or Spenser's "Fairy Queen"--the ideal self-
education of an ideal hero. And the moral of the book--ponder it
well, all young men who have the chance or the hope of exercising
authority among your follow-men--the noble and most Christian moral
of that heathen book is this: that the path to solid and
beneficent influence over our fellow-men lies, not through brute
force, not through cupidity, but through the highest morality;
through justice, truthfulness, humanity, self-denial, modesty,
courtesy, and all which makes man or woman lovely in the eyes of
mortals or of God.

Yes, the "Cyropaedia" is a noble book, about a noble personage. But
I cannot forget that there are nobler words by far concerning that
same noble personage, in the magnificent series of Hebrew Lyrics,
which begins "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith the Lord"--in
which the inspired poet, watching the rise of Cyrus and his
Puritans, and the fall of Babylon, and the idolatries of the East,
and the coming deliverance of his own countrymen, speaks of the
Persian hero in words so grand that they have been often enough
applied, and with all fitness, to one greater than Cyrus, and than
all men:

Who raised up the righteous man from the East,
And called him to attend his steps?
Who subdued nations at his presence,
And gave him dominion over kings?
And made them like the dust before his sword,
And the driven stubble before his bow?
He pursueth them, he passeth in safety,
By a way never trodden before by his feet.
Who hath performed and made these things,
Calling the generations from the beginning?
I, Jehovah, the first and the last, I am the same.

Behold my servant, whom I will uphold;
My chosen, in whom my soul delighteth;
I will make my spirit rest upon him,
And he shall publish judgment to the nations.
He shall not cry aloud, nor clamour,
Nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets.
The bruised reed he shall not break,
And the smoking flax he shall not quench.
He shall publish justice, and establish it.
His force shall not be abated, nor broken,
Until he has firmly seated justice in the earth,
And the distant nations shall wait for his Law.
Thus saith the God, even Jehovah,
Who created the heavens, and stretched them out;
Who spread abroad the earth, and its produce:
I, Jehovah, have called thee for a righteous end,
And I will take hold of thy hand, and preserve thee,
And I will give thee for a covenant to the people,
And for a light to the nations;
To open the eyes of the blind,
To bring the captives out of prison,
And from the dungeon those who dwell in darkness.
I am Jehovah--that is my name;
And my glory will I not give to another,
Nor my praise to the graven idols.

Who saith to Cyrus--Thou art my shepherd,
And he shall fulfil all my pleasure:
Who saith to Jerusalem--Thou shalt be built;
And to the Temple--Thou shalt be founded.
Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed,
To Cyrus whom I hold fast by his right hand,
That I may subdue nations under him,
And loose the loins of kings;
That I may open before him the two-leaved doors,
And the gates shall not be shut;
I will go before thee
And bring the mountains low.
The gates of brass will I break in sunder,
And the bars of iron hew down.
And I will give thee the treasures of darkness,
And the hoards hid deep in secret places,
That thou mayest know that I am Jehovah.
I have surnamed thee, though thou knowest not me.
I am Jehovah, and none else;
Beside me there is no God.
I will gird thee, though thou hast not known me,
That they may know from the rising of the sun,
And from the west, that there is none beside me;
I am Jehovah, and none else;
Forming light and creating darkness;
Forming peace, and creating evil.
I, Jehovah, make all these.

This is the Hebrew prophet's conception of the great Puritan of the
Old World who went forth with such a commission as this, to destroy
the idols of the East, while

The isles saw that, and feared,
And the ends of the earth were afraid;
They drew near, they came together;
Everyone helped his neighbour,
And said to his brother, Be of good courage.

The carver encouraged the smith,
He that smoothed with the hammer
Him that smote on the anvil;
Saying of the solder, It is good;
And fixing the idol with nails, lest it be moved;

But all in vain; for as the poet goes on:

Bel bowed down, and Nebo stooped;
Their idols were upon the cattle,
A burden to the weary beast.
They stoop, they bow down together;
They could not deliver their own charge;
Themselves are gone into captivity.

And what, to return, what was the end of the great Cyrus and of his

Alas, alas! as with all human glory, the end was not as the

We are scarce bound to believe positively the story how Cyrus made
one war too many, and was cut off in the Scythian deserts, falling
before the arrows of mere savages; and how their queen, Tomyris,
poured blood down the throat of the dead corpse, with the words,
"Glut thyself with the gore for which thou hast thirsted." But it
may be true--for Xenophon states it expressly, and with detail--that
Cyrus, from the very time of his triumph, became an Eastern despot,
a sultan or a shah, living apart from his people in mysterious
splendour, in the vast fortified palace which he built for himself;
and imitating and causing his nobles and satraps to imitate, in all
but vice and effeminacy, the very Medes whom he had conquered. And
of this there is no doubt--that his sons and their empire ran
rapidly through that same vicious circle of corruption to which all
despotisms are doomed, and became within 250 years, even as the
Medes, the Chaldeans, the Lydians, whom they had conquered, children
no longer of Ahura Mazda, but of Ahriman, of darkness and not of
light, to be conquered by Alexander and his Greeks even more rapidly
and more shamefully than they had conquered the East.

This is the short epic of the Persian Empire, ending, alas! as all
human epics are wont to end, sadly, if not shamefully.

But let me ask you, Did I say too much, when I said, that to these
Persians we owe that we are here to-night?

I do not say that without them we should not have been here. God, I
presume, when He is minded to do anything, has more than one way of
doing it.

But that we are now the last link in a chain of causes and effects
which reaches as far back as the emigration of the Persians
southward from the plateau of Pamir, we cannot doubt.

For see. By the fall of Babylon and its empire the Jews were freed
from their captivity--large numbers of them at least--and sent home
to their own Jerusalem. What motives prompted Cyrus, and Darius
after him, to do that deed?

Those who like to impute the lowest motives may say, if they will,
that Daniel and the later Isaiah found it politic to worship the
rising sun, and flatter the Persian conquerors: and that Cyrus and
Darius in turn were glad to see Jerusalem rebuilt, as an impregnable
frontier fortress between them and Egypt. Be it so; I, who wish to
talk of things noble, pure, lovely, and of good report, would rather
point you once more to the magnificent poetry of the later Isaiah
which commences at the 40th chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and say--
There, upon the very face of the document, stands written the fact
that the sympathy between the faithful Persian and the faithful Jew-
-the two puritans of the Old World, the two haters of lies,
idolatries, superstitions, was actually as intense as it ought to
have been, as it must have been.

Be that as it may, the return of the Jews to Jerusalem preserved for
us the Old Testament, while it restored to them a national centre, a
sacred city, like that of Delphi to the Greeks, Rome to the Romans,
Mecca to the Muslim, loyalty to which prevented their being utterly
absorbed by the more civilised Eastern races among whom they had
been scattered abroad as colonies of captives.

Then another, and a seemingly needful link of cause and effect
ensued: Alexander of Macedon destroyed the Persian Empire, and the
East became Greek, and Alexandria, rather than Jerusalem, became the
head-quarters of Jewish learning. But for that very cause, the
Scriptures were not left inaccessible to the mass of mankind, like
the old Pehlevi liturgies of the Zend-avesta, or the old Sanscrit
Vedas, in an obsolete and hieratic tongue, but were translated into,
and continued in, the then all but world-wide Hellenic speech, which
was to the ancient world what French is to the modern.

Then the East became Roman, without losing its Greek speech. And
under the wide domination of that later Roman Empire--which had
subdued and organised the whole known world, save the Parthian
descendants of those old Persians, and our old Teutonic forefathers
in their German forests and on their Scandinavian shores--that
Divine book was carried far and wide, East and West, and South, from
the heart of Abyssinia to the mountains of Armenia, and to the isles
of the ocean, beyond Britain itself to Ireland and to the Hebrides.

And that book--so strangely coinciding with the old creed of the
earlier Persians--that book, long misunderstood, long overlain by
the dust, and overgrown by the parasitic fungi of centuries, that
book it was which sent to these trans-Atlantic shores the founders
of your great nation. That book gave them their instinct of
Freedom, tempered by reverence for Law. That book gave them their
hatred of idolatry; and made them not only say but act upon their
own words, with these old Persians and with the Jewish prophets
alike, Sacrifice and burnt offering thou wouldst not; Then said we,
Lo, we come. In the volume of the book it is written of us, that we
come to do thy will, O God. Yes, long and fantastic is the chain of
causes and effects, which links you here to the old heroes who came
down from Central Asia, because the land had grown so wondrous cold,
that there were ten months of winter to two of summer; and when
simply after warmth and life, and food for them and for their
flocks, they wandered forth to found and help to found a spiritual

And even in their migration, far back in these dim and mystic ages,
have we found the earliest link of the long chain? Not so. What if
the legend of the change of climate be the dim recollection of an
enormous physical fact? What if it, and the gradual depopulation of
the whole north of Asia, be owing, as geologists now suspect, to the
slow and age-long uprise of the whole of Siberia, thrusting the warm
Arctic sea farther and farther to the northward, and placing between
it and the Highlands of Thibet an ever-increasing breadth of icy
land, destroying animals, and driving whole races southward, in
search of the summer and the sun?

What if the first link in the chain, as yet conceivable by man,
should be the cosmic changes in the distribution of land and water,
which filled the mouths of the Siberian rivers with frozen carcases
of woolly mammoth and rhinoceros; and those again, doubt it not, of
other revolutions, reaching back and back, and on and on, into the
infinite unknown? Why not? For so are all human destinies

Bound with gold chains unto the throne of God.


There is a theory abroad in the world just now about the origin of
the human race, which has so many patent and powerful physiological
facts to support it that we must not lightly say that it is absurd
or impossible; and that is, that man's mortal body and brain were
derived from some animal and ape-like creature. Of that I am not
going to speak now. My subject is: How this creature called man,
from whatever source derived, became civilised, rational, and moral.
And I am sorry to say that there is tacked on by many to the first
theory, another which does not follow from it, and which has really
nothing to do with it, and it is this: That man, with all his
wonderful and mysterious aspirations, always unfulfilled yet always
precious, at once his torment and his joy, his very hope of
everlasting life; that man, I say, developed himself, unassisted,
out of a state of primaeval brutishness, simply by calculations of
pleasure and pain, by observing what actions would pay in the long
run and what would not; and so learnt to conquer his selfishness by
a more refined and extended selfishness, and exchanged his brutality
for worldliness, and then, in a few instances, his worldliness for
next-worldliness. I hope I need not say that I do not believe this
theory. If I did, I could not be a Christian, I think, nor a
philosopher either. At least, if I thought that human civilisation
had sprung from such a dunghill as that, I should, in honour to my
race, say nothing about it, here or elsewhere.

Why talk of the shame of our ancestors? I want to talk of their
honour and glory. I want to talk, if I talk at all, about great
times, about noble epochs, noble movements, noble deeds, and noble
folk; about times in which the human race--it may be through many
mistakes, alas! and sin, and sorrow, and blood-shed--struggled up
one step higher on those great stairs which, as we hope, lead upward
towards the far-off city of God; the perfect polity, the perfect
civilisation, the perfect religion, which is eternal in the heavens.

Of great men, then, and noble deeds I want to speak. I am bound to
do so first, in courtesy to my hearers. For in choosing such a
subject I took for granted a nobleness and greatness of mind in them
which can appreciate and enjoy the contemplation of that which is
lofty and heroic, and that which is useful indeed, though not to the
purses merely or the mouths of men, but to their intellects and
spirits; that highest philosophy which, though she can (as has been
sneeringly said of her) bake no bread, she--and she alone, can at
least do this--make men worthy to eat the bread which God has given

I am bound to speak on such subjects, because I have never yet met,
or read of, the human company who did not require, now and then at
least, being reminded of such times and such personages--of
whatsoever things are just, pure, true, lovely, and of good report,
if there be any manhood and any praise to think, as St. Paul bids us
all, of such things, that we may keep up in our minds as much as
possible a lofty standard, a pure ideal, instead of sinking to the
mere selfish standard which judges all things, even those of the
world to come, by profit and by loss, and into that sordid frame of
mind in which a man grows to believe that the world is constructed
of bricks and timber, and kept going by the price of stocks.

We are all tempted, and the easier and more prosperous we are, the
more we are tempted, to fall into that sordid and shallow frame of
mind. Sordid even when its projects are most daring, its outward
luxuries most refined; and shallow, even when most acute, when
priding itself most on its knowledge of human nature, and of the
secret springs which, so it dreams, move the actions and make the
history of nations and of men. All are tempted that way, even the
noblest-hearted. ADHAESIT PAVIMENTO VENTER, says the old psalmist.
I am growing like the snake, crawling in the dust, and eating the
dust in which I crawl. I try to lift up my eyes to the heavens, to
the true, the beautiful, the good, the eternal nobleness which was
before all time, and shall be still when time has passed away. But
to lift up myself is what I cannot do. Who will help me? Who will
quicken me? as our old English tongue has it. Who will give me
life? The true, pure, lofty human life which I did NOT inherit from
the primaeval ape, which the ape-nature in me is for ever trying to
stifle, and make me that which I know too well I could so easily
become--a cunninger and more dainty-featured brute? Death itself,
which seems at times so fair, is fair because even it may raise me
up and deliver me from the burden of this animal and mortal body:

'Tis life, not death for which I pant;
'Tis life, whereof my nerves are scant;
More life, and fuller, that I want.

Man? I am a man not by reason of my bones and muscles, nerves and
brain, which I have in common with apes and dogs and horses. I am a
man--thou art a man or woman--not because we have a flesh--God
forbid! but because there is a spirit in us, a divine spark and ray,
which nature did not give, and which nature cannot take away. And
therefore, while I live on earth, I will live to the spirit, not to
the flesh, that I may be, indeed, a man; and this same gross flesh,
this animal ape-nature in me, shall be the very element in me which
I will renounce, defy, despise; at least, if I am minded to be, not
a merely higher savage, but a truly higher civilised man.
Civilisation with me shall mean, not more wealth, more finery, more
self-indulgence--even more aesthetic and artistic luxury; but more
virtue, more knowledge, more self-control, even though I earn scanty
bread by heavy toil; and when I compare the Caesar of Rome or the
great king, whether of Egypt, Babylon, or Persia, with the hermit of
the Thebaid, starving in his frock of camel's hair, with his soul
fixed on the ineffable glories of the unseen, and striving, however
wildly and fantastically, to become an angel and not an ape, I will
say the hermit, and not the Caesar, is the civilised man.

There are plenty of histories of civilisation and theories of
civilisation abroad in the world just now, and which profess to show
you how the primeval savage has, or at least may have, become the
civilised man. For my part, with all due and careful consideration,
I confess I attach very little value to any of them: and for this
simple reason that we have no facts. The facts are lost.

Of course, if you assume a proposition as certainly true, it is easy
enough to prove that proposition to be true, at least to your own
satisfaction. If you assert with the old proverb, that you may make
a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you will be stupider than I dare
suppose anyone here to be, if you cannot invent for yourselves all
the intermediate stages of the transformation, however startling.
And, indeed, if modern philosophers had stuck more closely to this
old proverb, and its defining verb "make," and tried to show how
some person or persons--let them be who they may--men, angels, or
gods--made the sow's ear into the silk purse, and the savage into
the sage--they might have pleaded that they were still trying to
keep their feet upon the firm ground of actual experience. But
while their theory is, that the sow's ear grew into a silk purse of
itself, and yet unconsciously and without any intention of so
bettering itself in life, why, I think that those who have studied
the history which lies behind them, and the poor human nature which
is struggling, and sinning, and sorrowing, and failing around them,
and which seems on the greater part of this planet going downwards
and not upwards, and by no means bettering itself, save in the
increase of opera-houses, liquor-bars, and gambling-tables, and that
which pertaineth thereto; then we, I think, may be excused if we say
with the old Stoics--[Greek text]--I withhold my judgment. I know
nothing about the matter yet; and you, oh my imaginative though
learned friends, know I suspect very little either.

Eldest of things, Divine Equality:

so sang poor Shelley, and with a certain truth. For if, as I
believe, the human race sprang from a single pair, there must have
been among their individual descendants an equality far greater than
any which has been known on earth during historic times. But that
equality was at best the infantile innocence of the primary race,
which faded away in the race as quickly, alas! as it does in the
individual child. Divine--therefore it was one of the first
blessings which man lost; one of the last, I fear, to which he will
return; that to which civilisation, even at its best yet known, has
not yet attained, save here and there for short periods; but towards
which it is striving as an ideal goal, and, as I trust, not in vain.

The eldest of things which we see actually as history is not
equality, but an already developed hideous inequality, trying to
perpetuate itself, and yet by a most divine and gracious law,
destroying itself by the very means which it uses to keep itself

"There were giants in the earth in those days. And Nimrod began to
be a mighty one in the earth" -

A mighty hunter; and his game was man.

No; it is not equality which we see through the dim mist of bygone

What we do see is--I know not whether you will think me
superstitious or old-fashioned, but so I hold--very much what the
earlier books of the Bible show us under symbolic laws. Greek
histories, Roman histories, Egyptian histories, Eastern histories,
inscriptions, national epics, legends, fragments of legends--in the
New World as in the Old--all tell the same story. Not the story
without an end, but the story without a beginning. As in the Hindoo
cosmogony, the world stands on an elephant, and the elephant on a
tortoise, and the tortoise on--what? No man knows. I do not know.
I only assert deliberately, waiting, as Napoleon says, till the
world come round to me, that the tortoise does not stand--as is held
by certain anthropologists, some honoured by me, some personally
dear to me--upon the savages who chipped flints and fed on mammoth
and reindeer in North-Western Europe, shortly after the age of ice,
a few hundred thousand years ago. These sturdy little fellows--the
kinsmen probably of the Esquimaux and Lapps--could have been but the
AVANT-COURIERS, or more probably the fugitives from the true mass of
mankind--spreading northward from the Tropics into climes becoming,
after the long catastrophe of the age of ice, once more genial
enough to support men who knew what decent comfort was, and were
strong enough to get the same, by all means fair or foul. No. The
tortoise of the human race does not stand on a savage. The savage
may stand on an ape-like creature. I do not say that he does not.
I do not say that he does. I do not know; and no man knows. But at
least I say that the civilised man and his world stand not upon
creatures like to any savage now known upon the earth. For first,
it seems to be most unlikely; and next, and more important to an
inductive philosopher, there is no proof of it. I see no savages
becoming really civilised men--that is, not merely men who will ape
the outside of our so-called civilisation, even absorb a few of our
ideas; not merely that; but truly civilised men who will think for
themselves, invent for themselves, act for themselves; and when the
sacred lamp of light and truth has been passed into their hands,
carry it on unextinguished, and transmit it to their successors
without running back every moment to get it relighted by those from
whom they received it: and who are bound--remember that--patiently
and lovingly to relight it for them; to give freely to all their
fellow-men of that which God has given to them and to their
ancestors; and let God, not man, be judge of how much the Red Indian
or the Polynesian, the Caffre or the Chinese, is capable of
receiving and of using.

Moreover, in history there is no record, absolutely no record, as
far as I am aware, of any savage tribe civilising itself. It is a
bold saying. I stand by my assertion: most happy to find myself
confuted, even in a single instance; for my being wrong would give
me, what I can have no objection to possess, a higher opinion than I
have now, of the unassisted capabilities of my fellow-men.

But civilisation must have begun somewhen, somewhere, with some
person, or some family, or some nation; and how did it begin?

I have said already that I do not know. But I have had my dream--
like the philosopher--and as I have not been ashamed to tell it
elsewhere, I shall not be ashamed to tell it here. And it is this:

What if the beginnings of true civilisation in this unique,
abnormal, diseased, unsatisfied, incomprehensible, and truly
miraculous and supernatural race we call man, had been literally,
and in actual fact, miraculous and supernatural likewise? What if
that be the true key to the mystery of humanity and its origin?
What if the few first chapters of the most ancient and most sacred
book should point, under whatever symbols, to the actual and the
only possible origin of civilisation, the education of a man, or a
family by beings of some higher race than man? What if the old
Puritan doctrine of Election should be even of a deeper and wider
application than divines have been wont to think? What if
individuals, if peoples, have been chosen out from time to time for
a special illumination, that they might be the lights of the earth,
and the salt of the world? What if they have, each in their turn,
abused that divine teaching to make themselves the tyrants, instead
of the ministers, of the less enlightened? To increase the
inequalities of nature by their own selfishness, instead of
decreasing them, into the equality of grace, by their own self-
sacrifice? What if the Bible after all was right, and even more
right than we were taught to think?

So runs my dream. If, after I have confessed to it, you think me
still worth listening to, in this enlightened nineteenth century, I
will go on.

At all events, what we see at the beginning of all known and half-
known history, is not savagery, but high civilisation, at least of
an outward and material kind. Do you demur? Then recollect, I pray
you, that the three oldest peoples known to history on this planet
are Egypt, China, Hindostan. The first glimpses of the world are
always like those which the book of Genesis gives us; like those
which your own continent gives us. As it was 400 years ago in
America, so it was in North Africa and in Asia 4000 years ago, or
40,000 for aught I know. Nay, if anyone should ask--And why not
400,000 years ago, on Miocene continents long sunk beneath the
Tropic sea? I for one have no rejoinder save--We have no proofs as

There loom up, out of the darkness of legend, into the as yet dim
dawn of history, what the old Arabs call Races of pre-Adamite
Sultans--colossal monarchies, with fixed and often elaborate laws,
customs, creeds; with aristocracies, priesthoods--seemingly always
of a superior and conquering race; with a mass of common folk,
whether free or half-free, composed of older conquered races; of
imported slaves too, and their descendants.

But whence comes the royal race, the aristocracy, the priesthood?
You inquire, and you find that they usually know not themselves.
They are usually--I had almost dared to say, always--foreigners.
They have crossed the neighbouring mountains. The have come by sea,
like Dido to Carthage, like Manco Cassae and Mama Belle to America,
and they have sometimes forgotten when. At least they are wiser,
stronger, fairer, than the aborigines. They are to them--as Jacques
Cartier was to the Indians of Canada--as gods. They are not sure
that they are not descended from gods. They are the Children of the
Sun, or what not. The children of light, who ray out such light as
they have, upon the darkness of their subjects. They are at first,
probably, civilisers, not conquerors. For, if tradition is worth
anything--and we have nothing else to go upon--they are at first few
in number. They come as settlers, or even as single sages. It is,
in all tradition, not the many who influence the few, but the few
who influence the many.

So aristocracies, in the true sense, are formed.

But the higher calling is soon forgotten. The purer light is soon
darkened in pride and selfishness, luxury and lust; as in Genesis,
the sons of God see the daughters of men, that they are fair; and
they take them wives of all that they choose. And so a mixed race
springs up and increases, without detriment at first to the
commonwealth. For, by a well-known law of heredity, the cross
between two races, probably far apart, produces at first a progeny
possessing the forces, and, alas! probably the vices of both. And
when the sons of God go in to the daughters of men, there are giants
in the earth in those days, men of renown. The Roman Empire,
remember, was never stronger than when the old Patrician blood had
mingled itself with that of every nation round the Mediterranean.

But it does not last. Selfishness, luxury, ferocity, spread from
above, as well as from below. The just aristocracy of virtue and
wisdom becomes an unjust one of mere power and privilege; that
again, one of mere wealth corrupting and corrupt; and is destroyed,
not by the people from below, but by the monarch from above. The
hereditary bondsmen may know

Who would be free,
Himself must strike the blow.

But they dare not, know not how. The king must do it for them. He
must become the State. "Better one tyrant," as Voltaire said, "than
many." Better stand in fear of one lion far away, than of many
wolves, each in the nearest wood. And so arise those truly
monstrous Eastern despotisms, of which modern Persia is, thank God,
the only remaining specimen; for Turkey and Egypt are too amenable
of late years to the influence of the free nations to be counted as
despotisms pure and simple--despotisms in which men, instead of
worshipping a God-man, worship the hideous counterfeit, a Man-god--a
poor human being endowed by public opinion with the powers of deity,
while he is the slave of all the weaknesses of humanity. But such,
as an historic fact, has been the last stage of every civilisation--
even that of Rome, which ripened itself upon this earth the last in
ancient times, and, I had almost said, until this very day, except
among the men who speak Teutonic tongues, and who have preserved
through all temptations, and reasserted through all dangers, the
free ideas which have been our sacred heritage ever since Tacitus
beheld us, with respect and awe, among our German forests, and saw
in us the future masters of the Roman Empire.

Yes, it is very sad, the past history of mankind. But shall we
despise those who went before us, and on whose accumulated labours
we now stand?

Shall we not reverence our spiritual ancestors? Shall we not show
our reverence by copying them, at least whenever, as in those old
Persians, we see in them manliness and truthfulness, hatred of
idolatries, and devotion to the God of light and life and good? And
shall we not feel pity, instead of contempt, for their ruder forms
of government, their ignorances, excesses, failures--so excusable in
men who, with little or no previous teaching, were trying to solve
for themselves for the first time the deepest social and political
problems of humanity.

Yes, those old despotisms we trust are dead, and never to revive.
But their corpses are the corpses, not of our enemies, but of our
friends and predecessors, slain in the world-old fight of Ormuzd
against Ahriman--light against darkness, order against disorder.
Confusedly they fought, and sometimes ill: but their corpses piled
the breach and filled the trench for us, and over their corpses we
step on to what should be to us an easy victory--what may be to us,
yet, a shameful ruin.

For if we be, as we are wont to boast, the salt of the earth and the
light of the world, what if the salt should lose its savour? What
if the light which is in us should become darkness? For myself,
when I look upon the responsibilities of the free nations of modern
times, so far from boasting of that liberty in which I delight--and
to keep which I freely, too, could die--I rather say, in fear and
trembling, God help us on whom He has laid so heavy a burden as to
make us free; responsible, each individual of us, not only to
ourselves, but to Him and all mankind. For if we fall we shall fall
I know not whither, and I dare not think.

How those old despotisms, the mighty empires of old time, fell, we
know, and we can easily explain. Corrupt, luxurious, effeminate,
eaten out by universal selfishness and mutual fear, they had at last
no organic coherence. The moral anarchy within showed through, at
last burst through, the painted skin of prescriptive order which
held them together. Some braver and abler, and usually more
virtuous people, often some little, hardy, homely mountain tribe,
saw that the fruit was ripe for gathering; and, caring naught for
superior numbers--and saying with German Alaric when the Romans
boasted of their numbers, "The thicker the hay the easier it is
mowed"--struck one brave blow at the huge inflated wind-bag--as
Cyrus and his handful of Persians struck at the Medes; as Alexander
and his handful of Greeks struck afterwards at the Persians--and
behold, it collapsed upon the spot. And then the victors took the
place of the conquered; and became in their turn an aristocracy, and
then a despotism; and in their turn rotted down and perished. And
so the vicious circle repeated itself, age after age, from Egypt and
Assyria to Mexico and Peru.

And therefore, we, free peoples as we are, have need to watch, and
sternly watch, ourselves. Equality of some kind or other is, as I
said, our natural and seemingly inevitable goal. But which
equality? For there are two--a true one and a false; a noble and a
base; a healthful and a ruinous. There is the truly divine
equality, and there is the brute equality of sheep and oxen, and of
flies and worms. There is the equality which is founded on mutual
envy. The equality which respects others, and the equality which
asserts itself. The equality which longs to raise all alike, and
the equality which desires to pull down all alike. The equality
which says: Thou art as good as I, and it may be better too, in
the sight of God. And the equality which says: I am as good as
thou, and will therefore see if I cannot master thee.

Side by side, in the heart of every free man, and every free people,
are the two instincts struggling for the mastery, called by the same
name, but bearing the same relation to each other as Marsyas to
Apollo, the Satyr to the God. Marsyas and Apollo, the base and the
noble, are, as in the old Greek legend, contending for the prize.
And the prize is no less a one than all free people of this planet.

In proportion as that nobler idea conquers, and men unite in the
equality of mutual respect and mutual service, they move one step
farther towards realising on earth that Kingdom of God of which it
is written: "The despots of the nations exercise dominion over
them, and they that exercise authority over them are called
benefactors. But he that will be great among you let him be the
servant of all."

And in proportion as that base idea conquers, and selfishness, not
self-sacrifice, is the ruling spirit of a State, men move on, one
step forward, towards realising that kingdom of the devil upon
earth, "Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost."
Only, alas! in that evil equality of envy and hate, there is no
hindmost, and the devil takes them all alike.

And so is a period of discontent, revolution, internecine anarchy,
followed by a tyranny endured, as in old Rome, by men once free,
because tyranny will at least do for them what they were too lazy
and greedy and envious to do for themselves.

And all because they have forgot
What 'tis to be a man--to curb and spurn.
The tyrant in us: the ignobler self
Which boasts, not loathes, its likeness to the brute;
And owns no good save ease, no ill save pain,
No purpose, save its share in that wild war
In which, through countless ages, living things
Compete in internecine greed. Ah, loving God,
Are we as creeping things, which have no lord?
That we are brutes, great God, we know too well;
Apes daintier-featured; silly birds, who flaunt
Their plumes, unheeding of the fowler's step;
Spiders, who catch with paper, not with webs;
Tigers, who slay with cannon and sharp steel,
Instead of teeth and claws:- all these we are.
Are we no more than these, save in degree?
Mere fools of nature, puppets of strong lusts,
Taking the sword, to perish by the sword
Upon the universal battle-field,
Even as the things upon the moor outside?

The heath eats up green grass and delicate herbs;
The pines eat up the heath; the grub the pine;
The finch the grub; the hawk the silly finch;
And man, the mightiest of all beasts of prey,
Eats what he lists. The strong eat up the weak;
The many eat the few; great nations, small;
And he who cometh in the name of all
Shall, greediest, triumph by the greed of all,
And, armed by his own victims, eat up all.
While ever out of the eternal heavens
Looks patient down the great magnanimous God,
Who, Master of all worlds, did sacrifice
All to Himself? Nay: but Himself to all;
Who taught mankind, on that first Christmas Day,
What 'tis to be a man--to give, not take;
To serve, not rule; to nourish, not devour;
To lift, not crush; if need, to die, not live.

"He that cometh in the name of all"--the popular military despot--
the "saviour of his country"--he is our internecine enemy on both
sides of the Atlantic, whenever he rises--the inaugurator of that
Imperialism, that Caesarism into which Rome sank, when not her
liberties merely, but her virtues, were decaying out of her--the
sink into which all wicked States, whether republics or monarchies,
are sure to fall, simply because men must eat and drink for to-
morrow they die. The Military and Bureaucratic Despotism which
keeps the many quiet, as in old Rome, by PANEM ET CIRCENSES--bread
and games--or, if need be, Pilgrimages; that the few may make money,
eat, drink, and be merry, as long as it can last. That, let it ape
as it may--as did the Caesars of old Rome at first--as another
Emperor did even in our own days--the forms of dead freedom, really
upholds an artificial luxury by brute force; and consecrates the
basest of all aristocracies, the aristocracy of the money-bag, by
the divine sanction of the bayonet.

That at all risks, even at the price of precious blood, the free
peoples of the earth must ward off from them; for, makeshift and
stop-gap as it is, it does not even succeed in what it tries to do.
It does not last. Have we not seen that it does not, cannot last?
How can it last? This falsehood, like all falsehoods, must collapse
at one touch of Ithuriel's spear of truth and fact. And -

"Then saw I the end of these men. Namely, how Thou dost set them in
slippery places, and casteth them down. Suddenly do they perish,
and come to a fearful end. Yea, like as a dream when one awaketh,
so shalt Thou make their image to vanish out of the city."

Have we not seen that too, though, thank God, neither in England nor
in the United States?

And then? What then? None knows, and none can know.

The future of France and Spain, the future of the Tropical Republics
of Spanish America, is utterly blank and dark; not to be prophesied,
I hold, by mortal man, simply because we have no like cases in the
history of the past whereby to judge the tendencies of the present.
Will they revive? Under the genial influences of free institutions
will the good seed which is in them take root downwards, and bear
fruit upwards? and make them all what that fair France has been, in
spite of all her faults, so often in past years--a joy and an
inspiration to all the nations round? Shall it be thus? God grant
it may; but He, and He alone, can tell. We only stand by, watching,
if we be wise, with pity and with fear, the working out of a
tremendous new social problem, which must affect the future of the
whole civilised world.

For if the agonising old nations fail to regenerate themselves, what
can befall? What, when even Imperialism has been tried and failed,
as fail it must? What but that lower depth within the lowest deep?

That last dread mood
Of sated lust, and dull decrepitude.
No law, no art, no faith, no hope, no God.
When round the freezing founts of life in peevish ring,
Crouched on the bare-worn sod,
Babbling about the unreturning spring,
And whining for dead creeds, which cannot save,
The toothless nations shiver to their grave.


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