« AnteriorContinuar »
work, a large number of mediocrities are always employing themselves in work in which they can be useful, in the industrious accumulation and digestion of masses of materialtexts, historical facts, linguistic phenomena, etc. The scholars of the first rank who combine learning with originality, imagination, humor, style--men like Wilamowitz himself, or Mommsen or Erwin Rohde, or Wellhausen in another field-are to some extent lost for foreign view among this crowd; in England scholars of an equal rank stand in much more individual prominence.
There may be some scholar today in England who looks at the German books on his shelves in the old place where they stood sixteen months ago and suddenly feels with a new pang the immense distance of sixteen months ago and the vastness of the tragedy. The great international community of scholars, bound upon the conquest of new realms of knowledge, waging war together upon ignorance and insensibility and narrowness of mind—is that fellowship in interests which seemed so vital and so enduring annihilated in a moment? Is it gone forever? It is gone for the lifetime yet remaining to himself and his contemporaries, Wilamowitz told his Berlin audience. “Let us cherish no illusions. We shall see each other's face no more; for the rest of our life-time we shall go our ways in the same world as strangers.” But altho personal intercourse is ruled out, he anticipates that there will still be a contact of minds in literature. He himself will continue to read Anatole France and Thomas Hardy. He even hopes that Russian literature will be studied more than before in Germany. And those who are now young may even live to see the old fellowship restored.
The tragedy of the personal loss Wilamowitz does not attempt to minimize. For himself it means pain. He expects that there are many who feel the same pain on the other side. Both in believing that this pain is felt by many English scholars and in believing that the breach which causes it can not be cured for a generation one can hardly doubt that Wilamowitz is right. People talk of the mutual hatred caused by the war, but if it were only hatred the case would not be so hopeless. Hatred is a sentiment which may pass much more easily than the sentiment which estranges English and German today.
To describe the feeling which the ordinary Englishman now has for Germans as hatred is surely a psychological infelicity. It would be more nearly described in German by Ekel than by Hass. A man shrinks from a being whose whole moral constitution is diverse from his own, in whom he finds a want of correspondence with himself in those elementary moral sensibilities and judgments which seem to constitute the deepest and most essential part of his own nature. When Rudyard Kipling some time ago spoke of human beings and Germans as different species it might have seemed a mere mode of popular abuse. As a matter of fact, it exprest with psychological truth a feeling which exists in Englishmen today. Mr. Wells has imagined the invasion of our planet by a race of Martians, and he describes the peculiar sort of disgust and shrinking which their presence caused in mankind, for the very reason that there was something about them so uncannily alien. When the Englishman today thinks of meeting Germans again, he knows that they will be to all appearance men like himself, that he might converse with them on many topics and find a community of ideas; but he feels that behind all that, in the ground of their nature, there is a disconcerting difference. These men, he feels, talking the ordinary language of humanity, are capable not only of doing things abhorrent to all finer human feeling-he knows how liable he is to act against his better self, he knows of what sins his own nation has been guilty—but of doing them reflectively and deliberately, without any sense of violating sanctities—nay, with stolid pride or bombastic self-praise. There are certain inhibitions, certain reverences, which according to the properly human scale of values come above everything else, to be wanting in a sense for which is indeed to be inhuman in essential constitution. And these men would violate them, he believes, in a moment, without the smallest compunction, if the established authorities in their country signified their will to that effect. Deutschland über Alles. It is because any possible social amenities would have this dreadful arrière-pensée that he can not think of taking the hand of a German without an inner recoil.
We have tried to analyze, without discussing its justification, what we believe to be as a matter of psychological fact the feeling which separates Englishmen from Germans today. It is plain that if such a feeling exists, it will be the first thing to be taken account of in considering how far the old community of scholarship and letters can be restored. It must affect not only the personal intercourse of English and German scholars, but to some extent the contact of minds thru published writings on either side. The factor of moral valuation enters into scholarship and letters. It would seem, for instance, that just as a person with no ear for music would miss the meaning of a certain sequence of sounds, so the essential meaning of such a poem as the Antigone would escape anyone who had not some of those inhibitions and reverences referred to just
And it is just these inhibitions and reverences of which the Germans, so far as they are represented by the action of their state authorities in the case, still recent in the world's mind, of Miss Cavell, appear destitute. Like Antigone, Miss Cavell had broken certain laws of men. There was no technical, legal reason to restrain the German authorities from taking the course they actually took. The only thing which would have restrained others in the same circumstances were certain human inhibitions, whose force it would be impossible to show to those who do not feel them. The Germans did not feel them.
When any English scholar, remembering the former days, wonders with a movement of longing whether the old fellowship can ever be restored, such feelings rise up as the great impediment; to some extent they may be in himself, certainly thay are in those about him. How far are they founded on fact? How far are they an illusion of these war-darkened days? Ultimately it is a question of facts. When we say
that the Germans have waged this war dishonorably and cruelly, the evidence seems to us to admit of no doubt. And the charge we make has not reference primarily to dishonorable and cruel things which German soldiers and sailors may have done in contravention of discipline. “Do
" they question the ability of our commanders to keep their men in hand?” the Germans are apt to ask indignantly. But that mistakes the point of the accusation. If dishonorable and cruel things have been done in the German army and navy, contrary to discipline, so have they in all armies and navies, which consist of many thousands of men; some such things have no doubt been done during these months of war in the British army. The evil deeds we charge against Germany have been done, not against discipline, but in obedience to discipline. We charge the Germans with having waged dishonorable and cruel warfare on deliberate principle, with having organized and commanded atrocity.
If these things have been done, what can we say of any possible future commercium litterarum? We may say, surely, that to put the whole German people indiscriminately into the same category as the actual perpetrators of these deeds is precipitate. That which makes the whole German people appear to share the guilt is that amongst the multitude of its scholars, its writers, its religious leaders we hear no voice raised in protest or condemnation. But we have to remember that a difference of moral judgment as to particular cases may arise from a disagreement either in the major or in the minor premiss—either as to the general principle or as to the actual facts of the case. a German scholar to share my horror at the crucifixion of a man and find him unmoved, I might be too hasty in supposing that he differed from me in his feeling about crucifixion; it might be that he does not believe that this crucifixion as a matter of fact took place. Now the really severing difference is a disagreement in the major premiss; a disagreement in the minor premiss need not necessarily divide hearts. If the German scholar refuses to believe in
If I expect a crucifixion which I know from sure testimony to have taken place, I may have a right to call him wrong-headed, but I have no right to call him inhumane.
No one can read what is written nowadays in Germanythe printed speech, for instance, of Wilamowitz-Möllendorff-without seeing that something of the same difficulty exists on the German side.
It is unquestionable that a very large number of people in Germany quite honestly believe a series of things, as facts, about the conduct of England which, if they were true, would justify them in regarding us with strong moral condemnation and anger. It is curious even that some of the charges they bring against us are identical with the charges we bring against them. We say that Germany considers itself a super-nation, not amenable to the ordinary laws which bind mankind; they say the same of England. We say that Germany claims the Deity as its special ally; they say that England claims to be an elect nation. We say that they aim at a worldhegemony; they say the same of us. We fling Deutschland über Alles in their teeth; they have discovered that some Englishman, Nelson or Palmerston or Wellington, once enunciated the maxim, “Right or wrong, my country.” Their religious or moral talk, in connection with their conduct, seems to us nauseating hypocrisy; England, as the Rector Magnificus of the Berlin University sees it, is a “Dorian Grey,” a hoary, hypocritical sinner, the foulness of whose guilt is hidden by some demoniac craft from the world. “England," he says, "regards itself as the elect nation.” We may smile when we notice that he had a moment before pronounced the sentence, "We will assert our German superiority in all fields." An Englishman would hardly hold that language about England. But even Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, anxious as he is to recognize what is valuable in the work of other nations, can not but remain a Prussian all the time. The finer modulations are hardly to be looked for in the brazen tone.
It is a question of facts. The pacifist in a hurry, finding two parties each bringing similar charges against the other,