Gronbech Vilhelm - The culture of the teutons

Author : Gronbech Vilhelm
Title : The culture of the teutons Volume 1 and 2
Year : 1931

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The term Germanic is ordinarily used to denote the racial stem of which the Scandinavians, the modern Germans, and the English, are ramifications. The name itself is probably of extraneous origin, given us by strangers. We do not know what it means. Presumably, it was first intended to denote but a small fraction of these peoples, the fringe adjoining the Celts ; in course of time, however, it came to be accepted as a general designation for the whole. The Romans, having learned to distinguish between the inhabitants of Gallia and their eastern neighbours, called the latter Germani, thus rightly emphasising the close friendship which from the earliest times united the northern and southern inhabitants of the Baltic regions and the riparian and forest-dwelling peoples of North Germany, a kinship evident, not only in language, but fully as much in culture, even to its innermost corners. The Teutons make their entry suddenly upon the stage of history. Their appearance falls at the time when Rome was working out the result of its long and active life; crystallising the striving and achievements of the classical world into the form in which the culture of antiquity was to be handed down to posterity. Into this light they come, and it must be admitted that its brilliance shows them poor and coarse by comparison. There is little splendour to be found here, it would seem. We see them first from without, with Roman eyes, looking in upon them as into a strange country. And the eye's first impression is of a foaming flood of men, a wave of warriors, pouring in with the elemental fury of the sea over eastern Gaul, to break upon the front of Cæsar's legions, and be smoothed away in a mighty backwash of recoil. Thus, roughly, Cæsar's first encounter with these barbarians appears in the description of the great Roman himself. And beyond this flood we look into a land, dark, barren and forbidding, bristling with unfriendly forests and spread with marshes. In it we are shown groups of men who, in the intervals of their wars and forays, lie idling on couches of skins or sit carousing noisily by daylight, and for sheer lack of occupation gamble away their few possessions; horses and women, even their very lives and freedom, down to the pelt upon their back. And between the groups go tall, sturdy women with ungentle eyes and scornful mien. In among all this shouting and raving sounds here and there a voice of mystery; an old crone making prophecy to an awed stillness round; a vague suggestion that these riotous men at moments give themselves up in breathless silence to the worship of their gods. But what are they busied with in the gloom of their sacred groves? Some slaughtering of men, no doubt: horrible sacrifice and drinking, for shouting and screaming can be heard far off. To the peoples of the South, these dwellers in the northern wastes were simply barbarians. The Romans and the Greeks regarded their existence as the mere negation of civilized life. They lay stress upon the unpretentious character of Germanic life. The little needs of these poor people were easily satisfied. A covering of skins for the body, perhaps a touch of paint about the face, some sort of weapon in the hand – and the external apparition is practically complete. They look magnificent, it must be granted, in their semi-nakedness; for what human art neglects is here provided for by nature, that has given them beautiful muscles. and splendid red or blond hair that would not shame the loveliest lady in Rome. The German is a piece of nature's work, and his place is in a natural environment, among the forests of the mountain slopes. There he lives, whether in the excitement of the chase or in some fierce warlike raid. At home, he spends his time in a somnolent state of idleness and intoxication; he lies amid the dirt and soot and smoke in a place that he may call his house, but which is really nothing better than a shed, a stable where man and beast are equally at home. The need of shaping his surroundings according to a personality of his own, that might well be called the instinct of nobility in civilization, is something he has clearly never felt. He lives in the wilds, and a house, for him, is merely a shelter from the violence of wind and weather, a refuge easily built, and as easily dismantled for removal to another place. Living thus in a state of nature, and existing on what nature provides, he has in himself the wildness of that nature. True, he was credited by the fastidious onlookers of the South also with a certain greatness. He is capable of great devotion; he will risk his life for the sake of a chance guest whose only claim upon him is the fact that he came last evening to the dwelling of his host, and spent the night upon his couch. The women often exhibit an instinctive horror of anything that could in any way degrade them. But in reality, the barbarian knows absolutely nothing of such qualities as faithfulness and keeping to a given word. The power of distinction, which is the mark of true humanity, is something he entirely lacks. It never occurs to him that anything could be good by eternal law. He has no laws, and when he does what is good, his action is dictated solely by natural instinct. These Germanic peoples live and move in hordes, or tribes, or whatever we may call them. They have some sort of kings, and something in the nature of a general assembly, which all men capable of bearing arms attend. But we should be chary of supposing anything properly answering to a state institution as understood among civilized people. The king has no real authority; the warriors obey him to-day, and turn their back on him defiantly to-morrow; one day, their kings may lead them forth on any reckless enterprise; the next, they may be scattering, despite his orders, and in defiance of all political prudence, to their separate homes. And in their assembly, the method of procedure is simply that he who can use the most persuasive words wins over all the rest. The warriors clash their weapons, and the matter is decided. They are like children in regard to coaxing and gifts, but fickle and ungovernable in regard to anything like obligation, indisposed to recognize any definite rule and order. Briefly, in the view of the Roman citizen, these Germanic tribes are a people of strongly marked light and shade in character – for such words as virtue and vice, good and evil cannot be used of them by anyone with a linguistic conscience. The Roman may speak of their natural pride, their stubborn defiance, proof even against the chains of their conqueror's triumph; but such words as majesty, nobility , he will unconsciously reserve for himself and his equals. Here and there, among the highest types of classical culture, we may find a half æsthetic, half humane sympathy for these children of the wild ; but even this is in its origin identical with the layman's mingled fear and hatred, inasmuch as it regards its object as a piece of wild nature itself. In the midst of their civilization, men could feel a spasm of wistful admiration in the face of nature, for the primeval force of life, the power that rushes on without knowing whither. Man at the pinnacle of his splendour might ponder in melancholy wise upon the happy lot of nature's children playing in the mire far below – a state which he himself for better or worse, could never reach. Tacitus, the romantic, voiced the praises of the simple life in the personal style of the decadent period, with original twists and turns of phrase, and a vocabulary of the very rarest words that he could find. He does not beautify his savage artificially; makes no attempt to show him as wiser or better clad than he is in fact. On the contrary, he is at pains to point out how few and simple are the needs of savage life. His enthusiasm is expressed in the most delicate phrases. Among the Germani, he declares, good customs are of more avail than are good laws elsewhere : interest and usury are unknown to them, and thus they eschew the vice more fervently than if it were forbidden. In their customs, these savages find a naïve and simple form of expression for dumb primitive feelings: “It is not the wife who brings a dowry here, but the husband who comes with gifts to his bride...; and these gifts do not consist in women's fripperies... , no; cattle, a saddled horse, a shield, a sword, these are the bridal gifts. And she in return brings weapons for her husband's use. This they consider the strongest of bonds, the sacredness of the home, the gods of wedded life. To the end that a woman shall not feel herself apart from manly thoughts and the changing circumstance of war, she is reminded, in the marriage ceremony itself, that she there enters upon a sharing of her husband's work and peril...” And as between friends: “They rejoice in one another's gifts, giving and receiving freely, without thought of gain; friendly goodwill it is that unites them.” In other words, no sickly cast of thought, but pure spontaneous feeling. Tacitus is concerned to show particularly how all, “virtue” and “vice” is a natural growth among the people he describes. He depicts them with so affectionate hand, and at the same time with unvarnished truth in detail, because he views his object as a piece of unspoiled nature. So thoroughly is he filled with the sense of contrast between himself and his barbarians, that he fails to mark how every fact he brings forward infallibly tears the frail theory in which he tries to inweave it. The thing that fills civilized man with horror and loathing of the barbarian is the feeling of being here face to face with a creature incalculable, man devoid of law. Heedlessly, unthinkingly the savage keeps his oath ; and will as heedlessly break oaths and promises; he can be brave and generous in his unruly fashion, and in that same unruly fashion brutal, bestial. Any act of cruelty, any breach of faith, is far more repulsive when it stands without relation to anything else than when it appears as the infringement of an accepted moral law, a lapse from grace. The barbarian has no character – that is the essence of the Roman verdict. When a civilized man does wrong, he does so at worst because it is wrong; and this the villain's consciousness of being wicked marks him as a human being with whom one can associate. But to receive a barbarian among one's circle of acquaintance is equivalent to building one's house in the immediate vicinity of a volcano. What if the barbarians do build some sort of houses, and till the soil – heaven knows their agriculture is but primitive at the best, the way they scratch at the surface of the earth and raise a miserable crop, only to seek fresh fields the following year; – what if they do keep cattle, and make war, and dispense some kind of justice among themselves? Or grant them even some degree of skill in forging weapons – they are not a civilized people for all that. It was about the beginning of our era that the Germanic people first appeared in history; a thousand years later, the world saw the last glimpse of them. For a short period the Northmen hold the scene of Europe, working out their racial character and ideals with feverish haste, before they are transformed and merged in the mass of European civilization. Their going marks the disappearance of the Germanic culture as an independent type. The Northmen, too, have been portrayed by strangers, from without, and the picture has marked points of similarity to that left by their anterior kinsmen in the records of the Roman historians. Wild, bloodthirsty, little amenable to human reason or to human reasoning, gifted with splendid vices, and for the rest devils – thus runs the character given them by mediæval chroniclers. The civilized men who now judged them were Christians who saw the world, not as divided in degrees of culture, but as divided between the powers of light and darkness ; whence the incalculable must necessarily be ascribed to some origin in the infernal regions. The barbarians of classical times answer to the demons of mediæval Christianity. This time, however, the picture does not stand alone, without a foil. Here in the North, a people of Germanic race have set up their own monument to later times, showing themselves as they wished to be seen in history, revealing themselves, not with any thought of being seen by strangers, but yet urged by an impulse toward self-revelation. In externals, the Northmen seem to have something of the same elemental, unreflecting violence, the same uneasy restlessness that led the cultured world to stamp their southern kinsmen as barbarians. Reckless and impulsive, not to say obstinate, in their self-assertion, acting on the spur of the moment, shifting from one plan to another – the cool political mind might find considerable resemblance between the German brigands and the pirates of the North. But our more intimate knowledge enables us to discern the presence of a controlling and uniting will beneath the restless exterior. What at the first glance appears but aimless flickering shows, on closer inspection, as a steadier light. In reality, these vikings have but little of that aimlessness which can be characterised as natural. There is more of calculating economy in them than of mere spendthrift force. The men are clear in their minds both as to end and means, will and power. While they may seem to be drifting toward no definite goal, they have yet within themselves an aim undeviating as the compass, unaltering however they may turn. The old idea of the vikings as sweeping like a storm across the lands they touched, destroying the wealth they found, and leaving themselves as poor as ever, has, in our time, had to give way to a breathless wonder at their craving for enrichment. The gold they found has disappeared. But we have learned now, that there was gathered together in the North a treasury of knowledge and thought, poetry and dreams, that must have been brought home from abroad, despite the fact that such spiritual values are far more difficult to find and steal and carry safely home than precious stones or precious metals. The Northmen seem to have been insatiable in the matter of such spiritual treasures. They have even, in the present day, been accused of having annexed the entire sum of pagan and Christian knowledge possessed by the Middle Ages; and looking at the Norse literature of the viking age, we find some difficulty in refuting this charge, though it may seem too sweeping as it is urged by Bugge and his disciples. Others, again, ask scornfully, if we are really expected to believe that our Northmen sat over their lessons like schoolboys in the Irish monasteries, studying classical authors and mediæval encyclopedias. This would no doubt be the most natural explanation for modern minds who suck all their nourishment from book and lectures ; but we must probably assume that they gained their learning in some less formal fashion. On the other hand, if they had not the advantage of a systematic education, it is the more incomprehensible that they should in such a degree have gained access to the art and science of the age. They had not only a passionate craving to convert the elements of foreign culture to their own enrichment, but they had also a mysterious power of stirring up culture and forcing it to yield what lay beneath its surface. Even this thirst for knowledge, however, is not the most surprising thing about them. That they did learn and copy to a great extent is plain to see; but even now we may speculate without result, or hope of any result, upon what it was they learned and how much they may have added thereto of their own. There exists no magic formula whereby the culture of viking times, as a whole, can be resolved into its original component parts. So thoroughly have they re-fashioned what they took, until its thought and spirit are their own. The two sides must throughout be seen together. The Northman has not only a powerful tendency to extend and enrich his mental sphere, but this craving for expansion is counterpoised by a spiritual self-assertion no less marked, that holds him stubbornly faithful to the half-unconscious ideal that constitutes his character. He does not face the world with open arms; far from it, he is all suspicion and reserve toward strange gods and ways and values, that he feels incongruous with his own self-estimation. All that is alien he holds aloof, until he has probed its secret, or wrung from it a secret satisfying to himself. All that cannot be so dealt with he shuts out and away from him; is hardly aware of it, in fact. But wherever he can, by adapting himself at first to an alien atmosphere, extract its essence for his own particular use, there he will draw in greedily all he can, and let it work in him. He has that firmness that depends upon a structure in the soul, and that elasticity which , comes from the structure's perfect harmony with its surroundings, enabling him spiritually to conform to the need of his environment. He is master of the world about him, by virtue of a self-control more deeply rooted even than the will, identical with the soul-structure itself. In the innermost of his being there is a central will, passing judgement upon all that penetrates from without; a purpose that seizes upon every new acquisition, seals and enslaves it to one particular service, forcing it to work in the spirit of its new master, and stamping it with his image; where this cannot be done, the alien matter is rejected and ignored. All that it takes to itself is transmuted into power, all power subjected to discipline, and flung out then as a collective force. Thus violence, here, is not a mere extravagance of power. The central will gives to each action such an impetus that it overshoots the mark in every case, setting a new one beyond. Thus man's whole life is lived at such a pressure of power that he himself is ever being urged on toward ever farther goals. But the scale and measure of his doing is a thing outside himself. The ultimate standards whereby his life is judged are the verdict of his fellows and the verdict of posterity; standards unqualified and absolute. The violence is organised from the depths of the soul. It is energy, that keeps the spiritual life awake and athirst, and thus creates the single-minded, firm-set personality of the Northman. These men are not each but an inspired moment, fading vaguely away into past an future; they are present, future and past in one. A man fixes himself in the past, by firm attachment to past generations. Such an attachment is found more or less among all peoples; but the Northman makes the past a living and guiding force by constant historic remembrance and historic speculation in which he traces out his connection with former generations and his dependence on their deeds. His future is linked up with the present by aim and honour and the judgement of posterity. And he fixes himself in the present by reproducing himself in an ideal type, such a type for instance as that of the chieftain, generous, brave, fearless, quick-witted, stern towards his enemies. faithful to his friends, and frank with all. The type is built up out of life and poetry together; first lived, and then transfused into poetry. This firmness of spiritual organization which characterises the Northman as a personality is no less evident in his social life. Wherever he goes, he carries within himself a social structure which manifests itself in definite political forms as soon as he is thrown together with a crowd of others speaking the same tongue. He is not of that inarticulate type which forms kaleidoscopic tribal communities. However small his people may be, and however slight the degree of cohesion between its component molecules, the social consciousness is always present and active. He is a people in himself, and has no need of building up an artificial whole by the massing of numbers together. As soon as he has settled in a place, for a little while or for a length of time, a law-thing shoots up out of the ground, and about it grows a community. Whether his sense of social order finds scope to form a kingdom, or is constrained within narrower bounds, it is a tendency deep-rooted, part and parcel of his character itself. Culture, in the truest sense of the word, means an elastic harmony between man's inner self and his surroundings, so that he is able not only to make his environment serve his material ends, but also to transfigure the impulses of the surrounding world into spiritual ideals and aspirations. The cultured man possesses an instinctive dignity, which springs from fearlessness and selfreliance, and manifests itself in sureness of aims and means alike in matters of formal behaviour and in undertakings of far-reaching consequence. In this sense these vikings are men of character; they posses themselves and their world in lordly right of determination. Their harmony may be poor in the measure of its actual content, but it is none the less powerful and deep. What a difference between these two pictures; the portrait southern pens have drawn of their Germanic contemporaries, and that which the last of the Germanic race have themselves imprinted into history. Yet for all that, we group them together under one name, and we do so, moreover, advisedly, fully conscious of what it implies. It was early realized that the two are so closely related as not merely to justify, but to necessitate our treating them together. Such indications as we have of the primeval Germanic customs, laws and ethical values, prove that those earliest forbears of the race were one with their younger kinsmen in mode of thought, and in that which unites thoughts and feelings and makes them the bearers of personality. In this light from the North we can see, then, that the Suevi and the Marcomanni and whatever they were called, were not mere creatures of the moment, devoid of character, as the Romans fondly imagined. With the aid of the Northmen we can interpret all, or nearly all the scattered notes that have been handed down, and find something human in what our authorities found meaningless. We can dimly perceive, for instance, that the alternating fealty and infidelity of the Germanic tribes, which so often led the Romans to harsh measures, had in reality its foundation in an ethical system. And we can plainly see that behind their actions, with such vices and such virtues, stood a character widely different from the Roman, but neither more natural nor unnatural, in principle just as consistent, just as rational, and no less bound by the consideration of preserving a certain unity in the personality. And a political genius like Cæsar recognised that if his plans concerning these barbarians were to be of any firmness in themselves, it was not enough that he thought them out in Latin. His eagerness to penetrate beneath the thought of these Germani, down to the habit of mind which determined their form of utterance, is in itself a testimony to the fact that these barbarians bore the stamp of culture and the mark of character. We are better off than the Romans in that we have been guided to a view of the Germanic life from within. The Romans had excellent opportunities of observation, and were often keen observers; the great majority of what the Romans and the Greeks wrote about the Germanic people is right in its way. But every single remark, great or small, reveals its derivation from a sweeping glance across the frontier. We can always notice that the narrator himself stood far outside; he has seen what these people did, but he has not understood why they did so. Their actions show, in his account, without perspective and without proportion; and the more precise his details are, the stranger seems the whole. Such descriptions leave with us, at best, the same grotesque impression one would have on watching from a distance men talking and gesticulating, but without any idea of what affected them. There is a great difference between making the acquaintance of a people, as the Romans did, outside, following it home to stand without and gain perhaps a glance at its daily life, and on the other hand, being received into the midst of that people, seeing its men at home preparing for a campaign, and being there again to meet them on their return. We are more fortunately situated than the southern writers in this respect, but are we so very much wiser? There may perhaps be some danger of arriving too easily at our understanding. The inability of the Romans to recognise the actions of the Germani as human may warn us against letting our own interpretation pass over what was really strange in our forefathers, erroneously attributing to them motives of our own. The Northmen are a cultured people in the full sense of the word. We must recognise them as our equals. They lived as energetically as we do, found no less satisfaction in life, and felt themselves fully as much masters of life, masters who determined its aim and inflexibly had their way. But the recognition of this fact in itself emphasises the distance between us, because it brings out more pointedly the difference between ancient and modern modes of conquering and enjoying life. The difference is evident the moment we compare the Teutons with the other North-European race of ancient times, the Celtic. For all our Germanic descent, we are more nearly related to the Celts. They are a more modern type of people, we might say. It needs not long acquaintance with them before one comes to intimacy. Here comes a man in whose face the whole world, of nature and of man, is reflected. The beauty of nature, the beauty of mankind, man's heroism, woman's love – these things thrill him, and lead him into ecstasy; he feels and feels till his soul is ready to burst – and then pours forth a lyric flood, plaintive and jubilant, wistfully pondering and earnestly exalting all that delights the eye. A religious ecstasy comes over him, he gives himself up to the invisible, grasping and surrendering himself at once, living the invisible as a reality with real joys and real sorrows; he flings himself over into the full experience of mysticism, yet without losing hold of the visible reality – on the contrary, his inner sense takes its fill of the beauty of nature, of delight in the animal life of earth and air. The violence of life meets an answering passion in himself; he must go with it, must feel his pulses beating in the same hurrying rhythm as that which he feels without and about him. He can never make his pictures vivid enough, rich enough in colour and shades of colour. Beauty overwhelms him, and in his feverish eagerness to let nothing be lost, he loads one picture on another; the terror and grandeur of life excite him till he paints his giants with innumerable heads and every imaginable attribute of dread; his heroes are of supernatural dimensions, with hair of gold or silver, and more than godlike powers. Little wonder that the Celt often frightens and repels us by his formless exaggeration. He fills us at times with aversion, but only to attract us anew. Exaggeration is a natural consequence of passionate feeling that derives its strength and its character from the sensitiveness of the soul to everything about it, down to the faintest motions in the life of nature and man. Such a breadth of soul life is unknown among the Norsemen, not even to be found as an exception. Compared with the Celt, the Northman is heavy, reserved, a child of earth, yet seemingly but half awakened. He cannot say what he feels save by vague indication, in a long, roundabout fashion. He is deeply attached to the country that surrounds him, its meadows and rivers fill him with a latent tenderness; but his home sense has not emancipated itself into love. The feeling for nature rings in muffled tones through his speech and through his myths, but he does not burst into song of the loveliness of the world. Of his relations with women he feels no need to speak, save when there is something of a practical nature to be stated; only when it becomes tragic does the subject enter into his poetry. In other words, his feelings are never revealed until they have brought about an event; and they tell us nothing of themselves save by the weight and bitterness they give to the conflicts that arise. Uneventfulness does not throw him back upon his inner resources, and never opens up a flood of musings or lyricism – it merely dulls him. The Celt meets life with open arms; ready for every impression, he is loth to let anything fall dead before him. The Teuton is not lacking in passionate feeling, but he cannot, he will not help himself so lavishly to life. He has but one view of man; man asserting himself, maintaining his honour, as he calls it. All that moves within a man must be twisted round until it becomes associated with honour, before he can grasp it; and all his passion is thrust back and held, until it finds its way out in that one direction. His friendship of man and love of woman never find expression for the sake of the feeling itself; they are only felt consciously as a heightening of the lover's self-esteem and consequently as an increase of responsibility. This simplicity of character shows in his poetry, which is at heart nothing but lays and tales of great avengers, because revenge is the supreme act that concentrates his inner life and forces it out in the light. His poems of vengeance are always intensely human, because revenge to him is not an empty repetition of a wrong done, but a spiritual sellassertion, a manifestation of strength and value; and thus the anguish of an affront or the triumph of victory is able to open up the sealed depths of his mind and suffuse his words with passion and tenderness. But the limitation which creates the beauty and strength of Teuton poetry is revealed in the fact that only those feelings and thoughts which make man an avenger and furthers the attainment of revenge, are expressed; all else is overshadowed. Woman finds a place in poetry only as a valkyrie or as inciting to strife; for the rest, she is included among the ordinary inventory of life. Friendship, the highest thing on earth among the Teutons, is only mentioned when friend joins hands with friend in the strife for honour and restitution. There is abundance of passion in the poetry of the Northmen, but it appears only as a geyser, up and down, never bursting out and flowing forth in lyrical streams. Impressive, but grey; powerful, but sober. His epics are marked by a trustworthy simplicity and restraint of imagination keeping well within the bounds drawn by the grand reality of a warlike existence; his heroes are of a size generally comparable to the heroic figures of everyday life, and their powers are but the least possible in advance of ordinary standards. In life there is none of that fever-pulse so characteristic of the Celts, that comes of over-susceptibility, of the tendency to live every moment at the same pace as one's surroundings, or inability to resist the rhythm of one's environment. The Northman's response to impressions from without is so long in coming that it seems as if his movements were dictated solely from within. An impulse from the world without does nor fall deadly on his soul, but its force is arrested, laid in bonds, on impact with his massive personality. And there is but one passion that can let loose this accumulated force: his passion for honour. For the Northman to be affected by this or that in what he meets depends on something that has happened, something past, and something ahead, an event which has happened to himself or his ancestors, and an event which must be brought to pass for the betterment of himself and his descendants. He does not live in the moment; he uses the moment to reckon out: how can it serve him to the attainment of his end? He does not hate a thing for its own sake, or on his own account; for if he can purchase a chance of revenge by giving up his dislike, he tears his hate away, and where he can gain a chance by enmity, the hate wells up again in undisguised power. This does not mean that the Northman is temporarily beside himself when he is seeking redress for his wrongs. Surely an avenger is all the time a son, husband, father, a member of a legal community; it is not a question of laying aside his humanity, but on the contrary: this wholesale humanity of his puts on the armour of vengeance and comports itself accordingly. In these very moments of ruthless self-assertion, the Teuton rises to moral grandeur – herein lies to us the test of under-standing. There is something in the Northman's attitude towards life which chills away our familiarity at first sight, and if the chill is not felt very acutely nowadays, our complacency is largely due to the romantic literature of the nineteenth century. By a love, too ready and too undiscerning, the poets and historians have smoothed away the strong and wayward features of the saga men and toned down these bitter figures into recognised heroes and lovers. The old characters have been imperceptibly modernised with a view to making them more acceptable. The hardness and implacability of the Northmen have been pushed into the shade of their heroism and generosity and tacitly condoned as limitations, while the fact is that these qualities are based on the very constitution of their culture. If we are brought up suddenly against their everyday life, we are liable to brand them as narrow and even inhuman, and we do not immediately recognise that what we call poverty and inhumanity means nothing more and nothing less than strength and compactness of character. The ancients are just, pious, merciful, of a moral consistency throughout, but on a foundation such as could not suffice to bear a human life in our own day. The humanity of the Teuton is not the humanity of the modern European – hence our aloofness that no romantic revival has been able to overcome. In the North, the European hovers about with the gratification and lurking uneasiness of a guest; in Hellas he feels at home. The heroes of Homer are as friends and intimates compared with the vikings; these battling and boasting, suffering and weeping heroes and heroines are more of our own flesh and blood than the purposeful men and women of the sagas. We call them natural and human because they take life bit by bit, finding time to live in the moment, giving themselves up to pleasure and pain and expressing their feelings in words. In Greece we find men whose patriotism and self-seeking egoism and affection take a course sufficiently near our own for both to join and flow together. Even their gods are not so very far from what we in our best moments, and in our worst, ascribe to the higher powers. There is hardly need of any adaptation on our part; the gods and men of ancient Greece can of themselves enter into us and be transformed. In Hellas we soon learn to recognise, under the alien forms, the aims of our own time; and thus, in the words of Greek poets and philosophers, we constantly catch hints that sound as a still, small voice in times of crisis. The reason is not far to seek: our intimacy with Hellas is the familiarity of kinship. The main stream of our thoughts and ideals flows from the South; and however far we have drifted from classic standards in many respects, our intellectual and religious history, and no less the development of economical and social Europe, have kept our course in the channel of Hellenism and Hellenistic Rome. For this reason we regard the problems and interpretations of Greed as being eminently human and vital. We are repelled by the Teutons, because their thoughts will not minister to our private needs; but this instinctive recoil at the same time explains a furtive attraction which was not exhausted by the romantic revival of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The concentration of the Teutons exposes a narrowness of another kind in ourselves; every time we are confronted with a people of another type, a stone in the foundation of our complacency is loosened. We are surprised by an uneasy feeling that our civilization does not exhaust the possibilities of life; we are led to suspect that our problems derive their poignancy from the fact that, at times, we mistake our own reasonings about reality for reality itself. We become dimly aware that the world stretches beyond our horizon, and as this apprehension takes shape, there grows upon us a suspicion that some of the problems which baffle us are problems of our own contrivance; our questionings often lead us into barren fastnesses instead of releasing us into the length and breadth of eternity, and the reason may be that we are trying to make a whole of fragments and not, as we thought, attempting to grasp what is a living whole in itself. And at last, when we learn to gaze at the world from a new point of view, revealing prospects which have been concealed from our eyes, we may perhaps find that Hellas also contains more things, riches as well as mysteries than are dreamt of in our philosophy; after all, we have perhaps been no less romantic in our understanding of Greece than in our misunderstanding of the Teutons and other primitive peoples. To appreciate the strength and the beauty of the culture of the ancient Teutons we must realise that their harmony is fundamentally unlike all that we possess or strive for, and consequently that all our immediate praising and blaming are futile. All things considered, we have little grounds for counting ourselves better judges than the classical onlookers. In our sentimental moments we lose ourselves in admiration of the heroism and splendid passion of our forefathers, but in our moments of historical analysis we pride ourselves on styling them barbarians, and this vacillation is in itself sufficient to show that in our appreciation we have not reached the centre whence the Teuton's thoughts and actions drew their life and strength. If we would enter into the minds of other peoples we must consent to discard our preconceived ideas as to what the world and man ought to be. It is not enough to admit a set of ideas as possible or even plausible: we must strive to reach a point of view from which these strange thoughts become natural; we must put off our own humanity as far as it is possible and put on another humanity for the time. We need, then, to begin quietly and modestly from the foundation, as knowing nothing at all, if we would understand what it was that held the souls of these men together, and made them personalities. ...

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