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French government imported the exact sciences in the persons of Huyghens and Rômer; while Balzac, the most eloquent of historians in France, and the friend of Richelieu, resorted, in 1612, to Holland, to study the science of statesmanship.
When Holland declined, France and England rose to the first eminence. Why have they been such deadly foes; why has the world been shaken for centuries with their tremendous conflicts? Throughout history this truth is ever exemplified, and shines with unclouded brilliancy, that the principal and epoch-forming wars of the world, which have been waged between civilised nations, have been wars of succession-wars in which a young and vigorous nation has sought to wrest the world's sceptre from the older monarch-nation which holds it. Such were the wars of Macedon, unfit to retain the sceptre it had seized -such the wars of the Romans against the Macedonians, the Greeks and the Carthaginians--such the wars of the Germans, the Spaniards, and the French against Italysuch the wars of the French and the English against the Dutch. But to all these conflicts there came with comparative speed the inevitable end--the success of the fresh and vigorous over the rich and enfeebled. One species of war there is yet more deadly, because more lasting, and of uncertain issue—the war of emulation between two nations, each strong and vigorous, and rapid in the race, each with one hand clasped round the torch, while with the other it seeks to thrust away its rival. There has yet been but a single example of this—the example of France and England, two nations starting into prominence about the same time, and, though pursuing a career of internal development vastly different, yet arriving simultaneously at their acme, and continuing in it for centuries. As the dark ages were dark because there was no nation in its acme, so the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have been the most magnificent and brilliant because there have been two nations in their
The bitter conflicts of these nations are the price that humanity has paid for its more rapid and solid advance, and these conflicts will never permanently cease till France—already showing unmistakeable signs of its unfitness long to continue the rivalry-shall fall back from the race, and take its place among the stationary nations who, in a peaceful repose, look on at the struggles and triumphs of their successor nation, adopt its inventions, read its literature, imitate its fashions, employ its busy artisans, but of their own energy contribute nothing to the cause of progress. To such nations we may apply the lines of Shakspeare :
“He must be taught and train'd, and bid to go forth
They may rejoin with the adage, “ Happy is the people whose annals are vacant." And dare we contradict it?
What power is it that suddenly calls forth from the mute inglorious ranks the nation that is to sway the world, and inspires her robust though homely and rude sons with that irresistible energy and ambition which leads them to conquest, discovery, and power, and draws to them all the intellectual activity and refinement of the world ? — what, with as sudden and all-powerful hand, dashes them down from their proud eminence, and sends them back to their obscurity? Does that power act by caprice and whim, or are there ever to be found in the monarch-nations characteristics which fit them for their exaltation and are necessary for it, and prove that the Almighty never summons to the pride of place and power nations which do not fulfil the conditions imposed by Him on the aspirants for the Primacy of the world? Does
history enable us to foretell when an obscure nation shall come forward, and when the prominent must fall back?
This is, in my judgment, the most magnificent theme that can be submitted to the mind of man. It is a theme untouched before, and towards the discussion of which I ask your assistance, through the investigations contained in this study
Naturah Aame the combination of deveral social and political Elements, to existant, and.co.jowerful; one of which failing
there is no home.
THE NATIONAL ACME. THE PLACE OF LITERATURE IN
Tuey pass before us in review the successive Primates of the world, each in its acme. What are the characteristics of a nation in its acme ?
Now, throughout the national development there are two distinct currents of civilisation and refinement; the one derived from the conquering or quasi-conquering race — the Homeric; the other from the conquered — the Hesiodic. The first is the earliest in its development, but it never arrives at any high pitch of development without a very considerable contemporary progress in the second. The national acme is the moment when these two currents arrive at a nearly equal pitch of development, and contribute, each after its different fashion, but in an almost equal proportion, to the glory of the national civilisation.
We shall best arrive at an appreciation of the true nature of these two currents of civilisation and refinement by seizing the prominent characteristics of each of them, and laying down in distinct propositions the principal characteristics which belong to each of them, and which form their several contributions to the glory of the national acme.
First, then, I would lay down that the literature of a country is the contribution of its aristocracy to the glory of the national acme ; in other words, the national acme is the period when the literature of a country arrives at its
highest perfection, and it is part of the civilisation derived from the conquering race.
Before the division of labour drew a distinction between the relation of fact and fiction, the poet (using that term as the vulgar synonym for a metrical author) was the only
a instrument for the diffusion of secular knowledge. His verses made public the advice of experienced agriculturists; they put into a form that men could easily remember the title to estates ; they communicated meteorological knowledge, and had always something to say about the functions of the celestial bodies. They adorned the narratives of travellers, and the exploits of heroism. They supplied precedents for love-making, and rendered unnecessary the art of the funeral orator; nor were those who listened to their rhapsodies without some ideas on natural and supernatural history. This universal man of letters performed his work sufficiently for the haughty tribesman or the rude homely people who lived by the culture of the soil, each man the owner of the land he tilled and the herds he tended. The Scald of Iceland, who was in himself a whole guild of literature, and included the entire tribe of authors and a branch of the legal profession (for the Scalds were the earliest conveyancers of real property, and drew up titles in verse to the estates held by udal tenure), is as good a specimen as we can select of the primeval Jack-of-all-styles. Even the Highlanders of Scotland, so late as the close of the 16th century, a lively, impassioned, and poetical race, had no other literature but the minstrels'lays.* It is
* It is proposed to consider the Nibelungen Lied, not as the production of a race of bards like the Homeric rhapsodists, but to belong to a state of society still more primitive, when every man was his own poet. “ In those days there were no poets, there were only singers; there was no art of poetry, but only a song which issued from the heart the nation. In lis
the burden of which was familiar to all, every one joined: the harp was passed from hand to hand, and in chorus all the voices rose together.”—Lewes' Life of Goethe, i. 244.