War And Peace

CHAPTER IV

Chinese

THE COMMOTION among the peoples begins to subside. The waves of the great tempest begin to abate, and eddies begin to be formed about the calmer surface where diplomatists are busy, fancying the calm is their work.

But all at once the quiet sea is convulsed again. The diplomatists imagine that they, their disagreements, are the cause of this fresh disturbance; they look for wars between their sovereigns; the position seems insoluble. But the storm they feel brewing does not come from the quarter where they look for it. It rises again from the same starting point—Paris. The last backwash of the westward movement follows—the backwash which was to solve the seemingly inextricable diplomatic difficulties, and to put an end to the military unrest of the period.

The man who has devastated France comes back to France alone, with no project, and no soldiers. Any policeman can arrest him; but by a strange freak of chance no one does seize him, but all meet with enthusiasm the man they have been cursing but a day before, and will curse again within a month.

That man is needed for the last act winding up the drama.

The act is performed.

The last part is played. The actor is bidden to undress, and wash off his powder and paint; he will be needed no more.

And for several years this man, in solitude on his island, plays his pitiful farce to himself, intrigues and lies, justifying his conduct when a justification is no longer needed, and shows all the world what the thing was men took for power when an unseen hand guided it.

The stage manager, when the drama was over, and the puppet stripped, showed him to us.

“Look what you believed in! Here he is! Do you see now that it was not he but I that moved you?”

But blinded by the force of the movement men for long could not perceive that.

Even more coherence and inevitability is to be seen in the life of Alexander I., the personage who stood at the head of the counter-movement from east westward.

What was needed for the man who, to the exclusion of others, should stand at the head of that movement from the east westward?

There was needed a sense of justice, an interest in the affairs of Europe, but a remote one, not obscured by petty interests, a moral preeminence over his peers—the sovereigns of the time; there was needed a gentle and attractive personal character; there was needed too a personal grievance against Napoleon. And all that is to be seen in Alexander I.; it was all prepared beforehand by the innumerable so-called chance circumstances of his previous life, by his education and the liberalism of the beginning of his reign, and the counsellors around, and Austerlitz, and Tilsit, and Erfurt.

During the war in defence of the country this personage is inactive; he is not needed. But as soon as a general European war becomes inevitable, at the given moment, he is in his place, and bringing the European peoples together he leads them to the goal.

The goal is reached. After the last war of 1815 Alexander finds himself at the highest possible pinnacle of human power. How does he use it?

While Napoleon in his exile was drawing up childish and lying schemes of the blessings he would have showered on humanity if he had had the power, Alexander, the pacifier of Europe, the man who, from his youth up, had striven for nothing but the good of the people, the first champion of liberal reforms in his country, now when he seemed to possess the greatest possible power, and consequent possibility of doing good to his people, felt his work was done, and God's hand was laid upon him, and recognising the nothingness of that semblance of power, turned from it, gave it up to despicable men, and men he despised, and could only say:

“Not to us, not to us, but to Thy Name! I too am a man like all of you; let me live like a man, and think of my soul and of God.”

Just as the sun and every atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and at the same time is only a part of a whole inconceivable to man through its vastness, so every individuality bears within it its own ends and yet bears them so as to serve general ends unfathomable by man.

A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child dreads bees, and says the object of the bee is to sting people. A poet admires the bee, sipping honey from the cup of the flower, and says the object of the bee is to sip the nectar of the flower. A beekeeper, noticing that the bee gathers pollen and brings it to the hive, says that the object of the bee is to gather honey. Another beekeeper, who has studied the life of the swarm more closely, says the bee gathers honey to feed the young ones, and to rear a queen, that the object of the bee is the perpetuation of its race. The botanist observes that the bee flying with the pollen fertilises the pistil, and in this he sees the object of the bee. Another, watching the hybridisation of plants, sees that the bee contributes to that end also, and he may say that the bee's object is that. But the final aim of the bee is not exhausted by one or another, or a third aim, which the human intellect is capable of discovering. The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of such aims, the more obvious it becomes that the final aim is beyond its reach.

All that is within the reach of man is the observation of the analogy of the life of the bee with other manifestations of life. And the same is true with the final aims of historical persons and of nations.

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旺旺英语--名著对译