The flood of nations begins to subside into its normal channels. The waves o_he great movement abate, and on the calm surface eddies are formed in whic_loat the diplomatists, who imagine that they have caused the floods to abate.
But the smooth sea again suddenly becomes disturbed. The diplomatists thin_hat their disagreements are the cause of this fresh pressure of natura_orces; they anticipate war between their sovereigns; the position seems t_hem insoluble. But the wave they feel to be rising does not come from th_uarter they expect. It rises again from the same point as before—Paris. Th_ast backwash of the movement from the west occurs: a backwash which serves t_olve the apparently insuperable diplomatic difficulties and ends the militar_ovement of that period of history.
The man who had devastated France returns to France alone, without an_onspiracy and without soldiers. Any guard might arrest him, but by strang_hance no one does so and all rapturously greet the man they cursed the da_efore and will curse again a month later.
This man is still needed to justify the final collective act.
That act is performed.
The last role is played. The actor is bidden to disrobe and wash off hi_owder and paint: he will not be wanted any more.
And some years pass during which he plays a pitiful comedy to himself i_olitude on his island, justifying his actions by intrigues and lies when th_ustification is no longer needed, and displaying to the whole world what i_as that people had mistaken for strength as long as an unseen hand directe_is actions.
The manager having brought the drama to a close and stripped the actor show_im to us.
"See what you believed in! This is he! Do you now see that it was not he but _ho moved you?"
But dazed by the force of the movement, it was long before people understoo_his.
Still greater coherence and inevitability is seen in the life of Alexander I,
the man who stood at the head of the countermovement from east to west.
What was needed for him who, overshadowing others, stood at the head of tha_ovement from east to west?
What was needed was a sense of justice and a sympathy with European affairs,
but a remote sympathy not dulled by petty interests; a moral superiority ove_hose sovereigns of the day who co-operated with him; a mild and attractiv_ersonality; and a personal grievance against Napoleon. And all this was foun_n Alexander I; all this had been prepared by innumerable so-called chances i_is life: his education, his early liberalism, the advisers who surrounde_im, and by Austerlitz, and Tilsit, and Erfurt.
During the national war he was inactive because he was not needed. But as soo_s the necessity for a general European war presented itself he appeared i_is place at the given moment and, uniting the nations of Europe, led them t_he goal.
The goal is reached. After the final war of 1815 Alexander possesses al_ossible power. How does he use it?
Alexander I—the pacifier of Europe, the man who from his early years ha_triven only for his people's welfare, the originator of the libera_nnovations in his fatherland—now that he seemed to possess the utmost powe_nd therefore to have the possibility of bringing about the welfare of hi_eoples—at the time when Napoleon in exile was drawing up childish an_endacious plans of how he would have made mankind happy had he retaine_ower—Alexander I, having fulfilled his mission and feeling the hand of Go_pon him, suddenly recognizes the insignificance of that supposed power, turn_way from it, and gives it into the hands of contemptible men whom h_espises, saying only:
"Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy Name!… I too am a man like the rest o_ou. Let me live like a man and think of my soul and of God."
As the sun and each atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and yet a_he same time only a part of a whole too immense for man to comprehend, s_ach individual has within himself his own aims and yet has them to serve _eneral purpose incomprehensible to man.
A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bee_nd declares that bees exist to sting people. A poet admires the bee suckin_rom the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance o_lowers. A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry i_o the hive, says that it exists to gather honey. Another beekeeper who ha_tudied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers polle_ust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuat_ts race. A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a mal_lower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of th_ee's existence. Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that th_ee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee.
But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second,
or any of the processes the human mind can discern. The higher the huma_ntellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious i_ecomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.
All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to othe_anifestations of life. And so it is with the purpose of historic character_nd nations.