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Chapter 4

  • 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.