Page images

near the heart-it is contained in the words: Un mot n'est pas le même dans un écrivain et dans un autre. L'un se l'arrache du ventre. L'autre le tire de la poche de son pardessus.'

[ocr errors]

Take some of the words in Victor Marie, Comte Hugo' which are not the same, some of the words that are 'torn out of his body.' There is, first, the word 'friendship.' That is the musical theme, given out. He calls to his friend Halévy that he should be mindful of what they have been, and eternally are, each to the other; what each has given and received back again. Péguy has given himself. There is the word, 'Péguy.' And he tears this word out of himself-the peasant of Beauce, the worker, the fighter, l'homme du métier, the man whose work is his life. There is the word 'work.' This too he has given, in a supreme act of friendship, wherein the creator wrestles with his soul in the presence of his friend, admits him to his holiest. They have striven together to conquer the thought which is the act of art. How they grappled with that mighty one, Hugo, and wrestled with him for his secret until the dawn rose over the bridges of Paris! There is the word, 'VictorMarie, Comte Hugo.' That pagan angel, 'ce génie pourvu de talents,' the creator of 'Booz Endormi' him they mastered and knew together. From him, together, they climbed to the supreme trial, to wrestle with Corneille and Racine. There is the word, 'Corneille.' There is the word, ' Racine.' And Corneille is all France, the eternal France. He is the spirit that moves in grace, nay, that grows in grace. 'Corneille n'opère jamais que dans le royaume de salut; Racine n'opère jamais que dans le royaume de perdition.'

Here, if anywhere, was a word 'arraché du ventre.' This was not the idle thesis of the schools, the comparison between the two French poets, which every pupil imbibes from a glib professor. This was knowledge won by right of conquest, the peace of spiritual apprehension which the soul wins by force of its own arms. But it is only a strange answer to a familiar question, may be said by those who do not understand that the enduring criticism is that wherein a man seeks an answer to his own questions from the great ones before him, and dares to measure his humanity with

theirs. On whose side was he, Péguy asked? was he with Corneille or was he with Racine? who was on his own side-Corneille or Racine? Nothing less than the destiny of himself, more, nothing less than the destiny of France, hung on that question for Péguy. His answer stands:

'Quoiqu'ils en disent, quoiqu'ils en pensent même peutêtre, les Français sont généralement Cornéliens. . . . Les blessures que nous recevons, nous les recevons dans Racine; les êtres que nous sommes, nous les sommes dans Corneille.'

But that is not criticism. Indeed it is not, now that the word has sunk to little meaning with much use. It is creation, the straining of the soul outwards away from limitation to communion with the great souls of the past. Beside it a lesser criticism is an impertinence; for the condition of its achievement was that Péguy should have been, if only for the brief moment while he strove to hold this thought, the equal of Corneille.

The enduring impression of Péguy's work, to one who follows it from its beginnings, is that of a steady and vital progress to a culmination of greatness, to a greatness intensely human. There is in Péguy no remoteness. He grows like a strong tree from the ground. We are, if we will be, his comrades; he does not hide himself from us because he cannot, because he is not ashamed, and because he knows that he is a visible example. We are at home in his homeliness, for he had the spirit which gathers up common occupations into itself and creates them art. The mechanism of life, by the alchemy of a candour so deep, becomes organic once more.


It would have been well if we had enlarged the picture to include his actual manual work on the Cahiers,' done down to the last detail as he sat with the country mud on his boots and his umbrella at his side, earlier almost than the dawn, in the little rez de chaussée in the Rue de la Sorbonne. It would be good to tell how he loved the craft of printing, and how the giving of the bon à tirer was as integral to his work as his language or his imagination; how he talked slowly to his friends and how he was loved by them; how he fought poverty and outward failure; how he sacrificed all to the 'Cahiers';

[ocr errors]

how his collaborators reached fame throughout the world before him; how, as he tells of himself in the Compterendu de Mandat' (1901),

'Il travaille avec les typographes à l'atelier pour faire de belles pages, de belles couvertures; il corrige les épreuves, s'abrutit les yeux. Comme libraire il fait des paquets, colle des timbres, dresse des listes, établit des fiches, aligne des commandes, empile des volumes. Il travaille de ses mains.'

These things, his peasant gait, his beard, his pince-nez, would make definite the picture of the actual man, and they would have their fitness, for there was never a man who more exactly lived his work than Charles Péguy. But, for the same reason, they are implicit in his spiritual design.

That was fulfilled by his death. It has been told how in 1909, immediately before his annus mirabilis began, he passed through a crisis of disillusionment. His was a beaten generation, he wrote, in 'A nos amis, à nos abonnés.' There were defeats that were glorious, disasters that bore the honourable name of the vanquished down to posterity. But he and his comrades were the victims of obscure defeat.

'Nous avons été très grands dans la réalité, mais nous ne l'avons été que dans la réalité. C'est comme rien. Nous ne l'avons pas été dans l'enregistrement, dans l'appareil d'enregistrement, dans l'histoire. Et quand nous le disons nous parlons comme des imbéciles. Nous avons l'air d'être des imbéciles. Et nous le sommes; puisque nous faisons figure d'imbéciles. Qu'importe que nous ayons été grands en réalité ? L'histoire ne s'occupe pas des réalités. Elle n'a que faire de la réalité.'

Then he glorified the names of the past-' O drapeaux du passé, si beaux dans les histoires'-the warriors and the battles, the victories and the defeats, the victories in defeat. He saw himself and his generation called to the bar of history, and this final challenge rang in his ears. 'Alors de quoi parlez-vous? Apportez-moi donc seulement vos morts. Voyons, comptons-les.'

It has been the tragic, yet the beautiful destiny of Péguy's generation that it should bring forward its dead in hecatombs that History herself cannot number. Of

these Péguy is the chief and the exemplar. He died joyously, as one to whom a great gift had been given; he sanctified the sacrifice of his fallen comrades, for he, more than all others, knew the banner under which they fought and the blood which ran in their veins.

In the months immediately before his death, in the long poem which formed his last cahier, 'Eve,' appeared a poem of solemn prophecy, a psalm of quiet and assured victory before the coming sacrifice. Blessed are they who die for their carnal city, for they are the body of the city of God.'

'Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour la terre charnelle, Mais pourvu que ce fût dans une juste guerre ;

Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour quatre coins de terre, Heureux ceux qui sont morts d'une mort solennelle.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans les grandes batailles,
Couchés dessus le sol à la face de Dieu;

Heureux ceux qui sont morts sur un dernier haut lieu
Parmi tout l'appareil des grandes funérailles.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour des cités charnelles,
Car elles sont le corps de la cité de Dieu;
Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour leur âtre et leur feu
Et les pauvres honneurs des maisons paternelles.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts, car ils sont retournés
Dans la première argile et la première terre ;
Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans une juste guerre;
Heureux les épis mûrs et les blés moissonnés !'

Thus at the last Charles Péguy proclaimed the truth for which he had laboured all his life, namely, that his earthly city was by intention created after the pattern of the heavenly, and its true citizens (who alone are the citizens of the heavenly also) are bound to live and privileged to die in order that it may be made loyal to its high ideal.



1. Shop Management. By F. Winslow Taylor. Harpers, 1911.

2. The Principles of Scientific Management.

Winslow Taylor. Harpers, 1911.

By F.

3. Work, Wages and Profits. By H. L. Gantt. New York: Engineering Magazine Co., 1913.

4. Psychology and Industrial Efficiency. Constable, 1913.


Milford, 1914.

5. Scientific Management.

By Hugo By Clarence B. Thompson.

IN taking their way westward, European habits and fashions follow what has been said to be the course of Empire. All the flotsam and jetsam of European life-Russian dancing, German scholarship, Hungarian musical comedy, Parisian fashions and English literature -are borne on the tide and spread over the American continent. The American manufacturer is ever alert for the latest European inventions; the American scientist, whether he work in the laboratory or in the operatingroom, is in touch with the literature of his speciality coming every month from abroad; and American scholars, reformers and preachers are alive to the latest discoveries in scholarship, the newest movements in social reform, and the most modern trend in religious ideas.

All this is as it should be; but what puzzles one is that the tide rarely sets the other way. It is only with the greatest difficulty and after many years that American books, customs, movements, reputations, arts, take root either in England or on the Continent. A few notable exceptions blind us to the truth of this fact. These exceptions are so pronounced, so American, that they create an impression of Europe's becoming Americanised quite rapidly enough; for, though perhaps excellent in themselves, they often are incidentally suggestive of those things in American life and ways that are distinctly alien to the European mind. The cinema has become an almost exclusively American enterprise; ninety-one per cent. of the films shown in the British Isles come from overseas. But this is an exception. Again, Americans,

« PreviousContinue »