Puslapio vaizdai

It had also given him to believe that the center of those horizons, if not they themselves, lay within his own soul. But transcendentalism really transvalued few values. Carlyle still bellowed strenuous old prejudices, and Emerson went on lifting his sweet voice in hymns of hope and compensation. Melville could not be satisfied. Though both his earlier and his later doctrines taught him that the cosmos had a meaning, and that the meaning was simple and good, his experience denied that conclusion. In the world itself he had found a thousand malevolent contradictions. Blind chance, heedless of the interests of men, seemed to rule there, and blind chance, Melville thought, could come from nothing less than the activity of the devil. And where within his own self, he asked in vain, were those serene, virtuous regions about which he had heard? His own heart was a region of storms and cross-currents. The deeper he went into it in his reflections, the more he was horrified by the fierce things he perceived there. Only a little more, and he could imagine himself a mad Ahab, fixed in a wild rebellion, setting out to scour the unfathomable universe which had wronged him and against which he had vowed a devastating, supernatural revenge. Nor was it merely the Lucifer in Ahab which Melville comprehended. He saw him also, in some degree, as Faust, bound to get at the truth though it should blast him. With two motives of this power, Ahab could look forward to no peace but that which might come from supreme triumph or total annihilation.

This was Melville's state. For all his realism, he had never arrived at the idea that perhaps the universe has no

meaning at all, or that it has many meanings, all equally satisfactory to different finite intelligences. As to the dark impulses which he found within himself, he had never understood that they were the survivors of functions and processes in which human nature had engaged in the ascending millenniums since it was mere protoplasm fighting its way out of the primal mud. Melville was in the plight of a geographer who, though his observation had taught him that the earth is round, was trying to calculate its area and survey its surface on the hypothesis that the earth is flat. He was in the plight of a philosopher who was trying to lay down a moral system without taking into account that third dimension of morals, which is otherwise known as history. Whatever Melville's firsthand knowledge of the world which he wanted to chart, he could not free himself from his bondage to the formulas by which he had been taught that the world could be charted. Between his knowledge and his inherited formulas arose the conflict which muddied the stream of his own life. The conflict, however, begat Ahab.


Readers who have expected less of the universe than Melville did, and have therefore been less disappointed, are likely not to find their imaginations stirred as they might once have been by Ahab's vow and quest. His blasphemy no more shocks them than would the shrieking of an angry child. They study the methods of his madness without being greatly touched by its causes or results. Consequently, they often find the talk of the chronicle towering too high. The language seems to have something reckless about

it, something a little hollow. It rants occasionally, like the language of certain of the minor Elizabethans who are praised, but tiresome. None of the characters of "Moby Dick" is required to restrict itself to the tongue of nature; the tongue of rhetoric very often is enough for Melville. What he produces is an immense miscellany. One passage may be pure comedy, another may be encyclopedic information, another may be mighty poetry, another may be transcendental raving. A classical disposition may well feel lost in such a torrent. Whoever enjoys himself most in the romance must get his enjoyment from its tumult and variety. Indeed, only a fairly heroic reader can take this voyage. It represents Melville at his peak. He is here neither as easy as in "Typee" nor as furious as in "Pierre," but his qualities are in that working combination which reveals him most thoroughly. Savage energy, ceaseless curiosity, nipping irony, desperate brooding, strange, full-lunged mirth, ultimate pessimism-he weaves them all into his pattern. Over it rises the smoke of his wrath vexed and blasphemous.

Perhaps every reader must, with whatever first introduction or first impression, make the rest out himself. Fortunately, there is more to "Moby Dick" than its transcendental meaning. There is more than its variety of details. In its own enormous way, it marches. "Call me Ishmael," the narrator says in the first sentence, thus cutting himself off from the ordinary, friendly world. He goes to New Bedford, takes up with a cannibal harpooner, joins the crew of the Pequod, and is at sea before he realizes the purposes of Ahab. They become evident

to him but slowly. In the interval, while the ship makes its way to its fields of action, Ishmael has time to expound the technic of his calling, and to describe the characters who are practising it with him. Even on the Pacific, the Pequod cannot go directly to its mark. It must move through dull delays, while the illusion of its single, unavoidable aim gathers strength. Its path crosses that of many another vessel, and they hail one another and exchange the news of the ocean till there has been woven of their crossings and communications a solid fabric of knowledge concerning all that goes on there. Finally, when it comes to the struggle with Moby Dick, the mad captain and his fated crew have built up such anticipations that this seems to be the focus of the universe, whether the struggle be actual or symbolical. As Ahab has drawn his crew after him, so the Pequod seems to be drawing, in the allegory, all the other ships afloat. The spirit of all whalers, the spirit of all sailors, yes, the spirit of all dauntless men, seems matched against the spirit of resisting, malicious nature personified in Moby Dick. At the crash, nature proves eternal as well as unassailable, and the fable comes to an end in the vortex of a drowning world. And with an art hardly to be noted elsewhere in the entire work, Melville instantly ends his story. "Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago." Had he been everywhere willing or able to let his materials in this fashion speak for themselves, "Moby Dick" would need no introduction.

The Outlook for Western Civilization

II-The Literature of Hope



s I stated in these pages last month, my editorship of this magazine will come to an end in the early autumn, when I assume my new duties as president of the University of Wisconsin. During the last four months of my editorship I am devoting these pages to a review of the observations I have made from time to time during the last six years on the general outlook for Western civilization. I am aware that to many readers this may have seemed a very broad and, perhaps, highly academic topic for consideration in a general magazine, but I have returned to it again and again because of the conviction that the good health or ill health of Western civilization in general will finally color and control, down to the most intimate detail, both our national policies and our personal careers. And I want my final act as editor of this magazine to be a fairly comprehensive restatement of this conviction.

Last month I reviewed the literature of despair, in which many of the most astute students of contemporary affairs express the belief that we are headed toward a new dark ages; this month I am undertaking to suggest the outlines of an emerging literature of hope that has led many equally astute students of our current life to entertain at least

a tentative hope that we may be headed toward a new renaissance. First, however, let me briefly summarize what I said last month about the literature of despair; for the literature of hope, section by section, arises out of the same fields of research and experience which have provided the soil for the literature of despair.

After stating the point of view of those who believe that we are citizens of a disintegrating civilization, I suggested that the literature of despair has been inspired by at least seven distinct fears that have arisen in seven distinct fields of research and experience, namely:

First, the biological fear of racial deterioration resulting from a tendency to reproduce our population from our less and least fit human stocks rather than from our better and best human stocks; second, the psychological fear that we are rapidly becoming a crowdcivilization, in which the crowd-mind and crowd-processes of thinking are taking the place of the creative insurgency of the free and disciplined intelligence of the individual citizen; third, the political fear that democracy, as it comes to the end of its period of quantitative extension and enters its period of qualitative development, may fail to produce a civilization that is at

once stable and progressive; that democracy may, like a pendulum, swing between the equally sinister extremes of reckless revolution and reckless reaction; that it may prove only a half-way house on the road to dictatorship, either the dictatorship of the proletariate or the dictatorship of the plutocracy; fourth, the economic fear that our industrial civilization may court disaster by exalting quantity above quality, by mechanizing a civilization that must be kept human if it is to survive; fifth, the historical fear that the life of a people moves in a cycle similar to the cycle of birth, youth, middle age, senescence, and death that marks the life of its individual members, and that Western civilization is senescent; sixth, the administrative fear that the bigness and complexity of the institutions of our civilization have outstripped the existing administrative capacity of mankind, and that we must either contrive to breed and train more great administrators or reorganize our life in terms of smaller and more manageable units; and, seventh, the moral fear that the present younger generation has gone apostate to the sort of standards of thought and conduct upon which alone a stable civilization can be built.

writings of accredited scholars. I want to make clear, therefore, that, in suggesting the existence of a literature of hope, I am not attempting to question either the sincerity or the soundness of these fears.

These fears have been so glaringly exploited by sensational journalism and so played upon by shoddy seekers after transient notoriety that we are likely to forget that they are fears entertained by many of the most responsible scholars in biology, psychology, political science, economics, the science of administration, and ethics. In fact, my discussion of the literature of despair ignored the mere sensationalism of the penny-a-line pessimists; it was based solely upon the

Personally, I believe that all of these fears, with the possible exception of the historical fear, rest upon indisputable grounds; I believe that we shall inevitably enter a new dark ages, a period in which civilized values will go into decline and the race be thrust back into the precarious existence of its primitive ancestors, unless we begin with a decent promptness to remove the legitimate grounds for these fears. And it is at just this point that we are likely to forget the one thing we should remember, namely, that we cannot remove the legitimate grounds for these fears by any mere intellectual or emotional incantation. We can remove the grounds for these fears only by sheer feats of biological, psychological, political, social, economic, educational, and spiritual engineering.

The only valid literature of hope, therefore, must be not a literature of mere optimistic prophecy of a good time coming, but a literature which, arising out of the same fields of research and experience that have inspired the literature of despair, will do two definite things:

First, in its negative phase, it will tell us how to go about removing the legitimate grounds for these fears.

Second, in its positive phase, it will tell us how to set going, nationally and internationally, those biological, psychological, political, economic, administrative, educational, and spiritual forces and policies that will renew, enrich, and create a virile and veracious civilization.

The negative and positive phases of the literature of hope will not be as separate and distinct as I have suggested. In its statements it will be almost exclusively positive, but I wanted to make clear what its two effects would be in the fields of practical affairs. The main thing I want to emphasize at this point is that while mooning optimists may write a literature that will give us the spirit of hope, only responsible scientists, philosophers, administrators, and authentic spiritual seers can write a literature that will give us the anatomy of hope. Social cheer-leaders might do a little toward dulling the despair of a new dark ages, but only social engineers can usher in a new renaissance. A realistic literature of hope has nothing in common with the facile and foolhardy optimism of men who regard optimism as a profession rather than a deduction from the facts in the case. It is, then, a literature of hope, not a literature of optimism, that I am discussing here. Between the two there may be a difference as wide as the world. A literature of optimism may be a literature that creates in us merely a spirit of expectancy that blindly believes a renaissance lies ahead. A literature of hope is a literature that uncovers for us the unused resources of health in our civilization and suggests to us a workable technic for using them. And a realistic literature of hope always warns us against optimism unless we set ourselves manfully at work to harness the forces of health it has pointed out to us.

Unless I misread them, our legitimate prophets of hope have warned us against certain false gleams that we shall do well not to follow. They have, I think, effectively exposed the anthology of false hopes with which

our study-tables were loaded during and immediately following the war. Let me review briefly some of the things that our rather uncritical observers have regarded as grounds of hope for Western civilization-things which seem to me to bear no relation to a realistic literature of hope.

First, many Americans believed that the war would stimulate in the men who passed through it a new spirituality that would be the dynamic of a world-wide renewal. Month after month, during the war, our magazines carried articles asserting that while the boys in the trenches did not talk in exactly ecclesiastical language, they were nevertheless living daily in the presence of death and destiny, daily practising self-sacrifice as men back home were practising professions, and that out of it all they were gaining a moral enrichment and spiritual insight that would make them, when they returned to civil life, the challengers of all that was artificial and insincere in our governments, our schools, and our churches, a new vision that would make them the flaming sponsors of a vast spiritual renewal of our common life.

All the more businesslike writers who had such articles on hand at the close of the war have carefully filed them away. They have not destroyed them, for they know that when the next war comes all they will have to do will be to take these articles out of their files, dust them off, and change the date line, for they will serve as well in one war as in another. For all such articles are based on a great delusion, and the delusions of war seem not to change greatly over the years.

The brutal truth is that war never stimulates spirituality in anybody or

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