The Old World in its Sunset Was Fair to See




Like many others, I often summon up in my memory the impression of those July days.  The world on the verge of its catastrophe was very brilliant.  Nations and Empires crowned with princes and potentates rose majestically on every side, lapped in the accumulated treasures of the long peace.  All were fitted and fastened—it seemed securely—into an immense cantilever.  The two mighty Europeans systems faced each other glittering and clanking in their panoply, but with a tranquil gaze.  A polite, discreet, pacific, and on the whole sincere diplomacy spread its web of connections over both.  A sentence in a dispatch, an observation by an ambassador, a cryptic phrase in a Parliament seemed sufficient to adjust from day to day the balance of the prodigious structure.  Words counted, and even whispers.  A nod could be made to tell.  Were we after all to achieve world security and universal peace by a marvelous system of combinations in equipoise and of armaments in equation, of checks and counter-checks on violent action ever more complex and more delicate?  Would Europe this marshaled, thus grouped, thus related, unite into one universal and glorious organism capable of receiving and enjoying in undreamed of abundance the bounty which nature and science stood hand in hand to give?  The old world in its sunset was fair to see.

Winston Churchill, The World Crisis

How quickly worlds can be shattered.  In this year of grace 2014 let us hope that future historians will not be putting down similar words about out age.  I doubt, in part, if they will, because the optimism that characterized Europe prior to the Great War is completely foreign to our time.  However, future historians dwelling upon the blindness of current leaders as we slide into another Great War, well, that would not surprise me at all.  Let us pray that my fears do not come to fruition.

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  1. ‘ …Nations and Empires … A polite, discreet, pacific, and on the whole sincere diplomacy spread its web of connections over both. … ‘

    Politeness, discretion, and intellect are victims of an abortion – practically abandoned by art, education, entertainment, journalism, public service leaders, and most with forms of communication.

  2. Maybe the sun hasn’t completely set on the old Catholic world… France is offering refuge to Iraqi Christians. Maybe the eldest daughter of the Church still has some of the old feeling.

  3. Anzlyne

    The proud boast – La France, pays d’asile [France, the country of asylum] is not an empty one; that it is a matter of pride is in stark contrast to German (and British) attitudes.

  4. I didn’t know they claimed that appellation, but I did know that the south of France is where some 1st century Jews become Christians fled to in escaping persecution. Mary Magdalena for one

  5. Ironically, there are some roughly similar passages in “The Crisis” by Winston Churchill — not the Churchill mentioned above but a popular American historical novelist of the early 20th century (go here to read about him: Internet searches for this novel about the advent of the Civil War often turn up results for the British Churchill’s “World Crisis” due to the similarity of the titles and authors.

    In this passage the American Churchill describes the grand estate of a (fictional) St. Louis society family and the glittering party they hosted in the fall of 1860, just before Abraham Lincoln was elected president and the Civil War broke out:

    “An era of charity, of golden simplicity, was passing on that October night of Anne Brinsmade’s ball. Those who made merry there were soon to be driven and scattered before the winds of war; to die at Wilson’s Creek, or Shiloh, or to be spared for heroes of the Wilderness. Some were to eke out a life of widowhood in poverty. All were to live soberly, chastened by what they had seen. A fear knocked at Colonel Carvel’s heart as he stood watching the bright figures.

    “Brinsmade,” he said, “do you remember this room in May, ’46?”

    Mr. Brinsmade, startled, turned upon him quickly.

    “Why, Colonel, you have read my very thoughts,” he said. “Some of those who were here then are—are still in Mexico.”

    “And some who came home, Brinsmade, blamed God because they had not fallen,” said the Colonel. (The Colonel’s wife had died while he was away fighting in Mexico.)

    “Hush, Comyn, His will be done,” he answered; “He has left a daughter to comfort you.”

  6. Maybe France is waking up, in some small way.

    Hot Air has a piece about the vicious anti-Semitic protests that have taken place in Germany and Italy. Conspicuous by is absence is….Poland. Poland, where so much carnage from both World Wars took place, where the SS built and operated so many death camps….

    Poland really does not have the economic means to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees – they haven’t allowed the descendants of Poles deported by Stalin to return (and I think they should) – but you are not seeing or hearing of any of that garbage there.

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