Sunday, July 6, 2014

Something Borrowed

Please forgive me, anyone who cares, but I'm borrowing this from a very nice site called Lapham's Quarterly.  Some kind of English literary site.  They feature very entertaining snippets of one-hundred-plus year old antique commentaries, dating back to the Roman Empire actually, and beyond, probably. 

Here's one, written by a Frenchman in 1834:

Furor Teutonicus

Christianity—and this is its fairest merit—subdued to a certain extent the brutal warrior ardor of the Germans, but it could not entirely quench it; and when the cross, that restraining talisman, falls to pieces, then will break forth again the ferocity of the old combatants the frantic Berserker rage whereof Northern poets have said and sung so much. The talisman has become rotten, and the day will come when it will pitifully crumble to dust. The old stone gods will then arise from the forgotten ruins and wipe from their eyes the dust of centuries, and Thor with his giant hammer will arise again, and he will shatter the Gothic cathedrals…When you hear the trampling of feet and the clashing of arms, your neighbors’ children, you French, be on your guard, and see that you mingle not in the fray going on among us at home in Germany. It might fare ill with you. See that you take no hand in kindling the fire; see that you attempt not to extinguish it. You might easily burn your fingers in the flame. Smile not at my counsel, at the counsel of a dreamer, who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, philosophers of nature. Smile not at the fantasy of one who foresees in the region of reality the same outburst of revolution that has taken place in the region of intellect. The thought precedes the deed as the lightning the thunder. German thunder is of true German character: it is not very nimble, but rumbles along somewhat slowly. But come it will, and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then know that at last the German thunderbolt has fallen. At this commotion the eagles will drop dead from the skies and the lions in the farthest wastes of Africa will bite their tails and creep into their royal lairs. There will be played in Germany a drama compared to which the French Revolution will seem but an innocent idyll.

End of ruthlessly exploited stolen material.

I read this piece last week, and it reminded me of something that I actually used to worry about.  As a younger man I had a list of things that I desperately hoped would not come to pass during my lifetime.  Things like, please, God, wait until I am gone before aliens land some kind of flying saucer on the White House lawn.  Like, please let no one invent a fool proof lie detector while I yet live, things like that.

On the list was, please don't let Germany make some kind of technological breakthrough of a magnitude that would tempt them to dictate terms to the world.  It is perhaps a strange thing for me to fear, because in real life I rather like the Germans, and I get along with them very well.  I can speak German, and that serves very well to put one in their good graces.  My own blood is twenty-five percent German.  So yes, I like them, and I prefer their company to most other Europeans, but honestly, can we really ever trust them to have abandoned all of their old predilections? I trust them well enough, but only so far evidently. 

I trust them a lot more than the writer of the above article.  

I'll be posting something tomorrow that addresses this fear. 

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