Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

THE AUTHORITY OF TRUTH.

THERE has been what is known as the New Learning. Beginning in Italy, under the inspiration of the Greek teachers who had fled into Lombardy at the fall of Byzantium, it was taken up by the youths of all the countries of northern Europe, who, eager for learning, had crossed the Alps, and returning carried with them the light under which the whole world was to be transformed. Next to that of the fall of the Roman Empire, the date of the Revival of Learning is the most momentous since the birth of Him for whom the era is named, and the coming of whose Kingdom the centuries are consummating. To the fifteenth century the Spirit of Truth seemed to be fulfilling in peculiar measure His promise to lead men into all truth.

The New Learning filled the world with beauty. It built the Basilica on the Tiber; it laid richer glories on the walls of San Marco; it adorned the valley of the Arno

with Brunelleschi's Church and the Campanile of Giotto. It multiplied Madonnas and Annunciations and Nativities. It touched the secret springs of music. It produced Dante and Petrarch and Chaucer and Shakespeare, Savonarola and Colet, Erasmus and More, Michelangelo, Leonardo

fected the art of multiplying books, till, by the agency of the printing press, knowledge, lofty thoughts, and forms of literary beauty became common among men as the good sunshine and the rain that waters the face of the whole earth. It discovered America. It founded universities, and reclaimed those already existing from barren disputings over the inanities of the schoolmen to true mental life. It erected from the ruins of the Empire the modern nations. It opened the humanities, and set men again at telling of the human story. It began the latest and most profound phase of philosophy—the study of history. It made possible the modern sciences. In a word, it created a new world, a hitherto unprophesied society, an undreamed-of civilization.

That society we are. In that civilization we live. The New Learning is not a phrase which describes a mere epoch, a transitory movement; it describes a state and temper which still obtain. We are the products of the New Learning; we are its representatives and inheritors.

Some are very proud of that fact. Some of us are not so sure that we have much reason to be proud. The New Learning is no longer new. Much of its exuberance has passed away; much of its lofty conception of itself and its office has expired. It is not necessary at all to repudiate its achievements, nor to deny its effects, but it may be justifiable to doubt whether it has proven itself all that at the outset it gave promise of being. Certainly, it is supremely saddening to reflect that it has effected the present abounding extravagances of the restless advocates of progress, the men who fill our ears with cackle of advanced thought, new theology, new morality and the New Woman. I shall be interested presently to show that these men are not true products of the modern thought movement, nor fair illustrations of its value. But they are its actual products to-day, and they do illustrate its present state. “New" is their watchword, their creed, their battle-cry. There is nothing under heaven these last followers of the Via Nova are not minded to renovate. From cosmic philosophy to posters, behold they have made all things new. The brain of the latter-day disciple of novelty, rather than a home for Truth, has become a tavern which entertains scarcely over night, one by one, the host of fin de siècle fads. With no greater fickleness than levity, we fly from Omar Khayyam to Bacteriology, from Indian Folk-lore to Schopenhauer or Hegel, and then, the sun of philosophy having set, from Impressionism to Maeterlinck or the Song of Solomon. Every one hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. In the name of progress, we are bidden hail Yellow-Book Art, the Decadent Literature, Neo-Christianity. The German, who so well illustrates his own proposition, is not far wrong. Much (new) learning hath made us mad.

Is it surprising, in view of this sort of

« PoprzedniaDalej »