Page:Chesterton - The Defendant, 1904.djvu/119

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and hopeless literary product that the world has ever seen. Clearly in this, again, the upper classes have degenerated. We have ample evidence that the old leaders of feudal war could speak on occasion with a certain natural symbolism and eloquence that they had not gained from books. When Cyrano de Bergerac, in Rostand's play, throws doubts on the reality of Christian's dulness and lack of culture, the latter replies:

'Bah! on trouve des mots quand on monte à l'assaut;
 Oui, j'ai un certain esprit facile et militaire;'

and these two lines sum up a truth about the old oligarchs. They could not write three legible letters, but they could sometimes speak literature. Douglas, when he hurled the heart of Bruce in front of him in his last battle, cried out, 'Pass first, great heart, as thou wert ever wont.' A Spanish nobleman, when commanded by the King to receive a high-placed and notorious traitor, said: 'I will receive him in all obedience, and burn down my house afterwards.' This is literature without culture; it is the speech of men convinced that they have to assert proudly the poetry of life.

Anyone, however, who should seek for such pearls in the conversation of a young