Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/264

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


joy of living left in him: he had no thirst for power; he had no policy which he wished to carry out. A sense of the vanity of life already possessed him, and tinged his character with gentle melancholy. All he hoped for was to keep himself unspotted from the world, and to live worthy of his Christian calling. Politics must settle themselves, for he at all events had no decisive word to speak. He had a few personal predilections, which he wished to indulge; but that was all. Perhaps he did not know how much they involved, how the entire life of a ruler is necessarily interwoven with the fortunes of his people. It was a lesson which he had to learn.

I do not purpose to relate the facts of Edward's reign. I am concerned with explaining why an incompetent king became a national saint and hero. One reason no doubt was that very incompetence. He was like his people in having no answer to give to the difficulties of the present; but he consoled them by pointing to a vague yet glorious future. The statesmen of the time, like the statesmen of all times, were engaged in making the best of things. This is of course a statesman's business; but it is oftentimes a thankless task, especially when there is small hope of combining the people into resolute action. If Edward had possessed capacity and foresight, he would have thought it his duty to devise a policy of his own. But Edward knew that he had neither of these qualities; and he did not attempt to meddle with things which he confessed to be beyond him. He turned to what was within his power. If he could not direct his nation's destinies, he might at least do something to