Page:The forerunners.djvu/188

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186 THE FORERUNNERS

high among their European brethren ; for more than any other writer the great Norwegian recluse has stamped with his seal both the drama and modern thought. The eyes of Young France turned towards him ; the writer of these lines asked counsel of him.

All the nations are debtors one to another. Let us pool our debts and our possessions.

If there are any to-day for whom modesty is befitting, it is the intellectuals. The part they have played in this war has been abominable, unpardonable. Not merely did they do nothing to lessen the mutual lack of understanding, to limit the spread of hatred ; with rare exceptions, they did everything in their power to disseminate hatred and to envenom it. To a considerable extent, this war was their war. Thousands of brains were poisoned by their mur- derous ideologies. Overweeningly self-confident, proud, implacable, they sacrificed millions of young lives to the triumph of the phantoms of their imagination. History will not forget.

Gerhard Gran expresses the fear that personal cooperation between intellectuals of the belligerent lands may prove impossible for many years. If he is thinking of the genera- tion of those who are over fifty, of those who stayed at home and waged a war of words in the learned societies, the universities, and the editorial offices, I fancy that the Norwegian writer is not mistaken. There is little chance that these intellectuals will ever join hands. I should say that none of them will do so, were I not familiar with the brain's astounding faculty for forgetting, were I not familiar with this pitiful and yet salutary weakness, by which the mind is not deceived, but which is essential to its continued existence. But in the present case, oblivion will be difficult. The intellectuals have burned their boats. At the outset of the war it was still possible to hope that some of those who had been carried away by the blind passion of the opening days, would be able within a few months frankly to admit their mistake. They would not do so. Not one of them has done so on either side of the frontier. It was even possible to note that in proportion as the disastrous

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