Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/382

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very conjuncture when it had proved inefficient in all the occidental countries. As in Hungary and Bohemia, so in Poland, its undue development crippled any consistent and sound foreign policy; and we accordingly find that although during the whole of the sixteenth century Poland still appears imposing and still achieves many a remarkable success, yet she can neither stop the growth of hostile Russia in the east, nor the insidious rise of Prussia in the west; she can neither amalgamate her population into one nation, nor endow it with a less anarchical constitution.

With a country three times as large as modern France, and territorially unbroken, besides possessing a fair outlet to the sea, the Poles were in possession of many of the factors that contribute to establish a State, and to give an assured balance to its position. That pressure from the outside, however, which has probably done more for the good of nations than most of their virtuous and patriotic qualities, was wanting. In proverbial prodigality and pleasure-seeking, the nobility of Poland spent the intervals of war on their neglected estates, leaving the great sea commerce to the German patricians of Danzig, the internal trade to the Jews, what little industry there was to the German burgesses, and the schools to the priests. Although most Polish noblemen of the wealthier classes had received a careful education at the universities of Italy, and many of them were imbued with the spirit of the classics, and fired by the ideals of true patriotism, yet all these and many other fine qualities of this most distinguished of Slavonic nations, were rendered useless and barren by the apathy and indolence of the great body of the nobles. Surely in a nation which could produce a Copernicus and so many great poets, there must have been much natural endowment even for the highest spheres of thought. In the midst of general indifference, however, the richest soil must lie fallow. The Poles, like the Hungarians, were utterly without any power of self-orientation in matters to the west of their vast country; they neglected European interests-both the Renaissance, the new international movement in the realm of intellect, and the new international policy of contemporary monarchs. In return, Europe, indifferent to Poland, as she was to the Magyars, suffered her to sink slowly but surely into inevitable dissolution.