Page:Historical characteristics of the Celtic race.djvu/14

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two elements in the French population has been still further altered by events taking place under our own eyes: the excision of Alsace–Lorraine in 1870 has had the effect of eliminating still more the Teutonic, intensifying and concentrating the Celtic element in the French nationality.

Assuming, then, that you have as a race such kinship and affinities, I proceed to inquire what are the qualities that can be predicated as appertaining to the Celtic race in the various stages of its history. That history has been a long and chequered one—Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum; but amid the varying fortunes of the Celtic people, it will be found that in their pure and unsophisticated condition they have been in the main distinguished by these four qualities more particularly, Reverence religiously, devoted Faithfulness politically, Politeness or civility socially, and Spirit, or, as the French would call it, Esprit universally. In one word, Idealism is that which belongs essentially to the Celtic character, showing itself in the disposition to make the future, or the past, more important than the present; to gild the horizon with a golden age in the far past, as do the Utopian Conservatives; or in the remote future, as do the equally Utopian Revolutionists. This ideal tendency has no doubt its dangers, the risk, namely, of mistaking fancies for facts, and also neglecting hard and flinty facts, so receiving wounds and bruises in our environment; but, rightly regulated, this Idealism is at the root of all nobleness, for we must agree with the great burly Anglo-Saxon Dr Johnson, when standing upon the Celtic soil of Iona, and inspired by its sacred memories, he declared that "whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, exalts us in the dignity of thinking beings". That is an entirely Celtic sentiment, and once we appreciate it, we come to discern the origin of those qualities which have formed the strength and also the weakness of the Celtic people. The weakness, I say, as well as the strength, for just as a man's strong point is also found to be his weak point, through, it may be, vanity in himself, or through envy on the part of others feeling his superiority, so the Idealism of the Celtic race has had its weakness in this respect that, while they meditated and dreamed, other and more realistic and less imaginative races acted, and so stept in before them frequently in the arena of the world.