Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/47

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At the opening of the twentieth century we have far better occasion than had at any time the great cynic, Carlyle, to exclaim:

"The Present Time, youngest-born of eternity, child and heir of all the Past Times, with their good and evil, and parent of all the Future, is ever a 'New Era' to the thinking man; and comes with new questions and significance; however commonplace it looks: to know it and what it bids us do is ever the sum of knowledge for all of us. This new Day, sent us out of Heaven, this also has its heavenly omens—amid the bustling trivialities and loud empty noises, its silent monitions; which, if we can not read and obey, it will not be well with us! . . . . But, in the days that are now passing over us, even fools are arrested to ask the meaning of them; few of the generations of men have seen more impressive days. . . . There must be a new world if there is to be any world at all! . . . One thing I do know," he adds, . . . "That the few Wise will have, by one method or another, to take command of the innumerable foolish; that they must be got to take it; and that, in fact, since Wisdom, which means also Valor and heroic Nobleness, is alone strong in this world, and one wise man is stronger than all unwise, they can be got."

How shall the wise men and the wisest men accomplish their tasks? I take it that Carlyle was also right when he prescribed the two great tasks lying before us:

"Huge-looming through the dim tumult of the always incommensurable Present Time, outlines of two tasks disclose themselves: the grand Industrial of conquering some half or more of this Terraqueous Planet, for the use of man; then, secondly, the grand constitutional task of sharing, in some pacific, endurable manner, the fruit of said conquest and showing all people how it might be done."

"Moreover," he goes on, "there are spiritual budding-times, and then also there are physical appointed to Nations.

"Thus, in the middle of that poor calumniated Eighteenth Century, see once more! Long Winter again past, the dead-seeming tree proves to be living, to have been always living, after motionless times, every bough shoots forth, on the sudden, very strangely—it now turns out that this favored England was not only to have had her Shakespeares, Bacons, Sydneys, but to have had her Watts, Arkwrights, Brindleys! We honor greatness in all kinds. . . . Prospero can send his Fire-demons panting across all oceans; shooting with the speed of meteors, on cunning highways, from end to end of all kingdoms; and make Iron his missionary, preaching its evangel to the brute Primeval Powers, which listen and obey. . . . Advancing always, through all centuries, in the middle of the eighteenth they arrived. The Saxon kindred burst forth into cotton-spinning, cloth-dropping, iron-forging, steam-engining, railwaying, commercing and careering towards all the winds of Heaven."

Carlyle saw more clearly than perhaps any other man of his time that, as others have since said, the world owes absolutely nothing, in its conquest of the forces and powers of nature, to the kings and princes or to the aristocracy of the worlds, past or present; they, with their battles and contentions and their subordination to their own insignificant affairs of every element of real progress, have been the great impediments to progress. The world owes all rather to the inventor, to the mechanic, to the man of science and the man of mind. All progress has been effected irrespective of, if not in spite of, the acts and famous deeds of