Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/154

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136

THE PEOPLE'S THEATER

ment, and it is not yet time for us to enter a new continent. Each may start forth on his quest; he is sure to return laden with booty. Let us dare to raise art to the height of that tragedy which is now being acted in the world at large. The words of Schiller on the occasion of the first performance of Wallensteins Lager (October, 1798)[1] may well be our guide and inspiration:

"The new era which opens for us today will encourage the poet to leave the beaten path of yesterday, and transport you out of your everyday existence up to a higher, a nobler stage, not perhaps unworthy of this sublime hour when our efforts are all bent toward the future. Only a great subject is capable of stirring mankind to the depths. The mind, if fettered and cramped, degenerates, but man advances as his horizon widens. And now, at the end of this century, when reality itself becomes poetry, when we are witnesses of gigantic souls striving onward toward a great prize, when men fight for the highest interests of humanity, liberty, and power—now, I say, the art of the drama may evoke the shades of the past in order to take flight to more distant summits. It can do this, and it will unless it rests content to be an object of shame before the eyes of the whole world."

We must not complain of our destiny. Fate has given us plenty to do. Ours is a happy age, for we have great tasks to accomplish. Happy the man

  1. See the magnificent appeal of Mazzini To the Poets of the 19th Century (Ai poeti del secolo XIX, 1832).