Page:The imperial peace; an ideal in European history.djvu/13

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The Imperial Peace

imposed unity of the all-pervading and compelling Imperial order and peace. Only in this way can the individual man and the individual group of men work out their own being. Each man has his special character, and his expansive and growing nature supplies the force needed for his development: without this force he is stunted and narrowed. But this growth cannot find nourishment and scope for itself except in the peace of the Empire: without that peace it is wasted in long contention with others around. The Imperial peace dictates the law of growth.

It is an ideal monarch whom Dante describes. We see how untrammelled he is by historical fact. His. mind was nurtured on the history and the greatness of Rome, and he could turn from contemplating the lives and acts of the Caesars to paint this picture of the monarch and to set it before his readers, not as an impossible ideal, but as the truth of things. How extraordinarily and fantastically absurd it appears to most readers; and they turn from it as a pretty but idle fancy. It is an ideal; but the ideal is the power in history. If the ideal could be reproduced in the common man, it ceases to be an ideal and a power. It must remain above us and in front of us; and therein lies its influence on mankind.

That this ideal has had a powerful influence on modern history is, I think, undeniable. The monarch in Dante's mind is supreme over all mere kings and princes, universal and absolute lord of all, while mere kings are exposed to temptation to violate the peace with their neighbours, to overstep their own bounds, and to covet their neighbour's property. Yet who can look dispassionately at modern facts without recognizing that an ideal such as Dante paints has been and is a strong power in the breast of many modern kings and rulers, tending to