Page:The imperial peace; an ideal in European history.djvu/9

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The Imperial Peace

not merely of abstract philosophy, but also of sociology, as well as of religion, which touch us at the present day; and his answers to those problems, though usually expressed in terms that are uncongenial to us, as being too abstract and too remote from the practical world, need only to be translated into modern terms in order to be intelligible and indeed convincing. They wrote and spoke for their own time. Words have changed their meaning since then, but the truth remains the same.

The poet of the Middle Ages, who interpreted with the insight of a prophet the heart of the Mediaeval world, has laid down, as the first principle from which reasoning about the welfare of human society must start, that universal peace is the end for which all our action is and should be ordered. When I approach this poet, I go to him as the seer who could look on the divine truth with the undazzled eye of the prophet; and I quote only from one of his prose works, the Latin treatise on Monarchy. 'Of all things', says Dante, 'that are ordered to secure blessings to men, peace is the best: by quiet the individual man grows perfect in wisdom; and society as a whole is best fitted in the tranquillity of peace for its proper work, which may be called divine.'

Such is the truth as declared by a great thinker, who lived in the midst 'of a turbulent world, split up into many small rival states, all as a rule either on the verge of war or actually engaged in war with one another. The international life of Europe, that small part of Europe which came within the circle of a common intercourse, moved amid the jealousies, the ambitions, the mutual cheating, and the frequent wars of these petty princes and kinglets.

Has Europe really much improved since then in the fundamental facts of international relationship? It is