Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/18

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THIRTY-SIX DRAMATIC SITUATIONS

work of diplomacy, or revealing himself beneath the formidable pomp of the greatest contemporary powers; the Suppliant, artless or eloquent, virtuous or guilty, humble or great; and the Power, neutral or partial to one side or the other, perhaps inferior in strength to the Persecutor and surrounded by his own kindred who fear danger, perhaps deceived by a semblance of right and justice, perhaps obliged to sacrifice a high ideal; sometimes severely logical, sometimes emotionally susceptible, or even overcome by a conversion a la Dostoievsky, and, as a final thunderbolt, abandoning the errors which he believed to be truth, if not indeed the truth which he believed to be error!

Nowhere, certainly, can the vicissitudes of power, be it arbitral, tyrannical, or overthrown,—the superstitions which may accompany doubt and indecision,—on the one side the sudden turns of popular opinion, on the other the anxiety with which they are awaited,—despairs and their resulting blasphemies,—hope surviving to the last breath,—the blind brutality of fate,—nowhere can they become so condensed and burst forth with such power as in this First Situation, in our day ignored.

France's enthusiastic sympathy for Poland, revived during the last half-century; the same sympathy which on so many historic occasions she has manifested for Scotland and for Ireland, might here find tragic expression; that cry of humanity with which a single priest, at the massacre of Fourmies, rallied to the Church a fraction of revolutionary France; the worship of the dead, that first, last, most primitive and most indestructible form of religious sentiment; the agony which awaits us all, agony dragging itself toward the darkness like a spent beast; the profoundly humble longing of one whom a murder has deprived of all that was dearest to him, that pitiable entreaty, on bended knees, which melted into tears the savage rancor of Achilles and caused him to forget his vow;—all are here in this First Situation, all these strong emotions, and yet others; nowhere else, indeed, can they be found in such completeness,—and our modern world of art has forgotten this situation!