The Forerunners (Romain Rolland)/VI
THE war has shown us how fragile are the treasures of our civilisation. Of all our goods, freedom, on which we prided ourselves most, has proved the frailest. It had been won by degrees through centuries of sacrifice, of patient effort, of suffering, of heroism, and of stubborn faith; we inhaled its golden atmosphere; our enjoyment of it seemed as natural as our enjoyment of the fresh air which sweeps across the surface of the earth and floods our lungs. A few days were enough to steal from us this jewel of life; within a few hours, the world over, the quivering wings of liberty were enmeshed as in a net. The peoples had delivered her up. Nay more, they hailed their own enslavement with acclamations. We have relearned the old truth. "No conquest is ever achieved once for all. Conquest is a continued action which must be sustained day by day under penalty of forfeiture."
Betrayed liberty, take sanctuary in the hearts of the faithful, fold your wounded pinions! In days to come you will resume your splendid flight. Then you will again be the idol of the multitude. Those who now oppress you, will then sing your praises. But in my eyes never have you seemed more beautiful than in this time of trial, when you are poor, despoiled, and stricken. You have nothing left to offer those who love you, nothing but danger and the smile of your undaunted eyes. Nevertheless, not all the wealth of the world can be compared with this gift. The lackeys of public opinion, the worshippers of success, will never compete with us for it. But we shall be true to you, Christ despised and rejected, for we know that you will rise again from the tomb.
"Avanti," Milan, May 1, 1916.