Parthagica Directory 05
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Parthagica Directory 05
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The struggle which follows exhibits, as nothing else could do so well, the tremendous power of the Norman feudal monarchy, the absolute hold which it had on state and nation even on the verge of its fall. John had not ruled during these eight years in such a way as to strengthen his personal position. He had been a tyrant; he had disregarded the rights of batons as well as of clergy; he had given to many private reasons of hatred; he had lost rather than won respect by the way in which he had defended his inheritance in France his present cause, if looked at from the point of view of Church and nation and not from that of the royal prerogative alone, was a bad one. The interdict was a much dreaded penalty, suspending some of the most desired offices of religion, and, while not certainly dooming all the dying to be lost in the world to come, at least rendering their state to the pious mind somewhat doubtful; and, though the effect of the spiritual terrors of the Church had been a little weakened by their frequent use on slight occasions, the age was still far distant when they could be disregarded. We should expect John to prove as weak in the war with Innocent as he had in that with Philip, and at such a test to find his power crumbling without recovery. What we really find is a successful resistance kept up for years, almost without expressed opposition, a great body of the clergy reconciling themselves to the situation as best they could; a period during which the affairs of the state seem to go on as if nothing were out of order, the period of John's greatest tyranny, of almost unbridled power. And when he was forced to yield at last, it was to a foreign attack, to a foreign attack combined, it is true, with an opposition at home which had been long accumulating, but no one can say how long this opposition might have gone on accumulating before it would have grown strong enough to check the king of itself.

It is probably a wholly false antithesis to speak of life as a contrast to literature; one might as well draw a distinction between eating and drinking. What is meant as a rule is that if a man devotes himself to imaginative creation, to the perception and expression of beauty, he must be prepared to withdraw from other activities. But the imagination is a function of life, after all, and precisely the same holds good of stockbroking. The real fact is that we Anglo-Saxons, by instinct and inheritance, think of the acquisition of property as the most obvious function of life. As long as a man is occupied in acquiring property, we ask no further questions; we take for granted that he is virtuously employed, as long as he breaks no social rules: while if he succeeds in getting into his hands an unusual share of the divisible goods of the world, we think highly of him. Indeed, our ideals have altered very little since barbarous times, and we still are under the impression that resourcefulness is the mark of the hero. I imagine that leisure as an occupation is much more distrusted and disapproved of in America than in England; but even in England, where the power to be idle is admired and envied, a man who lives as heroic a life as can be attained by playing golf and shooting pheasants is more trusted and respected than a rich man who paints or composes music for his amusement. Field sports are intelligible enough; the pursuit of art requires some explanation, and incurs a suspicion of effeminacy or eccentricity. Only when authorship becomes a source of profit is it thoroughly respectable.

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