All the pure and noble arts of peace are founded on war; no great art ever yet rose on Earth, but among a nation of soldiers. There is no art among a shepherd people if it remains at peace. There is no art among an agricultural people if it remains at peace. Commerce is barely consistent with fine art, but cannot produce it. Manufacture not only is unable to produce it, but invariably destroys whatever seeds of it exist. There is no great art possible to a nation but that which is based on battle.
Now, though I hope you love fighting for its own sake, you must, I imagine, be surprised at my assertion that there is any such good fruit of fighting. You supposed, probably, that your office was to defend the works of peace, but certainly not to found them; nay, the common course of war, you may have thought, was only to destroy them. And truly I, who tell you this of the use of war, should have been the last of men to tell you so, had I trusted my own experience only.
Yet the conclusion is inevitable, from any careful comparison of the states of great historic races at different periods. The first dawn of it is in Egypt; and the power of it is founded on the perpetual contemplation of death, and of future judgment, by the mind of a nation of which the ruling caste were priests, and the second, soldiers. The greatest works produced by them are sculptures of their kings going out to battle or receiving the homage of conquered armies.
All the rudiments of art, then, and much more than the rudiments of all science, are laid first by this great warrior-nation, which held in contempt all mechanical trades, and in absolute hatred the peaceful life of shepherds. From Egypt art passes directly into Greece, where all poetry, and all painting, are nothing else than the description, praise, or dramatic representation of war, or of the exercises which prepare for it, in their connection with offices of religion. All Greek institutions had first respect to war, and their conception of it, as one necessary office of all human and divine life, is expressed simply by the images of their guiding gods. Apollo is the god of all wisdom of the intellect; he bears the arrow and the bow before he bears the lyre. Athena is the goddess of all wisdom in conduct. It is by the helmet and the shield, oftener than by the shuttle, that she is distinguished from other deities.
There were, however, two great differences in principle between the Greek and the Egyptian theories of policy. In Greece there was no soldier caste; every citizen was necessarily a soldier. And, again, while the Greeks rightly despised mechanical arts as much as the Egyptians, they did not make the fatal mistake of despising agricultural and pastoral life, but perfectly honored both. These two conditions of truer thought raise them quite into the highest rank of wise manhood that has yet been reached, for all our great arts, and nearly all our great thoughts, have been borrowed or derived from them. Take away from us what they have given, and I hardly can imagine how low the modern European would stand.
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