The Spaniard Past And Present: A Contrast -- By: Charles W. Super
BSac 62:248 (Oct 1905) p. 650
The Spaniard Past And Present: A Contrast
He who at any time may chance to feel himself prompted to indulge the spirit of undue hilarity cannot do better than to take a dip into the history of Spain. It will restore him to a condition of mental sobriety, if not of seriousness. I know of no other accessible record that is so permeated and saturated with matter fitted to fill the mind with gloom, and with contempt for the human race. Hardly anywhere does there appear an occasional gleam of light in the outer darkness. Yet the Spanish people of to-day are a light-hearted, even frivolous, folk. Their polite literature exhibits a spirit of gayety that is surprising when we consider the conditions amid which some of it arose. It was in the reign of the most truculent, if not the most inefficient, king, that the most widely read of all books of humor was written. Could there be a more glaring contrast between literature and life? Did we not know the painful inconsistencies of human nature we should not ask, How can these things be? We should declare that they could not be. There must always have been a painful lack of human feeling in a country where crowds were wont to assemble to witness autos de fe, whether the victims were one or scores, as they did in other countries at harmless merrymakings. Yet in his way the modern Spaniard is kindly and sympathetic to strangers no less than to his own. Doubtless we fail to discriminate wisely between different forms of cru-
BSac 62:248 (Oct 1905) p. 651
elty, but we can hardly help feeling that a Spanish bullfight is the most heartless form of barbarity on a large scale to be witnessed in modern times. But to the Spanish people almost without exception it is the most enjoyable diversion that can be brought before them. Whatever may be its origin, it is essentially a Spanish pastime, and for it the Spaniard stands condemned before the civilized world. It is so essentially a characteristic of modern Spain that any account of the land which does not devote considerable space to it is defective.
Bacon affirmed that only those nations which have an effective military organization can expect to have greatness fall into their laps, and that of Christian Europe only the Spaniard had such an organization. This may, in a sense, be true; but it is equally true that greatness so achieved is sure to be ephemeral, unless it is followed up by an effective civil administration. Aristotle reasoned more wisely. He maintains that a state organized on a military basis is sure to degenerate when there is no war. As wars cannot be continuous, disintegration is inevitable. Decay is almost equally certain, even if wars are virtually incessant, as is proved by the example of Sparta, of Turkey, a...
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