The low birth-rate of France, as compared with Italy, is a fact of deep and permanent importance. In years to come the French will grow more and more negligible, numerically, in world politics, but the French spirit is immortal and unconquerable. It will penetrate the hearts of the best men for ever, and ideas characteristically and originally French will continue to mould the world’s thought and action till the end of time. The Italians on the other hand will play in future history a greater part numerically, and moreover, by a greater intermarriage with other races, will continue to produce fine and generous human types, not wholly Italian. Italians will continue to show a shining example to the world by reason of their gaiety and charm of character, their mental subtlety, which with time will grow less involved and more lucid in expression, by their art of life, even now not much inferior to the French, by their sensitiveness to beauty, by their capacity for enthusiastic appreciation, and by their technical genius in applied science.
Italy is a naturally democratic and peaceable polity, and her present imperfections will diminish rapidly with the increase of her national maturity and stability. She will be a sane and healthy element in the future international order.
In some respects, as in their indifference, sometimes excessive, to foreign opinion, the French resemble the British, just as, in their excessive sensitiveness on this point, the Italians resemble the Americans. This is the contrast between age and youth, between nations with a continuous tradition of centuries behind them and nations born or reborn only yesterday.
There remains the larger contrast between the Latins on the one hand and the Anglo-Saxons on the other. At first sight it is the latter who are the more realistic and the more practical, the former who are the more effusive, idealistic and poetical. But, as Mr Norman Douglas admirably puts it in South Wind, “Enclosed within the soft imagination of the homo Mediterraneus lies a kernel of hard reason. The Northerner’s hardness is on the surface; his core, his inner being, is apt to quaver in a state of fluid irresponsibility.” The comparative method of approach to the institution of marriage among Latins and among Anglo-Saxons illustrates this truth. And it serves also, perhaps, for an example that, in the midst of the terrors of war, the dim project of a League of Nations, the only hope of the world, first took shape in the minds of Anglo-Saxon dreamers and not of Latin realists. The Latin often thinks more clearly, but not always more profoundly, than the Anglo-Saxon. The currents on the surface are not always the same as the currents in the deep.
ROME IN THE SPRING
I was at Rome in May. Of the many things and persons I saw there, not much is relevant here. But there is an intoxication and a beauty and a sense of wonder in Rome in the Spring, as great as I have found at any time elsewhere. Rome grew upon me, rapidly and ceaselessly, during the few days that I spent there, and sent me back to the mountains, clothed with their pinewoods and their graves of much brave youth, uplifted in heart and purified in spirit.