Nevertheless, as it is necessary for the living body to deposit a bony skeleton and for the living soul to harden its impulses into habits and stiffen its aspirations into rules and plans of action, so civilization as a whole must create within and around it a structure of ordered and systematic thought and action within which the higher forces now recognized and disengaged may be all the more free to do their work. Without such a mechanical or apparently unspiritual basis these forces can only work fugitively, erratically, and so ineffectively, as they did in the Greek world. To the prosaic business of creating or recreating and maintaining in being such a structure a large part of our energies must be devoted, and in all this from the Romans we have still much to learn. If we decline to learn and digest this lesson, turning from such concernment in disgust or disdain, our lives will be lost in vain dreams, in idle longings and empty regrets; and the kingdom of Freedom and Truth will be taken from us and given to others who have known how to grow up and to face like men the hardships and hazards without which it cannot be won or held. From the inspiring visions of these ideals we must turn as we did when we and our world were Roman, to the serious and sober task of creating a political and legal structure on which the eternal spirit of European civilization can resume its work of extending, deepening, enriching, the common life of Humanity.
It seems as if we—the heirs of their experience—bound to face a more appalling problem, are bankrupt, even of hopes, having lost both the ideal of a life worth living on this earth and that of some large and complex organization rendering this life possible. But this is not so, for the forces which in Antiquity created and for long maintained a civilization at first desirable and then strong, are not spent. Still they make the Greco-Roman civilization which is ours a thing worth living and dying for; still they hold us together in a unity and concord deeper than ever plummet can sound, obscured but not destroyed by the present noise and confusion of battle. Still at heart we care—and not we only but also our enemies and all neutrals benevolent or malevolent—for the ends for which civilization exists, for the peace and order and justice which are their necessary conditions: we still have minds to devise and wills to execute whatever is necessary to its progress. Still we are willing to learn of history and resolved to better its instruction, to know ourselves and our world and adjust our ideas and our acts to the situation in which we find ourselves. The civilized world has not lost heart or hope; and will not, so long as the dreams of its immortal youth and the plans of its immortal manhood are not lost to its memory or passed beyond its retrospective reflection.
Note. The doctrine that all History is contemporary History has been best set forth by Benedetto Croce, of Naples, from whose works several expressions have here been borrowed, with a profound acknowledgement of indebtedness to him.