Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/104

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
72
Part II.
HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

inherent in all attempts at self-government, and too excitable to be controlled, except by the will of the strongest, though it may also be the least scrupulous among them.

When in small bodies they are always governed by a chief, generally hereditary, but always absolute; who is looked up to with awe, and obeyed with a reverence that is unintelligible to the more independent races of mankind.

With such institutions, of course, a real aristocracy is impossible; and the restraints of caste must always have been felt to be intolerable. "La carrière ouverte aux talens," is their boast; though not to the same extent as with the Turanians; and the selfish gratification of individual ambition is consequently always preferred with them to the more sober benefit of the general advancement of the community.


Morals.

If the Celts never were either polygamic or polyandric, they certainly always retained very lax ideas with regard to the marriage-vow, and never looked on woman's mission as anything higher than to minister to their sensual gratification. With them the woman that fulfils this quality best always commands their admiration most. Beauty can do no wrong—but without beauty woman can hardly rise above the level of the common herd.

The ruling passion in the mind of the Celt is war. Not like the exclusive, intolerant Semite, a war of extermination or of proselytism, but war from pure "gaieté de cœur" and love of glory. No Celt fears to die if his death can gain fame or add to the stock of his country's glory; nor in a private fight does he fear death or feel the pain of a broken head, if he has had a chance of shooting through the heart or cracking the skull of his best friend at the same time. The Celt's love of excitement leads him frequently into excesses, and to a disregard of truth and the virtues belonging to daily life, which are what really dignify mankind; but his love of glory and of his country often go far to redeem these deficiencies, and spread a halo over even his worst faults, which renders it frequently difficult to blame what we feel in soberness we ought to condemn.


Literature.

If love and war are the parents of song, the bard and the troubadour ought to have left us a legacy of verse that would have filled the libraries of Europe; and so they probably would had not the original Celt been too illiterate to care to record the expressions of his feelings. As it is, nine-tenths of the lyric literature of Europe is of Celtic origin. The Epos and the Drama may belong to the Aryan; but in the art of