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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/99

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Part II.
67
INTRODUCTION.

cruelty which knows no pity. To smite root and branch, to murder men, women, and children, is a duty which admits of no hesitation, and has stained the character of the Semites in all ages. Against this must be placed the fact that they are patriotic beyond all other races, and steadfast in their faith as no other people have ever been; and among themselves they have been tempered to kindness and charity by the sufferings they have had to bear because of their uncompromising hatred and repugnance to all their fellow-men.

This isolation has had the further effect of making them singularly apathetic to all that most interests the other nations of the earth. What their God has revealed to them through his prophets suffices for them. "God is great," is a sufficient explanation with them for all the wonders of science. "God wills it," solves all the complex problems of the moral government of the world. If not such absolute fatalists as the Turanians, they equally shrink from the responsibility of thinking for themselves, or of applying their independent reason to the great problems of human knowledge. They may escape by this from many aberrations that trouble more active minds, but their virtues at best can be but negative, and their vices unredeemed by the higher aspirations that sometimes half ennoble even crime.


Literature.

In this again we have an immense advance above all the Turanian races. No Semitic people ever used a hieroglyph or mere symbol, or were content to trust to memory only. Everywhere and at all times—so far as we know—they used an alphabet of more or less complicated form. Whether they invented this mode of notation or not is still unknown, but its use by them is certain; and the consequence is that they possess, if not the oldest, at least one of the very oldest literatures of the world. History with them is no longer a mere record of names and titles, but a chronicle of events, and with the moral generally elicited. The story and the rhapsody take their places side by side, the preaching and the parable are used to convey their lessons to the world. If they had not the Epos and the Drama, they had lyric poetry of a beauty and a pathos which has hardly ever been surpassed.

It was this possession of an alphabet, conjoined with the sublimity of their monotheistic creed, that gave these races the only superiority to which they have attained. It is this which has enalded them to keep themselves pure and undefiled in all the catastrophes to which they have been exposed, and that still enables their literature and their creed to exert an influence over almost all the nations of the earth, even in times when the people themselves have been held in most supreme contempt.