Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/24

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



the past is more than three-quarters dead. This is true not only of our French art, but of all art. The art of the past does not satisfy us nowadays, and its effects are often detrimental. The first requisite to a normal healthy existence is that art shall continually evolve together with life itself.

I do not know whether the society of today will create its own art, but I am sure that if it fails to do so, we shall have no living art, only a museum, a mausoleum wherein sleep the embalmed mummies of the past. We have been educated to respect the memory of what has been, and we find it exceedingly difficult to tear ourselves loose. The past is wrapped in a haze of poetry, which softens everything to the indistinctly melting outlines of a distant view. But from these beautiful forms which once throbbed with vitality, the life has faded, or is fading from day to day. And if even a few masterpieces, more robust than the rest, still wield some of their pristine power over us, I am not sure that that power is beneficial nowadays. Nothing is good except in its place and time. You may believe that the good and the beautiful are absolute unchanging entities; but modes of expression vary according to each human mind; and the forms which were charming and noble in one century are more than likely, when carried over into another, to appear monstrous anachronisms. One of the dangers of art pointed out by Tolstoy arises perhaps from the fact that the forces of another day, when brought into an epoch where they do not belong, occasion serious