In that cycle of history which closed in 1914, but which seems now to the imagination as far sunken behind time as Babylon or Samarcand, it was customary at the festival of the Incarnation to forego our enmities for a little and allow freer play to the spiritual in our being. Since 1914 all things in the world and with us, too, in Ireland have existed in a welter of hate, but the rhythm of ancient habit cannot altogether have passed away, and now if at any time, it should be possible to blow the bugles of Heaven and recall men to that old allegiance. I do not think it would help now if I, or another, put forward arguments drawn from Irish history or economics to convince any party that they were wrong and their opponents right. I think absolute truth might be stated in respect of these things, and yet it would affect nothing in our present mood. It would not be recognized any more than Heaven, when It walked on earth in the guise of a Carpenter, was hailed by men whose minds were filled by other imaginations of that coming.
I will not argue about the past, but would ask Irishmen to consider how in future they may live together. Do they contemplate the continuance of these bitter hatreds in our own household? The war must have a finale. Many thousands of Irishmen will return to their country who have faced death for other ideals than those which inspire many more thousands now in Ireland and make them also fearless of death. How are these to co-exist in the same island if there is no change of heart? Each will receive passionate support from relatives, friends, and parties who uphold their action. This will be a most unhappy country if we cannot arrive at some moral agreement, as necessary as a political agreement. Partition is no settlement, because there is no geographical limitation of these passions. There is scarce a locality in Ireland where antagonisms do not gather about the thought of Ireland as in the caduceus of Mercury the twin serpents writhe about the sceptre of the god. I ask our national extremists in what mood do they propose to meet those who return, men of temper as stern as their own? Will these endure being termed traitors to Ireland? Will their friends endure it? Will those who mourn their dead endure to hear scornful speech of those they loved? That way is for us a path to Hell. The unimaginative who see only a majority in their own locality, or, perhaps, in the nation, do not realize what a powerful factor in national life are those who differ from them, and how they are upheld by a neighboring nation which, for all its present travail, is more powerful by far than Ireland even if its people were united in purpose as the fingers of one hand. Nor can those who hold to, and are upheld by, the Empire hope to coerce to a uniformity of feeling with themselves the millions clinging to Irish nationality. Seven centuries of repression have left that spirit unshaken, nor can it be destroyed save by the destruction of the Irish people, because it springs from biological necessity. As well might a foolish gardener trust that his apple-tree would bring forth grapes as to dream that there could be uniformity of character and civilization between Irishmen and Englishmen. It would be a crime against life if it could be brought about and diversities of culture and civilization made impossible. We may live at peace with our neighbors when it is agreed that we must be different, and no peace is possible in the world between nations except on this understanding. But I am not now thinking of that, but of the more urgent problem how we are to live at peace with each other. I am convinced Irish enmities are perpetuated because we live by memory more than by hope, and that even now on the facts of character there is no justification for these enmities.