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The Will Of Earth
by [?]

To-day’s conflict is but a revival of that which has not ceased to drench the west of Europe in blood since the historical birth of the continent. The two chief episodes in the conflict, as we all know, are the invasion of Roman Gaul, including the north of Italy, by the Franks and the successive conquests of England by the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans. Without delaying to consider questions of race, which are complex, uncertain and always open to discussion, we may, regarding the matter from another aspect, perceive in the persistency and the bitterness of this conflict the clash of two wills, of which one or the other succumbs for a moment, only to rise up again with increased energy and obstinacy. On the one hand is the will of earth or nature, which, in the human species as in all others, openly favours brute or physical force; and on the other hand is the will of humanity, or at least of a portion of humanity, which seeks to establish the empire of other more subtle and less animal forces. It is incontestable that hitherto the former has always won the day. But it is equally incontestable that its victory has always been only apparent and of brief duration. It has regularly suffered defeat in its very triumph. Gaul, invaded and overrun, presently absorbs her victor, even as England little by little transforms her conquerors. On the morrow of victory, the instruments of the will of earth turn upon her and arm the hand of the vanquished. It is probable that the same phenomenon would recur once more to-day, were events to follow the course prescribed by destiny. Germany, after crushing and enslaving the greater part of Europe, after driving her back and burdening her with innumerable woes, would end by turning against the will which she represents; and that will, which until to-day had always found in this race a docile tool and its favourite accomplices, would be forced to seek these elsewhere, a task less easy than of old.

But now, to the amazement of all those who will one day consider them in cold blood, events are suddenly ascending the irresistible current and, for the first time since we have been in a position to observe it, the adverse will is encountering an unexpected and insurmountable resistance. If this resistance, as we can now no longer doubt, maintains itself victoriously to the end, there will never perhaps have been such a sudden change in the history of mankind; for man will have gained, over the will of earth or nature or fatality, a triumph infinitely more significant, more heavily fraught with consequences and perhaps more decisive than all those which, in other provinces, appear to have crowned his efforts more brilliantly.

Let us not then be surprised that this resistance should be stupendous, or that it should be prolonged beyond anything that our experience of wars has taught us to expect. It was our prompt and easy defeat that was written in the annals of destiny. We had against us all the force accumulated since the birth of Europe. We have to set history revolving in the reverse direction. We are on the point of succeeding; and, if it be true that intelligent beings watch us from the vantage-point of other worlds, they will assuredly witness the most curious spectacle that our planet has offered them since they discovered it amid the dust of stars that glitters in space around it. They must be telling themselves in amazement that the ancient and fundamental laws of earth are suddenly being transgressed.

Suddenly? That is going too far. This transgression of a lower law, which was no longer of the stature of mankind, had been preparing for a very long time; but it was within an ace of being hideously punished. It succeeded only by the aid of a part of those who formerly swelled the great wave which they are to-day resisting by our side, as though something in the history of the world or the plans of destiny had altered, or rather as though we ourselves had at last succeeded in altering that something and in modifying laws to which until this day we were wholly subject.