“Man could do no more”

In this story of Good Friday it is the best things in the world that are at their worst.  That is what really shows us the world at its worst. It was, for instance, the priests of a true monotheism and the soldiers of an international civilisation.  Rome, the legend, founded upon fallen Troy and triumphant over fallen Carthage, had stood for a heroism which was the nearest that any pagan ever came to chivalry. Rome had defended the household gods and the human decencies against the ogres of Africa and the hermaphrodite monstrosities of Greece. But in the lightning flash of this incident, we see great Rome, the imperial republic, going downward under her Lucretian doom. Scepticism has eaten away even the confident sanity of the conquerors of the world.  He who is enthroned to say what is justice can only ask: ‘What is truth?’  So in that drama which decided the whole fate of antiquity, one of the central figures is fixed in what seems the reverse of his true role.  Rome was almost another name for responsibility. Yet he stands for ever as a sort of rocking statue of the irresponsible. Man could do no more.  Even the practical had become the impracticable. Standing between the pillars of his own judgement-seat, a Roman had washed his hands of the world.

The Everlasting Man (1925).

Published in: on April 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Man could do no more is a quote from The Everlasting Man posted on The Hebdomadal Chesterton that will set you off on a meditation of the judgement of Christ by Pilate from an angle you may not have covered before. […]


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