In his great book Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon, in writing about the reign of Titus Pius, commented in passing that history was “little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” That judgement always seems true. The recent merciless slaughter of Syrian women and children by their own government is just one more example of man’s ferocious inhumanity to man.
The bloodlust never seems to lessen in the world. There seems to be some murderous fascination about war and killing. It makes one think of the “kill sprees” of the old Norse sagas whose grim and ancient texts even speak with fervour about the best light and colours for battle, as in the following description: “The hour before daybreak is all right because it lends to the crimson of liquid blood a nice admixture of an azure sky and the silvery grey of a fading moon.”
It is enough to make one despair, or grow a very thick skin. There is a poem by Philip Larkin, with a verse in it which reflects the mood of grim despair all …..To continue reading, login or subscribe now.