And when that catastrophe arrived, mankind beheld with what passion of virtue and faith in her women and men France moved to confront it; with what endurance she supported—with what hardihood she overcame—her triple burden of butchery, torture, and devastation; and with what ingrained sanity she set herself to repair her inconceivable losses with almost inconceivable labour.
These are not qualities born full-grown in any nation, nor produced by sudden pressure of necessity, however terrible. Their genesis lies in the national past. They are built up through multiplied experiences and agonies. They are tempered alike in the fires of war and the little daily fires of a million small hearths. They are reflected, also, step by step, through the generations, in the literature of the land whose instincts have developed them and whose sure defences they are.
It is for that reason, Masters, Doctors, my brothers, that I thank you, very humbly but very proudly, that you should have associated my name even for my moment, with the august succession of frank, joyous, and wise writers who, ever since the Sorbonne introduced here the art of printing, have revealed and glorified the undefeated soul of your race.