"We have to transpose ourselves into this impressionability of mind, into this sensitivity to tears and spiritual repentance, into this susceptibility, before we can judge how colorful and intensive life was then."
"But one sound always rose above the clamor of busy life and, no matter how much of a tintinnabulation, was never confused and, for a moment lifted everything into an ordered sphere: that of the bells."
"Our medieval historians who prefer to rely as much as possible on official documents because the chronicles are unreliable, fall thereby into an occasionally dangerous error. The documents tell us little about the difference in tone which separates us from those times; they let us forget the fervent pathos of medieval life."
"During medieval times, all those emotions were missing which have made us cautious and tentative in matters of justice: the insight into diminished capacity, the concept of judicial fallibility, the awareness that society has to share in the blame for the guilt of individuals, the question whether an individual ought not be rehabilitated rather than made to suffer. Or, perhaps, better stated: a vague sense of all this is not lacking, but rather concentrates itself, unverbalized, in instant impulses of charity and forgiveness, unconcerned with the issue of guilt, which could suddenly break through the cruel satisfaction over the administration of justice. While we administer a hesitant, toned down justice, partially filled with a guilty conscience, the Middle Ages knew only two extremes: the full measure of cruel punishment or mercy."
"When the world was half a thousand years younger all events had much sharper outlines than now. The distance between sadness and joy, between good and bad fortune, seemed to be much greater than for us; every experience had that degree of directness and absoluteness which joy and sadness still have in the mind of a child"
"There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves ... beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others ... and at the same time attesting facts, performed in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable."
"History seems to us an arena of instincts and fashions, of appetite, avarice, and craving for power, of blood lust, violence, destruction, and wars, of ambitious ministers, venal generals, bombarded cities, and we too easily forget that this is only one of its many aspects. Above all we forget that we ourselves are a part of history, that we are the product of growth and are condemned to perish if we lose the capacity for further growth and change. We are ourselves history and share the responsibility for world history and our position in it. But we gravely lack awareness of this responsibility."
"If it is no exaggeration to say that Deerfield is not so much a town as the ghost of a town, its dimness almost transparent, its quiet almost a cessation, it is essential to add that it is probably quite the most beautiful ghost of its kind, and with the deepest poetic and historic significance to be found in America.... It is, and will probably always remain, the perfect and beautiful statement of the tragic and creative moment when one civilization is destroyed by another. And the wonderful ghostliness of this mile-long 'Street' of grave and ancient houses, the strange air of unreality which hangs over it, arises precisely from the fact that the little town is really saying two things at once. It is saying, 'I dared to be beautiful, even in the shadow of the wilderness'; but it is also saying, 'And the wilderness haunts me, the ghosts of a slain race are in my doorways and clapboards, like a kind of death.'"