"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.'"
"There is a sort of myth of History that philosophers have.... History for philosophers is some sort of great, vast continuity in which the freedom of individuals and economic or social determinations come and get entangled. When someone lays a finger on one of those great themes--continuity, the effective exercise of human liberty, how individual liberty is articulated with social determinations--when someone touches one of these three myths, these good people start crying out that History is being raped or murdered."
"We are all familiar with the Aristotelian argument about the relation of poetry to action. Action, or praxis, is the world of events; and history, in the broadest sense, may be called a verbal imitation of action, or events put in the forms of words. The historian imitates action directly; he makes specific statements about what happened, and is judged by the truth of what he says. What really happened is the external model of his pattern of words, and he is judged by the adequacy with which his words reproduce that model. The poet, in dramas and epics at least, also imitates actions in words, like the historian. But the poet makes no specific statements of fact, and hence is not judged by the truth or falsehood of what he says. The poet has no external model for his imitation, and is judged by the integrity or consistency of his verbal structure. The reason is that he imitates the universal, not the particular; he is concerned not with what happened but with what happens."