Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968). rn The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.

The One Duty
(From “The Measure of the Hours”)

Maeterlinck, Maurice

Maurice Maeterlinck

(Belgian poet, dramatist and philosopher, 1862–1949)

LET us start fairly with the great truth: for those who possess there is only one certain duty, which is to strip themselves of what they have so as to bring themselves into the condition of the mass that possesses nothing. It is understood, in every clear-thinking conscience, that no more imperative duty exists; but, at the same time, it is admitted that this duty, for lack of courage, is impossible of accomplishment.

For the rest, in the heroic history of duties, even at the most ardent period, even at the beginning of Christianity and in the majority of the religious orders that made a special cult of poverty, this is perhaps the only duty that has never been completely fulfilled. It behooves us, therefore, when considering our subsidiary duties, to remember that the essential one has been knowingly evaded. Let this truth govern us. Let us not forget that we are speaking in shadow, and that our boldest, our utmost steps will never lead us to the point at which we ought to have been from the first.