I went out to an orchestral "bar" near by and supped. When I came back the porter asked quietly for the thousand, and gave me the key of "Number Five." "At your service," said he, demurely.
Warsaw has greatly changed during the time I have known it, from the days of panic and police-assassinations in 1906, when the miserable green waggons of open horse-trams woggled along the main ways, and it seemed a city of endless cobbled stones. Warsaw was being governed by Russia much as we govern Ireland now, and murders of constabulary alternated with reprisals in which the innocent suffered more than the guilty. Strangely enough, the relentless methods of official Russia succeeded in subduing the revolutionaries, and in a few years was seen a calm and prosperous condition of affairs which lasted until the outbreak of the late war. A handsome service of electric trams and a great new bridge over the Vistula raised Warsaw's level from an external point of view, and made it something like a modern city. Then came the war, the German aeroplanes and their bombs, the violent attacks and the panics, shell-fire, the blowing-up of bridges, wild exodus of Warsaw people and entry of the Germans. Of the people who fled into Russia in 1915 few seem to have returned. Their places have been filled by Poles from German and Austrian Poland. The German-speaking Pole has displaced the Pole who knew Russian.
The Germans, of course, held the city from the summer of 1915 until the armistice, and they repaired the bridges and instituted German order in the city. The miracle of the armistice raised Poland from death, and now we have Warsaw as capital of a large new State. The maps of Poland in the streets, Poland as she is plus Poland as she believes she will be, show a country considerably larger than Germany.
It used to seem rather amusing in the drinking scene in "The Brothers Karamazof," when the Pole Vrublevsky, in proposing the health of Russia, inserted the proviso: "To Russia, with the boundaries she had before 1772." But it is serious matter to-day. For Poland has not only reached most of the boundaries of 1772 but some of them she has even transgressed, and still she asks more.
Poland is at enmity with all her neighbours, and by some of them is hated, loathed, and despised. And as an offset to the surrounding nations she has one open and rather noisy friendship, and that is with France. England she considered to be her enemy even before the British Government stated its view on the question of Silesia. She had decided to help France, and France had promised to help Poland, and England stood in the way of all manner of injustice and aggression. It is pathetic to think now of the work done for Poland by England during the war: the meetings that were held, the encouragement given to Padarewski, Dmowski and others, the immense sums subscribed to the Great Britain to Poland fund, and to the Polish Relief fund. These latter "charities" printed the woes of Poland in the advertisement columns of the British press for years, and collected the shillings and pounds of the benevolent everywhere. But you did not see such work being done for Poland in France. The Frenchman is more careful of his franc than the Englishman of his pound. But perhaps it is not easy to find now the Poles who benefited by British "charity." How much Great Britain subscribed and how the money was distributed is not generally known to the Pole. And, in any case, who cares?
The Germans disdain the Poles wordlessly. It is not easy to get a German to discuss the Polish people. The Russians do not like the Poles, but they are indulgent towards them and wait the day when Russia will wipe out insults. "Russia has plenty of time," is the formula. It must be a little galling to the Russian refugees, of whom General Wrangel estimates there are 100,000 in Poland, to see every public notice in the Russian language blued out as if there were no Russian-speaking people, to see Russian monuments cast down, and churches despoiled of their golden domes. But they bear it with equanimity, biding their time. Some, on the other hand, forgive the Poles because they recognize that Russians would have done the same in like case. The people of the other neighbouring States are distrustful or aloof. In a friendship with France, however, Poland would make up for all other enmities. Marshal Pilsudsky, with the glory of having defeated the Russians and won a victorious peace, is now pictured with Napoleon. He is even represented on picture post-cards pinning an order of merit on the breast of Napoleon—the occasion being the centenary of Napoleon's death. Pilsudsky is a man of sentiment, and when he made his important diplomatic journey to Paris last February, he bore with him a picture of Joan of Arc by Jan Mateiks, in order to express the gratitude of the Polish people to France. In Pilsudsky's honour a lesson in Polish geography and history was ordered to be given in all the schools of France on the 5th of February, 1921.
Prince Sapieha and Marshal Pilsudsky negotiated a secret treaty with France on that occasion—not with the Allies as a whole, but with France. As a seasonal fruit of that treaty came the Silesian adventure supported by France. The disarming of the population in Upper Silesia, conducted under French auspices, had taken the arms away from the Germans but left arms with the Poles. Added to that, guns, machine-guns, rifles, and ammunition, were run over into the plebiscite area, and a mercenary "insurrectionary" army was raised, partly from the local Polish population and partly from Poland proper. An army which the French Government held to be capable of intimidating the League of Nations garrison of ten thousand fully equipped men, was thus improvised. The supposition is that interested parties connived at its improvisation. It could not otherwise have sprung spontaneously into being. After the first week of the rising, many of the insurgents began to desert the leader Korfanty on the ground that their wages were not high enough. Much money had to be spent in the affair. It might be asked what interest has France to support Poland—is it sentiment? Many will attribute it to a French quixoticism, which in truth does not exist. France will be ready to drop Pilsudsky, as she has dropped Wrangel, when it suits her. But the French programme for Europe includes the complete dismantling of the German Empire, and by taking away Upper Silesia from Germany another great victory would be won in the war after the war. Therefore it has been worth while. And to this end France proceeds not openly but in the old-fashioned channels of secret intrigue. The favourite device is the arranging of a coup and then the presentation of the fait accompli, accompanied by a manipulation of the press. It is almost unnecessary to say in English that this sort of procedure has greatly damaged international understanding and good-will.
The Franco-Polish intrigue was only too manifest this May in Warsaw's streets. Ascension and the centenary of the death of Napoleon were on the same day. It was made into Napoleon Day and was a great festival. One of the principal squares had its name changed to Place Napoleon. There was a public Mass for the repose of Napoleon's soul. A statue of Napoleon was unveiled. There were military processions and the feting of the French military mission, special honours for General du Moriez, who brought "les precieuses reliques de Napoleon" to Poland, and of General Niessel, and of M. de Panalieu, France's Minister Plenipotentiary in Poland. The street crowds stopped the cars and lifted the Frenchman on to their shoulders and carried them to plaudits and joy-shrieks and brass bands. It was amusing to see a diminutive French officer with grey head and beard, sprawling thus on a moving couch of Polish hands whilst he waved his hat and was pelted from all hands with cowslips and lilac. "Vive la France! Vive la France!" Polish Cossacks with white pennants on their lances come trotting through and break the crowds, and then come artillerymen and their guns, and then French diplomatic personalities protected by mounted guards with flashing sabres. The surging populace intervenes, and sways, and gives, and closes again. Here comes a great banner on which is embroidered the ominous white vulture of risen Poland, the ghostly bird that has sojourned a hundred years in the death kingdoms, and on the reverse side of the banner is depicted the Madonna and Child. The crowd becomes instantly bareheaded, and the Germans in it wisely take off their hats, too. Polish patriots follow, dressed in white and bearing aloft notice-boards wreathed in coloured cloths; on the notice-boards are watchwords: "We will not give up our Silesia," on others maps of the integral Poland showing the province of "Szlazk" in red. Specimens of insurrectionaries follow these sign-bearers, and they are dressed-up peasants and miners carrying scythes on poles; more crowds, more cheers! The Polish Press leaps its headlines in jingoism. Street politicians with bells bawl declamations across the many-headed. Windows open on third-floors, and clouds of political leaflets are scattered to the wind.
The same demonstrations with the same banners parade for days. On Sunday there is a review in front of the Russian Cathedral, and a French General pins decorations on Polish heroes. Great throngs in the streets sing the Marseillaise bareheaded. Warsaw breathes in and breathes out—hot air. Not all the Poles, however, share in this excitement. There were many in Warsaw who looked on coldly at the proceedings. "There is a Governmental claque that starts all these demonstrations" said one of them. "You ought not to be deceived by that any more than by the new posters on the walls every day. Bill-stickers are sent out by the Government each night. The people do not paste up these posters themselves. Most of us are in a desperate plight trying to earn an honest living. The only way to get rich is to work in with the administration and share in the spoil."
It is a common opinion that the low value of the mark (over 8,000 to the pound sterling) is due to the Government printing it ad libitum to meet its private ends. It is a gross scandal that the exchange value should have so fallen. With such a currency it is doubtful whether the present constitution of Poland can last. It already isolates Poland economically from the rest of Europe, and she cannot import goods even from Germany at such a rate. There is a vast, poor, seedy, underfed population. Food is comparatively cheap, and the peasant is evidently being quietly robbed, by giving him only a fifth of the money-value of his products, but even so a tiny loaf of bread costs twenty marks. There is butter. There is no sugar (at cafes there is liquid saccharine and you pass the saccharine bottle from one to another). An obligatory seventy-five mark dinner of two courses is served at the restaurants, but the mass of the people live on bread and sausage.
There has been a great exodus from the Ghetto to Russia, and Warsaw can no longer be said to be a predominantly Jewish city. The dignified Semite in his black gaberdine and low-crowned hat is now only an occasional figure on the Jerozolimska and Nowy Swiat. And the poor Jews of the slums are not multitudinous as they were. On the main street various trans-Atlantic shipping companies have opened offices and offer to book emigrants right through to the United States. These offices from morning till evening are crammed with people trying to get away from Poland. Here may be found, in addition to the local population, a certain number of people from Soviet Russia who have bribed the Polish officials and are trying to get to the land of opportunity as Poles. The United States, however, looks very coldly on these would-be citizens, be they Poles or Russians or Ukrainians or Letts or Lithuanians, or any other nationality of these suspected parts of Europe. The number of visas granted is now being cut down to a three per cent of previous emigration basis.
An interesting diversion from politics was provided by a visit to the Polish Theatre, where Shakespeare's "Kuplec Wenecki" was being performed. The main interest was naturally in Shylock. The Polish actors made very attractive Italian signors. Portia was a full-bosomed Polish beauty, who, with a male voice, made a fine effect as Doctor of Law. The Prince of Morocco and Shylock were, however, ethnographical studies. The Moor roared and barked and cut about in the air with his scimitar, and made the ladies scream and the audience laugh. Shylock was deliciously over-studied. The daily life of Warsaw was added to the grandeur of a rich Oriental merchant. Shylock's cleverness and intellectual assurance were obscured by funniosities such as a sing-song Potash-and-Perlmutter speech breaking into gabble, finger-counting, and beard-stroking, lying flat in the street and howling. But the audience appreciated this highly, and clapped only Shylock.
It was otherwise an old-fashioned performance. The Polish stage seems not to have developed very much. Polish literature has, however, increased considerably, and there are many shops well stocked with new Polish books. You seldom see a foreign book in a shop window. Russian books seem almost entirely to have disappeared. Owing to the exchange situation French and English books cost enormous numbers of marks.
A remarkable feature of the city's architecture today is the Russian Cathedral, with its slate-coloured domes divested of gold and divested of crosses, a mighty white stone building in the pride of place in the city. Who is responsible for the damage it would be difficult to say. Probably both Poles and Germans had something to do with it. The Kolokolnaya is blown up. The walls of the cathedral stream externally with pitch. Many of the frescoes inside have been damaged and the gold ornaments taken away. It is a grand Orthodox interior, breathing the spirit of Russia from every wall. It was regarded rather as a calculated affront to Poland in the old days—as the Russian population in Warsaw was not large. Now, however, a Roman Catholic altar has been erected, chairs have been brought in. There is a holy-water basin at the main entrance, an organ sounds forth from the choir's gallery, and a Polish priest drones the Latin liturgy. Multitudes of Poles flock in on Sunday morning, smiling, untroubled, unselfconscious; bowing, kneeling on one knee, piously crossing themselves in Latin style. If there are Russians in the congregation they make no sign. But what they must be feeling!
The appropriation of the cathedral is, no doubt, justified. But there is something in the coolness of it, in the hate of it and lack of tact which breeds the opposite of Christian charity in human hearts. The Slavs have much to learn. By the stealing of trains, the purloining of cathedrals, and false pretensions to their neighbours' lands, the Poles are showing that there is yet national tragedy ahead for them. They will be deceived by some nations and slaughtered by others. What have we raised her from the dead for—but to live again, to live and let live. All have rejoiced in the risen Poland, even the old destroyers of Poland—Germany, Russia, and Austria, all rejoiced until they realized the nature of the phantom. The beautiful white eagle that leapt from the tomb is a more sinister bird to-day, blood-ravenous, and scanning far horizons.
(iv) On Nationality and an Armistice Baby
The personal idea of nationality suffered some heavy blows in the war and even heavier ones in the peace which followed. A mature Austrian suddenly becomes a Czech, a Hungarian who knows only Magyar becomes a Roumanian, a self-conscious Prussian is written into a Pole, and their hearts are supposed to respond to new loyalties. The famous lines: "Breathes there a man with soul so dead" have now a comical effect when recited in some parts of Europe. Men are saying such absurd things as "I am a German Czecho-Slovak," "I am a Polish Austrian Jew," "I am a Russian Armenian Greek." A relief from the imbroglio of nationalism might be found in the name of European with a higher loyalty to Europe as a whole, but few have reached that stage of knowledge and feeling.
Asked at Ellis Island what his nationality was a gloomy gentleman from Upper Silesia recently answered, "Plebiscite." And have there not been many babies born whose nationality has remained long in doubt, pending plebiscites and decisions of the Supreme Council? The plight of the plebiscite baby is, however, eclipsed by that of the Armistice one.
The following true story was told me by H.M. Consul at Munich. He had to decide the point at issue, or at least to take a decision upon it. The difficulty was that of stating the nationality of a child born on a ship at the time of the Armistice. The ship was a German one which had been captured by the British. It had a British crew, but it was bringing refugees from Murmansk, the Arctic port of Russia, to Reval on the Baltic. It was flying the Neutrality flag. The ship, however, was wrecked off the coast of Norway and was towed by a Danish boat into the harbour of Stavanger. None of the refugees were allowed ashore but the baby was born in the ship whilst it lay in the harbour. The parents were Russian, but an attempt was made to get the British Consul at Stavanger to register it as British. He refused. The English law is that the flag decides nationality and in this case the flag was neutral.
A neutral baby has, therefore, appeared on the scene. It is a case for the League of Nations to decide, We can only hope they will find it possible to give it the status of a "good European."
LETTERS OF TRAVEL
XI. FROM MUNICH
The first day in Munich was marked by police inspection in bed. The police come early to the hotels so as to catch people before they have got up and gone out. The only people who are immune are Bavarians. If you are a foreigner, even if you are a German from another part of Germany—a Saxon, a Prussian, a Westphalian, it is all the same, you must present yourself at the police-station and obtain permission to reside in Munich. This means some hours in a stuffy room. You must write a request for the permission in German and bring it some hours later and answer the usual set of questions and be charged 150 marks. I said I had not come to Germany to study the police system, and so by dint of perseverance cut through half the formalities and the waiting time and got away. An official wrote the request and even signed it for me himself. Nowhere is red-tape more absurd than when it is being wound by a defeated nation after a great war.
Bavaria is encouraged to think of herself as a separate country. French policy foreshadows an independent State of Southern Catholics. With that in view a French minister plenipotentiary has been sent to Munich, and we British have just followed the French suit by appointing our diplomatic representative also. Bavaria is not supposed to enter into foreign relationships except through the Reich. To this Bavaria has remained loyal. She has stood by the Reich even when the Reich has protested an inability to control her. The appointment of the French plenipotentiary was, therefore, taken as a calculated provocation and the minister was accorded a very hostile greeting in the Press. This annoyed him much, and he put it down, not to the general unpopularity of French policy, but to the secret intrigue of the British who, as it happens, are unusually intimate with Munich editors. The rivalry of English and French in diplomatic action is as marked here as it is in other capitals of Europe. Here, also, the natural antipathy which French chauvinism arouses locally is thought to be aggravated by British Intrigue. Our diplomats are given credit for being much more active than they are.
As I have already intimated, France favours a mergence of Austria and Bavaria in one State as a solution of Austria's economic problem. Bavaria would like Austria to be added to Germany as a whole. It would give the Catholic party a stronger voice in the Reich. But Bavaria has up till now steadfastly refused to sacrifice the advantages of belonging to the German confederation. British policy is not averse from Austria joining Germany, but no active steps have been taken to facilitate such an amalgamation. The treaty of Versailles practically inhibits it, and Britain remains passively loyal to that inhibition. The time may come when the French rivalry may enkindle our people to action, but it will be because the questions at issue are not brought forward into the light of ordinary publicity and discussed openly and frankly. Secret diplomacy among allies means secret quarreling. Open diplomacy, when both sides are open, is much more conducive to lasting loyalty and friendship.
I met in Munich several influential Bavarians, thanks to the hospitality and keenness of our Consul-General there, Mr. Smallbones. There was no ill-feeling of any kind towards English people, and, indeed, I met with no insult or cold treatment either from the working class or upper classes in Bavaria—only some surprise as at a rare visitor. For there are extremely few English people there now. The famous picture-galleries are still powerless to attract the American art pilgrim, though that is due more to the difficulty of obtaining permission to reside than to lack of interest in the collections. Possibly next year the police may relent. The food shortage is not so menacing. Moreover, the village of Ober-Ammergau proposes once more to have its religious fete and stage the "Life of Christ." "Whether we can have the play depends almost entirely on the Americans," say the villagers. "The money of visitors alone makes the performance possible to-day." There is talk, however, of an American film corporation financing the "Passion-Spiel" if exclusive cinema rights can be obtained. The war made a dire defeat of village talent, however. Several sure to have been billed for sacred parts were killed or crippled. Other prospective saints who served the Fatherland and came through whole are letting their beards grow now. If the difficulties are overcome and the play is performed, the sound of English will be no longer unfamiliar in Bavaria's capital.
Before this possibly Munich will have been for a few weeks Europe's storm-centre. The storm which broke in Budapest and then broke in Poland and Silesia will surely break again in Munich. For it is there, perhaps, that the destiny of Austria will be decided. For Bavaria is the centre of the intrigue for the unification of Austria and Germany. Concurrently the French are intriguing for their plan of an independent Bavaria.
I was at pains to inquire the general opinion of educated people and there seemed to be no separatism in Bavaria, no sentiment of the kind, and there was apparently no Roman Catholic propaganda in favour of Bavarian separatism. It is curious that whilst Slav States are ravaged by all sorts of local Sinn-Feinism, the for-ourselves-alone-ism of Slovaks, Croats, Montenegrins, Little Russians, and so forth, the instinct of all the constituent Germanic nations is to stand together. Teutonic solidarity is giving witness of itself in these days.
The grievances of the Tyrol were very strongly stated at a Munich dinner-party, a Bavarian count averring that that part of the Tyrol which had fallen to the dole of Italy was too strongly affiliated to the part which remained in Austria. It was recognized, however, that Italy was now friendly to Germany, and that no good part was likely to be achieved by doing anything to alienate Italian sympathy. The French, however, begin to count on some Italian support when the Austro-German idea is put to the test. The experimental plebiscite taken in the Tyrol was said to have been arranged from Munich. Its astonishing success from a German point of view at once encouraged the intrigue.
There was not much alarm on the subject of the "sanctions" which France threatened to apply. The Bavarian is too lethargic, slow, and easy-going to be readily frightened—in temperament he has little in common with the high-spirited, nervous Prussian. Bavarians spoke of Germany and Germany's war-debt with an aloofness as of neutrals. It did not trouble them deeply. They were sceptical as to France's ability to collect a huge indemnity. The fifty per cent tax they regarded as an absurdity. "It is possible to ruin Germany, but it is not possible to enslave her," was the common opinion.
"But in the event of the complete ruin of the rest of Germany, would it not be to the advantage of Bavaria to accept the idea of a separate State?" I argued.
"If France deprived Germany of coal by occupying the Ruhr basin and by allowing the Poles to hold Upper Silesia, Bavaria would have to look out for herself and make what arrangements she could," I was told. But it was an unwilling admission.
In the French scheme of things that is when Bavaria's moment comes. At one stage this May it seemed as if that moment were near, but now that Germany has accepted the alternative plans of payment of reparations, and the British Prime Minister has intervened on her behalf to stop the Polish annexation, the moment does not seem so near. But a great effort will doubtless yet be made to detach Bavaria from the rest.
Meanwhile, Bavaria took advantage of the intrigue to keep a territorial army of a kind undemobilized. The reich could demobilize it at will, but allows itself to appear helpless through Bavaria's independence. The situation was not helped by the arrival of a young British staff-officer, who said that the British Government sympathized with Bavaria, believing that she needed what troops she had to keep off Bolshevism. Eventually the pressure in Germany became so great that Bavaria gave a verbal promise to disarm—though to what extent that promise will be carried out must remain doubtful. Her militia is some protection for herself in case of a political conspiracy such as that of Korfanty in Silesia, but is no menace to any other neighbouring power.
Bavaria affects to be in deadly, daily fear of Bolshevism. "Under the shadow of the sanctions, Communism was developing strongly," said one. Speaking of the Russians, "Perhaps we shall all come to it," said another.
A rich Munich Jew, a cinema merchant, wanted to adopt a Vienna orphan. He wrote to Vienna for a Jewish male child, well-authenticated as an orphan; he did not want the parents to come and sponge on him in later years. The child was brought to Munich. Presently application was made to the police for an extra milk ration on account of the boy. Then the police discovered the new arrival. "What!" said they, "living here without a permit! Application for permission to reside must be made at once."
Application was made and permission was refused. The reason given was that the housing shortage in Munich was too great. But some one was at pains to find out the real reason. It was that the boy was a Jew, and who could say—in twenty years, educated in the best institutions of Munich—he might become a Trotsky or a Bela Kun or Bavarian Eisner.
"But why not a Disraeli?" said some one who listened to the story. Permission was eventually granted.
One attempt has been made to seize Munich for the proletariat, and the comfortable Bavarian realized that whilst he has a never-failing stomach for good brown beer he has no stomach for revolution. The great city is a monument of bourgeois enterprise. Business is more than politics, and social conviviality than either.
S—— drove me out to the valley of the Iser, "Iser rolling rapidly." We went to Grunewald, we passed Ludendorf's villa, curious credulous Ludendorf, who took Winston Churchill at his word when the later penned his appeal to Germany in the "Evening News" to save Europe by fighting the Bolsheviks, and prepared a plan whereby the German army was reconstituted in the strength at which in 1918 it was dissolved. We surveyed from the hurrying car a fine park-like country, rich and calm, and sensibly remote from Europe's centre. It was a lovely springtide, and new hope fallaciously decked Southern Germany, as if all trouble were over and all had been forgiven. We walked, too, in the gardens of the Nymphenburg Palace where the mad king used to play. We visited the State Theatre, where Wagnerian opera still holds the patient ear, and there we heard, not Wagner, but Shakespeare's "Lear," done in a jog-trot, uninspired, later-Victorian style. One felt as if the theatre had slept for thirty years and then, awakening, had resumed in the same style as before. It is often said reproachfully in Germany that Queen Victoria would never have made the late war, and that Victorian England was much nearer to Germany. It was nearer to the Germany of Queen Victoria's time. That is quite true.
England has gone on and become more European; her passion for individual freedom and self-expression has steadily developed, whilst Germany has remained submissively under the yoke of authority and discipline. Germany, with all her learning and her industry, her unstinted application, and her good parts, has become dull. There was an enormous amount of dulness, genuine uninspired dulness, in the Germans in the war. You can identify it now when you visit Germany in peace.
LETTERS OF TRAVEL
XII. FROM BERLIN (I)
Old men and war-cripples as porters at the station, dirty streets encumbered by hawkers and their wares, strings of pitiful beggars shaking their hands and exposing mortified limbs—can this be Berlin, Berlin the prim, the orderly, the clean? Something has happened here in seven years, some sort of psychological change has been wrought in the mind of a people. Here, as in some Slav countries, there are laws and they are not kept, regulations and they are not observed. Unshaven men and ill-washed women on the streets, and dowdy, hatless girls with dirty hair crowding into cheap cinema theatres! A city that had no slums and no poor in 1914 now becoming a slum en bloc. And the litter on the roadways! You will not find its like in Warsaw. You must seek comparisons in the Bowery of New York or that part of the City of Westminster called Soho. The horse has come back to Berlin to make up for loss of motors, and needs more scavengers to follow him than the modern municipality can afford.
Not that Berlin has broken down in any way. It is the same great hive of industrialism. Everyone is employed. More are employed than before. The leisured class is smaller. All the workshops and factories and offices are full. The shops display as many wares. There is evidence of an enormous overflowing productivity. Cheap lines of goods are run out in hawkers' barrows and auctioned on the pavement, measures of cloth for suits, overcoats, soaps, stationery. Trams, 'buses, railways all are used to the last seat and standing-room. And the working people are thinking about their work and their wages and their homes and their beer—and not about the peace treaty and the latest move of France for their destruction.
It is sad to see the broken-down old fellows as porters at the railway-stations, panting with heavy trunks, and the same type among gangs of navvies repairing the roads. They ought to be seated at home with pipe and newspaper and easy slippers instead of earning a living still as a drudge. It is a convention to give your bag to a porter at a station, and in Germany you usually give it to a man much older and weaker than yourself, and you are moved to help him to carry it as in his infirmity he struggles along. What a contrast to the stalwart porters of Prague, or Rome, or Brussels. Poor wights! It is they who are paying for the war. Sightless soldiers led by little children come selling you sticking-plaster in the restaurants. Germany is too poor to care for them. It is they who are paying for the war. The drab, many-headed middle class of Berlin with its poverty-stricken breakfast-table, the old black bread of the war and no sugar and paper table-cloths; the women going about the streets with great bundles on their backs; the people making their 1918 clothes still do—they are paying somewhat. You see Hugo Stinnes and his like with a suite of rooms at the "Adlon," or driving luxuriously along the Unter den Linden, the Kaiser way, without the dignity of a Kaiser. They are not paying very much.
Most active-thinking people are to-day working for the reconciliation of Europe, and the greatest obstacle to reconstruction lies in a resentful, half-crushed, and continually harassed Germany. Berlin has been made a heart of ill-will, and the heart must somehow be changed. Some will no doubt say it is Paris that has the ill-will towards the peace of Europe—change the heart of Paris and all will go well. But even if France embarked on a policy of friendly tolerance towards Germany it would be long ere Berlin was converted. However that may be, it was naturally with a hope of sharing in the long task of reconciliation that the present writer visited Germany. Many Englishmen have a soft spot in their hearts for the Germans; perhaps it is the instinct of race, or it may be merely good sportsmanship:
I am not one of those Who will not shake Fritz hand Now that the war is done.
as a soldier-poet has expressed it.
I was told of a young German who set in front of himself the goal of a reconciled Europe. I would work to the same end in London. It only remained to find a similar devoted type in Paris to work from the French end, and we should have a triumvirate that might achieve the impossible. God can use the foolish of this world to confound the wise—the wise being mostly engaged in stirring up new quarrels. Somehow the desirable Frenchman ready to devote his life to that cause was not forthcoming—and that deficiency I suppose was symptomatic of the disease. For my part, I have made my journey of Europe and taken a good look at that which it is proposed to reconcile. At the end I came to Berlin and Paris, the two main centres of the modern world. In Germany naturally I sought the German who was ready to work unstintedly from the German side for the same cause.
I had never met him, but I pictured an idealist, one who had suffered in the war and felt the folly of it all, who deplored the egoism of nations, and had found a way to devote himself to humanity as a whole. I was mistaken! It is our weakness as a nation to think of a foreigner merely as a sort of Englishman who does not speak our tongue or know our conventions. So was it with me, and I soon found myself up against a real live German, a man of a type you would not find either in London or Paris. It was a disillusion. Here was a man unsuited by his national nature for the part for which he was cast. One could not see in him the potentiality of a helper of Europe. The German as a German is in a troubled mental state. Small wonder! Because of the psychology of my friend in —— I quickly began to surmise that the German at present has not got the spirit to save Europe. Perhaps he has not the ability to save himself.
My German helper was a tall, handsome young man with an open countenance and an engaging smile. He had done war-service for the Fatherland on several fronts in several capacities. Among other things he had been Commandant of a prisoners-of-war camp where British officers were really kindly treated and a most pleasant relationship existed between the command on the one hand and the prisoners on the other. He showed me photographs of himself with British officers, and he mentioned it as a matter of pride that these fellows asked for "Deutschland uber alles" to be sung one night, and they stood reverently to attention through the performance. This was followed by "God save the King," which the Germans honoured in the same way. It was explained to me that "Deutschland uber alles" does not mean "Germany over everybody else," but "Germany first of all!" as one says "My country, right or wrong." The prisoners must, if they were genuine Englishmen, have felt rather low-spirited. W——, however, saw in it evidence of what a happy family party Germans and English could be, if they liked. He was undoubtedly pro-English, had been to Oxford, had perhaps a quiver of an Oxford accent in his English; he had studied England, as Germans do, and made considerable research among us. His wife was openly and unreservedly friendly. He, however, was cautious, and corrected his wife when she said too much or went too far. It had been a great blow to them when England came in to the war, a personal and a national blow. They could not have believed it possible. And they imagined throughout the war that their friends in England did not share in the wild anti-German feeling and must at least passively be pro-German. Of course, it was not so. They deplored the extraordinary lapse in tone in the "Morning Post" and "The Times." "'The Times' actually refers to us as 'Huns.' At least, it can be said of our Press, high or low, it never nicknamed its enemies. French were always French, English—English, Russians—Russians. It was beneath the dignity of the war to call our enemies names." He was amazed at the ignorance concerning the Germans, and the credulity of such as those who believed they boiled their dead to make lard. I told him of the German Ambassador's reception in London, Dr. Sthamer, how he was received by certain people in Society and many were well disposed towards him, though at first he had difficulty in getting things done for him by the British working class.
"And you, you'll go anywhere in Germany, and every one will be only too ready to help you, to do your washing and clean our boots and the rest," said W—— reproachfully. "We are so good-natured."
He had forgotten that the Germans failed to ingratiate themselves with the London working class by dropping so many bombs in the East-end and terrorizing whole districts. He forgot the children who had been killed. He did not know the air-raids had had much effect.
"They had an unfortunate psychological effect."
"Well, you don't forgive us."
"On the contrary, the generality of Englishmen forgive Germany now she is down."
My friend perceptibly winced at the word "down." I had used the wrong word. But it is true enough.
"We know the Quakers are our friends, and the pacifists," said he. "We are thankful for their friendship, but we need to win over the other people. Make the business people feel that the Versailles Peace is bad business, and the Imperialists that it is bad for Empire."
"They know that already, that it is not good for business and not very good for the Empire. What we have to get over is something psychological—the belief in 'the dirty Hun,' the belief in German trickery and spite."
He had never heard of that sentence which is a motto in Carmelite Street, "They'll cheat you yet, those Junkers," or "Once a German always a German."
There is a genuine belief among the English masses that the Germans are cheating us, that they are pretending to demobilize and keeping a large army in secret readiness, pretending to be unable to pay "reparations," not taxing themselves, faking their figures.
W—— and several others whom I met in Germany put it in the foreground of the work to be done for re-establishing Germany in the comity of nations, that it should be proved that Germany was not responsible for the beginning of the war. It is still the theme of innumerable articles in the Press. The German mind has not grasped the fact that no intelligent European blames Germany exclusively. Now that the hot mood of war is past we are all ready to recognize that we were all in part to blame. We all founded our security on armies and navies, the nation that produced the "Dreadnought" most of all. We were all living and picnicking and unfortunately quarrelling in the great cordite warehouse of European militarism, and one day it blew up. If we had not been so well prepared it could not have happened so. If the Kaiser pronounced the dreadful atheism of "Let the guns speak," he really did so after the event.
In debating this matter the German mentality disclosed itself in the Germans with whom I conversed in Berlin. I had a suspicion that one of them might have said England began it, if I had been other than an Englishman. Edward the Seventh who arranged the entente cordiale had evidently something to do with it. As I am a known warm friend of Russia he could not say Russia began it. His mind turned to a more obscure nation.
"To think that Europe should thus have been ruined and all those millions of lives lost," said he. "Just for stupid little Serbia."
I am afraid I could not agree to that. The devil began it. What does it matter now? Nobody cares. The present and the future hold the potentialities of happiness rather than the past. To discuss the past you'd have to raise the dead on both sides.
England is not interested in history, but she is interested in actuality.
Mr. Lloyd George has said that the German is not being taxed by his Government in the proportion that the British are taxed by theirs—far from it. Figures have been given in the Press. And they have not been refuted by Germans. The Germans hold that they are being taxed so heavily that a maximum has been reached. W——, who was well-off before the war, has lost his income now, has taken a staff-post at the Ministry of Trade and gets 20,000 marks a year. He ought to pay a heavy income-tax on that. Yes, but it is only eighty pounds a year in English money, and he has a wife and two children to keep on it. There are tens of thousands of professional men in the same plight. Some of the very rich arrange matters to avoid some of the heavy dues. And as regards the working-class, it is notoriously hard to raise money from them by direct taxation.
"Then it is said that you are running your railway and postal services at a loss. And that is obviously true. England has raised her rates and made her public pay. She thinks Germany should also."
To this it is replied that Germany does not believe in obstructing the ready movement of people and of intelligence in her country. She thinks it bad policy to charge highly for railway fares and letter postage. What is gained by extra charges is more than lost through business being hampered.
"These are points which you educated Germans should elucidate through the British Press," said I. "The idea that Germany escapes taxation is a very unfavourable one in England. It is much more important than the rights or wrongs of the old war."
W——, who receives the "Nation" regularly, nevertheless did not think any English paper would print what he might write on the theme.
I visited, among others, Herr Baumfelder, the editor of the "European Press," once dropped from aeroplanes among our lines under the title of the "European Times," but now under entirely new management, though still a propagandist sheet. It is nothing like so strong a propagandist for Germany as the "Continental Daily Mail" is for France. But it has the potentiality of a counterblast. It makes one blush to see English newspapers on German book-stalls with "HUNS' LATEST WHINE" in large letters staring at the Germans as they pass. Strangely enough, the Germans don't seem to mind these headlines; they don't tear the papers off the stalls and burn them in indignation. They've been drilled not to do such things. One would think, however, there would be considerable scope for a good German daily, printed in the English language, expounding European events from another point of view. The European Press has that possibility.
Here, however, you find little that is helpful yet. I am all for truth. It is the best type of propaganda—the only type that is not loathsome. And surely there is enough in the domain of the simple truth about Europe and Germany to touch men's hearts, whilst
There groans a world in anguish Just to teach us sympathy.
I hoped Herr Baumfelder would make his paper into a living journal which all would be glad to buy in order to know the facts of the hour in Germany. No use to continue working the familiar lines of German propaganda such as the "Menace to German Women of the Black Troops on the Rhine," now so much exploited in press and cinema in Germany—or the "Who was responsible for the war?" theme, alluded to above. It is sad to read the verbal violence of some president of "League of German Patriots" who does not believe the editor of the "Spectator" when he says "We for our part, can honestly say that ever since the Armistice we have wanted to create an atmosphere helpful to Germany."
"You the murderers of hundreds of thousands of innocent German children dare to publish such a deliberate falsehood," says "The president." "You are practically sodden with falsehood and hypocrisy."
No doubt the president of the L.G.P. has lost money in the war, and has an especial grudge against England, but that sort of writing makes potential friends into persistent enemies. And English readers of the paper will say, "After all, what fools the Germans are."
There is a cynical disbelief in England's idealism. Perhaps that cannot be wondered at. We have been, or seem to have been, very false to our idealism at times. We are judged by our public acts. But because of our professed idealism we are hailed as hypocrites, appalling hypocrites. And yet those public acts and that idealism are distinct. Both are authentic, and neither contradicts the other. We fastened on Germany a shameful treaty at Versailles. But the idealists never agreed to it, and do not do so now. Our idealism is genuine enough and it is, indeed, the germ of Europe's hope. But for that the outlook would be blacker still.
All that has been done to ease the application of the treaty has been done at England's instance. We stand as wardens against the infringement of the treaty, as for instance in the Silesian attack. Indeed, the general tendency of England's policy is to save the integrity of Germany and give her a chance to rehabilitate herself among the nations.
The sophisticated educated class in Germany smiles in superior knowledge, ascribing to us selfish motives of one kind or another. The contempt for Englishmen passing through the country is somewhat brutally expressed in the phrase valuta-Englander, the currency Englishman, who is probably a nobody at home but swaggers here on the difference of the exchange of the mark and the pound sterling. The new educated class has always found difficulty in being tolerant and in recognizing who were its potential enemies or friends. But I noticed that the working class had less pre-judgment and was more open-hearted. The working class grasped the truth of the situation. It was not merely a desire to flatter and curry favour that prompted their attitude.
"France is our real enemy—not England," was the frequent greeting of the ex-soldier working man who grinned and asked if I'd been a soldier, too, and on what front. Rank and file on both sides conceived a respect for one another in the war, which the educated class somehow missed. Perhaps the educated class in Germany would be more indulgent if they were not so hard hit financially. The working man still has money, has, indeed, a flattering number of marks in his pocket. When he has not so much money he is as morose as his educated brother.
In Saxony, where an industrial depression not half so deep as that of England is being felt, you have a strong Communist movement. The devitalized masses of Leipzig are not so brotherly as the Berliners. The signs of street-fighting are visible in the many cracked and broken windows of shops, and the helplessness of police seems to be expressed in gatherings under the auspices of the red flag, where internationalism is bawled across the square by unshaven, collarless young men, and it is "Hoch die Weltrevolution!"
"If we lose our export trade then the enfeebled industrial population of places like Leipzig must die off, and Germany return to the land," said a Leipzig editor to me. "But before they die off they'll make red war in Germany."
Not an unedifying place for the trial of war-criminals! There is little at Leipzig to give English witnesses an idea of a flourishing or promising Germany. A true study of the after-the-war Germany would naturally take in Leipzig and the other great centres of industry and trade. Berlin is admittedly deceptive, with its profiteers and its rich foreigners. Bremen and Hamburg would be vital points to reconsider. I visited the former—a beautiful quiet Hanse town, very quiet now, once the port of sailing of the Nord-deutscher Lloyd boats, and a port of many ships. There is an impoverished and diminished population, and grass is growing in streets where it never could have grown before. The German mercantile marine has dropped from six-and-a-half million tons to one-half million of tonnage of little vessels. You feel that fact at Bremen. The great ships, mishandled and in many cases disabled, now swell the numerical tonnage of other countries without adding so very much to their shipping power. The Hamburg-America line and Nord-deutscher Lloyd and others, shorn of their real glory, still continue a pettifogging existence booking tickets for passengers on the ships of foreign lines. What a curious Germany! She has made a strange backward progress since the days of the Agadir incident, and the plea which eminent British and American journalists defended then, that she should be accorded "a place in the sun."
LETTERS OF TRAVEL
XIII. FROM BERLIN (II)
Berlin is a city of reason, not a city of faith. You cannot get people to try and do the impossible there. It loves to grade itself upon the possible and do that. Hence the apathy regarding Germany's resurrection. Here all is measured and planned and square and self-poised. No buildings aspire. The golden angels and the other things which are high—are perched there. Some one put them up; they did not fly so high. All the great capitals of Europe are redeemed more by their past than adorned by their present, but Berlin has no old Berlin to help her. If all that is worth while in London were built in the spirit of Downing Street and Whitehall and the statue of Nurse Cavell, it might be said that London was not unlike Berlin.
Clearly two ideas have tried to express themselves in Germany's capital: one is modern commerce, and the other, and more characteristic, is military glory. The commercial houses are naturally much the same as in the rest of Europe, gloomily utilitarian. The military in stone, however, is neither ornamental nor useful. Strange that the Kaiser, who was reputed to have quick intelligence, should not have felt how excruciatingly unspiritual and truly uninspiring the glory-statuary and architecture was. The German army was one of the greatest military organizations the world has seen, and it was in 1914 a potential terror to every nation in Europe, but its reflection in art was ugly. The Victory Column, the statues of Germany's heroes, the appalling queue of stone groups each side of the Sieges Allee, all show up now like a spiritual X-ray photograph of Prussia.
It may seem ungenerous to taunt some one who is down, after the event, but I did not see the Avenue of Victory before 1914, and it came as a shock. Despite the loathsome details of the war, there are many ex-enemies of Germany who have kept in their hearts an altar of admiration for German arms. An idea of Teutonic chivalry lurked somewhere in the imagination. But you can realize in Berlin from the militarist self-confession in art that there is no idealism there. How the Kaiser could go out day after day and confront these low conceptions of patriotism and of Germany, and not order them to be swept away, explains in great part how it was Germany made such a blunder as to go to war the way she did. One advantage of a revolution in Germany might be to sweep away these sad tokens of the past.
It was in this Avenue of Victory that old Hindenburg's wooden statue was set up and the populace struck nails into it to boost war-charities. It became so ugly that it was hidden away at last, and despite the Field-Marshal's great popularity has lately been broken up and destroyed. That was really worth keeping, and ought to have found a place in a war-museum. It was authentic, but it did not flatter, and it had to go.
Hindenburg is the greatest hero in Germany, and all the children idealize him. Whatever he puts his name to, goes. He and a popular pastor worked up a huge subscription for war-waifs, and when the money had been raised it was found the waifs were already well provided for. I believe the money was appropriated to a fund for helping the indigent middle class. At a cabaret one night there appeared a clever impersonator. A slim, clean-shaven man entertained the people sitting at the dinner-tables by rapid changes of personization. He was in turn every one who had a share in the making of modern Germany. Thus he was Bismarck and he was Karl Marx, and he was Ebert, in rapid succession. No one cheered him, and the people looked at the undistinguished figure of Ebert without enthusiasm. Presently, as one foresaw, he came to Hindenburg, and then every one cheered and the place rocked with excitement. There were even a sprinkling of claps over to applaud his next impersonization, the late Emperor Franz Joseph who was sandwiched in to prepare the mind for something else. After that, one waited. Would he show the Kaiser? What would happen if suddenly the familiar face of Wilhelm the Second confronted that gathering of Germans? The mimic, however, would not risk it, and his concluding make-up was not Wilhelm but, very cleverly chosen, Frederick the Great. And every one was at ease again.
Germany is not ready to have the Kaiser back. But, as at Athens, so in Berlin, national humiliation has reacted in favour of the monarch. There is a vague feeling that the Kaiser is suffering for Germany's sake, and that his exile typifies the unhappy downfall of Germany. No one thinks the Kaiser less virtuous than Lloyd George or Clemenceau. Except for the Communist movement, which naturally tends in an entirely different direction, there is a national sentimental reaction in favour of the Hohenzollerns. This was clearly focussed in the honours paid to the dead Kaiserin. Before the passing of that funeral cortege the Kaiser's portrait was rare in public places. Now it has appeared again and is common.
There are nevertheless few things in Europe more improbable than the return of the Kaiser. He might come back before he died. But it would be as the result of some strange turn of affairs in Europe. He will probably die in Holland. And then will he not come back and receive the greatest honour?
I was naturally interested in the spirit of the rising generation, those who did not have to fight, those who perhaps will not be conscripted to fight the next war. The boys at school are said to be completely out of touch with the sordid reality of Germany's position. Masters dare not explain her helplessness in its entirety. They are ashamed of what their generation has done with the great inheritance. Nevertheless the children know that Germany has been beaten. They cannot know to what extent beaten. But a boy being asked what his politics were replied to a friend: "One thousand kilometres to the right of the right," and the constant thought in their talk, in their essays, in their boyish life is We will get back Strassburg.
The mature mind regards such impulses questioningly, and looks from the romantic children to the uninspired and uninspiring monuments of 1914 Germany. What sort of a Germany will it be fifty years hence, one asks. Not the old set up again. But if a new Germany, what will it be like and wherein will it excel?
The scenery of these years will no doubt be cleared away. In several ways Germany has excellence and possibilities of great service to humanity. In original research and invention, in applied science and in science itself, in scholarship, and in social and industrial development and organization, the German has shown himself to be a pioneer. In these pacific domains Germany was in happy rivalry for the leadership of the world. In several of them Germany actually was leader. It is very unfortunate that the war should continue to strike at these. And it would be idle to deny that those Germans whose work serves humanity as a whole have in any way escaped the crippling effect of the downfall of the State. In fact, the educated people have been hit most, and are most threatened.
Moreover, the atmosphere of Germany in these days is not creative. A black finger is pointing threateningly from the sky. The enormity of the punishment which Fate threatens is incredibly great, and yet it keeps threatening. It is perpetually:
The Ides of March are come, Aye Caesar, but not gone.
The first of May has come, the thirteenth of May has come, and so forth. The line trees are arrayed in tender green, and anon blossom along the length of the Unter den Linden, but it is not Germany's new summer, and it has that irrelevance which the murderer remarks when he is being led some beautiful spring morning to the scaffold to be killed. It was a fine morning, but not for him.
It is only too natural for the educated man to look out morbidly from the eye-gate of the soul. Thus R——, whose fine work on Central Asia was published gratis by some learned society in England before the war, says, "I will renounce my German nationality and become English as soon as your Home Office will let me. Germany is going to be no place for men of brains." Thus the famous theologian Harnack, having completed his latest work, speaks of circulating it only in manuscript as he is in no position to have it printed. Thus Z——, the chemist and metallurgist, has taken his laboratory and his assistants to Switzerland to escape the spiritual paralysis which has overtaken his native land.
Doubtless this black will-to-the-nothing is reflected in many lives in Germany, and in many spheres of activity. Nietzsche anticipated it, though of course, he did not ask for Germany the psychology of one who has been beaten, the evil resentful frame of mind. This latter is strongly exemplified on the serious stage, not serenely and universally, but tinged and circumstanced by Germany's downfall—the what-does-it-matter-that-Sophocles-was-great-if-Germany-is-no-more point of view.
"Richard III" at the State Opera House was a strange performance. It was about the time of the Shakespeare Day celebration which Germany keeps once a year. All the newspapers devoted articles to Shakespeare, and one felt truly that a great master of words and of men was more honoured in ex-enemy Germany than in the land of his birth. And that should have been good for Germany; Shakespeare is universal, and it takes the universal to cleanse the national. As a German philosopher has said, it needs an ocean to receive such a muddy stream as man.
"Richard III," however, showed what the war-spirit can make of Shakespeare. It was interpreted in the pedantic historical vein, and was given as a bloody, brutal mediaeval piece without a thought or a smile or a tear. Richard was shown as a "Hun" of the worst kind. His murderous career was facilitated by his characterless victims. Anne was a "characteristic English hypocrite," pretending to mourn her husband, and yet quite ready to marry Gloucester as "the average Englishwoman would do if the proposal were made." Clarence had no poetry in his soul, and was not even allowed to touch you by his dream in the Tower. Richard said his conscience-stricken, soul-torturing speech—"Richard loves Richard, that is I am I." in a matter-of-fact way. It is a great tragic note in Shakespeare, but in Berlin it was quite a playful matter. Just as the murderers played at murdering Clarence, so Richard joked with himself over, "is there a murderer here—Yes, I am."
The only way to explain such a Richard III to the audience was to suggest—That is the sort of people the English are—thank their God for their humility whilst in reality they stick at nothing to gain their private ends, and are not troubled with conscience.
This production was entirely modern in its presentment. There was a remarkable simplification of scenery. This was, perhaps, due to the new poverty of Berlin. But it comprised merely a wall, a hole in the wall called the Tower of London, a platform on top of the wall called Tower Hill, carpeted stairs against the wall called the Court at Westminster. Clarence mopes in the hole with one electric light—his butt of malmsey wine is even out of view. Richard appears between the two archbishops on the top of the wall, and finally he fights the battle of Bosworth Field up and down the carpeted stairs. Indeed, he suddenly appears at the top of the stairs naked to his middle and then runs down the red carpet carrying his crown in his hand whilst he shouts, "Mein Konigsreich fur ein Pferd,"—my kingdom for a horse. This last was deservedly hissed by the audience as a palpable absurdity being foisted on the half-stunned intelligentsia of Berlin.
At the Lessing Theatre a few days later, "Peer Gynt," that poetical drama of the Teuton's destiny—much better done because really nearer to the German soul than Shakespeare. Solveig had faith; though it was not quite certain that she was the sort of woman to whom one had to return. Peer's romantic return to his mother was, however, much stressed, as in the Greig music. The sentiment that Peer "had women behind him and, therefore, could not perish" appealed strongly to the German mood, though the application of the button-moulder idea to the plight of Germany just now appeared to have been missed. Peer ought to have been a shining button on the vest of the Lord, but has missed his chance, and now is to be melted down with other buttons into something else—into a Polish button, a Czech button, an Alsatian button. There was much scope for meditation looking at "Peer Gynt" at Berlin in 1921.
In lighter vein the traveller finds much more to delight him in the operettas of Berlin. As at Vienna, they are better done than classical drama. That is not a slight on the stage. The vulgarity of English musical comedies and imported operettas is lacking on the Berlin and Vienna stage. German pieces of this kind are often extremely charming and diverting, and they impart that light-heartedness which is a first condition of a healthy mind. The audience is in no sense "highbrow," it is the general level of German humanity. It forgets and responds, and is ready to sing choruses with the leaders of song and dance. Three or four evenings spent listening to operetta leave very pleasant memories, and the last of these was on the occasion of the first night of "Morgen wieder lustik," a humorous presentation of the time when Napoleon was splitting up Germany much as the French wish to split her up now—and there was a King of Westphalia who is still memorable for that one phrase, "Morgen wieder lustik!"—To-morrow we shall be happy again!
I visited Strasbourg, now outwardly Frenchified, but inwardly German enough. At the time of the commencement of the armistice and the German retirement "Simplicimus" published a picture of a "Farewell to Strasbourg." It was a stormy sunset and late evening, and the black silhouette of the very memorable cathedral, the stark and ragged grandeur of that cathedral and its spire which looks as if nothing exists in Strasbourg but it, stood for the significance of the city. Some German horse-soldier symbolized the last to go, and lifting his hat, took one last look at the place, and said, "Auf wiedersehen." And Alsace became French once more.
What a thing to graft two French provinces to the living body of Germany for fifty years and then dispart, when the blood has learned to flow strongly from the new flesh to the heart! You feel the break, the interruption, when you go there now.
And now the same two provinces, heavily Germanized, are re-grafted back to the original flesh of France. It would be absurd to say that the circulation of the blood and the spirit have been re-established at once. There is a great deal of mortification in Alsace and Lorraine. It will be a long while before French life permeates the whole and surges through every vein. Meanwhile the new process of Frenchification proceeds.
We seldom hear that the Germans dare claim to hold Alsace and Lorraine on any grounds, and yet, in fact, quietly and persistently, they do dare. It is frequently urged in conversation that if a plebiscite had been taken in the two provinces, the majority would have been found desirous of remaining under German rule. This, no doubt, is partly vanity, and springs from belief in the supposed preferability of German civilization to French civilization—even French people who knew what it was to live under a French as well as a German regime might prefer the latter as more efficient and comfortable and up-to-date. But the belief that a plebiscite would have gone in German favour is based even more on the German population and on the strong business interests which link the industrial part with the industrial whole. Alsace and Lorraine through commercial development had become an exceedingly important constituent of modern Germany before the war. Germany, moreover, claims to have converted them from poor departments of France to wealthy industrial communities.
Naturally no one on the Allied side of the peace-table ever dreamed of considering such arguments. And they are so lacking in practical cogency that they find no place in the current consideration of modern Europe. They are useless arguments for a Germany who lost the war, and they are assumed to be quite dead. Germany has enough trouble to save Westphalia and Silesia and the Ruhr valley, let alone think about the irrecoverables of the war. She might as well argue that the fleet she sank at Scapa Flow should be restored to her as think of Alsace now.
Nevertheless, the arguments remain for another day to become the arguments of pretension and justification. France naturally is taking care that there shall never be another day of reckoning. But let France make a mistake in her diplomacy and "get in wrong," as they say in America, and it will all be fought over again. It was only fifty years after the Franco-German war that this new war came. Who knows what re-grouping of power there may be, or how Germany will stand in 1970!
In our reckonings and prognostications we should keep in mind that the German is the centre body of the Teutonic race. He is down, but he is not finally beaten. His mind is resentful, and indeed full of the revenge instinct. He has not learned the lesson of humility and obedience in the great war. Who has? He believes he is meant to be master in the vast European plain which he has fitly named "Central Europe—Mittel Europa," and identified with himself.
(v) On "Clay Sparrows" and the Failure of Freedom
France and Germany are hazardously in agreement in regard to English and American liberal idealism. They think it moonshine and the League of Nations a failure, and that Freedom has been tried and found wanting.
We are at school with Christ and have made our clay sparrows. Wilson's birds fly—ours won't. France is an obstinate clay sparrow who sits perched on the wall. And what shall we say of the other clay sparrows? Do they look like flying? The peoples won't take the freedom and the light that is offered them. We sing to them and tempt them, but they do not respond.
Germany, however, does not believe in "free countries," and she is edified by the failure of freedom.
"Your gods fail you," said a Bavarian to us at dinner. "You'll have to try our gods after all."
"But it is not so. The little nations are all using their Freedom," some one rejoined.
"Abusing it," said the German.
"That is only their high spirits, the natural first excesses of people who have got free."
"Russia?" queried the Teuton. "Poland? Roumania?" and he smiled indulgently. "Human nature shows up badly when you give it a chance," said he. "You cannot trust individuals yet, and you cannot trust nations. For example: you are all lined up waiting to receive tickets for the theatre or a train. Some have a sense for order and keep their turn, but others edge past them and get to the ticket window first. And then the orderly individuals are forced to do the same or lose their temper. Now, to meet human nature we have invented a grill, and if you go to our State theatre in Munich you will see this iron control which allows a large crowd to assemble but makes it impossible to go out of your turn."
"An emblem of German civilization," I thought, "but it has its use."
"We are all going back to preventatives," said another. "After all it is the foundation of Mosaic law—the prevention of evil. America has adopted the idea. Prohibition is not freedom. It is taking the bottle away and not giving you a chance. It is the same with other human sins. The best way to reduce the numbers of murders is to reduce the number of weapons and exact a heavy gun licence. The best way to stop robbery is to use more steel locks. Make it difficult to commit crime and then crime won't be committed. But beware of Freedom."
The conversation was side-tracked on to the subject of the "dryness of America." But it provided an insight into the German point of view. Coming into line with the rest of Europe Germany accepted the idea of Freedom in November, 1918. She watched how it worked and then very quickly turned her back on it. In truth, Freedom is not congenial to Germans. Had Germany won she hoped to impose her type of civilization everywhere, and she saw little harm in the fact of imposition. Inferior nations ought to be raised to Germany's cultural level by force, and they ought to be prevented from running amuck internationally, also by force. The German mind viewed complacently the bondage of the small nations in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It did not think that Czechs or Poles lost anything by being governed from Vienna. Its only reservation was that it might be still better for them if they were governed from Berlin. Berlin still believes that Alsatians and Danes and Poles and Russians and Czechs are better in health under German discipline. Europe organized militarily was the German conception of the future—that some one should order and some one should obey everywhere.
Great Britain caught the idea through Carlyle, though it was more congenial to the Germanic type of Southern Scot than to English or Irish. We talked of "captains of industry," and the "aristocracy of talent," and "benevolent autocracy," though we could not realize them. But to modern Germany this idea was society's cement. It was preached from the Lutheran pulpit, it was taught by sergeants in the Army, it was unfolded and beflagged by politicians on election day. There were rebels against it but no national movement opposed it. It was even rooted in the home where husband ruled wife, and father ruled children with complete authority, and a man could point to his frau or his kind with his index finger, and say "To-morrow you will do that. Now you shall do this!"
The opposite note of liberty was at Moscow where the children not infrequently, even under Tsardom, went on strike against their teachers, where servants tell masters what they ought to do, where a Rasputin is asked advice on imperial policy, the land of the Slavs where obedience is at its lowest ebb, and all the parks and gardens and country-sides languish naturally in disorder. "Love to Russia is really love to the old mother-pig," said Suvorin. "But no matter, you get used to it." The German, however, never gets used to it. That is why in the old days the farms of the German colonist in Russia used to be neat patches of an entirely orderly pattern, looking like islands in the wild waste of Slav disorder. It might almost be said that Germany made war to make the Russian muzhik wash his face, and the Russians made war so that people could go about with dirty faces if they wanted to.
The question has not received a final answer. Greece is fighting for an empire over Turks. Ireland is fighting the British Empire to obtain the right to do what she wants in the world. The business penumbra of the United States has begun to cover Mexico. Five or six constituents of old Russian have cut free. But France has become imperial and would impose a superior will on several nations.
Our curious clay sparrows stand on the wall. Wilson's sparrows, it is reputed, fly; ours won't. As we made them, so they stand looking at us, waiting apparently. If some one does not sprinkle holy water on them soon they will either go to bits or have to be kneaded into the common lump once more.
LETTERS OF TRAVEL
XIV. FROM ROME
All roads lead to Rome. It would doubtless be tedious at this point to describe the obstacles on the road, and, when Rome has been achieved, the all-night hunt for a room in a hotel, an adventure which now commonly befalls the traveller to Rome. But it is a wonderful impression which you receive of this mighty city in the silent watchful hours, when all are sleeping, and the living are nearer to the famous dead. The scenery seems laid for some great historical drama—but it is in truth only laid for you and the poor fellow shouldering your bag, and for a restless knocking at closed doors, trying to awaken slumberous porters who, like the man at Macbeth's castle, swear they will "devil-porter it no longer." You settle down at last for a few hours sleep on a couple of chairs in a waiting-room, but are prevented by a loquacious gentleman who calls himself a "chasseur des hotels," and says that when a man has sought all night and found nothing, he is generally ready for a proposition. The chasseur conducts you to a room in a house in a back street, a chill, red-tiled room, let by a buxom Roman, whose little girl of twelve is in the capacity of general servant and makes the bed and empties the slops and serves the coffee without one self-conscious smile. Rome indeed, and room enough! When you are lodged it does not matter much how you are lodged.
Rome, the capital of capitals, still continues to be a place of destiny in Europe. It is not in the glare of light in which Berlin and Paris find themselves, but the fates of Berlin and Paris are secretly dependent on it. For Rome sways the balance of power after the war. If Rome backs Germany, France at once feels isolated; if Rome backs France, Germany must come to terms. The French are victors and have the winning forces in their hands, but the Italians are psychologists and know how to win without material force. Hence has arisen the curious after-the-Paris-conference situation. Italy has been despised by France; Italy, therefore, has renounced that war-after-the-war, dear to the French heart; Italy has communed with Dr. Benes and planted another thorn in the side of the Hapsburgs; she has secretly opposed French policy in Hungary. With Germany she has made a commercial entente—not a political or military one, but a pacific laissez-faire for the purposes of trade. France envisages the complete ruin of German industry and commerce, and believes that Foch is the man to do it. At this the Italians smile quietly and counsel the timorous Germans not to despair. Rome chooses to hold to the thesis that a prosperous Italy depends on a prosperous Germany, and no outsider is qualified to dispute such a point of view. Somehow Italy manages to suggest a similar thought to England. A prosperous England depends on a prosperous Germany. The British trade depression is thought to be due to the destructive policy of the French. The question of the taking of the Ruhr basin becomes a test case: Very bad for English business, say the English manufacturers in chorus. We are back to the Treaty of Versailles: Votes count. England and Italy are in the scale against France, and France must yield. The cup of hemlock is taken from Germany's shut mouth and a cup of merely disagreeable medicine is placed there instead. Italy and England sing to her a new song quietly and secretly, and she decides to take it so as to escape the hemlock. So Italy has stopped France on the Ruhr. It is an easier task to stop her in Upper Silesia where she is pushing the Poles into a similar assault on German industries. Lloyd George makes his violent anti-French speeches, and the British battalions follow after his hot words to enforce what he has said. The Italian was despised but he can afford to smile. O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!
Italy's main danger has been internal. Her Socialistic ferment was so great at one time that it did not appear likely that the old Italy could long continue without revolution. "W Lenin"  is scrawled in black on many walls, and also, "Down with the betrayers of the Army," and "Vote the full Socialist Programme." The idea of revolution is popular among the masses, and the efforts of the anti-Communist volunteers have several times suggested a general outbreak of civil war. Of all the Allies Italy has had the stormiest after-the-war period, and the outlook has seemed blackest for her. Given time, she could, however, right herself—and the time has been given. If the working class had been impoverished and threatened with unemployment it is doubtful whether Italy could have weathered all the trouble. But the proletariat was rich. The provincial banking accounts had become full. The peasants now are especially well-off, and if the proletariat wanted to fall upon the rich they would have to fall upon themselves. "The principal phenomenon of our life," said Signor S—— at one of the Ministries, "is a complete economic inversion. The number of our poor does not increase, for the wealth of the country has been exceedingly well shuffled and dealt out afresh to all."
"Do not be deceived by appearances of unrest," said B—— of the "Messagero." "It is caused chiefly by the ex-soldiers who will not settle down. You have the phenomenon as well as we. It is common after war. Only our men are more turbulent than any other in Europe. You have seen them, large, full-blooded, and excitable heroes, not so sluggish and obedient as the French, more nervous and clamorous than the English. But we are working. The women and children are more industrious than formerly, and make up for the men's defection. Italy will right herself."
Undoubtedly, external policy has helped Italy greatly. Whilst France and England have played a fitfully obstructionist and generally uninspired policy towards the restoration of European trade, Italy has been steadily working in a positive direction. She has received substantial help from Germany, help in return for help. The wasteful process of using Switzerland as a fence for German goods has largely been abandoned in favour of a direct commercial exchange. Italian shipping, augmented by its Austrian spoils, has obtained considerable help and advice. Quite surprising how many Germans have posts in the Italian shipping companies! Germany has lost her own ships, but she has a large business executive in the background, the administrative organization of what was once a great mercantile marine. She has still a preponderant power in allocating business. The Italian benefit and the success of Italy's new policy have been reflected in the phenomenal appreciation of the lira which during the spring of 1921 actually gained 33 1/2 per cent in value, mounting from 110 to the pound sterling in January to 73 in May. Such a rise in the value of the currency naturally helps Italian industry, facilitating the import of raw materials and coal and oil. In the summer of 1921 Italy became glutted with coal.
Such progress is not good news in Moscow. The chief external hope of Moscow must for long have been in Italy. And conversely the chief hope of the Socialists in Italy must have been in the progress of Moscow's international ideal. Not that the proletarian leaders of comfortable Italy realized what they were advocating. They are not such idealists in Italy as to be ready to commit national suicide for the good of humanity as a whole, or even for the good of humanity as a class, as a working class. But, be that as it may, the moral authority waned when the Russo-British trading treaty was signed. Krassin killed the Third Internationale. You do not trade with a capitalistic State in order to destroy it. Moscow began to set up a new bourgeois class, started shops again, and banks and private trading, and generally speaking, having buried the devil, dug him up again.
With that, Moscow ceased to inspire the grand international solidarity of proletariats. There was a set-back in wages over the whole world. At the same time the strike-weapon tended to fail. May Day, 1921, was one of the quietest of May Days. In Paris it was a joyous holiday; in Berlin, though the jewellers ordered new steel screens for their goods, not a window was broken; in London the gloomy coal strike pursued its lonely road towards defeat, unsupported by even its own allies of transport and railroad, far less by an ideal from Moscow. And bourgeois Western Europe—and Italy not least—breathed afresh.
Rome is a spacious city. One feels that the great houses were built originally, not on streets, but on chosen spots, and the streets came to them. The house came to the man, and the street to the house, and that makes a nobler city than street-controlled lines and blocks. In Rome there is no bondage of the street. And the many fountains with water-spouting nymphs and Neptunes kill the drabness of business, and freshen modern civilization so that it ceases to know itself as such. When one compares Rome with Paris or Berlin or London or New York, the newer capitals suffer. The mighty ruins have such authority over all that is new. It is one of the greatest standing-grounds and points of vantage in the world. It has been interpreted as the mountain of temptation from which Satan showed the kingdom of this world. It is the birthplace of Caesardom and the modern idea of world-imperialism. It was once the seat of world-empire, and remains even now the rock of the Church. For many all roads still lead to the Cathedral of St. Peter's as to the most representative temple in Christendom. Spiritually, Rome abhors all sects and other centres of religious persuasion. Spiritually, she claims to be the coincident centre of two worlds, this and the world to come.
How fine is the interior of St. Peter's, built to defy time, with its massive marbles and gigantic figures as fresh and new as if, indeed, a few hundred years were but as yesterday in God's sight. The exterior of the cathedral is transitory-looking, like an aspect of "this world." But inside is part of the eternal silence such as one might experience in a profound subterranean chamber. There is no aspiration, no adoration—but there is a sense of eternal law. The Church is imposed on earth. About the dome is written, "Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church," in letters of gold—Rome's ultimate authority. All is square and solid and heavy. There are no seats, but the extensive floor is of varying granites and marbles, on which those who believe kneel, and look so small, smaller than life-size in the presence of the thrice-magnified statues of the Popes. So much for one Mother-Church of the world. It is well cared for in 1921. The other Mother-Church of Sancta Sophia in Constantinople still languishes under the Pagan.
Rome swarms with all peoples. Its base is Italian, but it attracts the people of all nations—Englishmen, Americans, Frenchmen, Russians, are very common. The Anglo-Saxon party, guide-book in hand, is still staring at the ruins of ancient Rome. The war has intervened, but it looks as if the tourist, engrossed in his "Baedeker" had been doing the same every day all these years. The post card vendors and would-be guides still fret round the old monuments like crows. They alone disturb the equanimity of the old men and middle-aged ladies who love Rome most. For the lovers of Rome look at those wonderful columns of Marcus Aurelius and Trajan with whole histories in spiral processionals climbing upwards to the pinnacle of fame—and their thoughts are not on these times.
Mightiest of the ruins of Rome is certainly that of the Colosseum, symbol of the decay of a great people debauched by their lusts and their rulers. The Colosseum is sometimes included in the list of the wonders of the world, and it is certainly one of the most remarkable ruins of antiquity. If all modern Rome were swept away by pestilence and earthquake, the Colosseum would no doubt still stand, and be as provocative of thought as the Pyramids themselves. It has already survived many earthquake shocks and nineteen noisy centuries. It stands to-day in grey serenity—a mighty stone structure of great height and massivity, with tier upon tier of galleries where could be accommodated surely all the Rome of its day. There is no other place like it—with its two hundred and forty arched entrances, and its cages and prisons. It is vast and cruel and vain even now. All the circles glare down into the empty arena.
Imagine a festival at the Albert Hall when that little fragile building is packed from the expensive fringe of the stalls and the boxes to the mysterious height of the gallery, then magnify many times, and change wood into hewn rock, and take off the roof, and give Roman air and sunlight, and change the character and dress of the people, and make them lust for blood and for strange sights, and give voices to their bellies and violent animation and excitability to their limbs and their features, and you have the Roman amphitheatre, built to be a butchering-place for Christians and captives of war, an arena for gladiators and a place of circuses.
It is the symbol of the decay of Rome. Bede is said to have prophesied: "Whilst the Colosseum stands Rome will stand; when the Colosseum falls the world itself will fall," but that was merely testimony to its mighty structure. Five or six palaces have been built of the marbles and other materials which have been taken away, and still the Colosseum stands in all its architectural impressiveness. But the thing this amphitheatre was built for ruined Rome. The taste for brutal pleasure which the emperors encouraged debauched the spirit of the Romans, and deprived them of that traditional virtue of which they had been so proud. Panem et circenses, the giving of bread unworked for, and the making of grand gladiatorial shows for the plebs.
Standing-room for twenty thousand plebians was actually given free, and the other eighty thousand people who could be accommodated paid little enough. The shows which gave pleasure also gave glory, and emperors and magistrates sunned themselves in the people's favour by the entertainment they could procure for the masses. Wild beasts were let out upon little crowds of kneeling Christian victims and tore them to pieces amid the guffaws and delighted yells of that vast concourse of people. Or men fought with infuriated beasts—the foundation of the bull-fight. Bears and lions and rhinoceroses and elephants and many other animals were opposed to men for the popular delight. Or men fought men with swords, and champions arose and championships in plenty. We read of one gladiator worsting hundreds of other gladiators in the arena of the Colosseum to the joy of the people, who got extremely excited as to whether the fight had been a sporting one, and whether they should have the defeated gladiator killed or let him go: thumbs up or thumbs down!
Rome fell: its era was supplanted by another greater era. The barbarian whom the Romans had enslaved and tormented at last threw down the mighty empire.
I see before me the gladiator lie Butchered to make a Roman holiday . . . Shall he expire And unavenged? Arise! Ye Goths and glut your ire
as Byron wrote.
Now little children are playing where wild beasts were held, and tourists peep into the empty dens where the Christian prisoners were kept.
A great war has lately been raging when all manner of anachronistic tendencies of mankind were displayed, but the popular lust for cruelty and blood, which once raged from all those burning Roman eyes about the great arena, has not returned. Few people now can bear to look on at cruelty. Even executions are hidden from men's eyes, and if, upon occasion, we will cruelty, we demand that it shall be accomplished away from our eyes, and that we shall not be confronted with the details. Here, where such gory things were done, if one of us saw an organ-grinder threatening a monkey with a knife we should leap to save the monkey—and ourselves.
It may be the leaven of Christianity, or the development of man, or the racial predominance of the sympathetic Northern European, but it is none the less a remarkable fact that cruelty which was once public meat and drink for every one is now a hidden thing, lurking only in the secrets of prison-life or in places like those parts of the New World where the mob still burns its negroes alive and takes pleasure in the sight.
Joy in sheer cruelty has, however, been supplanted by brutal sport. The bull-fights of Spain are true Colosseum spectacles, and whilst the danger-thrills which throb through a human concourse at the assaults of an infuriated bull may not be as degrading as mere gloating over pain, what can we say of the disembowelling of the horses which is such a feature of that sport. And the modern prize fight and boxing championship has something of the gladiatorial spirit. The enormous interest in the Dempsey-Carpentier contest is evidence of the increasingly debauched taste of the world's democracies. The Olympic Games have much more to be said in their favour. But whilst they encourage professional athleticism it can hardly be said that they encourage Europe to be more athletic. The Sokol movement in Czecho-slovakia and the Boy Scout movement are much more promising. The more you look on at games the less you play them, and the more you play them the less are you content to look on. The scene of our modern Olympic Games goes from capital to capital in Europe, and thanks to public spirit and the subscriptions of industrial magnates, great stadiums such as that which we have now at Athens, have come into being. Perhaps when our old world has become the ancient world, and living civilization has fled across the oceans, the most remarkable of our ruins and remains of the past may be our Stadiums and Colosseums and arenas designed for international games and prize fights. Ancient Rome and its fate is our great unheeded warning.