The Forerunners
by Romain Rolland
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As for the men of religion, they have rushed headlong into the fray. At a meeting of Methodist ministers in New York, one of them, a pastor from Bridgeport, Connecticut, straightforwardly declared, "If I must choose between my country and my God, I have made up my mind to choose God." He was hooted and threatened by the other members of the assembly, five hundred in number; was denounced as a traitor. Newel Dwight Hillis, preaching in the Henry Ward Beecher church, said: "All God's teachings concerning forgiveness must be abrogated as far as Germany is concerned. When the Germans have been shot I will forgive them their atrocities. But if we agree to forgive Germany after the war, I shall think that the world has gone mad."

Billy Sunday, a sort of howling dervish, sprung from heaven knows where, brays to huge crowds a militarist gospel. He spouts his sermons like a sewer disgorging filth; he calls upon the Good Old God (who is apparently to be found in other places besides Berlin), buttonholes him, enrols him willy-nilly. A cartoon of Boardman Robinson's shows Billy Sunday arrayed as a recruiting sergeant, dragging Christ by a halter and shouting: "I got him! He's plumb dippy over going to war." Fashionable folk, ladies included, are infatuated with this preacher; they delight to debase themselves in God's company. The ministers of religion, too, are on Billy Sunday's side. The exceptions may be counted on the fingers of one hand. Most notable among the exceptions is the pastor of the church of the Messiah in New York, John Haynes Holmes by name, from whom I had the honour of receiving a magnificent letter in February, 1917, just before the United States entered the war. In its July number "The Masses" published an admirable declaration issued by Holmes to his flock. It was entitled, What shall I do? He refuses to exclude any nation from the human community. The church of the Messiah will not respond to any militarist appeal. His conscience constrains him to refuse conscription. He will obey his conscience at any cost. "God helping me, I can no otherwise."—Those who resist the war madness constitute a little Church where persons of all parties make common cause, Christians, atheists, Quakers, artists, socialists, etc. Hailing from all points of the compass, and holding the most conflicting ideas, they share only one article of faith, that of the war against war. This common creed suffices to bring them into closer association than the associations they had with their friends of yesterday, with their brothers by blood, by religion, or by profession.[23] Thus did Christ pass to and fro among the men of Judea, detaching those who believed in him from their families, from their class, from all their past life.—In the United States, as in Europe, young men are far less possessed with the war spirit than their elders. A striking example comes from Columbia University. Here, while the professors were conferring on General Joffre the degree of doctor of literature, the students assembled to pass a unanimous resolution against answering the call of military conscription.[24] This exposed the voters to the penalty of imprisonment. For they manage things with a heavy hand in the classic land of liberty. Many American citizens have been thrown into gaol, and others, we are informed, have been immured in lunatic asylums, for having expressed their disapproval of the war. The recruiting sergeants go wherever they please, even forcing their way into meetings of the workers and maltreating all who resist them.[25] Under the rubric A Week's War "The Masses" records all the brutalities, all the blows, wounds, and murders, to which the war has already led in America. We may well ask to what extremes of violence these antipacifist repressions will some day be carried. The alleged freedom of speech in the United States would appear to be pure humbug. "In actual fact," exclaims Max Eastman, "freedom of speech has never existed." It is by law established. "But in practice there reigns a contempt for law, to the advantage of the strong and to the detriment of the weak." We have long known this through the revelations of the Italian and Russian socialist press, in connection with the scandalous sentences passed on working men. Do pacifists give trouble? They are arrested as anarchists! Does a periodical refuse to bow to the opinion of the state? It is suppressed without parley; or sometimes, by a more refined procedure, it is prosecuted for obscenity![26] And so on.

Max Eastman's chief collaborator, John Reed, endeavours to throw light on the preponderating role played by American capitalism in the war. In an article which adopts as title that of Norman Angell's book The Great Illusion, Reed declares that the pretence of fighting kings is maudlin, and that Money is the true king. Putting his finger on the sore spot, he adduces figures showing the colossal profits made by the great American companies. Under the bizarre title The Myth of American Fatness,[27] he shows that it is not, as Europe fancies, the American nation which battens on the war, but only two per cent of the population. Ninety-eight per cent of the inhabitants of the States are thin folk, and grow thinner daily. During the years 1912 to 1916, wages increased nine per cent, whilst the cost of food increased seventy-four per cent during the years 1915 and 1916. From 1913 to 1917, the general rise in prices was 85.32 per cent (flour 69 per cent, eggs 61 per cent, potatoes 224 per cent! Between January 1915 and January 1917, the rise in the price of coal was from $5 to $8.75 per ton). The bulk of the population has suffered cruelly, and serious hunger strikes have taken place in New York. Of course the European press has either said nothing about these or has ascribed them to German plots.

During the years 1914 to 1916, there occurred an increase of five hundred per cent in the dividends paid by twenty-four of the largest companies (steel, cast iron, leather, sugar, railways, electricity, chemical products, etc.). The dividend of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation rose from $5,122,703 in 1914 to $43,593,968 in 1916. The dividend of the United States Steel Corporation rose from $81,216,985 in 1914 to $281,531,730 in 1916. During the years 1914 and 1915, the number of wealthy persons in the United States increased as follows: From 60 to 120 in the case of those with a private income exceeding one million dollars; from 114 to 209 in the case of those with a private income ranging from half a million to one million dollars; while the number of those whose income ranged from one hundred thousand to half a million dollars was doubled.[28] In incomes below one hundred thousand dollars, there has been no notable increase. John Reed adds: "There are limits to the patience of the common people. Beware revolts!"

The first article in the July number of "The Masses" is a message to the citizens of the United States entitled War and Individual Liberty, penned by Bertrand Russell, the distinguished English philosopher and mathematician. It is dated February 21, 1917, prior to the U.S. declaration of war, but could not be published before July. Russell recalls the self-sacrifice of the conscientious objectors in Britain, and the persecutions to which they have been exposed. He extols their faith (a faith for which he himself suffered). The cause of individual liberty is, he declares, the highest of all. Since the middle ages, the power of the state has grown unceasingly. It is now maintained that the state is entitled to dictate opinions to all, men and women. Prisons, emptied of criminals, who have been sent to the front in uniform to take part in the killing, are filled with honest men who refuse to be soldiers and to kill. A tyrannical society which has no place for rebels is a society condemned in advance. First of all its progress will be arrested, and then it will become retrogressive. The medieval church at least had, as counterpoise, the resistance of the Franciscans and of the reformers. The modern state has broken everything that resists its power; it has made around itself a void, an abyss wherein it will perish. Militarism is the modern state's instrument of oppression, just as dogma was the instrument of the church.—What is this state, before which all cringe? How absurd to speak of it as an impersonal authority, to invest it with a quasi-sacred character! The state consists of a few elderly gentlemen, for the most part of less than average ability, for they are cut off from the new life of the masses. Hitherto, the United States has been the freest of the nations. She has reached a critical hour, not for herself merely, but for the world at large, which regards her with tense anxiety. Let America beware. Even a just war may give rise to all possible iniquities. Vestiges of ancient fierceness linger within us; the human animal licks its chops as it watches the gladiatorial combats. We veil these cannibal appetites under highsounding names, speaking of Right and of Liberty. The last hope of our day lies in youth. Let youth claim for the future the individual's prerogative to judge good and evil for himself, to be the arbiter of his own conduct.

Side by side with these serious words, a large place, in the combat of thought, is given to humour, that bright and beauteous weapon. Charles Scott Wood writes amusing Voltairian dialogues. Here we see Billy Sunday in heaven, filling the place with clamour. He preaches a sermon full of Billingsgate, a sermon addressed to God, represented as an old gentleman with suave and distinguished manners, a little tired, speaking softly. St. Peter is instructed to enforce a new divine ordinance, for God, weary of the insipid company of simple souls, has decided that only persons of intelligence are to be admitted to paradise in future. Consequently no one killed in the war will pass the gate, except the Poles, who claim no merit for being sacrificed, but say they were sacrificed against their will.

Louis Untermeyer contributes poems. A number of excellent book reviews and several columns of theatrical criticism deal with questions of the hour. Among the works referred to, I may mention two of great originality: a book filled with bold paradox by Thorstein Veblen, entitled Peace? An Inquiry into the Nature of Peace; a Russian play in four acts by Artsibashev, War, depicting the cycle of the war in a family and the wastage of souls which it involves.

Finally we have vigorous drawings, the work of satirists of the pencil. R. Kempf, Boardman Robinson, and George Bellows, enliven the magazine with their pungent visions and their cutting words. Kempf shows us War crushing in his embrace France, England, and Germany, crying out: "Come on in, America, the blood's fine!" The four linked figures are dancing on a sea of blood in which corpses are floating.—A few pages further on, Boardman Robinson shows Liberty in the background weeping. In front stands Uncle Sam, wearing handcuffs (censorship) and leg-irons, the cannon-ball of conscription drags at the chain. He is described as being "All ready to fight for Liberty."—George Bellows' design depicts a chained Christ in prison. He is "incarcerated for the use of language calculated to dissuade citizens from entering the United States armies."—Finally, upon a heap of dead, the two sole survivors are seen savagely cutting one another to pieces. They are Turkey and Japan. The legend runs: "1920: still fighting for civilisation." This design is by H. R. Chamberlain.

* * * * *

Thus fight, across the seas, a few independent spirits. Freedom, clearness, courage, and humour, are rare virtues. Still more rarely do we find them united, in days of folly and enslavement. In the American opposition, these virtues take the palm.

I do not pretend that the opposition is impartial. It, likewise, is influenced by passion, so that it fails to recognise the moral forces animating the other side. The combined wretchedness and greatness of these tragical days lies in the fact that both parties are drawn to the fight by lofty, though conflicting ideals, which endeavour to slay one another while volleying abuse at one another like Homer's heroes. We, at least, claim the right of doing justice even to our adversaries, even to the champions of the war which we loath. We know how much idealism, how much intense moral feeling, have been poured out on behalf of this sinister cause. We are aware that in this respect the United States has been no less spendthrift than Britain and France. But we wish people to give respectful hearing to the voices from the other side, from the peace party. Since the apostles of peace are few in number, since they are oppressed, they have all the more right to demand the esteem of the world. Everything rages against these bold men: the formidable power of the armed states; the baying of the press; the frenzy of blinded and drunken public opinion.

The world may howl as it pleases, may stop its ears as much as it likes; we shall compel the world to listen to these voices. We shall compel the world to pay homage to this heroic struggle, which recalls that of the early Christians against the Roman empire. We shall compel it to respect the brotherly greeting of such a man as Bertrand Russell, a new apostle Paul, "ad Americanos"; we shall compel the world to respect these men whose souls have remained free, these men who from their prisons in Europe and their prisons in America, clasp hands across the sea, and across the ocean that is yet wider than the Atlantic, the ocean of human folly.

August, 1917.

"demain," September, 1917.



E. D. Morel, secretary of the Union of Democratic Control, was arrested in London during August, 1917, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in the second division, upon the ridiculous (and incorrect) charge of having attempted to send to Romain Rolland in Switzerland one of his own political pamphlets which was being freely circulated in England.[29] The "Revue mensuelle" of Geneva asked R. R. what he thought of this affair, concerning which at that time little was known on the continent, for all the information hitherto published had been in the form of defamatory articles, attacks upon Morel manufactured in England and disseminated in various tongues. R. R. replied as follows:—

You ask what I think of the arrest of E. D. Morel.

I am not personally acquainted with E. D. Morel. I do not know whether, as is asserted, he has sent me some of his works during the war. I never received them.

But from all that I know of him, of his activities prior to the war, of his crusade against the crimes of civilisation in Africa, of his writings upon the war (few of which have been reproduced in Swiss or in French journals), I consider him to be a man of high courage and vigorous faith. He has always dared to serve truth, to serve truth alone, scorning danger, regardless of all the animus he was arousing. These things would be little. Morel has displayed rarer qualities, has achieved a more difficult task, in that he has been willing to disregard his own sympathies, his friendships, and even his country, when the truth and his country were at odds.

Thus he is in the succession of all the great believers: Christians of the early centuries, the reformers during the epoch of the wars of religion, the freethinkers of the heroic age of free thought, all those who have prized beyond everything their faith in truth—in whatever form truth presented itself to their minds (divine or human, for to them it was always sacred). I may add that such a man as E. D. Morel is a great citizen even when he is demonstrating to his country the errors which it is committing. Nay more, he is preeminently a great citizen when he does this and because he does it. Some would draw a veil over the errors of their country; they are unprofitable servants, or they are sycophants. Every brave man, every straight-forward man, knows best how to honour his country.

The state may strike down such a man if it pleases, as the state struck down Socrates, as the state has struck down so many others, to whom, after they were dead, it raised useless monuments. The state is not our country. It is merely the administrator of our country, sometimes a good administrator, sometimes a bad one, but always fallible. The state has power, and uses power. But since man has been man, this power has invariably broken vainly against the threshold of the free soul.

R. R.

September 15, 1917.

"Revue mensuelle," Geneva, October, 1917.



If we were to attempt to found our judgment upon Swiss periodical literature, we should form a very false opinion regarding the public mind of Switzerland. In this land, as everywhere, the press is from ten to twenty years behind the intellectual and moral development of the people. The Swiss papers and other periodicals are few in number, compared with those of neighbouring nations. Most of them are controlled by quite a small group of persons, and nearly every one of them serves to express the prejudices, the interests, and the routinism of middle-aged or elderly persons. Among such as are prominent in this journalistic world, even those who are spoken of as young, if they ever have been young in mind, are now so only in the eyes of their elders, of elders who refuse to admit that they have grown old.... "Young man, hold your tongue," as Job said to Magnus.[30]

A man may live a long time in this land before he discovers the existence of a young Switzerland free from the trammels of conservative liberalism (more conservative than liberal), and free from those of sectarian radicalism (preeminently sectarian). Both these trends are abundantly represented in the columns of the leading newspapers; the adherents of both are attached to the outworn political and social forms of the bourgeois regime which is declining from one end of Europe to the other.

I was surprised and delighted at what I read in the latest issues of the "Revue de la Societe de Zofingue." I wish to make my French friends acquainted with what I have learned, so that sympathetic relationships may be established between them and young Switzerland.

The Zofingia Society is the leading society of Swiss students, and the oldest. It was founded in 1818, and will therefore celebrate its centenary next year. It comprises twelve sections: nine of these are "academic," viz. Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchatel, Berne, Basle, and Zurich; three are "gymnasial," viz. St. Gall, Lucerne, and Bellinzona.[31] The membership of the society is steadily increasing. In July, 1916, it was 575; but now, nearly a year later, it is 700. The organisation has a monthly review, "Centralblatt des Zofingervereins," issued in French, German, and Italian. This periodical is now in its fifty-seventh year. It publishes lectures, reports of discussions, and other matters of interest to the association.

The essential distinction between this body and the other societies of Swiss students is that the Zofingia, as explained in the first article of its constitution, "places itself above and outside all political parties, but takes its stand on democratic principles.... It abstains entirely from party politics." Thus, as its president writes, it affords to the students of Switzerland a permanent possibility of creating anew and ever anew their conception of "the true national spirit of Switzerland.... In it, each generation can freely think out for itself fresh ideals, can construct new forms of life. Thus the history of the Zofingerverein is something more than a history of a Swiss students' club; it is a miniature history of the moral and political evolution of Switzerland since 1815."—But it has always been in the vanguard.

This society, drawing its members from three races and nine cantons, exhibits, as may be imagined, multiplicity in unity. The "Centralblatt" for November, 1916, contains a report of the year 1915-16, compiled by Louis Micheli. It gives an account of the activities of the various sections, and skilfully indicates the peculiar characteristics of each section.

The most important section, the one which leads the Zofingia, is that of Zurich. Here the problems of the hour are discussed with especial eagerness. Centring round opposite poles, there are two parties, substantially equal in numbers, and inspired with equal enthusiasm. On the one hand we see conservatives, authoritarian and centralist in trend, the devotees of "Studententum" of the old style. At the other pole are the young Zofingians whose outlook is socialistic, idealistic, and revolutionary. For a time there was a fierce struggle between these two groups. The parties succeeded one another in power, and those who gained control in one term would seek to undo everything which during the preceding term had been done by the members of the late committee. Now, a more conciliatory spirit prevails.[32] The progressive party, reinforced by a number of youthful recruits, has gained the upper hand. It is endeavouring to secure wider support by attracting additional elements through breadth of view and a policy of toleration.[33] But we are told that "the Zurichers, at bottom, are not strongly individualist, for they are apt to immolate their individuality on the altar of party. Hence there is danger, from time to time, that a revival of absolutism may take place."

At Basle, it would seem, there is no such danger. This section, the largest, extremely alert, is perhaps the least united and the most discordant. During the last few years it has been torn by dissensions aroused by the question of patriotism, but its members are not, like those of the Zurich section, grouped in two armies. There are a number of little factions, circumscribed and mutually suspicious. Its most conspicuous traits are the following. Its discussions are conducted with much bitterness, so that "there is a strong tendency for differences in the realm of ideas to culminate in personal hostility." The Baslers have little inclination towards practical activities; they prefer abstract discussions; they aim at the development of character and individuality. "In these respects, Basle and Lausanne are the sections containing the most original and individual types." But, in contrast with Lausanne, the Basle section has little interest in literary and artistic questions.

In the Lausanne section, individual types abound. Here we find students of the most various temperaments, and interested in the most diverse questions, in politics, sociology, literature, and the arts. But Lausanne is pugnacious, and is on bad terms with the other sections. It is itself broken up into factions, and it exhibits separatist trends, which led to a crisis early in 1916. After the manner of Vaud, it keeps itself to itself.

Lausanne, Basle, and Zurich are the three largest sections.

Lucerne and Berne are the smallest. In the former, which is of little importance, a "slothful cordiality" prevails. The Berne section is sleepy as well as small, with very few new adherents. One of its members has stigmatised Berne as a "Beamtenstadt" (civil servants' town). The Berne section has little interest in the problems of modern life, its attachments are to common sense; it is material and unemotional; it favours the established order. "The Bernese, by nature, distrusts innovators and idealists, regarding them as dreamers or revolutionists.... The state of mind of the Berne students recalls that which prevails in official circles."

St. Gall, hard-working, enthusiastic, and independent, occupies an intermediate position. "In St. Gall, every one can express his opinion frankly"; but the section is unimportant compared with Zurich or Basle.—Neuchatel displays fitful energy, and "is fundamentally characterised by a certain natural inertia."—Geneva, finally, is amorphous. "The bulk of the members of this section make up a slumbrous, irresolute mass of persons who never utter any definite opinions," and perhaps have no definite opinions. Such activities as it displays are the work of a few exceptions. "No section has greater need of a masterful president." Having no leader, it is vague, somnolent, and takes little interest in current events. It lacks the corporate spirit. "The Genevese are strongly individualistic, and yet, unfortunately, we rarely find among them a strong individuality." We may add that they continue to display certain characteristics of the Genevese of old. Dreading criticism and ironical comment, they are afraid to let themselves go, to show what they really feel; their sensibilities are easily wounded, and they therefore invest themselves with coldness as with a cuirass; their attitude is one of perpetual mistrust; they are ever on the defensive, as if the duke of Savoy were always on the point of storming the walls.[34]

I pass no judgments. I am merely registering, in brief, the opinions of those among the students who are best qualified to judge. Taking them all in all, these opinions harmonise with my own observations.

* * * * *

The latest issues of the "Centralblatt des Zofingervereins" manifest a free spirit. The issue for May, 1917, contains a frankly internationalist article by Jules Humbert-Droz entitled National Defence. Special mention must be made of a broad-minded lecture, Socialism and the War, delivered in February, 1917, by Ernest Gloor of Lausanne at the spring festival in Yverdon, and published in the "Centralblatt" for April and May. I must also refer to Gloor's lecture What is our Country?, delivered at Gruetli in the canton of Lausanne. Another noteworthy lecture is that of Serge Bonhote, delivered at Gruetli in the canton of Neuchatel, entitled Fatherland, and heralding the days to come. These lectures were respectively published in December, 1916, and January, 1917. I should have liked to give extracts from various appreciative articles upon The Russian Revolution. Above all, I should like to quote, from the April issue, Max Gerber's enthusiastic welcome to the revolution. But space is limited, and the best way of expounding the ideas of these young people will be to summarise a detailed discussion in which they have recently been engaged concerning The Imperialism of the Great Powers and the Role of Switzerland. The topic was suggested to the sections by Julius Schmidhauser of Zurich, "cand. jur.," president of the central section. Schmidhauser has edited the report of these discussions, bringing to the task a broad and tolerant synthetic spirit. The work is all the more remarkable seeing that it was penned during an arduous term of military service, when the man who signs himself "cand. jur." (law student) was playing the part of infantry lieutenant.

I shall merely follow his report, and shall allow the young men to speak for themselves. (Issues of March, April, and May, 1917).

The discussion comprises a preamble and six parts:

Preamble: How shall we envisage the Problem? I. The Essence of Imperialism; II. The Imperialism of the Great Powers to-day; III. Can Imperialism be Justified? IV. Opposition between the genuinely Swiss Outlook and the Imperialist Outlook. V. The Mission of Switzerland; VI. The new Education.

Preamble: How shall we envisage the Problem?


a. Can we explain imperialism as a historical product? This method is too easy-going; it is slothful and dangerous. "Should man be the creation of history? No; he should be its creator."—The condemnation of historical fatalism.

b. Can we explain imperialism by "Realpolitik"? Even if it be thus explicable, it must be no less energetically condemned. "I am inclined to define the 'real politicians' as persons who are marching along with their eyes closed to the essential realities of the world and of mankind.... 'Real politics' may often seem to be right for a season; but in the long run it always proves to have been wrong.... The war that rages to-day is the outcome of the deadly falsehood of 'real politics.' The motto of 'real politics,' which is 'si vis pacem, para bellum,' has been pushed to an absurdity, and has thus brought disaster upon our race. It is depressing to find that we are still afflicted with this curse. The only possible explanation of the sway which the doctrine of 'real politics' holds over so many minds is that such persons are fundamentally sceptical as to the reality of the good, the divine, in man" (Schmidhauser).


Certain persons are willing to fight some particular imperialism because it is or may be dangerous to Switzerland, while none the less they favour other imperialisms. The Zofingia must censure such a trend in the strongest terms. It is doubtless of urgent importance that we should take our stand against the first-named imperialism, but we must proscribe all the imperialisms. "Our aim is the attainment of a universally human outlook" (H. W. Low, of Basle).


This is no better than the others. The Zofingia denounces the hypocritical ideology of to-day, an ideology which serves to cloak a policy of brute interest. It desires to issue a warning against the other dangers of an abstract idealism, against the idealism of those who fail to derive their ideas from the unbiassed study of reality. One who locks himself up within the circle of his own ideas, one who opposes empty thought to life, one who claims the right of issuing absolute judgments (all or nothing) without regard to circumstances and ignoring the manifold shades of reality, exhibits dangerous pride and culpable levity.


Realism without idealism has no sense. Idealism without realism has no blood. Genuine idealism wants life as a whole, desires its integral realisation. It is the deepest possible knowledge of living reality, simultaneously embracing human consciousness and facts. Such knowledge is our best weapon.


The Essence of Imperialism.

The chief characteristic of imperialism is the will to power, the desire for expansion, the longing for domination. It is based upon a belief that might is right; it tends to impose itself by force. One of its mainsprings is the nationalist spirit, the mystical cult of nationality, of the chosen people; the sacred egoism of the fatherland. Never before has imperialism been so savage and unscrupulous as it has become to-day, owing to the economic conditions of contemporary society. "Imperialism is the inseparable companion of capitalism. In each country, capitalism requires as its main prop a vigorous and powerful state which can enter into successful competition with the capitalism of any other country. We give the name of imperialism to the tendency towards capitalistic and political expansion, which strides across frontiers" (Guggenheim). "Modern imperialism issues from the capitalist system dominating contemporary politics and society to-day. It is the cause of the world war" (Grob).


The Imperialism of the Great Powers To-Day.

The central section of the Zofingia declares: "The imperialist character of the great powers engaged in the present struggle is indisputable." No objections are raised by the other sections. They unite in the view that "all the great powers pursue an imperialist policy."

Schmidhauser, presiding over the discussion, asks for justice towards the nations, for every one of them is, as it were, entangled in the net of the imperialist policy of Europe. He protests against the prejudiced and superficial outlook of those who can see nothing but the worst of any nation: of those who in the case of Germany concentrate attention on the spirit of a Treitschke or a Bernhardi and on the crime of the occupation of Belgium; of those who in the case of England can see nothing but the policy of Joseph Chamberlain and Cecil Rhodes, nothing but the Boer War. The mission of Switzerland is to realise the tragedy of mankind as a whole, and not to identify herself with any particular section of humanity. "Childish and stupid are the views of those for whom half of Europe should be placed in the pillory, while the other half should wear the aureole of all the virtues and all the heroisms" (Patry).


Can Imperialism be Justified?


In only one section, that of Basle, does imperialism find defenders. Walterlin takes up his parable on its behalf, glorifying it in the spirit and the style of Nietzsche. "Imperialism," he declares, "is the artery of the world, the sole source of greatness, the creator of all progress." ...


Opposition to imperialism is voiced by all the other sections. Most of them are content to show that imperialism is a menace to Switzerland, but Schmidhauser is by no means satisfied with this narrow and selfish outlook. He explains the material and moral disasters which necessarily result from imperialism, and from its offspring, the world war. Imperialism destroys civilisation. It saps morality and law, the two things upon which human society is founded. It is hostile to three fundamental ideas: to the idea of the unity of mankind; to the idea of individuality; to the idea that every individual should have the right of self-determination.


Opposition between the genuinely Swiss Outlook and the Imperialist Outlook.

The existence of this opposition is admitted, as a matter of principle, by all the participants in the discussion. But difficulties arise when they come to consider the policy which Switzerland should in particular pursue. "What are we entitled to speak of as peculiarly and primitively Swiss?" (Patry).

A beginning is made by defining the political essence of Switzerland, stress being laid, first upon the basic neutrality of the country, and secondly upon its supra-national character. "The ideal of Switzerland," says Clottu, "is that of a nation established above and outside the principle of nationality." Thirdly, stress is laid upon the right to the free development of every individual and of every social group. A fourth characteristic of Switzerland is that in that country, before authority and before the law, there exists a democratic equality of all citizens, communities, cantons, nationalities, languages, etc. By its very essence, therefore, Switzerland is absolutely opposed to the imperialism of the great powers. "The victory of the imperialist principle would be the political death of Switzerland" (Guggenheim).

What is to be done? These young men are convinced that Switzerland has a mission, and are none the less aware that Switzerland lacks capacity to fulfil that mission. With ingratiating modesty, they disclaim any desire "to play the pharisees to Europe." Whilst they believe in the excellence of the principles which underlie the Switzerland of their dreams (though not Switzerland as she exists to-day), "we must not suppose," says Patry, "that this is a fresh instance of the monopolisation of the Good and the Beautiful by a single country, which will become the only fatherland of these graces." We must be content with knowing that the ground is made ready for building, and that there is still plenty of work to be done.

"Now, at this very hour, the destiny of Switzerland stands revealed. At a time when the principle of nationality dominates the European situation with the strength of demoniacal possession, at a time when opposing civilisations are rending one another, our little state claims the honour of possessing a national ideal which dominates the nationalities and takes them all to its bosom. Does this seem like madness? Perhaps it does, to the sapient sceptic for whom the vision of the present masks the vision of the future. But it is not madness for those who are truly wise, for those who know that the great causes of the world have ever at the outset been nailed to the cross. The principle of nationality was a power for good in its own day. But if it has ceased to be a factor of freedom and toleration, if it has become the source of hatred, the source of blind and limitless national selfishness, then it is working for its own destruction. It is the mission of Switzerland to pave the way for a saner application of the principle of nationality" (Clottu).

"In this domain we can and should be conquerors. Owing to the historical origin of our country, owing to the fact that Switzerland comprises three races and three tongues, we foreshadow on a small scale the United States of Europe; in a word, we practise internationalism" (Patry).

Switzerland champions the right of the nations and champions democratic thought, as against imperialism, which is, fundamentally, an aristocratic reaction. Imperialism makes use of democracy, but enslaves it; it undermines the democratic pillars of modern states; it centralises all power in the hands of a single government. "We are reviving the age of the dictators, and there is a tragic irony in this at a time when the whole world is speaking of liberty and when the whole world is enslaved.... Down with imperialism, which turns the nations aside from their true destinies!"

"The size of our country matters little, provided that it has right and truth on its side.... We know that what New Switzerland has hitherto done is inadequate.... But a sacred fire is beginning to burn in our land.... Switzerland is a highway leading towards the future.... We are animated and united by a sublime conviction, by the feeling that we are the bearers of a great truth" (Schmidhauser).


The Mission of Switzerland.

"Switzerland can achieve greatness through principle alone. The only conquests permissible to Switzerland, are conquests in the realm of ideas" (Clottu).

We are not concerned here solely with the duty of a choice group of intellectuals. The questions at issue affect the people at large, those to whose service these young men have devoted themselves. A new spirit, an active faith, are requisite. The war has brought to light the weak spot in the Swiss character. Touching is the shame felt by these truehearted youths owing to the attitude of their country at the outset of the war. They are personally hurt by such surrenders of principle. In the strongest terms they censure the abdication of the Swiss soul at the time when Belgium was being invaded, noting with pain the absence of any national and public protest. But now there is a change of spirit. "We have a young and virile movement, the movement of those who are not satisfied with the mere existence of Switzerland, but who desire that Switzerland should prove herself worthy to exist, by her moral greatness and by helping to bring salvation to other peoples" (Schmidhauser). "The recognition of this duty will regenerate our national life" (Genevese section).

The practical difficulties are enormous, and must be frankly faced. Switzerland is in danger of being crushed in twofold fashion—military and economic. The fate of Belgium and the fate of Greece are plain warnings. She cannot forego her army, for this is a necessary safeguard of the ideal she represents. But this army, however large, does not and cannot suffice to avert economic pressure, which is an inevitable outcome of the existing system of society. We have, therefore, to draw the fatal conclusion that Switzerland is doomed should capitalist imperialism endure. For Switzerland neither can nor ought to come to terms with either group of allied powers. To take such a step would be to pass sentence of death upon herself. "Her existence is inseparably associated with the victory of the ideas of supra-national solidarity, of world-wide socialism, world-wide individualism, world-wide democracy." Grob boldly affirms: "To imperialist immoralism, with the device, 'Our interest is our right,' we counterpose, 'Right is our interest.'"

What are the leading tasks of Switzerland?

They are three: the universalisation of socialism; the universalisation of individualism; the universalisation of democracy.

1. World-wide Socialism.—The germ of this appears in the supra-national union which is the essential characteristic of Switzerland. But the young Zofingians are under no illusions, and they frankly denounce the faults of their own people. "We are far from being a nation of brothers....Our nation is divided: it is rent asunder by egoisms and imperialisms.... For every strong man who misuses his strength and his wealth, displays the spirit of imperialism" (A. de Mestral). This scourge must be vigorously combated. How? "By direct struggle with capitalism," says one (Alexander Jaques of Lausanne). "By organising solidarity," says another (Ernest Gloor of Lausanne). But the Swiss are fast bound, willy-nilly, to the social system of other nations, "to the international system of economic imperialism, the most abominable of all the internationalisms." It is therefore categorically incumbent upon the Swiss to devote themselves to furthering an active internationalism of social solidarity. They must enter into an understanding with anti-imperialists throughout the world. "It is necessary to promote the formation of an international group organised for the struggle against imperialist, absolutist, and materialist principles, simultaneously, in every land" (Chatenay).

2. World-wide Individualism.—We require a counterpoise to sociocracy. We must beware of any organisation, be it internationalist or pacifist, which claims to subjugate and atrophy the living forces of man. The political ideal is a genuine federalism which shall respect individualisms. As the old saying has it: Let everything be after its kind!

3. World-wide Democracy.—In this matter the students display perfect unanimity, for they have absolute faith in democracy. But with their customary scrupulousness, their dread of pharisaism, they admit that Switzerland is still far from being a true democracy. "To-day democracy is purely formal; in our own time the principle of true democracy is, in a sense, revolutionary."

They tell us some of their aspirations. They desire the democratic control of foreign policy. They want pacifism on a democratic basis. Almost universally in Europe, political power is in the control of a handful of men who embody imperialist egoism. The people must share this power. Each nation has the right to control its own destinies, in accordance with its own ideas and the dictates of its own will.

But once more, no illusions! With a clear-sightedness which is rare at this hour, these young men point out that "imperialism has become democratic," saying: "The western democracies, closely examined, are nothing more than the sovereignty of a capitalist and landowning caste."

The Russian revolution arouses new hopes. "The spectacle of the struggle between the two democratic revolutions in Russia, one capitalist and imperialist, the other anti-imperialist and socialist, illuminates the problem of democracy and imperialism. This spectacle shows the Swiss democracy its path and its mission." Above all, let Switzerland reject the new evangel, made in Germany, of a democracy supine before the will of a politico-economic power, a democracy which tends in home policy to class rule, and in foreign policy to imperialism! "We need a new orientation which shall deliver democratic thought from national restrictions, and from the sinister contemporary trend towards the reign of material force." True democracy, supra-national democracy, must take its stand against "imperialism masquerading as democracy."


The New Education.

This lengthy discussion leads up in the end to practical conclusions. Public education must be reorganised and must work in a new direction. The extant educational system suffers from a threefold inadequacy. 1. From the humanist point of view, it immures the mind in the study of remote epochs and past civilisations, and does nothing to prepare the pupil for the fulfilment of contemporary duties. 2. From the specifically Swiss point of view, it aims at creating a blind patriotism, which can neither enlighten nor guide the understanding; it monotonously reiterates the story of wars, victories, and brute force, instead of teaching liberty, instead of inculcating the lofty Swiss ideal; it cares nothing for the moral and material needs of the people of to-day. 3. From the technical point of view, it is abjectly materialist and militarist, and has no ideals. True, that there is a contemporary movement, and a strong one, in favour of what is called "national education," in favour of "the teaching of civics." But we must be on our guard! Here is a new peril. They would make a sort of state idol, despotic and soulless; they would make a state superstition, a state egoism, to which our minds are to be enslaved. Do not let us stoop to the lure. An immense task lies before us, and the Zofingerverein must lead the way. It must play its part in the fulfilment of the moral and intellectual mission of Switzerland. But not by isolating itself. It must never lose its feeling of solidarity of thought and action with other lands. It sends forth deeply-felt greeting to the "Gesinnungsfreunde," to the friends and companions in belligerent lands, to those young men who have fallen in France and in Germany, and to those who yet live. It must make common cause with them; it must work shoulder to shoulder with the free youth of the world. Julius Schmidhauser, president of the Zofingia, who chaired these discussions and subsequently summarised them, concludes with an Appeal to Brothers, an appeal to them that they shall have faith, that they shall act, that they shall seek new roads for a new Switzerland—for a new humanity.

* * * * *

I have thought well to efface myself behind these students. Were I to substitute my thought for theirs, I should lay myself open to the reproach which I so often address to my generation. I have let them speak for themselves. Any commentary would detract from the beauty of the sight of these enthusiastic and serious young people, in this most tragical hour of history, discussing their duties ardently and at great length, taking stock of their faith, and solemnly affirming that faith in a sort of oath of the tennis court.[35] We see them affirming their faith in liberty; in the solidarity of the peoples; in their moral mission; in their duty to destroy the hydra of imperialism, both militarist and capitalist, whether at home or abroad; in their duty to construct a juster and more humane society.

I give them fraternal greetings. They do not speak alone. Everywhere the echoes answer. Everywhere I see young people resembling them, and stretching forth friendly hands to their fellows in Switzerland. The vicissitudes of this war—a war which, endeavouring to crush free spirits, has but succeeded in making them feel the need for seeking one another out and for cementing unity—has brought me into close relationships with the young of all countries, in Europe, in America, and even in the east and the far east. Everywhere I have found the same communion of sufferings and hopes, the same aspirations, the same revolts, the same determination to break with the past whose malevolence and stupidity have been so plainly proved. I have found them all animated with the same ambition to rebuild human society upon new foundations, wider and more firmly laid than those which sustain the quaking edifice of this old world of rapine and fanaticism, of savage nationalities scorched by the war, rearing heavenward frames blackened by the fire.

June, 1917.

"demain," Geneva, July, 1917.




Here we have a pitiless mirror of the war. In that mirror the war is reflected day by day for sixteen months. It is a mirror of two eyes; they are clear, shrewd, perspicacious, and bold; they are the eyes of a Frenchman. The author, Henri Barbusse, dedicates his book: "To the memory of the comrades who fell by my side at Crouy and on Hill 119," during December, 1915. In Paris Le Feu was honoured with the Goncourt prize.

By what miracle has so truth-telling a work been able to appear unmutilated, at a time when so many free words, infinitely less free, have been censored? I shall not attempt to explain the fact, but I shall profit by it. The voice of this witness drives back into the shadow all the interested falsehoods which during the last three years have served to idealise the European slaughter-house.

* * * * *

The work is of the first rank, and is so full of matter that more than one article would be requisite to present its whole scope. All that I shall attempt to deal with here will be the chief aspects—its artistry and its thought.

The dominant impression it conveys is one of extreme objectivity. Save in the last chapter, wherein Barbusse expounds his ideas on social questions, we do not make the author's acquaintance. He is there among his obscure companions; he struggles and suffers with them, and from one moment to another his disappearance seems imminent; but he has the spiritual strength which enables him to withdraw himself from the picture and to veil his ego. He contemplates the moving spectacle, he listens, he feels, he touches; he seizes it, with all his senses on the stretch. Marvellous is the assured grasp displayed by this French spirit, for no emotion affects the sharpness of the outline or the precision of the technique. We discern here manifold touches, lively, vibrant, crude, well fitted to reproduce the shocks and starts of the poor human machines as they pass from a weary torpor to the hyperaesthesia of hallucination—but these juxtaposed touches are placed and combined by an intelligence that is ever master of itself. The style is impressionist. The author is prone, unduly prone in my opinion, to make use of visual word-plays after the manner of Jules Renard. He is fond of "artistic writing," a typically Parisian product, a style which in ordinary times seems to "powder puff" the emotions, but which, amid the convulsions of the war, exhibits a certain heroic elegance. The narrative is terse, gloomy, stifling; but there come episodes of repose, which break its unity, and by these the tension is relieved for a moment. Few readers will fail to appreciate the charm, the discreet emotion, of these episodes, as for instance in the chapter "On Leave." But three-fourths of the book deal with the trenches of Picardy, under the "muddy skies," under fire and under water—visions now of hell, now of the flood.

There the armies remain buried for years, at the bottom of an eternal battlefield, closely packed, "chained shoulder to shoulder," huddling together "against the rain which descends from the skies, against the mud which oozes from the ground, against the cold, an emanation from the infinite which is all-pervading." The soldiers uncouthly rigged out in skins, rolls of blanket, ... cardigans, and more cardigans, squares of oilcloth, fur caps, ... hoods of tarpaulin, rubber, weatherproof cloth ... look like cave men, gorillas, troglodytes. One of them, while digging, has turned up an axe made by quaternary man, a piece of pointed stone with a bone handle, and he is using it. Others, like savages, are making rough ornaments. Three generations side by side; all the races, but not all the classes. Sons of the soil and artisans for the most part. Small farmers, agricultural labourers, carters, porters and messengers, factory foremen, saloon keepers, newspaper sellers, ironmongers' assistants, miners—very few liberal professions are represented. This amalgam has a common speech, "made up of workshop and barrack slang and of rural dialects seasoned with a few neologisms." Each one is shown to us as a silhouette, a sharp and admirable likeness; once we have seen them we shall always know them apart. But the method of depiction is very different from that of Tolstoi. The Russian cannot meet with a soul without plumbing it to the depths. Here we look and pass on. The individual soul hardly exists; it is a mere shell. Beneath that shell, the collective soul, suffering, overwhelmed with fatigue, brutalised by the noise, poisoned by the smoke, endures infinite boredom, drowses, waits, waits unendingly. It is a "waiting-machine." It no longer tries to think; "it has given up the attempt to understand, it has renounced being itself." These are not soldiers, they don't wish to be soldiers, they are men. "They are men, good fellows of all kinds, rudely torn away from life; they are ignorant, not easily carried away, men of narrow outlook, but full of common sense which sometimes gets out of gear. They are inclined to go where they are led and to do as they are bid. They are tough, and able to bear a great deal. Simple men who have been artificially simplified yet more, and in whom, by the force of circumstances, the primitive instincts have become accentuated: the instinct of self-preservation, egoism, the dogged hope of living through, the lust of eating, drinking, and sleeping." Even amid the dangers of an artillery attack, within a few hours they get bored, yawn, play cards, talk nonsense, "snatch forty winks"—in a word, they are bored. "The overwhelming vastness of these great bombardments wearies the mind." They pass through a hell of suffering and forget all about it. "We've seen too much, and everything we saw was too much. We are not built to take all that in. It escapes from us in every direction; we are too small. We are forgetting-machines. Men are beings which think little; above all, they forget." In Napoleon's day every soldier had a marshal's baton in his knapsack, and every soldier had in his brain the ambitious image of the little Corsican officer. There are no longer any individuals now, there is a human mass which is itself lost amid elemental forces. "More than six thousand miles of French trenches, more than six thousand miles of such miseries or of worse; and the French front is only one-eighth of the whole." Instinctively the narrator is compelled to borrow his images from the rough mythology of primitive peoples, or from cosmic convulsions. He speaks of "rivers of wounded torn from the bowels of the earth which bleeds and rots unendingly"—"glaciers of corpses"—"gloomy immensities of Styx"—"Valley of Jehoshaphat"—prehistoric spectacles. What does the individual man amount to in all this? What does his suffering mean? "What's the use of complaining?" says one wounded man to another. "That's what war is, not the battles, but the terrible unnatural weariness; water up to the middle, mud, filth, infinite monotony of wretchedness, interrupted by acute tragedies."—At intervals, human groans, profound shudders, issue from the silence and the night.

Here and there, in the course of this long narration, peaks emerge from the grey and bloody uniformity: the attack ("under fire"); "the field hospital"; "the dawn." I wish I had space to quote the admirable picture of the men awaiting the order to attack; they are motionless; an assumed calm masks such dreams, such fears, such farewell thoughts! Without any illusions, without enthusiasm, without excitement, "despite the busy propaganda of the authorities, without intoxication either material or moral," fully aware of what they are doing, they await the signal to hurl themselves "once more into this madman's role imposed on each of them by the madness of mankind." Then comes the "headlong rush to the abyss," where blindly, amid shell-splinters hissing like red-hot iron plunged into water, amid the stench of sulphur, they race forward. Next comes the butchery in the trenches, where "at first the men do not know what to do," but where a frenzy soon seizes them, so that "they hardly recognise those whom they know best, and it seems as if all their previous life had suddenly retreated to a vast distance...." Then the exultation passes, and "nothing remains but infinite fatigue and infinite waiting."

* * * * *

But I must cut these descriptions short, for I have to consider the leading content of the work, its thought.

In War and Peace the profound sense of the destiny which guides mankind is ardently sought, and is found from time to time by the light of some flash of suffering or of genius, found by those few who, through breed or individual sensibility, have exceptional insight: for instance Prince Andrew, Peter Besuhov. But a great roller seems to have passed over the peoples of to-day, reducing all to a level. The most that can happen is that for a moment, now and again, there may rise from the huge flock the isolated bleating of one of the beasts about to die. Thus we have the ethereal figure of Corporal Bertrand, "with his thoughtful smile"—the merest sketch—"a man of few words, never talking of himself"; a man who could once only deliver up the secret of his anguished thoughts—in the twilight hour which follows the killing, just before he himself is killed. He thinks of those whom he has slain in the frenzy of the hand-to-hand fighting:

"It had to be done," he said. "It had to be done, for the sake of the future."

He folded his arms and threw up his head.

"The future!" he cried, all of a sudden. "Those who live after us—what will they think of these killings, ... these exploits, concerning which we who do them do not even know if they are to be compared with those of the heroes of Plutarch and Corneille or with the deeds of apaches!... For all that, mind you, there is one figure that has risen above the war, a figure which will shine with the beauty and the greatness of its courage."

I listened, writes Barbusse, bending towards him, leaning on a stick. I drank in the words that came, in the twilit silence, from lips which rarely broke silence. His voice rang out as he said:


The same evening, Marthereau, a humble territorial, whose face, bristling with hair, recalled that of a water-spaniel, is listening to a comrade who says: "William is a foul beast, but Napoleon is a great man." This same soldier, after groaning about the war, goes on to speak with delight of the martial ardour displayed by the only son left to him, a boy of five. Marthereau shakes his weary head, his fine eyes shining like those of a puzzled and thoughtful hound. He sighs, saying: "Oh, we're none of us so bad, but we're unlucky, poor devils all of us. But we're too stupid, we're too stupid!"

As a rule, however, the human cry from these lowly fellows is anonymous. We hardly know who has been speaking, for, often enough, all share in a common thought. Born out of common trials, this thought brings them much closer to the other unfortunates in the enemy trenches than to the rest of the world away there in the rear. For visitors from the rear, "trench tourists," for people in the rear, journalists "who exploit the public misery," bellicose intellectuals, the soldiers unite in showing a contempt which is free from violence but knows no bounds. To them has come "the revelation of the great reality": a difference between human beings, a difference far profounder and with far more impassable barriers than those of race: the sharp, glaring, and inalterable distinction, in the population of every country, between those who profit and those who suffer, those who have been compelled to sacrifice everything, those who give to the uttermost of their numbers, of their strength, and of their martyrdom, those over whom the others march forward smiling and successful.

One to whom this revelation has come, says bitterly: "That sort of thing does not encourage one to die!"

But none the less this man meets his death bravely, meekly, like the others.

* * * * *

The climax of the work is the last chapter, "The Dawn." It is like an epilogue, the thought in which returns to join the thought in the prologue, "The Vision," but enlarges upon that opening thought, just as in a symphony the promise of the outset is fulfilled at the close.

"The Vision" describes the coming of the declaration of war, shows how the tidings reached a sanatorium in Savoy, facing Mont Blanc. There, these sick men, drawn thither from all the ends of the earth, "detached from the affairs of the world and almost from life itself, ... as remote from their fellow-men as if they already belonged to a future age, look away into the distance, towards the incomprehensible land of the living and the mad." They contemplate the flood below; they watch the shipwrecked nations, grasping at straws. "These thirty millions of slaves, hurled against one another by guilt and by mistake, hurled into war and mud, uplift their human faces whose expression reveals at last a nascent will. The future is in the hands of these slaves, and it is plain that the old world will be transformed by the alliance one day to be made between those whose numbers and whose miseries are infinite."

The concluding chapter, "The Dawn," is a picture of the "flood below," of the lowland inundated by the rain, a picture of the crumbling trenches. The spectacle resembles a scene from the book of Genesis. Germans and French are fleeing together from the scourge of the elements, or are sinking pell-mell into a common grave. Some of these castaways, taking refuge on ridges of mud that stand up amid the waters, begin to awaken from their passivity, and a striking dialogue ensues between the sufferers, like the strophe and antistrophe in a Greek chorus. They are overwhelmed by excess of suffering. Even more are they overwhelmed, "as if by a yet greater disaster," by the thought that in days to come the survivors will be able to forget these ills.

"If only people would remember! If they would only remember, there would be no more wars."

Suddenly, from all sides, rises the cry: "There must never be another war."

Each in turn heaps insults upon war.

"Two armies fighting each other—that's like one great army committing suicide."

One suggests, "It's all right if you win." But the others make answer: "That's no good.—To win settles nothing.—What we need is to kill war."

"Then we shall have to go on fighting after the war?"—"Praps we shall."—"But praps it won't be foreigners we shall be fighting?"—"May be so. The peoples are fighting to-day to get rid of their masters."—"Then one works for the Prussians too?"—"Oh well, we may hope...."—"But we oughtn't to interfere with other folks' business."—"Yes, yes, we ought to, for what you call other folks' business is our own."

"What do people fight for?"—"No one knows what they fight for, but we know whom they fight for. They fight for the pleasure of the few."

The soldiers reckon up these few: "the fighters, those born to power"; those who say, "the races hate one another"; those who say, "I grow fat on the war"; those who say, "there always has been war and there always will be"; those who say, "bow your head, and trust in God"; the sabre-rattlers, the profiteers, the ghouls who batten on the spoils; "the slaves of the past, the traditionalists, for whom an abuse has the force of law because it is of old date."

"Such as these are your enemies quite as much as any of the German soldiers who now share your wretchedness. The German soldiers are no more than poor dupes odiously betrayed and brutalised, domesticated beasts.... But the others are your enemies wherever they were born, whatever the fashion in which they utter their names, and whatever the language in which they lie. Look at them in the heavens above and on the earth beneath! Look at them everywhere! Look well, till you know them, that you may never forget their faces!"

Such is the wail of these armies. But the book closes with a note of hope, with the unspoken oath of international brotherhood, what time a rift forms in the black skies and a calm ray of light falls upon the flooded plain.

* * * * *

One ray of sunlight does not make the sky clear, nor is the voice of one soldier the voice of an army. The armies of to-day are nations; and in such armies, as in every nation, there must doubtless conflict and mingle many different currents. Barbusse's story is that of a single squad, almost entirely composed of workers and peasants. But the fact that among these humble folk, among those who, like the third estate in '89, are nothing and shall be all,—that in this proletariat of the armies there is obscurely forming an awareness of universal humanity,—that so bold a voice can be raised from France,—that those who are actually fighting can make a heroic effort to ignore environing wretchedness and imminent death, to dream of the fraternal union of the warring peoples,—I find in this a greatness which surpasses that of all the victories, I find something whose poignant splendour will survive the splendour of battle. I find something which will, I hope, put an end to war.

February, 1917.

"Journal de Geneve," March 19, 1917.



Dedicated to the Heroic Onlookers in Safe Places.

In one of the scenes of his terrible and admirable book, Under Fire, a record of experiences in the trenches of Picardy, dedicated "To the memory of the comrades who fell by my side at Crouy and on Hill 119," Henri Barbusse depicts two privates going on leave to the neighbouring town. They quit the hell of mud and blood; for months they have been suffering unnamable tortures of body and mind; they now find themselves among comfortable bourgeois who, being at a safe distance from the front, are, of course, bursting with warlike enthusiasm. These carpet-heroes welcome the two men as if they had just returned from a wedding feast. No questions are asked concerning what goes on at the front. The soldiers are told all about it. "It must be splendid, an attack! These masses of men marching forward as to a revel; there's no holding them; they die laughing!" All that our poilus can do is to hold their tongues. One of them says resignedly to his companion: "They know more than you do about war and all that goes on at the front. When you get back, if you ever do, with your little bit of truth you will be quite out of it amid that crowd of chatterers."

I do not believe that when the war is over, when all the soldiers have returned home, they will so readily submit to being put in their places by these braggarts of the rear. Already the real fighters are beginning to speak in a singularly bitter and vengeful tone. Barbusse's book bears powerful witness to the fact.

We have other testimonies from the front, less known but no less moving. All of those to which I shall refer have been published. It is my rule, as long as the war lasts, to make no use of personal confidences, oral or written. Things I have been told by friends, known or unknown, are a sacred trust. I shall not use them without special permission, nor until the conditions make it safe. The testimonies I reproduce here have been published in Paris, under a censorship which is extremely strict in the case of the few newspapers that have remained independent. This proves that they describe things that are widely known, things which it is useless or impossible to conceal.

I leave the authors to speak for themselves. Comment is superfluous. The tones are sufficiently clear.

* * * * *

Paul Husson, L'Holocauste (a collection entitled Vers et Prose, published by F. Lacroix, 19 rue de Tournon, Paris, January 10, 1917).—This is the note book of a soldier from the Ile de France. The author "went to the front without enthusiasm, detesting war and devoid of martial ardour. As a soldier he did what all the others did."

p. 19. "In the name of what superior moral principle are these struggles imposed on us? Is it for the triumph of a race? What remains of the glory of Alexander's soldiers or of Caesar's? To fight, one must have faith. A man must have faith that he is fighting in God's cause, in the cause of some great justice; or else he must love war for its own sake. But we have no faith; we do not love war and we know nothing about it. Yet men fight and die believing neither in the cause of God nor in the great justice; men who do not love war, and who die none the less with their faces to the enemy.... Many, unawakened, go to their deaths without thinking; but others die with anguish in their hearts, anguish at the futile sacrifice and at their realisation of the madness of men."

p. 20. In the trenches. "Everyone was cursing the war, everyone hated it. Some were saying: 'Frenchmen or Germans, they are men like ourselves, they suffer as we do in body and in mind. Do not they, too, dream of the home-coming?' Passing through a village and seeing a man unfit for service because he had lost two fingers, the soldiers had said to him: 'You lucky devil; you needn't go to the war!'"

p. 21. "I am not one of those who believe in the coming of Beauty, Goodness, and Justice.... Nor am I one of those who regild the idols of the past, symbols of obscure forces which it behoves us to worship in silence. I am neither submissive nor a believer.—I love Pity, for we are unfortunates, and it does us good to be solaced, even if we be executioners and butchers. If we do not need consolation for the ills we are suffering, we need consolation for the ills we have done or shall do. We need solace because we have to make others suffer, to kill and be killed."

p. 22. "Lying prone, while the shells whistle overhead, I think. Die! Why should we die on this battlefield?... Die for civilisation, for the freedom of the nations? Words, words, words. We are dying because men are wild beasts killing one another. We are dying for bales of merchandise; we are dying for squabbles about money.—Art, civilisation, and culture are equally beautiful, be they Romance, Teutonic, or Slav. We should love them all!"

p. 59. "With Baudelaire, we detest the weapons of warriors.... The great epoch was the one in which we were living before the war. The flapping of the banners, the long files of soldiers, the roaring of the guns, and the blare of the bugles—these things cannot inspire us with admiration for collective murder and for the monstrous enslavement of the peoples.... Young men lying to-day in your graves, they strew flowers on your tombs and proclaim you immortal. What to you are empty words? They will pass even more quickly than you have passed! It is true that, in any case, within a few years you would have ceased to be. But these few years of life would have been your universe and your strength."

* * * * *

Andre Delemer, Waiting (leading article in the fourth issue, dated March, 1917, of the review "Vivre," edited by Andre Delemer and Marcel Millet, 68 boulevard Rochechouart, Paris).

"If the patriarch of Yasnaya Polyana had been granted a few additional years, superadded to a life already long and full of grief, he would have shuddered before the tragedy of the younger generations. Tolstoi was a man of infinite compassion, and his heart would have been torn with suffering as he contemplated our fate, the fate of those who were suddenly thrust into this colossal war, those who had proclaimed their love for life, those whose faith in the future had seemed an infallible talisman, those who had fervently uttered this great cry of vital affirmation:

"'To live out our youth'—how poignant is the irony of these words; what vistas do they suddenly evoke! All the happiness we have failed to secure, the joys of which we have been deprived, because one evening the order came to us to shoulder our rifles! In twenty years' time people will write about what we have suffered, a suffering which may be compared with the Passion; but we die daily. One galling privilege is ours, that we have lived through a convulsion, that we have been the ransom of past errors and a pledge for the tranquillity of the future. This mission is at once splendid and cruel; simultaneously it exalts and revolts; for the spasm through which we are passing wounds us and immolates us!... To-day the poor quivering refuse raked from the furnace knows all the bitterness of the laurels. Such pride as we retain makes it impossible for us to accept an illusory and transient glory. We know the falsity of attitudinising, and we have probed the emptiness of certain dreams. The fire has licked up the scenery, has reduced the tinsel to ashes. We are now face to face with ourselves, perhaps more fully awakened, certainly more sincere and more disillusioned, for we have secret wounds to heal and great sufferings to lull in the shade! The passing of the days is like wormwood in the mouth.... How painful will be the transition, and how numerous will be the waifs! Already a fresh anguish oppresses our minds; it is this that will afflict when the day comes for the return of those who are still fighting. Terrible will be the anguish as we gaze upon the ruins and the dead encumbering the battlefields! How it will cramp the young wills and annihilate the fine courage of their souls! Troubled and confused epoch, wherein men will be doggedly seeking safer roads and less cruel idols!...

"Young man of my generation, it is you of whom I think as I write these lines, you whom I do not know, though I know that you are still fighting or that you have returned broken from the trenches. I have met you in the street, wearing an almost shamefaced air, doing your best to conceal some infirmity; but in your eyes I have read the intensity of your inward agony. I know the terrible hours through which you have lived, and I know that those who have endured like trials end by having like souls.... I know your doubts; I share your uneasiness. I know how you are obsessed with the question, 'What next?' You, too, are asking what can be seen from the heights, and what is going to happen. I understand your 'What next?'—'To live!' You sing this straight to the hearts of all of us. 'To live!' You embody the cry of our cruel epoch. I have heard this cry, simple yet tremendous, from the lips of the wounded who were aware of the oncoming footsteps of victorious death. I have heard it in the trenches, murmured low like a prayer.—Young man, this is a grievous hour. You are a survivor from the ghastly war; your vitality must affirm itself; you must live. Stripped of all falsehoods, freed from every mirage, you find yourself alone in your nakedness; before you stretches the great white road. Onward, the distance beckons. Leave behind you the old world, and the idols of yesterday. March forward without turning to listen to the outworn voices of the past!"

* * * * *

In the name of these young men and their brothers who have been sacrificed in all the lands of the world engaged in mutual slaughter, I throw these cries of pain in the faces of the sacrificers. May the blood sting their faces!

"Revue mensuelle," Geneva, May, 1917.




In an earlier article I referred to the writings of certain French soldiers. After Under Fire, by Henri Barbusse, L'Holocauste by Paul Husson and the poignant meditations of Andre Delemer gave expression to their touching and profoundly human cry. In place of the scandalous idealisations of the war, manufactured far from the front—crude Epinal images, grotesque and false—they give us the stern face of truth, they show us the martyrdom of young men slaughtering one another to gratify the frenzy of criminal elders.

I wish to-day to make known another of these voices, more acerb, more virile, more vengeful, than the stoical bitterness of Husson and the despairing tenderness of Delemer. It is that of our friend Maurice Wullens, editor of "Les Humbles, the literary review of the primary school teachers."

He was severely wounded, and has just been given the war cross with the following honourable mention:

"Wullens (Maurice), soldier of the second class in the eighth company of the seventy-third infantry regiment, a good soldier to whom fear was unknown, dangerously wounded during the defence, against a superior force, of a post which had been entrusted to him."

In "demain," for August, 1917, we find the wonderful story of the fight in which this man was wounded and was then given brotherly help by the German soldiers. As he lay gasping, in expectation of the death-blow, a lad leaned over him smiling, holding out a hand, and saying in German, "Comrade, how do you feel?" And when the wounded man doubted his enemy's sincerity, the latter went on: "Oh, it's all right, comrade! We'll be good comrades! Yes, yes, good comrades." The tale is dedicated:

"To my brother, the anonymous Wuertemberg soldier who, in Grurie Wood, on December 30, 1914, withheld his hand when about to slay me, generously saved my life;

"To the (enemy) friend who, in Darmstadt hospital, cared for me like a father;

"And to the comrades E., K., and B., who spoke to me as man to man."

* * * * *

This soldier without fear and without reproach, returning to France, discovered there the braggart army of the scribblers at the rear. Their venom and their stupidity infuriated him. But instead of taking refuge, like many of his comrades, in disdainful silence, he did what he had always done, and turned bravely to the attack upon "a superior force." In May, 1916, he became editor of a small magazine, entitled "Les Humbles," but which somewhat belies its name by the ruggedness of its accents and by its refusal to allow its voice to be stifled. He boldly declares:

"Emerged from the whirlwind of the war, but still struggling in its eddies, we do not propose to resign ourselves to the environing mediocrity, to content ourselves with the servile utterance of official platitudes.... We are weary of the daily and systematic stuffing of people's heads with official pabulum.... We have not abdicated any of our rights, not even our hopes."[37]

Each issue of the magazine was a fresh proof of his independence. At this juncture, reviews edited by young thinkers were springing up everywhere from among the ruins. That of Wullens took the leading place, owing to his force of character and his indomitable frankness.

He found a great friend in Han Ryner, who amid the European barbarians, amid the prevailing chaos, exhibits the calm of an exiled Socrates. Gabriel Belot, the engraver, another sage, who, knowing nothing of mental discord or ill-will, dwells on the Ile St. Louis as if the two beautiful arms of the Seine sheltered him from the troubles of the world, lights up the most sombre of articles with the peace of his radiant designs.[38] Other friends, younger men, soldiers like Wullens, rallied to support him in the struggle for the truth. For instance, Marcel Lebarbier, poet and critic.

The most recent issue of "Les Humbles" contains excellent work. Wullens begins with a tribute to the rare French writers who have shown themselves during the last three years to be free-spirited humanists: to Henri Guilbeaux and his periodical "demain";[39] to P. J. Jouve, author of Vous etes des hommes and of Poeme contre le grand crime, whose sympathetic spirit vibrates and trembles like a tree to the wind of all the pains and all the angers of mankind; to Marcel Martinet, one of the greatest lyricists whom the war (the horror of the war) has brought forth, the writer of Temps maudits, a poem which will for ever bear witness to the suffering and the revolt of a free spirit; to Delemer, that moving writer; and to a few recently founded magazines. The editor of "Les Humbles" goes on to clear the ground of what he terms "the false literary vanguard," telling the chauvinist writers what he thinks of them. This lettered poilu, a blunt fellow, does not mince matters:

"I have come from this war whose praises you are singing—I who write.... I have my honourable mention, my war cross: I never wear it. I spent seven months as a war prisoner, before being sent home incapacitated by my wound. I could flood you with war anecdotes. I have no desire to do anything of the kind. Nevertheless I am writing a book on the war. I compress into it all that my heart has felt, all that one man has suffered during these months of unspeakable horror, and likewise all the joy he experienced when he came to perceive, by rare flashes of light, that humanity still lives, that kindliness still exists, on both sides of the Rhine, the world over. You, M. B., sing 'The war in which it is beautiful and sweet to die for our country!' All those who have faced this death will tell you that while it may have been necessary, it was neither beautiful nor sweet.—You glorify the sublime and tattered tricolour: blue is the blouse of our workmen; white is the cornette of our splendid sisters of charity.... You will excuse me for cutting you short before coming to the red, for my unaided memory here suffices me: the red blood of my wounds flowing and clotting on the frozen mud of Argonne that terrible morning in December, 1914; the red mud of pestilential slaughter-houses; the shattered heads of dead comrades; mangled stumps irrigated with peroxide solution so that the living corruption was half hidden by bloodstained foam; red visions glimpsed everywhere in these ghastly and tragical days, you chase one another through the mind tumultuous and hateful. Like the poet, I would fain say, 'A very little more and my heart would break!'"

To bring his philippic to a close he quotes another soldier-author, G. Thuriot-Franchi, who, in the same fighting style, with no pretty phrases and with no concealments, compels these Hectors of the study to swallow their boasts:[40]

"Men who are too young or too old, poets in pyjamas, jealous doubtless of the strategists in slippers, regard it as their duty to be lavish in patriotic song. The trumpets of rhetoric blare; invective has become the chosen method of argument; a thousand blue-stockings, under cover of the Red Cross, when one chats with them out strolling, make a parade of spartan sentiments, amazonian impulses. Whence the plethora of sonnets, odes, stanzas, etc., in which, to speak the jargon of the ordinary critic 'the most exquisite sensibility is happily wedded to the purest patriotism.'—For God's sake leave us alone; you know nothing about it; shut up!"

Thus does a soldier from the front imperiously impose silence upon the false warriors of the rear. If they are fond of the "poilu" style, they will find plenty of it here. Those who have just been looking death in the face have certainly earned the right to speak the plain truth to these "amateurs" of death—the death of others.

"Revue mensuelle," Geneva, October, 1917.




Art is stained with blood. French blood, German blood, it is always the Man of Sorrows. Yesterday we were listening to the sublime and gloomy plaint which breathes from Barbusse's Under Fire. To-day come the yet more heartrending accents of Menschen im Krieg (Men in Battle). Although they hail from the other camp, I will wager that most of our bellicose readers in France and Navarre will flee from them with stopped ears. For these tones would be a shock to their sensibilities.

Under Fire is more tolerable to these carpet-warriors. There reigns over Barbusse's book a specious impersonality. Despite the multitude and the sharp outline of the figures on his stage, not one of them has a commanding role. We see no hero of romance. Consequently, the reader feels less intimately associated with the hardships recounted on every page; and these hardships, like their causes, have an elemental character. The immensity of the fate which crushes, lessens the agony of those who are crushed. This war fresco resembles the vision of a universal deluge. The human masses execrate the scourge, but accept it passively. Under Fire growls forth a threat for the future, but has no menace for the present. Settling-day is postponed until after peace has been signed.

In Men in Battle, the court is sitting; mankind is in the witness-box, giving testimony against the butchers. Mankind? Not so. A few men, a few chance victims, whose sufferings, since they are individual, appeal to us more strongly than those of the crowd. We follow the ravages these sufferings make in tortured body and lacerated heart; we wed these sufferings; they become our own. Nor does the witness strain after objectivity. He is the impassioned pleader who, just delivered panting from the rack, cries for vengeance. The writer of the book now under review is newly come from hell; he gasps for breath; his visions chase him; pain's claws have left their mark upon him. Andreas Latzko[42] will, in future days, keep his place in the first rank among the witnesses who have left a truthful record of Man's Passion during 1914, the year of shame.

* * * * *

The work is written in the form of six separate stories, united only by a common sentiment of suffering and revolt. There is no logical plan in the arrangement of the six war episodes. The first is entitled "Off to War"; the last, "Home Again." Between, we have "Baptism of Fire," a picture of wounded men; and "A Hero's Death." The centre piece is devoted to "The Victor," the great general, the master of the feast, the responsible and beflattered chief. In the last three stories, physical pain exposes its hideous countenance like that of Medusa mutilated. The two opening stories deal with mental pain. The hero of the centre piece sees neither the one nor the other; his glory is throned on both; he finds life good, and war even better. From the first page to the last, revolt mutters. But on the last page revolt culminates in a murder; a soldier, back from the front, kills a war profiteer.

I give an analysis of the six stories.

"Off to War" (Der Abmarsch) has for its scene the garden of a war hospital in a quiet little Austrian town thirty miles from the front. It is an evening late in autumn. The tattoo has just sounded. All is quiet. From afar comes the sound of heavy guns, as if huge dogs were baying underground. Some young wounded officers are enjoying the peace of the evening. Three of them are talking gaily with two ladies. The fourth, a Landsturm lieutenant, in civil life a well-known composer, sits gloomily apart. He has had a severe nervous shock, and is utterly prostrated, so that not even the arrival of his fair young wife enables him to pull himself together. When she speaks to him, he is unmoved. When she tries to touch him, he draws irritably away. She suffers, and cannot understand his enmity. The other woman takes the lead in the conversation. She is a Frau Major, a major's wife, who spends all her time at the hospital and has acquired there "a peculiar, garrulous cold-bloodedness." She is surfeited with horrors; her endless curiosity gives the impression of hardness and hysterical cruelty. The men are discussing, what is "the finest thing" in the war. According to one of them the finest thing is to find oneself, as this evening, in women's company.

"....For five months to see nothing but men—and then all of a sudden to hear a dear woman's clear voice! That's the finest thing of all. It's worth going to war for."

One of the others rejoins that the finest thing is to have a bath, a clean bandage, to get into a nice white bed, to know that for a few weeks you are going to have a rest. Number three says:

"The finest thing of all, I think, is the quiet—when you've been lying up there in the mountains where every shot is echoed five times, and all of a sudden it turns absolutely quiet, no whistling, no howling, no thundering—nothing but a glorious quiet that you can listen to as to a piece of music! The first few nights I sat up the whole time and kept my ears cocked for the quiet, the way you try to catch a tune at a distance. I believe I even shed a tear or two—it was so delightful to listen to no sound."

The three young men tease the last speaker good-naturedly, and they all laugh together. Every one of them is intoxicated by the peace of the sleeping town and the autumn garden. Every one of them wants to make the most of his time, to lose nothing, "to take everything easily with his eyes tight shut, like a child before it enters a dark room."

Now the Frau Major breaks in, breathing more quickly as she speaks:

"...But, tell me, what was the most awful thing you went through out there?"

The men purse up their lips. This theme does not enter into their program. Suddenly a strident voice speaks out of the darkness:

"Awful? The only awful thing is the going off. You go off to war—and they let you go. That's the awful thing."

A glacial silence follows. The Frau Major makes a bolt for it, to escape hearing the sequel. On the pretext that she has got to get back into the town, and that the last tram is just leaving, she takes with her the unhappy little wife, to whom the husband's words have come as a veiled reproach. The officers are left alone, and one of them, hoping to change the current of thought in the sick man's mind, passes a friendly compliment upon the wife's appearance. The other springs to his feet and says in a fury: "Chic wife? Oh, yes. Very dashing!... She didn't shed a tear when I left on the train. Oh, they were all very dashing when we went off. Poor Dill's wife was, too. Very plucky. She threw roses at him in the train, and she'd been his wife for only two months.... Roses! He, he! 'See you soon again!' They were all so patriotic!..."

He goes on to recount what happened to Dill. Poor Dill was showing to his comrades the new photograph his wife had sent him, when an exploding shell sent a boot flying against his head. In the boot was the leg of a cavalryman who had been blown to pieces many yards away. On the boot was a great spur which stuck into Dill's brain. It took four of them to pull the boot out, and a piece of brain came away with the spur, looking "just like a grey jellyfish." One of the officers, horrified by the tale, rushed away for the doctor. The latter, on arrival, tried to coax the sick man to go in:

"You must go to bed now, Lieutenant...."

"Must go, of course," repeated the lieutenant emphatically, heaving a profound sigh. "We must all go. The man who doesn't go is a coward, and they have no use for a coward. That's how it is. Don't you understand? Heroes are in fashion now. The chic Madame Dill wanted a hero to match her new hat. Ha, ha! That's why poor Dill had to have his brains spilled. I must go; you must go; we must all go to die.... The women look on, plucky, because that's the fashion now...."

He gazed round questioningly.

"Isn't it sad?" he asked softly. Then, in a fury once more, he cried:

"Weren't they humbugging us?... Was I an assassin? Was I a swashbuckler? Didn't I suit her when I sat at the piano playing? We were expected to be gentle and considerate! Considerate! And all at once, because the fashion changed, they wanted us to be murderers. Do you understand? Murderers!"

Speaking now in a lower tone, he went on plaintively:

"My wife was in the fashion too, of course. Not a tear! I kept waiting, waiting for her to begin to weep, to beg me to get out of the train, not to go with the others—beg me to be a coward for her sake. But none of them had the pluck to do that. They all wanted to be in the fashion. Mine too! Mine too! She waved her handkerchief, just like the others."

His twitching arms writhed upwards, as though he were calling the heavens to witness.

"You want to know what was the most awful thing? The disillusionment was the most awful thing—the going off. The war wasn't. The war is what it has to be. Did it surprise you to find out that war is horrible? The only surprising thing was the going off. To find out that women are cruel—that was the surprising thing. That they can smile and throw roses; that they can give up their husbands, their children, the little boys they have put to bed a thousand times, tucked up a thousand times, have fondled, have created from their own flesh and blood. That was the surprise. That they gave us up—that they sent us—actually sent us. For every one of them would have been ashamed to stand there without a hero. That was the great disillusionment.... Do you think we should have gone if they had not sent us? Do you think so?... No general could have done anything if the women hadn't allowed us to be packed into the trains, if they had screamed out that they would never look at us again if we became murderers. Not a man would have gone if they had sworn never to give themselves to one who had split open other men's skulls or shot and bayoneted his fellows. Not one man, I tell you, would have gone. I didn't want to believe that they could stand it like that. 'They're only pretending,' I thought. 'They're just holding themselves in. But when the whistle blows they'll begin to scream, and tear us out of the train, and rescue us.' That one time they had the chance to protect us. But all they cared about was to be in the fashion!..."

He broke down, and collapsed once more on to the bench. He began to weep. A little circle of people had formed round him. The doctor said gently:

"Come, come, Lieutenant, let's get along to bed. Women are like that, you know, and we can't help it."

The sick man leapt to his feet in a rage.

"Women are like that? Women are like that? Since when? Since when? Have you never heard of the suffragettes who boxed the ears of ministers of state, who set museums on fire, who chained themselves to lamp-posts, all for the sake of the vote? For the sake of the vote, do you hear? But for the sake of their men? Nothing!"

He paused to take breath, overwhelmed with a throttling despair. Then, fighting with sobs, like a hunted beast, he cried out:

"Have you heard of one woman throwing herself in front of the train for the sake of her husband? Has a single one of them slapped a statesman's face, or tied herself to the railway lines, for our sake? Not one has had to be saved from such desperate courses.... The whole world over, not one of them has moved a finger for us. They drove us forth! They gagged us! They gave us the spur, like poor Dill. They sent us to murder, they sent us to die—for their vanity. Are you going to defend them? No! They must be plucked out. Like weeds, they must be torn up by the roots! You must pull four at a time, as we had to do with Dill. Four of you together, then you'll get her up. Are you the doctor? There! Do it to my head! I don't want a wife! Pull—pull her out!"

He struck himself on the head with his fist. He was dragged into the house, howling at the top of his voice. Soon the garden was empty. By degrees the lights were extinguished and the noise was stilled, except for the distant artillery fire. The patrol which had helped to take the madman back into the hospital repassed, with the old corporal in the rear, hanging his head. From afar off came the flash of an explosion, followed by a prolonged rumbling. The old man stood still, listened, shook his fist, spat disgustedly, and muttered:

"Oh, Hell!"

I have given lengthy extracts from this story, for I wished to convey a notion of the author's pulsating, vibrant, and impassioned style. There is more of the drama here than of the novel, and an elemental fierceness like that of Shakespearean drama. It would be well if these pages, so profound in the bitterness of their injustice, were to become widely known. It would be well if the poor women who, in all love as a rule, adopt a superhuman pose, could be made to realise, by means of this madman's outpourings, the secret thoughts which no man will dare to tell them, to understand the mute and almost shamefaced appeal to their poor human kindliness, to their simple and motherly compassion.

* * * * *

I shall deal more briefly with the other episodes.

The second, "Baptism of Fire" (Feuertaufe), is long, perhaps too long, but full of pity and of pain. Almost the whole scene is played within the soul of Captain Marschner, a man of fifty, who is leading his company to the front-line trench under the enemy's fire. He is not a professional soldier. As a young man he had been an officer, but at the age of thirty he had gone to school again, wishing to quit the trade of war and to become a civil engineer. Now the war had brought him back to the army. He had been in Vienna only the day before yesterday. His men were fathers of families, stonemasons, peasants, factory hands, and so on. None of them had any patriotic enthusiasm. He read their minds, and felt ashamed of himself because he was leading to certain death these poor fellows who trusted him. Beside him marched Weixler, a young lieutenant, cold, ruthless, inhuman—as one so often is at twenty years of age "when one has had no time yet to learn the value of life." The hardness of this man (an irreproachable officer) arouses in Marschner mingled anger and suffering. By degrees a fierce but unspoken feud arises between them. At the very end, just when open war is about to break out between the two, a huge shell bursts in their trench and both are buried under the wreckage. The captain comes to himself with a shattered skull. At a few paces' distance lies the implacable lieutenant, his entrails trailing on the ground beside him. They exchange a last look. Marschner sees a face that is almost strange to him, pale and sad, with timid eyes. The whole expression is gentle and plaintive; there is an unforgettable air of tender, anxious resignation.

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