War Poems

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Read Books, 2008 - Poetry - 100 pages
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INTRODUCTION. Too much can never be said in praise of the generous beauty of the gesture with which the youngest generation of Englishmen, just emerging on the golden threshold of life, have greeted the sacrifice of their hopes and ours. It has filled our history with new and magnificent figures which mill excite the enthusiasm and awaken the gratitude of our race for centuries to come. But while we admire this miraculous courage of the very youthful paladins of the mar, something should still be reserved for the praise of those who had been brought face to face with the illusions of peace-time and who had, if we may say so, got into the habit of not being soldiers, but who yet, at the call of duty, sprang to the height of their disinterested patriotism. The poet whose verses me collect to-day was one of those who might well believe that their age absolved them from an active part in the profession of arms. EIe was, indeed, above the limit thcn set upon military service when the declaration of war disturbed him among his books and his flowers. Nothing in his past life had prepared him for such an activity. He was, as he said himself, a dreamer, yet when the call to national duty came, he suddenly awoke, as a sleeper under the trumpet, to the utmost activity of enterprise, This. is a case of the class of heroism which is most easily ignored, and which it is yet stupid and ungrateful of us to undervalue. Here we are invited to contemplate an aspect of the higher ener, ay, even in the martial order, which is not included among the roses and myrtles of sweet two and twenty. Vernkdes attitude towards t, he war is worthy of particular notice, because the nature of his occupations and tasteshad led him to his fortieth year without any predilection for military matters and without any leaning to what are called Jingo views. But when once the problem of the attack of Germany on the democracy of the world was patent to him, he did not hesitate for a moment. He accepted, completely and finally, the situation. Nor did he ever doubt the righteousness of the cause of the Allies, nor hesitate in his conviction that it must be conducted to victory with full resolution. A few weeks before his death he wrote, in terms of scrupulous courtesy, to a pacificist who had asked leave to include England to the Sea in an anthology designed to exclude verses which might contribute to a continuation of ill-feeling between the various nations. To this visionary, VernPde replied - Not for generations to come will there be any need to fan the embers against a people whose rulers have found logic in brutality and have urged their I own necessities as an excuse for oppression. I do not think there is much hatred out here in France among our fighting men, but there will be memories among those who have seen what Kultur has inflicted on their comrades. I believe that if we had been fighting against men less filled with this logic of devilry, the mere horrors of modern war mould have brought about a peace. Whatever historians or statesmen may make of it...

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