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the queries, nay certainties, concerning Patriotism, Unanimity, Self-Sacrifice and Waste. One knew such subjects were there; one knew there was a question called War; but covered it all over with other thoughts, more agreeable to one’s private contemplation and fitter for exhibition to one’s friends. Nowadays I find little else to think about, or rather cannot keep my mind from them; they alone are of the uninviting stuff reality has shown itself to be once war had ploughed up its thin specious surface.
Yes, indeed ; this crop of thoughts for which war’s ravages have made room, and which war’s abominations have so richly manured, is rank and harsh, sometimes nettle-stinging to the touch ; its flowers, like those of unsymbolic weeds, are inconspicuous or colourless, without sweetness or savour, sometimes offensive to our delicate nostrils; nor is there among them anything like the aromatic rock-growths, wild rosemary and lavender, of more classic climates. They are thoroughly unattractive. But such thoughts root deep in the bona fide soil, mud or shale, of life. The very bitterness of them suggests their possessing medicinal virtues. The very fact of their hardy readiness after so much rooting out by man’s senti~ mental selection, suggests that they embody something— how shall I express it ?—well ! nearer nature, closer to what Browning no doubt meant by the nether springs; hence conveying possible lessons of what nature really is ; what the real chemistry underlying our spiritual life may be, and what the soil, or if you prefer so to call it, the mud of Reality, in which even the noblest life must needs root. It is something in their favour, I mean in favour of such thoughts and facts as these notes set forth, that people have rarely imitated them in paper for the adornment either of altars or of the hats ladies display at social gatherings. At least such has not been the fashion hitherto, and I should be sorry to set a new one in this respect. Indeed, perhaps in proportion to the very aversion lurking at the bottom of my optimistic late-Victorian heart for such—shall we say ?-——realistic modes of thinking, I seem bound to recognize that all future gardening or tillage of life (though not life’s paper floriculture !) will have to be based upon notions like these which the war has brought up in my ravaged little plot, as in that, no doubt, of many of my neighbours. Such war-thoughts may perhaps teach us to keep our peace-gardens sweet with less waste for self and others. They may, I cannot but hope, provide us with hardier stocks whereon to graft the over-costly, the artificial and unstable, flowers and fruits of such happiness and hope as we have hitherto enjoyed.
Dropping this long metaphor, let me explain that I have put these unattractive essays as notes to my, alas, not overattractive play, in case some younger readers, or some readers whom the war has rejuvenated in its horrible Medea-cauldron, may, if the play have met their new views, find the same sort of thing more methodically thought out and more prosaically set forth.
There still is, there must long be, so much of self-delusion about the main subject of my symbolical war-play, that I have to face the chance of turning out to have been as deluded about it all as the people with whose convictions I happen to disagree.
One point, however, there is on which no one can deny that I do see matters as they are, namely, the offence which the contents of this volume have already given and are likely to give for yet a while. And unfortunately to many of my friends.
I seem to see how all I have written and said about the war must appear from the point of view of those puzzled or disapproving friends of mine. Nay, every now and then I have seemed to enter into the fullness of their feelings against me and the few persons whose attitude about the war I shared. I have been subject to occasional moments of what I call to myself“ illumination,” moments of realizing the inconceivableness, the ugliness, almost the monstrosity of my hostile aloofness as it must have appeared to those participating in the war with hand and heart. Indeed, I may have realized this much more vividly than the very friends with whose eyes I was, at those moments, looking; since none of us ever bulk so large and visible in other people’s eyes as in our own. I know and feel how they would have looked upon me if this had not, mercifully, been so. This has been the case more or less unremittingly in a dull, la'tent way, with every now and then an acute crisis of actual and sometimes overwhelming imaginative participation in their astonished grief or anger at my attitude. And yet, while all this has been going on, never for a second have I repented or distrusted my own attitude ; never for a second wished my attitude might be different. My position about the war seems as entirely natural and inevitable given me, as I recognize and feel theirs to be given them. As they feel in the right, so also do I. The more I think over our respective positions, the more I understand both, and their unavoidable opposition. Also how utterly impossible it would be, so long as the war went on, to make my view seem otherwise than so much heartless wrongheadedness to those friends of mine. The experiences and habits of mind from which my attitude results are often remote, complicated and by no means always orthodox. Moreover, there is at the bottom of it a large share of what is merely negative, a minus in my case of influences, dogmas, associations and habits inwhichthose friends have steeped so ever-since-always as scarcely to be aware of them at all, or aware, when aware, only as that odd vagueness called “ nature.” Now it is according to such complexes (as modern psychology calls them) .of past experiences and influences, of present interests, habits, hopes and fears, that all of us interpret the obvious facts striking on our senses and feelings. Like the rest of us, I can, of course, see that the sun disappears in the west and reappears in the east, just as if it really did turn round the earth, climb to the zenith and plunge below the horizon. Nor can I demonstrate to others that it does no such thing; that they themselves, the earth on which we are standing, are doing that going round. They feel that they and the ground under them are not moving ; by which I mean that all the belligerent peoples equally have felt that, as the Kaiser said about himself, they did not want the war. Just as they see the sun in various definite positions as regards themselves, so also did they see their countryinvaded or threatened, sons and brothers killed, hideous calamities pressing against them. How can the war have been otherwise than wantonly willed by villainous enemies? How can the sun be otherwise than charioting above and below, round and round, the earth ? The difference between my friends’ (and equally my former friends’, in the “Enemy Camp”) view and my own is that between the Ptolemaic and Copernican conception of Man’s soul and Man’s affairs. The people with whom I disagree about the war and who disapprove of me, are, as it seems to me, ego-amtric and subjected to the optical illusion of the her: and the now, that optical illusion which is corrected once we get as far off aswe now are from the Gallophobia of Burke and Nelson and even of Carlyle ; once we have moved on to a different here and to a different now, and can compare and discount temporary perspectives.
But here and now mean feeling. And though, when implying action it can inflict suffering on others, feeling
can also suffer in itself. Already when writing against
religious delusions (or what to me seem to be such), I grew aware that when religion is no longer able to brandish the temporal sword or threaten social excommunication against the heretic, it yet retains a minor hold upon that heretic’s fears. The unbeliever, no longer maltreated for his unbelief,
hurtsthose who do not share it, and shrinks with reverent cowardice from inflicting the pain he may see in the believer’s face, and may almost feel in his own sympathizing nerves. Similarly with the war, only much more so. Those whose opinions and attitude are orthodox about it have, in my eyes, been abetting, fostering and sometimes bringing about, the most abominable calamity of all historic times. I recognize this all quite clearly, unhesitatingly. But I recognize at the same time that their own multifold sacrifice, and their consequent belief in that sacrifice’s holiness, renders them sensitive to the smallest show .of impiety or even scepticism towards a belief thus consecrated by their prodigious-willing martyrdom. During four long years of our short human life, they have been killing and mutilating, starving, ruining and widowing their thousands and hundreds of thousands ; devastating the world no less with hatred and hatred’s falsehoods. For that is war. But I have feared to hurt their feelings ; and I grieve to have done so.
And this brings us back to my Ballet of the Nations and what it stands for. I have become aware that even in its earliest fragmentary published version, it has offended some of the people I can least endure offending. And even if they had not told me, I should know wherein the chief offence resided. gs “;W e know ourselves " (such is the spoken or unspoken tenor ofuglvtheir blame), “ we know ourselves to be taking part in the greatest and most willing sacrifice ever brought for what to us is the greatest of all conceivable objects. We are freely, spontaneously, deliberately and passionately offering our lives, and the lives which are more to us than our own, along with everything which gives life its sweetness, in what to us is a vast contest between righteousness and villainy, honour and dishonourableness, liberty and servitude, future order and future lawlessness. We know that we are doing even more ; we know that we are for this purpose grasping the weapons and methods we hold most in abhorrence. We who loathe war are making war against those