And then, with a great and well-disciplined effort, I pulled my thoughts together, and said to myself, “Enough of these musings of the peace-time soldier!”
LAST THOUGHTS ON LEAVING ITALY
On the 3rd of December I passed out of Italy, after eighteen months spent as a soldier within her borders. These eighteen months will always be lit up for me by the memory of a great comradeship between men of Allied nations. We have lived together through the dark days and the sunshine, through sorrow and joy, through uncertainty and defeat to final victory.
I have been very fortunate in my personal relations in Italy. I have found always among Italians, both civilian and military, and from simple soldier to General, the most open friendliness, the most unsparing kindliness, the most happy spirit of good fellowship. And on my journey home I closed my eyes and imagined myself back once more at Venice in full Summer, and at Milan, and at hospitable Ferrara, and at Rome in the Spring, and on the shores of the Bay of Naples, and out on Capri, and in the wonder world of Sicily,—and always among friends. And then my steps went back in fancy to the battlefields, where our guns had been in action. I saw again the great peaks and the precipitous valleys of the Trentino. I saw the wreck of liberated Asiago, ringed round with mountains whose sides were clothed with shattered pine trees, heavy with snow, and I went down once more by that astounding mountain road from Granezza to Marostica, with the Venetian Plain and all its cities spread out beneath my feet, and Venice herself on the far horizon, amid the shimmer of sunshine on the distant sea. I stood again on the bridge at Bassano, looking up the Val Brenta, with Monte Grappa towering above me on my right hand, and then turning south-eastward across the level plain I heard again the rushing waters of the Piave and, crossing to the farther side, passed through Conegliano, burnt out and ravaged, and Vittorio Veneto, a name that will resound for ever, to the broken bridge over the Meduna, east of Pordenone, and the village of Nogaredo, whither I came as one of its first liberators. And, as in a dream, I saw Udine, unspoilt and radiant as she was fifteen months ago, before Caporetto, and poor little Palmanova, as I last saw her, wreathed in the black smoke of her own burning, and the cypresses and the great church of Aquileia and the lagoons of Grado.
Then the flying feet of memory carried me beyond the Isonzo, up the wooded slopes of San Michele, where the dead lie thicker, and along the Vippacco, running swiftly between banks thick with acacias, and among the ruined suburbs of Gorizia, up towards those desolate lands, which for future generations of Italians will be, I think, the holiest ground of all,—the bare summit of Monte Santo, and the mountain-locked tableland of Bainsizza, and the rocky, inexorable Carso.