Here, as in our war graveyards in France, no religious dogma or supernatural hope intrudes upon the little wooden crosses. On these, for the most part, you can read only the bare conventional attributes of each little handful of dust, which has passed through its quivering agony into the still sleep of decay,—its name and regiment, its civilian home, the place and date of its death. A few have more than this. Here lie the two brothers Bellina in one grave, with a cross at their head and another, rougher and larger, at their feet, announcing simply, “I due fratelli,” “the two brothers.” And here is a tombstone engraved with an anchor, for one who, very early in the war, was hit while fording the Isonzo in face of the enemy’s fire. “Al Pontiere Guazzaro Giuseppe che valorosamente sfidando le infide acque dell’ Isonzo cadeva colpito dal piombo nemico. 25 Giugno 1915." And here is another inscription, typical of that Latin sense of comradeship, which is more articulate, though not necessarily more profound, than ours. “Sottotenente Arcangeli Antonio, con commossa memoria,” the officers of his Battery, “il loro orgoglio infinite qui eternano.” “In deeply moved remembrance they here place upon eternal record their infinite pride in him.” It is poor stuff in English, but a vivid and quite natural tribute in Italian.
[Footnote 1: “To the Sapper Giuseppe Guazzaro, who fell, while bravely defying the treacherous waters of the Isonzo, struck down by an enemy bullet, 25th June, 1915.”]
Where the sun went down, the sky was a sea of rose red and golden green, studded with little long islands of dark cloud, and on the edge of this sea the evening star twinkled like a tiny illumined boat, dancing, a blaze of light, upon the waves. To left and right the cloudbanks were a deep purple blue, fast fading into the dim warm grey of an Italian night. East and north the mountains that bound the plain, silent witnesses of Italy’s great struggle, were hidden in the dusk, and the cypress sentinels stood up sharp and black against the darkening sky. The band had ceased to play and one heard only the chirp of grasshoppers, and across an orchard the soft sound of Italian speech, and the distant song of two soldiers in the village street. But the warm air, which just now was throbbing with a military march, seemed to be throbbing still with an aching longing that happier days may come swiftly to this land of beauty and pain, so that the sacrifice of all these dead shall not be wholly waste.
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Not many miles away, as the sun was setting, an Austrian shell burst in a British Battery, and three hours later through the dark under faint stars an ambulance lorry brought to us the bodies of four British gunners, whose dust will mingle with Italian dust, under Italian skies, for ever.