Unhappy Far-Off Things eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 37 pages of information about Unhappy Far-Off Things.
it, and under that an inch of a bright red stone.  We are looking then at a road—­a road through a village trodden by men and women, and the hooves of horses and familiar modern things, a road so buried, so shattered, so overgrown, showing by chance an edge in the midst of the wilderness, that I could seem rather to have discovered the track of the Dinosaur in prehistoric clays than the highway, of a little village that only five years ago was full of human faults and joys and songs and tiny tears.  Down that road before the plans, of the Kaiser began to fumble with the earth, down that road—­but it is useless to look back, we are too far away from five years ago, too far away from thousands of ordinary things, that never seemed as though they would ever peer at us over chasms of time, out of another age, utterly far off, irrevocably removed from our ways and days.  They are gone, those times, gone like the Dinosaur; gone with bows and arrows and the old knightlier days.  No splendour marks their sunset where I sit, no dignity of houses, or derelict engines of war, mined all equally are scattered dirtily in the mud, and common weeds overpower them; it is not ruin but rubbish that covers the ground here and spreads its untidy flood for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

A band plays in Arras, to the north and east the shells go thumping on.

The very origins of things are in doubt, so much is jumbled together.  It is as hard to make out just where the trenches ran, and which was No-Man’s-Land, as it is to tell the houses from garden and orchard and road:  the rubbish covers all.  It is as though the ancient forces of Chaos had come back from the abyss to fight against order and man, and Chaos had won.  So lies this village of France.

As I left it a rat, with something in its mouth, holding its head high, ran right across the village.

The Real Thing

Once at manoeuvres as the Prussian Crown Prince charged at the head of his regiment, as sabres gleamed, plumes streamed, and hooves thundered behind him, he is reported to have said to one that galloped near him:  “Ah, if only this were the real thing!”

One need not doubt that the report is true.  So a young man might feel as he led his regiment of cavalry, for the scene would fire the blood; all those young men and fine uniforms and good horses, all coming on behind, everything streaming that could float on the air, everything jingling then which could ever make a sound, a bright sky no doubt over the uniforms, a good fresh wind for men and horses to gulp; and behind, the clinking and jingling, the long roll of hooves thundering.  Such a scene might well stir emotions to sigh for the splendours of battle.

This is one side of war.  Mutilation and death are another; misery, cold and dirt; pain, and the intense loneliness of men left behind by armies, with much to think of; no hope, and a day or two to live.  But we understand that glory covers that.

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Unhappy Far-Off Things from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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