And now, as the appetite for blood grows ever stronger—and nothing waxes more fast—we have stories of the treatment of prisoners. Here is a point where our attention should be most concentrated and our action most prompt. It is the just duty which we owe to our own brave soldiers. At present the instances are isolated, and we will hope that they do not represent any general condition. But the stories come from sure sources. There is the account of the brutality which culminated in the death of the gallant motor cyclist Pearson, the son of Lord Cowdray. There is the horrible story in a responsible Dutch paper, told by an eyewitness, of the torture of three British wounded prisoners in Landen Station on Oct. 9.
The story carries conviction by its detail. Finally, there are the disquieting remarks of German soldiers, repeated by this same witness, as to the British prisoners whom they had shot. The whole lesson of history is that when troops are allowed to start murder one can never say how or when it will stop. It may no longer be part of a deliberate, calculated policy of murder by the German Government. But it has undoubtedly been so in the past, and we cannot say when it will end. Such incidents will, I fear, make peace an impossibility in our generation, for whatever statesmen may write upon paper can never affect the deep and bitter resentment which a war so conducted must leave behind it.
Other German characteristics we can ignore. The consistent, systematic lying of the German press, or the grotesque blasphemies of the Kaiser, can be met by us with contemptuous tolerance. After all, what is is, and neither falsehood nor bombast will alter it. But this policy of murder deeply affects not only ourselves but the whole framework of civilization, so slowly and painfully built upward by the human race.
“HE DIED FOR ENGLAND.”
[Inscription on the tombstone of a private soldier, recently killed in action.]
These four short words his
Sublimely simple, nobly plain;
Who adds to them but addeth chaff,
Obscures with husks the golden grain.
Not all the bards of other days,
Not Homer in his loftiest vein,
Not Milton’s most majestic strain,
Not the whole wealth of Pindar’s lays,
Could bring to that one simple phrase
What were not rather loss than gain;
That elegy so briefly fine,
That epic writ in half a line,
That little which so much conveys,
Whose silence is a hymn of praise
And throbs with harmonies divine.
By Eden Phillpotts