THE KING AMONG THE WAR GRAVES.
But much, as we all know, has happened since then to blunt those feelings and to obscure that motive. The War itself became a horror so unrelieved that men were much more sensible of the grossness, the agony, the mad- ness, and the brutal ugliness of it all than of the nobility which caused Englishmen to go through such sufferings. Then followed the bickerings, the intrigues, and the dis- illusionment of the Peace. High ideals mouldered into cynicism. President Wilson's principles seemed at first so righteous that, to judge by the reception they had, they might have been written on tables of stone and brought down from a mountain glowing with the divine radiance. But when the conflicting passions and the rival interests had done their work upon these ideal prin- ciples a world was left to us that was not after all settled. Those who had gone into the War with incentives as pure as those of any saint who ever buckled on his armour were accused of having made war only to triumph over their enemies, to enlarge their own borders and to grab for themselves more power and more wealth.
This succession of disillusionments had a strange and perverse, though possibly a natural, effect upon the young generation of Englishmen, and indeed upon the youth of all countries. Disenchantment was supreme. Young men laughed carelessly and said . bitter or flippant things in order to disguise their chagrin. They hastened to laugh at everything for fear of being obliged to weep. And so it has come about that it is almost the fashion to talk of our record in the War as though it had been, after all, nothing to be proud of ; as though it had been merely a kind of frenzied aberration, and as though _the nations, without clear distinction of motive, had had a discreditable night out and must now gaze with the sobriety of the morning on their unfortunate lapse. The speech in which the King spoke in thelanguage of ,deep but simple feeling recalls us to the real facts. We repeat our most profound conviction that it was essential for us to go into the War ; that we should have been utterly untrue to ourselves and to all that we believe and practise if we had not done so ; and that when we had gone into it the great duty was nobly performed to the bitter end. " Samson hath quit himself like Samson."
" Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wall Or knock the breast ; no weakness, no contempt, Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair."
The King's speech had about it something of that form and spirit which we associate with French memorial addresses. That is to give it very high praise. It ap- proached the subject not in the grand manner, but with grand feelings. It had form and solemnity and a fine ceremonial sense. The surroundings were worthy of the occasion—the proximity of the monument to Napoleon, whom the King described as " the greatest of all soldiers," the English Channel near by, the Stone of Remembrance facing England across the sea, the Cross of Sacrifice looking with its great bronze sword towards the old German lines, and the serried rows of uniform graves which give you the impression that you are in the presence of a great army asleep in its ranks. What could have been better than the following words I- " They lie in the keeping of a tried and generous friend, a resolute and chivalrous comrade-in-arms, who with ready and quick sympathy has set aside for ever the soil in which they sleep, so that we ourselves and our descendants may for all time reverently tend and preserve their resting-places."
Or again :— " As our dead were equal in sacrifice, so are they equal in honour, for the greatest and the least of them have proved that sacrifice and honour are no vain things, but truths by which the world lives."
Much better because much more profitable than the mood of flippant disenchantment was the emotion with which the King said " I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war. And I feel that, so long as we have faith in God's purposes, we cannot but believe that the existence of these visible memorials will eventually serve to draw all peoples together in sanity and self-control, even as it has already set the relations between our Empire and our Allies on the deep- rooted bases of a common heroism and a common agony."
We may well be grateful to the King for a speech which, whileit was memorable in itself and for its purpose, was also significant in reminding us of much that has been forgotten and in correcting much fashionable and unworthy thinking. Finally, the speech was valuable because it expressed the true bond-.--the bond which can never be broken—between ourselves and France. We need not pretend that because there is this bond everything which France does is right and that we owe to the maintenance of the bond the sacrifice of any principle of ours which France happens to dislike. Rather the truth is that because there is this unbreakable bond we can behave to the French as to brothers and tell them frankly, and without the subtle and fearful adjustments of those who are doubtful of their ground, our inmost thoughts and our most cherished ideals for the future of the world.