THE MAN [in a clear but broken monologue]:...the bells...bells...but even across the world one seems to hear the guns answer them. The guns...the bells...both monsters with mouths of iron...both made by man...it seems strange, but the monsters that bellow out blessings and peace...they were made in ages of war. And the monsters that bellow out curses and death...they are made most and best in our age which we call a time of humanity and progress. I wonder if the time will come when Science will be remembered only for its iniquities, as we of the North remembered Catholicism only by the Inquisition? The tourist's guide points to the Iron Virgin and says in effect, "That is Popery." Will some future tourist's guide point to the torpedo and say "That was science"?...But the bells keep it up...the guns must be louder...the guns shake the stars...but the bells keep it up. Beleaguered, outnumbered, besieged by the modern world, they make some short of show. For the guns are the great bells in the Cathedral of the Devil...and the bells are the guns in the Tower of God.
[He leans further over the parapet.]
One...two...three...as fast as those ripples can rush by, soul after soul is at this moment rushing into eternity...some shot dead, some out of an age of agony. All that each man might have been suddenly made impossible...How badly we humanitarians always put the case against killing. We always dwell on wounds and blood and torment and corpses...the world does not care about them, and the world is right. The ugliness of war does not make it bad any more than the ugliness of a Baptist Chapel makes that bad. We must all be carrion. A dead philanthropist is no prettier after three days than a dead Cossack. To die of liver complaint is as revolting as to die by a shell...but the stoppage of what might have been...the ending of youth. O! we are idiots. We ought not to talk about blood and broken limbs and decay. We ought to talk about strength and festivals and flowers. We ought not to talk about what death brings- that is only a heap of clay and bones, to be seen in any dustbin: there is nothing frightful about that. We ought to talk about what death takes away, the roads of the great world, the endless human faces, the beautiful corners, the still and startling sun. A shot produces a corpse- what is that to say? But say that a shot puts out the sun and stars and makes a million adventures impossible, wipes out a song that might have been sung, a witty word that might have been said...We all feel that with a sudden pain. The weakness of the Peace attacks on war is one of the hundred instances of the failures of realism. What fools we are to say, "Ivan was blown into twenty-three pieces. This is a fact. Who cares?" We ought to say, "Ivan met the most beautiful woman, as he thought, in the world three days afterwards. This is a fable. He might have done so had not the fact blown him to bits." If my friends the Humanitarians really wish to make killing unpopular, it is no good for them to denounce and dissect death. They must praise life. If I had my way the Peace lectures and the Peace pamphlets should be full, not of the bad things that did happen, but of the good things that did not happen. If I had my way there should be nothing in The Humanitarian, or in Concord, except descriptions of the flowers and firelight of the untroubled life of men.
-Time's Abstract and Brief Chronicle (1904-1905)
Post a Comment