war prose the labours and heart searchings of the six or seven million of the rest of us who did not die but suffered ‘for the most part in France’.
And somehow, oddly, it is good that that memorial should be obscure and little and pretty and mostly ignored. Because, if it were an immense, vainglorious mass of stone, it would be less a symbol of the better world that those deaths and those unchronicled heartsearchings and sufferings have given us. For us who voluntarily fought the war was one to end what was called jackbooting in the world. And jackbooting is ended. There is no potentate or head of a nation now who thinks that the rattle of the sabre or a gesture indicating heavy artillery parked in hundreds of thousands can advantage himself or his peoples. Enormous gestures, swank, vast expenditures on ostentation have mostly gone and for a million victorious dead you affix to a dark wall – a little, pretty tablet. I do not think that those dead who are now all-wise would have it altered.
And I wish that that consciousness that – whatever the material depression of today – the moral advantage that we have gained is enormous and possibly even eternal – I wish that that proud consciousness might be more the note of England today and that it might be the dominant thought in the minds of those who in London will devote their couple of minutes’ silence to those memories.
I cannot afford to commit myself to this apparently vainglorious utterance because my contacts with England are now practically non-existent and because I have thought of little else for, let us say, sixteen years now... for the most part in a France which is safe through our efforts. The action of England on that day of a fifteen years ago August was the proudest and finest action that, on the large scale, History has to record and it has been justified of itself, if only because it, by that, achieved the right to affix its totally inadequate and yet so tremendously fitting, small, glowing object in the shadowy recesses of a foreign and oblivious shrine. It was Gambetta who said: ‘N’en parlez jamais; pensez y toujours.’23
23 Léon Michel Gambetta (1838–82), republican politician who led the attempt to defend
France against Prussia in 1870: ‘Speak of it never, think of it always.’