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“Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”

MATTHEW xii.

“For shoulders curved with the counter stoop will be carried
erect and square;
And faces white from the office light will be bronzed by the
open air;
And we’ll walk with the stride of a new-born pride, with a
new-found joy in our eyes;
Scornful men who have diced with death under the naked skies.

“For some of us smirk in a chiffon shop, and some of us teach
in a school;
Some of us help with the seat of our pants to polish an
office stool;
The merits of somebody’s soap or jam some of us seek to explain;
But all of us wonder what we’ll do when we have to go back
again.” R. W. SERVICE.

What of the harvest? It is coming, perhaps sooner than we expect, perhaps not for many weary months. But the reaper is even now sharpening his sickle in readiness, and what of the crops?

Into No Man’s Land have gone alike, the wheat of honest endeavour and hardship well borne, and the tares of class hatred and selfishness. Had ever reaper nobler task in front of him than the burning of those tares and the gathering of that wheat into the nation’s barn? . . .

In the Chateau at Boesinghe, where the moss is growing round the broken doors and the rank weeds fill the garden, with the stagnant Yser hard by; in Ypres, where the rooks nest in the crumbling Cloth Hall and a man’s footsteps ring loud and hollow on the silent square; in Vermelles, where the chalky plains stretch bare towards the east, and the bloody Hohenzollern redoubt, with the great squat slag heap beside it, lies silent and ominous; in Guillemont and Guinchy, where the sunken road was stiff with German dead and no two bricks remain on top of one another; on Vimy Ridge, in Bullecourt and Croisilles, in all these places, in all the hundred others, the seed has been sown. What of the harvest?

If I have made of war a hideous thing unredeemed, repulsive the picture is not consciously exaggerated. As far as in me lies I have drawn the thing as I have seen it.

But after the lean years, the fat; after the hideous sowing, the glorious aftermath.

The more one thinks of it, the more amazing does the paradox become the paradox of cause and effect. To fit these civilians of Britain for all the dirty details which go to make winning or losing, to fit them for the business of killing in the most efficient manner, the tuition must include the inculcation of ideals more, the assimilation of ideals which are immeasurably superior to any they learned in their civilian life. At least so it seems to one who makes their acquaintance when they first join up. In their civilian life self ruled; there, each individual pawn scrambled and snarled as he pushed the next pawn to him under or went under himself as the case might be in his frenzied endeavour to better himself, to win a little brief authority! The community was composed of a mass of struggling, fighting units, each one all out for himself and only himself.

But from the tuition which the manhood of Britain is now undergoing, there must surely be a very different result. Self no longer rules; self is sunk for the good of the cause for the good of the community. And the community, realising that fact, endeavours, by every means in its power, to develop that self to the very maximum of which it is capable, knowing that, in due course, it will reap the benefit. No longer do individual pawns struggle one against the other, but each developing his own particular gift to the maximum places it at the disposal of the community who helped him in his development. And that is the result of so-called militarism British militarism.

Surely what has been accomplished in the Army can be carried into other matters in the fullness of time. I am no prophet; I am no social reformer to speak of ways and means. All I can say with certainty is that I have seen them come in by hundreds, by thousands these men of our country now fighting in every corner of the globe resentful, suspicious, intolerant of authority. I have seen them in training; I have seen the finished article. And the result is good: the change for the better wonderful.

It cannot be that one must presuppose such a hideous thing as this war to be necessary, in order to attain such results. I cannot believe it. There must be some other method of teaching the lessons of playing for the side and unselfishness. The spurred culprits of Mr. Wells’ imagination have given a lead over the fence; surely all the rest of the field is not going to jib.

And when the harvest does come in, when the sickle is finally put to the crop, there will be such an opportunity for statesmanship as the world has never before seen.

Winnowed by the fan of suffering and death, the wheat of the harvest will shed its tares of discord and suspicion. The duke and the labourer will have stood side by side, and will have found one another men. No longer self the only thing; no longer a ceaseless growse against everybody and everything; no longer an instinctive suspicion of the man one rung higher up the ladder. But more self-reliant and cheery; stronger in character and bigger in outlook; with a newly acquired sense of self-control and understanding; in short, grown a little nearer to its maximum development, the manhood of the nation will be ripe for the moulder’s hand. It has tasted of discipline; it has realised that only by discipline for the individual can there be true freedom for the community; and that without that discipline, chaos is inevitable. Pray heavens there be a moulder a moulder worthy of the task.

“Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

He will have grand clay that moulder: clay such as has never been known before. Its God will be the God of Reality, its devil the Devil of Pretence. Just as it has ceased to look at Death through a haze of drawn window-blinds and frock-coats redolent of moth-balls, so it will cease with scorn to look at some of the clumsy sophistries of modern life through the rose-tinted spectacles so kindly provided for the purpose by men of great vocal, and correspondingly small mental, power.

Out of the evil, good will come: surely it must be so. In the wisdom of the Infinite Power, madness has been let loose on the world. The madness was not of our seeking. It was hurled upon us by a race whose standards are based on bombing or crucifying their prisoners, and eating their own dead; on sinking unarmed liners and murdering an odd woman or two to fill in time; and finally though perhaps last on the list of witticisms from a material point of view, almost first from that of contempt of crucifying an emaciated cat and stuffing a cigar in its mouth. A race without an instinct of sport, without an idea of playing the game. Gross and contemptible they bluster first, and then they whine; and the rare exceptions only make the great drab mass seem even more nauseating. . . .

But the crushing of that race will have been hard, the sacrifices great. And even so will the results of those sacrifices be great. Of social problems I am, as I have said, not qualified to speak; indeed of any of the great problems of reconstruction it would be presumption on my part to hold forth.

It is not for the soldier to see visions and dream dreams: there are others more fitted, more suited to the task. It is of the individual I have written; it is to the individual I dedicate the result of my labours.

I remember meeting a Padre one day several months ago. He was conjuring at a concert for an Infantry Battalion that evening between the forefinger and thumb of the right hand you now perceive a baby giraffe sort of business and I told him I thought it was very good of him to take the immense amount of trouble he always did to amuse the boys.

“Good!” His face expressed genuine amazement. “Good! To these boys! I tell you, when I think of what the ordinary private soldier is doing for me aye! and for all of us who are not in the Infantry I just stand quite still and take off my hat.”

And so I have written of the individual. Inadequately it is true, and with a due sense of my short-comings in attempting the task, I have written of the men I have met and lived with across the narrow sea. Not of armies and army corps, not of divisions and brigades, but of the units the individual men who form them. For it is the man we know. It is the man who has suffered and endured, the man who touches our laughter and our tears. He has given his all, unstintingly, unsparingly; and now, perchance, he lies peaceful and at rest in the land where the seed has been sown; perchance he will come back to the country he has fought for when the final reckoning is over. And whichever it is the quiet, solitary grave with the cross above it and the wild flowers blooming freshly underneath the crumbling walls of a town that was; or the taking up again of the work so long neglected the office or the ranch, the railway in Yukon or the rubber in Malay whichever it is, he has played the great game well. To him the great reward. . . .

And the women? the women who have suffered and endured with their men more than their men. To some the great reunion, the blessed feeling that it is over. Never again will he go into the great unknown; never again that clutching terror of the telegraph boy. He has come back, and there shall be no more parting. The joy bells will be ringing out: the war will be over won.

Thus shall it be for some.

And for the others. . . .

It is not for me to comfort: there are things too deep for the written word. Only one thing I say, and I say it with a full sense of its pitiful inadequacy. When the joy bells do ring out, and in the ringing seem to mock so hideously the empty chair, the voice for ever silent, then in that bitter moment, remember one thing. Somewhere or other, in the Soldier’s Valhalla, he is waiting for you waiting with a trusty band of friends, happy, contented, proud. He was glad to pay that final price; he knows now, where all is clear, that it was necessary. He would have you know it too. . . .

For except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die. . . .