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Two Men - One Memorial


stiletto_33853
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The O.C. (Garton) and I have, during the last week, held a series of duets, wherein one says that the Army is a very stupefying concern and leads one's mind to an entirely vegetable state, and the other says, 'Yes, it's awful: we must do something about it'. Nothing very much has come of this yet, but we have made violent abd curious resolutions; how we will read books during the winter, solid, indegestible books into which one must get one's mental teeth, books with backs, lettered, blue and important, books the very sight of which will restore our self-respect. Philosophy is all the talk in the proposals, and we mentioned Pragmatism the other day, and I felt the Man's protest and warned myself, 'Now, not too much jargon about "what works".' This intellectual renaissance contains some great moment with regard to 'Love in the valley'. __G. was the first to quote it, but then he can quote stans pede in uno for 'duration'; and Rupert B., but I told you about that. Also I was persuaded to read Bealby. And though the style of that work is lamentable and its tale irksome, it really marks a big change, for years I've read nothing, nothing!!..........

(1) Delville Wood.

(2) As seen in Westmorland.

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To C.A. Alington.

Camp, behind trenches somewhere.

Sept. 13, 1916.

Now, thank you a thousand times for your great letter. Yes, I agree about the hymn(1) : it is the one that matters, and, thank God, so many men here entirely feel the truth of the first two lines, whatever else they may believe. They must, I think: it is so much less trouble, if only that occurs to them as a reason!

(1) No. 535 in Hymns A and M.

Lord, it belongs not to my care

Whether I die or live.

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To H.E.E. Howson.

A Camo.

Sept. 13, 1916.

Herewith, two letters of the Man. One is a great letter written before his attack, the other one is one I got in April; it is very good and very typical, but I fear one page is missing.

As for the Division in the last show, I told you, I think, that all the big men said wonderfully good things of it, which is gratifying. By the time you het this, it will have received the biggest compliment(1) of all; please tell C.A.A. and Worcester, as, though I have told them, they will like to hear again, and letters are irregular and slow just now.

C.A.A. has been awfully good, and sent me out books in reply to my appeal. You were good enough to offer the same, Man, more than once, and if there were not reasons of space in my valise, I would have accepted long ago. Over a month ago, though, we had to lighten our kits before we went into the Push, and that explains why we have little to read. He sent me Clifton School Addresses, by one Irwin, to-day, and Chance, and Biglow Papers, none of which I know. If all goes well, we have been thinking of reading more in the future; I believe Boswell or Miltary History are indicated. Man, if I write later, will you send me a heavy, edifying work on M. History or Tactics? I feel very ignorant and stupid on this business, and there may be a chance of mending!!

Shrewsbury will, I suppose, be beginning again soon after you get this, and as I wrote in my diary, among a ist of good things, there will be Autumn Mists, and new faces, and new books, and the sound of early football.......All that is very good, and the Man would have liked to have watched a match with me out here, for it would have been full of memories.

Not that I think he has forgotten!

(1) This refers to the attack which took place two days later.

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To His Father.

B.E.F.

Sept.14, 1916.(1)

You have, no doubt, by now got my letter explaining more or less. But in any case there is no need to add more, as I told Mum, except that I love you all very, very dearly, and that I believe, as I have said before, that it is good to be here.

(1) The Day before his death.

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DIARY.

E.H.L.S.

July 25,1916.

It was July 13, noon, when I got Phiz's letter that the Man was missing; July 14, before I got a letter written in reply. It was hard, because I seemed incapable of what I called an attitude about our Man; it was a terribly egotistical effort, that letter, but all I could do seemed to me to be honest. Well, I could not feel the sort of mourningful triumph which is apt to associate itself with some losses - other people's especially (!); not yet, anyhow. Nor was it any good, the other extreme - 'A complete knockout'. Nor when, as I said, 'I thought of many brave men, and told myself I must be very stout-hearted. The Man is dead: carry on.' For, at that, I merely laughed at myself. Was it not all out of a book and quite insincere? Or, I thought, with a great thrill of tears, as I paced that little garden near the _______, full of every summer scent that went so near the Man's heart, should I just write on a p.c. 'credo'? Rather good, had I dared; yet I think, somehow, I would rather make that claim, the only one that really matters in this life, after all, to myself than announce it as a fact (though I di suggest it to Phiz).

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I am so tired now (it is July 25), that I cannot make out a recollection of what else I said. But I remember saying to Ronnie in a letter that the sort of physical effort of thrusting away unpleasant feelings (as over bad sights of war, for example) seemed to be making itself felt here, half mechanically. One seems to treat all feelings alike and push them, or rather try to push them, aside; and that, without regard to the true nature of the feelings in question. Andy just because semi-physical, so this effort tires, undoubtedly. I should add that both Phiz and Ronnie wrote wonderful, wonderful letters; and I think the answer to his promise in his closing sentence is not being witheld.

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Ah, no: it is my last evening in this line (7.30 p.m. July 27): things may be going to happen. There cannot be any more faltering over him. In God's great arithmetic, said I to my father in a recent letter, 1 + 1 in sorrows do not make 2. Surely, surely, if all the world is not wrong, I must think 'All's well with our Man', after all. He knows too now, I most deeply believe, he has found at last his music, his art, and his loves; and I think, through all my sorrows, of him reaching down to his faltering friend, not without prayer that I, too, may somehow find sight, to see which it is written for me to go, and neither to doubt nor to complain any more at all.

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Night, July 27 - 28. Move.

We led on quickly by the north gate and out at once, so as to avoid dawn on the open road. But it was daylight when we got up and out, though the mist prevented any harm resulting from that. It was only about 5 miles, and as always, always, thank God, I recovered completely and gloriously with the dawn. (Cf. the 18 mile route march at night on the Plain.) So much so, that I had to embark on a needless and vehement row with K.P. over the breakfast question in the big billet. This was silly: but less so was the fact that I decided to get on my own (and not make people cook) in the village. This I did in a little cottage over thye Scarpe, but not before I had a glorious little bathe in the river. I only took a short header and out-swim, owing to the long march ahead and the heat, but it was wonderfully reviving. By now I had fairly reached 'to-morrow', though!

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To His Father.

B.E.F.

Sept.14, 1916.(1)

You have, no doubt, by now got my letter explaining more or less. But in any case there is no need to add more, as I told Mum, except that I love you all very, very dearly, and that I believe, as I have said before, that it is good to be here.

(1) The Day before his death.

Thta's quite alst message.

Marina

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Grand Rullecourt

July 28.

A day of tremendous heat. It was always hot, hot; and strange thirst, for most of the men, caused a great deal of discomfort and a few fall-outs. We had a long halt for dinner somewhere near Hauteville in a field, and I discovered again the merits of the Army stew on a hot day. But we were all very distinctly tired when we reached G.R.; I perhaps rather particularly, after pulling by his rifle an acting corporal, who had got rather done up by the heat. There, at last, lay the old village of the snows, all dusty in the sun; and though we had not time or energy to pilgrim to the old billet where Songer, Coulson, Irving, Elliott and myself talked Browning and gramaphone music of an evening, yet we did not forget to remember some good days when I had not yet, even once, lost the command of the Company.

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Candas: before going to Buire.

By the Railway.

Aug. 7, 1916.

There remains the high bank on which I lie behind the lines, and a perfectly idle afternoon, on which to watch from it that kind of mation which is notoriously the most exciting - the to and fro of heavy trains. One such has just gone by; sacred I think to the R.F.A., for most of the uncountable trucks had one of those remarkable soldiers at least on board them, in various attitudes of repose. Repose, certainly; though few but soldiers would find it so. In one there were men stretched gloriously asleep on the floor, seen through the half-open door; while over them, and nearly on them, stood their animals tethered and patient, with the kind of silent wonder on their faces which one is accustomed to find in pictures of the Nativity. Repose, certainly, in the G.S. wagons, which, packed on the trucks, carried a gunner or two on the front seat exalted very high, and serene in air with cigarette and magazine. Repose, too, I devoutly hope, for the animals as well; but eight horses to a wagon is a tight fit, I fear, and made no less so by the spurious label 'Moutons', which ridiculously stands on their carriage wall. There: that train is gone, with its endless rows of trucks, and its serene look of rest from the land of the 'Push'; and we are left without a train (a moving one, anyhow) to watch. 'We' are a goodly crowd for what is known as 'one tactical train'.

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We are not at all perturbed by the delay; at least, I think not: I know of one officer ahoe (after his manner) is loving it. The rest of two Battalions are stretched before me, about four deep among the rails, and I do not think they are in undue hurry. A R.F.C. car dashes up beyond the rails, and a D.L.R.S. (cyclist), or whatever he is, whizzes down the road behind my head. Aeroplanes, of course, come (with their kind of coquettish curtsying, peculiar to their kind when infantry are about), to see the trains and their loads; a Red Cross car flits in and out of the station; Frenchman wander down the line in shirt-sleeves and white trousers, or in a blue tunic and forage cap.

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But nowhere is there much of a hurry, thank God. It is true the guns are pelting away somewhere or other; but nobody cares. The sun shines over our shoulders, and it is the infantryman's day out. Every moment sees him, indeed, a thought more comfortable; and as I write, he is already beginning to get his tea.

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August 28.

The line I took was a very ordinary one, and was merely to the effect that I did not at all regard the science(1) as nonsense - it would be silly to say that one who had been recommended to it by Sir Silver Lodge! - but that, till it advanced further, I did not like the idea of my friends burning their fingers; using the figure of a new surgical operation. A selfish and unliberal view, probably, but at present I do not see past it. I did also say one or two things, with no very certain voice, about the faith.........

We were tired when we detrained at God knows where for a three mile march, and the men were glad to get down to yet another bivouac. Tea was got for them, somehow,, and they were allowed to sleep in peace for a good time: and so were we. H.G. and I lived in the wee room by the yard, where the gunners came to drink cider of an evening (how good it all sounds from here, behind the wood, and how little we appreciated our tremendously good fortune!), and the others in a bivouac. And all the while the lovely river ran behind the trees, full, full of Wiltshire and the Downs, with an adorable weir by which, one grand morning, I sat with that copy of old Lamartine, borrowed from the village schoolmaster - ah, but that must be returned, please God!

(1) Physical Science.

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And there it was that the grand doctor and I would have bathed, but were prevented by a wholly dmanable, but perhaps not quite futile, parade. There, too, it was that I sailed my boat - a F.S. postcard makes a grand one - and followed it eagerly, under the anxious eyes of the gunners on the bank. I will do it again, if we get there. Perhaps we may. Is it on the road to Amiens, I wonder? Supposing we went there!!!

Ce serait moi qui chanteris,

Ce serait moi qui chanteris,

Dans votre cathedrale! -

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I am a poor soul, and thus it was that my grand moments were rather limited to the pre-breakfast period. I would go along the wood to the railway, and look in at the little chocalate and memenot-card shop, or while away time buying ink and absurd stationery at the chemist's - who does not, however, sell all he ought - or I would look in at the church: there are few I have been near without going in, for many a long month now, thereby showing how lamentably like I am to C.A.A.'s man who goes to get religious emotions anywhere, and then comes back and is 'no kinder to his aunt'.

And after breakfast, somehow, the time would also be glorious till about noon: for always dreaming, dreaming, as ever, I would walk round until the rifle parade and the rest of it came along: and then, by the afternoon time, I would write hurried letters to overdue people, with a rather less keen taste of life; till finally round came the night parade, and with it always the splendid and eternally unique expectation of morning.

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A page or two on good things.

These are some of the things I love, and God pity those who find nothing dear to them all.

Maps; and route marches. And Gothic architecture; yes, and the little village soire rising out of the green. And Hills; hills from the plains, or the plains from the hills - I do not know which is better. Autumn Mists, and new Books, and the sound of early football; abd, with that, a Large Table and a Scholar's Morning, and the Memory of Many Patient Men unsung.

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Small brooks and sluices amid the water meadows, and their reeds like tongues of fire: and great rivers also, and big ships that ride them in harbour. And Dust in early spring, and the great white road swinging over the Downs, and the lane that brings you to the fairies in the lonely dingle. Bach's fugues also, and the sad songs of much infantry singing together. And bridges, whether over water or rail, especially if there is the sun dancing over all. And green fields after London, but more, London after the wilderness. Old books and their fragrance and their endless columns. And paintings by Murillo: horseback at dawn: railway journeys, long and book-full: and running, but not fast or fat; for I am a poor athlete. Sleep; and food after hunger; and drink after thirst, especially Brown Army Tea in the heat: and trees, especially the silver birch and the slim lady poplar: and French peasants and their kind farewells: and Eton's fields under midsummer floods in boiling June, with the Winchester Match to follow.

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