Armistice Day/The Armistice
EVERY ONE SANG
Every one suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark green fields; on—on—and out of sight.
Every one's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away.... Oh, but Every One
Was a bird, and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
THE SIGNING OF THE ARMISTICE
(Editorial from The Independent)
The armistice putting a stop to the war with Germany was signed at five o'clock, French time, in the morning of November 11th. Hostilities ceased at eleven A.M., which is the equivalent of six A.M. New York time.
The armistice bears the signatures of Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch of the French Army and Admiral Sir R. E. Wemyss of the British Navy on the one side, and on the other Mathias Erzberger, Count Alfred von Oberndorff, General H. K. A. Winterfeldt and Naval Captain von Salow. Admiral Sims was present unofficially at the first meeting.
The German plenipotentiaries, coming from La Capelle, arrived at the French front at nine o'clock of November 7, and their automobiles with the curtains drawn were escorted to the Châuteau-Francfort, where the delegation spent the night. Next morning they were taken to Rethondes in the forest of Compiègne, where Foch awaited them in his special train. The leader of the delegation, Dr. Erzberger, speaking in French, announced that the German Government had been advised by President Wilson that Marshal Foch was qualified to communicate the Allies' conditions. The Marshal then read the terms slowly in a loud voice. Erzberger asked to be allowed to send the terms by courier to Spa, and that until a reply was received hostilities be suspended in the interests of humanity. Foch granted the former request but refused the latter.
The courier on his return was delayed by the continuation of the bombardment and did not reach the German Headquarters at Spa until ten A.M., November 10. The Kaiser, who had held back the armistice delegation from going to the front until he was overruled by Hindenburg, was appalled when he read the terms and bitterly reproached the supreme army command with having misled him. But Hindenburg insisted upon the necessity of immediate compliance, and the courier was sent back with this message.
The German delegation reappeared in Foch's car at one A.M., Monday, and the next four hours were occupied in discussing the terms. Slight alterations were made in eighteen of the thirty-five articles as a result of arguments of the German delegates that in their original form the stipulations were impossible or undesirable. For instance, the time for evacuation and delivery of cars was extended from twenty-five to thirty-one days; the German troops from Russia were not to be withdrawn immediately but when the Allies decided that it might safely be done; "all submarines now existing" was substituted for the original demand for "160," probably because there were not so many left; and in response to the demonstration of the food experts accompanying the delegation that ships and cars were necessary to prevent famine and anarchy, a special clause was added to Article 25 providing for provisionment. Foreign Secretary Solf sent a special plea to the President for a mitigation of the blockade which otherwise "would cause the starvation of millions of men, women and children." Premier Clemenceau in communicating the armistice to the Chamber of Deputies said that the taking away of all locomotives and 150,000 cars would embarrass Germany's means of provisioning and that "In this first hour we must come to her aid. We do not make war against humanity but for humanity."
BY ANGELO PATRI
'Twas like this, my children:
Down in the harbor a deep-throated whistle sounded; then another and another and then the bells and the motor horns and the factory whistles and the cheers. A great wave of joy rolled over the city. Joy that rose to the towers and hung quivering in the tree-tops. Joy that crept into every nook and corner and filled every heart. Friend and foe alike on fire with joy.
"The war is over. Peace, peace, peace at last." The wave of joy swelled to an ocean and swept from shore to shore carrying a people upon its crest.
"Peace. Lay down those shells you are making. They'll never be wanted.
"Peace. Throw down that mask you are making. 'Twill never be needed. No human being shall ever again be tortured by those fumes from hell.
"Peace. Stop hammering so madly. That ship will never carry ammunition. We kill no more. It is past.
"Peace. Blow the trumpet, beat the drum, shout aloud and dance for joy. The hand of the war fiend is lifted. We kill no more nor are killed.
"Peace. Bring flowers and strew them.
"Peace, Let the pent-up tears of the horrible years flow in gladness.
"Peace. Let the feet that were heavy with sadness dance in joy to the bells and the bugles.
"Peace. The boys will be coming. Lay down the needles and the mud-colored wool and the rolls of white bandages. Hurry. Hang out the flags and the banners.
"Peace. They'll be hungry and war-worn and weary. Beat up the cakes and pile in the raisins and citron. Polish once more, for the hundredth time, the chairs and the tables. Home must be shining its welcome. How soon will the ships turn homeward? Soon. Hear the bells and the horns and the music.
"Peace. The boys are coming. Hurry and hang out the flags and the banners. Count again proudly the service stars. Ah! One of them golden.
"Peace. Peace has her price and we've paid it. Back of that star is a cross in Flanders.
"Peace for a war-stricken world bought with those stars and those crosses.
"Peace. More. 'Tis an armistice. We've laid down our arms and pray God they never are lifted.
"Peace. Shake out the folds of the flag and tell over the story of the Armistice. Count the stars of gold and the crosses in Flanders. Teach that the glory of war is a lie and that Peace has come out of Gethsemane, purchased with price and with crosses.
"Armistice, Armistice, Joy that is hallowed by suffering.
"Peace and the promise of resurrection."
ARMISTICE DAY 1918—1928
That day the guns fell silent at a word,
And instant bells awoke, and every hill
Rang high with song, till heaven itself was stirred:
Only the dead lay still,
The weary dead. But when to-day a clear,
Soft silence falls, they gather, listening
(Grown wise with immortality), to hear
Our mute remembering.
(Full Text as Signed on November 11, 1918)
I: Military Clauses on Western Front.
One—Cessation of operations by land and in the air six hours after the signature of the armistice.
Two—Immediate evacuation of invaded countries: Belgium, France, Alsace-Lorraine, Luxembourg, so ordered as to be completed within fourteen days from the signature of the armistice. German troops which have not left the above-mentioned territories within the period fixed will become prisoners of war. Occupation by the allied and United States forces jointly will keep pace with evacuation in these areas. All movements of evacuation and occupation will be regulated in accordance with a note annexed to the stated terms.
Three—Repatriation beginning at once to be completed within fifteen days of all the inhabitants of the countries above enumerated (including hostages, persons under trial or convicted).
Four—Surrender in good condition by the German armies of the following war material: Five thousand guns (2,500 heavy, and 2,500 field), 25,000 machine guns, 3,000 minenwerfers, 1,700 airplanes (fighters, bombers—firstly, all of the D 7's and all the night bombing machines). The above to be delivered in situ to the allied and United States troops in accordance with the detailed conditions laid down in the note (annexure No. 1) drawn up at the moment of the signing of the armistice.
Five—Evacuation by the German armies of the countries on the left bank of the Rhine. The countries on the left bank of the Rhine shall be administered by the local troops of occupation. The occupation of these territories will be carried out by allied and United States garrisons, holding the principal crossings of the Rhine (Mayence, Coblenz, Cologne), together with the bridgeheads at these points of a thirty kilometer radius on the right bank and by garrisons similarly holding the strategic points of the region. A neutral zone shall be reserved on the right bank of the Rhine between the stream and a line drawn parallel to the bridgeheads and to the stream and at a distance of ten kilometers from the frontier of Holland up to the frontier of Switzerland. The evacuation by the enemy of the Rhinelands (left and right bank) shall be so ordered as to be completed within a further period of sixteen days, in all, thirty-one days after the signing of the armistice. All the movements of evacuation or occupation are regulated by the note (annexure No. 1) drawn up at the moment of the signing of the armistice.
Six—In all territories evacuated by the enemy there shall be no evacuation of inhabitants; no damage or harm shall be done to the persons or property of the inhabitants. No person shall be prosecuted for offenses of participation in war measures prior to the signing of the armistice. No destruction of any kind shall be committed. Military establishments of all kinds shall be delivered intact as well as military stores of food, munitions, and equipment, not removed during the time fixed for evacuation. Stores of food of all kinds for the civil population, cattle, etc., shall be left in situ. Industrial establishments shall not be impaired in any way and their personnel shall not be removed.
Seven—Roads and means of communication of every kind, railroads, waterways, main roads, bridges, telegraphs, telephones, shall be in no manner impaired. All civil and military personnel at present employed on them shall remain. Five thousand locomotives and 150,000 wagons in good working order, with all necessary spare parts and fittings, shall be delivered to the associated powers within the period fixed in annexure No. 2, and total of which shall not exceed thirty-one days. There shall likewise be delivered 5,000 motor lorries (camione automobiles) in good order, within the period of thirty-six days, together with pre-war personnel and material. Further, the material necessary for the working of railways in the countries on the left bank of the Rhine shall be left in situ. All stores of coal and material for the upkeep of permanent ways, signals, and repair shops shall be left in situ. These stores shall be maintained by Germany in so far as concerns the working of the railroads in the countries on the left bank of the Rhine. All barges taken from the Allies shall be restored to them. The note, annexure No. 2, regulates the details of these measures.
Eight—The German command shall be responsible for revealing within the period of forty-eight hours after the signing of the armistice all mines or delayed action fuses on territory evacuated by the German troops and shall assist in their discovery and destruction. It also shall reveal all destructive measures that may have been taken (such as poisoning or polluting of springs and wells, etc.). All under penalty of reprisals.
Nine—The right of requisition shall be exercised by the allied and United States armies in all occupied territories, subject to regulation of accounts with those whom it may concern. The upkeep of the troops of occupation in the Rhineland (excluding Alsace-Lorraine) shall be charged to the German Government.
Ten—The immediate repatriation without reciprocity, according to detailed conditions which shall be fixed, of all allied and United States prisoners of war, including persons under trial or convicted. The allied powers and the United States shall be able to dispose of them as they wish. This condition annuls the previous conventions on the subject of the exchange of prisoners of war, including the one of July, 1918, in course of ratification. However, the repatriation of German prisoners of war interned in Holland and in Switzerland shall continue as before. The repatriation of German prisoners of war shall be regulated at the conclusion of the preliminaries of peace.
Eleven—Sick and wounded who cannot be removed from evacuated territory will be cared for by German personnel, who will be left on the spot with the medical material required.
II: Disposition Relative to the Eastern Frontiers of Germany.
Twelve—All German troops at present in the territories which before belonged to Austria-Hungary, Rumania, Turkey, shall withdraw immediately within the frontiers of Germany as they existed on August 1, 1914. All German troops at present in the territories which before the war belonged to Russia shall likewise withdraw within the frontiers of Germany, defined as above, as soon as the Allies, taking into account the internal situations of these territories, shall decide that the time for this has come.
Thirteen—Evacuation by German troops to begin at once, and all German instructors, prisoners, and civilians as well as military agents now on the territory of Russia (as defined before 1914) to be recalled.
Fourteen—German troops to cease at once all requisitions and seizures and any other undertaking with a view to obtaining supplies intended for Germany in Rumania and Russia (as defined on August 1, 1914).
Fifteen—Renunciation of the treaties of Bucharest and Brest-Litovsk and of the supplementary treaties.
Sixteen—The Allies shall have free access to the territories evacuated by the Germans on their eastern frontier either through Danzig or by the Vistula in order to convey supplies to the populations of those territories and for the purpose of maintaining order.
III: Clause Concerning East Africa.
Seventeen—Evacuation by all German forces operating in East Africa within a period to be fixed by the Allies.
IV: General Clauses.
Eighteen—Repatriation, without reciprocity, within a maximum period of one month, in accordance with detailed conditions hereafter to be fixed of all interned civilians, including hostages and persons under trial or convicted, belonging to the allied or associated powers other than those enumerated in Article Three.
Nineteen—The following financial conditions are required: Reparation for damage done. While such armistice lasts no public securities shall be removed by the enemy which can serve as a pledge to the Allies for the recovery or reparation for war losses. Immediate restitution of the cash deposit in the national bank of Belgium, and in general immediate return of all documents, specie, stocks, shares, paper money, together with plant for the issue thereof, touching public or private interests, in the invaded countries. Restitution of the Russian and Rumanian gold yielded to Germany or taken by that power. This gold to be delivered in trust to the Allies until the signature of peace.
V: Naval Conditions.
Twenty—Immediate cessation of all hostilities at sea and definite information to be given as to the location and movements of all German ships. Notification to be given to neutrals that freedom of navigation in all territorial waters is given to the naval and mercantile marines of the allied and associated powers, all questions of neutrality being waived.
Twenty–one—All naval and mercantile marine prisoners of the allied and associated powers in German hands to be returned without reciprocity.
Twenty-two—Surrender to the Allies and United States of all submarines (including submarine cruisers and all mine-laying submarines), now existing, with their complete armament and equipment, in ports which shall be specified by the Allies and United States. Those which cannot take the sea shall be disarmed of the personnel and material and shall remain under the supervision of the Allies and the United States. The submarines which are ready for the sea shall be prepared to leave the German ports as soon as orders shall be received by wireless for their voyage to the port designated for their delivery, and the remainder at the earliest possible moment. The conditions of this article shall be carried into effect within the period of fourteen days after the signing of the armistice.
Twenty-three—German surface warships which shall be designated by the Allies and the United States shall be immediately disarmed and thereafter interned in neutral ports or in default of them in allied ports to be designated by the Allies and the United States. They will there remain under the supervision of the Allies and the United States, only caretakers being left on board. The following warships are designated by the Allies: Six battle cruisers, ten battleships, eight light cruisers (including two mine layers), fifty destroyers of the most modern types. All other surface warships (including river craft) are to be concentrated in German naval bases to be designated by the Allies and the United States and are to be completely disarmed and classed under the supervision of the Allies and the United States. The military armament of all ships of the auxiliary fleet shall be put on shore. All vessels designated to be interned shall be ready to leave the German ports seven days after the signing of the armistice. Directions for the voyage will be given by wireless.
Twenty-four—The Allies and the United States of America shall have the right to sweep up all mine fields and obstructions laid by Germany outside German territorial waters, and the positions of these are to be indicated.
Twenty-five—Freedom of access to and from the Baltic to be given to the naval and mercantile marines of the allied and associated powers. To secure this the Allies and the United States of America shall be empowered to occupy all German forts, fortifications, batteries and defense works of all kinds in all the entrances from the Categat into the Baltic, and to sweep tip all mines and obstructions within and without German territorial waters, without any question of neutrality being raised, and the positions of all such mines and obstructions are to be indicated.
Twenty-six—The existing blockade conditions set up by the allied and associated powers are to remain unchanged, and all German merchant ships found at sea are to remain liable to capture. The Allies and the United States should give consideration to the provisioning of Germany during the armistice to the extent recognized as necessary.
Twenty-seven—All naval aircraft are to be concentrated and immobilized in German bases to be specified by the Allies and the United States of America.
Twenty-eight—In evacuating the Belgian coasts and ports, Germany shall abandon in situ and in fact all port and river navigation material, all merchant ships, tugs, lighters, all naval aëronautic apparatus, material and supplies, and all arms, apparatus and supplies of every kind.
Twenty-nine—All Black Sea ports are to be evacuated by Germany; all Russian war vessels of all descriptions seized by Germany in the Black Sea are to be handed over to the Allies and the United States of America; all neutral merchant vessels seized are to be released; all war-like and other materials of all kinds seized in those ports are to be returned and German materials as specified in Clause Twenty-eight are to be abandoned.
Thirty—All merchant vessels in German hands belonging to the allied and associated powers are to be restored in ports to be specified by the Allies and the United States of America without reciprocity.
Thirty-one—No destruction of ships or of materials to be permitted before evacuation, surrender, or restoration.
Thirty-two—The German Government will notify the neutral governments of the world, and particularly the governments of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland, that all restrictions placed on the trading of their vessels with the allied and associated countries, whether by the German Government or by private German interests, and whether in return for specific concessions, such as the export of shipbuilding materials, or not, are immediately canceled.
Thirty-three—No transfers of German merchant shipping of any description to any neutral flag are to take place after signature of the armistice.
VI: Duration of Armistice.
Thirty-four—The duration of the armistice is to be thirty days, with option to extend. During this period if its clauses are not carried into execution the armistice may be denounced by one of the contracting parties, which must give warning forty-eight hours in advance. It is understood that the execution of Articles 3 and 18 shall not warrant the denunciation of the armistice on the ground of insufficient execution within a period fixed, except in the case of bad faith in carrying them into execution. In order to assure the execution of this convention under the best conditions, the principle of a permanent international armistice commission is admitted. This commission will act under the authority of the allied military and naval commanders-in-chief.
Mother and maker of us all,
The flags are down, the trumpets cease;
Dead war beneath its splendid pall
Has yielded place to living peace.
By all we wrought and all we said,
Make thy sons worthy of their dead.
We tore thy breast with steel and flame;
And in the hate that brimmed to flood,
Hard-smiting in thy holy name
We drenched the fields with brother-blood.
By that wild tempest hot and red,
Oh, make us worthy of our dead!
The pain, the wrath, the shame, the scorn
Are passing like the clouded night;
The promise of the growing morn
Is golden in the people's sight.
What thought is here that we should dread
If we be worthy of our dead?
There comes no challenge loud and vain,
No vaulting of unchastened pride;
No kingcraft fills a world with pain
That wrong of might be deified.
Oh, not in vain the millions bled
If we be worthy of our dead!
The little voices faint and fail;
A grander music fills our ears.
Only in dreams we hear the wail
Far-rising from the murdered years,
While the new days lift up their head,
Worthy of us and of our dead.
Above the graves the grasses nod,
Below the fort the poppies bow.
Mother of all, to thee and God
The war-taught nations make their vow—
By stars that shone and hopes that led
We shall be worthy of our dead!
THE DAY OF GLORY
... if the armistice is signed, a salvo of cannon from the Invalides at eleven o'clock will announce the end of the war.
The clock hands crept slowly past ten and lagged intolerably thereafter. The rapid beating of your heart, telling off the minutes, brought eleven finally very near. Then the clock, your heart, all the world, seemed to stand still. The great moment was there. Would the announcing cannon speak? Such a terrible silence as the world kept during that supreme moment of suspense! It was the quintessence of all the moral torture of four nightmare years.
And then ... like a shock within your own body it came, the first solemn proclamation of the cannon, shaking the windows, the houses, the very sky, with its news. The war was over. The accursed guns had ceased tearing to pieces our husbands and our sons and our fathers.
Of all the hundreds of thousands of women who heard those guns, I think there was not one who did not feel instantly, scalding on her cheeks, the blessed tears—tears of joy! She had forgotten that there could be tears of joy. The horrible weight on the soul that had grown to be a part of life dissolved away in that assuaging flood; the horrible constriction around the heart loosened. We wept with all our might; we poured out once for all the old bitterness, the old horror. We felt sanity coming back, and faith and even hope, that forgotten possession of the old days.
When the first tears of deliverance had passed, and your knees had stopped shaking, and your heart no longer beat suffocatingly in your throat, why, then every one felt one common imperious desire, to leave the little cramping prison of his own walls, to escape out of the selfish circle of his own joy, and to mingle his thanksgiving with that of all his fellows, to make himself physically, as he felt spiritually, at one with rejoicing humanity.
And we all rushed out into the streets.
I think there never can have been such a day before, such a day of pure thanksgiving and joy for every one. For the emotion was so intense that, during the priceless hours of that first day, it admitted no other. Human hearts could hold no more than that great gladness. The dreadful past, the terrible problems of the future, were not. We lived and drew our breath only in the knowledge that "firing had ceased at eleven o'clock that morning," and that those who had fought as best they could for the Right had conquered. You saw everywhere supreme testimony to the nobility of the moment, women in black, with bits of bright-colored tricolor pinned on their long black veils, with at last a smile, the most wonderful of all smiles, in their dimmed eyes. They were marching with the others in the streets; every one was marching with every one else, arm in arm, singing:
"Allons, enfants de la patrie,
Le Jour de Gloire est arrivé!"
The houses echoed to those words, repeated and repeated by every band of jubilant men and women and children who swept by, waving flags and shouting:
"Come, children of our country,
The Day of Glory is here!"
Every group had at its head a permissionnaire or two in field uniform who had been pounced upon as the visible emblem of victory, kissed, braced, covered with flowers, and set in the front rank to carry the largest flag. Sometimes there walked beside these soldiers working women with sleeping babies in their arms, sometimes old men in frock coats with ribbons in their buttonholes, sometimes light-hearted, laughing little munition workers still in their black aprons, but with tri-colored ribbons twisted in their hair, sometimes elegantly dressed ladies, sometimes women in long mourning veils, sometimes ragged old beggars, sometimes a cab filled with crippled soldiers waving their crutches—but all with the same face of steadfast, glowing jubilee. During those few blessed hours there was no bitterness, no evil arrogance, no revengeful fury. Any one who saw all that afternoon those thousands and thousands of human faces all shining with the same exaltation can never entirely despair of his fellows again, knowing them to be capable of that pure joy.
"The Day of Glory has come."
The crowd seemed to be merely washing back and forth in surging waves of thanksgiving, up and down the streets aimlessly, carrying flowers to no purpose but to celebrate their happiness. But once you were in it, singing and marching with the others, you felt an invisible current bearing you steadily, irresistibly, in one direction; and soon, as you marched, and grew nearer the unknown goal, you heard another shorter, more peremptory, rhythm mingling with the longer shout, repeated over and over:
"Allons, enfants de la patrie,
Le Jour de Gloire est arrivé!"
Now people were beginning to shout: "To Strasbourg! To Strasbourg! To Strasbourg! To Strasbourg!" Then you knew that you were being swept along to the Place de la Concorde, to salute the statue of Strasbourg, freed from her forty years of mourning and slavery.
The crowd grew denser and denser as it approached that heart of Paris; and the denser it grew the higher flamed the great fire of rejoicing, mounting up almost visibly to the quiet gray skies:
"Come, children of our country,
The Day of Glory is here!"
"To Strasbourg! To Strasbourg! To Strasbourg!
No evil epithets hurled at the defeated enemy, not one, not one in all those long hours of shouting out what was in the heart; no ugly effigies, no taunting cries, no mention even of the enemy—instead a fresh outburst of rejoicing at the encounter with a long procession of Belgians, marching arm in arm, carrying Belgian flags and pealing out like trumpets the noble Brabancome! We made way for them with respectful admiration, we stopped our song to listen to theirs, we let them pass, waving our hats, our handkerchiefs, cheering them, pressing flowers upon them, snatching at their hands for a clasp as they went by, blessing them for their constancy and courage, sharing their relief till our hearts were like to burst!
We fell in behind them and at once had to separate again to allow the passage of a huge camion, bristling with American soldiers, heaped up in a great pyramid of brown. How every one cheered them, a different shout, with none of the poignant undercurrent of sympathy for pain that had greeted the Belgian exiles. These brave, lovable, boyish crusaders come from across the sea for a great ideal, who had been ready to give all, but who had been blessedly spared the last sacrifice—it was a rollicking shout which greeted them! They represented the youth, the sunshine; they were loved and laughed at and acclaimed by the crowd as they passed, waving their caps, leaning over the side to shake the myriad hands stretched up to them, catching at the flowers flung at them, shouting out some song, perhaps a college cheer, judging by the professionally frantic gestures of a cheer leader, grinding his teeth and waving his arms wildly to exhort them to more volume of sound. Whatever it was, it was quite inaudible in the general uproar, the only coherent accent of which was the swelling cry repeated till it was like an elemental sound of nature.
"The Day of Glory has arrived."
Now a group of English soldiers overtook us, carrying a great, red, glorious English flag, adding some hearty, inaudible marching song to the tumult. As they passed, a poilu in our band sprang forward, seized one of the Anglo-Saxons in his arms, and kissed him resoundingly on both cheeks. Then there was laughter, and shouts and handshakings and more embracing, and they too vanished away in the waves of the great river of humanity flowing steadily, rapidly toward the statue of the lost city whose loss had meant the triumph of unscrupulous force, whose restitution meant the righting of an old wrong in the name of justice. We were almost there now; the huge open Place opened out before us.
Now we had come into it, and our songs for an instant were cut short by one great cry of astonishment. As far as the eye could reach, the vast public square was black with the crowd, and brilliant with waving flags. A band up on the terrace of the Tuileries, stationed between the captured German airplanes, flashed in the air the yellow sheen of their innumerable brass instruments, evidently playing with all their souls, but not a sound of their music reached our ears, so deafening was the burst of shouting and singing as the crowd saw its goal, the high statue of the lost city, buried in heaped-up flowers and palms, a triumphant wreath of gold shadowing the eyes which so long had looked back to France from exile.
Ah, what an ovation we gave her! Then we shouted as we had not done before, the great primitive, inarticulate cry of rejoicing that bursts from the heart too full. We shook out our flags high over our heads, as we passed, we cast our flowers upon the pedestal, we were swept along by the current—we were the current ourselves!
At the base of the statue a group of white-haired Alsatians stood, men and women, with quivering lips and trembling hands. Theirs was the honor to arrange the flowers which, tossed too hastily by the eager bearers, fell to the ground.
As they stooped for them, and reached high to find yet one more corner not covered with blooms, a splendid, fair-haired lad, sturdy and tall, with the field outfit of the French soldier heavy on his back, pushed his way through the crowd.
He had in his hand a little bouquet—white and red roses, and forget-me-nots. His eyes were fixed on the statue. He did not see the old men and women there to receive the flowers. He pressed past them and with his own young hands laid his humble offering at the feet of the recovered city. He looked up at the statue and his lips moved. He could not have been more unconscious if he had been entirely alone in an Alsatian forest. The expression of his beautiful young face was such that a hush of awe fell on those who saw him.
An old woman in black took his hand in hers and said: "You are from Alsace?"
"I escaped from Strasbourg to join the French army," he said, "and all my family are there." His eyes brimmed, his chin quivered.
The old woman made a noble gesture of self-forgetting humanity. She took him in her arms and kissed him on both cheeks. "You are my son," she said.
They all crowded around him, taking his hand. "And my brother!" "And mine!" "And mine!"
The tears ran down their cheeks.
ARMISTICE DAY, 1926
BY LUCIA TRENT
Let us evoke no phantom throng
With marble monument and song,
With mock solemnity that comes
From marching feet and muffled drums;
But in this drift of after years
Let us pay honor with our tears.
They dared to die, let us who live
Dare to have pity and forgive.
THE LAST SHOT
(The Independent, November 23, 1918)
With the American First Army, November 11. Amid the golden glow of the sun shining through breaking mists and casting upon the uncleared battlefield a light that seemed like a halo the soldiers of the American army found to-day the true glory of war—Peace.
At 11 o'clock this morning they fired their last shot, and the world's greatest war ended in the world's greatest victory.
For most of them, muddy and dog-tired in body and spirit, it came as something unnatural, almost incredible. They stood up in their trenches and cold, wet fox holes—stretched themselves, looked about in wonderment and beheld another wonder, as amid the mist, so close often that they could be hit with a stone, other figures stood up, too, and stretched themselves. They were gray-clad figures, who were enemies and now are—what?
To-day has brought many things to the world that one may not guess. But not yet are our men delirious with joy, or given over to jubilation. There was cheering and here and there some rocket flares were fired, while many a boy in khaki slapped another on the back and said: "Well, I guess the old guerre is fini."
It has not yet come over them with all its force that the young lives they had taken in their hands every day are safe with all that safety to young lives means, and that there is an end of the horror unspeakable and of the weariness and hardship—that once again after four years all's right with the world.
Once that idea does come their faces will turn in but one direction—toward home and those who love them and have shared them for the world's greatest cause, and whose faces they thought never to see again. For them peace will mean but one thing—home.
What a series of unforgettable pictures these boys of ours saw on this day of days when the world laid down its arms; pictures of No Man's Land, where men walked upright in the daylight, where men in khaki met men in gray, to swap souvenirs and laugh the strange, short laugh that men laugh whose lives have been given back to them; of a battery of guns that had poured forth death, now silent; of French towns bright with suddenly blossoming flags of red, white and blue after four years of mourning, but above all the faces of true friends as they looked at each other and said, "Well, we came through it, didn't we?"
It came differently at different parts of the long line that the Americans now hold. There was a place near Sedan where the New Yorkers of the 77th Division faced the Germans across the Meuse. There was Stenay, where the Americans picked their way across the flooded river, entering and delivering the town at the very moment when the fighting ended.
There was the country east of the Meuse where until almost the last moment the Americans were fighting fiercely. There was the swampy country near St. Mihiel, where they waited in the trenches for an hour and then walked out into No Man's Land.
Everywhere it was the same, in one respect: there was the same sudden and profound silence as the hour struck and the guns ceased for the first time their terrible chorus that for four years has never ceased from the North Sea to the mountains of Switzerland.
Coming into Buzancy as dusk fell last night there was an air of expectancy everywhere in the crowded streets of the town that the German had marked for his own. Troops were pouring through—battered, weary troops with a war-worn look, but marching with an easy step as if they knew what was coming.
It was the Rainbow Division that got to the outskirts of Sedan, the veterans of 175 solid days in the trenches, and of every big battle in which the Americans have been engaged.
Going up the road toward the Meuse and Stenay next morning we passed more troops marching. This time it was another division no less famous than the Forty-second—the First Division—first in France, first to fight, and by a great chance it happened that we passed the men of the Sixteenth Infantry.
The Sixteenth had just received the news and were cheering as men cheer who know what the war meant in agony and bloody sweat. Some of them were waving their muddy rifles high overhead.
Farther down the road was a little wood where was crouched the long, varicolored snout of a six-inch rifle, the crew of which were cleaning out the barrel. "We fired the last shot at 10:55," they said. It was Battery C of the Fifty-sixth Coast Artillery, formerly at Fort H. G. Wright, New York. Lieut. Harry C. Carpenter, of Norwich, N, Y., pulled the lanyard for their last shot.
Of course there will be a thousand claimants to the honor of having fired the last shot of the war for the American army.
As we passed more and more guns we heard the reason for the heavy artillery fire of the night before. It was that our guns were firing as many shells as possible so as to give the Boche as much discomfort as they could before the war ended.
The farther we went the stronger became the impression of what the end of the war meant.
Stenay itself was a remarkable transformation from despair to happiness. Before one tiny shop stood a little French child, scarcely four years old, waving a hand to the splendid helmeted soldiers who were passing. One broad-shouldered man stepped from the line, took the child in his arms and held her high in the air, with an ecstatic smile such as fathers only smile.
"I've got kids of my own," he said, answering a question, "and now I know I'll see them again." He is Private A. C. Larsen, of Minneapolis.
And so we finally passed on through the French towns, all rejoicing, to Bar le Duc, bright with lights for the first time in many hundreds of nights, in whose streets the French soldiers and people cried: "La guerre est finie!" and then were silent, as if they feared it were not true.
PEACE AT MORNING
BY DANA BURNET
I wake at the touch of morning: and the City is shaken with a Song!
Not rapture smoothed and rhythmed, but the wild peal of horns, gongs, whistles, bells and drum-beats,
Making a strange concordance on the air!
Bass-notes of guns and ecstasy of bells—
Bells above all,
Bells bright as water tumbling down a chasm,
Bells like the lost chime of the hammers of Babel!
Bells tracing arabesques of laughter on the discord of the dawn!
I hear a voice in the shadow crying:
"They have signed the armistice; the war is done."
And I lean from my window and see the crowds surging below me, with white hands thrust up as though to shake a music from the stars!
Women with vivid faces, marching, singing,
Dark men of labor, carrying burnished little pails,
That make quick points in the kindling street...
These will not work in the shipyards to-day, nor in the munition factories.
They will go through the town in long procession, shouting and beating their little pails—
Yet solemn, too, remembering the dead, Remembering the countless and unutterable dead!
Runs on the roofs of the City with a scarlet foot, and the ways of the City are passionate with people trampling out a song!
The Day is like a courier spurring a bright horse, that leaps resplendent out of the East and flings the news before:
"They have signed the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne..."
Now triumph wakes, and each articulate spire
Clashes its silver on the answering din—
The sun has thrust a ruby finger into the mist, and tears it, and the banners show through,
So all the housewalls are in color, and the avenues are tremulous with flame!
Trade turns no wheel and profit is abhorred;
Stout Business has forgot its clamoring belly,
For once grows ponderously human, and being pricked with madness,
Decks out the slender arrowy towers of its Temple
With ribbons of ticker-tape, so all the peaks
Are caught in cobwebs...
Rolls the sound along
Like some tempestuous Te Deum played on the great pipes of the town
By multi-fingered Chaos pulling blindly at the stops.
The ships that lie in the harbor—daubed sea-cockles
With grotesque bodies and gray guns poking overside—
Blow their white breath into the blue air
And swell the sonorous choir. No more they need go twisting
Through wreck-strewn waters, or run with smothered ports,
Hugging the darkness, cursing the moon in God's hand,
Dreading the phosphorus that burns their bows
As a necklace burns a woman's throat—
None gladder than the ships,
None more joyful than the ships,
That pen has scratched paper in the hushed railway carriage
In the great Forest at Compiègne yonder....
I stand before a window in a lifted wall and the bonds of the horizon are broken,
I look into the bowl of the distance and behold a great matter;
I am aware of trifles.
I see the long quays at Bordeaux, where the wine-carts creak so heavily;
And the smooth gray stream alert with ships,
And the graceful snarl of rigging on the skyline.
I see the old gate through which innumerable days have trailed their evening draperies...
Nearby sits a handsome officer under an awning;
He is reading the news, and drinking a glass of red wine at a blue-topped table,
And occasionally warming himself in the voluptuous glances
Of the slim black-eyed girl who brings his silver...
I see the groups of soldiers in their faded uniforms,
Some whole, some stamping about on wooden pegs,
With bits of precious ribbon on their breasts.
I see the flower venders selling flowers in the street—
One gives a blossom to a soldier who is blind.
I go into the beautiful Cathedral, which stands heaped
Against an ancient heaven,
Like a gray cloud that never comes to storm...
On the threshold sits a beggar without legs;
He is whining for alms and doing a good business,
For have they not signed the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne?
Within the solemn transept, where the eye
Finds melody in every lifted line,
Are gentle constellations scattering star-fire through the gloom—
And the veiled women kneel before the shrines with their hands crossed on their breasts as white as lilies—
O the pale hands on the black cloth!
And they light their slender candles before the image of the Mother of God,
Which is in marble,
And go away, out of the stained dusk that falls through the sacred windows,
To the light in the street, to the light that sears their souls, to the light that must be borne...
What does it mean to them that a paper has been signed in the Forest of Compiègne?
They have taken the hoods off the street-lamps in Paris!
They have set darkness aside.
Like a beautiful woman awakened from hideous dreams,
She issues forth again, in light, in loveliness,
Her shapes and contours flow upon the air
With that hard delicacy which is Gaul—
And following the long gestures of her body
Coils her green river, which she binds to her
With a frozen grace of bridges...
I see a great crowd filling the court of the Invalides—
They are putting fresh flowers on the hood of the eagle that Guynemer flew...
(Death's but a pillow for the head of fame!)
There looms the proud, prophetic Arch; nor ever has bestrode
Such triumph as will roll beneath it now!
(A brief month hence through this same Gate of Conquerors will pass
One from the West, with a plan for everlasting peace in the pocket of his frock-coat;
He will ride in an open carriage, between rows of slender French bayonets, and receive the hopeful acclamations of the people!)
Here Notre Dame, rare symphony in stone,
Utters a silence more divine than song;
And a mass is going forward in the dim heart of the Madeleine,
Lo, the bowed benches; and the stout magnificent beadle asleep in his chair!
In the mists of Paris, where the faces of a hundred peoples melt and merge,
Are soldiers come from battle, and a slow colorable whirl of uniforms,
And quiet funerals spinning black threads through the brilliant boulevards.
I look to the North; past the Forest of Compiègne where the pen
Has scratched the paper...
There's a jagged wall,
Making a grim, dark pattern on the sky—
Ypres...which was once a city!
These crosses marching to the horizon—
These graves, like the stilled surges of an ocean dead of grief!
And every mound a nameless Calvary!
O grateful years,
Let Belgium evermore be Britain's monument!
For it was here she stood, invincible,
And paid her life's blood for a rubbish-heap in Flanders....
At Verdun they will have a banquet in the Citadel—
The white-mustached Colonel and his officers;
They will sit at table in the little room where speaks the banner of the legend: On ne passe pas!
And they will toast the tidings in a sparkling wine
Drawn from the deep cellars of Champagne—
And the dead houses on either side of the Meuse will smile from their gaping windows,
And the Hall of the Bishops where William of Prussia had planned his feast of victory,
Having invited his generals to meet him there,
Will echo with a ghostly laughter
Mocking down the ages....
In Rheims there will be rejoicing.
The people will come out of their caves and listen to the wonderful stillness, like children listening to a fairy-tale;
And the old caretaker will go into the immortal ruin of the Cathedral,
And twist his hands, and smile faintly up at the face of God peering down through the great hole in the roof...
The Simons will come, who in their generations have tended the glass of the Cathedral these four hundred years and forty,
And will tell how they climbed the high vault and removed the priceless panes under the storm of the First Bombardment, and saved them, and preserved the honor of the house of Simon...
And the ghosts of the past will assemble
In vast mystical array, thronging the gashed doors and filing under the withered flower of the Rose window—
Clovis, the convert; and the Kings of France,
And Joan, most shining maid; and there will fall
A dew of tears, and a dim glamour of sword-fire, and hushed voices chanting a litany of Peace before the figure of the mutilated Christ....
In the cottage of Domremy the white-haired woman who shows the house to travelers
Will go forth with a soft step into Joan's room,
And kneel down by the little window that looks on the old stone church over the way,
And cross herself slowly, murmuring fragments of prayer....
At Château-Thierry the townsfolk will be strolling out, arm in arm,
Along the bank of the Marne,
Looking at the broken bridge and telling each other in low voices,
How the Americans stopped the Germans and saved Paris;
How men from across the sea, in the country that Lafayette gave his sword to,
Here mended the break in the line,
With their young bodies...and went forward,
Day upon day,
Walking into the machine guns, and dropping, and making a path for the future to tread in....
All through the Argonne forest where the German military mind
Had made the best hell it could think of,
Are myriads of little wooden crosses
Marking the graves of the American boys
Who died there.
No one could take the Argonne forest until the Americans came.
They have signed the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne!
From Verdun north and east the armies of the New World are marching,
Towards Coblenz and the Rhine;
And before them, as they go,
Blossom innumerable home-made flags,
Blossom and blow in the streets of the villages,
Blossom forth from a thousand places of concealment where the enemy had never guessed they were hidden—
Like an amazing harvest of wind-flowers
Blossom and blow....
Eastward through Belgium recedes the gray tide.
Like a foul ocean slinking from the shore
It raged on, yet could never overwhelm;
And after it the flood of civilization flows back...
In Brussels the hero-king comes riding on a great horse,
And the people are filled with the sight of him.
He goes a way of flowers; and the firmament of his brothers' face is about him;
He mounts his throne, and for a space stands tall,
Holding this moment to his breast, and casting down the long corridors of Time
The shadow of a man....
In the German Empires is an exodus of kings,
And a popping out of princes
Who fly over the border,
And are buried forever with a paragraph...
Meanwhile the Teutonic revolution marches in good order,
Well-disciplined, and bearing a permit from the police.
Sobriety sits in the government's benches,
And the Left is relegated to the roof!
In the cafés of Berlin the returned army is dancing with its women and trying to forget the war—
Play loudly, musicians, your Viennese waltzes to smother the cries of the daughters of Lille and Louvain....
Across the North Sea, in gray weather, swims a sullen argosy of ships that once were the playthings of an Emperor;
Tall ships, swift ships, and ships that go in the water like fishes,
Strong ships, costly ships—
(We had poured our gold and silver out to buy these iron chess-men,
It was to have been a mighty game between us and England!
We were to have gambled for the lien of the oceans, and for all the ports that lie scattered like jewels on the world's breast;
But...they have signed the armistice, and our pawns were never played!)
Futile and impotent they come, and are met by the ministers of inexorable judgment,
By the fleets of Britain and America,
Not with conclusive thunder-clap, but with silence more conclusive still,
And are gathered to a Scottish harbor, there to lie scowling in the mists—
The Day has dawned; has passed; but not as we had dreamed it....
In a moated castle in Holland sits a man with a shrunken arm;
He is smoking Turkish cigarettes and covering pages of foolscap with explanations of his innocence in the matter of the Blood-Storm—
There is a wall about him as of bodies heaped one upon another; and he walks in a fog of faces.
The eyes of the dead are on him, so he is never alone.
He sits at his endless Protest, crying his case into the teeth of the silence, and wondering whether he was an instrument of divinity after all....
Out of Russia, where the feet of Christ are bleeding on the snows,
Stalks a new phantom, wearing a coat of rags—
A huge and haggard figure, gaunt of visage, pale with hunger,
Whom high oppression had conceived out of the womb of Want when it was still the abominable custom of these two to lie together—
Yonder he strides, with a terrible countenance, and would cool his thirst at the waters of God's justice;
Is called a beast, but is only a ravening child...
Few recognize, in such a dangerous outcast, the figure of eternal Freedom groping for its soul!
Already the forces are gathering to strike him down,
For he bears a banner, strange and misinterpreted; a banner of one color, of one meaning—
The emblem of the universal State which is but Love made comprehensible!
Too, has he not a creed which says: who lives must labor, who sows must reap, who toils must have the triumph of his toll?
Take heed, O World, for he shall rend you and change you—
You shall feel his burning rags upon your bosom e'er the day be spent;
You shall lie with him in the abysmal night,
And wake with him after agonies,
And find him as a new-born child upon your breast at morning....
I stand before my window in the dawn, and the East is like an altar covered with a rich cloth;
In the deep aisles of the City are passionate marchers trampling out a Song,
And the towers are all in silver!
A great clangor is making tidal rhythms in the street,
Beating against the housewalls with a tossed surf of bells—
And I hear a voice in the tumult crying: "They have signed the armistice! The task is done..."
A toy balloon, gay colored, rises suddenly into the air, goes floating off upon a brilliant voyage, is pricked by a sunbeam, and vanishes...
Earth, are you such a bubble? Will you pass thus briefly into dissolution, stabbed by some lightning out of the enkindled void?
Were it not better, then, to dance than to dream—?
To die in peace rather than to live in travail—
Nay! For we tremble on the verge of immortality; and who shall therefore haste to spend his light?
O Shape beyond the altar of the morning, substance of God, or shadow of mankind—
Grant me, I pray, the valor of the Vision,
That I may use whatever transient hours are mine
To live, to labor and to love!
They have signed the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne—
The task is just beginning....
(Editorial from New York Herald Tribune, November 11, 1926)
This item has been removed for copyright reasons
HOW AMERICA FINISHED
(Paris, December 7, 1918)
The legend, "Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken by Christmas," on a tent near General Headquarters of our Expeditionary Force in France reflected the spirit of the whole American Army in its battle with the Boche.
"Get it done" "Get a decision"—that has been the feeling of all from doughboys to generals. Motoring up the hard, even road from General Headquarters to the front on one of the last days of the war, I saw the manifestation of that feeling everywhere. Trucks bowled along, loaded with everything that an army needs—shells, blankets, flour, tobacco, fodder, chewing-gum, matches, drainpipes, safety razors. They were driven at a pace which made the French peasants gasp, but they were driven surely. Along the way railways, hospitals, power-house, and steam-rollers, put there by the Americans, were functioning at top speed, but securely. Much haste, no waste.
The country for miles and miles behind the front was just one vast camp—the camp of the Americans, who brought it all across the ocean, with them, from can openers to locomotives. It is indescribable, the impression of the vastness of the power of America which a trip through this great deposit of men and material gives you. Never has there been a feat in history like the delivery of this great blow at such long range.
It was football weather, Indian summer. And the men and girls who had come down on the train from Paris were a football crowd, except for their uniforms. In other Novembers you could have seen them on the New Haven express from the Grand Central.
Gently rounded hills rolled away on each side of us, brown under dying grass and red where plows had gashed them. Drowsy little French villages crumbled into the landscape, as much a part of it as groups of mossy bowlders. They had those chameleon roofs which are red in the sun and gray in the mist.
We stopped at an American hospital and talked with some of our own wounded and with German prisoners, the latter still nonplussed at receiving attentions so contrary to the predictions of their officers.
The heroism of the American soldier does not end when he is put out of action. He takes with him into the hospital all his self-abnegation, all his determination to keep helping it along. He knows that the sooner he gets back to the front the sooner the cause will have been won, and he recovers from sickness and wounds with remarkable obstinacy. The inconveniences of over-crowded or underequipped hospitals he takes with a grin. It is all in the game. One dough-boy, who felt that he was not badly enough hit to deserve an ambulance, walked twenty miles to a hospital with a bullet through his stomach. Of course he recovered. Few wounds are fatal to such a spirit.
The football weather still held—crisp, bracing air and fine footing for the infantry. As we approached the front the roads grew poorer and more congested, and numerous signs in French and English warned drivers to mind their p's and q's.
The praises of the truck-driver are little sung, but they ought to be flung on high. The truck-driver works till midnight along muddy roads, in pitch darkness, grappling refractory carburetors with fingers aching with cold. He snatches a little sleep on the seat of his truck—if he is lucky—and is off again at three in the morning. If he fails, the army fails, for he carries the army's stomach. If he loses his temper and wastes a precious minute cursing his stalled engine, miles and miles of other trucks are likewise stopped for a minute and the Boche gains a respite. In those last days, with the Germans retreating rapidly, the strain on our trucks and truck-drivers was tremendous. We were afraid we would lose our advantage and give the Hun a breathing-space through sheer inability to keep up with him, for it is easier to fall back over prepared paths than to advance over shelled roads and mined bridges. But we managed to hang on to Fritz, although once trucks were actually called on to keep our first-line infantry in contact with the disappearing Hun.
As we skirted the Vosges foothills along a road toward the St. Mihiel salient we passed squad after squad of German prisoners, some working on the roads, others in camp behind barbed wire,others—just captured—still marching under guard toward the rear. I have failed to observe the extreme youth of German prisoners much mentioned by portions of the Allied press. Many of these were young indeed, but no younger than many of our own boys. They were mostly strong and well set up, though not up to the American standard of "huskiness." But unmistakably they were glad to be out of the war.
Through ankle-deep mud, almost the color and consistency of cream, I waded up the road at Malancourt from the Third Corps' post of command toward the front, looking for a lift. The clouds which hid the sun this morning, in early November, were about the tint of the mud. So were the spirits of the Military Police crouching at the roadside, with their hands cupping the warmth from a tiny fire in an empty petrol box.
"This is war, is it?" grumbled an M. P. with a freckled face. "Wish the folks could see us now! Say, some of the letters I get from home give me a pain. 'Sabout time people back there tumbled to the fact that instead o' being just bugles an' battles war's mostly mud an' manure."
"Yep, Sherman was away off," mumbled a lad with two mufflers around his long neck and shell-rim spectacles slipping down a pathetic, long, blue nose. "Hell-fire's a lot more companionable than mud. Wish we had a box full of it now instead of these measly twigs that burn like Boche cigars."
I was relieved from the contemplation of this dreary trio when a colonel of artillery stopped his splashing car and offered me a lift. Ah, here was a true officer and a gentleman! Colonel Weyrauch, of the 146th Artillery, he turned out to be, on his way forward to inspect his beloved guns. We begin to find them above Nantillois, near Madeleine Farm, the scene of hot fighting a few hours earlier. French guns they were, served by Americans. The colonel patted their long, beautiful necks and the strong, straddling legs which bit into the earth ten or fifteen feet behind the breach. He was like a horse-fancier making the rounds of his stable.
Under their canopies of camouflaging the guns were talking loudly—talking earnestly to the Boche up on the Meuse. No answer yet from Fritz, for which we were thankful, for the road was jammed with traffic and we had to halt every two or three minutes.
The roadside was cluttered up with disemboweled horses and disemboweled tanks. Every few rods there was a clump of clean new crosses, their stiff white arms pointing always toward Germany, as if we needed urging from our dead! Only empty trucks and loaded ambulances were going in the other direction, with here and there a slightly wounded or gassed officer riding on a front seat. Every one was grimly elated, saying, "Blueey, we've got 'em on the run!" The hardships of such campaigning are just bearable when you are elated with the thrill of winning. What they must be to the retreating enemy, knowing himself beaten, we found solace in imagining.
We passed through the little town of Cunel and along the road toward Romagne between two rows of garrulous guns. Their conviction in the last few days of the war that the Boche was beaten led the Americans to do some unusual things. For instance, in a space of a mile and a half along this road we had sixty-four guns. If the enemy had been standing up to his artillery and fighting back with full power, he might have raised havoc with these massed cannon. But he would not stand, and we knew it. He dropped over a few shells on this neighborhood every few hours, and that was all.
On the outskirts of Romagne we halted for lunch in an old French farmhouse, formerly a German P. C., and now one of ours. Two men were killed there by Hun shells shortly before I arrived, and the rain was dripping through gaping openings in roof and walls.
In the main room, with its huge rafters and side studding, its broad, uneven tiles, its wide fireplace, and its furniture made from boxes, were men who spoke a pleasant language, the tongue of the American Southwest. A captain from New Mexico, a brown giant whose clothes were caked with mud, was sitting with his feet on an andiron and humming that Villa war song, "La Curcuracha," when our entrance interrupted—
"Porque no tiene, porque le falto
Marihuana que fumar."
After lunch, and after I had been shown a frieze of wall paintings after the German idea of humor, put there in the Huns' confidence of permanent occupation, I left these hospitable artillerymen and joined more Texans and Oklahomans, the men of the Ninetieth Division, which was moving into the front line. The historian of the division, a well-known Texas newspaperman, offered the lift this time.
We were bound for Villers to establish the Ninetieth's P. C. just behind where some of its regiments were hunting the Huns up the wooded valleys on the west of the Meuse. The roads here were eaten by shells, but, even so, we could have made the run in two hours easily with a clear way. As it was, we started at five o'clock and were stock still twenty minutes later. There was an unbroken stream of trucks, motor cars, and mule wagons all the way from Romagne to Villers. When something went wrong with one vehicle and it stopped, all the others were forced to stop also. Even if all went well, we could move only at a walk. The first truck to break down caused a thirty-minute delay because at the bottom of the truck's load was the general's bedding roll, and the drivers were determined that he should have his blankets. But the truck's case was hopeless, and we finally left it standing beside the road, general's bed and all. The rain dripped steadily, and we were stone cold. There was not even the comfort of a cigarette, for all lights were forbidden. The sudden blazing of the guns and occasional Verey flares which hung in the sky like the torches of death only made the gloom seem thicker. All about me were men from San Antonio, El Paso, and the border country, where a cloudy day is an event.
"Oh, boy," said a voice, "for an hour of Texas sunshine!"
"Cheer up, you'll soon be dead."
At that they broke into—
"Viva Madero, he's goan a take Chihuahua,
Goan a take Chihuahua—BUT
We'll all be dai-aid."
"You said it!" yelled a corporal, when a Boche shell landed somewhere ahead with its horrible "Whee-ee-ee-ee pow!" Instinctively I ducked.
"What'sa use dodging?" queried the historian from Texas; "if it's got your name on it, it'll get you, anyhow."
"Well, captain, I don't like those shells myself," the lieutenant in charge of the convoy remarked; "they talk too much before they hit you. Remember the Negro who said to a pal going up to the front for the first time:
"'Sam, when you get to de front, look out for dem talkin' shells!'
"'Yes, talkin' shells. Dey talk jes' lak a man.'
"'What does dey say?' asked Sam.
"'Dey says, "Yooooooaintgoinbackerala—bam!"'"
(Just drone that through your nose, with the inflection rising quickly to the end of the Yoooooo and falling slowly the rest of the way to the pause before the bam! and you have a good imitation of a shell.)
The truth is that there is nothing pleasant about war—nothing. The pen of the sternest realist could not exaggerate the loathsomeness of it. This modern civilized warfare, this warfare of mechanics, is the worst form of all. When I first went to the western front, I expected in some degree to be thrilled and to feel some "inspiration to write about it." I came away cold, depressed, mentally exhausted with the illimitable destructiveness of the thing. You go to the front, and for days you see only destruction, disease, decay. Nothing growing, nothing blooming, nothing constructive. It is not so much the flying death that is terrible; it is the rotting dead. Trees rotting, houses rotting, crops rotting, machines rotting, horses rotting, men rotting.
That is war. Not bugles and battles, but mud and putrefaction. The flying death whistles, and you flatten down into the mud and putrefaction for an instant to escape lying in it forever. You do this again and again and again until you cease to care. Your mind is already rotting, your soul is rotting.
I saw some of our boys who had been over the top three times in twenty-four hours. The skin of their faces was pulled tight over the bone. Their eyes were the eyes of wild animals hunted to the point of utter weariness. Only the gashes which were mouths showed the will to go on. All men are sometimes afraid under fire; probably most men are afraid every time, but their courage consists in forcing themselves to go ahead.
Mud and putrefaction! That is war. The only excuse for it is to prevent it ever happening again.
When they get home, America can give nothing adequate to reward these boys for what they have done for her. You Americans in your comfortable homes may think you can imagine what they have been through, but your imagination cannot approach the horrors of the front. You cannot possibly know the value of what you have—warmth, food, a dry place to sleep; you cannot know the worth of one minute of peace, one minute of security from death that creeps, that stalks, that flies. The everlasting gratitude of their countrymen is the most that these boys can have and the least that they deserve, and it will be an immeasurable shame if one of these two millions is ever in need of anything which the Nation can give. Do not be deceived by their modesty, Americans; never forget what they have done for you.
From Villers through a drowsy drizzle I pursued the advancing front by the noise of the guns. The country was hilly here, and the sound which reverberated through the valleys was as if many giants were slamming great iron doors with huge hammers of bronze. There was something impressively regular and determined in the sound. It was not a sharp crash or bang—a cannon shot does not sound that way until you are quite close to it. It was a distinct bass ring, such as a great drum might give at a distance through a forest. It was immensely convincing of the might of these invisible giants who were slamming their way all up the valley, clanging the armor of the Hun.
Then, I got nearer, and the clang lost its musical metallic quality and became a roar like the sudden collapse of a brick house. I went on and left the guns behind and on each side. Ah, here was the little village of Montigny, just captured by us, and there beyond was the front line.
Tat tat, tat tat tat, tat, tat tat, tat, went a machine gun feeling for its voice before it could speak sharply, and then tat tat tat tat tat tat tat and on in a torrent of sharp monosyllables. Not a nice sound, but pleasant compared to another: Whish-ish-ish-ish—pow!—the cruel whistle of a shell and a burst overhead. With shrapnel they were trying for some of our infantry resting in shallow holes on a side hill at the right. At the same time, above this hellish whistle with its quick rise, slow fall, and sickening instant of hesitation before that pow, was a fainter whistle high in the air. That was from high-explosive shells aimed at our guns over the hill crest.
These were closer! They were landing slightly ahead of me, and at the left of the road in a little hollow where a machine-gun company in reserve was dug in I executed a flat dive into the soupy gutter and lay there, thinking rapidly. Would I go on and perhaps have a thrilling experience to relate to my grandchildren around the domestic hearth, or would I fall back and make sure of the grandchildren? There is no question about it, I do not like shells at all. It is not a fear of death, it is a fear of the noise, of the mangling mess they make. I have met only one man who is not bothered by shell-fire, and him it exhilarates. But he hates machine guns and perfectly dreads airplanes. Each to his own taste.
At the edge of a long ridge a line of trucks and motor cars were jammed while engineers filled in a trough across the road. This cavity was not the only evidence of a recent shell. On his back under a blanket which hid the awful holes in him lay a young soldier, and with cool fixed eyes and a placid smile regarded the clouds as if he could see through them something very precious and very far away perhaps the warm blue sky of Texas. How would it feel to be hit like that? Would he be smiling if he had felt any pain? Ah, why not smile, for all the pain in the world, if he were leaving this unrelenting dampness, cold, and destruction for rest, for the South, for home? Perhaps that shell had said:
A cloud of smoke and dust a hundred feet away followed the crash of the projectile which took the words out of my mouth. I found myself running pell-mell in a mob which included all the extra men who had been riding on the trucks. The drivers stayed with their machines. We swept over the brow of the hill and plumped down into shell-holes and behind a bank along a little-used cart path. Out of a rift of cloud dropped a German plane observing the aim of the guns.
But now, after the Boche had dropped over a few more shells, it was good to hear our guns get going in a gigantic anvil chorus—clang-whang-bang, whang-bang-clang. Twenty minutes of this, and the Boche answered no more. ("You fellows don't know what war is," said a German officer captured a few hours later; "you've never been under one of your own barrages.")
As the sun was dropping a cheer ran up the line of men along the road like fire up a trail of powder. An officer in a courier car was bringing the report that the Kaiser had abdicated. This turned out to be only one of the many such rumors which anticipated the event; but it was good to see the way our men took it. Just one loud cheer, and then back to work quickly. Kaiser or no Kaiser, while the Boche fought we would give them plenty.
The sun dropped lower and the guns talked less and less. The last rays warmed a few red and gold leaves still left on a tree here and there, blanched the slim white birches, and touched with saffron the uniform of a great doughboy who lay behind an oak as he had fallen, his hands gripping the ground under him as if he were trying to open a door which a stronger hand was closing in his face.
An afterflow of molten metal drenched the whole west. In the north and east the guns broke out again in fiery blotches of the same color.
I went back to Romagne, intending to join the Marines farther west on the American front. But a recurrence of grippe sent me back to Paris, and so I missed the end on the front. However, my friend the novelist and war correspondent, Herman Whitaker, who was with the Yanks east of the Meuse, has given me an accurate picture of how the curtain fell. Whitaker himself, though fifty-two years old and lame, went over the top in the last charge armed only with a cane. A machine-gun bullet went through the baggy part of his riding breeches and an officer was killed at each side of him. As I heard a general remark, "Whitaker is some war correspondent!"
"At about nine o'clock on the morning of November 11," says Whitaker, "word came to the Americans east of the Meuse that the armistice has been signed and that we would stop firing at eleven. At 9:50 we went over the top, and by eleven had pushed the Boche back a kilometer and a half. Just before eleven the Boche took out their watches and fired until the second hands indicated the hour. Then they rushed forward crying 'Kamerad,' and tried to embrace us. They said they had learned to consider us their most worthy foes, and had no hard feelings for Americans. But our men had been instructed not to fraternize and the Boche met with a cold reception.
"There was no noticeable cheering or celebrating then by the Yanks. But it was remarkable how Americans abruptly appeared from nowhere, so that the whole landscape, which had previously been dead and deserted, suddenly swarmed with life and movement."
That evening, from Switzerland to the North Sea, the line which had been dark for four years glowed with bonfires, and Verey lights hung in the sky, no longer the torches of death. All the pleasant sounds of peace returned to that devastated land. Dogs barked, cows mooed, and Frenchmen will tell you that the cock of France, awakened by the unaccustomed illumination, crowed triumphantly all through that memorable night.
THE GREAT ARMISTICE
In the uproar and stench
Of a Verdun trench—
The tortured bed of the great war's birth—
I slept, and dreamed this vision of Earth:
Out of the bosom of Europe the slaughter had spread
Till the waves of the distant Yang-tze-kiang flowed red;
Red were Columbia, Amazon, Ganges, Nile;
Red were the uttermost peak and the outermost isle.
No part of the planet, from shore to remotest shore,
But agonized now in the bestial clutch of war.
From every ocean, from every tribe and state,
Rose up to the stars the fetid odor of hate.
Then I saw in my dream how the sun was suddenly veiled
By the wings of a monstrous, ghoulish fleet of the air,—
Unhuman ships from another world, that hailed
From none knew where;
Fantastic hulls that never had birth
In the dreams of the boldest brain of Earth.
Downward in terrible power they came,
Armored with plates of smoldering flame,
Armed with might in the smithies of night,
Guided by beings merciless, wise,
Veterans drilled in the outer skies.
Now a greenish ray from the nethermost vessel shot.
Earthward it turned, judicial, unflickering, slow,
Till it looked on a fortress beset by hosts of the foe.
One glance of its eye, and—fortress and foe were not!
Then something gave way in my brain
With a fierce, revealing pain;
And I knew that, across the abysms of air,
After æons of human imaginings,
Creatures from some dread otherwhere
Had launched on miraculous wings
To abolish the near and the far.
I knew that beings from some strange star,
Hitherto out of the reach of our ken,
With resolute pinions unfurled,
And weapons undreamed till then,
Downward had swooped to erase
From the otherwise lovely face
Of the flower of a neighboring world,
Those who to their minds were but poisonous vermin—men!
I saw all human eyes
In terror fixed on the skies.
And I felt how one thought, like a signal, ran
Through the trenches of Earth from man to man,
Then leaped from the mire and forth
To the east and the west, to the south and the north,
Where the human enemies lay;
And it met with this self-same thought half-way;
"Let there be peace!
We are faced by a common foe; let the wars of the earth-born cease!
Shall brother and brother fight with the day of doom in sight?"
Mute thought became vocal then
In the cry of a world distraught:
"Peace among men!"
And, hard on the heels of thought,
From their trenches poured the embattled folk of the world,
With battle-flags furled,
And, with cries of good-will,
Sprang forth to embrace,
Those whom, the moment before, in that charnel-like place,
They had lusted to kill.
And I felt the great thrill
Of the throe
Of an earth
That moment while hand sought hand
Across the wires of every No-Man's Land,—
While foe took foe to his heart,
And, never to part,
Turned, shoulder by shoulder to parry the blow
Of the grim Earth-foe.
Then first, since the bulk of the dripping sphere
Heaved shuddering out of the slime
Of chaos and night and old time,
Were the hearts of all earth-men strung
In harmony one with the other.
Then faded and vanished the last frontier
Of hate, when the soul's universal tongue
Uttered the great word: "Brother!"
There, in that infinite spark of time,
Despite the ghoul-fleets veiling the sky,
Was my heart lifted high;
For I heard a mighty resurgent chime,
And I knew Earth's death-in-life was done,
And I saw from its grave-like trench, humanity climb
Into the light of a common sun.
Out of that dream I awoke.
On the borders of night, serenely far,
Unmenacing glimmered the evening star.
No ghoulish air-fleets blotted the blue.
The dew of the dusk was sweet;
But the voice of an enemy mortar spoke,
And my comrade fell at my feet
With his skull split through....
Then in my soul I prayed
To the wise All-Father, and said:
"God, if no merciful plan
May reconcile man to man,
Then raise thine omnipotent arm;
Blacken our skies with the woe
Of some all-menacing harm;
That, awed by a common foe
And a common fate,
Our hearts may shatter the gate
From the narrower self, and advance to unity dedicate,"
Then shall our triumph ring
Whether we stand or fall;
For the wreck of the flesh is a paltry thing,
But love is all in all.
Was it indeed only last March, or in another life, that I climbed this green hill on that day of dolour, the Sunday after the last great German offensive began? A beautiful sun-warmed day it was, when the wild thyme on the southern slope smelled sweet, and the distant sea was a glitter of gold. Lying on the grass, pressing my cheek to its warmth, I tried to get solace for that new dread which seemed so cruelly unnatural after four years of war-misery.
"If only it were all over!" I said to myself; "and I could come here, and to all the lovely places I know, without this awful contraction of the heart, and this knowledge that at every tick of my watch some human body is being mangled or destroyed. Ah, if only I could! Will there never be an end?"
And now there is an end, and I am up on this green hill once more, in December sunlight, with the distant sea a glitter of gold. And there is no cramp in my heart, no miasma clinging to my senses. Peace! It is still incredible. No more to hear with the ears of the nerves the ceaseless roll of gunfire, or see with the eyes of the nerves drowning men, gaping wounds, and death. Peace, actually Peace! The war has gone on so long that many of us have forgotten the sense of outrage and amazement we had, those first days of August, 1914, when it all began. But I have not forgotten, nor ever shall.
In some of us—I think in many who could not voice it—the war has left chiefly this feeling: "If only I could find a country where men cared less for all that they seem to care for, where they cared more for beauty, for nature, for being kindly to each other. If only I could find that green hill far away!" Of the songs of Theocritus, of the life of St. Francis, there is no more among the nations than there is of dew on grass in an east wind. If we ever thought otherwise, we are disillusioned now. Yet there is Peace again, and the souls of men fresh-murdered are not flying into our lungs with every breath we draw.
Each day this thought of Peace becomes more real and blessed. I can lie on this green hill and praise Creation that I am alive in a world of beauty. I can go to sleep up here with the cover-let of sunlight warm on my body, and not wake to that old dull misery. I can even dream with a light heart, for my fair dreams will not be spoiled by waking, and my bad dreams will be cured the moment I open my eyes. I can look up at that blue sky without seeing trailed across it a mirage of the long horror, a film picture of all the things that have been done by men to men. At last I can gaze up at it, limpid and blue, without a dogging melancholy; and I can gaze down at that far gleam of sea, knowing that there is no murk of murder on it any more.
And the flight of birds, the gulls and rooks and little brown wavering things which flit out and along the edge of the chalk-pits, is once more refreshment to me, utterly untempered. A merle is singing in a bramble thicket; the dew has not yet dried off the bramble leaves. A feather of a moon floats across the sky; the distance sends forth homely murmurs; the sun warms my cheeks. And all of this is pure joy. No hawk of dread and horror keeps swooping down and bearing off the little birds of happiness. No accusing conscience starts forth and beckons me away from pleasure. Everywhere is supreme and flawless beauty. Whether one looks at this tiny snail-shell, marvelously chased and marked, a very elf's horn whose open mouth is colored rose; or gazes down at the flat land between here and the sea, wandering under the smile of the afternoon sunlight, seeming almost to be alive, hedgeless, with its many watching trees, and silver gulls hovering above the mushroom-colored "plows," and fields green in manifold hues; whether one muses on this little pink daisy born so out of time, or watches that valley of brown-rose-gray woods, under the drifting shadows of low-hanging chalky clouds—all is perfect, as only Nature can be perfect on a lovely day, when the mind of him who looks on her is at rest.
On this green hill I am nearer than I have been yet to realization of the difference between war and peace. In our civilian lives hardly anything has been changed—we do not get more butter or more petrol, the garb and machinery of war still shroud us, journals still drip hate; but in our spirits there is all the difference between gradual dying and gradual recovery from sickness.
At the beginning of the war a certain artist, so one heard, shut himself away in his house and garden, taking in no newspaper, receiving no visitors, listening to no breath of the war, seeing no sight of it. So he lived, buried in his work and his flowers—I know not for how long. Was he wise, or did he suffer even more than the rest of us who shut nothing away? Can man, indeed, shut out the very quality of his firmament, or bar himself away from the general misery of his species?
This gradual recovery of the world—this slow reopening of the great flower, Life—is beautiful to feel and see. I press my hand flat and hard down on those blades of grass, then take it away, and watch them very slowly raise themselves and shake off the bruise. So it is, and will be, with us for a long time to come. The cramp of war was deep in us, as an iron frost in the earth. Of all the countless millions who have fought and nursed and written and spoken and dug and sewn and worked in a thousand other ways to help on the business of killing, hardly any have labored in real love of war. Ironical, indeed, that perhaps the most beautiful poem written these four years, Julian Grenfell's "Into Battle!" was in heartfelt praise of fighting! But if one could gather the deep curses breathed by man and woman upon war since the first bugle was blown, the dirge of them could not be contained in the air which wraps this earth.
And yet the "green hill" where dwell beauty and kindliness, is still far away. Will it ever be nearer? Men have fought even on this green hill where I am lying. By the rampart markings on its chalk and grass, it has surely served for an encampment. The beauty of day and night, the lark's song, the sweet-scented growing things, the rapture of health, and of pure air, the majesty of the stars, and the gladness of sunlight, of song and dance and simple friendliness, have never been enough for men. We crave our turbulent fate. Can wars, then, ever cease? Look in men's faces, read their writings, and beneath masks and hypocrisies note the restless creeping of the tiger spirit! There has never been anything to prevent the millennium except the nature of the human being. There are not enough lovers of beauty among men. It all comes back to that. Not enough who want the green hill far away—who naturally hate disharmony, and the greed, ugliness, restlessness, cruelty, which are its parents and its children.
Will there ever be more lovers of beauty in proportion to those who are indifferent to beauty? Who shall answer that question? Yet on the answer depends peace. Men may have a mint of sterling qualities—be vigorous, adventurous, brave, upright, and self-sacrificing; be preachers and teachers; keen, cool-headed, just, industrious—if they have not the love of beauty, they will still be making wars. Man is a fighting animal, with sense of the ridiculous enough to know that he is a fool to fight, but not sense of the sublime enough to stop him. Ah, well! we have peace!
It is happiness greater than I have known for four years and four months, to lie here and let that thought go on its wings, quiet and free as the wind stealing soft from the sea, and blessed as the sunlight on this green hill.
- From "Tatterdemalion"; copyright, 1920, by Charles Scribner's Sons. By permission of the publishers.