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MILITARY SERVICE

37

In the officers' mess he cheered up everybody by his humour, and encouraged them by his gay energy. At one of those evenings he composed with his comrades the well-known verses beginning as follows:

"On the fourth of the month,
 The devil sent us out
 To capture the heights . . ."

This song, in which, with good-natured humour, many commanding officers were ridiculed, was soon learnt and sung by the soldiers when off duty.

In the midst of the horrors of death, of incessant suspense for his own and others' lives, Tolstoy continued to ponder over man's destiny, the aim of life, and the eternal truths. In his diary we read, under the date of March 5th, 1855:

"A discussion on God and Faith brought me to a great, a stupendous idea, to the realisation of which I feel able to devote my life. The idea is to create a new religion corresponding to the development of mankind, a religion of Christ purified from dogma and mysticism, a practical religion, not promising bliss in future, but giving happiness on earth. I understand that this idea can be realised only by generations consciously working for that purpose. One generation will bequeath this idea to the next, and some day by fanaticism