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ROUND THE CAULDRON, Issue 15668, 5 December 1914
ROUND THE CAULDRON
[Specially Written for the Dunedin •Evening Stab.’] [Copxbioht.] No. VII. [By E. S. Hole, o£ London.] THE “BOMBARDIER WELLS” OF EUROPE. I have refrained Lom attempting to exjircea mv general v*c\vd and impressions of until now, because 1 louncl the whole subject so pnsmat.c, »o difficult to bring into ckar locus, and so worthy of careiul and even reverent treatment. Russia. is a mystery, even to there who know her Lest. She ’is Lite a great mountain on wii..a the sun shurca eternally on one side, and you are eternally viewing the tamo mountain in different, phases of the chang’ng sun.-h.n-i. When old Sol >s directly ove*b:au and illuminating the whole mountain, ivu you have the downward shadows from the overhanging cliffs. When the evening sun is telling, the whole mountain rises dark and forbidding before you as you stand in its shadow ; but if you could only see the other side you would find it glorious in the rays of the evening sunshine. Ibis is all very true, for Russia is a mountain which different artists paint in different ways, according to the angle from winch they tee it. All agree on dno thing, however, and that is its rugged, colossal grandeur. By so.no strange paradox almost the £rst thing which i noted wlieu 1 landed in Odessa was the fact that a lusty youth, striding down a quiet street with a basket on his arm, obviously a messenger engaged on some prosaic and everyday task, was wh'stl.ng away with all the greatest imag.nablc zest and energy, and it suddenly struck me that tho notes were those of : The Marseillaise/ ‘lhe Marseillaise !’—Russia! lh.it nas been the ievnotc to all my subsequent impressions. If* vou como here expecting to find a “ knout ” vou will be taken to a museum. If you ccnie here expecting to find a people drilled and regimented by overbearing “schutzmunner’’—find a people as you have it in Germany—you will again, be undeceived. If v.»u come here to look for wild Tartars" and half-courealed barbarism, vou will go away still vainly seeking. wlien yon are here you will find a civilised people in the real sense, and yon will find that even the uncultured and uneducated Russian peasant, who really often is ground down and sweated by i.ie Jews, can yet live on better terms with them than, sav, tho highly-civili--cd Austrian could do’ with the Servians or the highly “cultured” Germans with any ot their’neighbors. Remember always l.iat there are three degrees of comparison, even in pogroms, and you will notice that in my panygeric of Russ.a I do not hesitate to mention almost at the onset that shade or shadow in tire -Russian mountain which is so often painted in the blackest colors. I do not hesitate to say that 1 have found as much real liberty in Russia as in any country through which I have passed. If anyone has tno idea that the Russians are a downtrodden l<eople he should tiiaubus*© bis mind of me illusion at once. . . Russia is doing very well indeed, thank vou, and when her own sons axe quite sine lie to what they really want and new they want to achieve it, well, they will jtiet do it, and meanwhile they are daily getting into the stride of oigamsed constitutionalism as well as the hugeness of then eocial body will allow them. If anyone is inclined" to sneer at the slowness of the movement towards this end, let him remember that tho pat ns which other nations have followed have been infinitely more bloody than the path which Russian democracy treads. Even in America, the land of the free, was not tho present Constitution bought at the cost of rivers of blood m the American Civil War? Criticise Russia as you will, but always remember when doing so the Biblical injunctions regarding beams and motes. In the past in all ita struggles with surrounding Powers Russia is reminiscent of our own Bombardier Weils, both in her history and in her personality. Extremely sclf-conscious, sue has lost more that. ' one combat in a most gentlemanly manner, knowing full well, as wo all know about Wells, that victory really was possible if all the innate forces had been properly used and brought out. Just as the short, quick movements of a Carpcntier cancelled out the superior phvsique and weight of Wells, so have the energetic dashes of agile opponents served to cancel out but not to diminish the mighty power of this great fighter, which now. for the first time, perhaps, has all her mental forces harnessed to all her physical powers, and is probably going to “stagger humanity in a very complete manner indeed. The interest of tho Russian people in this conflict is intense, and quite as intense is tho pleasure—the undisguised pleasure—of all in the fact that the nation fights with two such noble and civilised allies as England and France. It is not easy to convey any approximate idea of the weight which the average Russian attaches to England’s cooperation. When Russian arms, after a reverse in Prussia, met with splendid success in Galicia by the capture of Lemberg there were two thoughts in the minds of Russia: How will it affect the attitude of the neutral Powers, and what does England think about it? Long extracts from the London and Manchester Press were telegraphed here and reproduced with exulting comments by the groat national organs. In the early days of tha war England had confined her demonstrations almost exclusively to the honor of tho French and English' flags, but now one learns that tho Russian flag is suddenly receiving due honor and appearing everywhere, and that ,he London shops have exhausted all their hock of Russian flags and are struggling to get more. This thing—this little thing, if you like—means so much out here, aud, in "turn, tha Union Jack is becoming more and more prominent. The British fleet is recognised at its true value, although its effect upon Russia is less than upon any of the Allies; yet it is clear to the Russian that in a hundred indirect ways the fleet is rendering service of incalculable value to the common cause. And the English troops, tho reports of the German Press, and comments of Russian writers are quite enough to show that tho old traditions still count, and that Russia realises that our right hand has not yet lost its cunning or our heart its wonted fire. The ‘ Government Messenger,’ an official sheet which is posted on the walls all over the city in the morning and evening, gives exhaustive extracts, and a good proportion of its total area to news from London and the doings of the British Fleet and Army. Now it is our national destiay to inspire confidence in all who are ever associated with nsl It reminds mo of the comment of a Roumanian official whose sympathies are entirely with France and Russia, and entirely against Germany. In conversation with a friend of mine In Athens he said: Wissen Sie, es its sins Woruber ich mich unsaglich freuo, nnd das Ist dass England dabei Ist Sie werden nicht mit sich spielen lassen, die Englander 1 Ach nein! Sie sind practiche raensclen nnd, wenn sie was mechen, wissen sis, Sie wissen warum sie das machenl I do not think tho general opinion of Europe could be better expressed. Wo are “ Practischa menaclen,” and that is why it is clear that both Prance and Russia lean upon ns and upon our judgment, making ns thus the keystone of the arch, and neutral Powes, when they think of the final settlement, think of England and Sir Edward Grey and tho House of Commons just as we ourselves do in England. “What’s in a name t” queried Shakespeare. Here is hi* answer. Perhaps the Russian appreciates the Influence of the British Fleet upon the restive Turk as much as he appreciates anything, for it is generally felt here that if it were not for that powerful restraining influence so closo to the Dardanelles the Turk would have run amok ere now, and would most certainly have done so if England had not been by, in which case there is a sort of suspicion that Italy, too, might have taken a band on the wrong side. Everyone here has a newspaper in his band or in his pocket. The interest in •very stop- is sustained end open. Tele-
Srams posted up in newspaper office winows attract their crowds of readers, who stretch out into the roadway and devour every word. Every hour, also, some special single sheet edition of a newspaper appears, containing the last few stray items of news which have come in, and tho daily reports of the chief general staff aro almost learned off by heart. If any very “ regimental ” British drill sergeant, as I know him, were to come on to the Teatralnao Ploschad here ha would almost collapse. There aro squad after squad of recruits and reservists in semi-military, semi-civil costume being put through all tho elementary forms of squad drill and . musketry exercise, forming fourc, and what not. The general appearance, in so far as attire is concerned, would shock a drill sergeant; but his eye would be delighted with the physique and possibilities of the material. And from the semicivilian attire of these soldiers can be seen the encial strata from which the reservists are drawn. The rough moleskin and torn blouse of the peasant or laborer are next to the well-cut and expensive broad cloth of the clerk, the shopkeeper, tho journalist, or who knows what else? All stand there together, proceeding daily forward in their drills, daily coming nearer to the completion and progress forward to the fighting line. All over the country the same preparation still proceeds. Small and large squads are in the public places of the cities, and in the fields beyond the cities all earnest, patriotic, fervent Russians ready to serve their country and “ Batiashka ” with their lives. A wave of patriotic recognition of essential unity as Slavs has swept this country, and will yet ere long sweep Poland’ and Bulgaria too, for nothing can withstand it. “Veliky Rossya.” How a whole compartment full of Russian soldiers laughed and smiled appreciatively when 1 said “ Russky Tsar Veliky Chelovik ” (the Russian Tear is a great man). To the Russian the Tsar is more than a man; he is super-man imperialised. Around the Tear is centred every hone of Russia. His picture is everywhere. Boshe Tsarye Kharanye ” (God save tho Tsar) is the one legend in which a nation are expressed in a prayer for its monarch—a worthy monarch, too, in both cases. Here, above all things, war and national sentiment are merged in religion. There is here no surface piety or lip service to the Deity. There is a reverential awe which transcends me. -At Vilia, when passing through the other day, I saw tha kneeling crowds before the altar in the open streets, heard the swelling anthem nnd the pealing organ note, watched the tear-stained faces of women whose sons, huebands, brothers, and lovers had taken their lives into the uncertain keeping of the God of Battles, and there I, too. felt the flood of deep religious incomprehensible emotion in the depths. Here in I'elrcgrad ono secs processions of the common people headed by their long-haired white-robed priests, moving onwards to tho Kazansky Cathedral, thero in the wide open square before one; the Host is elevated upon tho steps, to enabJe the people to pour out their simple hearta to the great God ; while behind them, along the Newsky prospect, rolls the ceaseless tide of human life, amid which, in troop after troop, squad after squad, the armed sons of Russia march on to join the trains which shall carry them to the scene of conflict with the* national enemy—the upstart “Nyemetsky," whoso name in Russia is now anathema. Petrograd, October 5.
ROUND THE CAULDRON, Issue 15668, 5 December 1914
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