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THE HAPPY WARRIOR., Issue 15708, 23 January 1915
THE HAPPY WARRIOR.
We noticed that a Dimedin preacher dißcoursed on this themo last Sunday. W© do not know if he made Wordsworth's, fins poem the basis of his observation. But wo are going to'do that. It is a seasonable subject. All sorts of advice have been given to our soldiers. It is a wonder nobody has suggested that they should be presented with a copy of Wordsworth's poem, and asked to take it as the ideal of their lives. Nothing could he more appropriate—nothing could bettor ensure that they would come off conquerors and more, than conquerors. The poem was written a year after the battle of Trafalgar. It is possible that Wordsworth had the death of Nelson in viow. But it is more likely —indeed, it is quite evident from his account of it—that it was his own brother John who suggested the portrait of the Happy Warrior which he paints in the poem. It is true that John was not a soldier, only the captain of an East Indian merchantman. But, then all life is a, battle, and the qualities that go to constitute the Happy Warrior are just those needed in the struggle of existence. Wordsworth was deeply attached to his brother, who to have been a man of high and unselfish character. The voyage on which he went, and in which he perished, was undertaken mainly for 'the purpose of getting money to help his brother William and his sister, who were rather hard up at the time. It is never a desirable thing to maul a poem in order to get its meaning. It is like dissecting a man in order to discover life. The thing sought evaporates in the process. And so try'ng to express in prose the soul of a poem is a heartless process. But it is sometimes useful, even as crushed flowers give out a sweeter fragrance. And so, as the- occasion warrants, wo may venture on the experiment. It is to ba remembered, however, 'that we do not profess to give in detail all those, qualities which, in Wordsworth's view, go to the making of the Happy Warrior. We merely pick out some of the more prominent; but we trust that the very imperfectness of our a.nalvsis will send our readers to the poem itself. *******
The poem opens with the- question Who is the Happy Warn or? Who is he That every man in anus should wish to be? His first characteristic -is that he- has formed a definite- plan- or purpose in life. He does not dvit't through it aimlessly, like an empty boat on the river. He has an appreciation of knowledge and is diligent to learn. "But makes his moral being his prime car*." We aie learning in this war that it is not physical courage that is going to win it. If that were so, we might well dread the ultimate issue, for our enemies are brave as we are. They have shown a contempt of death and a readiness to face peril which our own soldiers have not surpassed. But our hope vl victory lies in the superior morale of our Army. Jt lies in the fact that our foes have, leagued against them the moral sentiment not only of our own soldiers, hut of the civilised ivor-ld. It i., not animal courage or the blind brute force ot a machine that eventually triumphs ; it is that indefinable something that we call moral and spiritual. The First Napoleon thought that soldiers could be licked info a fighting machine, even though they were ignorant of the Cause for which they risked their lives. That was one of the chief reasons why Napoleon failed. Wordsworth is right. The poet sees clearer than the soldier, who ignores the moral as supreme in the soldier's outfit. If he is to win "he must make nis moral being his prime care."
***** -x * A second element in this Happy Warrior's character is his power to transmit the evils of war—its pains and fear and bloodshed—into good. He takes these, and they make him not harder or more savage, but rather more compassionate. Because occasions rise So often that demand such sacrifice: More skilful in self-knowledge, ever more pure, As tempted more; more able to endure, As more exposed to suffering and distress. Thence also more alive to tenderness. This is a remarkable and quite unexpected trait in the true soldier's character. And yet it is what we find in the noblest of them, and in the humblest. The Japanese have a saying that "a man has just three more hairs than a monkey." And, in truth, if we are to judge by the difference between the human and the brute as manifested by the Herman methods in this war it may be doubted if they have even the three hairs to their credit. What are we to think of a great statesman like Bismarck who delivers his marching orders to troops in these words : " You " must leave the people only their eyes "to weep with"? What are we to sayabout a Kaiser who adjures his soldiers to act "with unrelenting severity, and to " create examples which, by their fri.ght- " fulness, would be a warning to the "whole country"? And what conception of Warriors can we have who nil too freely and literally act upon these maxims of their leaders? The record of the atrocities of the, German troops grows in length and in horror. It is impossible to doubt that they are absolutely without these fine elements of the Happy Warrior. On the other harjd, it is equally impossible to doubt that our own troops, as a whole, have exhibited a tenderness and selfsacrifice, in very marked contrast to their foes. Hundreds of individual instances might be quoted to show their generosity to the weak and the fallen. Here, for example, is a very touching and tender one. A private of the Firat Gloucester Regiment tells that on the way back from a desperate charge I saw a poor German soldier trying to get to his water-bottle. He was in a fearful condition. I knelt down by •his side. Finding his own water-bottle was empty, I gave him water from mine. Somewhat revived, he opened his eyes and saw my Salvation Army button. His drawn face lit up with a smile, and he whispered in broken English : "Salvation Army? I, also, am a Salvation soldier." Then he felt for his Army badge. It was still pinned to his coat.' though bespattered with blood. T think we both shed a few tears, and then I picked up his poor broken body, and, with as much tenderness as possible, for the terrible hail of death was beginning again, I carried him to the. ambulance. But hj? was beyond humaJi aid. When I placed him on the waggon he gave a gentle tug at my coat. Thinking he' wanted to say something, I bent low and listened, and ho whispered : "Josus, safe with Jesus." What a hellish business it is that destroy* lives like these. But what * brilliant and beautiful gleam this it, lightening up for « moment the grim tragedie* of the battlefield ! It is very difficult, cenfrentsd with the cruelties of our foes, to keep in check ihe spirit of reprisals and revenge. But what then? When the Rheims Cathedral was on fire, and the priest stepped out of the cathedral with the German prisoners and put himself before the inhabitants when they wished to shoot them, holding up his hand he said: "But then, "messieurs. >'au will he as had a» th*
" enemy." Ifc -will bs the high triumph of the Happy Warrior i£ wo can remember these noble words, and carry through this war the spirit of sacrifice, and tenderness which the helpless and the fallen ask at our hands.
Another characteristic of the Happy Warrior is his indifference to rank or station. If ■fame come to him. well and good ; if not, no matter. He will not Stoop nor lie in wait For wealth or honors or for worldly state; Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall Like showers of manna, if they come at all. Conjoined with this is a like indifference to great perils. His sense of rectitude arms him against the issues, be what they may. He meets them undismayed. Nay, even Is happy as a lover, and attired With sudden brightness like a man inspired. Further, the passion which nerves his arm is not the wild Berserker passion of the adventurer, •who loves fighting- for fighting's sake. It is the. passion of home-bred joys—"more biavft for this that he hath much, to love,'' As one. has put it, they leave their hou.es not because they are tired of them, but beoause they love them. Of course, it is our poignant grief that it ' is just the dearest of in en who are the bravest—just those whom we love most that will be the first to go and the readiest to suffer. ... It will probably be one of rhe determining influences in this war that while the armies of the Continent are driven to war by the whip of law, the men of Britain are drawn by the call of duty and the love of home and the desr ones there. Again, the Happy Warrior's comfort and joy are not, without him —not in what he lias but what he is—not in what his powers or his pro wees may be bring in external rewards These are of quite secondary consequence. He never frets if he is overlocked ; he never complains if others are preferred before him, because his peace of mind is not dependent on circumstances. It if. dependent on his own consciousness that he has done right, or has done his ]x*t. And srt "he finds comfort in hi inself and in his Cause." It is a, line thing thus to be freed from external bonds, and to find one's happiness in one's own conscience, and in the aims and ambitions for which on.' lived and died. ******* And yet. something more, is needed to complete the picture. Jt may be a poet's truth that "the cjood man is satisfied from himself," but it. is not the truth of life. The curious thins? is that as one prepresses in virtue the more he becomes conscious of flaws and imperfections. "Thus '• the satisfactions of conscience are least "known where they are best earned." On the other hand, the more conscience is violated, the more silent if. becomes. It loses its sensitiveness, and becomes like steel that is demagnetised. But yet it is not completely obliterated. It prophecies a punishment, which it has no power to execute. And so we are led to look beyond this visible scene for another judge and a, different tribunal, for if "Death gives final "discharge to the saint and the sinner, "we are warranted in sayinsr fthat con- " science has told more lies than ever it " Kae tacougKt to account." " These, poor persecuted Covenanters," said C'arJyle, to an inquiring Frenchman, "in".such poor French as. I could command, •' ils s'en. appelaient a.'—■ —'a la, posteritie,' interrupted he, helping me. out, 'Ah, monsieur, no. A thousand times no. They appealed to the Eternal God, not to posterity at all. 'Chat was very different.'" Certainly; and so the Happy Warrior goes into battle with the last enemy—Deathrealising that beyond the seen and temporal there is another world and another Court of Appeal, where all wrongs arc finally righted. And while the mortal mist is gathering, draws His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause. This is the Happy Warrior; this is _he Whom every man in arms should w;sh to be.
THE HAPPY WARRIOR., Issue 15708, 23 January 1915
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