Home > Uncategorized > John Galsworthy: The pure essence of humanitarian warfare sentiments

John Galsworthy: The pure essence of humanitarian warfare sentiments


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

John Galsworthy: Selections on war


John Galsworthy
From The Burning Spear (1919)


Mr. Lavender lay with his eyes fixed on the ceiling, clucking his parched tongue. “God,” he thought, “for one must use that word when the country is in danger – God be thanked for Beauty! But I must not allow it to unsteel my soul. Only when the cause of humanity has triumphed, and with the avenging sword and shell we have exterminated that criminal nation, only then shall I be entitled to let its gentle influence creep about my being.”


Mr. Lavender sighed. “At a time like this,” he said, “we must all be prepared to sacrifice our health. No public man, as you know, can call his head his own for a moment. I should count myself singularly lacking if I stopped to consider – er – such a consideration.”

“Consider – er – such a consideration,” repeated the nephew, jotting it down.

“He carries on,” murmured Mr. Lavender, once more identifying himself with the journal, “grappling with the intricacies of this enormous problem; happy in the thought that nothing – not even reason itself – is too precious to sacrifice on the altar of his duty to his country. The public may rest confident in the knowledge that he will so carry on till they carry him out on his shield.” And aware subconsciously that the interview could go no further than that phrase, Mr. Lavender was silent, gazing up with rather startled eyes.


“Never,” he was saying, “will we admit that doctrine of our common enemies. Might is not right, gentlemen, those who take the sword shall perish by the sword. With blood and iron we will ourselves stamp out this noxious breed. No stone shall be left standing, and no babe sleeping in that abandoned country. We will restore the tide of humanity, if we have to wade through rivers of blood across mountains of iron.”


“Glorious print!” cried Mr. Lavender suddenly, for a journal had fallen from his pocket, and the sight of it lying there, out of his reach, excited him. “Glorious print! I can read you even from here. When the enemy of mankind uses the word God he commits blasphemy! How different from us!” And raising his eyes from the journal Mr. Lavender fastened them, as it seemed to his anxious listeners, on the tree which sheltered them. “Yes! Those unseen presenes, who search out the workings of our heart, know that even the most Jingo among us can say, ‘I am not as they are!’…”


On Thursday, the day fixed for his fresh tour of public speaking, he opened the great journal eagerly. Above the third column was the headline: OUR VITAL DUTY: BY A GREAT PUBLIC MAN. “That must be it,” he thought. The article, which occupied just a column of precious space, began with an appeal so moving that before he had read twenty lines Mr. Lavender had identified himself completely with the writer; and if anyone had told him that he had not uttered these sentiments, he would have given him the lie direct. Working from heat to heat the article finished in a glorious outburst with a passionate appeal to the country to starve all German prisoners.

Mr. Lavender put it down in a glow of exultation. “I shall translate words into action,” he thought; “I shall at once visit a rural district where German prisoners are working on the land, and see that the farmers do their duty.”


“This glorious land!” he thought, walking away from the beech clump, with Blink at his heels; “how wonderful to see it being restored to its former fertility under pressure of the war! The farmer must be a happy man, indeed, working so nobly for his country, without thought of his own prosperity. How flowery those beans look already!” he mused, glancing at a field of potatoes. “Now that I am here I shall be able to combine my work on German prisoners with an effort to stimulate food production. Blink!”

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