Home > Uncategorized > John Galsworthy: War moves mankind towards the manly and unforgiving vigour of the tiger and the rat

John Galsworthy: War moves mankind towards the manly and unforgiving vigour of the tiger and the rat

====

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

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

=====

John Galsworthy
From The Burning Spear (1919)

standard_galsworthy_john

After parting with the scarecrow Mr. Lavender, who felt uncommonly hungry, was about to despair of finding any German prisoners when he saw before him a gravel-pit, and three men working therein. Clad in dungaree, and very dusty, they had a cast of countenance so unmistakably Teutonic that Mr. Lavender stood still. They paid little or no attention to him, however, but went on sadly and silently with their work, which was that of sifting gravel. Mr. Lavender sat down on a milestone opposite, and his heart contracted within him. “They look very thin and sad,” he thought, “I should not like to be a prisoner myself far from my country, in the midst of a hostile population, without a woman or a dog to throw me a wag of the tail. Poor men! For though it is necessary to hate the Germans, it seems impossible to forget that we are all human beings. This is weakness,” he added to himself, “which no editor would tolerate for a moment. I must fight against it if I am to fulfil my duty of rousing the population to the task of starving them. How hungry they look already – their checks are hollow! I must be firm. Perhaps they have wives and families at home, thinking of them at this moment. But, after all, they are Huns. What did the great writer say? ‘Vermin – creatures no more worthy of pity than the tiger or the rat.’ How true! And yet – Blink!” For his dog, seated on her haunches, was looking at him with that peculiarly steady gaze which betokened in her the desire for food. “Yes,” mused Mr. Lavender, “pity is the mark of the weak man. It is a vice which was at one time rampant in this country; the war has made one beneficial change at least – we are moving more and more towards the manly and unforgiving vigour of the tiger and the rat. To be brutal! This is the one lesson that the Germans can teach us, for we had almost forgotten the art. What danger we were in! Thank God, we have past masters again among us now!” A frown became fixed between his brows. “Yes, indeed, past masters. How I venerate those good journalists and all the great crowd of witnesses who have dominated the mortal weakness, pity. ‘The Hun must and shall be destroyed – root and branch – hip and thigh – bag and baggage man, woman, and babe – this is the sole duty of the great and humane British people. Roll up, ladies and gentlemen, roll up! Great thought – great language! And yet -”

Here Mr. Lavender broke into a gentle sweat, while the Germans went on sifting gravel in front of him, and Blink continued to look up into his face with her fixed, lustrous eyes. “What an awful thing,” he thought, “to be a man. If only I were just a public man and could, as they do, leave out the human and individual side of everything, how simple it would be! It is the being a man as well which is so troublesome. A man has feelings; it is wrong – wrong! There should be no connection whatever between public duty and the feelings of a man. One ought to be able to starve one’s enemy without a quiver, to watch him drown without a wink. In fact, one ought to be a German. We ought all to be Germans. Blink, we ought all to be Germans, dear! I must steel myself!” And Mr. Lavender wiped his forehead, for, though a great idea had come to him, he still lacked the heroic savagery to put it into execution. “It is my duty,” he thought, “to cause those hungry, sad-looking men to follow me and watch me eat my lunch. It is my duty. God give me strength! For unless I make this sacrifice of my gentler nature I shall be unworthy to call myself a public man, or to be reported in the newspapers. ‘En avant, de Bracy!'” So musing, he rose, and Blink with him….

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: