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The Lessons of the Pageant

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11t exp.ectation, wondegrlll what stuh a war wouli a like. I h.it was fifty years alter the I ‘erstan War the last visitation of the kind. Let us take heed that pistenty (tu lith pays oi debts) does not fall into the horrible death trap In whilch lout eassy going wtlld was Ti1 was tilh’ ist of histirv’s hlard lessons which w, bought homen to I11( as I stood behind the seats for tdisabled soldiers on the north side of tilt’ Queen V toia .iemnrial and watched the King taking the silte as the muted pomllp of t moderln war went by to the sound oft Isuig falling cheers it is the hardest lesson oI all iat a moment when 1 ace)( is born anew buti let ts have (ourage to tn it ! Never had Clio, nlnllllld’ iuembran ier, a mllocre impressive lecture- hall iookirg through the colonnade of white trellis pillars, eac h bearing at shetf of flags and a finial tof gold, ar osi tie trim gri.en swarld, I sbaw the gleamling mnarble Sld la nlg brItti et O1 tile Meolll rial its the crucial episode of the iwhole colnllosltion On the steps of the lenmrial was tIhe green-and gold Pavilion, culminating in a gilt crown with the royal cipher, where the King took the salute In the backgroutnd was the steep, sombre front of the P’alace, decked with flags and purple Ihlllgig, and on either sidle were dark masses of mid- July ftlage- liey-ond the trees to the south arose the ltower of Westminster (athedral– the fixed forefinger of an elder faith, which pointed heavenward anti bade he rald tihe eternal niessuge in ephemeral thiings. The loumr si hent of the picture was delicately alluring; the ey-e followed tile broken, yet persistent, cnrve of dusk-y blue lliade by tihe uniforms of convalescent fighting Ineni, which was iontllltued on the south sldte, with qIiet pleasure -and was pleasantly startled by tlihe ocrsional scal let capes of nu.rses sitting in the curving stalnd and the mlassed geraniums In the little greein pleasanlce Then the iing arrived, anld all the soldiers present Atl many of tihe civilians stood to attention as the Guards’ IBlad played the National Anthem. Soon the cheering ran like a flame up the Mall, and General Pershling, a noble ihorsemian, gave thie first salute. He was followed by the American composite regiment, fine, grim looking young men inl shrapnel hemlets, who carried with them a veritable forest of great flags. What ait noble gesture it was when ” Old Glory’ ” bowed to the successor of the Sovereign whose Ministers had forced the men of tihe Thlirteen Colonies into rebellion so much against their wills Vho would have dreamed of such a thing five years ago ? As our honoured guests went by, a new hlope of universal comradeship glowed ui my mind. If war had made this fraternity between sulch various types of mnankind, why should Peace mar It ? Could we not keep the great alliance in being for a war against the blind brute forces o
f Nature and the other evils, engendered by his own folly, which make Alan wretched and wicked ? So the tall young Americans went by, with the grave, intent faces that so often seem to have a touch of Algonkin austerity; the little, dark- visaged Belgians in khaki overcoats, marching with the lilt of a folk song played on the Mechlin carillon; the mysterious, unemotional riders of China; the gay, smi- ling Czecho-Slovaks, a new-born nation, in light-blue with dark-blue caps. And then France, headed by Foch- is it nations or great men who make world-history ? Thrice that question asked itself that afternoon. First of all, when we greeted the French Marshal, the student and professor and philosopher of war, who cleared away the Clausewitzian glosses from the art of strategy, and, practising as he preached, proved himself a past- master of the Napoleonic battle! Secondly, when we acclaimed Beatty, we asked the same question, feeling sure – as all who served tnder him have been-that he would have shown himself a second Nelson, if opportunity had been matched with personality. Destiny denied him a Trafalgar Day, and we are the richer for it in surviving seamen that have no equal on the seas. And, lastly, we asked the ques- tion which no lhistorian has ever answered when Haig rode by, Foch’s most loyal comrade and coadjutor, and a true soldiers’ General after the pattern of Wellington, or to seek a more remote century-the fifth Henry, whose victory at Agincourt seemed a sheer miracle to friend-and foe alike. I was strangely reminded of the pageant of victory after Agincourt in November 1i45, when the ” r Pigeon Loft ” mentioned on page 9 of the official programme passed by. and some of the winged messengers were allowed to flutter out in the King’s presence. For one of the happy thoughts of the merchants of London who devised the Agincourt d


victory pageant was to release birds as a sort of twittering aerial confetti when Henry V. rode past, silent and aloof, and pondering incommunicable things and taking nothing of the acclamations to himself. The blue-clad French poilus with their tattered tricolours, the darker blue of the matelots and the slplashed red of the Zouaves went by-these were the heirs of the lioman legionaries. So also passed the slate- grey Italians, darker than the others because nearer to lithe Southern sun, who bore tattered green standards with shell-rents and bullet tears soir battle honours. The Greeks, in green khaki, had preceded them, for pre- cedence was according to alphabetical order. The little Inlperturbable Japanese in khaki touched with red; the Poles, in light-blue touched with white; the grey lPortuguese, our oldest Allies; the Roumanians, in blue with khaki trappings: the grim little Serbians, who had a special shout from the crowd for their match- less valiancy; and, last of all, the Siamese in khaki, ()nentals who feel dishonour like a cankering wound. Tlhere were even more different types in the Imperial contingents that followed of fighters by land and by sea and in the sky. But the hope waxed stronger in my mind that this alliance of all nations and languages may yet live on for the fulfilment of peaceful purposes. There were times when I saw the march-past as a pageant of innumerable flags, streaming along inces- santly, and each having its intimate message. The whole history of earthly warfare was written in these flags, but no living man who saw them pass knows all the meanings of them all. But there is one high truth which every one of them expresses in its own fluttering accents of chiming colours. Every flag is a spiritual thing- it is information of immortality, assuring us that an Army or a regiment, a ship or a Navy, lives on and on even when all its human members of to-day have been slain or have lapsed into the silences of Mother Earth. We honour all the flags that served against the Barbarians and love them, but we love our own best, and must needs say to the friendliest rival nation- – See in the lucid heavens shine A nearer, clearer Flag than thine, Which ever to the sunlit airs In coloured syllables declares:. Love me, but love me as a star That moves to influences afar; As much then shalt thou take of me As the star’s picture in the sea. But Walt Whitman was the only poet who could ever translate the solemn articulations of a nation’s banners into human language. Chiefly these fluttering symbols, perhaps Man’s most beautiful invention, help us to keep the valiant dead in our hearts, to bear in mind their services and self – sacrifices. In Whitehall there rises an austere pylon of grey stone, inscribed with the words ” The Glorious Dead,” which took the con- querors’ salute on Saturday. This memorial is of an impressive simplicity; its only decorations are a laurel wreath and the flags under which they fought who died for Britain since the beginning of the war-the White Ensign for the Navy, the Union Jack for the Army, and the Red Ensign for the Merchant Service. Before the arrival of the procession four Grenadier Guardsmen in khaki took up their stand at the four corners of the Memorial, motionless sentries with downcast heads guarding the memory of the dead. When the head of the procession drew near, they came to life, revers- ing arms with the slow measured movements that are the perfect expression of deep, silent mourning. Then, drooping their heads, they forgot themselves again to stone, once more becoming statues of infinite sorrow- fulness. And an unforgettable impression was made when each of the great Commanders paid his homage to the fallen in silent, deep meditation. Marshal Foch’s face, as he raised his baton to salute their memory, was set and stern and sad beyond words; it was a face of endless sorrowing struck in living bronze. As he rode on, he was still a martial personmfication of proud sorrow ; t was with a start that he came back to a sense of the present and of the acclamations of the living. To him, and to our Admiral and our own Marshal, to all the fighting men who followed him, the salute to the dead was no mere stately gesture, but heartfelt homage to lost comrades beyond counting. So the greatest lesson of this Pageant of a Peace so hardly won is that it lays on us, as a sacred duty, the remembrance of the undying dead in all our works and days. They gave their hves that we might enter safely into a more spacious and better age, and if we forget our debt of gratitude there can be no health in us.



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