Chapter XIV. Cannon Fodder
If I had stayed in London and continued to read the lies of but one side, I should doubtless, by this time, be able to loathe and despise the enemy with an entire lack of doubt, discomfort, or intelligence. But having been in all the countries and read all the lies, the problem is less simple.
How many people who talk or write about war would have the courage to face a minute, fractional part of the reality underlying war's inherited romance? People speak with pleasant excitement of "flashing sabres" without the remotest thought of what flashing sabres do. A sabre does not stop in mid-air with its flashing, where a Meissonier or a Detaille would paint it - it goes right on through the cords and veins of a man's neck. Sabre wounds are not very common, but there was one in the Vienna hospital that morning - a V-shaped trench in which you could have laid four fingers fiat, down through the hair and into the back of the man's neck, so close to the big blood-vessel that you could see it beat under its film of tissue - the only thing between him and death. I thought of it a day or two later when I was reading a book about the Austrian army officer's life, written by an English lady, and came across the phrase: '"Sharpen sabres!' was the joyful cry."
Be joyful if you can, when you know what war is, and, knowing it, know also that it is the only way to do your necessary work. The absurd and disgusting thing is the ignorance and cowardice of those who can slaughter an army corps every day for lunch, with words, and would not be able to make so trivial a start toward the "crushing" they are forever talking about as to fire into another man's open eyes or jam a bayonet into a single man's stomach. Among the Utopian steps which one would most gladly support would be an attempt to send the editors and politicians of all belligerent countries to serve a week in the enemy's hospitals.