Page:Some soldier poets.djvu/68

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SOME SOLDIER POETS

the barrack-room, and what a contrast to the life of a house in a public school! The system is roughly the same; the house-master or platoon commander entrusts the discipline of his charge to prefects or corporals, as the case may be. They never open their mouths in the barrack-room without the introduction of the unprintable swear-words and epithets; they have absolutely no 'morality' (in the narrower, generally accepted sense); yet the Public School boy should live among them to learn a little Christianity; for they are so extraordinarily nice to one another. They live in and for the present: we in and for the future. So they are cheerful and charitable always: and we often niggardly and unkind and spiteful. In the gymnasium at Marlborough, how the few clumsy specimens are ragged and despised and jeered at by the rest of the squad; in the gymnasium here you should hear the sounding cheer given to a man who has tried for eight weeks to make a long jump of eight feet, and at last, by the advice and assistance of others, has succeeded. They seem instinctively to regard a man singly, at his own rate, by his own standards and possibilities, not in comparison with themselves or others; that is why they are so far ahead of us in their treatment and sizing up of others."

Because they need servants, and because fine houses and rapid locomotion imply labour, the well-to-do tend to regard other kinds of people as existing for their convenience. In this notion they resemble the enemy, who thought other nations were there that Germany might be "über alles."

Sorley was very sensitive to the falseness and unfairness of this seductive outlook, and perceived how detrimental it is to the finer powers of those who indulge in it. He felt that even poets were too content to think of others as mere readers and admirers, and addresses to them a protest on behalf of less articulate souls:

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