Page:Above the battle.djvu/176

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Above the Battle

soldiers, like beasts in a slaughter-house, die or await death with bitter words—and officers getting drunk on champagne around a 42 mm. mortar, laughing and getting excited till they fall beneath the weight of sleep and fatigue.

From the first scene I take these terrible words of one of those who wait in the trenches under fire of the machine guns, a Dreissigjæhriger (man of thirty).

In my village they are laughing—they drink to each victory. They slaughter us like butcher's cattle—and they say "It's war!" When it is over, they are no fools, they will feast us for three years. But the first cripple won't be grey headed before they will laugh at his white hairs.

And the Uhlan, possessed by horror in the midst of the massacre, falls on his knees and prays:

Thou who gavest life and takest it—how shall I recognise Thee? In these trenches strewn with mutilated bodies I find Thee not. Does the piercing cry of these thousands suffocated in the terrible embrace of Death reach not up to Thee? Or is it lost in frozen space? For whom does Thy Springtime blossom? For whom is the splendour of Thy suns? For whom, O God? I ask it of Thee in the name of all those whose mouths are closed by courage and by fear in face of the horror of Thy darkness: What heat is left within me? What light of truth? Can this massacre be Thy will? Is it indeed Thy will?

(He loses consciousness and falls.)