Above the Battle
which is so cheap—and also in the true heroism of a small number who do risk themselves and lead on the others.… We do our duty, we do what we ought; but it is a passive virtue.… When I read in the papers the scribblings of those who have a bad conscience because they are safely in the rear—when I read this talk which makes every soldier into a hero, I feel hurt. Heroism is a rare growth, and you cannot build on it a citizen army. To keep such an army together the men must respect their superiors, and even fear them more than the enemy. And the superiors must be conscientious, do their duty well, know their business thoroughly, decide rapidly, and have control of their nerves. When we read the praises which those behind the line write of us, we blush. Thank God, old-fashioned, robust shame is not dead in us.… Ah! my dear friends, those who are here don't speak so complacently of death, of disease, of sacrifice, and of victory as do those who behind the line ring the bells, make speeches, and write newspapers. The men here accustom themselves as best they may to the bitter necessity of suffering and of death if fate wills; but they know and see that many noble sacrifices, innumerable, innumerable sacrifices have already been made, and that already for a long while we shall have had more than enough of destruction on our side as well as the other. It is precisely when one has to look suffering in the face as I have that abegins to be formed that unites one to those over there, on the other side (and one that unites you too with them, my friends! Yes, surely you feel it too, don't you?) If I come back from here (which I scarcely hope for any more) my dearest duty will be to soak myself in the study and the thoughts of those who have been our enemies. I wish to reconstruct my nature on a wider basis.… And I believe that it will be easier after this war than after any other to be a human being.