Page:Some soldier poets.djvu/51

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aching to express their inarticulate enthusiasms for them. An excellent motive, but the Muses have decreed that words and images must fascinate us before we can enthral others with them. We are told that "he insists on keeping sharp the blade of indignation"; but the Germans did that for us far better. Indignation has a grand force, but one which must owe nothing to self-culture; to nurse it is to corrupt it—is indeed one of the knavish tricks of Prussian policy.

I cannot help feeling that the Kaiser has done for the word "God" very much what "über alles" has done for professions of patriotism. Yet Vernède raps it out with all the assurance of a bishop. To-day it either means too much or too little for frequent use, save when addressing those who, like children, belong to an earlier world. The idea of Providence has become too simple, too many relations are implied to be so grouped, just as the idea of England has become too complex for Britannia's outfit. The country that triumphed over Napoleon was worse than an enemy to masses of her people under Castlereagh, and this and other contradictions subsist, though they are not quite so glaring.

Vernède had been used to complain playfully that life was humdrum—that is, he was one of those many gifted men of whom England, to her shame, made no good use, damping their energies with the huge sponge of her lethargic materialism. His old schoolfellow, Mr G. K. Chesterton, has told us: "No man could look more lazy and no man was more active. He would move as swiftly as a leopard from something like sleep to something too unexpected to be called gymnastics. It was so that he passed from the English country life he loved so much, with its gardening and dreaming, to an ambush and a German gun."

He published two or three not quite successful novels, visited India and Canada, and wrote pleasantly of what