Page:The War and the Future (Masefield, 1918).djvu/21

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The War and the Future

pidity were become even matters of pride to some. Then the nation, with all its wealth, was an ill-taught, an ill-fed, and an ill-clad nation, so that in every city in the land a vast number of souls were ignorant, and a vast number of bodies had not enough to eat nor enough to put on. And the rich, who owned the wealth, had lost the old English sense of splendour of life. They watched the beggary and the drunkenness with apathy. They watched the waste and the degradation of genius without lifting a finger. One of the most delicate silversmiths of our time died of consumption as a seller of cat's meat. One of our most delicate lyric poets died of consumption as a seller of matches in the street. Not all the efforts of all the writers of England could get a theatre for the fit and frequent playing of Shakespeare. Not all the wealth nor all the industry could reduce the paupers of England, the men and women who could not make a living, to less than a million in the year.

So that, early in 1914, England was a troubled and yet an apathetic country, with small minorities breaking their hearts and sometimes people's windows in an effort to bring about a change, and with a vast, powerful, un-