The Book of the Homeless/Harvest
The sky to-night looks as if a million bright angels were passing—a gleaming cloud-mesh drawn across the heaven. One star, very clear, shines beside a full moon white as the globe-campion flower. The wan hills and valleys, the corn-stooks, casting each its shadows, the grey boles of the beeches—all have the remoteness of an ineffable peace. And the past day was so soft, so glamorous; such a hum, such brightness, and the harvest going on. …
This last year millions have died with energy but one third spent; millions more unripe for death will yet herald us into the long shades before these shambles cease—boys born just to be the meat of war, spitted on each others' reddened bayonets, without inkling of guilt or knowledge. To what shall we turn that we may keep sane, watching this green, unripe corn, field on field, being scythed by Death for none to eat? There is no solace in the thought: Death is nothing!—save to those who still believe they go straight to Paradise. To us who dare not to know the workings of the Unknowable, and in our heart of hearts cannot tell what, if anything, becomes of us,—to us, the great majority of the modern world—life is valuable, good, a thing worth living out for its natural span. For, if it were not, long ere this we should have sat with folded arms, lifting no hand till the last sighing breath of the human race had whispered itself out into the wind, and a final darkness come; sat, like the Hindu Yogi, watching the sun and moon a little, and expired. The moon would be as white, and the sun as golden if we were gone, the hills and valleys as mysterious, the beech-trees just as they are, only the stooks of corn would vanish with those who garner them. If life were not good we should make of ourselves dust indifferently—we human beings; quietly, peacefully; not in murderous horror reaped by the curving volleys, mown off by rains of shrapnel, and the long yellow scythe of the foul gases. But life is good, and no living thing wishes to die; even they who kill themselves, despairing, resign out of sheer love of life; out of craving for what they have found too mutilated and starved, out of yearning for their meed of joy cruelly frustrated. And they who die that others may live are but those in whom the life-flame burns so hot and bright that they can feel the life and the longing to live in others as if it were their own—more than their own. Yea, life carries with it a very passion for existence.
To what then shall we turn that we may keep sane, watching this harvest of too young deaths, the harvest of the brave, whose stocks are raised before us, casting each its shadow in the ironic moonlight? Green corn! Green corn!
If, having watched those unripe blades reaped off and stacked so pitifully, watched the great dark Waggoner clear those unmellowed fields, we let their sacrifice be vain; if we sow not, hereafter, in a peaceful Earth that which shall become harvest more golden than the world has seen—then Shame on us, unending, in whatever land we dwell. …
This harvest night is still. And yet, up there, the bright angels are passing over the moon. One Star!
August 28, 1915