The Forerunners (Romain Rolland)/Introduction
THIS book is a sequel to Above the Battle. It consists of a number of articles written and published in Switzerland between the end of 1915 and the beginning of 1919. As collective title for the work, I have chosen "The Forerunners," for nearly all the essays relate to the dauntless few who, the world over, amid the tempests of war and universal reaction, have been able to keep their thoughts free, their international faith inviolate. The future will reverence the names of these great harbingers, who have been flouted, reviled, threatened, found guilty, and imprisoned. I speak of such as Bertrand Russell, E. D. Morel, Maxim Gorki, G. F. Nicolai, Auguste Forel, Andreas Latzko, Henri Barbusse, Stefan Zweig, and the choice spirits of France, America, and Switzerland, who have fought for freedom.
To these essays I have prefixed an ode, "Ara Pacis," written during the first days of the war. It is an act of faith in Peace and Concord. Another act of faith will comprise the final chapter. This time it will be faith in action; the faith which, in the face of the brute force of states and of tyrannical opinion, proclaims the invincible independence of Thought.
I was half inclined to add to this collection a meditation upon Empedocles of Agrigentum and the Reign of Hatred. But it was somewhat too long, and its inclusion would have impaired the symmetry of the volume.
In republishing the articles, I have not kept to a strictly chronological order. It appeared preferable to group them in accordance with the nature of their contents or under the guidance of artistic considerations. But at the close of each essay I have mentioned the date of original publication, and, wherever possible, the date of composition.
A few more words of explanation will help the reader to understand my general design.
Above the Battle and The Forerunners are no more than a part of my writings on the war, writings composed during the last five years. The volumes contain those essays only which I have published in Switzerland. Even so, the collection is far from complete, for I have not been able to gather together all these writings. Moreover, the most important materials at my disposal, as to scope and permanent value, are a register made day by day of the letters, the confidences, the moral confessions, which I have uninterruptedly received throughout these years from the free spirits and the persecuted of all nations. Here, likewise, as soberly as possible, I have recorded my own thoughts and my own part in the struggle. Unus ex multis. The register is, as it were, a picture of the untrammelled souls of the world wrestling with the unchained forces of fanaticism, violence, and falsehood. A long time must doubtless elapse before it will be judicious to publish this record. Enough that the documents in question, of which several copies have been made, will serve in times to come as a witness of our efforts, our sufferings, our unconquerable faith.
Paris, June, 1919.
- Published in pamphlet form by La Maison Française, Paris, 1918.