September 21, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The day’s  headlines from the Capital Journal:

BILLION DOLLARS IS RAISED
German War Loan of One Billion Dollars Is Over-Subscribed
MONEY ADVANCED BY GERMAN PEOPLE
Tells Better Than Anything else the Feeling of the German Masses

AUSTRIAN EMPEROR, RUMOR SAYS, DEAD, BATTLE IS A DRAW
Sentiment So Anti-German in Rome Embassies Have to Be Guarded
ROUMANIA ALMOST READY TO TAKE PART
Montenegrins Are Within Ten Miles of the Capital of Bosnia Province

FIGHTING FURIOUS ON GERMAN RIGHT – ARE AFTER BRIMONT
If French Can Capture Brimont Would Cut Off Von Kluk’s Supplies
THIS ACCOUNTS FOR FURY OF ATTACK

2,000,000 FIGHTING IN GALICIA
Casualties on Both Sides Are Enormous Especially Among the Austrians
SLEET AND COLD RAIN ADD TO HARDSHIPS

The editorial has the title “Fastidious Assassination” and mocks the ability of people to rationalize away the horror of what is occurring on the battlefield:

To a mere onlooker it appears the complaints about the use of dumdum bullets is a case of “gagging at a gnat and swallowing camel.” The only complaint against the dumdum bullets is that they spread when they hit anything and consequently make a bigger hole where they leave a man’s body than where they enter it.

The complaining parties in the meanwhile drop steel arrows from aeroplanes a mile in the air, regardless of whom they kill. They are dropped in the cities where the chance of killing women and children is far greater than of killing a combatant. The same complainants are firing shells loaded with a terrific explosive that does not leave a larger hole in the poor devil who is struck, where they leave his body than when they enter it, for the simple reason that they do not leave only of his body for examination. They use the bayonet, which makes a three-cornered hole in the other fellow that is just the opposite of the dumdum bullet since the hole is larger on the entrance side. However, this seems like an immaterial matter to the fellow who is killed, unless he is especially “finicky.”

The dumdum was first made in India and is simply a soft-nosed bullet sometimes hollowed at the back, sometimes with its nose split, and as it was made by the uncivilized Hindus, it was by the tribunal at The Hague tabooed in “civilized” warfare. There seems tone no other sand reason why it should not be used, since it is not nearly so deadly as most of the weapons of missiles used by real “civilized” folks in killing each other.

After all, when a man is dead on the field of battle what does it matter to him whether his life ebbed out through the hole where the bullet when in? It is not the dumdum bullet that is “uncivilized and atrocious;” it is the war itself.

Taking on the role of critic, the editor comments on a poem by the English poet laureate, William Watson:

William Watson, the English poet laureate, has written a poem entitle “Liege,” in which he extols the bravery of the Belgians. The subject is a great one, but the same cannot be said of the poem. In fact, if the survivors read it, they will probably regret they did not fall with their comrades.

Sometimes the editor goes over the top with his hyperbole. Not, in this case. The poem is not up to the standards of other World War I poetry, notably Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est, for example, which follows the Watson poem:

Liege

Betwixt the Foe and France was she —
France the immortal, France the free.
The Foe, like one vast living sea,
Drew nigh.
He dreamed that none his tide would stay;
But when he bade her to make way,
She, through her cannon, answered, ‘Nay,
Not I.’

No tremor and no fear she showed;
She held the pass, she barred the road,
While Death’s unsleeping feet bestrode
The ground.
So long as deeds of noblest worth
Are sung with joy, and tears, and mirth,
Her glory shall to the ends of the Earth
Resound.

Watched by a world that yearned to aid,
Lonely she stood but undismayed.
Resplendent was the part she played,
And pure.
Praised be her heroes, proud her sons!
She threw her soul into the guns,
Her name shall, with the loveliest ones,
Endure.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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