Barrès Maurice - The soul of France

Author : Barrès Maurice
Title : The soul of France
Year : 1914

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The savage onslaught of the inferior race. From Saint-Die we went on towards Raon- FEtape, passing through La Voivre. This is one of the villages where the Germans killed the parish priest. As they were taking him away, an old woman cried out : " Oh God ! M. le Cure ! " " I am following these gentlemen of my free will," he exclaimed. Perhaps he hoped to propitiate them, or he may have meant that he pardoned them for his death. His crime was that they had just found one of the staff maps in his house. The old woman followed them, and as she kept on lamenting, they seized her. An old man interposed, begging them to release her. Him also they laid hold of, and then marched all three up to a hedge. The priest said : "It is time to tell our beads." He knelt down in the middle with the old people on either side. And the next moment, while they were loading their rifles, he sang the " Libera nos, Domine " for the three of them. The Germans shot him and sent back the other two. That was the old woman's story. From La Voivre I continued my pilgrimage to Raon-l'Etape. I passed by the Col de la Chipotte. It is a delightful woodland gorge, which claims my admiration every time I cross it and go from Charmes to seat myself at the hospitable table of Charles Sadoul at Raonl'Etape. Fighting had been going on here for days. The Germans wanted to force a passage and made a supreme effort to this end. We were content to stand firm. Neither side made much impression at first. It was a knotty situation which was at last unravelled according to our will and for our salvation. But at what a price ! Twelve thousand corpses make this valley and its slopes a place of tears for all time. My friend Baldensperger, a Professor of the Sorbonne, a Vosgian who took part in the defence of his birthplace, wrote me a beautiful letter about this Battle of La Chipotte, the absurd name of a now tragic place. I cannot express my emotion as, chilled by the dreary rain that was falling, I made my way through scenes once so familiar to me, and now no longer recognisable. Their soul is changed. They had been places of peaceful enjoyment to me, evoking images of youth and holiday pleasures. I used to pass through them on my way to visit friends. Now my friends in this region are either fighting or mourning. The plateau Lorrain that I love is for me to-day but a vast expanse of sorrow. We have always striven to ennoble the idea of war, but the Germans have made it foul. ...

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