Barrès Maurice - The war and the spirit of youth

Author : Barrès Maurice
Title : The war and the spirit of youth
Year : 1917

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Preface. This little book is an attempt to perpetuate the influence of three papers published at intervals in The Atlantic, by a Frenchman, an Englishman, and an American, which, written from divers angles, seek in the dreadful welter of the war some common revelation of spiritual comfort and advance. After three years of carnage, the world faces the Sphinx on a single quest: Is the dreadful agony of these years meaningless and wanton ? Is the sole lesson we may hope to learn some wise man's plan for warding off a new holocaust, some covenant of nations to keep the peace and leave us to make perfect our material welfare? Brutal and brutalizing in every physical sense these years have been; now they threaten to bankrupt the spiritual universe. The three Atlantic writers, one, a questioner by temperament, who to his own amazement has come to see the regeneration of all life in the miracle which the war works in the younger generation; another, by profession a soldier, who went unscathed and unbelieving through the perilous march to Lhassa, only to find as the result of a painful and disabling accident a new and vivid faith born of physical impotence and pain; the third, an American woman, whose adventures are of the spirit, and who has come to her new belief from far distant fields of the imagination: all three unite in confidence that the generation now culminating in manhood is passing through blackness into light brighter than any dawn which we have known. The spirit of the volume is the spirit of youth learning in the Book of Life, and we cannot introduce it better than by quoting the final stanzas of a poem by Laurence Binyon, also published in The Atlantic, which represents the ancient college, nurturer of youth, as she consigns her beautiful young men to a teacher wiser and more majestical than she : " For oh, in youth she lives, not in her age ! Her soul is with the springtime and the young; And she absents her from the learned page, Studious of high stories yet unsung, " More precious to her now than wisdom's book Because her own. Her faith is in those eyes That clear into the gape of hell can look, Putting to proof ancient philosophies, "Such as the virgin Muses would rehearse Beside the silvery, swallow-haunted stream In their gray cloister. But immortal verse Is now exchanged for its immortal theme, " Victory, proud loss, and the enduring mind; Youth that has passed all praises and has won More than renown, being that which faith divined, Reality more radiant than the sun " She gave; she gives. A gift more than all days Of dedicated lore, of storied art! And she resigns her beauty to men's gaze To hide the riches of her bleeding heart." In such a spirit this volume, too, is dedicated. Atlantic Monthly Office, E. S. August 1917. ...

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