when a public monument is as beautiful as this it becomes
inherently an instrument of peace. It is a memento of
war, but an active aid to that state of repose in which
war is forgotten. Its figures and inscriptions bid us
bear in mind the fighting deeds of heroes, but its calm
beauty belies its message and draws us into the peaceful
mood of brotherliness and wise detachment. So that it
is hard to say which is the greater, the capture of
Manila or the artistic creation which commemorates it.
is said that there is a difference of opinion at present
among British poets on the war in South Africa, this
one sympathizing with the pastoral Boers, while another
is full of imperial enthusiasm. But the question is
really deeper than that. It is not a question of whether
or no the war is a just war, but whether war and justice
can ever coincide. If war can ever be just, then every
war is a holy war, on one side at least. But if not,
then every war is a simple iniquity. There is no compromise
possible between Tolstoi and Mr. Kipling.
patriotism is one of the last Pagan virtues to be uprooted
by Christianity, and dies stubbornly in the human heart.
And yet you must admit that there is no perfection of
spiritual culture possible as long as the spark of martial
fervor burns in the distracted soul. We profess the
religion of renunciation and universal love, but the
racial traits are not so easily overcome. At heart western
civilization is capable of bloodthirstiness still; and
all its hymns and Sunday schools cannot save it from
savagery the moment a decent excuse for fighting arrives.
"Very well," say our valiant friends; "that
is no disgrace. Human nature is wider and bigger every
way than your peace-at-any-price politicians and poets."
true, but this is a criticism of the doctrines of Christianity,
and you have no shadow of right to believe in the Sermon
on the Mount so long as you are willing to fight for
your country. On the other hand, if you refuse to fight,
off you must get-off the earth and make way for those
who have fewer scruples.
remains the very solid fact that wars have been and
will be again; that we have moved from there to here
through what we call progress, in spite of war and by
means of war equally. But the art which celebrates war
and finds its inspiration in strife as a human incident
must still continue to be a bystander and no partisan;
a lover of the picturesqueness and lyric thrill of war,
but an unruffled disbeliever as well.
has often been pointed out that war has been one of
the most fertile subjects of inspiration to the artist;
but we must be careful to remember that in the body
of lovely art no breath of hatred has ever entered.
For hate can only kill, while love is the vivifier and
creator in the world. And while men struggle and contend,
strive and die, love and hate, war and laugh in wisdom
and folly, there will always be the disinterested mind
standing by to note and illumine the scene. To see all
things, to take part in all things, but to take sides
in nothing, is the work of the artist. The average man
is first for himself, second for his country, last of
all for humanity; the normal man, the perfect type,
is first a man, second a citizen; last of all an individual,
until he shall attain perfection-perfection of that
individuality he must renounce in order to make perfect.
So there we are at a second dilemma, and there I for
one prefer to leave the matter.