Page 3778

3778 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

Yser, In front of Dixmude and Langemarck,

around Hollebeke and Warneton. The whole

of West Flanders is one large, steaming pot,

in which death and devastation are brewing.

With the sun smiling its brightest at us,

terrific, never-ending thunderstorms are raging over the land. Amid noises such as the

old earth never heard before, a crop of new

battles and new wars between nations is

growing to maturity.

"What were the Battles of the Somme,

Arras, the Aisne, and Champagne against

this earthquake of Flanders? Millions of

capital are blown up in the air and explode

in the ground. It is like a Cyclopean concert of unheard-of brutality, to celebrate

with becoming fitness the end of the third

year of universal madness. The louder the

desire of the nations for peace begins to express itself, the wilder the thunder of the

guns at England's command to drown any

cry of hope. Sometimes one thinks the end

of the bloody intoxication is coming, but

there are still graduations of description for

which there are no words. We thought we

had got accustomed to the atrociousness of

all this, and at home you may forget the

monstrous events. At the front for days

our senses and nerves must certainly have

suffered from these awful three years. Spirit

and feelings seek to escape the intolerable

horror, but it is no use. Here, up against

the worst form of slaughter, again these

nameless noises bring it home to you with

overpowering force.

"This battle has lasted for days; now it

is again that continuous roar that effaces,

or, rather, consumes, all individual noises,

that makes even fierce explosions close by

you indistinguishable. Everything disappears in one loud, rolling, threatening volume

of sound. The air carries it a hundred miles

distant, and trembling they listen, south and

north, west and east, where they cannot see

the horror of all this.

"But if you come nearer, it is like the

bowels of the earth exploding. Our soldiers

sit in their dug-outs, and cannot do anything

but trust to luck. Just now the infantry

must keep quiet; only the big guns are talking. The waiting infantry is, as it were,

locked in prison. The men cannot get out,

nor can anybody approach them. The way

to them is fraught with fearful danger. All

around splatter steel splinters, shrapnel bullets, stones, and earth. If you are hit you

are dead or crippled. What shall one do?

One smokes incessantly, until the air in the

narrow shaft is heavy enough to cut. That

is bad, but somehow it helps one to endure

the horrors of the situation.

"You live for days in the closest contact

with your comrades in a contracted space.

You cannot move, and are unable to think

clearly. Never did I realize how difficult it

can be to lead a human life. There is nameless agony in it."

"The British guns were everywhere in the

low, concealing mist," wrote a British correspondent describing the British bombardment

early in October. "One could not walk anywhere to avoid the blast of their fire. They

made a fury of fire. Flashes leaped from

them, with only a pause of a second or two

while they were reloaded. There was never

a moment within my own range of vision when

hundreds of great guns were not firing together. They were eating up the shells which

I had seen going up to them, and the roads

and fields across which I walked were littered

with shells. The wet mist was like one great

damp fire with ten miles or more of smoke

rising in white vapor, through which tongues

of flame leaped up stirred by some fierce

wind.

"The noise was terrifying in its violence.

Passing one of those big-bellied howitzers

was to me an agony. It rose like a beast

stretching out its neck, and there came from

it a roar which almost split one's eardrums

and shook one's body with the long tremor

of the concussion. These things were all

firing at their hardest pace, and the earth

was shaken with their blasts of fire. The

enemy was answering, but with no great

threat to the British guns. His shells came

whining and howling through all this greater

noise and burst with a crash on either side

of the mule tracks and over the bits of ruin

near by and in the fields on each side of the

paths down which German prisoners came

staggering with their wounded.

"Fresh shell holes, enormously deep and

thickly grouped, showed that the German