Imagini ale paginilor

4. The fourth phase of our discussion took a different direction. If the family is the unit and basis of the social structure, if nations are dependent for their perpetuity and power upon the inviolability of the home, then does not the prevalent scandal of the divorce court betray a lack of patriotism, the existence of a national menace more subtle than an invading foe? If America would be true to the memory of the men who, on a foreign soil, fought and died for that vital institution we call the home, the Government must not only create a uniform and stringent divorce law, but it must go one step further and deprive of his citizenship any man who, because of drunkenness, brutality, desertion, failure to support, or adultery, destroys the happy functioning of family life. He may be a millionaire or a popular actor or a village drunk; justice and the moral law can make no distinction. This conception of the elemental place of the home in patriotism is present in the following appealing picture of a young man's love for his native land. The poem was written by Lieutenant Walter S. Poague and published in a high school magazine just after he sailed for France. It is quoted from "Patriotism and Religion,” by Shailer Mathews.

My native land! Your shores sink low

Into the hazy sea,

Which widens to the shiver,
To the steady, pulsing quiver
Of the ship which takes that dear loved land

From me.

My native land! What does that mean,

That phrase, to me
Not power most of all,
Nor even liberty,
Nor wealth, nor fame,
Of honor brightly kept:
Not the high title of democracy,
Of refuge, haven,
The land of even chance.

All these may mean America, my native land,
To others.
But just to me it means
The little house beneath the elms

Where I was born,
And played on brittle autumn days
At soldier with my dog.

[blocks in formation]





NATION is not an aggregate of people even though they may be all of one race. A

constitution does not guarantee the existence of a national consciousness much less a na. tional soul. It is the power of a group of ideas, principles and moral ideals to assimilate the various racial interests, prejudices and aspirations that makes national life possible. In proportion as the people become conscious of this assimilation, the nation may be said to have a national soul. It is in the hour of great crises when these ideas, principles and moral ideals are thrown into the arena of conflict and attacked that men become clearly conscious of their meaning and worth and rally to their defense. Where such ideas, principles and ideals are lacking or where they are so narrowly construed that they do not have sufficient assimilative power, the national life is very apt to fall to pieces in the hour of great strain; but where they do have breadth and power the national consciousness is sure to emerge more homogeneous, refined, and spiritualized. A very brief study of the rise and development of our American nation and of the already evident results of the war in Europe is sufficient evidence of the correctness of this interpretation. The enrichment of a nation in ideas and principles and the consequent enlargement and elevation of its moral ideals forms the basis of national culture. When this culture is permeated with the spirit and ideals of Christ it becomes Christian culture. The world war has given an altogether new content and value to Christian cul. ture in relation to national life.

Before the war, we in America thought France frivolous and decadent. But France will pardon us, for we are all quite willing to admit that our judgment was superficial and unenlightened, even stupid. With a shudder of anguish we watched the Huns come down like wolves on the fold. After sinking their cruel fangs deep into the vitals of Belgium, the blood-dripping pack, spreading fan-like, flung their gaunt bodies across the fields of Flanders and, in a fortnight, were howling at the gates of Paris. We thought her moral grandeur faded and her national life anemic and incapable of cohesion; but France arose, not so much a material power as a personal spirit, aflame and irresistible. Then came the miracle of the Marne, and all that has happened since has been but the extension and application of that single hour of agony and supreme self-expression.

In August, 1918, it was my rare privilege to accept an invitation to call and have afternoon tea in the home of a French officer who had been blinded by shell fire. I was warmly welcomed by my friend and by his wife and daughter, the only son being at the front. Soon we were all seated in a cozy, homelike little living room, chatting pleasantly, the conversation gradually drifting toward the war. It did not take long for me to discover that I was in the presence of a devoted family, possessed of that fine sense of art and passionate love of freedom through which breathes the real France.

"You have made a great sacrifice almost too great," I ventured with some hesitancy.

“No, not too great,” was his quick but thoughtful reply. “For I can now see as never before the soul of my country in all its beauty struggling with a big, brutal foe. If my France is defeated it would be a moral disaster too horrible to think of. It cannot be. No, blindness is not too great a sacrifice.”

“You quite agree, then," said I, “with Hilaire Belloc when he writes that the German army suggests the figure of a huge assassin, stumbling at the Marne, just as he is about to deliver the fatal blow at the soul of civilization."

"Exactly so," was his animated response. “The Hun would stab us and our rich culture, leaving only his own crude, brutal and utterly false ideas upon which to reconstruct our national life. But he has stupidly stumbled and we shall yet strangle him where he fell."

As he uttered these fine words, so expressive of the real heart of the French people, his voice was vibrant with passion, and the muscles of his face

« ÎnapoiContinuați »