« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
the attributes of the true soldierly spirit to cause it to render willing obedience to its chiefs and to the Government, whatever orders it may receive.
As to the allegations contained in the manifesto quoted at the head of this paper, their falsity can be easily shown. In the first place, workers in other countries are not crying out against the evils of conscription, for conscription does not exist, and national armies are certainly regarded as necessary in all the countries of Western and Central Europe. There is no demand for the abolition of universal military service in France and Germany, and we have abundant evidence that the Swiss regard their military system, which most nearly resembles that proposed for adoption in Great Britain, as popular, necessary, and not burdensome. Secondly, the suggestion that the scheme of the National Service League is a conspiracy against the working classes, promoted in the interest of the rich, is singularly unconvincing in view of the fact that it is a thoroughly democratic scheme, carrying with it service in the ranks for all, irrespective of class and wealth ; moreover, it has already been adopted by law in New Zealand and Australia, where Labour Governments are in power, and where it appears to be a popular measure only opposed by certain of the Socialists for reasons of their own. In this connexion Mr. Fisher, the Premier of Australia, made some pregnant remarks at Kilmarnock on the 18th of May. He told Mr. Keir Hardie and the miners assembled to welcome him that a strong defence policy was necessary for Australia, defence by a navy, and, in the last resort, defence by a national army, and that anyone who agreed with Mr. Hardie after studying the map was wanting in ' perspective judgment.' We trust that this rebuke was taken in good part, and that Mr. Hardie and his friends found inspiration and enlightenment in the pages of an atlas. And lastly, as regards the Labour Manifesto, we cannot believe that the voluntary system is the only one the workers will tolerate, when the unfairness of that system is pointed out to them, and when the fact is made apparent that under such a system they cannot hope for a national army of sufficient strength to safeguard them from invasion.
The general conclusions at which we arrive are that the great mass of workers are not averse from the proposals of the National Service League, as is evident by the good reception given to speakers for that League by audiences of labouring-men, wherever opposition has not been engineered by militant Socialists; that a small minority oppose all war, and, therefore, all preparation for war; that the Labour members of Parliament are speaking with the voice of Socialism, that they only represent one-sixth of the forces of labour, and that in opposing universal national service they have no mandate even from that sixth ; and that
the Socialist opposition is due to the belief that neither the Territorial Army nor a National Army as proposed by the National Service League would lend itself to purposes of revolution.
It therefore follows that in putting this issue of national defence to the working classes, we must clearly show them that (1) war is possible, as shown by the teaching of history and the dictates of common sense, and the Socialist leaders admit this possibility ; (2) invasion is possible, for our sailors agree that the business of the Fleet is to seek out the enemy and to protect our interests and our commerce all over the world, and not to remain huddled in home waters to prevent invasion; politicians agree that distant complications may well compel us to detach a powerful Fleet; if this becomes necessary, the margin of strength at home over that of the German Fleet will be small or non-existent (Mr. McKenna tells us that early in 1914 we shall have thirty Dreadnoughts to twenty-one German vessels of the same class); and the best soldiers, both of Germany and England, have expressed their opinion that invasion of these shores is possible unless our Fleet is in overpowering strength ; (3) our Expeditionary Force, which practically includes the whole of our Regular Army which is sufficiently trained, officered, and organised to take the field, is intended to be sent abroad if necessary, and its enforced absence would be most probably taken advantage of by an enemy contemplating invasion ; (4) our Territorial Army is quite inadequate to resist an invader, for these reasons: the force is, and is likely to remain, under strength; it was more than 50,000 short on the 1st of October 1911; it is largely immature, for at the same date it contained 32,000 lads of under nineteen, and another 40,000 under twenty, very many of whom could not stand the strain of a campaign; it is deficient in training, especially as regards musketry; compulsory garrisons in Great Britain, and especially Ireland, would absorb so many men that it is very doubtful whether, in the absence abroad of the Expeditionary Force, 100,000 men could be brought together for the defence of London; such a number of second-class troops could not be expected to stop the march of 70,000 first-class soldiers of a Continental army; even such an apologist for Lord Haldane's force a's Sir Ian Hamilton admits that it should largely outnumber its antagonists if it is to hope for success; and though 70,000 has been named as the smallest force likely to attempt invasion, and as the largest force which could possibly evade our Fleet, the arguments on this head are by no means conclusive, and many authorities expect invasion, if it comes at all, to be carried out by as many as 200,000 men, especially as the contingency of a temporary loss of sea-command should be considered.
We believe that the great majority of the working classes would accept the statement of the case as outlined in these pages; it is the duty of all who believe that the present state of our land forces will in the near future expose our country to the gravest danger, to assist in laying these issues before the people; the political power is in their hands, and it is for them to decide whether they will elect to drift on, trusting to Providence or luck, or whether, adopting the adage ‘God helps those who help themselves,' they will take up the burden borne cheerfully by our Colonial sons and by other nations, and accept that principle of rendering personal military service to their country which has been one of the strongest forces in the evolution of nationality out of tribal chaos, and the necessity for which has only been temporarily forgotten in the United Kingdom owing to the accident of our insular position.
M. MAURICE MAETERLINCK is undoubtedly a great name. He is universally known, and thousands of men and women who think of him as a writer of genius revere him also as a sage and even a saint. Probably the immense majority of his readers will welcome the news that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature as unquestioningly as if he were the only living man to provide moral guidance as well as high artistic pleasure for his generation. He is, of all our contemporaries, the one who, for causes we shall have to hint, has been the luckiest in evading critical examination; and it seems, therefore, the more advisable to give bim at this crowning point of his life all the attention which exceptional success invites, whether it be merited or not.
In my opinion M. Maeterlinck is enormously overrated. It is not easy within the limits of an article to state in detail all the reasons I have for thinking so; a lecturer with two hours at his disposal and the possibility of quoting freely from the books would do it better than a writer; but it will not be difficult to indicate briefly those limitations of M. Maeterlinck of which I have little doubt that a great many reflective readers are more or less conscious.
It is the privilege of those who write about morals and the conduct of life that their admirers seldom take the trouble or even feel the inclination to view their career and works critically. Who cares to know much about Emerson? Even those who feel the charm of the Imitation of Christ most keenly do not take as much interest in a discussion about the authorship of their favourite book as in a review of the Shakespeare-Bacon controversy. There are men-Balzac, Victor Hugo, Dickens, Tolstoiwith an output four times as considerable as that of M. Maeterlinck, about whose literary development the average reader is much clearer than about the latter's. To most people M. Maeterlinck is only a respected name, or the author of books from which somebody they know declares he derives incredible comfort, or the writer to whom editors apply when they want an article on
Death. He is chiefly regarded as a philosopher. Those who know him under that aspect seldom go any further. Whether he is young or old, French or Belgian, rich or poor, lucky or brave, how he started in life and literature-none of these questions concerns them very much. They like to hear that he is fond of bees, because the notion goes well with the idea we form of a wise man, and applies as well to the old man of Tarentum as to Sir John Lubbock; but when they are reminded that he has recently made a tremendous success with a play, they are puzzled and have to tell themselves that the play, as far as they know, is full of the deepest symbolism. If you were to tell them that at the age of twenty-seven M. Maeterlinck was an exclusively literary man, who sought his way, as the phrase goes, somewhat restlessly, in fiction, in light comedy, and in decadent verse-today perfectly impossible to wade through in the first volume he ever got printed, Serres Chaudes ; that his first great success was a drama, and that his first philosophical book, Le Trésor des Humbles, was dedicated to an actress, they would be decidedly startled, and would implore you to reconcile these incongruities for them. Yet all this is true ; M. Maeterlinck had literary before he had philosophical ambitions, and if M. Octave Mirbeau had not awakened the world to the merits of La Princesse Maleine, by proclaiming it' a drama comparable and even superior to the best things of Shakespeare,' it is probable that Le Trésor des Humbles, unhelped by the plays, would have remained among the mass of unread philosophy. M. Maeterlinck was thirty-four when that first attempt at moralising appeared. It is exactly the time in the lives of literary men when notoriety-more capricious than fame
- hesitates whether it will lift them up to the highest rank or settle them for ever in the second. If M. Maeterlinck's lighter Muse had not at that critical juncture drawn attention to her severer sister, in all likelihood I should not be writing the present article. But how many of M. Maeterlinck's admirers are aware of this? Nineteen in twenty take him wholesale, as we take a force of nature.
In spite of this pre-eminence of the literary side in M. Maeterlinck's composition and career, I will limit myself to a discussion of the character and place in the world of M. Maeterlinck's philosophy. My present purpose is merely to help the reader in distinguishing two elements in him, and seeing whether one of these deserves the estimation which seems to be generally accepted among a certain portion of the public. I am afraid this examination has never been made with the sincerity and fearlessness which, along with intelligence and sympathy, are the essentials of criticism. So we have to place ourselves calmly before the facts.
The first question we have to ask ourselves ought naturally to be : Does M. Maeterlinck really bear in the world the part of a