Patterico's Pontifications


The Great War One Hundred Years Ago Today, Part 2

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:40 pm

[guest post by JVW]

By the beginning of September 1918 the Second Battle of the Marne had been won by Allied forces, the German lines had been pushed back across the Aisne River towards the borders with Belgium and Luxembourg, and only a small portion French territory remained in the hands of the Hun. British Expeditionary Forces under General Alexander Haig combined with Belgian forces commanded by King Albert were preparing for a push to Brussels as a key component of the Hundred Days Offensive, which would cause the Germans to abandon the city shortly before the armistice was signed. Though the end was at hand, the fighting remained fierce and harrowing.

Since the very beginnings of the war the belligerents had come to realize that they needed to swell the ranks of their armed forces, first through encouraging volunteerism and ultimately by imposing conscription. The officer class would no longer be mostly comprised of men who had studied at various European military academies such as Sandhurst, Woolwich, Saint-Cyr, the Prussian War College, and the Theresianum; now it included men drawn from Cambridge, Oxford, the Sorbonne, Heidelberg, and Eötvös Loránd. Instead of backgrounds in engineering and soldiering, many of these new gentlemen officers were trained in the arts and humanities.

This led to a number of literary figures seeing combat action on the Western Front. In my previous post I mentioned that the American poet Joyce Kilmer was killed at the Second Battle of the Marne. Similarly, a number of British poets fought for His Majesty during the war, including such notables as Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves, and Wilfred Owen, the latter of whom was killed one week before Armistice Day. The writers A.A. Milne and J.R.R. Tolkien survived the war to go on and create, respectively, Winnie the Pooh and Bilbo Baggins. And everyone who has read the first thing about Ernest Hemingway knows that he served as an ambulance driver on the Italian front.

One unheralded poet was a young man from Chelteham, Gloucestershire attached to the 4th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment. Alec de Candole, son of an Anglican priest, was an outstanding young scholar whose work had won him a place at Trinity College, Cambridge for the fall of 1916. His plan had been to follow in his father’s footsteps and prepare for a life in the ministry, but in April 1916 he postponed his studies to set off for cadet school at Oxford. By the start of the following spring, Lieutenant de Candole found himself on the battlefields of France.

One hundred years ago today, September 2, 1918, Alec de Candole jotted down a poem reflecting on his hopes for the end of the war. By then he had been with the army for sixteen months, and though the stalemated war seemed to be drawing to a conclusion there was no real way for the men in the trenches to know for certain when it would all end. In a somber yet hopeful mood, the 21-year-old officer dreamt of pastoral England and published perhaps the best poem of the entire war:

When the last long trek is over,
  And the last long trench filled in,
I’ll take a boat to Dover,
  Away from all the din;
I’ll take a trip to Mendip,
  I’ll see the Wilshire downs,
And all my soul I’ll then dip
  In peace no trouble drowns.

Away from noise of battle,
  Away from bombs and shells,
I’ll lie where browse the cattle,
  Or pluck the purple bells.
I’ll lie among the heather,
  And watch the distant plain,
Through all the summer weather,
  Nor go to fight again.

Two days later, Lt. Alec Corry Vully de Candole was killed in a raid on German trenches.

Alec deC


Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 131

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir” (Out of the depths I call, Lord, to You).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23:

That Which Defiles

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

. . . .

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

. . . .

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. The cantata, one of Bach’s earliest, was based on Psalm 130. It contains these words, the humility of which stand in stark contrast to the haughty challenges of the Pharisees:

I am also a troubled sinner,
whose conscience gnaws him,
and would gladly, in Your blood
be washed clean of sin,
like David and Manassah.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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