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The New Book of Martyrs   By: (1884-1966)

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THE NEW BOOK OF MARTYRS

By Georges Duhamel

Translated by Florence Simmonds

CONTENTS

THROUGHOUT OUR LAND THE STORY OF CARRE AND LERONDEAU MEMORIES OF THE MARTYRS THE DEATH OF MERCIER VERDUN THE SACRIFICE THE THIRD SYMPHONY GRACE NIGHTS IN ARTOIS

THE NEW BOOK OF MARTYRS

THROUGHOUT OUR LAND

From the disfigured regions where the cannon reigns supreme, to the mountains of the South, to the ocean, to the glittering shores of the inland sea, the cry of wounded men echoes throughout the land, and a vast kindred cry seems to rise responsive from the whole world.

There is no French town in which the wounds inflicted on the battle field are not bleeding. Not one which has not accepted the duty of assuaging something of the sum of suffering, just as it bears its part in the sum of mourning; not one which may not hear within its own walls an echo of the greater lamentation swelling and muttering where the conflict seems to rage unceasingly. The waves of war break upon the whole surface of the country, and like the incoming tide, strew it with wreckage.

In the beds which the piety of the public has prepared on every side, stricken men await the verdict of fate. The beds are white, the bandages are spotless; many faces smile until the hour when they are flushed with fever, and until that same fever makes a whole nation of wounded tremble on the Continent.

Some one who had been visiting the wounded said to me: "The beds are really very white, the dressings are clean, all the patients seem to be playing cards, reading the papers, eating dainties; they are simple, often very gentle, they don't look very unhappy. They all tell the same story... The war has not changed them much. One can recognise them all."

Are you sure that you recognise them? You have just been looking at them, are you sure that you have seen them?

Under their bandages are wounds you cannot imagine. Below the wounds, in the depths of the mutilated flesh, a soul, strange and furtive, is stirring in feverish exaltation, a soul which does not readily reveal itself, which expresses itself artlessly, but which I would fain make you understand.

In these days, when nothing retains its former semblance, all these men are no longer those you so lately knew. Suffering has roused them from the sleep of gentle life, and every day fills them with a terrible intoxication. They are now something more than themselves; those we loved were merely happy shadows.

Let us lose none of their humble words, let us note their slightest gestures, and tell me, tell me that we will think of them together, now and later, when we realise the misery of the times and the magnitude of their sacrifice.

THE STORY OF CARRE AND LERONDEAU

They came in like two parcels dispatched by the same post, two clumsy, squalid parcels, badly packed, and damaged in transit. Two human forms rolled up in linens and woollens, strapped into strange instruments, one of which enclosed the whole man, like a coffin of zinc and wire.

They seemed to be of no particular age; or rather, each might have been a thousand and more, the age of swaddled mummies in the depths of sarcophagi.

We washed, combed, and peeled them, and laid them very cautiously between clean sheets; then we found that one had the look of an old man, and that the other was still a boy.

Their beds face each other in the same grey room. All who enter it notice them at once; their infinite misery gives them an air of kinship. Compared with them, the other wounded seem well and happy. And in this abode of suffering, they are kings; their couches are encircled by the respect and silence due to majesty.

I approach the younger man and bend over him.

"What is your name?"

The answer is a murmur accompanied by an imploring look. What I hear sounds like: Mahihehondo. It is a sigh with modulations.

It takes me a week to discover that the boyish patient is called Marie Lerondeau.

The bed opposite is less confused... Continue reading book >>




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