Train home from South Wales
Nov. 7, 1914.
My dear Friend:
Once more I have passed through the [Ystalyfera] Valley, this time to push farther up into a bewilderingly lovely valley and harvest one of the most delightful meetings of my life. The West Wales [Cooperative] Associations had organized the tour, the second five days this autumn, & with good I. L. Pers on the Committee & a primitive wholly sincere Christianity -- the Stores are running with a low dividend of S/1 in the pound and absolute loyalty to the [Cooperative] whole sale. It is the power to control and make good the conditions of their fellow workers that attracts them and as the besetting thing of the [Welsh] is the love of money making, especially in petty trade, the complete adjuration of it in the [Cooperative] movement and the willing loss of all "bargain" chances has gathered together "Schone Seelen" whom to meet is a privilege. They are trade unionists and [cooperators] and socialists because they are Christians, they say.
First and foremost, in these dread days, they are antimilitarists to heroic degree. I stayed with a [Welsh] Pastor who had given up a big wage post in the mine to be pastor. He has four sons, -- one of them a veritable Apollo for physical beauty, and all right noble men in their lives, -- and he would go to the stake to keep them and all his flock from the "Sin of Soldiering." Like [Tolstoy] he is certain there is no room for war at any rate in these modern days in the furthering of God's kingdom. And he is speaking to men who have arms to bear; for they are all able to laugh at the suggestion that they are "afraid." Never could there be more dangerous pits than those they work in. There was a funeral from a "fall" of the roof -- a splendid strong young man, they told me, of 32 -- before my lecture; and they tell stories of "rescue," and almost daily endurance of pain and risk that shine jewel-like. But yes, -- they are "to kill innocent men, the poor German [page 2] conscripts." Tears ran down the old pastor's face as he read out of the [marching] of the German battalions at Ypres singing "Wacht am Rhein," to be mown down like corn by guns. If Lloyd George could have read that veteran disciple of Jesus pour scorn on his rhetorical appeal to the young men of Wales to leave dull and monotonous lives and come and gather "golden memories," -- or again, his almost terrible wrath at the leading article in the S. Wales Daily News entreating the lads to leave their football for the far nobler and more exciting game of war, even Lloyd George must have bent his head in repentance, -- or so it felt to me.
And in S. Wales live the old Radicals who understand how the dry rot of Liberal imperialism is responsible for the fall of the grand old Flag of Liberty which Gladstone, Bright and [Cobden] flew -- radicals who have hated our alliance with Czardom from the start, -- who denounced the Boer war and our treachery to Persia and who cannot accept the soothing suggestion that England stand as Belgium's deliverer -- At Swansea last night in answer to searching questions I told them sorrowfully I feared that 20 years hence that the foreign policies for which Sir Edward Grey had made [Britain] responsible for the last 8 years would be held to be the chief cause of Belgium's destruction; and to my amazement there was almost thunderous applause. They felt instinctively in Wales that the war should never have come to the West at all but Kaiser and Czar should have been left to fight it out if indeed an alliance could not have been effected between Germany, France and England to maintain the peace of the world -- and I heard afterward that two young Belgium refugees who were there, -- members I should fancy of the Labor Party, -- applauded heartily. [page 3]
I cannot find any one pulse in me to believe that I ought to bid any one forth to fight. Nay see, -- for Belgium's sake the first day we can bring peace is the best. For as we fight the invaders back over the land we shall ruin all that is left. Oh the horror, -- I cannot believe that in all the history of the world there has been so much sheer tonnage of human flesh in pain, nor so many kind human hearts failing them for fear.