Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Meditations on the Fallen

Though unplugged on Memorial Day, I was struck by this passage which I came across in William M. Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Chapter 35:
Anybody who will take the trouble of looking back to a file of the newspapers of the time [1815, just after Waterloo], must, even now, feel at second-hand this breathless pause of expectation. The lists of casualties are carried on from day to day: you stop in the midst as in a story which is to be continued in our next. Think what the feelings must have been as those papers followed each other fresh from the press; and if such an interest could be felt in our country, and about a battle where but twenty thousand of our people were engaged, think of the condition of Europe for twenty years before, where people were fighting, not by thousands, but by millions; each one of whom as he struck his enemy wounded horribly some other innocent heart far away.
Thackeray here follows in the tradition of many others in recalling that the suffering of those who have lost loved ones in war does not know sides. I'll have to dig through my photos from my semester in Europe, but somewhere I have a picture of the Balliol College memorial to its students who died in the Great War. Given the close cultural ties that England and Germany had in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, Balliol lost former students in both the English and German armies, and all are listed.

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