Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

I write to you in a marvellous landscape of grey autumn lashed by the wind. But for me the wind has always been without sadness, because it brings to me the spirit of the country beyond the hill. . . .

The horrible war does not succeed in tearing us from our intellectual habitation. In spite of moments of overwhelming noise, one more or less recovers oneself. The ordinary course of our present existence gives us a sensibility like that of a raw wound, aware of the least breath. Perhaps after this spoliation of our moral skin a new surface will be formed, and those who return will be for the time brutally [Pg 59]insensitive. Never mind: this condition of crisis for the soul cannot remain without profit.

Yesterday we were in a pretty Meuse village, all the more charming in contrast with the surrounding ruins.

I was able to have a shirt washed, and while it dried I talked to the excellent woman who braves death every day to maintain her hearth. She has three sons, all three soldiers, and the news she has of them is already old. One of them passed within a few kilometres of her: his mother knew it and was not able to see him. Another of these Frenchwomen keeps the house of her son-in-law who has six children. . . .

For you, duty lies in acceptance of all and, at the same time, in the most perfect confidence in eternal justice.

Do not dwell upon the personality of those who pass away and of those who are left; such things are weighed only with the scales of men. We must gauge in ourselves the enormous value of what is better and greater than humanity.

Dear mother, absolute confidence. In what? We both already know.
10 o’clock.

Up till now I have possessed the wisdom that renounces all, but now I hope for a wisdom that accepts all, turning towards what may be to come. What matter if the trap opens beneath the steps of the runner. True, he does not attain his end, but is he wiser who remains motionless under the pretext that he might fall?

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Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

This is nearly the end of the third month of a terrible trial, from which the lessons will be wide and salutary not only to him who will know how to listen, but to all the world, and therein lies the great consolation for those who are involved in this torment. Let it also be the consolation of those whose hopes are with the combatants.

This consolation consists especially in the supernaturally certain conviction that all divine and immortal energy, working through mankind, far from being enfeebled, will, on the contrary, be exalted and more intensely effectual at the end of these storms.

Happy the man who will hear the song of peace as in the ‘Pastoral Symphony,’ but happy already he who has foreknowledge of it amid the tumult! And what does it matter in the end that this magnificent prophecy is fulfilled in the absence of the prophet! He who has guessed this has gleaned great joy upon earth. We can leave it to a higher being to pronounce if the mission is accomplished.

(2nd letter, almost at the same hour).

My dear, dear Mother,—Another welcome moment to spend with you. We can never say any but the same thing, but it is so fine a thing that it can always be said in new ways.

To-day we are living under a sky of great clouds as swift and cold as those of the Dutch landscape painters.

Dear, I dare not wish for anything—it must not be. I must not even consider a partial relaxation. I assure you that the effort for endurance is less painful than certain times of intensive preparation that we have passed through. Only we can each moment brace ourselves in a kind of resistance against what is evil in us, and leave every door open to the good which comes from without.

. . . I am glad that you have read Tolstoi: he also took part in war. He judged it; he accepted its teaching. If you can glance at the admirable War and Peace, you will find pictures that our situation recalls. It will make you understand the liberty for meditation that is possible to a soldier who desires it.

As to the disability which the soul might be supposed to suffer through the lack of all material well-being, do not believe in it. We lead the life of rabbits on the first day of the season’s shooting, and, notwithstanding that, we can enrich our souls in a magnificent way.

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

If, as I hope intensely, I have the joy of seeing you again, you will know the miraculous way in which I have been led by Providence. I have only had to bow before a power and a beneficence which surpassed all my proud conceptions.

I can say that God has been within me as I am within God, and I make firm resolves always to feel such a communion.

You see, the thing is to put life to good account, not as we understand it, even in our noblest affections, but in saying to ourselves: Let us eat and drink to all that is eternal, for to-morrow we die to all that is of earth. We acquire an increase of love in that moment when we renounce our mean and anxious hopes.

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

My very dear Mother,—I have re-read Barrés’s article, ‘l’Aigle et le Rossignol.’ It is still as beautiful, but it no longer seems in complete harmony. Now nothing exists outside the absolute present; everything else is like ornaments put to one side until the holiday, the far-off, uncertain holiday. But what does it matter!—the ornaments are treasured up in safety. Thus do I cherish the treasures of affection, of legitimate ambition, of praiseworthy aspiration. All of these I have covered over, and I live but in the present moment.

This morning, under the fine sky, I remembered the music of yesterday: I was full of happiness. Forgive me for not living in an anguish of longing to return. I believe that you approve of my giving back our dearest hopes into other hands than ours.

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

I accept all from the hands of fate, and I have captured every delight that lurks under cover of every moment.

Ah! if men only knew how much peace they squander, and how much may be contained in one minute, how far less would they suffer from this seeming violence. No doubt there are extreme torments that I do not yet know, and which perhaps test the soul in a way I do not suspect, but I exert all the strength of my soul to accept each moment and each test. What is necessary is to recognise love and beauty triumphant over violence. No few seasons of hate and grief will have the power to overthrow eternal beauty, and of this beauty we all have an imperishable store.

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

3 o’clock.

To write to you and to know that my letters reach you is a daily paradise to me. I watch for the hour when it is possible to write.

Yes, beloved mother, you must feel a revival of courage and desire to live; never must a single affection, however good, be counted as a pretext for life. No accident should make us forget the reason we are alive. Of course, we can prefer this or that mission in life, but let us accept the one which presents itself, however surprising or passing it may be. You feel as I do, that happiness is in store for us, but let us not think of it. Let us think of the actions of to-day, of all the sacrifices they imply.

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

We are living for some days in comparative calm; between two storms my company is deserving of special rest. Also I am thoroughly enjoying this month of October. Your fine letter of October 2 reaches me, and I am now full of happiness, and there is profound peace.

Let us continue to arm ourselves with courage, do not let us even speak of patience. Nothing but to accept the present moment with all the treasures which it brings us. That is all there is to do, and it is precisely in this that all the beauty of the world is concentrated. There is something, dear mother, something outside all that we have habitually felt. Apply your courage and your love of me to uncovering this, and laying it bare for others.

This new beauty has no reference to the ideas expressed in the words health, family, country. One perceives it when one distinguishes the share of the eternal which is in everything. But let us cherish this splendid presentiment of ours—that we shall meet again: it will not in any way impede our task. Tell M—— how much I think of her. Alas! her case is not unique. This war has broken many a hope; so, dear mother, let us put our hope there where the war cannot attain to it, in the deep places of our heart, and in the high places of our soul.