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The Glory of the Trenches Coningsby Dawson

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This was the true Glory of the Trenches. They were the Calvaries of a new redemption being wrought out for men by soiled unconscious Christs. And, as from that ancient Calvary, with all its agony of shame, torture and dereliction, there flowed a flood of light which made a new dawn for the world, so from these obscure crucifixions there would come to men a new revelation of the splendour of the human soul, the true divinity that dwells in man, the God made manifest in the flesh by acts of valour, heroism, and self-sacrifice which transcend the instincts and promptings of the flesh, and bear witness to the indestructible life of the spirit.

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It is to express these thoughts and convictions that this book was written. It is a record of things deeply felt, seen and experienced--this, first of all and chiefly. The lesson of what is recorded is incidental and implicit. It is left to the discovery of the reader, and yet is so plainly indicated that he cannot fail to discover it. We shall all see this war quite wrongly, and shall interpret it by imperfect and base equivalents, if we see it only as a human struggle for human ends. We shall err yet more miserably if all our thoughts and sensations about it are drawn from its physical horror, "the deformations of our common manhood" on the battlefield, the hopeless waste and havoc of it all. We shall only view it in its real perspective when we recognise the spiritual impulses which direct it, and the strange spiritual efficacy that is in it to burn out the deep-fibred cancer of doubt and decadence which has long threatened civilisation with a slow corrupt death. Seventy-five years ago Mrs. Browning, writing on The Greek Christian Poets, used a striking sentence to which the condition of human thought to-day lends a new emphasis. "We want," she said, "the touch of Christ's hand upon our literature, as it touched other dead things--we want the sense of the saturation of Christ's blood upon the souls of our poets that it may cry through them in answer to the ceaseless wail of the Sphinx of our humanity, expounding agony into renovation. Something of this has been perceived in art when its glory was at the fullest." It is this glory of divine sacrifice which is the Glory of the Trenches. It is because the writer recognises this that he is able to walk undismayed among things terrible and dismaying, and to expound agony into renovation.

February, 1918.

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The Glory of the Trenches
Coningsby Dawson

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