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we shall never get such a wrong righted.  Somebody is officially
responsible for the unfairness; and that somebody ought to be hammered.
The other example, less important but more ludicrous, is the silly boycott
of Germans in England, extending even to German music.  I do not believe
for a moment that the English people feel any such insane fastidiousness.
Are the English artists who practise the particularly English art of
water-colour to be forbidden to use Prussian blue?  Are all old ladies to
shoot their Pomeranian dogs?  But though England would laugh at this, she
will get the credit of it, and will continue: until we ask who the actual
persons are who feel sure that we should shudder at a ballad of the Rhine.
It is certain that we should find they are capitalists.  It is very
probable that we should find they are foreigners.

Some days ago the Official Council of the Independent Labour Party, or the
Independent Council of the Official Labour Party, or the Independent and
Official Council of the Labour Party (I have got quite nervous about these
names and distinctions; but they all seem to say the same thing) began
their manifesto by saying it would be difficult to assign the degrees of
responsibility which each nation had for the outbreak of the war.
Afterwards, a writer in the "Christian Commonwealth," lamenting war in the
name of Labour, but in the language of my own romantic middle-class, said
that all the nations must share the responsibility for this great calamity
of war.  Now exactly as long as we go on talking like that we shall have
war after war, and calamity after calamity, until the crack of doom.  It
simply amounts to a promise of pardon to any person who will start a
quarrel.  It is an amnesty for assassins.  The moment any man assaults any
other man he makes all the other men as bad as himself.  He has only to
stab, and to vanish in a fog of forgetfulness.  The real eagles of iron,
the predatory Empires, will be delighted with this doctrine.  They will
applaud the Labour Concert or Committee, or whatever it is called.  They
will willingly take all the crime, with only a quarter of the conscience:
they will be as ready to share the memory as they are to share the spoil.
The Powers will divide responsibility as calmly as they divided Poland.

The Whole Loathsome Load

But I still stubbornly and meekly submit my point: that you cannot end war
without asking who began it.  If you think somebody else, not Germany,
began it, then blame that somebody else: do not blame everybody and nobody.
Perhaps you think that a small sovereign people, fresh from two
triumphant wars, ought to discrown itself before sunrise; because the
nephew of a neighbouring Emperor has been shot by his own subjects.  Very
well.  Then blame Servia; and, to the extent of your influence, you may be
preventing small kingdoms being obstinate or even princes being shot.
Perhaps you think the whole thing was a huge conspiracy of Russia, with
France as a dupe and Servia as a pretext.  Very well.  Then blame Russia;
and, to the extent of your influence, you may be preventing great Empires
from making racial excuses for a raid.  Perhaps you think France wrong
for feeling what you call "revenge," and I should call recovery of stolen
goods.  Perhaps you blame Belgium for being sentimental about her frontier;
or England for being sentimental about her word.  If so, blame them; or
whichever of them you think is to blame.  Or again, it is barely possible
that you may think, as I do, that the whole loathsome load has been laid
upon us by the monarchy which I have not named; still less wasted time in
abusing.  But if there be in Europe a military State which has not the
religion of Russia, yet has helped Russia to tyrannise over the Poles,
that State cares not for religion, but for tyranny.  If there be a State
in Europe which has not the religion of the Austrians, but has helped
Austria to bully the Servians, that State cares not for belief, but for
bullying.  If there be in Europe any people or principality which respects
neither republics nor religions, to which the political ideal of Paris is
as much a myth as the mystical ideal of Moscow, then blame that: and do
more than blame.  In the healthy and highly theological words of Robert
Blatchford, drive it back to the Hell from which it came.

Crying Over Spilt Blood

But whatever you do, do not blame everybody for what was certainly done by
somebody.  It may be it is no good crying over spilt blood, any more than
over spilt milk.  But we do not find the culprit any more by spilling the
milk over everybody; or by daubing everybody with blood.  Still less do we
improve matters by watering the milk with our tears, nor the blood either.
To say that everybody is responsible means that nobody is responsible.
If in the future we see Russia annexing Rutland (as part of the old
Kingdom of Muscovy), if we see Bavaria taking a sudden fancy to the Bank
of England, or the King of the Cannibal Islands suddenly demanding a
tribute of edible boys and girls from England and America, we may be quite
certain also that the Leader of the Labour Party will rise, with a slight
cough, and say: "It would be a difficult task to apportion the blame
between the various claims which..."


I hope the Government will not think just now about appointing a Poet
Laureate.  I hardly think they can be altogether in the right mood.  The
business just now before the country makes a very good detective story;
but as a national epic it is a little depressing.  Jingo literature always
weakens a nation; but even healthy patriotic literature has its proper
time and occasion.  For instance, Mr. Newbolt (who has been suggested for
the post) is a very fine poet; but I think his patriotic lyrics would just
now rather jar upon a patriot.  We are rather too much concerned about our
practical seamanship to feel quite confident that Drake will return and
"drum them up the Channel as he drummed them long ago."  On the contrary,
we have an uncomfortable feeling that Drake's ship might suddenly go to
the bottom, because the capitalists have made Lloyd George abolish the
Plimsoll Line.  One could not, without being understood ironically, adjure
the two party teams to-day to "play up, play up and play the game," or to
"love the game more than the prize."  And there is no national hero at
this moment in the soldiering line--unless, perhaps, it is Major
Archer-Shee--of whom anyone would be likely to say: "Sed miles; sed pro
patria."  There is, indeed, one beautiful poem of Mr. Newbolt's which may
mingle faintly with one's thoughts in such times, but that, alas, is to a
very different tune.  I mean that one in which he echoes Turner's
conception of the old wooden ship vanishing with all the valiant memories
of the English:

There's a far bell ringing
At the setting of the sun,
And a phantom voice is singing
Of the great days done.
There's a far bell ringing,
And a phantom voice is singing
Of a fame forever clinging
To the great days done.
For the sunset breezes shiver,
Temeraire, Temeraire,
And she's fading down the river....

Well, well, neither you nor I know whether she is fading down the river or
not.  It is quite enough for us to know, as King Alfred did, that a great
many pirates have landed on both banks of the Thames.

Praise and Prophecy Impossible

At this moment that is the only kind of patriotic poem that could satisfy
the emotions of a patriotic person.  But it certainly is not the sort of
poem that is expected from a Poet Laureate, either on the highest or the
lowest theory of his office.  He is either a great minstrel singing the
victories of a great king, or he is a common Court official like the Groom
of the Powder Closet.  In the first case his praises should be true; in
the second case they will nearly always be false; but in either case he
must praise.  And what there is for him to praise just now it would be
precious hard to say.  And if there is no great hope of a real poet, there
is still less hope of a real prophet.  What Newman called, I think, "The
Prophetical Office," that is, the institution of an inspired protest even
against an inspired religion, certainly would not do in modern England.
The Court is not likely to keep a tame prophet in order to encourage him
to be wild.  It is not likely to pay a man to say that wolves shall howl
in Downing-street and vultures build their nests in Buckingham Palace.  So
vast has been the progress of humanity that these two things are quite
impossible.  We cannot have a great poet praising kings.  We cannot have a
great prophet denouncing kings.  So I have to fall back on a third

The Field for a Fool

Instead of reviving the Court Poet, why not revive the Court Fool?  He is
the only person who could do any good at this moment either to the Royal
or the judicial Courts.  The present political situation is utterly
unsuitable for the purposes of a great poet.  But it is particularly
suitable for the purposes of a great buffoon.  The old jester was under
certain privileges: you could not resent the jokes of a fool, just as you
cannot resent the sermons of a curate.  Now, what the present Government
of England wants is neither serious praise nor serious denunciation; what
it wants is satire.  What it wants, in other words, is realism given with
gusto.  When King Louis the Eleventh unexpectedly visited his enemy, the
Duke of Burgundy, with a small escort, the Duke's jester said he would
give the King his fool's cap, for he was the fool now.  And when the Duke
replied with dignity, "And suppose I treat him with all proper respect?"
the fool answered, "Then I will give it to you."  That is the kind of
thing that somebody ought to be free to say now.  But if you say it now
you will be fined a hundred pounds at the least.

Carson's Dilemma

For the things that have been happening lately are not merely things that
one could joke about.  They are themselves, truly and intrinsically, jokes.
I mean that there is a sort of epigram of unreason in the situation
itself, as there was in the situation where there was jam yesterday and
jam to-morrow but never jam to-day.  Take, for instance, the extraordinary
case of Sir Edward Carson.  The point is not whether we regard his
attitude in Belfast as the defiance of a sincere and dogmatic rebel, or as
the bluff of a party hack and mountebank.  The point is not whether we
regard his defence of the Government at the Old Bailey as a chivalrous and
reluctant duty done as an advocate or a friend, or as a mere case of a
lawyer selling his soul for a fat brief.  The point is that whichever of
the two actions we approve, and whichever of the four explanations we
adopt, Sir Edward's position is still raving nonsense.  On any argument,
he cannot escape from his dilemma.  It may be argued that laws and customs
should be obeyed whatever our private feelings; and that it is an
established custom to accept a brief in such a case.  But then it is a
somewhat more established custom to obey an Act of Parliament and to keep
the peace.  It may be argued that extreme misgovernment justifies men in
Ulster or elsewhere in refusing to obey the law.  But then it would
justify them even more in refusing to appear professionally in a law court.
Etiquette cannot be at once so unimportant that Carson may shoot at the
King's uniform, and yet so important that he must always be ready to put
on his own.  The Government cannot be so disreputable that Carson need not
lay down his gun, and yet so respectable that he is bound to put on his
wig.  Carson cannot at once be so fierce that he can kill in what he
considers a good cause, and yet so meek that he must argue in what he
considers a bad cause.  Obedience or disobedience, conventional or
unconventional, a solicitor's letter cannot be more sacred than the King's
writ; a blue bag cannot be more rational than the British flag.  The thing
is rubbish read anyway, and the only difficulty is to get a joke good
enough to express it.  It is a case for the Court Jester.  The phantasy
of it could only be expressed by some huge ceremonial hoax.  Carson ought
to be crowned with the shamrocks and emeralds and followed by green-clad
minstrels of the Clan-na-Gael, playing "The Wearing of the Green."

Belated Chattiness by Wireless

But all the recent events are like that.  They are practical jokes.  The
jokes do not need to be made: they only need to be pointed out.  You and
I do not talk and act as the Isaacs brothers talked and acted, by their
own most favourable account of themselves; and even their account of
themselves was by no means favourable.  You and I do not talk of meeting
our own born brother "at a family function" as if he were some infinitely
distant cousin whom we only met at Christmas.  You and I, when we suddenly
feel inclined for a chat with the same brother about his dinner and the
Coal Strike, do not generally select either wireless telegraphy or the
Atlantic Cable as the most obvious and economical channel for that
outburst of belated chattiness.  You and I do not talk, if it is proposed
to start a railway between Catsville and Dogtown, as if the putting up of
a station at Dogtown could have no kind of economic effect on the putting
up of a station at Catsville.  You and I do not think it candid to say
that when we are at one end of a telephone we have no sort of connection
with the other end.  These things have got into the region of farce; and
should be dealt with farcically, not even ferociously.

A Fool Who Shall Be Free

In the Roman Republic there was a Tribune of the People, whose person was
inviolable like an ambassador's.  There was much the same idea in Becket's
attempt to remove the Priest, who was then the popular champion, from the
ordinary courts.  We shall have no Tribune; for we have no republic.  We
shall have no Priest; for we have no religion.  The best we deserve or can
expect is a Fool who shall be free; and who shall deliver us with laughter.


Missing the point is a very fine art; and has been carried to something
like perfection by politicians and Pressmen to-day.  For the point is
generally a very sharp point; and is, moreover, sharp at both ends.  That
is to say that both parties would probably impale themselves in an
uncomfortable manner if they did not manage to avoid it altogether.  I
have just been looking at the election address of the official Liberal
candidate for the part of the country in which I live; and though it is,
if anything, rather more logical and free from cant than most other
documents of the sort it is an excellent example of missing the point.
The candidate has to go boring on about Free Trade and Land Reform and
Education; and nobody reading it could possibly imagine that in the town
of Wycombe, where the poll will be declared, the capital of the Wycombe
division of Bucks which the candidate is contesting, centre of the
important and vital trade on which it has thriven, a savage struggle about
justice has been raging for months past between the poor and rich, as real

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