A Place In The Sun

The history of Rome about 1500 years ago tells us of "the wild and

terrifying hordes" of Huns, with ideas little above those of plunder

and wanton destruction, led by Attila whose "purpose was to pillage and

increase his power." They came near setting civilization back for

hundreds of years, but were finally subdued. When we remember these

facts, we do not wonder that the Germans are called, and probably

always will be called, Huns; but another explanation is the true one.

When in 1900, a German army was embarking at Bremerhaven for China to

help other nations to put down the Boxer rebellion, the German Kaiser,

William II, in addressing his troops said: "When you come upon the

enemy, no quarter will be given, no prisoners will be taken. As the

Huns under their King Attila, a thousand years ago, made a name for

themselves which is still mighty in tradition and story, so may the

name of German in China be kept alive through you in such a wise that

no Chinese will ever again attempt to look askance at a German."

The United States helped put down the Boxer rebellion, and with other

nations was paid an indemnity by China. By vote of Congress, the

United States returned the money to China. Germany acted very

differently, for but three years before, she had seized from China the

land about Kiaochau Bay and the port of Tsingchau, as reparation for

the murder of two German missionaries. Although Germany had strongly

fortified this territory, Japan besieged it and regained it in

November, 1914.

In speaking in 1901 of Germany's then new possession in China, the

Kaiser said: "In spite of the fact that we have no such fleet as we

should have, we have conquered for ourselves a place in the sun. It

will now be my duty to see to it that this place in the sun shall

remain our undisputed possession, in order that the sun's rays may fall

fruitfully upon our activity and trade in foreign parts." The German

Crown Prince, in an introduction to a book published in 1913, said: "It

is only by relying on our good German sword that we can hope to conquer

the place in the sun which rightly belongs to us and which no one will

yield to us voluntarily. Till the world comes to an end, the ultimate

decision must rest with the sword."

These statements make clear to us how the modern Huns would win the

place in the sun which they have been taught to believe rightly belongs

to them.

It is possible that the Kaiser took his idea of "a place in the sun"

from a wonderful old copper engraving by the greatest of all German

artists, Albrecht Dürer. The engraving was made in 1513 and represents

a German knight in full armor mounted upon a fine war horse, riding

into a dark and narrow defile between cliffs, to reach a beautiful

castle standing in the sun on a hill beyond. A narrow path runs down

from the castle, which the knight can reach only by passing through the

gloomy and dangerous defile between the rocks. If he would reach his

desired place in the sun, he must be afraid of nothing, even though

human skulls and lizards are under his horse's feet and death and the

devil travel by his side. His horse and his dog are evidently afraid,

but the knight himself shows no fear as he rides forward with his "good

German sword" at his side and his long spear over his shoulder. A

recent German writer has said about this picture, "Every German heart

will comprehend the knight who persists in spite of death and the devil

in the course on which he has entered. Such a man of resolute action is

not tormented by subtle doubts."

So has Germany in the World War tried to ride through the valley of

death and destruction, with death and the devil always by her side, to

reach a coveted place in the sun. That such a place can be attained

only by force is the terribly wrong ideal that has been taught to the

German people, to the children in the schools, to the adults in public

meetings and in the public press, until at last they have come to

believe it, and are willing to ride through the world accompanied by

death and the devil if they may thus gain "a place in the sun."

By Albrecht Dürer]

They are, as a German poet, Felix Dahn, wrote, the kith and kin of

Thor, the god of might, who conquered all lands with his thundering

hammer; and it is their destiny to conquer the world by "the good

German sword."

This is the ideal that the Allies are fighting against. What is the

ideal they are fighting for? It may also be illustrated by a picture,

but this time by a word picture written by a man long familiar with

Dürer's wonderful engraving. For years he had a copy of the engraving

hung above his desk. As he studied it, he finally saw himself a knight

riding on through the world; and he saw riding with him, not death and

the devil, but two other knights. One of the knights was hideous to

look upon, and rode just behind him; and one was wonderfully beautiful

and strong, and rode just ahead of him. And all three rode at full

speed forever and ever, the knight, who was the man himself, in the

middle, always striving to outrun the knight who was behind him, and to

overtake the one before him. Finally he put the thought in verse, for

it seemed to him to represent the life of every human being who was

free to live out his life as he would wish.


A knight fared on through a beautiful world

On a mission to him unknown;

At his left and a little behind there rode

The self of his deeds alone.

At his right and a length before sped on--

Him none but the knight might see--

A braver heart and a purer soul,

The self that he longed to be.

And ever the three rode on through the world

With him at the left behind;

Till never the knight would look at him,

Feeble and foul and blind.

Desperately on they drave, these three,

With him at the right before,

While the knight rode furiously after him

And thought of the world no more.

Forever on he must ride on his quest

And peace can be his no more,

Till the one at his left he has dropped from sight

And o'ertaken the one before.

Thus ages ago the three fared on,

And on they fare to-day,

With him at the left a little behind,

The right still leading the way.

This knight seeks not a place in the sun but a change in himself, to

become a better, a braver, a truer knight. Then, wherever he may be,

he will find his place in the sun; and that nation whose people seek to

grow wiser and better and nobler will always find "the sun's rays

falling fruitfully" upon them.

To win prosperity and happiness through becoming abler and better

people, under a government which will do all it can to aid them,

because it is "a government of the people, for the people, and by the

people," is the ideal for which the Allies fight.

"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own


* * * * *

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the

unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly

advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task

remaining before us--that from these honored dead, we take increased

devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of

devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have

died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of

freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the

people, shall not perish from the earth.


A King Of Heroes Alan Seeger facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail