Tuesday, November 11, 2014
We went to the terrifying thing a couple of days ago. I had never seen it from a distance, the only other visit was in fog. On a clear day Lutyens' effect is even more aweful. From a distance, it looks tiny and playful, like some sort of chinoiserie folly. As one drives up it grows and grows, but it still is just a massive, vast ornament without a clear purpose.
Not until you're within thirty yards or so, when the whole thing is so big the eyes' field can't hold it and its massiveness oppresses, do the names just pop into view.
But today, we went to Vauxbuin which is a French , British , and German cemetery. And although they were removed and buried elsewhere, Americans from Company D were killed right here on July 19, 1918 pushing the Germans- some in this cemetery- off the road we parked on.
The stones put three thoughts in my head today.
Mrs. Gartside-Tipping's reminded me that there are all sorts of people who volunteer to help in an emergency, even patrician old widow ladies whose (twenty year over age for service but volunteered anyway at age 67) husbands vanished into the icy sea the year before. And that soldiers losing their minds is not just ripped from the headlines.
The French graves of men from (L-R) Morocco, Madagascar, and Somalia made me think about how bewildering the European diaspora, and the diasporas it spawned, are.
And finally I am sure that many of the Jewish tombstones in the German cemetery name fathers, who in their minds served and died to protect their children from a foreign menace.
How savage we are.