All Around Me Men Are Asleep

From a letter of Eugène Lemercier, the French painter who fought and died in World War I.

February 13, 1915 (4th day on the front line)

Beloved,—After the days of tears and of rebellion of the heart that have so shaken me, I pull myself together again to say ‘Thy will be done.’ So, according to the power and the measure of my faculties, I would be he who to the very end never despaired of his share in the building of the Temple. I would be the workman who, knowing full well that his scaffolding will give way and who has no hope of safety, goes on with his stone-carving of decoration on the cathedral front. Decoration. I am not one who will ever be able to lift the blocks of stone. But there are others for that job. Yes, I am getting back into a little quiet thinking. The equable tranquillity I had hoped for is not yet mine; but I have occasional glimpses of that region of peace and light in which all things, even our love, is renewed and transfigured.

I am now at the foot of a peaked hill where Nature has brought the loveliest lines of design together. Man is hunting man, and in a moment they will be locked in fight. Meanwhile the lark is rising.

Even as I write, a strange serenity possesses me. Something—extraordinary comfort. Be it a human quality, be it a revelation from on high. All around me men are asleep.


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