As I Please
Tribune, 31 December 1943
the discussions of war guilt which reverberate in the correspondence columns
of the newspapers, I note the surprise with which many people seem to discover that war is
not crime. Hitler, it appears,
has not done anything actionable. He has not raped anybody, nor carried off any pieces of
loot with his own hands, nor personally flogged any prisoners, buried any wounded men
alive, thrown any babies into the air and spitted them on his bayonet, dipped any nuns in
petrol and touched them off with church tapers in fact he has not done any of the
things which enemy nationals are usually credited with doing in war-time. He has merely
precipitated a world war which will perhaps have cost twenty million lives before it ends.
And there is nothing illegal in that. How could there be, when legality implies authority
and there is no authority with the power to transcend national frontiers?
As the 53 bus carries me to and fro I never, at any rate when it is
light enough to see, pass the little church of St John, just across the road from
Lords, without a pang. It is a Regency church, one of the very few of the period,
and when you pass that way it is well worth going inside to have a look at its friendly
interior and read the resounding epitaphs of the East India Nabobs who lie buried there.
But its fašade, one of the most charming in London, has been utterly ruined by a hideous
war memorial which stands in front of it. That seems to be a fixed rule in London:
whenever you do by some chance have a decent vista, block it up with the ugliest statue
you can find. And, unfortunately, we have never been sufficiently short of bronze for
these things to be melted down.
I see that Mr Bernard Shaw, among others, wants to rewrite the second verse of the National Anthem. Mr Shaws version retains references to God and the King, but is vaguely internationalist in sentiment. This seems to me ridiculous. Not to have a national anthem would be logical. But if you do have one, its function must necessarily be to point out that we are Good and our enemies are Bad. Besides, Mr Shaw wants to cut out the only worth-while lines the anthem contains. All the brass instruments and big drums in the world cannot turn God Save the King into a good tune, but on the very rare occasions when it is sung in full it does spring to life in the two lines:
And, in fact, I had always imagined that the second verse is habitually left out because of a vague suspicion on the part of the Tories that these lines refer to themselves.
Another ninepenny acquisition: Chronological Tablets, exhibiting
every Remarkable Occurrence from the Creation of the World down to the Present Time.
Printed by J. D. Dewick, Aldersgate Street, in the year 1801.
Copyright The Estate of Eric Blair