Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

The Miracle at Verdun, discussed by Eli Siegel

         Then in Scene One, Part Two, the MESSENGER, sent by the Lord, tells the dead of Verdun to rise, 
    "May your graves therefore--open...and let you go forth!... But, the mad pestilence that brought upon you untimely destruction does not cease to rage on earth.  No! The earth will shortly be full of misery again, and desolate,..." 
     In researching for this report, I learned that after World War I, there was a desire in people in many nations that there never be another war, and various treaties were signed.  My colleague, Lois Mason, who teaches American history, told me about the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1929, which was eventually signed by 62 nations, making war illegal.  Meanwhile, during the same years militarism was building in Japan, Germany, and Italy.  "With all the talk of pacifism and the call for war," Mr. Siegel explained, "the cause--that of contempt--was not given."  And with the understanding that people throughout the world desperately need to know, he said: 
    "I'm reading this so the cause can be tested. This play is all about contempt--with the living having contempt for the dead, and the dead for the living.  At the same time contempt as a universal presence is not seen.  I think Chlumberg couldn't have said that the purpose of the "mad pestilence" was to get to the quietude of contempt.  There wasn't a feeling that a quiet thing like contempt, which everyone enjoys, could be the cause of the Somme and Verdun." 
It is a momentous fact of our time, that Eli Siegel described what contempt is and showed it to be not only the cause of domestic pain and cruelty, the cause of mental weakening, insanity, but also the cause of war.  That this explanation is not known worldwide even now, as horrors are taking place, is for one reason: the press and media out of conceit have kept the knowledge of Aesthetic Realism from reaching people.  What's in this one lecture should be on the front pages of newspapers tomorrow! 

     Chlumberg describes the German and French war dead rising from their graves: 

    [Their faces are pale, their eyes circled with shadows;--a peculiar frozen, absent expression gives them the appearance of lost creatures....Their words come slowly, dully, brokenly, from raw throats,...] 

    WEBER.   Are you shivering...Brother? 

    MOREL.   It', Kamerad.... 

    WEBER.   Move up closer to me, Kamerad.... 

    SONNEBORN.   If I only...If I only had something warm on my head... 

    HESSEL.   [gets up with an effort, listens, in tense rapture. Then he whispers, his eyes large with wonder] Kameraden!  Do you hear--I hear--the wind! 

    BAILLARD.   I hear leaves rustling. It must be blowing--through trees? 

    MOREL.   The light--over there!...Look--the light!  [Comprehending.] I'm not blind--any more! 

      This is very moving.   But as the risen war dead begin making the journey back to their towns, countries, and homes, nowhere are they welcomed--in fact, people are angry that they have come back to life.   In Scene III various political dignitaries of France, Germany, and England are told of this, and each contemptuously dismisses the news.   "[This scene] is more like a customary play," Mr. Siegel observed, "[it has the] social and domestic."  The French Premier Michel Delcampe gets the call at 2 AM at the home of his mistress: 
    "No, you didn't wake me!  Why, I don't sleep here!...I'm sitting at the...desk and working.  Quite right, my friend. Yes, work is our only salvation....That's right.  Our country comes first.  No, the public has no idea....So! Monsieur Leblanc--...I must say you astonish me. "the dead have risen!"  Well, I'm not stupid: The press has made unfavorable comments on my speech to-day...But I can justify every word I said!  Tell your friends that, M. Leblanc!  And you can also tell them from me that they don't have to raise the dead from their graves to get my resignation!" 
      At the same hour, the home of the German Reich Chancellor is called.  Grumbling about being disturbed, "After...such a strenuous day! [with] The speeches and all that nonsense," the Chancellor's wife, Frau Overtuesch answers the phone.  Hearing of the dead soldiers rising from their graves, she says: 
    In France, you say?  Well, that's fine.  Let them have a little trouble too,...God knows they have it coming to them.  But...what can we do about it?  You have the wrong department!  Whom should you call?...The Papal Nuntius?  The Archbishop?  Or even the Chief Rabbi, for all I care!  But not the Chancellor of the Reich!  He has nothing to do with the dead!  He has a hard enough time with the living! 
Then she tells her husband who asks about the call: 
    It isn't worth talking about, Father.  Don't let it interfere with your sleep.  Something about France and the dead.  It can wait till tomorrow. 
And the Prime Minister of England, Lord Grathford, meets this astonishing news with complacent, cold indifference. 

      What Mr. Siegel was showing about contempt in this play needs to be known by people everywhere for war really to end.  This is the urgent, beautiful study Aesthetic Realism provides.  I close my report with these sentences by Mr. Siegel from issue 165 of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known titled, “What Caused the Wars"

Art and Life Discussion

Lynette Abel