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Aaron's Rod by D. H. Lawrence

Aaron got out of bed and came uneasily to the fire


Germans were wonderful with the machine guns--it's a wicked thing, a machine gun. But they couldn't touch us with the bayonet. Every time the men came back they had bayonet practice, and they got awfully good. You know when you thrust at the Germans--so--if you miss him, you bring your rifle back sharp, with a round swing, so that the butt comes up and hits up under the jaw. It's one movement, following on with the stab, you see, if you miss him. It was too quick for them--But bayonet charge was worst, you know. Because your man cries out when you catch him, when you get him, you know. That's what does you....

"No, oh no, this was no war like other wars. All the machinery of it. No, you couldn't stand it, but for the men. The men are wonderful, you know. They'll be wiped out.... No, it's your men who keep you going, if you're an officer.... But there'll never be another war like this. Because the Germans are the only people who could make a war like this--and I don't think they'll ever do it again, do you?

"Oh, they were wonderful, the Germans. They were amazing. It was incredible, what they invented and did. We had to learn from them, in the first two years. But they were too methodical. That's why they lost the war. They were too methodical. They'd fire their guns every ten minutes--regular. Think of it. Of course we knew when to run, and when to lie down. You got so that you knew almost exactly what they'd

do--if you'd been out long enough. And then you could time what you wanted to do yourselves.

"They were a lot more nervous than we were, at the last. They sent up enough light at night from their trenches--you know, those things that burst in the air like electric light--we had none of that to do--they did it all for us--lit up everything. They were more nervous than we were...."

It was nearly two o'clock when Herbertson left. Lilly, depressed, remained before the fire. Aaron got out of bed and came uneasily to the fire.

"It gives me the bellyache, that damned war," he said.

"So it does me," said Lilly. "All unreal."

"Real enough for those that had to go through it."

"No, least of all for them," said Lilly sullenly. "Not as real as a bad dream. Why the hell don't they wake up and realise it!"

"That's a fact," said Aaron. "They're hypnotised by it."

"And they want to hypnotise me. And I won't be hypnotised. The war was a lie and is a lie and will go on being a lie till somebody busts it."

"It was a fact--you can't bust that. You can't bust the fact that it happened."

"Yes you can. It never happened. It never happened to me. No more than my dreams happen. My dreams don't happen: they only seem."

"But the war did happen, right enough," smiled Aaron palely.

"No, it didn't. Not to me or to any man, in his own self. It took place in the automatic sphere, like dreams do. But the ACTUAL MAN in every man was just absent--asleep--or drugged--inert--dream-logged. That's it."

"You tell 'em so," said Aaron.

"I do. But it's no good. Because they won't wake up now even--perhaps never. They'll all kill themselves in their sleep."

"They wouldn't be any better if they did wake up and be themselves--that is, supposing they are asleep, which I can't see. They are what they are--and they're all alike--and never very different from what they are now."

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