Opening epigraph

 

“That night in Venice, George and his death became a symbol to me—and still remain a symbol. Somehow or other we have to make these dead acceptable, we have to atone for them, we have to appease them.  How, I don’t quite know.  … Atonement—how can we atone? How can we atone for the lost millions and millions of years of life, how atone for those lakes and seas of blood?  Something is unfulfilled, and that is poisoning us.  It is poisoning me, at any rate, though I have agonized over it, as I now agonize over poor George, for whose death no other human being has agonized. What can we do?  Headstones and wreaths and memorials and speeches and the Cenotaph—no, no; it has got to be something in us. Somehow we must atone to the dead—the dead, the murdered, violently dead … The reproach is not from them, but in ourselves. Most of us don’t know it, but it is there, and poisons us.  It is the poison that makes us heartless and hopeless and lifeless. … ”

Death of a Hero. Richard Aldington.

Penguin Classics.  1929/2013.  p22

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