Blessed are the Peacemakers
"Fellow Americans, West Point is not turning out today any group of blood-thirsty fighters. The men who are about to be rewarded by diplomas are not products of an unbalanced militarism. These young men are sensitive, what though their cognomens be "Spike" or "Biff", and they have not a little Cambridge in them to balance the West Point. Remember what I have said in the next war. The cadet of today is the general of tomorrow"--West Point Commencement Address, 1929.
"Let's look at Cagle's report next," said the colonel to the brigadier-general. "I think that there's something almost elfin about his prose. It--well--it just fascinates me!"
"For rhythm," said the general, ignoring him, "for pure lilt and melody, give me Sprague ever time. But try Cagle."
The colonel began.
"Dear reader: it is with feelings in which modesty and a knowledge of my own disabilities are sadly mixed that I take my pen in hand to inform you, my dear superior officer, (for I can suppose it is none other who is about to read this manuscript) that my little detachment is surrounded by the enemy.
"Our last library chou-chou, through whose curved muzzle we had been receiving and sending messages to the central reading room thirty miles back of the lines, has been cut off. When I sent my last plea for help, I had to wait thirty minutes for an answer. Various bulletins which I recognized as spurious, came through, carrying such messages in a heavy German hand as? 'Out for two weeks', 'reserved for the Rainbow Division', or 'in bindery'. At last came back my own cylinder. With Edson, our flagbearer, who had been wounded in the head, drooling Beowulf in my ear, I read the words.
"We have a battery or bibliography trained on your position, ready to fire. You are gentlemen and scholars, but in the name of the common humanity that fathered us all, surrender. (Signed) Ober-lieutenant von Pachtmann.
"I quickly scribbled the answer from memory and my college German: Nein, sagte der Bauer, wir haben kein Bett, aber Sie konnen mit Baby schlafen'. An instant later our last cylinder was on its way to the German lines.
"How can I live again for you, my dear general, the horror of last night? At dusk the enemy laid down a barrage of kants. All night long we could see shafts of flame biting the midnight sky--the big goethes. At dawn, the tower where we are huddled was schlegelled.
"It is impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of our position. Sergeant Nave's detachment (you remember they used to call him 'Heady' or 'Spike' Nave back at the Point) is down to its last thesaurus. There of our casulties are in the romance language division. We are being shelled as I write. The sulcide squad, as we call the English department, was virtually annihilated at 3.30 P.M. on Tuesday, when an enemy Gotha let fall a flight or poisoned shakespears. My aide, Corporal Jones, (he hasn't done so well since he left the Point after his team lost to Harvard) is carrying on with a paradigm of the Sanskrit ninth declension in his left breast.
"10 A.M. The enemy has just laid down a barrages of byrons and keats. We have sustained a number of flesh wounds. The fire seems to our lookout to be proceeding from a small protuherance on the road to Xanadu.
"11 A.M. We are being shelled by the counter-barrage of our own allies. The cupoia has evidently been mistaken for the alcove of enemy sniper-philologists. The barrage is mainly giant hugos. Thus far none of these has taken affect, but my men are on the point of mutiny from another reason. Those tiny diabolical maupaasants and balance, of short range but exquisite torturing power, even to the most hardened bibliophile, are driving them to the point of madness. . . . I am planning this bluebook in the hands of my sleekest section man."
The general arose.
"Well, Cagle may have been a first class fighting man and all that. But for melody, in his verse or in his prose, give me Sprague."