"I saw the Piper coming down the Valley with a shadowy host behind him. The others thought I was only pretending–but I saw him for just one moment. And last night I saw him again. I was doing sentry-go and I saw him marching across No-man's-land from our trenches to the German trenches–the same tall shadowy form, piping weirdly–and behind him followed boys in khaki. I heard his music, and then–he was gone. But I had seen him–and I knew what it meant–I knew that I was among those who followed him."
For those of you who have never read L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, you wouldn't know this quote and what it references... I have read the entire series of 8 books several times, and read Rilla of Ingleside again this afternoon. The book takes place during WWI, and Walter (the speaker above) has visions of the piper piping young men to war. Walter dies in battle the day after he writes this, and a poem he had written entitled The Piper was published (in the novel) in newspapers across the world.
The book is so poignant, and with my own sailor "going to war" in a few months, I think I felt it more than ever. The strength that is required of men who go to fight for the future and the women who watch them leave...are we as strong as those of old? To lose a son, husband, father, lover....are the women of today strong enough to truly accept the horror that our ancestors did? Are we strong enough to see that those men fought and died nearly 100 years ago for an ideal that is still being defended around the world. Did they die in vain? Do our soldiers and sailors and airmen in Iraq die in vain? I wish that the poem supposedly written by Walter had truly been published, I would love to read it... to see the words penned by a courageous young man who so firmly believed in his way of life that he enlisted in the "war of wars", overcoming his fears of pain and brutality. But for today...I hope to be like Rilla, to look at the young men leaving for war and say "I will not break faith"...
"We'll follow–we'll follow–we won't break faith." And then I looked at the khaki ranks and wondered if those tall fellows in uniform could be the boys I've laughed with and played with and danced with and teased all my life. Something seems to have touched them and set them apart. They have heard the Piper's call.