The Great War began a century ago this year; it finally ground to its ignoble end 96 years ago today, the guns falling silent at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Upon its altar had been sacrificed, we are told, 9,911,000 soldiers; “the generals sat,” as Roger Waters would later observe, “and the lines on the map flew from side to side.” What was gained? What might those brave men (and, indeed, women, for one dares not count the civilian toll) have accomplished?
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis. Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a poppy; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, o Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, o Lord God most holy, o Lord most mighty, o holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death. Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, o God most mighty, o holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who also hath taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, o Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our brother doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world: Grant this, we beseech thee, 0 merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.