A Forethought and A Dedication
"A PARADOXICAL philosopher, carrying to the uttermost length that aphorism of Montesquieu's, 'Happy the people whose annals are tiresome,' has said;
"'Happy the people whose annals are vacant.' In which saying, mad as it looks, may there not still be found some grain of reason? For truly, as it has been written, 'Silence is divine,' and of Heaven; so in all earthly things, too, there is a silence which is better than any speech. Consider it well, the Event, the thing which can be spoken of and recorded; is it not in all cases some disruption, some solution of continuity? Were it even a glad Event, it involves change, involves loss (of active force); and so far, either in the past or in the present, is an irregularity, a disease. Stillest perseverance were our blessedness not dislocation and alteration could they be avoided.
"The oak grows silently in the forest a thousand years; only in the thousandth year, when the woodman arrives with his ax, is there heard an echoing through the solitudes; and the oak announces itself when, with far-sounding crash, it falls. How silent, too, was the planting of the acorn, scattered from the lap of some wandering wind! Nay, when our oak flowered, or put on its leaves (its glad Events), what shout of proclamation could there be? Hardly from the most observant a word of recognition. These things befell not, they were slowly done; not in an hour, but through the flight of days: what was to be said of it? This hour seemed altogether as the last was, as the next would be.
"It is thus everywhere that foolish Rumor babbles not of what was done, but of what was misdone or undone; and foolish History (ever, more or less, the written epitomized synopsis of Rumor) knows so little that were not as well unknown. Attila Invasions, Walter-the-Penniless Crusades, Sicilian Vespers, Thirty-Years' Wars: mere sin and misery; not work, but hindrance of work! For the Earth all this while was yearly green and yellow with her kind harvests; the hand of the craftsman, the mind of the thinker, rested not; and so, after all and in spite of all, we have this so glorious high-domed blossoming World; concerning which poor History may well ask with wonder, Whence it came? She knows so little of it, knows so much of what obstructed it, what would have rendered it impossible. Such, nevertheless, by necessity or foolish choice, is her rule and practice; whereby that paradox, 'Happy the people whose annals are vacant,' is not without its true side."
This book of tales and trails of people whose annals are vacant, because they were peaceful and happy, is dedicated to the nineteen-year-old soldier boys of 1917 and to their comrades; and especially to that nineteen-year-old soldier, Randal Cone Harvey, whose image and whose service is with us by day and by night. May their service help bring to a war-cursed world such peace that the annals of all men will be stories of love, companionship and association one with another.