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In Italy
by [?]

A few days before Italy formed her great resolve, the following lines appeared in one of the leading Pangermanic organs of the peoples beyond the Rhine, the Kreuzzeitung:

“We have already observed that it will not do to be too optimistic as to Italy’s decision; in point of fact, the situation is very serious. If none but moderate considerations had ruled Italy’s intentions, there is little doubt as to which path she would choose; but we know the height which the wave of Germanophobia has attained in that country, a significant mark of the popular sentiment being the declaration of the Italian Socialists upon the reasons of their inability to oppose the war. An equal source of danger is the fact that the government feels that it no longer controls the current of public opinion.”

The whole drama of Italian intervention is summed up in these lines, which explain it better than would the longest and most learned commentaries.

The Italian government, restrained by a politic wisdom and prudence, excessive, perhaps, but very excusable, did not wish for war. To the utmost limits of patience, until its dignity and its sense of security could bear no more, it did all that could be done to spare its people the greatest calamity that can befall a land. It held out until it was literally submerged and carried away by the flood of Germanophobia of which the passage which I have quoted speaks. I witnessed the rising of this flood. When I arrived in Milan, at the end of November, 1914, to speak a few sentences at a charity-fete organized for the benefit of the Belgian refugees, the hatred of Germany was already storing itself up in men’s hearts, but had not as yet come to the surface. Here and there it did break out, but it was still fearful, circumspect and hesitating. One felt it brewing, seething in the depths of men’s souls, but it seemed as yet to be feeling its way, to be reckoning itself up, to be painfully attaining self-consciousness. When I returned to Italy in March, 1915, I was amazed to behold the unhoped-for height to which the invading flood had so swiftly risen. That pious hatred, that necessary hatred, which in this case is merely a magnificent passion for justice and humanity, had swept over everything. It had come out into the full sunlight; it thrilled and quivered at the least appeal, proud and happy to assert itself, to manifest itself with the beautiful tumultuous ostentation of the South; and it was the “neutrals” that now hid themselves after the manner of unspeakable insects. That species had all but disappeared, annihilated by the storm that was gathering on every hand. The Germans themselves had gone to earth, no one knew where; and from that moment it was certain that war was imminent and inevitable.

In the space of three months a stupendous work had been accomplished. It is impossible for the moment to weigh and determine the part of each of those who performed it. But we can even now say that in Italy, which is governed preeminently by public opinion and which, more than any other nation, has in its blood the traditions and the habits of the forum and the ancient republics, it is above all the spoken word that changes men’s hearts and urges them to action.

From this point of view, the admirable campaign of agitation and propaganda undertaken by M. Jules Destree, author of En Italie, was of an importance and possessed consequences which are beyond comparison with anything else accomplished and which are difficult to realize by those who were not present at one or other of the meetings at which, for more than six months, indefatigably, travelling from town to town, from the smallest to the most populous, he uttered the distressful complaint of martyred Belgium, unveiling the lies, the felonies, the monstrosities and the acts of devastation perpetrated by the barbarian horde and making heard, with sovran eloquence, the august voice of outraged justice and of baffled right.