The Quality of Mercy

 The Quality of Mercy

An Appeal to America for Sufferers in the Great War

Marie Corelli

(1919)

There is no greater virtue in the human character than mercy; it is the nearest attribute and approach to the Divine Perfection towards Whom all creation instinctively moves. We, the offspring of that infinite Thought and Will, are still far away from such sweet and strong attainment of power as can find infinitude of joy in the infinitude of Giving—but we can in some measure bless and purify our brief poor lives with somewhat of that everlasting plenitude and beauty by an effort, no matter how feeble, towards a God-like perpetuity of grace and pity. The golden opportunity for that effort is Now and Here; we may never have so great a chance again. For Now and Here, in the fair days of spring and summer, when singing, blossoming Nature breaks out in its Te Deum of thankfulness for yet another space of time wherein to express the gladness and glory of life, we are confronted with the hideous, ravaging spectacle of War; War, in its most cruel, pitiless, and appalling shape—War, to the grimmest death! The groans and shrieks of wounded, tortured, and dying men are forced upon our ears; a monstrous Devil of Self, black with the crimes of treachery, lust, and murder, stalks abroad seeking what it may devour of faith, freedom, and civilisation—a demon possibly born of mankind’s own neglect of the highest ideals, and indifference to countless blessings long bestowed.

And the most evil part of this evil visitation is that the terrific whirlwind of disaster sweeps over the innocent as well as the guilty, and men of valour and worth in all the nations now at war with one another are driven by the force of a barbarous necessity into the agony of wounds and death for no fault of their own, but for the mistakes and aggressions of their governmental rulers. They are as falling leaves blown before a storm—as smoke before fire—drifting into darkness! Yet every one of them is moved by the inspiration and love of liberty—by the sense of right and justice—and by the desire to help in doing what is good and true for the larger benefit of the whole world. And in this sense every one of them is noble; each life is worth our grateful care. We, who appeal for them, take no part in the contest. To us they are all our brothers in humanity; their mothers, wives, sisters, children, and lovers are ours also! We wish to lift them in our helping arms out of the blood and mire of battle, and by our impartial love and tenderness, to comfort them as much as we may, and relieve their bitter need.

We want every American citizen to help us in this great, this divine, work; for so best shall we prove the largeness of our thought, and the wideness and scope of the civilisation of the Republic and it ideals; so shall we best display the spirit of the young New World, uprising on the waters of this deluge like another ark of the covenant, sending forth the dove of hope and promise to those who are struggling for life in the overwhelming waves. We would like to write the noble words of Man’s universal Poet, Shakespeare, across the doors of all our fellow-countrymen upon whom we now call for aid, convinced of their generous response:—

        The quality of mercy is not strained;
        It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
        Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed;
        It blesseth him that gives and him that takes;
        ’Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
        The thronèd monarch better than his crown—
                    ... We do pray for mercy;
        And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
        The deeds of mercy.

In this mind and mood we appeal for help: for ungrudging, tenderest, quickest help!—the help that brave persons would instantly give if they saw children drowning. For every man disabled, sick, or deprived of his strength is as a struggling child in the flood of adversity, and indeed more pitiful than a child, for the child’s day may be yet to come, while his is past. Moreover, he has been snatched from all that made life pleasant and useful to himself, to fight his country’s battle, for which he, personally, is not responsible, but which he enters upon for the sake of a duty which is purely heroic self-sacrifice. Let us therefore accept this free gift of his manhood in the cause of Right and Justice and Freedom, with no less cheerful and willing gifts and self-sacrifices of our own; let us give and still give, in the all-beneficent spirit of the daily sunlight which pours itself out unasked over the fields and pastures to bless and fructify them! And let us never weary of giving! From every man and woman of the teeming population of the United States we ask a donation for our Holy Cause—our new Crusade of the Lord’s Sepulchre—for such it is, inasmuch as we seek to raise from the grave of silence and despair those who have been giving the best of their lives in suffering the horrors of this terrific War. Be the gift small or great it will add to the sum of what we hope to make the most wonderful and munificent gift and act of homage to martyred heroes that has ever been known in the world! We are a Committee of Mercy, and we make this Appeal to all the merciful, in God’s Name, and for the sweet uplifting of a Star of Hope in the darkness!

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