When Florence Nightingale began her great work in the hospital wards at Scutari in 1854, she little realised how far-reaching would be the effect of her noble self-sacrificing efforts. Could she to-day visit the war-stricken countries of Europe she would be astonished at the great developments of the work of caring for the wounded soldiers which she inaugurated so long ago. Her fine example is being emulated to-day by hundreds of thousands of brave women who are devoting themselves to the wounded, the sick and the dying in countless hospital wards.
All too little is known of what these devoted nurses have done and are doing. Some day the whole story will be given to the world; and the hearts of all will be thrilled by stirring deeds of love and bravery. In the meantime it is pleasing and comforting to catch fleeting glimpses of a portion of the work as depicted in this sheaf of letters, now issued under the title of “My Beloved Poilus,” written from the Front by a brave American nurse.
Two outstanding features give special merit to these letters. They were not written for publication, but for an intimate circle of relatives and friends. And because of this they are not artificial, but are free and graceful, with homely touches here and there which add so much to their value. Amidst the incessant roar of mighty guns; surrounded by the wounded and the dying; shivering at times with cold, and wearied almost to the point of exhaustion, these letters were hurriedly penned. No time had she for finely-turned phrases. Neither were they necessary. The simple statements appeal more to the heart than most eloquent words.
These letters will bring great comfort to many who have loved ones at the Front. They will tell them something of the careful sympathetic treatment the wounded receive. The glimpses given here and there, of the efforts made by surgeons and nurses alike to administer relief, and as far as possible to assuage the suffering of the wounded, should prove most comforting. What efforts are made to cheer the patients, and to brighten their lot, and what personal interest is taken in their welfare, are incidentally revealed in these letters. For instance, “The men had a wonderful Christmas Day (1916). They were like a happy lot of children. We decorated the ward with flags, holly and mistletoe, and paper flowers that the men made, and a tree in each ward.”
How these letters bring home to us the terrible tragedy that is going on far across the ocean. And yet mingled with the feeling of sadness is the spirit of inspiration which comes from the thought of those brave men who are offering themselves to maintain the right, and the devoted women who are ministering to their needs. Our heads bow with reverence, and our hearts thrill with pride, when we think of them. But we must do more than think and feel; we must do our part in supporting them and upholding their hands. They have given their all. They can do no more, and dare we do less?
H. A. CODY,Rector St....