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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Address to the American People
By Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863–1938)
 
On the entry of the United States into the Great War

FOR the soul of Italy to-day the Capitol at Washington has become a beacon light. A Roman garland wreathes the bust dedicated to the hero whom free men call the glorious knight of humanity. It is a garland pure as the branch of lilac offered by a poet on the bier of Lincoln. It is sacred as the ever-flowering bough “with heart-shaped leaves of rich green.” It seems as though in this April of passion and tempest there re-echoes the cry of that April, tense with joy and anguish:
  “O Captain! My Captain! Rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung!”
  1
  Now the group of stars on the banner of the great Republic has become a constellation of the Spring, like the Pleiades; a propitious sign to sailors, armed and unarmed alike; a spiritual token for all nations fighting a righteous war. I give the salute of Italy, of the Roman Capitol to the Capitol at Washington; a salute to the people of the Union, who now confirm and seal the pledge that liberty shall be preserved.  2
  To Italy alone of the allied nations the possibility was open of avoiding war and remaining a passive spectator. Italy took up arms gladly, less for the reconquest of her heritage than for the salvation of all the things which symbolize the grandeur of freedom. She armed herself, as to-day the American nation is arming herself, for the sake of an ideal. The spontaneous act consummated by the people of George Washington is a glorious sacrifice on behalf of the hopes of all mankind.  3
  America has achieved a new birth. She has molded for herself a new heart. This is the miracle wrought by a righteous war, the miracle that unexpectedly to-day we of Italy see performed beyond an ocean dishonored by assassins and thieves.  4
  Our war is not destructive; it is creative. With all manner of atrocities, all manner of shameful acts, the barbarian has striven to destroy the idea which, until this struggle began, man had of man. The barbarian multiplied on the innocent infamous outrages inspired by hate, alternating senile impudence, and brutal stupidity. The barbarian ground heroism to earth, cast down the airy cathedrals where congregated the aspirations of the eternal soul; burned the seats of wisdom decked with the flowers of all the arts; distorted the lineaments of Christ, tore off the garments of the Virgin.  5
  Now once again we begin to have hope of the nobility of man. Love’s face is radiant, though its eyes are moist with tears, for never was love so much beloved. Love overflows on all the world like a brook in May. Our hearts are not large enough to gather it and to hold it. The people of Lincoln, springing to their feet to defend the eternal spirit of man, to-day increase immeasurably this sum of love opposed to fury, the fury of the barbarian.  6
  “Ah, Liberty! Let others despair of thee; I will never despair of thee!” once cried your rugged poet. In this hope your nation arises to-day—in the North, South, East, West—to offer your strength, proclaiming our cause to be the noblest cause for which men have ever fought. You were an enormous and obtuse mass of riches and power; now you are transfigured into ardent, active spirituality. The roll of your drums drowns out the last wail of cowardice.  7
  April 15th is the anniversary of Lincoln’s death. From his sepulchre there issue again the noble words which fell from his lips at Gettysburg on soil sanctified by the blood of brave men. All your States—North, South, East, West—hear them. I say to you that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
GABRIELE D’ANNUNZIO.    
    Rome, April 6th, 1917.
  8
 
 
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