The year 2002 has been proclaimed the International Year of the Mountains. As I drove through the Rocky Mountains this summer, I was in awe of all the beauty and spectacular views of the peaks and valleys. Our western provinces and all their beauty, truly is God’s Playground. For years mountains have been an inspiration for artists to paint and photographers to take pictures. For me the mountains filled me with relentless enjoyment in their viewing and a learning experience with their history. Each mountain has its own story to tell. Each mountain peak named, a snap shot of history stamped for a lifetime with unforgettable stories to be told.
One mountain piqued my interest, being the Military Brat that I am, was Mount Edith Cavell, named for a selfless “Florence Nightingale” of the First World War. Only 30 miles from Jasper it attracts many a hiker from all over the world.
Edith Cavell (1865-1915) was a matron nurse of the Belgium Red Cross in Brussels. Her heroic deeds of aiding 200 or more allied soldiers to escape from behind enemy lines in Germany into freedom in Holland, via the underground railroad, are never to be forgotten with the tribute to her patriotism in the naming of this mountain. Her capture led to her execution by firing squad.
This majestic mountain has a glacial lake and the most famous Angel Glacier which its whiteness spreading out angel wings protecting just as Edith, the soldier’s angel, once did.
The following poem was penned by Lawrence Binyon about Edith Cavell:
She was binding the wounds of her enemies when they came. The lint in her hand unrolled.They battered the door with their rifle-butts, crashed it in: She faced them gentle and bold. They hailed her before the judges where they sat. In their places, helmet on head. With question and menace the judges assailed her, “Yes, I have broken your law,” she said. “I have tended the hurt and hidden the hunted, have done. As a sister does to a brother, Because of a law that is greater than you have made, Because I could do no other.” Deal as you will with me. This is my choice to the end, To live in the life I vowed.” “She is self-confessed,” they cried; “she is self-condemned. She shall die, that the rest may be cowed.” In the terrible hour of the dawn, when the veins are cold, They led her forth to the wall. “I have loved my land,” she said, “but it is not enough: Love requires of me all.
“I will empty my heart of bitterness, hating none.” And sweetness filled her brave With a vision of understanding beyond the hour. That knelled to the waiting grave.
They bound her eyes, but she stood as if she shone. The rifles it was that shook When the hoarse command rang out. They could not endure.
That last, that defenseless look. And the officer strode and pistolled her surely, ashamed. That men, seasoned in blood, Should quail at a woman, only a woman, As a flower stamped in the mud. And now that the deed was securely done, in the night. When none had known her fate, They answered those that had striven for her, day by day: “It is over, you come too late.” And with many words and sorrowful-phrased excuse. Argued their German right To kill, most legally; hard though the duty be, The law must assert its might. Only a woman! yet she had pity on them, The victim offered slain To the gods of fear that they worship. Leave them there, Red hands, to clutch their gain. She bewailed not herself, and we will bewail her not, But with tears of pride rejoice That an English soul was found so crystal-clear To be the triumphant voice. Of the human heart that dares adventure all But live to itself untrue, And beyond all laws sees love as the light in the night, As the star it must answer to. The hurts she healed, the thousands comforted — these. Make a fragrance of her fame. But because she stept to her star right on through death. It is Victory speaks her name.
Edith Cavell wartime grave
After the war her remains were brought back to England, first to Westminster Abbey for a service on 15th May 1919, and then by special train to Norwich, where thousands lined the route and followed the gun-carriage to the cathedral where she was finally laid to rest in a simple grave at the eastern end of the cathedral, in Life’s Green.
Editor’s note: Dora, a good friend and fellow Military-BRAT, as usual, spins a very poetic yarn about the heroes of our great country. Certainly Edith Cavell, a women who never set foot in Canada, played a crucial role in saving Canadian soldier’s lives during the Great War. Once I received Dora’s copy from Dora, I did a little digging to see if I could add a little more to the story of Edith.
The story of Edith Cavell is one of compassion and disregard for oneself in the face of misery.
by Dora Chartier