London Walks Pen & Daily Constitutional Special Correspondent David Tucker pauses by a statue hidden in plain view…
This image first.
Cavell has her back to the wall. Literally and figuratively. She’s about to be shot. She’s facing her firing squad. She’s looking at them. But she’s also looking slightly to the left. In the general direction of Brussels. In the general direction of the dawn. And indeed that slight turn of the head to her left directs us – well, it should direct us – to the single word on the east side of the statue: Sacrifice.
And notice the word above her head: Humanity. That firing squad isn’t just gunning her down. It’s taking aim at “Humanity”.
The four words round the plinth – one on each face – are of course set in stone (so to speak), but they’re also, in a sense, akin to the Times Square Digital Ticker Tape. One leads on to another. They go through our mind, scroll past our mind’s eye. They’re connected, conjoined.
The four are: Devotion. Humanity. Sacrifice. Fortitude.
Sacrifice “faces” east, faces dawn, faces Brussels. Where Cavell was shot at dawn.
Fortitude is at the back. Going round the statue and seeing the word there is chilling. You look at it and you’re thinking of her standing there, facing her firing squad and the bullets hitting her and tearing through her and ripping out of her back. Drilling through the stone, through that word Fortitude, toward us, standing there, in the line of fire, with just Edith Cavell and the plinth and that word Fortitude between us and the line of fire. And Cavell’s courage. Her fortitude.
And round it goes again. Devotion. Humanity. Sacrifice. Fortitude.
What else? Well, there’s what she said in that last letter – you can read it there, beneath the Brussels Dawn October 12, 1915 inscription – “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.”
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