- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Oct 1944, p. 55-70
- Harding, Gilbert, Speaker
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- Item Type
- Readings from recent articles in Toronto newspapers. This topic of the postwar treatment of Germany vitally important in a time when Canadian youths are so pessimistic. The danger of forgetting the cost of the war, the waste of treasure, waste of life, the maimed, the crippled, the blind, the widows, the fatherless, and above all the deep legacy of hatred which any war leaves. The need for all of us to be vigilant against anything that looks like letting the same thing happen again. The need for a careful study of foreign affairs. The danger of public apathy: a look back beginning in 1931. A review of Germany's record since 1918. The Versailles Treaty. Events leading up to Hitler taking power. The nature of Germans and Nazis. Details of the Nazi philosophy, propaganda, and activities. Some suggestions for dealing with the Germans after the war. The length of the Armistice. Some conditions for peace. Three questions to put to the Germans: "Are you beaten? Are you sure? And by whom?" The need for punishment; the objects of punishment. Germany as a criminal nation. The danger of being infected with an unreasonable prejudice. The need for Germany to be demilitarized forever. The need for re-education. Insisting that the men elected by us shall be men charged with our mandate to see that the peace of the world shall be secured by the stern treatment of Germany. Being aware of the past.
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- 19 Oct 1944
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- POSTWAR TREATMENT OF GERMANY
AN ADDRESS BY GILBERT HARDING, M.A.
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Conquergood
Thursday, October 19, 1944
MR. CONQUERGOOD: In the year 1622, there was formed in Rome a college of cardinals, charged with the management of missions. It was known as the "College of Propaganda". The word "Propaganda" later came into use as applying to any organization for spreading a particular doctrine or system of principles.
Until the Nazis appropriated the term, and debased it, as they have with other things, the word did not have any unsavory implications. But the Nazi doctrines, with Nazi deception and Nazi inhumanity, have made us suspicious of any so-called propaganda, even though its content may be entirely worthy.
This Empire Club exists to promote the interests of Canada and the British Empire. In the respected sense, this is a platform of propaganda. There are other chan nels, including the printed word, the picture industry, and communication systems, such as telegraph, telephone and radio.
Today, on this platform, we are to hear a message from a young man, who is associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation. He has been in an unique posi tion to study the methods of Nazi propaganda and the political implications which it promoted.
For fifteen years prior to the war, he made frequent trips to Germany. Since the war, as a member of the staff of BBC. he has given special study to the propaganda coming from German sources. He has, also, I am sure, found it necessary to formulate plans to assist in overcoming the evil which this propaganda has created.
Mr. Gilbert Harding obtained his Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University. He studied law and is a member of Gray's Inn, one of the four great legal societies of England. He has served as correspondent for the London Times. He has recently come to Canada as Canadian program assistant for the BBC, where he is associated with Mr. S. J. de Lotbiniere, who spoke to us six months ago and whom we are delighted to welcome back to our Head Table today.
Gentlemen, I present to you Mr. Gilbert Harding, M.A., who will address us on the topic "Postwar Treatment of Germany".
MR. GILBERT HARDING, M.A.: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: In case what I have to say to you may sound something like a sermon, I brought my text with me and the text is compiled from cuttings from the Toronto newspapers which, I hope, is a sign that people who read them may already have some idea of what I am talking about. I have here an excellent precise of the views of Lord Vansittart and Professor Gilbert Murray written by Mr. McAree of the Globe and Mail; I have the controversy which attended the showing of the film "The Seventh Cross" in Toronto-about which I will have a good deal to say in a minute--and I have here the most terrible thing of all, a statement that many youths say that a new war is possible within 25 years.
A recent poll of Canadian boys between the ages of 15 and 24 reveals that 46 percent of them expect that there will be another war within 25 years. Then again in the newspapers of Toronto we have the daily casualty lists of the people who will not come back to Canada or, if they do come back, will return in a crippled or wounded condition. Then we have the atrocities which are daily committed by our cruel and vicious enemies, the Germans, and I wonder how many of us will remember them in ten or eleven years' time.
There are so many things to think about nowadays. Politics loom large in the Canadian world. There are all kinds of topics which people are able to discuss with varying degrees of heat and bitterness. Some people even find time to discuss the supply of whiskey and beer, but this topic which we are going to discuss today is, I think, the most important and the most vital and the most urgent problem which we can possibly discuss in a time when so many Canadian youths can be so pessimistic.
Surely each and everyone of us asks the question "What do we want after the war?" Of course what we all want after the war is that this time shall be the last and can we do anything about it? I think we can. That is why, Mr. President and Gentlemen of The Empire Club, I am grateful for the opportunity of coming today to give an airing to a bee which has been buzzing in my bonnet for a very long time and if I can introduce the bee to buzz in yours I shall be very pleased.
This is the second time in the lifetime of most of us that the Germans have forced war upon the world. It is the second time that Canadians have crossed the Atlantic, leaving the fishing boats of British Columbia and Nova Scotia, the farms on the prairies, and the villages and towns of Ontario, and, if it is not the last, I think we shall all have to bear a certain amount of responsibility. When the war is over we shall talk about the bitter glories of the war, the deeds of heroism, the contribution of a whole people, but we shall, I am afraid, unless history fails to repeat herself, very quickly forget the cost of the war, the waste of treasure, waste of life, the maimed, the crippled, the blind, the widows, the fatherless, and above all the deep legacy of hatred which any war leaves. And the hatred which this war is going to leave, I think, will be bottomless.
So, there is a great need that every one of us should be vigilant against anything that looks like letting the same thing happen again. We must be vigilant against people we know are our enemies and against those whom we do not recognize as our enemies and even against people who indeed are not our enemies but enemies of peace, the sentimental, the genuinely misguided, the stubborn and the obstinate, who are always prepared to explain things away. And we must not forget the vicious power of those greedy unprincipled men who will do anything to increase and preserve their private and personal fortunes while neglecting the general interests of the world at large.
Let us be careful that we study foreign affairs. Up to now, foreign affairs have been the privilege, the private and peculiar privilege of a small body of men-like the people who have gone as Ambassadors and First Secretaries and Counsellors of State. Well, they have made a sorry mess of things, I think, possibly because their actions have not been called in question enough. There is some excuse for the story of the soldier in Whitehall in London who stopped a passer-by and said: "Can you tell me what side the Foreign Office is on?" And the answer was: "I've often wondered, but I hope to God it's on our side."
In order to show the danger of public apathy let us, just for a very short time, look back no further than 1931. It might be impolitic to look back further than that, but 1931 will do, the year in which Japan launched her first attack on China, an attack which she was able to maintain right down to 1941, not without, and I will go no further than that, not without assistance from great countries who are now fighting, whether they like it or not, for what is known as Democracy. There is no doubt, I am afraid, that the assistance given to Japan by the armament manufacturers of Great Britain and the United States did a great deal to bring about the misery and horror which has disfigured the history of the Far East. The men who made money out of that munitions trade must be held responsible for the death of millions of Chinese. Then there is the Anglo-German Naval Pact, which most people have forgotten, a secret agreement that Germany should start building her pocket battleships again, and then Italy and Abyssinia. Do you remember the tragicomic failure of the League of Nations, to stop that war of aggression-a war that was condemned by the League of Nations? And why did they fail? Because they did not impose that most effective sanction of all, oil. Oil poured into Italy so that she could drive her aeroplanes and drop mustard gas on the naked Abyssinians and drive her tanks and so that Mussolini and Badoglio, now our friend, could go spanking along in great motor cars between the rows of Abyssinians whom they had liberated, those whom they hadn't gassed or shot-with the help of the oil from the Persian Gulf.
And then Franco, 1936! The rebellion-for it was nothing else-of a sadistic, flatulent reactionary against the lawfully elected government of his own country. True, Spanish politics were in a pretty chaotic state, but what do you expect after the history of Spain? They were used to being ruled by lecherous and drunken libertines, and against the fashion of the old times they turned and made a government of their own, an enlightened Socialist government. But there were not found wanting people to say it was too left wing, and there were other people who were able to raise that hideous cry of "Communism!" and so Franco was allowed by a policy of non-intervention to destroy the Democracy of Spain. Let us hope it will not last very much longer.
All the time, you see, there was a fear of the Russian bogey; you only had to mention Russia to make a lot of people at once see red and change from being normal balanced men into gibbering lunatics; you only had to mention Russia and Communism and everyone went "gooey." They thought. "Anything rather than that, anything rather than Russia." And so, when the Russians attacked Finland, which we now know they were quite right in doing our mothers and our sisters gave up their fur coats and people' were asked to give up their warm bed socks so that the Finns could fight the Russians, oblivious as we were to the fact that the Finns were German agents.
Well, I must not go into that much longer. Let us skip a certain amount of history and come down to Munich when Russia was left out. This is not, by the way, an appeal for understanding with Russia. It is just simply incidental. At the same time I wonder how many people in Toronto saw a play called "There Shall Be No Night" in which you probably remember those brilliant actors, Lunt and Fontanne, showed the courage of the Finns under Russian tyranny. Well now, of course, they have had to alter that and in London we see them showing the courage of the Greeks under German tyranny. You do not lose a good box office appeal just for the sake of truth.
This time there is less danger of apathy, but people have very short memories, so let us briefly review Germany's record since 1918. Again I am glad to say that I found in the Toronto newspapers, not long ago, a review of a book which I hope some people have read called, "Germans. Not Nazis," which lends point to a good deal of what I want to say.
The Versailles Treaty, which was signed in the Hall of Mirrors outside Paris, was no sooner signed than people began to condemn it--not only the Germans, but people like me as well. At that time, no, not at that time, but later on when I was a boy in an upper class at school and afterwards when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, I belonged to that section of people who were all out for sympathy with Germany; we felt terribly sorry for them. They had been abominably treated, they had been let down by their army, we thought, and the French anyhow were not our friends. Any sympathy with Germany became extremely popular.
The Germans are very clever. Young men and young women went to Germany and found them friendly and charming. They walked among the cornfields and they climbed the mountains and struggled after the blue cornflowers and sang songs in beer parlours. Everywhere around them was the atmosphere of Gemuetlichkeit, friendship, charm, and we thought, "These people can't be so bad as all that." That is what you are intended to think after seeing the film, "The Seventh Cross"--"These are nice people. We mustn't really complain about them." The Germans, remember, escaped the horrors of the war, and therefore when we could go to Germany and look at the glorious cathedrals, and castles along the Rhine, and see the standing corn and hear the happy laughter of the children, we forgot the ruins of Louvain and Arras and Ypres. We forgot all about the scorched earth of Northern France and the destruction of Verdun and places like that.
The Germans escaped. Thank God their sons are not going to get off so easily this time. But they would if they could. Carl Rosemeier, a German who understood the Germans, said some time ago, "They will cheat you yet, these Junkers. Having won one-half the world by bloody murder, they'll win the other half with tears in their eyes whining for mercy." And I notice that Mr. Malcolm Macdonald, the High Commissioner here, quoted the other day the words of a captured German staff officer who said with the cynical insolence in which they excel, "It's true," said he, flicking the ash off his cigarette--a cigarette probably offered to him by some obsequious Brigadier. "It is true," said he, "that Germany may have to fight and lose two wars in order to win the third."
The Weimar Republic, which was set up to make peace between the Allies and Germany in 1918, was very soon destroyed. Within the first year of the Weimar Re public there were more political murders in Germany than there were in the first four years of the Nazi regime. The resistance to the Weimar Republic was strong. German people do not like Democracy, they don't understand it, they don't even begin to understand what it means. Some of us are not quite sure, but the German's don't even try.
When Hitler came into power in 1933 he had a walkover. It is idle for people to suggest, as Miss Dorothy Thompson persists in doing, that Hitler was resented and resisted by any large section of the German people. He was not. He gave them exactly what they wanted, uniforms, brass bands, the opportunity to go parading about, doing the goose step, polishing their spades so they could wave them in the air and shout, "Heil Hitler"--and the German maidens, even they had uniforms, uniforms for women. It was exactly what they wanted. When Hitler came into power he said to himself, "I have found my most fanatical supporters among women." The German mothers for centuries and certainly the last fifty years have been trained to raise their sons to fight--and when you're trained to fight, you've got to fight against somebody.
For another thing, only Germans in my opinion can be Nazis. What other people but the Germans could tolerate the kind of people they have to rule over them? Sometimes those of us who suffer from strong political convictions wonder how on earth we can elect people like "Old Joe" or "Tom Somebody" and sometimes it is difficult to understand. But can you imagine any other people on the face of the globe who could tolerate, as their leaders, men not only of twisted and repulsive minds but twisted and repulsive bodies as well? Horrible people! You can look at their pictures and they are quite open and frank about it; they have no publicity agents to touch up their photographs. Julius Streicher does not mind his beastly, sadistic face being photographed-not a bit of it. Nor does Goebbels mind his peculiarly repulsive appearance being reproduced.
It is dangerous to make a clear distinction between Nazis and Germans. Let us not forget that you must be a German before you can be a Nazi. The whole of the Nazi regime was founded upon lying of such a colossal order that it has achieved its object. Hitler said in "Mein Kampf"; "If you want to be believed you must tell big lies and tell them often; and if you tell them often enough people will begin to believe them." The Germans were ready-we were not ready. But a lot of people were not averse from giving colour to German lies especially when we were told: "Look at what this new regime does. The streets are clean, the trains run on time, the hotels are clean, there are no Communists. It's getting almost as nice as in Italy and Portugal and Poland, all of them dictatorial, totalitarian countries." And that just suited the British tourists.
To help him in his lying, he had the modern Beelzebub, Goebbels. If ever there was a successful man, it is indeed Goebbels, because his lying was so thorough that he has succeeded in corrupting a whole people and destroying in a great many of them-in fact in the majority of them-the inherent love of religion which made Germany the stronghold of the Catholic church and the spearhead of the Protestant church. The Germans were a religious people, a people who devoted in the past a good deal of their time, a good deal of their music to the beauty of worship. and now think what they do. I will tell you the kind of thing they sing. The German Youth League and the German League of Women sing a hymn which translated goes something like this
"We have given up the Christian line, For Christ was just a Jewish swine, And as for his Mother, What a shame, Cohen was the lady's real name."
Children sing that kind of thing. Children report their parents for talking against the Government, and a race of thugs and savages has been developed who, as men who are fighting against them now report, are worse than devils. And during all the time while the Germans were talking of peace, the preparations for war went on and behind the scenes there was the very refinement of German persecution.
I was in Germany in 1938 and visited a school; again I ask you to note the frank and open way in which it was done. We were invited to go and look at the way in which German education was prospering; and we went to a little town of Rothenburg, one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen, a town which looks like an illustration out of a child's fairy tale book, something out of Hans Andersen, with curly red roofs over-hanging narrow cobbled streets, a tall spire with little onion dome, with a church and perhaps occasionally you would pass someone who would give you the German greeting of "Gruss Gott". It was all very charming, and in the school there were cheerful looking children, but it was a school from which they had not yet expelled all the children of mixed Jewish and non-Jewish parents.
All the pure Jews, of course, had long been turned out but, in this particular class where we were, there were still some children who had one Jewish and one non Jewish parent. None of them was over seven. It was the custom of the Government in the morning to give them hot milk, for which the children were required to bring their own cups. Now, these little children of mixed parentage were not allowed to not bring their cups, were not allowed to fall out of line when it was formed up; they were obliged every morning of their lives to go in the queue so that when they came to the teacher with a ladle, they had to say: "I'm sorry I'm a Jew." Whereupon the teacher would say: "We don't want any Jews here." And the child would answer: "I'm sorry."
Afterwards I said to the school mistress, a woman very much the same as my own sister, who is a very ordinary middle-class English woman teaching school: "This seems to me to be one of the most cruel and horrible things I've ever seen." "Cruel?" she said, "Not to the vast majority of German children; after all they must realize how much better they are than the Jews." That is an example of the success of Goebbels prolonged campaign of lies.
Well, then came the war and the Germans very soon showed they had not changed except in one respect. That was the campaign of lies with which they flooded the air, ingenious, disturbing lies which caused a good deal of trouble and a great deal of concern. And I don't think we were very good at answering them back. We are good at a great many things, but I don't think we are so good as all that at lying-I sometimes wish we were a bit better. The Germans soon showed they hadn't changed and the record of atrocities grew, making the atrocities of the last war seem pale in comparison. In the last war-all war is brutal, and the Germans are more brutal than most people -they were still just Germans; this time they had the vileness of Nazism deep in their veins as well, so the world was dismayed and is still shocked and stunned at the record of atrocities which mount day by day by day.
Remember that these young men, who are now 19 or 20, have been subject to it since 1933, and therefore a boy of 17 has been subject to it since he was 7 and so on: Therefore they are capable of deeds of cruelty and beastliness so vile that they themselves get tired of them and think of new ways to kill and torture. I hope we are not going to forget them. And now they are fighting to the finish to the bitter end, let there be no mistake about that. I think it is most mischievous and dangerous that we should be told the war is going to be over very soon. If it is going to be over soon, then it will be at the cost of enormous sacrifice again of blood and young life.
What are we going to do after the war, when that time comes? Let us now do something constructive and make some suggestions. As we know the Germans now, and as we have known them and should have known them for 25 years, it is impossible to make a peace with them until they have learned to be good Europeans. There must be an Armistice and let the Armistice be a long Armistice. Let it last five, or six, or even 10 years. Let the state of war continue.
Let them not send their black-coated, furtive, well-trained, slimy liars to the peace conference, carefully briefed by the militarists and the industrialists, whom they will leave behind them in what, I am glad to say, will not be an unspoiled Berlin. Let them remain a defeated and conquered nation for a period long enough for them to be converted. Let them be turned around and let them see what they have done and let them understand that we will see to it that they will never do it again.
Think of one more thing. After the last war, when the Germans were perhaps suffering from malnutrition, the people of Norway invited them to send their children from the poorer districts to Norway where they grew up in the happy Norwegian country. They had plenty of milk and cheese and came back strong and new children; their lives were saved. It was those children who formed part of the force which went to Norway in 1940 because they spoke Norwegian and they understood Norway. That was the way in which Germans repaid Norwegian generosity. You cannot do anything with people like that except change them.
Let us put to them three questions in one way or another. "Are you beaten? Are you sure? And by whom?" Then there can be no misunderstanding as there was after the last war. Let us pray that we shall find men of the Great Powers who will make the peace, who will agree together, because unless we agree among ourselves the Germans will profit by our disunity. Let us remember the words of Wordsworth who wrote in 1801: "We should exult if they who rule the land were men who count their many blessings dear, and not a servile band, who are to judge of danger which they fear, and honour which they cannot understand."
Let us pray that our leaders will be men who will realize that it is their most imperative duty to agree to deal with Germany so fairly and so decisively that these Canadian boys who take such a pessimistic view of the future may be proved to be wrong. And let us not, on the other hand, give way and behave like the Roman mob and clamour for punishment unrestricted and uncontrolled. There must be punishment; but let us remember what the objects of punishment are: protection of society and the reform of the criminal. In some cases, I hope, the punishment of Germans will fit the crime and they will be made to rebuild. And, of course, I hope, in fact I take it for granted, that we shall destroy the evil leaders of the Gestapo and the people who are convicted of crime. That hardly needs saying.
Are Germans worse than other people? Well, of course they are not, essentially they are not. But they are dangerously infected. If your little girl or boy gets scarlet fever or eczema or some horrid disease, he doesn't become any worse than his brother or sister, but he has to be isolated hasn't he? He's got to get better: and so let us not be led too easily into this business of thinking that the Germans are "all right". We are too prone to do that sort of thing. The British soldier always talks about "Old Jerry" and "Fritz" and when the Germans were shot down from bombing aircraft in England, people were too ready to run and make them cups of tea and cocoa and give them cigarettes.
I heard somebody in Canada say the other day "After all, Rommel was a gentleman-a clean fighter." How does he know? And even if he was a clean fighter, the facts of the matter is that he was a Nazi, that is to say, he was a well-known and deliberate member of the party of his choice. A gentleman-the word has ceased to have any meaning. It is nothing to laugh about, although people will persist in laughing it off. It's the British soldier, I think, who is incapable of this burning hatred with which the Germans seem to be so easily infected. Noel' Coward has an amusing story of when he went to the Near East. He met a soldier who had been wounded in the fighting in Italy. He said, "What's it like?" The soldier said, "Well, the Eye-ties are alright, and the Jerries are alright, but the mosquitoes are bloody awful."
And then, the film, "The Seventh Cross"! If there ever was a piece of shameless propaganda, that's it. It is a pro-German film. But I don't suggest for a moment that the people in Hollywood who made it are pro-German. Nor do I suggest for a moment that the people taking part in it are German agents. That would be absurd. But it is a dangerous film. In it we are shown this charming young German middle class worker, who doesn't know how beastly the Nazis are. How can he possibly not know? How can he have failed to see Jews struck in the face and kicked in the streets? Doesn't he know? Of course he knows. And we are expected to believe that by most Germans the Nazis are hated and feared. They are not. In Germany I can assure you they were applauded, they were welcomed with a frenzy and enthusiasm to which even I myself was once in danger of becoming susceptible.
Are there nice Germans? Well most of us have friends whom we remember-but there again let us not stretch tolerance too far. A taxi driver who drove me in Toronto the other day asked me if I came from England. He thought I had a queer accent. And he said that he had known some nice Englishmen in his time.
Germany is a criminal nation, a criminal nation convicted before the jury of mankind and she must be treated as such. Let us not be infected with an unreasonable prejudice: We must not add another to the racial and religious prejudices of which there are already far too many. There are enough people whose minds are poisoned by a horror of this race or that race or that people already. Let us remember that they are human beings who can be reformed. But, in the meantime, let there be no half measures.
Germany must be de-militarized for ever. Forever. If we see that our Governments, either by acquiescence or apathy are allowing the Germans to have an army, a navy or air force-however small-let's call for a general election and throw them out. Let there be no uniforms in Germany except those worn by postmen, policemen, and railway men. They must not have an army any more. Let us control their youth. Remember that two generations are lost, irretrievably lost. Let us look at the ones that are coming. Let us supervise their sports gatherings to see that they do not degenerate into drill as they did after the last war. And watch their war industries, or potential war industries--heavy industries. Don't let them start building tanks on the sly and making poison gas. Let us keep our inspectors in German war industries, if you like, forever-but certainly, if only for selfish reasons, during your lifetime and mine.
Then there must be re-education. Who is going to do it, I don't know, but there must be re-education. The lessons of the last war were not learned. Already there are several thinking men who have suggested solutions. Mr. Morgenthau of the United States suggests that Germany should be reduced from an industrial to an agricultural nation. There are objections to that at once, of course, from industries in England represented by a paper in England called "The Economist", which attacks Mr. Morgenthau as a fanatic. So does Miss Dorothy Thompson attack him and so on. But it is a step in the right direction. There are people in high places of authority who are thinking about it; Lord Vansittart, who is accused quite unjustly of suggesting that all Germans should be killed, which is nonsense. That is pro-German propaganda. It is pro-German propaganda to misrepresent Vansittart. It is pro-German propaganda to deny that "The Seventh Cross" is in fact pro-German propaganda. We must get our ideas straight on this subject. Vansittart suggests that the Germans shall be left with whole larders but empty arsenals. Surely that is not too much to ask? Perhaps the German state may be broken up. That is a dangerous thing.
At any rate, in conclusion, let us insist that the men whom we elect by the exercise of our free vote which the Germans, had they had their way, would have taken from us, shall be men charged with our mandate to see that the peace of the world shall be secured by the stern treatment of Germany. After the war we shall start building memorials to the dead. I hope--and I speak here for England-that we will not disfigure our countryside again with expensive stone memorials. Let us build schools and hospitals, clinics and universities. And let us devote the money which we want to give to remember the dead to something that will help the living. But it is no use building those things if we are going to have a war again in another 25 years as these Canadian boys fear we are going to; because they will all be destroyed again and we shall have to start all over again.
To sum up then, let us be aware of the past. Let us be watchful in the present and vigilant in the future, and if we are able to secure the construction of a new Ger many, then we shall be safe. If we fail again, then the pessimism of these Canadian boys will be borne out by fact. It is a task which we must all face up to--to secure a just peace and a severe peace with Germany--the only way in which to make sure that there will be no more war. Only then shall we come to the time when we shall not be afraid of the terror by night, or for the arrow that flieth by day, or for the pestilence that walketh in the darkness, and the destruction that wasteth in the noon day.