Evgeny Bogat: Hiroshima and Socrates

April 17, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Evgeny Bogat: In a world of napalm and burning villages, love is the triumph over non-existence

Nazim Hikmet: The Little Girl

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Evgeny Bogat
From Eternal Man
Translated by Christine Bushnell

On the morning of the sixth of August nineteen hundred and forty-five, the thick clouds of Hiroshima opened in one spot, and an American pilot, Claude Eatherly, saw trees, gardens….He gave the order to begin.

Blinding lightning struck over the town, then a sea of black, impenetrable pitch raged, and when all was again quiet, there were neither trees, nor gardens, nor children. But even after many years, women in Hiroshima were giving birth to babies that were like spiders and bats. Atomic paganism celebrated a victory. And former major Eatherly lay in a military hospital for the mentally ill.

The story of Claude Eatherly is the myth of the twentieth century.

Wounded unto death by the immensity of the evil that he had automatically (an animated screw in the military machine) unleashed upon the world, Eatherly, his conscience tormented to nightmares and insanity, was becoming a human personality. He sternly judged himself and those who had sent him to Hiroshima. In an ancient myth, a young woman, to avoid rape, prays to the gods: take away my form! Eatherly prayed: “Return my form to me! I was born a man. Return it.”

A Japanese general, one of the first to arrive in tormented Hiroshima, saw a woman with a terrible burned face and body split apart, and next to her, in the dust, a live but unborn infant. This is like a nightmare, like one of Eatherly’s nightmares, when he thrashed in his bed: “Children, children!”

I have seen two portraits of Eatherly. In one, he is a young and smiling major who reminds one of a “fascinating” superman from an American war movie, though the features of the face seem a little shallow for a movie star; in the second, his features have become improbably enlarged, as if seen through a magnifying glass. This is in all likelihood because there is no longer a trace of the careless smile with its fleeting wrinkles.

The absolute immobility in this face is shattering. It is both dead and alive (it died or was resurrected this very moment). It is like a mask.

In fact, it is not the second, tragic face that is the mask, but the first – the thoughtlessly smiling one. It is a mask because it reflects not the world of this particular man, but of the spirit of the American army as the war was waning, a war that is closed out with minimal losses and maximum confidence in its own might. The second is not a mask, but a face impressed at the tragic moment of birth. It is stiff with pain, because birth is pain.

Eatherly dared to break the mask, and for this, the American military put him in an asylum, having declared him insane….Eatherly’s self-consciousness was born in the most monstrous torments, like the child that lay next to the disfigured woman on the hellish earth of Hiroshima. And this makes one think that the self-consciousness of the individual should be born before and not after – in the second, not the fifth act of a tragedy, when it is too late to make good the damage.

In the hospital Eatherly read and reread Plato‘s Dialogues. The Socratic idea that evil is done through ignorance was to him, evidently, not to be understood abstractly – it had for him the power of an original discovery, because it was his personal truth, he had reached it himself.

Yes, he was a slave of ignorance: from ignorance of the weapon (they had only been told obscurely that it was “wonder-working”) to ignorance of himself, of that innermost spiritual nucleus of the individual, which was wounded unto death by the consciousness of boundless evil.

What did he discuss with Socrates in the dead quiet of the ward for the “dangerously insane”? That the conscience is not the invention of philosophers, but no less a reality than “the first principles of the world,” fire and water? Or, perhaps, about immortality? Because, if after two and a half thousand years Claude Eatherly, immured by generals in an insane asylum, having come to hate the atom bomb, dreaming about the redemption of his sin, felt a need to commune with Socrates, then immortality, too, is no invention; it is also real, and Socrates, who in a biting polemic persuaded those who loved him of this – before his cup of hemlock – did not deceive them in the name of false comfort.

Out of the structure of the spiritless civilization of the contemporary West has emerged the “Eatherly phenomenon,” which is of moral value for all mankind. Something elemental is expressed in it: the structure of the ethical consciousness of mankind in a transitional age. Within this phenomenon live Socrates and the girl who in a thousand years may be born sick because the genes of one of her distant ancestors were struck by blinding lightning.

The Austrian philosopher Günther Anders wrote of Eatherly: “His is the attempt to keep conscience alive in the Age of the Apparatus.” If we are to believe the American press, computers selected targets for the bombardment in Vietnam. The traditional understanding of the reliability of the machine has changed: not the least role is apparently played by the fact that it is reliably conscience-free.

The value of the “Eatherly phenomenon” is that, in the “Age of the Apparatus” his nightmares put to the world the vast question of the relation between moral and creative forces in man and in humanity. The atomic storms that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed the might of the blinding non-imagination of evil. It has become clear that creative forces not ethically balanced are infinitely destructive.

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Richard Le Gallienne: Poetry and war

April 16, 2021 1 comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

American writers on peace and against war

Richard Le Gallienne: Selections on war

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Richard Le Gallienne
From The Poet in the City

Yes! if you want to realise Tennyson’s picture of ‘one poor poet’s scroll’ ruling the world, take your poet’s scroll down to Fenchurch Street and try it there. Ah, what a powerless little ‘private interest’ seems poetry there, poetry ‘whose action is no stronger than a flower.’ In days of peace it ventures even into the morning papers; but, let only a rumour of war be heard, and it vanishes like a dream on doomsday morning.

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From The Fallacy of a Nation

And when I say wise men I do not, indeed, mean merely the literary men or the artists, but all those somebodies with some real force of character, people with brains and hearts, fighters and lovers, saints and thinkers, and the patient, industrious workers. Such, if you consider, are really no integral part of the nation among which they are cast. They have no part in what are grandiloquently called national interests – war, politics, and horse-racing to wit. A change of Government leaves them as unmoved as an election for the board of guardians.

What more would a foreign invasion mean than that we should pay our taxes to French, Russian, or German officials, instead of to English ones?

The reader will perhaps forgive the hackneyed references to Sir Thomas Browne peacefully writing his Religio Medici amid all the commotions of the Civil War, and to Gautier calmly correcting the proofs of his new poems during the siege of Paris. The milkman goes his rounds amid the crash of empires. It is not his business to fight. His business is to distribute his milk – as much after half-past seven as may be inconvenient. Similarly, the business of the thinker is with his thought, the poet with his poetry. It is the business of politicians to make national quarrels, and the business of the soldier to fight them. But as for the poet – let him correct his proofs, or beware the printer.

As a matter of fact, so-called national interests are merely certain private interests on a large scale, the private interests of financiers, ambitious politicians, soldiers, and great merchants. Broadly speaking, there are no rival nations – there are rival markets; and it is its Board of Trade and its Stock Exchange rather than its Houses of Parliament that virtually govern a country. Thus one seaport goes down and another comes up, industries forsake one country to bless another, the military and naval strengths of nations fluctuate this way and that; and to those whom these changes affect they are undoubtedly important matters – the great capitalist, the soldier, and the politician; but to the quiet man at home with his wife, his children, his books, and his flowers, to the artist busied with brave translunary matters, to the saint with his eyes filled with ‘the white radiance of eternity,’ to the shepherd on the hillside, the milkmaid in love, or the angler at his sport – what are these pompous commotions, these busy, bustling mimicries of reality? England will be just as good to live in though men some day call her France. Let the big busybodies divide her amongst them as they like, so that they leave one alone with one’s fair share of the sky and the grass, and an occasional, not too vociferous, nightingale.

A ‘public opinion’ on any matter except football, prize-fighting, and perhaps cricket, is merely ridiculous – by whatever brutal physical powers it may be enforced – ridiculous as a town council’s opinion upon art; and a nation is merely a big fool with an army.

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From The Greatness of Man

After all its talk, science has done little more than correct the misprints of religion. Essentially, the old spiritualistic and poetic theories of life are seen, not merely weakly to satisfy the cravings of man’s nature, but to be mostly in harmony with certain strange and moving facts in his constitution, which the materialists unscientifically ignore.

It was important, and has been helpful, to insist that man is an animal, but it is still more important to insist that he is a spirit as well. He is, so to say, an animal by accident, a spirit by birthright: and, however homely his duties may occasionally seem, his life is bathed in the light of a sacred transfiguring significance, its smallest acts flash with divine meanings, its highest moments are rich with ‘the pathos of eternity,’ and its humblest duties mighty with the responsibilities of a god.

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William Deans Howells: Everyday sacrifices.”I don’t want to see any more men killed in my time.”

April 15, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

William Dean Howells: Selections on war

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William Dean Howells
From The Rise of Silas Lapham

“Then your theory is that it’s the occasion that is wanting,” said Bromfield Corey. “But why shouldn’t civil service reform, and the resumption of specie payment, and a tariff for revenue only, inspire heroes? They are all good causes.”

“It’s the occasion that’s wanting,” said James Bellingham, ignoring the persiflage. “And I’m very glad of it.”

“So am I,” said Lapham, with a depth of feeling that expressed itself in spite of the haze in which his brain seemed to float. There was a great deal of the talk that he could not follow; it was too quick for him; but here was something he was clear of. “I don’t want to see any more men killed in my time.” Something serious, something sombre must lurk behind these words, and they waited for Lapham to say more; but the haze closed round him again, and he remained silent, drinking Apollinaris.

“We non-combatants were notoriously reluctant to give up fighting,” said Mr. Sewell, the minister; “but I incline to think Colonel Lapham and Mr. Bellingham may be right. I dare say we shall have the heroism again if we have the occasion. Till it comes, we must content ourselves with the every-day generosities and sacrifices. They make up in quantity what they lack in quality, perhaps.” “They’re not so picturesque,” said Bromfield Corey. “You can paint a man dying for his country, but you can’t express on canvas a man fulfilling the duties of a good citizen.”

“Perhaps the novelists will get at him by and by,” suggested Charles Bellingham. “If I were one of these fellows, I shouldn’t propose to myself anything short of that.”

“What? the commonplace?” asked his cousin.

“Commonplace? The commonplace is just that light, impalpable, aerial essence which they’ve never got into their confounded books yet. The novelist who could interpret the common feelings of commonplace people would have the answer to ‘the riddle of the painful earth’ on his tongue.”

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He took his cigar out of his mouth, and pulled his chair a little toward the table, on which he placed his ponderous fore-arms. “I want to tell you about a fellow I had in my own company when we first went out. We were all privates to begin with; after a while they elected me captain – I’d had the tavern stand, and most of ’em knew me. But Jim Millon never got to be anything more than corporal; corporal when he was killed.” The others arrested themselves in various attitudes of attention, and remained listening to Lapham with an interest that profoundly flattered him. Now, at last, he felt that he was holding up his end of the rope. “I can’t say he went into the thing from the highest motives, altogether; our motives are always pretty badly mixed, and when there’s such a hurrah-boys as there was then, you can’t tell which is which. I suppose Jim Millon’s wife was enough to account for his going, herself. She was a pretty bad assortment,” said Lapham, lowering his voice and glancing round at the door to make sure that it was shut, “and she used to lead Jim one kind of life. Well, sir,” continued Lapham, synthetising his auditors in that form of address, “that fellow used to save every cent of his pay and send it to that woman. Used to get me to do it for him. I tried to stop him. ‘Why, Jim,’ said I, ‘you know what she’ll do with it.’ ‘That’s so, Cap,’ says he, ‘but I don’t know what she’ll do without it.’ And it did keep her straight – straight as a string – as long as Jim lasted. Seemed as if there was something mysterious about it. They had a little girl, – about as old as my oldest girl, – and Jim used to talk to me about her. Guess he done it as much for her as for the mother; and he said to me before the last action we went into, ‘I should like to turn tail and run, Cap. I ain’t comin’ out o’ this one. But I don’t suppose it would do.’ ‘Well, not for you, Jim,’ said I. ‘I want to live,’ he says; and he bust out crying right there in my tent. ‘I want to live for poor Molly and Zerrilla’ – that’s what they called the little one; I dunno where they got the name. ‘I ain’t ever had half a chance; and now she’s doing better, and I believe we should get along after this.’ He set there cryin’ like a baby. But he wa’n’t no baby when he went into action. I hated to look at him after it was over, not so much because he’d got a ball that was meant for me by a sharpshooter – he saw the devil takin’ aim, and he jumped to warn me – as because he didn’t look like Jim; he looked like – fun; all desperate and savage. I guess he died hard.”

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox: Women and War

April 14, 2021 2 comments

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Ellen Wheeler Wilcox: The Paean of Peace

Ella Wheeler Wilcox: A Plea To Peace

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Women and War

We women teach our little sons how wrong
And how ignoble blows are; school and church
Support our precepts, and inoculate
The growing minds with thoughts of love and peace.
“Let dogs delight to bark and bite,” we say;
But human beings with immortal souls
Must rise above the methods of the brute,
And walk with reason and with self-control.

And then? dear God! you men, you wise, strong men,
Our self-announced superiors in brain,
Our peers in judgment, you go forth to war!
You leap at one another, mutilate
And starve and kill your fellowmen, and ask
The world’s applause for such heroic deeds.
You boast and strut; and if no song is sung,
No laudatory epic writ in blood,
Telling how many widows you have made,
Why then, perforce, you say our bards are dead
And inspiration sleeps to wake no more.

And we, the women, we whose lives you are?
What can we do but sit in silent homes,
And wait and suffer? Not for us the blare
Of trumpets and the bugles’ call to arms?
For us no waving banners, no supreme
Triumphant hour of conquest. Ours the slow
Dread torture of uncertainty, each day
The bootless battle with the same despair,
And when at last your victories reach our ears,
There reaches with them, to our pitying hearts,
The thought of countless homes made desolate,
And other women weeping for their dead.

O men, wise men, superior beings, say,
Is there no substitute for war in this
Great age and era! If you answer “No,”
Then let us rear our children to be wolves,
And teach them from the cradle how to kill.

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Alexander Grin: How two leaders ended war

April 13, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Alexander Grin: How a little girl stopped a world war

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Alexander Grin
The Chiefs’ Single Combat
Translated by Nicholas Luker

In the dense jungles of Northern India, near Lake Izamet, was a village of hunters. And near Lake Kinobay was another village of hunters. The people of the two villages had long quarrelled with each other, and hardly a month passed without some hunter being killed on one side or the other. But it was impossible to catch the murderers.

One day all the fish and water in Lake Izamet were found to be poisoned, and the people of Izamet informed the hunters of Kinobay that they were coming to fight them to the death so as to end their exhausting feud once and for all. Immediately this became known, the people of the two villages formed up into groups and went off into the forest, both hoping to catch the enemy unawares and have done with him.

A week passed, and then the scouts of Izamet tracked down the warriors of Kinobay who were encamped in a small valley. The Izametans decided to attack the Kinobayans immediately and began to make ready.

The chief of the Izametans was young Singh, a noble and fearless man. He had his own plan of war. Leaving his own men unnoticed, he made his way to the Kinobayans and reached the tent of Iret, the leader of Izamet’s enemies.

At the sight of Singh, Iret seized his knife. Singh said with a smile:

“I do not wish to kill you. Listen: in less than two hours you and I with equal forces and equal bravery will fling ourselves on each other. It is clear what will happen: no one will be left alive and our wives and children will die of starvation. Propose to your warriors what I will propose to mine: instead of a general battle let you and I fight – man to man. Whichever chief wins – that side wins. Do you agree?”

“You are right,” said Iret after a moment’s thought. “Here is my hand.”

They parted. The warriors of both sides agreed gladly to their leaders’ proposal, and, after concluding a truce they surrounded in a tightly-packed ring the luxuriant meadow where the combat was to take place.

At a sign Iret and Singh hurled themselves at each other, brandishing their knives. Steel rang against steel, their leaps and thrusts became increasingly violent and menacing, and seizing his moment, Singh pierced the left side of Iret’s chest and inflicted a mortal wound. Iret was still on his feet and fighting, but would soon fall to the ground. Singh whispered to him:

“Iret, strike me in the heart while you can. The death of one chief will arouse hatred for the vanquished side and the slaughter will be renewed….We must both die; our death will destroy the people’s hostility.”

And with his knife Iret struck Singh in his exposed heart; smiling at each other for the last time, both fell dead….

By Lake Kinobay and Lake Izamet there are no longer two villages; there is just one and it is called the village of the Two Victors. So Singh and Iret reconciled their warring peoples.

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Carl Sandburg: The grass grows over Austerlitz and Waterloo

April 12, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Carl Sandburg
Smoke

I sit in a chair and read the newspapers.
Millions of men go to war, acres of them are buried, guns and ships broken, cities burned, villages sent up in smoke, and children where cows are killed off amid hoarse barbecues vanish like finger-rings of smoke in a north wind.
I sit in a chair and read the newspapers.

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The Grass

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work –
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

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A Million Young Workmen

A million young workmen straight and strong lay stiff on the grass and roads,
And the million are now under soil and their rottening flesh will in the years feed roots of blood-red roses.
Yes, this million of young workmen slaughtered one another and never saw their red hands.
And oh, it would have been a great job of killing and a new and beautiful thing under the sun if the million knew why they hacked and tore each other to death. The kings are grinning, the kaiser and the czar – they are alive riding in leather-seated motor cars, and they have their women and roses for ease, and they eat fresh-poached eggs for breakfast, new butter on toast, sitting in tall water-tight houses reading the news of war.
I dreamed a million ghosts of the young workmen rose in their shirts all soaked in crimson…and yelled:
God damn the grinning kings, God damn the kaiser and the czar.

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Sara Teasdale: Dusk in War Time

April 11, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Sara Teasdale: Spring in War-Time

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Sara Teasdale
Dusk in War Time

A half-hour more and you will lean
To gather me close in the old sweet way
But oh, to the woman over the sea
Who will come at the close of day?

A half-hour more and I will hear
The key in the latch and the strong, quick tread
But oh, the woman over the sea
Waiting at dusk for one who is dead!

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Ernest Crosby: Peace has outgrown all that, for Peace is a man

April 10, 2021 Leave a comment


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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Crosby: They know not love that love not peace

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Ernest Crosby
From War and Hell

XIII
What do they accomplish who take the sword? Now and then they cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest;
Quite as often they lose their own.
While they who say, “Put up thy sword into its place,” tho’ they die, yet succeed sometimes in changing the heart of the world.

XIV
What is true peace but conscious strength?
What is war but conscious weakness seeking to give proof of its strength?
Peace is a god, not a goddess, a man not a woman –
A brawny, bearded man of might, with nothing but the kindly look in his eyes to distinguish him from the vulgar giant.
He can afford to smile at War, the headstrong boy, rushing, red-faced, blundering, blustering, with impetuous arms, hither and thither.
Peace has outgrown all that, for Peace is a man.

XVI
I am a great inventor, did you but know it.
I have new weapons and explosives and devices to substitute for your obsolete tactics and tools. Mine are the battle-ships of righteousness and integrity –
The armor-plates of a quiet conscience and self-respect –
The impregnable conning-tower of divine manhood –
The Long Toms of persuasion –
The machine guns of influence and example –
The dum-dum bullets of pity and remorse –
The impervious cordon of sympathy –
The concentration camps of brotherhood –
The submarine craft of forgiveness –
The torpedo-boat-destroyer of love –
And behind them all the dynamite of truth!
I do not patent my inventions.
Take them. They are free to all the world.

XVII
I am a soldier too, and I have the battle of battles on my hands.
You little warriors who, while fighting each other,
are yet at heart agreed, and see the same false life with the same distorted eyes,
I have to make war upon all of you combined, and I set my courage against your courage.
It is fine not to flinch under fire.
It is also fine to tell an unwelcome truth to a mob and to call you the mad lot of murderers that you are.
It is war between us to the knife, and I will not tell you how well I love you until you are shamed into unconditional surrender.
Then I will show you my commission, and you will see that it is signed by a Commander-in-Chief who may wait long for victory, but never waits in vain.

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Mikhail Artsybashev: Don’t talk to me about the beauty of war. No, no, your war is ugly.

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Mikhail Artsybashev: A mother’s simple prescription against war

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Mikhail Artsybashev
From War
Translated by Thomas Seltzer

OLGA. There was a letter from Vladimir yesterday, but nothing from Volodya for a whole week. He used to write every day. Then the letters suddenly stopped. Asya is beginning to worry fearfully, and I am terribly worried too. Something might happen, God forbid. It doesn’t take long to catch cold. Piotr Ivanovich reads the papers every day, but I am afraid to. When I look at a newspaper and see all the killed and wounded and lost – lost with no trace of them left behind – I feel as if I had been knocked in the head with a club.

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PRINCE. I have a piece of sad news. Dane’s body arrived at the station today.

At this remark all raise their heads. Olga Petrovna wipes her eyes with her handkerchief. Piotr Ivanovich frowns and buries his face in the newspaper. There is silence.

NINA. Poor Dane! An end to all his music now. You remember how he had set his heart on going to Petrograd to study, and how he had made all his plans for giving up the army and following his great ambition?

PRINCE. Fate decreed differently, it seems.

SEMYONOV. [with heat]. What Fate? A monstrous insane outrage, not Fate!

PRINCE. Yes – of course.

Silence.

OLGA. You remember, Asya, how he came back and wanted to take a last look at his violin? “If I get killed,” he said, “the violin won’t play by itself.” [Sobbing.] God! God! What is happening in the world!

SEMYONOV. A lot of stupidity and wickedness is happening.

Silence.

NINA. We knew a week ago that Dane had been killed. But what does it mean – “Killed?” It’s so hard to grasp the significance of it. Only now I seem to realize what it implies when I know that he has been brought here, that somewhere at the station there is a car and that in a coffin Dane is lying – that he is lying there and doesn’t know we are talking about him. It’s so heart-rending! How terrible war is!

PRINCE. Yes, it is terrible. And yet there is a great deal of tragic beauty in it. I don’t know how it is, but I feel drawn to the war myself; something pulls me to it.

SEMYONOV [in an undertone]. It seems to be a very mild form of attraction.

ASYA [reprovingly]. Senya!

PRINCE [who has not caught Semyonov’s remark]. What’s that, Semyon Nikolayevich?

SEMYONOV. Nothing, nothing.

PRINCE. What is life here? It is not even a game; it is just a long-drawn-out agony. We don’t live here; we just exist. All our interests, our little troubles and preoccupations, are so trivial, so insignificant. Our actions are commonplace. But there, face to face with death, the everyday shell drops off, and man becomes that which he ought always to be – the tragic bearer of heroic ideas.

SEMYONOV [to himself]. He’s going it hard.

Asya shakes her head at him reproachfully.

PRINCE [contemplatively]. It may seem strange, perhaps, but I honestly envy those who are in the thick of it. There is movement, fight, real life out there.

NINA. You say you envy them, but my heart bleeds for them. Hungry, cold, always facing death and pain and misery; what sort of life can it be! It is one continuous agony, not life. How many killed, how many maimed, how many widows and orphans, how much wretchedness and suffering! And all this on account of one man’s whim. What an injustice! What an atrocity! No, my whole being revolts against this butchery.

Silence.

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ASYA. Say goodby now, children, and come.

Sonya and Kolya walk up to each one in turn, Sonya making a pretty courtesy, and Kolya awkwardly scraping his feet. Olga Petrovna kisses them. Then Asya takes them into the anteroom, puts on their hats and coats, and they go out, followed by Semyonov.

OLGA. Poor children. They are orphans now – and with no means of support, either. His salary was all they had to live on. She’ll get a pension. But it’s not like having a father.

PRINCE. Why does Aleksandra Ivanovna look after them?

OLGA. Out of pity. She has a good heart, that’s why. The mother is still crazy with grief. She does
nothing but cry the whole day long. If Asya hadn’t looked out for the children, they would have had to go to bed without supper, I suppose. No, Prince, don’t talk to me about the beauty of war. Maybe I don’t understand, but I cannot see anything beautiful in it. No, no, your war is ugly.

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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: War is the mailèd hand of criminal states

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Selections from the Peace Sonnets

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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs
From Peace Sonnets

XLIX
Hark how each king and emperor declares
That God is on his side – how all appeal
To God to help them murder, waste and steal!
But none appeals to Christ, of whom God swears,
“He is my Son; hear Him!” and not one dares
Assert that Christ is on his side, to feel
The filthy passions of his fiendish zeal;
And Christ’s pure name is not in all their prayers.

The god they cry to, he is of their own
Imaginations, yea, a god outgrown,
And impotent to help as wood or stone;
But as for the eternal God Christ came
To show, they know Him not, and to their shame
They take upon their lips his awful name!

L
This last colossal crime of Christendom
Is fruit of her apostasy and sin
Of unbelief, for Satan enters in
When Christ goes out: there is no vacuum
In spirit, more than flesh, but evils come
On heels of our denials and begin
To work a vast destructive woe wherein
We cry again for faith’s palladium.

Thou art not guiltless of this great transgression,
My Country! O God give thee to discern
The meaning of this time, to humble thee,
To own thy sin, with all thy heart to turn
To Christ, ere thou be forced to make confession
Of Him at mouth of Hell’s artillery!

LI
War is revelation: in an hour
That men know not, seeds of selfishness,
Fear, suspicion, envy, they caress
In their bosoms, grown to unknown power,
Burst before the world in bloody flower,
All whose dripping petals reconfess
That old revelation alterless,
“Hate is murder,” spoke by Truth’s Avower.

War is judgment: from the ripened grain
It doth pluck the tares at last for burning;
And above it God, the Judge, is turning
To destruction bloody men and vain;
And its sentence is as old as breath
On this blood-soaked planet: “Sin is death!”

LII
War is the mailèd hand of criminal states
That strike the helpless down and bind the free
And build an arrogant supremacy
Of selfish force; but the just land that waits
For righteousness and loves God’s law, and hates
Iniquity, builds up his courts, and she
Shall not be put to shame therein, but He
Will send his angels forth to guard her gates.

And she shall prosper and shall have a new
Supremacy of service, and the word
Of God shall go forth from her mouth to all
The lands and not return again unheard,
But they shall come from east and west to view
Her great salvation and to own Christ’s thrall.

LIII
What one war settles may another war
Unsettle, and what has been won by force
May so be lost again, and in the course
Of dealing death do nations die; therefore
War settles naught, but God is Governor
Who made all men one flesh, not to divorce
Them from each other, and their last resource
Is love, and Christ alone is Conqueror.

But that is settled which is settled right,
And they are free from fear who trust the might
Of the Almighty, and they that deal in love,
Though they may agonize in blood and tears,
Shall never die, but all his power shall prove
And live and reign with Christ a thousand years.

LIV
I take the slur of “peace at any price”
And wear it unashamed with Him, who, when
He was reviled, reviled not again,
But prayed for brutish men who cast their dice
Upon his blood-stained garments, whose foul cries
Mocked his great gift of life their narrow ken
Perceived not, rendering up his soul for men
To God, a free, obedient sacrifice.

I count Him strong, who rendered good for ill,
Love for despite; I count He overcame
The world, and proved the glory of God’s will,
The invincibility of faith, the claim
Of love to love; I reckon He indeed
Was free, and by his spirit men are freed.

LVI
How vainly have we cried “Peace! Peace!” where no
Peace was! How vainly shall the nations patch
A partial, unenforcèd peace, and snatch
A little respite ere the whole world flow
Together in unutterable woe
Of self -destruction; if all men attach
Them not to Heaven’s Kingdom, to o’ermatch
All principalities and powers below!

Know, O my Country, this democracy
Thou boastest in, is but a half-way house
Between the City of Destruction and
The Holy City; and thou canst not stand
Therein, but must go back in infamy,
Or forward and the Lamb of God espouse!

LVII
The sword has pierced my bosom and its pain
Consumes me so that outward sights grow dim,
But inwardly my soul has sight of Him
Who came from God unweaponed and was slain,
In whose great death is all our life made plain.
O all God’s lightning-girded cherubim
Could but have brought us to destruction grim
He saved us; through his death we life attain!

Therefore hath God exalted Him on high.
And thou, my Country, that hast dared to love
Humanity and peace, so must thou die
To self and sin and look to God above
To bring his Kingdom through thee and to raise
Thee up therein immortal to his praise.

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William Faulkner: It’s simple nameless war which decimates our ranks

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

William Faulkner: There is only the question: When will I be blown up?

Thomas Mann: William Faulkner’s love for man, protest against militarism and war

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William Faulkner
From A Fable (1954)

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[Posted with fair use understanding and with the sole intent of acquainting those not already familiar with the matter William Faulkner’s view of war. Despite the complex and often challenging narrative style and structure, all who can afford to are encouraged to purchase the novel from which the excerpts are taken.]

It – the war – would hang on a while yet, of course; it would take the Americans, the innocent newcomers, another year probably to discover that you cannot really whip Germans: you can only exhaust them. It might even last another ten years or even twenty, by which time France and Britain would have vanished as military and even political integers and the war would have become a matter of a handful of Americans who didn’t even have ships to go back home in, battling with limbs from shattered trees and the rafters from ruined houses and the stones from fences of weed-choked fields and the broken bayonets and stocks of rotted guns and rusted fragments wrenched from crashed aeroplanes and burned tanks, against the skeletons of German companies stiffened by a few Frenchmen and Britons tough enough like himself to endure still, to endure as he would always, immune to nationality, to exhaustion, even to victory – by which time he hoped he himself would be dead.

***

[He] would not even be paid for risking his life and what remained of his reputation, until he corrected that: thinking how war and drink are the two things that man is never too poor to buy. His wife and children may be shoeless; someone will always buy him drink or weapons, thinking More than that. The last person a man planning to set up in the wine trade would approach for a loan would be a rival wine-dealer. A nation preparing for war can borrow from the very nation it aims to destroy.

***

He said: ‘So it’s not we who conquer each other, because we are not even fighting each other. It’s simple nameless war which decimates our ranks. All of us: captains and colonels, British and American and German and us, shoulder to shoulder, our backs to the long invincible wall of our invincible tradition, giving and asking….Asking? not even accepting quarter -‘

‘Bah,’ the corps commander said again. ‘It is man who is our enemy: the vast seething moiling spiritless mass of him. Once to each period of his inglorious history, one of us appears with the stature of a giant, suddenly and without warning in the middle of a nation as a dairymaid enters a buttery, and with his sword for paddle he heaps and pounds and stiffens the malleable mass and even holds it cohered and purposeful for a time. But never for always, not even for very long: sometimes before he can even turn his back, it has relinquished, discohered, faster and faster flowing and seeking back its back to its own base anonymity…”

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Joseph Fawcett: The deep scarlet shame of unceasing war

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

Mankind, wild race! say, are your moons to blame,
Thro’ all your races that this rage hath run?
That this demoniac, worse than dog-star’ madness
‘Mong all your nations, in each age hath foam’d?
E’en elemental strife more lasting love,
Than ye have shown, of soothing Peace displays!
Proportion’d to the periods of their wrath,
For more protracted intervals your seas
Abstain from tempest; – your less angry skies
With greater length of season are serene;
In your wild forests the loud bestial rage
Suspends its roaring longer, than have paus’d
Your death-denouncing trumpets; than your arms
Have ceas’d their odious din! and the calm world,
Beneath the lovely olive’s placid shade,
In sweet repose from loud alarms hath lain.
And, lull’d in amiable quiet, known
A space of partial innocence and gold;
A sickly gleam of languid amity,
Whose wat’ry shine foretels returning clouds.
Who that stands still, and fixes on the fact
His thoughtful eye, and doth not feel his sense
Swim round with wonder and his soul lie hush’d
In the dead stillness of astonishment?
That this amazing maniac rage hath been,
Not of some single race th’ eccentric crime,
For following ones to rise and wonder at,
By some peculiar and uncommon cause
From this wild start from Nature’s orbit flung
Struck by some stranger star’s erratic wrath
With strange distraction; – no brief flighty fit; –
From men’s accustom’d line a single leap;
Transient distortion of their standing state;
From their staid usage one wild shoot aside;
By strong distemper’s paroxysm inspir’d,
Some all-infecting fever’s fierce excess,
When at its hottest and brain-burning height;
But a fix’d phrenzy; – of their dreadful way
The steady tenour; the deep scarlet shame
On Reason’s redden’d cheek bidding burn on
Thro’ rolling ages, an establish’d blush!
Protracted tragedy! as long as deep!
Whose unspent horror thro’ all time hath spun
The harrowing tale! O’er history’s lengthening course
The vein of persevering fury runs;
And he that reads its pages, rightly calls them
Records of Carnage, Chronicles of Blood!

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Leonid Zhukhovitsky: May the book prove more powerful than the bomb

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Leonid Zhukhovitsky
From Astride a Dolphin
Translated by Katharine Judelson

Two girls, all sun tan and leg walked past us; they were like all film stars rolled into one, so up-to-the-minute that they well may have been used for a poster depicting our sinful century, complete with a sputnik, a skyscraper, a coil of barbed wire, an ampule of penicillin, a hydrogen bomb and a book; the latter I hope will, in the end, prove more powerful than the bomb.

====

I nodded, realizing what he was trying to say. Then I asked what it was that had made him go into that particular department. He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s interesting work, blood diseases are something with a real future at the moment.”

“Because of radiation?”

“Basically, yes.”

“Does the same go for Kovacs’ disease?”

“It hasn’t been established for certain, but among radiation victims incidence figures are considerably higher – tests have been made in Hiroshima.”

What’s all that got to do with Yuri? I wanted to ask. When could he have possibly….The question would have been too foolish for a journalist and I refrained from asking it. Who knows at what moment Yuri would have taken that fatal sip of water or run across the street delighting in the warm rain?

What’s all that got to do with Yuri, he never worked with uranium?

What’s all that got to do with Yuri: but whom could I ask and from whom could I demand an answer?

From Enrico Fermi, that small Italian with the prominent forehead – a loyal friend, keen mountaineer and brilliant physicist who used up countless days and months of his short life to make the bomb before his fat-faced compatriot Benito Mussolini?

From that lean young American, Claude Etherley – the born flyer, who executed the President’s personal mission and dropped the experimental bomb directly on Hiroshima and whose remaining years were one endless cry – a desperate cry rebounding from platforms, the pages of newspapers, the windows of a lunatic asylum, where he was put away on pretext of state security, a cry to remind us all that once a fuse is lit it cannot be put out and that patriotism does not justify betrayal of mankind?

From President Truman who gave the order for the bombs to be dropped on two Japanese towns, so as to see what would happen, so as to put the fear of God into his allies – from President Truman, now an octogenarian dodderer, who more likely than not would die a natural death from decrepit old age and then be buried in some state cemetery to the accompaniment of a gun salute?

Thinking about Truman’s funeral reminded me of Kennedy’s – the coffin covered with an enormous flag, a white horse led along behind the coffin by an officer in uniform. The horse had not known it was a funeral, for him it had been just another pageant with marching soldiers, crowds and music…he had been leading the officer a dance, prancing so elegantly….

I thought to myself that that was how they would bury Truman, his coffin would be covered with the same flag and started cursing bitterly to myself. Surely history would not forgive him the lives of a hundred thousand Japanese swallowed up in that holocaust in the same way that it had forgiven the Caesars and the Napoleons all the death and bereavement they had brought on mankind?

====

…in the twentieth century old people have to get used to burying the young ones.

After all is said and done the depth of people’s misery cannot be measured by its causes.

Free love soon degenerates then into loveless freedom.

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Dana Burnet: Ammunition. The Dead.

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Dana Burnett: Selections on war

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Dana Burnet
Ammunition

How do ye load your guns withal,
Ye little Lords of waste and war?
With shotted steel and lightnings chained,
And the pent thunders’ roar?

Or do ye, as I sometimes think,
To quell the foeman’s onward flood,
Ram home a charge of human life
And spit it forth in flesh and blood?

Oh, is it steel or is it bone,
Or iron price or human toll?
Is yonder noise the crash of guns
Or is it cry of mortal soul?

How do ye load your guns withal,
Ye little Lords of brief command?
What drips upon the cannon’s mouth,
What stains the scarlet of your hand?

Are those the faces of the dead
That stare from out the battle pall?
How do ye feed those smoking mouths?
How do ye load your guns withal?

Think not, ye Princes of a Day,
To cloak the thunders with a lie.
There never was a war of steel,
There is no battle save men die.

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The Dead

The dead they sleep so deep,
The dead they lie so still,
I wonder that another man
May look on them and kill.

The dead they lie so pale,
The dead they stare so deep,
I wonder that an Emperor
May look on them and sleep.

Their hands are empty cups,
No dream is in their hearts.
Their eyes are like deserted rooms
From which the guest departs.

Ah, living men are fair,
Clean-limbed and straight and strong!
But dead men lie like broken lutes
Whose dying slays a song.

Oh, will there come a time
Beneath some shining king
When we shall arm for living’s sake,
And turn from murdering?

The dead they lie so pale,
So empty of all breath –
I wonder that a living world
Can make a means of Death.

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Richard Le Gallienne: Selections on war

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Fanny Bixby Spencer: Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Fanny Bixby Spencer: The shame of the cannonade

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Fanny Bixby Spencer
Warrior Mothers

You wait as I for the fatal word
From the bare steel line where the death-ghoul lures.
Your pulse bounds up by the same thought stirred;
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

For you and I in our thoughts are brave
While pride beguiles and loud boast assures;
But blank fear skulks by the sky-topped grave.
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

Oh, the blood-laugh rings on the wind tonight
As blind time revels and rage endures.
You’re knitting too by the pale lamp light.
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

Your soul hates me as my soul hates you,
For wrath-lit passion all else obscures,
And out hearts death-griped fight the grim fight through
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

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Ivan Shamyakin: As a physicist, she feared for the fate of mankind

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Ivan Shamyakin
From Snowtime
Translated by Olga Shartse

“You’re an idealist, Dad,” she scoffed. “You’d like all scientific discoveries to be used for improving man.”

“And society.”

“That’s even more idealistic. Hiroshima did not bring people closer together, on the contrary it divided them even more definitely into hostile camps. So much for a great discovery!”

“That’s not true, Lada,” her mother protested hotly. It did bring people closer together. All good people, I mean.”

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Lada herself did not know the meaning of fear. She was not afraid of anything. She was a free person. No, she also had a lurking fear which she usually made fun of and only sometimes treated seriously – she feared for the fate of mankind, having too clear an idea, as a physicist, about the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

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Thomas Curtis Clark: Who made war?

March 30, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Thomas Curtis Clark: Bugle Song of Peace

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Thomas Curtis Clark
Hell’s Dream

A proud king dreamed in his gilded chair;
He dreamed – and sighed, for the lands were fair!
A king said “Yea!” It was but a breath!
And a million men marched toward the gates of death.

A million wives gasped as their husbands sped;
A million babes starved as their fathers bled.
A king sought gain in the north and south –
And a million men marched toward the cannon’s mouth.

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A Question

God, who made the shining stars,
The circling planets, the fair, green earth,
With friendly seasons – jubilant spring,
Bountiful summer, winter that puts tired life to rest;
God, who made morning songs and sweet night-crooning;
God of the forests and silver rivers,
Gardens and orchards green and golden,
God of harmony, God of beauty,
Who made war?

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Olive Schreiner: I have never met a human creature who hates war as I hate it

March 29, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Women writers on peace and war

Olive Schreiner: Give me back my dead!

Olive Schreiner: The bestiality and insanity of war

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Olive Schreiner
From a letter to Emily Hobhouse
October, 1914

Oh Emily the worst of war is not the death on the battlefields; it is the meanness, the cowardice, the hatred it awakens. Where is the free England of our dreams, in which every British subject, whether Dutch, English, French or German in extraction, had an equal right and freedom.

Letter to Adela Smith
June 18, 1915

It is the thought of all these beautiful young lives cut down before they have even tasted of the cup of life that wrings my heart so. I have never met a human creature who hates war as I hate it. I can only fix my eyes on that far off time over thousands of years, when humanity will realise that all men are brothers; that it is finer to bring one noble human being into the world and rear it well for the broadest human ends, than to kill ten thousand. It’s because of [what] men like Paul Methuen and my nephew Oliver do and might mean so much to the world that I feel the risk of losing them so much, and I can’t bear to think they’re killing anyone.

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Joseph Fawcett: War and music. Perversion most perverse! Misapplication monstrous!

March 28, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

But where will profanation stay – E’en thee,
O heavenly Harmony! their press hath seig’d
With impious gripe! Reluctant, struggling maid,
Sprung from the silent sphere! with wild affright,
Thou find’st thee fallen on a frantic orb.
Outrageous wrest! perversion most perverse!
Misapplication monstrous! Horror, say,
When bristles most thine hair; when, wild with woe ,
In anguish Madness laughs, or, on his way,
And at his work accurst, when Murder sings?
Hark! the sweet art, to sooth the savage fram’d,
On savage errand sent! to indurate
Humanity, misled to iron scenes,
Who to unmartial softness, else might melt;
Tune her to stone, and give her strength to stab!
To send its blood back to Fear’s bleaching cheek,
Unwarm’d by virtue’s into valour’s heat,
And to a wild and drunken daring drive her:
By sound’s mechanic spur! to reconcile
The death devoted victim to the knife!
Cheering ambition’s sacrifice to bleed,
Unchearful else; with luring notes entic’d
Recoiling to comply! How have they join’d
Most heterogeneous and unmixing things!
Making according sounds accompany
Wild Discord’s wildest scene! where mad mankind,
That in the city ‘gainst each other strike
In endless strife, with roughest jostle jar!

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Daniil Granin: A scientist’s lament

March 27, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Daniil Granin
From Into the Storm
Translated by Robert Daglish

Krylov asked Duras what he had been doing lately. Duras suddenly threw up his hands and shook his fists over his head.

“It is all senseless. Can’t you see? The world has gone wrong. At any moment someone may press a button and it will all be over in a few minutes. All our science, all our academies and colleges. Everything will be erased from the earth. All the leopards, the children’s nurseries, the picture galleries, the missionaries, everything.”

“Yes, and all the symposiums, too. We, along with our grandchildren and our great grandchildren, will all become neutrons and electrons and whizz about according to Heisenberg’s laws, and Heisenberg himself will whizz about with us.” His eyes blazed with a macabre gaiety and he reached forward as if to press a button. “The world is full of madmen and one of them will find his way to it. And then all the wise men of politics and all their predictions will be reduced to dust! The Madeleine – to dust! The whole history of mankind will end at this button, the final, culminating point of history.

“It is more than a law! It is God! It is the modern religion. We all walk beneath the sign of the button. We must go down on our knees and pray to it. It should replace the crucifixes in the cathedrals. Yes, there is no other God but Button. What can you offer instead? The button reduces everything to absurdity – lies and achievements, courage, even cynicism itself. How can you take life so calmly? Can’t you see that the world is out of joint?…Sooner or later we must all pass away, but there has always been the future, something to work and suffer for. Now there is nothing. The future has been stolen….”

====

Mankind was thoughtlessly chopping down the forests, causing soil erosion, creating barren deserts of rock and sand, and no one considered the disastrous consequences of the violence that was being perpetrated on nature merely because the consequences were not felt by the offenders but by their descendants.

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“The specialist tries to get to know more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. And the philosopher finds out less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.”

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“When I was at school I thought that if everyone had read Don Quixote, Chekhov and Tolstoi they’d never be able to hurt one another any more.”

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John Oxenham: Thank God For Peace!

March 26, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

John Oxenham: The Stars’ Accusal

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John Oxenham (William Arthur Dunkerley)
Thank God For Peace!

Thank God for Peace!
Up to the sombre sky
Rolled one great thankful sigh,
Rolled one great gladsome cry –
The soul’s deliverance of a mighty people.
Thank God for Peace!

The long-low-hanging war-cloud rolled away,
And night glowed brighter than the brightest day.
For Peace is Light,
And War is grimmer than the Night.

Thank God for Peace!
Great ocean, was your mighty calm unstirred
As through your depths, unseen, unheard,
Sped on its way the glorious word
That called a weary nation to ungird,
And sheathed once more the keen, reluctant sword?

Thank God for Peace!
The word came to us as we knelt in prayer
That wars might cease.
Peace found us on our knees, and prayer for Peace
Was changed to prayer of deepest thankfulness.
We knelt in War, we rose in Peace to bless
Thy grace, Thy care, Thy tenderness.

Thank God for Peace!
No matter now the rights and wrongs of it;
You fought us bravely, and we fought you fair.
The fight is done. Grip hands! No malice bear!
We greet you, brothers, to the nobler strife
Of building up the newer, larger life!

Join hands! Join hands! Ye nations of the stock!
And make henceforth a mighty Trust for Peace.
A great enduring peace that shall withstand
The shocks of time and circumstance; and every land
Shall rise and bless you – and shall never cease
To bless you – for that glorious gift of Peace.

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Edward Arnold Brenholtz: Now be the God of Peace adored

March 25, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Edward Arnold Brenholtz
Whence?

Whence cometh Love but from the source ?
‘Twixt fount and ocean no divorce,
Here or through all eternity.

Thine act betrays thy hidden thought;
Without the thought no deed is wrought,
Hath been, yea, cannot ever be.

Vain, then, are all our cries of Peace
While each sun sees the vast increase
Of Greed and Hate and Lust;

And armaments piled mountain high, –
From them be sure sweet Peace must fly.
Oh, hasten! grind them into dust;

And make the man of blood abhor’d;
Now be the God of Peace adored,
And Love shall have his way; –

Aye, come with a resistless rush,
And Peace, too, in the tranquil bush
Which follows Love’s kind sway!

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Marilynne Robinson: The sign was ignored and since then we have had war continuously

March 24, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Women writers on peace and war

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Marilynne Robinson
From Gilead

People don’t talk much of the Spanish influenza, but that was a terrible thing, and it struck just at the time of the Great War, just when we were getting involved in it. It killed soldiers by the thousands…..

Now, if these things were not signs, I don’t know what a sign would look like. So I wrote a sermon about it. I said, or I meant to say, that these deaths were rescuing foolish young men from the consequences of their own ignorance and courage, that the Lord was gathering them in before they could go off and commit murder against their brothers. And I said that their deaths were a sign and a warning to the rest of us that the desire for war would bring the consequences of war, because there is no ocean big enough to protect us from the Lord’s judgment when we decide to hammer our plowshares into swords and our pruning hooks into spears, in contempt of the will and grace of God.

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Most of the men seemed to feel that the war was a courageous thing, and maybe new wars have come along since I wrote this that have seemed brave to you. That there have been wars I have no doubt. I believe that plague was a great sign to us, and we refused to see it and take its meaning, and since then we have had war continuously.

Fair use disclaimer. This site is for educational purposes only and the above excerpts have been posted solely for that purpose.

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Alexander Chakovsky: The war, the darkness and the cold. “And then everything will come back?”

March 23, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Alexander Chakovsky
From The Light of a Distant Star
Translated by Olga Shartse

If they had met in peacetime under a clear, sunny sky or in a gay, brightly lighted room, who knows, perhaps they would have passed each other by unnoticed. Even if they had felt a mutual attraction their love would have developed slowly and it would have taken them a long time to realise that it really was love…

But they met in those tragic days when war was breaking up and scattering families, driving people out of their homes and putting out the lights in the windows, when Death was taking its toll of millions of lives, when the laws of war with which the younger generation was unfamiliar stepped in and the canons of peacetime life became null and void.

====

The clouds had covered the moon completely, making the darkness impenetrable. Probably it would rain soon. The sound of the surf and the whistling wind brought back that night, that terrible night when he had stood squashed by the crowd storming the pier which was barely discernible in the darkness and where a ship had already berthed. That was on October 17, 1941….

He begged her to sleep, to doze for a little while at least, to rest her head on his shoulder or in his lap. He promised he would not stir while she slept. Or if she liked she could make herself comfortable on the bench and he’d sit on his haversack at her feet on the ground. But she said no, no, she couldn’t sleep on such a night.

“What will happen now?” she asked him. “Vladimir, what will happen now?”

And he answered her in the very words one heard so often in those days, weeks and months,

“All this is only temporary. Soon a decision will be taken…reserves will come in…and then….”

Olga said nothing. She also believed that that was how it would be.

“And then everything will come back?” she asked after a pause.

“Everything will come back, everything! Vladimir cried and stopped short; his voice sounded too loud, too jubilant for that troubled night.

====

He was too young to know that the first symptom of real love is the desire to make oneself responsible for another’s fate, and to take on the responsibility gladly because it is not a burden but happiness.

And though he did not know yet that it was love, Vladimir was already prepared to do anything, whatever it cost him, just so she wouldn’t feel cold, so the raindrops would not fall on her face, so she would smile and not feel afraid anymore.

But he was powerless. All he could do was brush away the raindrops from her face with the palm of his hand, keep the collar of her thin, flimsy coat upturned, and whisper brokenly into her ear that it would soon be over – the war, the darkness and the cold. That the milling crowd with all those suitcases, bags and bundles would soon disperse, and people would again become ordinary citizens, the kind one met in the street every hour of the day, calmly going about their business, and then returning home, switching on the lights and turning on the radio. And that everything would be the way it had always been in ordinary life.

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Robert Montgomery: Field of Death

March 22, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Robert Montgomery: War

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Robert Montgomery
Field of Death

Noon into eve, and eve to night hath roll’d;
The heavens with starry eyes are set: but, see!
No wafted banners, flapping like the wings
Of eagles in their glorious strength; no steeds
Pawing and prancing with erected manes;
No warriors hand to hand; no sword to sword
Confronted, till from out some bloody gap
Their spirits bound into eternity! –
But heaps of corses, lines of dead laid out,
Unhelmeted, or gash’d and gory; men
Whose morning-beauty shamed the risen sun,
With glassy eyeballs gleaming on the moon!
A living host hath deadend into clay: –
No more! away, Death! and count thy dead.

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Ann Batten Cristall: Pity, Liberty, and Peace

March 21, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Ann Batten Cristall: Relief for nature, man at war with themselves

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Ann Batten Cristall
From Ode on Truth

Thou, whom fraternal love and freedom fire,
Whose wide benevolence unbounded flows,
Whose unaffected Muse those truths inspire
Which prove that Nature in thy bosom glows;
Through thee has Truth shot forth her potent beam,
And simple Nature’s praise resounded in thy theme.

That lyre, which sweetly tun’d its polish’d strain,
And sung of Pity, Liberty, and Peace,
The Muses shall invite to strike again,
And may their virtuous votaries still encrease!
Still Truth, through thee, shall dart her purest rays,
And simple Nature woo thy modest, plaintive lays.

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Jonathan Swift: How to select commanders, end wars

March 20, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Jonathan Swift: Brutes more modest than men in perpetuating war against their own species

Jonathan Swift: Lemuel Gulliver on War

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Jonathan Swift
From A Tale of a Tub

But to return to madness…

I do here gladly embrace an opportunity I have long sought for, of recommending it as a very noble undertaking to Sir Edward Seymour, Sir Christopher Musgrave, Sir John Bowles, John Howe, Esq., and other patriots concerned, that they would move for leave to bring in a Bill for appointing commissioners to inspect into Bedlam and the parts adjacent, who shall be empowered to send for persons, papers, and records, to examine into the merits and qualifications of every student and professor, to observe with utmost exactness their several dispositions and behaviour, by which means, duly distinguishing and adapting their talents, they might produce admirable instruments for the several offices in a state…civil and military, proceeding in such methods as I shall here humbly propose..

Is any student tearing his straw in piecemeal, swearing and blaspheming, biting his grate, foaming at the mouth, and emptying his vessel in the spectators’ faces? Let the right worshipful the Commissioners of Inspection give him a regiment of dragoons, and send him into Flanders among the rest.

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The very same principle that influences a bully to break the windows of a woman who has jilted him naturally stirs up a great prince to raise mighty armies and dream of nothing but sieges, battles, and victories.

The other instance is what I have read somewhere in a very ancient author of a mighty king [Louis XIV], who, for the space of above thirty years, amused himself to take and lose towns, beat armies and be beaten, drive princes out of their dominions, fright children from their bread and butter, burn, lay waste, plunder, dragoon, massacre subject and stranger, friend and foe, male and female. It is recorded that the philosophers of each country were in grave dispute upon causes natural, moral, and political, to find out where they should assign an original solution of this phenomenon. At last the vapour or spirit which animated the hero’s brain, being in perpetual circulation, seized upon that region of the human body [the anus] so renowned for furnishing the zibeta occidentalis, and gathering there into a tumour, left the rest of the world for that time in peace.

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Georgi Markov: War is a glutton. Its terrible hunger is never sated.

March 19, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Georgi Markov
From Siberia
Translated by Cathleen Cook

There must have been about fifteen or twenty of them. Katya mentally divided them into two groups: the very young ones whose voices had barely broken, and the others who had seen something of the world and known suffering and grief. Two were on crutches, another had an empty sleeve tucked into his belt, and three had wooden legs of fresh birchwood that stood out strangely among the black and grey boots. They were wearing sheepskin or homespun jackets, fur hats, and mittens of dog-, moose- or sheepskin. Three were still in their army greatcoats and grey soldier’s hats, or else they were about to be sent back to their units after a spell in hospital or on leave.

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She was particularly interested in the soldiers. They reacted with everything going on here with a sort of condescending indulgence as if it were unreal and remote to them. Alright, lads, enjoy yourselves until your turn comes and fate casts you into the inferno of war. This was what Katya read in their eyes, eyes dulled by suffering and glimmering faintly with grief.

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Tall and erect, with an open face and large dark-blue eyes, he immediately inspired liking and trust. He was probably the eldest in the group, but perhaps he just seemed so. War doesn’t make you look any younger.

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The lads were looking down, their faces rigid. Some had already tasted the soldier’s life, and others would tomorrow. War is a glutton. Its terrible hunger is never sated. Each day news arrived that more village lads had been killed, and the number of widows and orphans in Lukyanovka grew.

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Everyone could see that peace would not last for long between the two men, but they knew that a reluctant peace was better than war. War had been raging over the earth for many a year now and it seemed that there would never be an end of it and all the suffering it brought.

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“They’re probably after deserters and just stopped us out of curiosity,” said Masha.

“What deserters?” Katya had been thinking….

“What deserters? Deserters from the war, of course. Mobilisation’s going on all the time.They’ll be calling up boys and old men soon. Our father spends nearly all his time in the forest. He says lots of secret dug-outs have appeared there. Men have gone into hiding. They even hide from him.”

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How could she possibly have any doubts when young lives were being cut down, when talent went unrecognized, when the brilliant scholars who could bring glory to their native land were forced to flee abroad, when torrents of human blood were being shed in the war?

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Hermann Hagedorn; There’s nothing like a war to make a man president

March 18, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Hermann Hagedorn
From Makers of Madness
A Play in One Act and Three Scenes

GROSVENOR

I pray to God that we may keep peace, but we must not let ourselves be walked over – we must not –

CAPTAIN

[Laughing.

Exactly. The nation is at last to see what it spends its army and navy appropriations for. Eh?

GENERAL

No sane man wants war, but if –

CAPTAIN

I’m sane. And I want war. I want to go out and help lambaste those infernally cocksure armies of that jelly-and-cream King. We’ve parleyed long enough. Now we’ll fight. Force is the only convincing argument after all.

GROSVENOR

As our Master said, “I bring a sword” –

GENERAL

[At the window again.

Fine fellows those. Look at that boy there, third from the end. And that lieutenant. Strapping, wonderful fellows – with brains! That’s the great thing. Give me five hundred thousand of those and I’ll hold off all comers.

GROSVENOR

[With nervous acuteness.

How long d’ye think it’ll last?

GENERAL

Six months. Maybe a year.

GROSVENOR

[Tentatively.

You couldn’t, I suppose – say – more exactly?

GENERAL

[With a glance of suspicion.

How should I – before it’s even begun?

GROSVENOR

[Hastily.

Oh – er – just a matter of curiosity.

CAPTAIN

[Laughing.

At any rate, we’ll be back in time for the next presidential election. We’re coming back with the General on our shoulders, and when we drop him it’ll be through the skylight of the President’s house.

GENERAL

[Self-consciously.

Don’t talk nonsense.

CAPTAIN

There’s nothing like a war to make a man President.

[At window.

More and more and more of ’em. Bully lines. Not natty enough to be a joke, just straight and trim. Those fellows’ll carry you into the presidency, General, if anyone can. A few of ’em’ll have to choke first, but that’s fisherman’s luck.

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CONROY

Maynard’s making a rousing speech. Spread eagle. Our honor as a nation. The dearest, sweetest flag that ever waved over a noble, invincible people. Damned rot. But the brethren from the rural districts lap it up like cider in October. He’s gaining votes. Protégé of yours, ain’t he?

GROSVENOR

Yes. Used to be my office boy. Clever chap. Has a sensible view of things. Realizes that our national honor and our property must be defended at all hazards.

CONROY

[Sitting down at the desk and beginning to write. With a cynical laugh.

You mean property. You don’t give a damn about national honor. You know you don’t. What’s the use of trying to fool me?

GROSVENOR

Conroy, do you mean to impugn my patriotic motives?

CONROY

[Without looking up, good-naturedly.

Grosvenor, we’ve known each other thirty years. I don’t try to bluff you because I know that you know too much about me. You made the beginnings of your pile out of one big war and you’ve been playing up a lot of little republics against each other ever since, harvesting a neat little fortune every time. Now it’s a real world-war you’re after. If it comes, you’re made, if it don’t, you’re broke. It’s a cinch. Mind you, I’m not throwing stones. Only I don’t want you to think you can pull the noble patriotic guff on me.

GROSVENOR

I have certain investments, of course, which might possibly be promoted by a war. But I am not thinking of that. I am thinking of the honor of my country, that honor which has never yet been stained, and shall not be stained if I can do aught by my own efforts and by my prayers to God, to keep it pure.

CONROY

[Rising.

You carry it off well. I couldn’t bluff the way you can. I haven’t your religious feeling. I know why I want war. It’s because I’m a manufacturer of guns. Everybody knows my business, and they know that if there wasn’t war or a fear of war constantly, I and my wife and children would starve. War is my work and it’s been my work most of my life. And I’ve worked for this war because it was the biggest thing in sight. I’ve worked for it with all the brains I’ve got, just as I’d have worked for two-hundred-egg hens if I’d been a chicken farmer. I’m not a sentimentalist. Besides, war’s a good thing occasionally. I believe that absolutely. It quiets down your socialists, cuts down your superfluous population, increases the moral stamina of the nation. A lot of this talk of war being hell is mush. A few people get shot up, but no one forced ’em to go. It’s their own funeral.

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Bertha von Suttner: The Protocol of Peace

March 17, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Women writers on peace and war

Bertha von Suttner: Selections on peace and war

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Bertha von Suttner
From Lay Down Your Arms
The Autobiography of Martha von Tilling

Translated by T. Holmes

We had at that time commenced a little book of our own – we called it The Protocol of Peace – into which all news, notices, articles, and so forth, bearing on the subject, were to be sedulously entered. The history also of the idea of Peace, as far as we could gain a knowledge of it, was incorporated in the Protocol; and along with this the expressions of various philosophers, poets, priests, and authors on the subject of “Peace and War”. It had soon grown into an imposing little volume; and in course of time – for I have carried on this composition down to the present day – it has grown into several little volumes. If one were to compare it with the libraries which are filled with works on strategical subjects, with the untold thousands of volumes containing histories of wars, studies on war, and glorification of war, with the text-books of military science and military tactics, and guides for the instruction of recruits and artillery, with the chronicles of battles and annals of états-majors, soldiers’ ballads and war songs: well, then, I allow that the comparison with these one or two poor little volumes of peace-literature might humiliate one, on the assumption that one might measure the power and value – especially the future value – of a thing by its size. But if one reflects that a single grain of seed hides in itself the virtual power of causing the growth of an entire forest, which will displace whole masses of weeds, though spread over acres of country, and further reflects that an idea is in the mental kingdom what a seed is in the vegetable, then one need not be anxious about the future of an idea, merely because the history of its development may be as yet contained in one little manuscript.

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I know a tale of George Sand named Gribouille. This Gribouille has the peculiarity, when rain is threatened, of plunging into the river, for fear of getting wet. Whenever I hear that war is contemplated in order to avert threatened dangers, I can never help thinking of Gribouille.

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Declaration of war! Three words, which can be pronounced quite calmly. But what is connected with them? The beginning of an extra-political action, and thus, along with it, half-a-million sentences of death.

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Necessity of defence – necessity of defence – that is the only recognised way of killing, and so both parties cry out: “I am defending myself”. Is not that a contradiction? Not altogether, for over both there presides a third power, the power of the conquering, ancient war-spirit. It is only against him that all should join in a defensive league.

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Their battle-cry is, “War on War,” their watchword, the only word which can have power to deliver from ruin Europe armed against herself is, “Lay down your arms.”

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The war, which is now being fought out, is of too powerful a nature not to proceed to its end, and give rise to renewed war. On the side of the vanquished it has scattered such a plenty of the seeds of hatred and revenge, that a future harvest of war must grow out of them; and on the other side, it has brought such magnificent and bewildering successes to the victors, that for them an equally great seed-time of warlike pride must grow out of it.”

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That is, there were every day between 400 and 500 unnatural deaths – that is to say, murders. For if the murderer is not an individual man, but an impersonal thing, viz., war, it is not any the less murder. Whose is the responsibility? Does it not lie on those parliamentary swaggerers, who in their provocative speeches declared with proud self-assumption – as that Girardin did in the sitting of July 15 – that they “took on themselves the responsibility for this war in the face of history”? Could, then, any man’s shoulders be sufficiently strong to bear such a load of guilt? Surely not. But no one thinks of taking such boasters at their word.

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“Forgive me, your excellence. I should like to call out to those unanimous voters, one after the other, ‘Your “Yes” will rob that mother of her only child. Yours will put that poor fellow’s eyes out. Yours will set fire to a collection of books which cannot be replaced. Yours will dash out the brains of a poet who would have been the glory of your country. But you have all voted “yes” to this, just in order not to appear cowards, as if the only thing one had to fear in giving assent was what regards oneself. Is then human egotism so great that this is the only motive which can be suggested for opposing war? Well, I grant you egotism is great: for each one of you prefers to hound on a hundred thousand men to destruction rather than that you should expose your dear self even to the suspicion of having ever experienced one single paroxysm of fear.’ ”

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Mark Twain: Cain and mankind’s legacy of war

March 16, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Mark Twain: Selections on war

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Mark Twain
From The Mysterious Stranger

So, with a thought, he turned the place into the Garden of Eden, and we saw Abel praying by his altar; then Cain came walking toward him with his club, and did not seem to see us, and would have stepped on my foot if I had not drawn it in. He spoke to his brother in a language which we did not understand; then he grew violent and threatening, and we knew what was going to happen, and turned away our heads for the moment; but we heard the crash of the blows and heard the shrieks and the groans; then there was silence, and we saw Abel lying in his blood and gasping out his life, and Cain standing over him and looking down at him, vengeful and unrepentant.

Then the vision vanished, and was followed by a long series of unknown wars, murders, and massacres. Next we had the Flood, and the Ark tossing around in the stormy waters, with lofty mountains in the distance showing veiled and dim through the rain. Satan said:

“The progress of your race was not satisfactory. It is to have another chance now.”

The scene changed, and we saw Noah overcome with wine.

Next, we had Sodom and Gomorrah, and “the attempt to discover two or three respectable persons there,” as Satan described it. Next, Lot and his daughters in the cave.

Next came the Hebraic wars, and we saw the victors massacre the survivors and their cattle, and save the young girls alive and distribute them around.

Next we had Jael; and saw her slip into the tent and drive the nail into the temple of her sleeping guest; and we were so close that when the blood gushed out it trickled in a little, red stream to our feet, and we could have stained our hands in it if we had wanted to.

Next we had Egyptian wars, Greek wars, Roman wars, hideous drenchings of the earth with blood; and we saw the treacheries of the Romans toward the Carthaginians, and the sickening spectacle of the massacre of those brave people. Also we saw Caesar invade Britain – “not that those barbarians had done him any harm, but because he wanted their land, and desired to confer the blessings of civilization upon their widows and orphans,” as Satan explained.

Next, Christianity was born. Then ages of Europe passed in review before us, and we saw Christianity and Civilization march hand in hand through those ages, “leaving famine and death and desolation in their wake, and other signs of the progress of the human race,” as Satan observed.

And always we had wars, and more wars, and still other wars – all over Europe, all over the world. “Sometimes in the private interest of royal families,” Satan said, “sometimes to crush a weak nation; but never a war started by the aggressor for any clean purpose – there is no such war in the history of the race.”

“Now,” said Satan, “you have seen your progress down to the present, and you must confess that it is wonderful – in its way. We must now exhibit the future.”

He showed us slaughters more terrible in their destruction of life, more devastating in their engines of war, than any we had seen.

“You perceive,” he said, “that you have made continual progress. Cain did his murder with a club; the Hebrews did their murders with javelins and swords; the Greeks and Romans added protective armor and the fine arts of military organization and generalship; the Christian has added guns and gunpowder; a few centuries from now he will have so greatly improved the deadly effectiveness of his weapons of slaughter that all men will confess that without Christian civilization war must have remained a poor and trifling thing to the end of time.”

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Satan laughed his unkind laugh to a finish; then he said: “It is a remarkable progress. In five or six thousand years five or six high civilizations have risen, flourished, commanded the wonder of the world, then faded out and disappeared; and not one of them except the latest ever invented any sweeping and adequate way to kill people. They all did their best – to kill being the chiefest ambition of the human race and the earliest incident in its history – but only the Christian civilization has scored a triumph to be proud of. Two or three centuries from now it will be recognized that all the competent killers are Christians; then the pagan world will go to school to the Christian – not to acquire his religion, but his guns. The Turk and the Chinaman will buy those to kill missionaries and converts with.”

By this time his theater was at work again, and before our eyes nation after nation drifted by, during two or three centuries, a mighty procession, an endless procession, raging, struggling, wallowing through seas of blood, smothered in battle-smoke through which the flags glinted and the red jets from the cannon darted; and always we heard the thunder of the guns and the cries of the dying.

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Veniamin Kaverin: A dream of war

March 15, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Veniamin Kaverin
From Two Captains
Translated by Bernard Isaacs

Pencil in hand, he began figuring out the mineral resources of the Kola Peninsula. Now here I was on my own ground. But the nocturnal visitor counted all these peaceful minerals as “strategic raw material” needed in the event of war, and mentally I started arguing with him, convinced as I was that there would be no war.

“I assure you,” the man said, “that Captain Tartarinov understood perfectly well that at the back of every Arctic expedition there must be some military purpose.”

“Of course he did,” I mentally retorted in that queer state of drowsiness when you can think and speak, which is the same as not speaking and not thinking. “But there won’t be any war!”

“It is high time we set up defensive bases all along the route of our convoys. I’d like to see a good long-range battery on Novaya Zemlya, say….”

He went on talking and talking, and all of a sudden, from this quiet hotel room where I lay curled up in an armchair and where Sanya had just covered the lamp with the end of the tablecloth to keep the light out of my eyes, I was transported to some strange town half-destroyed by fire. Here, too, it was quiet, but with a tense, deathly hush. Everyone was waiting for something to happen, talking in whispers, and one had to go down into a basement, groping for the damp walls in the dark. I didn’t go. I was standing on the front steps of a dark, empty wooden house with the clear mysterious sky stretching above me….

Sitting curled up in the armchair, pretending to be asleep, lazily examining through half-lowered eyelids our unexpected nocturnal visitor with his ardent manner, his childlike burring speech and that amusing Cossack’s forelock of his, I was glad that my dream had been only a dream, that the whole thing was just nonsense which you could dismiss from your mind.

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Here lay men who had been wounded in the face. Just as I arrived they brought in a young man who had had his face blown away by a mine.

In nursing these men – I realized this in my second or third day there – one had to keep reassuring them, as it were, that it didn’t matter, that there was nothing to worry about if a scar remained, that they must grin and bear it and hardly anything would be noticeable. But how was one to deal with that hidden, unspoken fear lurking behind every word, that horror with which a man gets his first glimpse of his own disfigured face, that endless standing in front of a mirror on the eve of discharge, those pathetic attempts to look smart, spruce themselves up?

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“Killed in action in defence of the country,” a message that was coming to hundreds and thousands of our women. At first she would not grasp it, her heart would refuse to accept it, then it would start fluttering like a captive bird. There was no escape from it, nowhere you could hide away from it. The grief was yours – receive it!

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Nathan Haskell Dole: Death: War is my Master-stroke since Days of Yore

March 14, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Nathan Haskell Dole: Thanks offering of the God of Waste and Destruction

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Nathan Haskell Dole
From Peace and Progress: Two Symphonic Poems

At last when the Stars in their flight cease from marking the aeons,
When the Circle of Time on the Dial shall cease.
Then shall dawn a new Cosmos proclaimed in rapturous paeans,
And over God’s All reign an infinite Peace!

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From Death’s Triumph Song

I am the Lord of Life. In hearts of Kings
I sow black seeds of War. Nor long I wait
Or ere I reap the harvesting of Hate.
Nation at Nation insolently springs:
They battle like Scorpions armed with poisoned stings,
Fierce armies face fierce armies all-elate
With passion of conflict, heedless of their Fate.
Red Carnage riots and my triumph brings: –

Thousands of Heroes stript of lusty life;
Heapt piles of gallant war-steeds, stiff in gore;
Sackt cities black with piteous deeds of strife;
The butchered child, the stark, dishonoured Wife.
And still the Hate engendered calls for more.
War is my Master-stroke since Days of Yore.

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Anthony Trollope: Sports, reading and war

March 13, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Anthony Trollope: How wars are arranged

Anthony Trollope: Leader appointed to save the empire – with warships

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Anthony Trollope
From The American Senator

“I can’t understand,” said Glomax, “how any man can be considered a good fellow as a country gentleman who does not care for sport. Just look at it all round. Suppose others were like him what would become of us all?”

“Think what England would be!” said the Captain. “When I hear of a country gentleman sticking to books and all that, I feel that the glory is departing from the land. Where are the sinews of war to come from? That’s what I want to know.”

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The Major was quite certain that it was all over with himself. He had broken so many of his bones and had his head so often cracked that he understood his own anatomy pretty well. There he lay quiet and composed, sipping small modicums of brandy and water, and taking his outlook into such transtygian world as he had fashioned for himself in his dull imagination….

“He might pull through yet,” said Mr. Hampton. Lord Rufford shook his head. Then Mr. Gotobed told a wonderful story of an American who had had his brains knocked almost out of his head and had sat in Congress afterwards.

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Dana Burnet: The Village

March 12, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Dana Burnett: Selections on war

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Dana Burnet
In a Village
(Belgium)

They were so happy! Merely that, no more;
They did not ask for riches or the pomp
Of palaces. Their eyes had smiles and tears
For such small dramas as the laggard day
Fetched o’er their homely door-sills. They lived truths,
Came by the world’s ruts to the world’s delights,
Their hearts leaped up to hear a baby laugh –
They went out in the morning to the fields.

A church spire lifting slender to the sun
Made them sufficient symbol for their faith.
They thrilled at commonplaces; and their hearths
Were forges of the day’s mild happenings,
Where life was welded, link by glowing link,
And all so simply that it never galled
The limbs that bore it.

All they asked of earth
Was leave to live on it, to reap its fruit,
To drink its wine, to eat its daily bread,
To love a woman and to trust a man –
To worship God unhindered and to sleep
At last beneath the honest soil they loved. That and no more.
It seems a bitter thing
That man should so deny the common bond
Of godhood as to slay his brother man.
And when life’s little is that brother’s all,
The deed becomes a riddle thrice accursed.

What menace breeds in simple villages?
These folk had only need of bread and love;
They dreamed of no far empires, nor of lands
Beyond their hedgerows. They were all content
To wear the yoke of peasantry, to toil
From sun to sun.
They were the simplest souls
That ever dwelt beneath a smiling sky.
They lived, they loved, they laughed, they worshiped God,
They broke their bread and drained their cups of wine –
Looked out across the fields at even-tide
With mute and nameless happiness….Their eyes
Were but the eyes of children unafraid.

And now their gutted houses gape and stare
With awful empty doors. Their hearths are dust,
Their spire of faith is broken like a reed,
Their women, wives and mothers – torn apart
From those whose very souls they were – lie slain
With awful butcheries. A flame leaps out,
The dust lifts ‘neath the tramp of iron feet.
The village fades behind a crimson cloud,
Above the marching column writhes the smoke
Of stricken homes, a banner flung to God –
And in a trooper’s knapsack for a sign
Of victory…a baby’s withered hand.

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Andrei Platonov: Will the world become inured to bombing?

March 11, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Andrei Platonov
From Through the Midnight
Translated by Brian Bean

Summer could sense the secret resentment of the peasants over the appearance of military units in the area. The great horde of armed idlers taking up good ploughland with lorry parks and barracks, the officers billeted on them, in the houses that belonged to their fathers and grandfathers before them, the thunder and roar of engines being tested in the once quiet, fruitful fields – all this weighed on the peasants’ souls, and they lived on their native soil as though in a foreign land, as if they were about to die or emigrate forever.

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Summer told the driver to stop and climbed out onto the roadside. It was already dark and there were no lights anywhere – kerosene and electricity were to be economised – only a disturbing, wailing voice sang somewhere in the distance, coming in regular waves as if arising from the stony depths of the earth for all eternity, so that one might get used to it and cease to hear it and live in peace and silence. It was the whine of engines being tested at the nearby experimental aircraft factory and the answering howl of the wind tunnel – new models of fighters and bombers were being designed there. All over the world now these tunnels were singing and new engines were howling on the testing stands. Bombs, too, would soon be falling with such frequency and regularity that people would cease to hear them and life would once more seem quiet, and death from a bomb fragment as natural as dying in one’s bed.

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…Summer had given up working to improve aircraft engines. For engines, whether they were good or bad, did not help a man to live aright if there was no sacred essence in him, or if that essence had been mutilated or destroyed. Perhaps the essence was our soul – we don’t know exactly what that is, but we do know that without it men cannot live together on this earth. This was proved by the fact that there was so much suffering in the world….

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Ernest Crosby: Peace

March 10, 2021 Leave a comment


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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Ernest Crosby
Peace

Peace, O Peace, when will the nation
Lift its eyes and understand
How thou holdest all creation
In the hollow of thy hand?

Thine the strength that stays the ocean
Hypnotized within its bed;
Thine the power that keeps in motion
Constellations overhead.

Thine the orb of love afire,
Lighting up the heavens profound;
Thine the suns that never tire
Swinging planets round and round;

Thine the furnaces white-heated,
Where they forge the cosmic powers –
Where the sons of God once greeted
This new-fashioned earth of ours;

Thine the strength, serene, unshaken,
Which can master self alone,
Quelling passions when they waken,
From thy calm eternal throne.

Insult, hatred, can not reach thee
At that still, majestic height.
Make us conscious, we beseech thee,
Of our own reserves of might.

Teach us, while the battle rages,
What we never understood:
This the mystery of the ages –
Evil overcome by good.

Far above the storms and thunders,
Far above the war and strife,
Far above our sins and blunders,
At the source of strength and life –

There I see thy hand commanding
With the olive branch for rod,
Peace, that passest understanding!
Spirit of Almighty God!

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Millennial

When lambkin lieth down with fox,
And the leopard with an ox,
When cows and bears together feed,
While a little child shall lead,

When the lion crops his hay
Like a horse, and children play
Round the cockatrice’s den –
Where will be the soldier then?

All his courage will be there,
All he ever dared to dare,
Glowing in their ardent eyes
With a calm of paradise.

But they will have lost for good
All the soldier’s demon-mood:
All his cruelties and hates,
All that shocks and rasps and grates.

Once in man and quadruped
Lurked a Brute who now is dead.
Farewell, bloody fields and feasts
Happy children, happy beasts.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ovid: Selections on war and peace

Categories: Uncategorized

International Women’s Day: 250 anti-war selections by women writers

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Women writers on peace and war

Maria Abdy: May the gentle Dove of Peace extend her snowy pinions o’er us

Lucy Aikin: Gentle Peace with healing hand returns

Lucy Aikin: Sickening I turn on yonder plain to mourn the widows and the slain

Ellen P. Allerton: Peace After War

Joanna Baillie: And shall we think of war? 

Joanna Baillie: Do children return from rude jarring war?

Joanna Baillie: Thy native land, freed from the ills of war, a land of peace!

H. Lavinia Baily: By the Sea. An Argument for Peace.

Josephine Turck Baker: To the Mothers of the Martyred Dead upon the Field of Battle

Isabella Banks: Absolve our souls from blood shed in our country’s cause

Isabella Banks: The bugle of war, the bugle of peace

Isabella Banks: “Glory, glory, glory!” As if murder were not sin!

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Peace and Shepherd

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: The storm of horrid war rolls dreadful on

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: War’s least horror is th’ ensanguined field

Mary Barber: The officer’s widow

Charlotte Alington Barnard: Peace Hovers

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

Katharine Lee Bates: Carnage! Bayonet, bomb and shell! Merry reading for hell!

Katharine Lee Bates: Children of the War

Katharine Lee Bates: The doomful, mad torpedo, the colossal slaughter-guns

Katharine Lee Bates: Fodder for Cannon

Katharine Lee Bates: Marching Feet

Katharine Lee Bates: Mother

Katharine Lee Bates: When the Millennium Comes

Aphra Behn: No rough sound of war’s alarms

Aphra Behn: The pen triumphs over the sword

Ida Whipple Benham: The Friend of Peace

Ida Whipple Benham: War’s weeding

Adelaide George Bennett: The Peace-Pipe Quarry

Elizabeth Bentley: On the return of celestial peace

Elizabeth Bentley: Terror-striking War shalt be banish’d far

Matilda Betham: All the horrid charms of war

Susanna Blamire: When the eye sees the grief that from one battle flows, small cause of triumph can the bravest feel

Jean Blewett: Above the din of martial clamor, a crying in the dark

Mathilde Blind: All vile things that batten on disaster follow feasting in the wake of war

Mathilde Blind: Reaping War’s harvest grim and gory

Mathilde Blind: Widowing the world of men to win the world

Jane Bowdler: War’s deadly futility

Vera Mary Brittain: August, 1914

Laura Helena Brower: Heritage. The blighted fruit of war.

Frances Brown: An avenger mightier than war

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Exalt the name of Peace and leave those rusty wars that eat the soul

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: War’s human harvest

Amelia Josephine Burr: Two Viewpoints

Mary Chandler: The noise of war is hushed

Anne Cleveland Cheney: All Ye Who Pass By

Caroline Clive: The bloody words of ruffian war

Florence Earle Coates: The New Mars

Florence Earle Coates: War

Elizabeth Cobbold: Earth’s bosom drenching with her children’s blood

Margaret Postgate Cole: They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge: Lilies and Doves

Elizabeth Connor: This World War

Eliza Cook: Selections on peace and war

Eliza Cook: Crimson battlefield. When the world shall be spread with tombless dead.

Eliza Cook: I felt a shuddering horror lurk, to think I’d mingled in such work

Eliza Cook: No bloodstain lingers there. The plough and the spear.

Eliza Cook: Not where bullet, sword, and shield lie strown with the gory slain

Eliza Cook: Who can love the laurel wreath, plucked from the gory field of death?

Isabella Valancy Crawford: The Forging of the Sword

Isabella Valancy Crawford: Peace

Isabella Valancy Crawford: War

Ann Batten Cristall: Relief for nature, man at war with themselves

Maria Briscoe Croker: War and Peace

Martha Foote Crow: There is no Christ left in all those carnage-loving lands

Mary L. Cummins: The News of War

Charlotte Dacre: Peace

Charlotte Dacre: War

Olive Tilford Dargan: Beyond War

Cecelia De Vere: The American flag. Peacemakers, called the children of Great God.

Emily Dickinson: I many times thought Peace had come

Augusta Theodosia Drane: It needs must be that gentle Peace prevail!

Marion Doyle: Mars and Kings have silenced all their singing

Marguerite Duras: The civilizing mission

George Eliot: Tart rebuke of crude war propaganda

Emma Catherine Embury: Proud soldier turns from scenes of war

Maria Louise Eve: Disarm!

Laura Bell Everett: The Skein of Grievous War

Eleanor Farjeon: Now that you too join the vanishing armies

Eleanor Farjeon: Peace Poem

Marianne Farningham: Give Peace

Anne Finch: Enquiry After Peace

Mary Weston Fordham: Ode to Peace

Margaret Fuller: America, with no prouder emblem than the Dove

Maya Ganina: Peace and homeland

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Selections from the Peace Sonnets

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: The blessed salve of peace for the whole bleeding world

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Crown him with many crowns, the Prince of Peace

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: I sing the soldiers of the coming wars, those that save and heal

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Speak peace, that thou and all the lands may live, ere thou and they all perish by the sword!

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: We feed bread of our children to the war-god’s greed

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Flag of Peace

Mary Putnam Gilmore: Sweet Peace is Here

Ellen Glasgow: Selections on war

Ellen Glasgow: The Altar of the War God

Ellen Glasgow: His vision of the future only an endless warfare and a wasted land

Ellen Glasgow: The Reign of the Brute

Ellen Glasgow: “That killed how many? how many?”

Ellen Glasgow: Then the rows of dead men stared at him through the falling rain in the deserted field

Hala Jean Hammond: War’s black hatred

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Music to soothe all sorrow till war and crime shall cease

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Do Not Cheer, Men Are Dying

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Say to the hurricane of war, – “Be still”

Felicia Hemans: Speak not of death, till thou hast looked on such

Felicia Hemans: A thousand voices echo “Peace!”

Felicia Hemans: Thousands doomed to moan, condemned by war to hopeless grief unknown

Felicia Hemans: War and Peace

Felicia Hemans: War has still ravaged o’er the blasted plain

Mary Heron: Bid brazen-throated war and discord cease

Mary Heron: Ode on the General Peace

Amanda M. Hicks: A Truce for the Toilers

Martha Lavinia Hoffman: The Song of Peace

Julia Ward Howe: Mother’s Day Proclamation 1870

Jean Ingelow: And the dove said, “Give us peace!”

Jean Ingelow: Methought the men of war were even as gods

Ellen Key: Overcoming the madness of a world at war

Harriet King: Life is Peace

Zofia Kossak: Every creature has its day. War and crocodiles.

Selma Lagerlöf: The Fifth Commandment. The Great Beast is War.

Selma Lagerlöf: The mark of death was on them all

Ruth Le Prade: Out of Chaos

Vernon Lee: Satan’s rules of war

Lily Alice Lefevre: The Bridge of Peace

Marie Lenéru: War is not human fate

Doris Lessing: With war every event has the quality of war, nothing of peace remains

Isabella Lickbarrow: Invocation To Peace

Martha Shepard Lippincott: Nations now for mammon fight

Martha Shepard Lippincott: Peace on Earth

Amy Lowell: Misericordia

Amy Lowell: A pattern called a war. Christ! What are patterns for?

Caroline Atherton Mason: Enemy, oh, let our warfare cease!

Lillian Rozell Messenger: Seeking a new world of peace

Alice Meynell: The true slayers are those who sire soldiers

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Conscientious Objector

Emily Huntington Miller: Hymn of Peace

Ruth Comfort Mitchell: He Went for a Soldier

Mary Russell Mitford: Sheath thy gory blade in peace

Marianne Moore: I must fight till I have conquered in myself what causes war

Hannah More: War

Angela Morgan: Mothers “Go, fashion the Future’s laws that war shall be no more”

Angela Morgan: In Spite of War

Jean Lewis Morris: A Patriot I!

Luise Mühlbach: Battle-field writes names of its heroes in blood

Lilika Nakos: Selections on war

Lilika Nakos: The dead man, the living, the house; all were smashed to bits

Lilika Nakos: Do I know what makes men kill each other?

Lilika Nakos: Do you think the war will ever end?

Lilika Nakos: The grandmother’s sin

Lilika Nakos: “Surely God didn’t intend this butchery”

Lilika Nakos: “What’s the war got to do with God?”

Adela Florence Nicolson: Doubtless feasted the jackal and the kite

Grace Fallow Norton: O I have heard the drums beat for war!

Sara Louisa Oberholtzer: The dawn of peace is breaking!

Zoé Oldenbourg: War provides a feast for the vultures

Amelia Opie: Grant, Heaven, those tears may be the last that war, detested war, shall cause!

Frances Sargent Osgood: Peace and the olive branch

Josephine Preston Peabody: Harvest Moon

Lori Petri: Battleships

Jessie Pope: Black, solemn peace is brooding low; peace, still unbroken

Adelaide A. Procter: Let carnage cease and give us peace!

Beatrice Witte Ravenel: Missing. How many women in how many lands wait beside the desolate hearthstone!

Charlotte Richardson: Once more let war and discord cease

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

Mary Robinson: Anticipate the day when ruthless war shall cease to desolate

Mary Robinson: Dread-destructive power of war

Mary Robinson: Impetuous War, the lord of slaughter

Mary Robinson: The soldier sheds, for gold, a brother’s blood

Mary Robinson: Spread once more the fostering rays of Peace

Mary Robinson: The wise shall bid, too late, the sacred olive rise

Christina Rossetti: They reap a red crop from the field. O Man, put up thy sword.

Gabrielle Roy: This was the hope that was uplifting mankind once again: to do away with war

Margaret Sackville: Selections on peace and war

Margaret Sackville: How is it that men slaughter men even here upon the earth?

Margaret Sackville: Nostra Culpa

Margaret Sackville: The Pageant of War

Margaret Sackville: The Peacemakers

Margaret Sackville: Reconciliation over our mutual dead

Margaret Sackville: Quo Vaditis?

Margaret Sackville: Sacrament

Margaret Sackville: So quietly and evenly they walked these million gentle dead

Margaret Sackville: To One Who Denies the Possibility of a Permanent Peace

Margaret Sackville: We are the mothers, and each has lost a son

Margaret Sackville: Who shall deliver us from the memory of these dead?

Vita Sackville-West: Man’s war on his fellow creatures

George Sand: Trader in uniformed flesh and the religion of self

Mary McDermott Santley: The serene light of peace to all mankind

Ethel Talbot Scheffauer: The sun shall rise upon a newer world that has forgot to kill

Olive Schreiner: Give me back my dead!

Olive Schreiner: The bestiality and insanity of war

Anna Seghers: War enthusiasm, brewed from equal parts of age-old memories and total oblivion

Anna Seward: Fierce War has wing’d the arrow that wounds my soul’s repose

Mary Shelley: The fate of the world bound up with the death of a single man

Kate Brownlee Sherwood: This one soft whisper – Peace

Lydia Sigourney: Peace was the song the angels sang

Louise Morgan Sill: I am the Hell-god, War!

Ina Duvall Singleton: The Women’s Litany

Edith Sitwell: Dirge for the New Sunrise

M. B. Smedley: Where is the ministry of peace?

Charlotte Turner Smith: The lawless soldiers’ victims

Charlotte Turner Smith: Statesmen! ne’er dreading a scar, let loose the demons of war

Charlotte Turner Smith: Thus man spoils Heaven’s glorious works with blood!

Charlotte Turner Smith: To bathe his savage hands in human blood

Fanny Bixby Spencer: The shame of the cannonade

Madame de Staël: Voting for war, pronouncing their own death sentence

Margaret Stineback: The Unknown Soldier

Bertha von Suttner: Selections on peace and war

Bertha von Suttner: Among these ills the most dreadful of all – War

Bertha von Suttner: Education hardens children against natural horror which terrors of war awaken

Bertha von Suttner: Mounting doubts about war

Bertha von Suttner: Outgrowing the old idolatry for war

Bertha von Suttner: Vengeance! War breeds more war.

Sara Teasdale: Spring in War-Time

Edith Matilda Thomas: Air war: They are not humans.

Edith Matilda Thomas: The Altar of Moloch

Mabel Thomson: A child’s ideal of soldiering

Edythe C. Toner: The Wraiths

Katrina Trask: Civilized warfare

Katrina Trask: A dialogue on God and war

Katrina Trask: The Logic of War

Katrina Trask: The Statue of Peace

Katrina Trask: “Wars shall cease. Peace shall knit the world together in a bond of common Brotherhood.”

Lucia Trent: Breed, little mothers, breed for the war lords who slaughter your sons

Lucia Trent: Women of War

Nancy Byrd Turner: Let Us Have Peace

Lesya Ukrainka: Do you understand that word called war?

Louise B. Waite: Let There Be Peace

Gretchen Warren: Dying Peace

Rebecca West: The dreams of Englishwomen during war

Phillis Wheatley: From every tongue celestial Peace resounds

Anna M. Whitney: The Call for Peace

Margaret Widdemer: After War

Margaret Widdemer: A Mother to the War-Makers

Margaret Widdemer: War-March

Ellen Wheeler Wilcox: The Paean of Peace

Ella Wheeler Wilcox: A Plea To Peace

Jane Wilde: Peace with the Olive, and Mercy with the Palm

Helen Maria Williams: Heaven-born peace

Helen Maria Williams: Now burns the savage soul of war

Sarah Williams: Groaning for him they slew

Margaret L. Woods: The forgotten slain

Elinor Wylie: Peace falls unheeded on the dead

Ann Yearsley: The anarchy of war

Barbara Young: Peace is not bought with dead men slain

Marguerite Yourcenar: Fruits of war are food for new wars

Categories: Uncategorized

Yuri Kazakov: If only there was no war

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Yuri Kazakov
From Two in December
Translated by Bernard Isaacs

How happy he had been and there was probably greater happiness in store, if only there was no war.

Lately he had been thinking a lot about war and hating it. But now, looking at the sparkling snow, at the woods and fields, listening to the hum and clank of the rails, he felt sure that there would be no war, nor would there be death as such. Because, he thought, there were moments in life when a man couldn’t think of its terrors or believe in the existence of evil.

Categories: Uncategorized

Katrina Trask: The Logic of War

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Katrina Trask
The Logic of War

Where is the logic of war? 0 ye
Who wave the flag, and who cry the cry
“We fight in the name of humanity;
Let those who have killed prepare to die!
Down with the demons who blew up the Maine! –
The Spaniards, perchance, who Cuba have slain?”

Alas! if they have, what then? 0 ye
Who wave the flag and who cry the cry?
I ask in the name of humanity;
Shall we be like them and make men die?
Shall a hundred warships, instead of one,
Reek red in the light of the rising sun?

Must the burden of infamy increase?
Shall more cruel engines with shot and shell
Drown the voice of the Prince of Peace
And make of the earth a vaster hell?
Where is the logic, the sense of war?
To do the dark deeds that were done before?

Woe to that nation which steeps in blood
Its own right hand! ‘Tis easy to die?
But to kill imperils our highest good;
The Lord God rules in His Heaven on high;
Let Him be arbiter over the lands?
But for Christ’s sake lift to Him bloodless hands.

Categories: Uncategorized

Jean de La Bruyère: And self-slaughtering man dares call animals brutes

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

French writers on war and peace

La Bruyère on the lust for war

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Jean de La Bruyère
From Characters
Translated by Henri van Laun

Ye little men, only six feet high, or at most seven, who, as soon as you have reached eight feet, are to be seen for money in booths at the fairs, as giants and wonders; who, without blushing, give yourselves the titles of “highnesses” and “eminences,” which is the utmost that can be granted to those mountain-tops so near the sky that they see the clouds form underneath them; ye haughty, vain-glorious animals who despise all other creatures, and who cannot even be compared to an elephant or a whale, draw near, ye men, and answer Democritus. Do you not commonly speak of “hungry wolves, furious lions, and mischievous monkeys?” Pray, who are you? “Man is a rational creature” is continually dinned in my ears. Who gave you this appellation? Did the wolves, or the lions, or the monkeys do so, or did you take it yourselves? It is already very ridiculous that you should bestow on animals, your fellow-creatures, all the bad epithets, and take the best for yourselves; leave it to them to give names, and you will see that they will not forget themselves, and how you will be treated. I do not mention, O men, your frivolities, your follies and caprices, which place you lower than the mole or the tortoise, who wisely move along quietly and follow invariably their own natural instinct; but listen to me for a moment: You say of a goshawk if it be very swift-winged and swoops well down on a partridge, that it is a good bird; of a greyhound following a hare very close and catching it, that it is a first-rate dog; it is also quite right that you should say of a man who hunts the wild boar, brings it to bay, walks up to it and kills it with a spear, that he is a courageous man. But if you see two dogs barking at each other, provoke, bite, and tear one another to pieces, you say they are foolish creatures, and take a stick to part them. If any one should come and tell you that all the cats of a large country met in a plain in their thousands and tens of thousands, and that after they had squalled to their heartsʼ content they had fallen upon each other tooth and nail; that about ten thousand of them had been left dead on the spot and infected the air for ten leagues round with their evil-smelling carcasses; would you not say that it was the most disgraceful row you ever heard? And if the wolves acted in the same way, what a butchery would there be, and what howls would be heard! Now, if these two kind of animals were to tell you they love glory, would you come to the conclusion that this glory consists in their meeting together in such a way to destroy and annihilate their own species; and if you have come to such a conclusion, would you not laugh heartily at the folly of these poor animals? Like rational creatures, and to distinguish yourselves from those which only make use of their teeth and claws, you have invented spears, pikes, darts, sabres, and scimitars, and, in my opinion, very judiciously; for what could you have done to one another merely with your hands, except tearing your hair, scratching your faces, and, at best, gouging one anotherʼs eyes out; whilst now you are provided with convenient instruments for making large wounds and for letting out the utmost drop of your blood, without there being any fear of your remaining alive? But as you grow more rational from year to year, you have greatly improved the old fashion of destroying yourselves; you use certain little globes which kill at once, if they but hit you on the head or chest; you have other globes, heavier and more massive, which cleverly cut you in two or disembowel you, without counting those falling on your roof, breaking through the floors from the garret to the cellar, which they destroy, and blowing up your wife who is lying-in, and the child, the nurse, and the house as well. And yet this is glory, which delights in all this hurly-burly and mighty hubbub! You have also defensive arms, and according to the rules and regulations, when waging war, you should put on a suit of iron, no doubt a pretty becoming dress, which always puts me in mind of those four famous fleas, formerly shown by a cunning artist, a quack, who knew how to keep them alive in a glass phial; each of those little animals wore a helmet, their bodies were covered by a breastplate; they had vambraces, knee-pieces, and a spear at their side; their accoutrements were quite perfect, and thus they skipped and jumped about in their bottle. Fancy a man of the size of Mount Athos, and why not? Would a soul be puzzled to animate such a body, for it would have plenty of room to move about in? If such a manʼs sight were piercing enough to discover you somewhere upon earth, with your offensive and defensive arms, what do you think would be his opinion of a parcel of little marmosets thus equipped, and of what you call war, cavalry, infantry, a memorable siege, a famous battle? Shall I never hear any other sound buzz in my ears? Is the world only filled with regiments and companies? Has everything been changed to battalions and squadrons? – He takes a town, then a second, then a third; he wins a battle, two battles, he drives away the enemy, he conquers by sea, by land. – Do you say these things of one of you, or of a giant, a Mount Athos? There is a remarkable man amongst you, pale and livid, with not ten ounces of flesh on his bones, and who would be blown down by the least gust of wind, one would think, and yet he makes more noise than half-a-dozen men, and sets everything in a blaze; he has just now been fishing in troubled waters, and caught a whole island at once; in another place, it is true, he is beaten and pursued, but escapes into the bogs, and will hearken neither to peace nor to truce. He began betimes to show what he could do, and so severely bit his nurseʼs breast that the poor woman died of it; I know what I mean, and that is sufficient. To conclude: he was born a subject and is no longer one; on the contrary, he is now the master, and those whom he has overcome and brought under his yoke are harnessed to the plough and till the ground with might and main; those good people seem even afraid of being unyoked one day and of becoming free, for they have pulled out the thong and lengthened the handle of the whip of the man who drives them; they forget nothing that can increase their slavery; they let him cross the water so that he may get new vassals and acquire fresh territories; and to succeed in this he has, it is true, only to take his father and mother by the shoulders and throw them out of doors, and they aid him in this virtuous undertaking. The people on this side and that side of the water subscribe, and each pays his share, to render him every day more and more formidable to all; the Picts and the Saxons compel the Batavians to be silent, and the latter act in the same manner to the Picts and Saxons; they may all boast of being his humble slaves, as they wished to be. But what do I hear of certain personages who wear crowns? I do not mean counts or marquesses, who swarm on this earth, but princes and sovereigns. This man does but whistle, and they come at his call; they uncover as soon as they are in his anteroom, and never speak but when he asks them a question. Are these the same princes who cavil so much and are so precise about rank and precedence, and who spend whole months in regulating such questions whilst some Diet is assembled? What shall this new ruler do to reward so blind a submission, and to satisfy the high opinion they have of him? If a battle is to be fought, he must win it, and in person; if the enemy besieges a town, he must go raise the siege and drive him away with ignominy, unless the ocean be between him and the enemy; it is the least he can do to please his courtiers. Cæsar himself comes and swells their number; at least he expects important services from him; for either the “archon” and his allies will fail, which is more difficult than impossible to conceive, or, if he succeeds, and nothing resists him, he is ready with his allies, who are jealous of Cæsarʼs religion and greatness, to rush upon him, snatch away his eagle, and reduce him and his heir to the “fasces argent” and to his hereditary dominions. But there is no use saying anything more; they have all voluntarily given themselves up to the man whom they should perhaps have distrusted the most. Would Esop not have told them that “the feathered tribe of a certain country got alarmed and frightened at being near a lion, whose mere roar terrified them; they went to the animal, who persuaded them he would come to some arrangement, and take them under his protection. The end of it was that he gobbled them all up one after another.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Rick Rozoff: A Protest

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Rick Rozoff
From Impromptus (2001)

A Protest

This world
My world
You trifle with it
Plot, divide, bomb
As though it were your personal preserve
Your backyard
A house you can rehab, tear down, demolish
Others so many red ants
Or squirrels
That are surgically killed
When they cause damage or displeasure
Cut down a shrub, cut down a nation
Uproot a tree stump, displace a people
Cast off anyone not of use
Pile their bodies up on the curbside
On Monday mornings
To be compacted and dumped
Who authorized you to play at
Secular Shiva?
Who ceded you domain over my world?
What right divine or demonic allows you
To destroy it, partition, bleed, amputate it?

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After having watched boys playing military video games

Mechanical soldiers
And Nintendo joysticks to dismember refugees
And incinerate children cowering in bomb shelters
Street thugs with Hun topknots
And South Sea headhunter skin writing
Adeptly fingering Play Stations
Macho grunting on a cell phone
‘Bout pickin’ up a hot DVD player
Inner urban verbless consumeroids
Rattling up a storm about hard drives
And total watt output
Cybernauts threading golden fleeces
On the loom of infantile nostalgia
With boombastic sonic tropes

Technology leads, civilization follows?
Here come the homicidal anthropoids
Just plug them in

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Don Quixote among the goatherds

To the melody of the Elizabethan madrigal I Live Not Where I Love

All the world shall be one religion
Living things shall cease to die

Singing sweetly and completely
I will tell of golden times
All transactions handled neatly
Man resorted not to crimes
Speech was gentle, manners lofty
Common land and common bread
Each to each would murmur softly
Brother, Sister, see you’re fed
Happy age of happy persons
Sharing freely field and vine
Gold obtained without exertions
Knowing naught of mine and thine

All was peace and all was concord
Friendship sealed what love had made
Tree and stream and hive to all poured
Fish, fruit, honey, drink and shade
Virtue reigned proud, uncontested
Innocence and beauty fond
Free from fear and rarely tested
Modesty the garb all donned
Tainted not by modern pretense
Slaves of neither flesh nor gold
Lived they only ruled by good sense
Blessed men of times of old

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Evgeny Nosov: What a single shell destroys

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

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Evgeny Nosov
From The Red Wine of Victory
Translated by Leonard Stoklitsky

I stared numbly at the plumped-up pillow, at its useless, indifferent whiteness, and all of a sudden I realized with a piercing clarity that the pillow was now no one’s because the man who had lain on it no longer existed. Not simply carried out of the ward but non-existent altogether. He was nothing. Of course, you could have caught up with the stretcher or found Kopeshkin somewhere downstairs, in the dimly-lit stone shed in the yard. But that would no longer be him but the inconceivable nothingness called “remains.” And is that all? I asked myself, breaking into a cold sweat. Nothing else for him, ever? In that case, why had he been? Why had he waited so long for his turn to be born into the world? The possibility of his appearance had been guarded through many thousands of years; his forebears had carried it throughout the whole of history, from primitive caves to modern skyscrapers. The time had come, the mysterious ciphers had clicked into place, and he had finally been born. But he had been cut down by shell splinters and had disappeared again into non-existence. Tomorrow they would remove the no longer necessary plaster shell, free the body, open it up, establish the cause of death and draw up a report.

“Just look!” exclaimed Auntie Zina as she picked up the drawing of Kopeshkin’s house from the floor and set it against the untouched glass of wine.

The picture was a figment of my imagination but now it had become the only reality that remained of Kopeshkin. Now I myself believed that a grey log house with three windows along the front, with a tree and a bird-house in front of the wicket-gate, stood in a village somewhere in the Penza country. At this very hour of dusk, when the orderlies were laying out Kopeshkin in the hospital morgue, the oil lamp had already been lit, and by its flickering light you could see the heads of children seated around the table for the evening meal. Kopeshkin’s wife (What was she like? What was her name?) was bustling about the table, setting something down, pouring something out. By now she, too, knew that it was V-Day, and everybody in the house was looking forward in silence to the return of the head of the family, who had not been killed but only wounded, and with God’s help everything would straighten itself out.

It was strange and sad to imagine people whom you had never seen and probably never would, who did not exist for you, as you did not exist for them.

The silence was broken by Sayenko. He rose, hopped over to the night table I had shared with Kopeshkin, and picked up the glass.

“Anyway, it’s a shame the soldier didn’t drink a drop before he went,” he said thoughtfully, holding the glass up to a twilit window. “Well, let’s drink to his memory. Tough luck for the lad. What was his first name, anyway?”

“Ivan,” said Sasha.

“Well, goodbye, brother Ivan.” Sayenko sprinkled a little wine from the glass on the head of Kopeshkin’s bed. The wine made a dark stain on the starched white pillowcase. “Eternal memory to you.”

He brought the glass in turn to each man on his bed, and we each took a swallow of the wine left in it. Now it seemed really sacramental, like blood.

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Ernest Crosby: The Peace Congress


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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Crosby: They know not love that love not peace

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Ernest Crosby
The Peace Congress

Round a long green table sat
Ambassadors of peace,
To ponder for the Christian world
How war and strife might cease;
And captains of the sea were there
And captains of the land,
And with the tassels of their swords
Played many an idle hand.

And some who had the morning’s news
Were reading there with zest
Of battles in the farthest East
And battles in the West;
While at the door two sentries stood,
With muskets at their side
And bayonets fixed, to show that peace
Depends on war and pride.

The president then rang his bell,
And up a bishop rose,
And prayed for all the kings and queens
In most poetic prose.
His lips that every week had asked
For victory in war,
Now prayed that in our time sweet Peace
Might come for evermore.

Then suddenly the hall grew bright,
The roof was rent in two,
And down from heaven an angel came
To their astonished view;
The envoys looked aghast, the priest
Muttered a faint “Amen.”
A stern voice answered, “I am Peace;
What would you have, ye men?

“Why is it that you call me here
From God’s unsullied air –
Here, where the smell of blood corrupts
The spirit of your prayer?
Here where you dare to name my name
Holding a blood-stained sword?”
(The troubled counsellors now hid
Their hilts beneath the board.)

“And who are these who guard the place?”
(They slunk behind the door,
And two such frightened shamefaced men
I never saw before.)
“What mean these tawdry epaulets,
And all this martial show?
The very pictures on the wall
But tell of war and woe.

“Read me that journal lying there;
Let its reports accuse.”
The president then picked it up
And read the morning’s news;
And it was pitiful to hear
His wretched, stammering tale,
And it was pitiful to see
His trembling lips turn pale.

He read about the Philippines,
Where prisoners are slain
By Yankee heroes while they curse
The cruelty of Spain;
He read of pious Englishmen
Who slaughter as they please
To boom Egyptian bonds, and stab
The wounded Soudanese.

He read of Russian men-at-arms
Who torture as they will
The gentle, peaceful Doukhobors
Because they will not kill;
He read of mighty realms that rob
Poor China of her soil,
And carve up Africa because
The victor’s is the spoil.

He read of Poland tyrannized,
Of Ireland held by hate,
Of Finland cheated of her rights,
And Kruger’s tottering state,
Of Cuba and the Congo too,
Samoa and far Tonquin –
The whole world made a hell of blood
By governmental sin.

He ceased to read, and for a time
An awful silence fell,
While all were waiting anxiously
To hear what Peace might tell.
At last she spake, and, breathing fast
With loud, indignant speech,
She thundered at the sorry crew
With words that shook them each.

“And thus it is,” she cried in scorn,
“You and your masters deal;
You fill the world with pain and grief
And grind it with your heel;
You build huge ships to murder men;
You make the heart breed hate;
You make the earth breed dynamite –
And then you call you great.

“You live by murder, hate and theft,
And no one will pretend
Your masters have the least design
To bring them to an end.
Ye hypocrites who know full well
That Peace can never reign
Until you cease from making war
Nor take my name in vain.

“Begone, base slaves of despots base, –
And drop your idle task,
Or else the world will laugh, for now
I’ve stripped you of your mask.
Go home, and tell your masters all
What they well knew before:
That when at last Peace rules the earth,
Then they will rule no more.”

She stopped and forth she stretched her hand,
And, at this sign of hers,
They fled, their swords between their legs
Like a whipped pack of curs.
There stood she, and for all I know,
There stands she still serene,
Triumphant in that empty hall
Above the table green.

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Julius Myron Alexander: It is but war, ask not the cause

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Julius Myron Alexander: The Flag of Peace

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Julius Myron Alexander
The Folly

Stand up and go, ’tis time to die!
You are but slave, so ask not why,
You are but flesh – a king calls thee,
It matters not, for land or sea.
The mountain bird hath cleaving wings,
But thou art made as sordid things.

Child – not thy mother’s boy,
But chess to play – a kingly toy;
Go forth and leave on field thy clay,
A Tsar demands thy life this day,
The smoke and shot and cannon roar
A life he cannot ask for more.

Stalwart, strong, of rounded limb,
Thy flashing eyes for death to dim;
It is but war, ask not the cause,
Nor question he who made the laws ;
Then pray thy God, ere thou art slain,
And pour thy blood on sodden plain.

Thou shalt not know – perchance retreat,
For thee ’twill only be defeat.
God gave to thee a living soul,
Its home man claims, go pay the toll!
Go out and die on lands or seas,
While Kings shall feast and Follies please.

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Joseph Fawcett: War mocks and degrades nature, God, mind, commerce, agriculture

February 28, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

See yon pavilion’d Council sitting round
Serene and solemn! mind illuming mind!
Reason’s confederated rays thrown out.
In intellectual alliance firm!
Say wherefore meets the ring of rationals,
With light collective luminous? – to frame
Some fair harmonious plan of general weal
With legislative wisdom? – or to seek,
With philosophic amity of soul,
Where Science, coy recluse, conceal’d resides?
No, not for this the sapient circle sits!
Yon tent is the dire cabinet of Death!
Insatiate sovereign! with the scythe of Time
Unsatisfied, that craves th’ assistant sword!
Those are his ministers! in ruin wise;
Sages of laughter; devastation’s seers;
Doctors of desolation! – Yonder, lo!
At work mechanic Wit! by whom weak man
His might extends, and finds in knowledge pow’r!
The lucid labour fee! Is it to aid
Benignant manufacture? to uplift,
Commerce, aloft in air thy weighty wealth?
Lend new convenience, new delight to life?
Plane to yet smoother floor its level walks,
And plant along them flow’rs of lovelier glow?
Dire, dire reverse! Fall’n Ingenuity,
Depravid, degenerate from her native sphere,
On tragic engines her loft genius spends;
And, cruelly acute, pursues alone
Discoveries of death! – Distracted Art,
Whose lovely office ’tis to emulate
Nature in bounties and in smiles alone,
With her severities perversely vies!
Storms she invents! inclemencies conțrives!
And teaches Weakness to be terrible.
Tremendous mimic of the tempest, man
Copies th’ artillery of angry Jove,
Around him artful clouds and darkness rolls,
To lighten learns, to forge and fling his bolts,
While thousands at a stroke his thunders rive,
And blasted towns before his flashes fall!
Or, boweld in the earth, he latent breeds
The crafty earthquake, subterranean rage
Ingenious gend’ring! In the hallow hell
His hands have scoop’d with dark infernal fraud,
Disposing death, – th’ artificer of ills,
Laborious scholar of malignant things,
Studious essays, and terribly attains,
To shake the strong foundations of the ground,
Strew it with wide-spread wreck, and emulate
The final ruin! View yon vehicles
Whose wondrous road is through the world of waves;
That give to eager man the morning’s wings;
Whose cordage complicate and canvas-craft
Employ the air to push ’em on their way,
And make the winds their spur! Mansions immense!
Whose swelling walls a multitude inclose,
Yet light and volant gliding, as the fowl
That sail the firmament! Of human skill
The prodigy and pride! Fram’d to convey
Social mankind remote mankind to meet,
To know, to love, enlighten and relieve!
To bear from shore to shore, in fair supply,
Of earth and mind the produce! fruits and truths
In blissful harmony commute, and make
The world but one! Behold! distracting scene!
The floating houses of the sea, arrang’d
In adverse rows, advance! the moving streets
Each other meet! ah! with no friendly front!
Freighted with thunder, they are come to hold
Commerce of deaths! to show the astonish’d seas
Such tempest as the winds ne’er blew! to teach
The tame commotion of the elements
How ships to shatter! to out-roar, out-spit
All air-brew’d storms, and in derision mock
Their modest madness, meek, insipid scene
Of sober tumult! – See all Nature’s gifts,
Given but for good, made instruments of ill!
From the dug earth educ’d, behold that ore ,
Of higheſt worth, in richest plenty giv’n,
His bounty such who stock’d the ball He built,
Of friendly edge susceptive, form’d to serve,
With smooth incision, useful Art’s fair ends,
See its fine point employ’d, ah! not to fetch
Forth from the furrow’d earth the golden bread;
Call gladsome Plenty o’er her plains to laugh;
Or prune with economic cut away
Her wasteful growth; – but, amputation foul!
Lop human life, and with an impious edge
With purple dropping, plough the flesh of man!
Behold the heav’n-born element, bestow’d
The genial friend of generous health to glow,
The social hearth to animate, supply
Our absent suns, and gaily gild the house
Of harmless pleasure! see it turn’d against
Life’s lovely flame! th’ excited spirit see,
Collision-call’d, springs sparkling from his cell,
To dart the nitrous wrath, the red-hot death,
To youth’s light heart, and stop the bounding life!
To bid the broken bone long time be rack’d
In the dread house of Pain! with bursting rage
Upward an heap of shatter’d bodies shoot,
From earth exploded to the sky! fair piles
That slowly rose, uprear’d by patient toil,
With furious haste lay low! or with harsh heat,
Unlike his fire’s, the gently piercing sun,
Sear the fair fruitage his bland beams had nurs’d,
And his mild fervours mellow’d into food!
With fierce unfilial force (how much misus’d!
Child of life’s cherisher!) his waving work
Impious undo, consume the yellow year,
And smiling Ceres to a cinder change!

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Victor Astafiev: On sunny days in peacetime all places are different, in wartime all are alike

February 27, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on peace and war

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Victor Astafiev
From My Friend (Evgeny Nosov)
Translated by Leonard Stoklitsky

Next morning a blustering wind began to chase leaves along the river and to whirl feathers and dust over the road. Afterwards it began to rain, and the Kursk countryside at once looked like all the other places I have ever seen in bad weather. Remember that wise man Tolstoy? “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” As far as places are concerned, it works the other way around. On sunny days in peacetime they are all different, but in bad weather and in wartime they all look the same.

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“Holy Virgin’s grass,” my friend repeated as we walked along beside a rotting split-rail fence between the road and an old apple orchard. That is the mental picture I retain of him – holding a tiny flower in his huge hand, a flower that preserves its fresh young fragrance until the snow falls, even when cut with the hay; neither drought nor dust; neither beast nor fowl, nor man trampling upon it, can quench its pulsating power of eternal spring.

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William Hazlitt: Poets outlive conquerors

February 26, 2021 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

William Hazlitt: Selections on war

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William Hazlitt
From Table-Talk

If ten millions of Englishmen are furious in thinking themselves right in making war upon thirty millions of Frenchmen, and if the last are equally bent upon thinking the others always in the wrong, though it is a common and national prejudice, both opinions cannot be the dictate of good sense; but it may be the infatuated policy of one or both governments to keep their subjects always at variance.

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Actions pass away and are forgotten, or are only discernible in their effects; conquerors, statesmen, and kings live but by their names stamped on the page of history. Hume says rightly that more people think about Virgil and Homer (and that continually) than ever trouble their heads about Caesar or Alexander. In fact, poets are a longer-lived race than heroes: they breathe more of the air of immortality. They survive more entire in their thoughts and acts. We have all that Virgil or Homer did, as much as if we had lived at the same time with them: we can hold their works in our hands, or lay them on our pillows, or put them to our lips. Scarcely a trace of what the others did is left upon the earth, so as to be visible to common eyes. The one, the dead authors, are living men, still breathing and moving in their writings. The others, the conquerors of the world, are but the ashes in an urn.

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