James B. Dollard: The Battle-Line

January 23, 2021 Leave a comment

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

James B. Dollard
The Battle-Line

Athwart that land of bloss’ming vine
Stretches the awful battle-line;
A lark hangs singing in the sky,
With sullen shrapnel bursting nigh!
Along the poplar-bordered road
The peasant trudges with his load,
While horsemen and artillery
Rush to red fields that are to be!
The plains for tillage furrowed well
Are now replowed with shot and shell!
The ditches, swollen by the rain,
Show bloated faces of the slain.

The hedge-rows sweet with leaf and flower
Now mask the cannon’s murderous power!
Small birds by household cares opprest
Beg truce and time to build their nest.
The sun sinks down – oh, blest release!
And the spent world cries out for peace,
In vain! In vain! Tho’ mild stars shine,
War wakes the thundering battle-line.

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Yuri Trifonov: Our world – the world of peace!

January 22, 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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Yuri Trifonov
From Students
Translated by Ivy Litvinova and Margaret Wettlin

“Surely there couldn’t be war again?” said Raya under her breath. “When you remember all that….”

“Oh, I don’t want another war!’’ Raya said and laughed at the childlike spontaneity of her own words. “We’ve only just begun to settle down again, and life is improving and getting more interesting every year…and there are so many good things to come….There are, aren’t there? And to think of war…again….’’

Raya shook her head and moved involuntarily nearer to Lagodenko, who clumsily placed his heavy arm round her neck and grunted, frowning:

“Don’t worry, Carrots. Everything’ll be all right.”

And everyone looked gravely and thoughtfully at Lagodenko and Raya, and for some reason fell silent. For a few moments everything was still in the room.

Then Galya Mamonova drew a profound sigh, hunching up her shoulders as if she were cold.

“Don’t let’s talk about war!” she exclaimed.

“D’you know what’s just come into my head?” said Max vivaciously. “It’s well known that we Russians are a peace-loving people. And it came into my head that there’s evidence of that in our very language. Look – in our language we have one word for both peace and the world. I don’t suppose that’s true of any other language. German, French and English all have two words, one for each separate meaning. That’s remarkable, isn’t it?”

“It is,” said Spartak, rising and pacing rapidly up and down the room, and pushing chairs out of his way. “But what exciting times we are living in! When you look at the history of mankind it seems as if never before was there such an interesting, stupendous time – doesn’t it? The old world is collapsing, giving at the seams, and the new world is being born before our very eyes! Our world – the world of peace!” Striding back to the table he cried:

“A toast! To all those fighting for peace in China, Greece, Spain, America – in the whole world!…”

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W. H. Anderson: Our Brother’s Keeper

January 21, 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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W. H. Anderson
Our Brother’s Keeper

The patient world through all its cycled years
Has borne its human burden, murmuring not –
A selfish horde, almost by God forgot –
A theme to flood the Universe with tears!
From that far distance where there first appears
A ray to pierce the conglomerate blot
Spewed from Creation’s maw, the common lot
Of man, the creature, changes not nor veers:
A current rushing on from naught to naught,
Turgid and turbulent, ‘twixt narrow banks
Of grasping greed and centered self-endeavor;
Each drop impregnate with the single thought
Of striving till all others it outranks,
Blind in its petty Now to vast Forever!

II
This is the picture painted; this the view
Of cynic solons in our hall of State,
Venting their venomed envy in debate,
Cruel and heartless as a pirate’s crew,
Shackling the many for the selfish few,
Clasping the hasp upon the book of Fate,
Seeking the elder Cain to emulate –
“Are we our brothers’ keepers?” Nay, not you!
But the great world is. War has fixed its fangs
Just once too often in the human breast,
And roused the nations to their sole surcease.
Nor shall we fail to heed our brothers’ pangs.
The serried legions of this glorious West
Shall head the vanguard of the hosts of Peace!

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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Slaughter’s way. No laurel wreath can wake the silent dead.

January 20, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Nathaniel Hawthorne on war: Drinking out of skulls till the Millennium

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Nathaniel Hawthorne
Forms of Heroes

Ye Forms of Heroes slumb’ring here,
Beneath these tombstones cold and drear,
On which the moss of age has slept,
Since one fond heart has o’er you wept,
Oh tell me, if a Mortal’s prayer,
Can ever wake your spirits, where
They sleep the dark dread sleep of death.
Tell me if now the laurel wreath,
Which Glory twin’d around your head,
Can wake amid the silent dead,
One glance of that proud martial blaze
Which led your feet in slaughter’s ways.

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Ernest Hartsock: Let Mars and all his mangled mourners pass

January 19, 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 Hartsock
Gotterdammerung

A god is dying, O bewildered ones,
A greybeard god, whose zealous warriors
Have cowed the dismal world with bellowing guns
Until the sky like some vast conch-shell roars.
A god is perishing from glut of praise
From hypocrites whose tawny talons gleam
With secret gold which Judas-bright betrays
Sad barter of their high birthright of dream.

Let trumpets burn with turbulence of morn!
While Jericho cracks down its house of glass.
A god is dying and a man is born;
Let Mars and all his mangled mourners pass.
Here raise the sepulcher of creeds and kings
Where peace, the Phoenix, lifts his golden wings.

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Margaret Stineback: The Unknown Soldier

January 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

Women writers on peace and war

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Margaret Stineback
The Unknown Soldier

His dreams have all grown lovely with the years
The bullet-ache within his breast has flown
As have the horrors; the dried, scarlet smears
Upon a comrade’s sleeve, the anguished groan
Of some young prisoner; the rat-a-tat
Of busy, calculating guns; the sound
Of bursting shell, of shouting; and the spat
Of wet French earth when shot ploughed through the ground.

The din has passed away. Now flowers spill
Their quiet petals like a fresh caress.
There is dim relaxation in the thrill
Of cool, rich soil, in the forgetfulness
It fosters. He is like a sleeping boy
Whose brow is damp, with tired brown curls that cling.
He has that same exhaustion, that same joy,
That pure oblivion of everything.

This is the Unknown Soldier. His dear grave
Is hallowed. So we, very grateful, say:
“He signifies the bravest of the brave:
He is above the common run of clay.”
Yet, what is bravery – if it must show
Its potency in carnage? Oh, they tread
The truest road of bravery who go
Along the path of Peace – God’s path – instead!

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D. A. Wilson: Who Won the War?

January 17, 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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D. A. Wilson
Who Won the War?

Who won the war?
“I” mutters Foch.
“For I hammered the Boche,
I won the war, I won the war!”

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
“We” said the Yanks,
“With machine guns and tanks,
We won the war, we won the war!”

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
Silent the dead,
By them naught is said,
They won the war, they won the war!

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
Nothing was won,
Yet the world was undone,
Damned is the war, damned is the war!

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

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James Norman Hall: Broken, bleeding bodies with all their beauty gone

January 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

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James Norman Hall
In Flanders

Could you have seen them marching
Ten thousand men in line
You would have said that war must be
Adventurous and fine.
You would have felt your pulses beat
Fast to the tread of marching feet.

Could you have seen them marching
Under the June blue skies
With all the glory of their youth
Shining in their eyes,
You would have bade them all God speed
To battle at their country’s need.

But had you seen them creeping back
In the grey, grey dawn,
The broken, bleeding bodies
With all their beauty gone,
Oh! never could you cheer again
To see ten thousand fighting men.

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Hermann Hagedorn: How to engineer a war

January 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

Hermann Hagedorn: Slaughter! And voices, begging shrill the merciful grace of death.

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

PRIME MINISTER

[Rising, with the message in his hand.

Gentlemen, I have seen fit to abbreviate the King’s message. I have not altered a word nor added a word. I have merely omitted all that did not seem to me pertinent or useful. The message reads as follows: “The King sent for the Ambassador of the Republic this afternoon and outlined a plan that would satisfy the royal government. The Ambassador regretted that he was unable to consider any compromise. The King replied that then he could have nothing more to say in the matter.”

MINISTER Of WAR

There’s ginger, by Heaven! The other was a dove-peep to a parley. This is a trumpet call of defiance.

CHIEF OF STAFF

[With quiet delight.

The Republic will never swallow that.

PRIME MINISTER

They are not supposed to. They will declare war, and then be the aggressors.

MINISTER Of WAR

[Exultantly.

Our God of old lives yet and will not let us perish in disgrace!

CHIEF OF STAFF

[Looking about.

My helmet. Damn it! Where is my helmet? I am going to dig at the plans once more. If God lets me lead the armies in such a fight, the devil can come when I’m through and fetch away the old carcass.

PRIME MINISTER

[To MINISTER Of WAR.

Where’s your Secretary?

MINISTER Of WAR

[Crossing to door.

Secretary, here!

[Secretary enters.

PRIME MINISTER

[Handing him the paper.

To the telegraph-operator with this. It is to be sent to every news bureau in the city and to all our embassies abroad.

MINISTER Of WAR

Tomorrow, the mobilization!

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Théodore Jean: The God of War

January 14, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Théodore Jean
The God of War
Translated by Ernest Crosby

O be it! Our globe is but a hell
Of torments, crimes, and sins abhorred,
Where Force by dint of fire and sword
Subdues his victims all too well….

O god whom patriots adore,
I scorn thee; for in thee I see
The symbol of barbarity.
Therefore I hate thee, god of war!

As mothers curse thee, so curse I –
Mothers whose sons were racked with pain,
Whose mutilated bodies slain
Are heaped in vain beneath the sky.

With pick and hammer let us rise
And break this idol-shape of stone,
Breathing forth slaughter from his throne
Hid in the inmost shrine of lies.

Down with the temple which above
Sets up a blood-bespattered rag
And let us with a world-wide flag
Find freedom in the work of love.

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Marion Doyle: Mars and Kings have silenced all their singing

January 13, 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

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Marion Doyle
Spendidly Dead
(After reading “For Poets Slain in War”)

“Splendidly dead,” who dares such maudlin singing!
Seeger, Kilmer, Pearse, Brooke, and Péguy
Men who would today be gladly bringing
Daring gifts of song to tired humanity,
Sacrificed to Power’s lust for power,
Masked beneath the lie: “For Home and Honor.”
“Splendidly dead”- the pride of manhood’s flower
Crucified upon the cross of horror?

Face the truth: what need now to dissemble?
Mars and Kings have silenced all their singing;
They are dust and yet we start and tremble
At the white dove’s perilous slow winging….

Never I hear of their “splendid dying”
But I hear the voice of lost song crying.

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Xenophon: Selections on war and peace

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment
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Jean Blewett: Above the din of martial clamor, a crying in the dark

January 11, 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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Jean Blewett
Soldiers All

They’re praying for the soldier lads in grim old London town;
Last night I went, myself, and heard a bishop in his gown
Confiding to the Lord of Hosts his views of this affair.
“We do petition Thee,” he said, “to have a watchful care
Of all the stalwart men and strong who at their country’s call
Went sailing off to Africa to fight, perchance to fall!”
“Amen!” a thousand voices cried. I whispered low: “Dear Lord,
A host is praying for the men, I want to say a word
For those who stay at home and wait – the mothers and the wives.
Keep close to them and help them bear their cheerless, empty lives!”

The Bishop prayed: “Our cause is good, our quarrel right and just;
The God of battles is our God, and in His arm we trust.”
He never got that prayer of his in any printed book,
It came straight from the heart of him, his deep voice, how it shook!
And something glistened in his eye and down his flushed cheek ran.
I like a Bishop best of all when he is just a man.

“Amen!” they cried out louder still, but I bent low my head;
“Dear Christ, be kind to hearts that break for loved ones dying – dead;
Keep close to women folk who wait beset with anxious fears,
The wan-faced watchers whose dim eyes are filled with bitter tears!
I know, dear Christ, how hard it is,” I whispered as I kneeled,
“For long ago my bonnie boy fell on the battlefield.
Find comfort for the broken hearts of those weighed down to-day
With love and longing for the ones in danger far away.”

“They will not shrink,” the Bishop prayed, “nor fear a soldier’s grave;
Nay, each man will acquit himself like Briton true and brave.
God of battles, march with them, keep guard by day and night,
And arm them with a trust in Thee when they go up to fight!”

“Amen!” a sound of muffled sobs. The deep voice trembled some,
But I, with hot tears on my face, prayed hard for those at home:
“Keep watch and ward of all that wait in fever of unrest,
Who said good-bye and let them go, the ones they loved the best!
O comfort, Christ! Above the din of martial clamor, hark!
The saddest sound in all God’s world – a crying in the dark.”

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Peace

Unbroken peace, I ween, is sweeter far
Than reconciliation. Love’s red scar,
Though salved with kiss of penitence, and tears,
Remains, full oft, unhealed through all the years.

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Verner von Heidenstam: The cloth versus khaki

January 10, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Scandinavian writers on peace and war

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

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Verner von Heidenstam
From The Charles Men
Translated by Charles Wharton Stork

“Johannes,” said Kerstin Bure to her sixteen-year-old foster-son, with a hardness in her voice that he had never heard before, “you are meant to keep devoutly to your books and some day wear a pastor’s surplice as my sainted father did, but not to lose your blood in worldly feuds. Stick your tinder-box and clasp-knife in your jacket and tie your leather coat at your belt! Go then out into the woods and keep yourself well hid there until we have peace in the land! Before that I do not wish to see you again. Remember that! You hear now how the men shout in the church square, but mayhap their mouths will soon be stopped with black earth.”

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The king said: “Assuredly you are a wise man. Should you also have courage to stand where bullets are whistling?”

Num Eddaula lowered his turban, and reflectively stroked the white beard which reached to his
waist. “I belong to the Truth-tellers’ Brotherhood and may not attribute to myself any virtue. But do you that are a hero answer me this: If your first teacher said to you, ‘Do not kill, do not kill even on a heap of embers the ugliest and fiercest of animals’ – if the noble pashas around you and all men should say every morning, ‘Do not kill, for that is a sin. Stay at home in your kingdom and watch over the harvests, although you win no fame therewith’ – should you have courage for that? Have you courage in misfortune to humble yourself and admit yourself conquered and to forgive your enemies and tormentors?”

The king knitted his brows: “Should not a good soldier rather show himself staunch?”

“You that hate lying and never wished that others should pretend you to be more perfect than
you are, high is your forehead and noble, large are your eyes, but you have an evil line at your tightly pressed mouth. People think that it smiles, but it does not smile. It is something quite other that the lips indicate. They tempt God. They say that your will is His. You gathered your people, and they were smitten. When God has smitten a people. He rolls a heavy boulder upon the grave and ordains quietness. He desires to see once more yellow fields and playing children. But you continue the strife, and against Him. The testifiers of truth – all the steadfast ones who in prosperity are humble, in misfortune are proud – these have roused themselves from their thoughts to see you; and now they turn away. It may be that your land has brought forth many great men and kings, but could any of them from the beginning stand forth better fitted for a warrior of light than you? You feared oblivion. A star was to have been kindled on your grave to burn for thousands of years. But fate was against you, because God willed to smite you and your people. Fulfill, then, your hero’s task! Put away vain reputation, as you have despised the wine-cup and women. Do it humbly or do it proudly, whichever you can. Go forth and set yourself in the place of the conquered and the destitute. Go forth and set yourself, like Job, upon a heap of ashes. You can control your countenance; control yourself likewise. You are capable of more than you perform. That is what God never forgives in a hero. Never did He raise on His right hand a more transparent pure jewel than you, and never did He in His wrath fling His own handiwork so deep in the darkness – and therefore I love you, because you are human. Of all the men I have met, none have I loved as you, no one. Beware, beware! for there are others, too, that love you and are far more dangerous than your worst enemies and traducers.”

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Early next morning Num Eddaula was executed before the tent of the sultan. The confident certainty of oblivion spread its tranquillity over his last hour. The servant buried his body apart between two cypresses. When the grave was shovelled in again, he strewed over it grains of maize for the doves, which gathered in hundreds from grove and tree. Soon bushes with white flowers sprang up from the earth. Tired soldiers and herdsmen found there a shady spot and often lay down to rest awhile on the grass. It was a sacred place. There slept a forgotten man.

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Robert Montgomery: War

January 9, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Robert Montgomery
War

The smoke, the thunder, and the din of War!
Loud as an ocean leaping into life
I hear the storm of battle swell. Advance;
And listen to the cloud-ascending peals
Of Cannon, from whose lips a lightning glares!
Hark! how the bugle-echoes beat the air,
And how the deep-roll’d drums their wrath resound,
While on the throbbing Earth the Sun looks down
Like a dread war-fiend, with a fierce delight.
Death! here thou art and here the flashing swords
Shall reap thy harvest, and devoted souls
By thousands rush into the hands of God!

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Frances Brown: An avenger mightier than war

January 8, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Irish writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Frances Brown
From The Burning of the Tower of London

In war you have shatter’d both sceptre and spear –
But flee for a greater than Britain is here.
Thou stronghold of glory, though wide was thy fame,
And minstrel and story have hallow’d thy name,
Yet in thee were found the dark stains of the past –
And see, an avenger hath entered at last!
Long, long hast thou boasted the treasures of war
Thy victors had gather’d from nations afar;
The realm of the North gave her iron-bound toil,
And the lands of the sunrise their gold-cover’d spoil;
But the trophies of ages are perishing now,
In the wrath of a Spoiler yet mightier than thou.
Who spares not the ransom’d from Ocean’s deep ire –
For strong to destroy is the angel of fire.

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Elihu Burritt: Dismantled Arsenals. Death, sin and Satan weep over the grave of their renowned confederate, War.

January 7, 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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Elihu Burritt
Dismantled Arsenals

We love to contemplate the ruins of those black-looking war-factories that were wont to pour forth a stream that gladdened the fellest spirit that ever breathed on this green world. There they stand in haggard desolation, like things built before the sun was made, and unable to bear its light; or like a bloated, ragged drunkard before a mirror with a thousand angel faces in it. Still and cold is now that terrible, mysterious enginery that turned the best things nature ever made for man into lava-streams of hot poison, that burnt his heart up with fierce inhuman passions. And those coiled, copper-coloured worms are dead – the greedy metallic snakes that devoured whole fields of yellow grain a day, the bread for which a thousand widows prayed, and plied their lean fingers at the midnight hour. They are dead! and when they died, their fiery malignant ghosts, I trow, were expelled the fellowship of better spirits in the bottomless pit, that could not brook their alcoholic breath. They are dead, the skulking reptiles! that, half-buried in the earth, poured invisible their rivulets of blighting ruin into the fountains of human happiness and life; that stung to death, in the sunniest walks of youth, hopes that took hold of heaven, of earth, of the love and joy of a thousand hearts. They are dead! and the stream is dry that fed the veins of War with hot vitality. And, next, that monstrous Gorgon will die. Depend upon it; War never had in its devil’s heart any other blood than rum. Nay, its heart itself is but a vast distillery, keeping its huge veins and arteries full of that fiery fluid. The vat of fermenting grain and cane juice is the stomach of War, and the stillworm its viscera. These are the nutritive and digestive organs of the great red dragon : and for this, – like other dragons killed in olden times – it must be mortal; for rum is mortal, and all its fiery fountains will dry up, while the earth is full of springs of water, pure and sweet as that which the sinless Adam drank out of the hand of God. Will war die ? War that claimed the immortality of Death and Sin? Yes; and Death, and Sin, and Satan, will live to weep over the grave of their renowned confederate. And such a funeral! methinks I see it now. The earth, sea, and sky, are vibrating with joyous emotion, and there is gladness in the heart of every living thing. The dust of fourteen thousand million of human beings butchered in the battle-field, stirs into life and form: and up springing from their coral graves and caverns fathomless in the sea, myriads of human skeletons leap upon the land and clap their bony hands in triumph, and around the globe runs the exulting gibber of “the sheeted dead,” that the great Destroyer has fallen. And yonder, methinks, there rolls a sea, full fifty fathoms deep – a dark, dead, salt sea of tears, fed by the outlets of a hundred thousand millions of human eyes that wept at War’s doings. And now a wailing wind, a monsoon of widows’ and orphans’ sighs moves over the briny deep, and lifts its bitter waves in sympathy with the world’s jubilee. And Labour, wan, dejected Labour, at whose veins the monster fed, runs up and down the green hills exulting to see the curse removed. And red-handed Slavery, the eldest thing of the leprous beast, lets go from her palsied hands the bonded millions she held with iron grasp, to throw their fetters into the grave of war, and shout for joy with all the sons of God that man is free. And all beings that live and love the face of man, the face of nature – that love to look up into the pure, peaceful sky, and on the peaceful sea, and fields and flocks, – that love to commune with the silent harmonies of the great creation, and listen to the music of unreasoning things, – all these fill the heavens with one jubilate! that the great CANNIBAL is dead – the great MAN-EATER, that, whetting its appetite on the flesh of Abel, ate up a large portion of the human race, and enslaved the rest to cater to the appetites of its wolfish maw.

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

January 6, 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

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Mary McDermott Santley
The Bow of Peace

I
Ah, it was glorious, my heart, that day,
When all the winds were let loose on the hill,
And clouds the great sky-dome hastened to fill,
To stand up wrathful, as in vengeful fray;
Then, quick, serenely lighted with a ray
Of sheen about their edges, in a frill,
Bright, from the central sun on God’s own hill;
For majestic power ruled in love that day.
Oh, in smoky-silver curtains, how the rain
Swayed with the wind and cracked its sheets of wet!
Its fury spent, the furrowed cheek of the hill
It kissed; and we knew, heart and I, again,
When the wondrous bow in the clouds was set,
That peace enfolded us, and all things, still.

II
Peace wraps the hill in mantle of soft light.
‘Tis kin to fragrance; ’tis like unto rest
Granted after turmoil in the long quest
Of an anguished soul for heavenly light,
When darkness flees and comes a radiance bright
Of all God’s signs most beautiful and best,
From distant east the bow spans to the west,
And all the world’s encompassed by His might.
Benignly mirrored in the ordered rays
From violet through the prism to the red.
‘Tis precious promise from unchanging Mind,
Witness of Love’s unforgetting tender ways.
“My Peace I give you,” the great Master said.
The serene light of peace – to all mankind.

III
“Oh, wondrous day, when tempests all had fled
And over earth at first pale sunlight lay,
Quiet forerunner of a brighter ray.
And royal purple curtains wide were spread,
Then veiled by mists of soft and shad’wy red.
High circling over all, a shining way,
A bow of solvent gems of every ray
Of light and color from Love’s hand had sped!
And this not all, for on that day my shroud.
Leather-darkness, fell heavy at my feet.
At first, all seemed, to me, but softly bright;
Then quick there was nor heaviness nor cloud.
For Christ had spoken in His accents sweet
And flashed the brightness of His coming – Light!

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Lily Alice Lefevre: The Bridge of Peace

January 5, 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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Lily Alice Lefevre
The Bridge of Peace

Steadfast we stood, for we had feared to see
Above the murky depths of war and gloom,
Some flowery path miraged on mists of death
To lure the world, unwary, to its doom.
Long had we gazed into that dread abyss
Which hid our dearest, bravest, from our sight.
And prayed that He who is the Way should guide
Our steps through grief and darkness to the light.

Behold! He sends His angel, laurel-crowned,
The Builder, Peace. With labour grave and wise.
Justice and Truth she lays secure and deep.
Beneath her feet their strong foundations rise;
Her hand has set the arch of Freedom high.
The gulf of bitter hate and loss to span
We pass victorious to a world new-born.
The reign of Right, the Brotherhood of Man!

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John Drinkwater: I sing of peace while nations market in death

January 4, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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John Drinkwater
Of Greatham
(To Those Who Live There)

For peace, than knowledge more desirable,
Into your Sussex quietness I came,
When summer’s green and gold and azure fell
Over the world in flame.

And peace upon your pasture-lands I found,
Where grazing flocks drift on continually,
As little clouds that travel with no sound
Across a windless sky.

Out of your oaks the birds call to their mates
That brood among the pines, where hidden deep
From curious eyes a world’s adventure waits
In columned choirs of sleep.

Under the calm ascension of the night
We heard the mellow lapsing and return
Of night-owls purring in their groundling flight
Through lanes of darkling fern.

Unbroken peace when all the stars were drawn
Back to their lairs of light, and ranked along
From shire to shire the downs out of the dawn
Were risen in golden song.

I sing of peace who have known the large unrest
Of men bewildered in their travelling;
And I have known the bridal earth unblest
By the brigades of spring.

I have known that loss. And now the broken thought
Of nations marketing in death I know,
The very winds to threnodies are wrought
That on your downlands blow.

I sing of peace. Was it but yesterday
I came among your roses and your corn?
Then momently amid this wrath
I pray For yesterday reborn.

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Katrina Trask: Civilized warfare

January 3, 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

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Katrina Trask
From In the Vanguard

FIRST SOLDIER
Leaning on the piano and talking so loudly that his voice rises above the din of Philip’s music. Say – I was only taking the rights of war.

PHILIP
Scornfully, emphasising his words with loud musical chords. The rights of war! The rights of war! We fight, we win a battle, we invade this country, we come to this house, we take possession of it; a mother is dying up stairs, the servants have run away, a young inexperienced girl is alone. We desecrate the house, smash her jimcracks – (waving his hand towards the room). We smoke out her violet perfume with rank tobacco , make her wait on us and then kiss her by force! By Jove! It cuts!

FIRST SOLDIER
She’s damned lucky. If she had lived years ago – in fact, if she lived now in Turkey or any other
barbarous country – she would be lying in a pool of blood . But in civilised warfare –

PHILIP
Impatiently.
In civilised warfare we can be as uncivilised as we please provided it is “civilised warfare.”

****

Philip pours water from his canteen and holds it to the Enemy’s lips.

PHILIP
Here – take this water.

THE ENEMY
Turning away.
Water – from you? Not if I were in Hell!

PHILIP
Please take it from me – we are both soldiers.

THE ENEMY
I’m not a soldier now – I am just a man – blown to atoms – and cut to shreds – going out into the dark.

PHILIP
You are feverish. Please take this water.

THE ENEMY
I am not feverish. I am perfectly sane – sane – for the first time in all my life. I see clearly for the first time – I tell you death takes the blood mist from our eyes.

PHILIP
Then, if you are sane, remember your code.

THE ENEMY
Code be damned! Men trick themselves with lies. I see it all now – all the artificial stuff. I have wouldn’t blow a dog to atoms, for any reason, as I have blown my fellow-men for years – and never thought about it – as you have blown me.

PHILIP
Sternly.
Don’t say that again!

THE ENEMY
With a harsh laugh.
Ha! How particular we are about names! Call a man a brave soldier and his gold-embroidered
breast swells, he is puffed up with pride. Call a man a murderer and he is ready to knock you down.

****

THE ENEMY
O I’ll die like a soldier all right – that doesn’t trouble me – what troubles me is that I’ve been killing like a soldier for ten years – I tell you, dying opens the door and one sees a new view. I thought I was a fine hero and I find I’m just a common murderer – a wholesale murderer!

****

THE ENEMY
…Killing is against the Law – the law of God – the law of Society – the inner law of Conscience. Calling it fine names doesn’t change it. It has been murder in the first degree, for it was intent. Every shot the army fired was intendedaimedplanned to kill, and I was a part of each purpose – each intent.

****

That’s funny too. Blow a man to pieces in the name of patriotism, and then try to patch the pieces together in the name of humanity. It’s really comic when you come to think about it – I won’t be party to such a farce any longer. There’s no help for me now, and besides – I wouldn’t take it from an enemy!

There is an awful silence, broken only by the ominous sound in the man ‘s throat and by piteous sounds that come from the battle-field.

****

PHILIP
I should rather you would turn me out of the house than –

MRS. GORDON
Interrupting.
You know, Philip, I would not turn you out of the house for anything; not even if you had committed murder.

PHILIP
I have.

MRS. GORDON
Startled.
What, Philip?

PHILIP
Committed murder.

MRS. GORDON
Turning pale.
What do you mean?

PHILIP
I have killed men –

Mrs. GORDON
In a tone of horror.
Philip!

PHILIP
In battle.

MRS. GORDON
Looking much relieved.
What a turn you gave me! I thought you meant you had actually murdered; I do not know what to expect from you these days.

PHILIP
I do mean just that. Killing is killing – is it not? Wherever it is done.

MRS. GORDON
Mercy, no; that’s very different.

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

January 2, 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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Bertha von Suttner
From Lay Down Your Arms
The Autobiography of Martha von Tilling

Translated by T. Holmes

We ourselves were so happy that we would gladly have seen all the world – aye, and future generations too – assured of the treasures of all life’s joys. Yet we did not shut our eyes to the misery in which the greater part of mankind was groaning, and in which, for some generations at any rate, they must continue to groan – poverty, ignorance, want of freedom, exposed to so many dangers and ills; and among these ills the most dreadful of all – War. “Ah, could one contribute anything towards warding it off?” This wish often sprang with groans from our hearts; but the contemplation of the prevailing circumstances and views was enough to discourage us and make us feel that it was impossible. Alas! the beautiful dream that for every one it might “be well with them, and they might live long upon the earth” could not be fulfilled, at least not at present.

====

A stab of pain shot through my soul, a pain which united into one twenty different fancies: war; and he, my All, would have to go, would be crippled, shot dead; the child in my bosom, whose coming he had greeted with such joy yesterday, would be born into the world an orphan; all destroyed, all destroyed, our happiness yet scarcely full-blown, but bearing the promise of such rich fruit! This danger in the one scale – and in the other – ? Austria’s consideration in the German Bund, the liberation of Schleswig-Holstein, “fresh laurels in the army’s crown of glory” – i.e., a lot of phrases for school themes and army proclamations – and even that only dubious, for defeat is always just as possible as victory. And this supposed benefit to the country is to be set against not one individual’s suffering – mine – but thousands and thousands of individuals in our own and in the enemy’s country must be exposed to the same pain as was now quivering through me. Oh! could not this be prevented? Could it not be warded off? If all were to unite, all learned, good, and just men to avert the threatened evil!

====

When the sword is once drawn nothing more is necessary than to shout “Hurrah,” and press hotly on to victory. Besides that, all that is necessary is to invoke the blessing of heaven on the war. For so much is certain, that it must be the business of the Almighty to see that the Protocol of the 8th May is maintained, and the Law of 5th November repealed. He must conduct the matter so that the precise number of men bleed to death and villages are set on fire, that are necessary in order that the family of Glückstadt, or that of Augustenburg should rule over a particular spot of earth. What a foolish world – still in leading strings – cruel, unthinking! Such was the result of my historical studies.

====

“The butchery lasted more than two hours, and we remained as I said, in possession of the field. The routed enemy fled. We did not pursue. We had work enough to do on the field. A hundred paces distant from the village stood a large farmhouse, with many empty dwelling-rooms and stables; here we were to rest for the night and hither we have brought our wounded. The burial of the dead is to be done to-morrow morning. Some of the living will, of course, be shovelled in with them, for the ‘stiff cramp’ after a severe wound is a common phenomenon. Many who have remained out, whether dead or wounded, or even unwounded, we are obliged to abandon entirely, especially those who are lying under the ruins of the fallen houses. There they may, if dead, moulder slowly where they are; if wounded, bleed slowly to death; if unwounded, die slowly of famine. And we, hurrah! may go on with our jolly, joyous war!…

“Why am I writing all this to you? Why do I not break out, as a warrior should, into exalted hymns of triumph over our warlike work? Why? Because I thirst after truth, and after its expression without any reserve; because at all times I hate lying phrases; but at this moment, when I am so near death myself, and am speaking to you who, perhaps, are yourself lying in the death-agony, it presses on me doubly to speak what is in my heart. Even though a thousand others should think differently, or should hold themselves bound at least to speak differently, I will, nay, I must say it once more before I fall a sacrifice to war – I hate war. If only every man who feels the same would dare to proclaim it aloud, what a threatening protest would be shouted out to heaven! All the hurrahs which are now resounding, and all the cannon-thunder that accompanies them, would then be drowned by the battle-cry of humanity panting after humanity, by the victorious cry denouncing ‘war on war’.”

====

“I recognised too soon that the desire for battle was not a super-human but an infra-human feeling, no mystic revelation from the realms of the morning, but a reminiscence of the realm of the animal, a re-awakening of the brutal. And a man who can intoxicate himself into a savage lust for blood, who – as I have seen several of our men do – can cut down with uplifted sabre an unarmed enemy, who can sink into a Berserker, or lower still, a blood-thirsty tiger – that is the man who, for the moment, revels in the ‘joy of battle’. I never did this. Believe me, my wife; I never did….”

====

“Every war, however it may turn out, inevitably contains within itself the germ of a succeeding war. Very naturally; for an act of violence always violates some right. Sooner or later this right raises its claims, and the new conflict breaks out, is then again brought to a conclusion by force pregnant with injustice, and so on, ad infinitum.”

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Joseph Fawcett: The distempered dream of war

January 1, 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

There, froze with fatal terror, he had stood
For ever fix’d, by the cold horror held
For ever fast, nor more releas’d to life
By th’ unrelenting ice – had then a voice,
Sounding from Heav’n, the palsied fire inform’d,
That most inhuman and most monstrous deed ,
Of stormiest passion born, with wildness done,
And first-seen, swift-seiz’d weapon, when no eye
Witness’d its wondrous horror, – was to be
The settled practice of his frantic race!
By his mad children methodiz’d to art!

Nam’d Noble Science! in the number rank’d
Of fair-reputed callings, thick that throng
The door of active life, and court the choice
Of doubtful youth! among the paths that lead
To Fame’s high fane, among the Muse’s themes
Plac’d eminent in front! no deed of night!
That seeks disguise; ambitious of the day!
Provok’d and spurr’d by the inspiring thought,
“All eyes shall see me!” Gracefully perform’d,
With beauteous instruments from whose bright face
The beams of day rebound gay blazing back;
With no infuriate look, no quaking nerve,
But with sedate, unruffled feature done!
Nor stinted to one solitary act!
By multitude on multitude committed!

Like some distemper’d dream, that only shows
Strange monstrous shapes, and all things represents
Turn’d upside down, in wild confusion tost,
War, thy wild picture to mine eye appears!
Am I awake? or is this world, so long
That to my mind substantial stuff hath seem’d,
Unreal apparition? painted air?
Mad Fancy’s work, while troubled slumber binds
My feverish frame in startful rest reclin’d ?
And shall I soon to sober certainty
Of other and of fairer scene arise,
(Soon as th’ oppression from my brain hath past)
And, recollecting these fantastic forms
That long have mock’d me, to my fellows tell,
How strange a vision visited my sleep?

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Edythe C. Toner: The Wraiths

December 31, 2020 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

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Edythe C. Toner
The Wraiths

Hosts of the martyred dead!
In dreams I see them pass –
Pale, wistful shadows
In their march
Upon the soundless grass.
And gleaming with the lustre
Of a star strewn sky,
I see long rows
Of glistening stones
Which mark the place of rest
Of these
Who now pass by!

I hear no sound of music
But a muffled drum
Beating a slow retreat….
A bugle in the distance
Calling: “Come!”
And back in the void they go,
These sad, reproachful young
And silent wraiths.

Then: From out the cool-gray depths
Of darkling forest glen
Which held these lads
Within its drear retreat
I hear a cry!
Ceaseless…Moaning…Wavering
…As the eternal billows’ hollow beat
Upon the shore which bounds
The longing Sea
From out the melancholy distance
Floating…Echoing…Sighing
…Back to me!
“Why…Why…Why…
Should we who were so young
And so in love with life,
Thus die…Thus die?”

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John Oxenham: The Stars’ Accusal

December 30, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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John Oxenham (William Arthur Dunkerley)
The Stars’ Accusal

How can the makers of unrighteous wars
Stand the accusal of the watchful stars?

To stand –
A dust-speck, facing the infinitudes
Of Thine unfathomable dome, a night like this, –
To stand full-face to Thy High Majesties,
Thy myriad worlds in solemn watchfulness, –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

Dear Lord, one wonders that Thou bearest still
With man on whom Thou didst such grace bestow,
And with his wilful faculty for woe!

Those sleepless sentinels! They may be worlds
All peopled like our own. But, as I stand,
They are to me the myriad eyes of God, –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

And then – to think
What those same piercing eyes look down upon
Elsewhere on this fair earth that Thou hast made! –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

-On all the desolations he hath wrought,
-On all the passioned hatreds he hath taught,
-On all Thy great hopes he hath brought to nought; –
-Man rending man with ruthless bitterness,
-Blasting Thine image into nothingness,
-Hounding Thy innocents to awful deaths,
And worse than deaths! Happy the dead, who sped
Before the torturers their lust had fed!
-On Thy Christ crucified afresh each day,
-On all the horrors of War’s grim red way.
And ever, in Thy solemn midnight skies,
Those myriad, sleepless, vast accusing eyes, –
Watching, watching, watching all below,
And man in all his wilfulness for woe!

Dear Lord! –
When in our troubled hearts we ponder this,
We can but wonder at Thy wrath delayed, –
We can but wonder that Thy hand is stayed, –
We can but wonder at Thy sufferance
Of man, whom Thou in Thine own image made,
When he that image doth so sore degrade!

If Thou shouldst blot us out without a word,
Our stricken souls must say we had incurred
Just punishment.
Warnings we lacked not, warnings oft and clear,
But in our arrogance we gave no ear
To Thine admonishment.

And yet, – and yet! O Lord, we humbly pray, –
Put back again Thy righteous Judgment Day!
Have patience with us yet a while, until
Through these our sufferings we learn Thy Will.

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Olive Tilford Dargan: Beyond War

December 29, 2020 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

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Olive Tilford Dargan
Beyond War

I
Now seres the planet like a leaf
On burnt and shaken Ygdrasil.
What voice have we for this wide ill?
How shall we mourn when God in grief
Bows for a world he made and lost
At love’s eternal cost?

‘Tis not that brides shall turn to stone,
And mothers bend with bitter cry
Cursing the day they did not die
When daring death they bore a son,
And waifs shall lift their thin hands up
For famine’s empty cup;

‘Tis not that piled in bleeding mounds
These fathers, sons, and brothers moan,
Or torn upon the seas go down
Glad that the waves may hide their wounds;
Not that the lips that knew our kiss
Are parched and black, but this:

That thou must pause, O vaulting Mind,
Untrammelled leaper in the sun;
Pause, stricken by the spear of one,
The savage thou hadst left behind;
Fall, gibber, fade, and final pass,
Less than returning grass:

That Hate shall end what Love began,
And strip from Life her human boast,
The Maker’s whitest dream be lost,
The dream he trusted to the Man,
The Man who upright rose and stared
Farther than eagle dared:

That now the red lust blinds the eye
That bore the vision, held the star;
And where Life’s fossil recreants are
Another bone and skull shall lie,
While she to dust must stoop again
To build her more than men.

II.
But as the blackest marble’s lit
With struggle of a birthless dawn,
Nay, as behind her door undrawn
Hell forges key that opens it,
And souls that troop to light and breath
Cast habit then of death;

Our dark, this dark, wears still a gleam.
O God, thou wilt not turn thine eyes
For comfort to thine other skies,
Some other star that saved thy dream, –
Until, her gory fiends fordone,
Night wrestles to the Sun!

Canst find no cheer in this, that o’er
Our moaning, reeking battle dews,
And redder than the blood we lose,
More hot and swift, in surge before
War’s shriek and smoke, goes up as flame
The scarlet of our shame?

Stripped and unchristianed in a day,
Made naked by one blast of war,
Bare as the beast we know we are,
Not less shame marks the man, and they
Who wear with blush the fang and claw
May yet make love their law.

For “honor” lift we dripping hands.
For “home” we loose the storm of steel
Till over earth Thy homeless reel.
For “country!” – Thine are all the lands.
We pray, but thou hast seen our dead
Who knew not why they bled.

So warm were they, with destinies
Like straining stars that lustrously
Bore Goethes, Newtons not to be.
(“Long live the king!”) So warm were these
That dropped, and the cold moon alone
May count them, stone by stone.

Ah, Courage, what slain dreams of men
Thy blind, brave eyes here shut upon!
Let reckoners to come outrun
This unstanched loss. Dumb until then,
We wet Eternity with tears;
The aching score is hers.

III.
O Brothers of the lyre and reed,
Lend not a note to this wild fray,
Where Christ still cries in agony
“They know not, Father, thou dost bleed!”
Cast here no song, like flower prest
To Slaughter’s seething breast.

But be the minstrel breath of Peace;
For her alone lift up your lyre,
Mad with the old celestial fire,
Or on our earth let music cease,
While keep we day and night the long
Dumb funeral of Song.

And if among ye one should rise,
Blind garlander of armored crime,
Trailing the jungle in a rhyme,
Let him be set ‘neath blackened skies
By mourning doors, and there begin
The last chant of our sin,

Long gone the warrior’s dancing plume
That played o’er battle’s early day;
Now must his song be laid away,
Child-relic, that was glory’s bloom;
And Man who cannot sing his scars,
Is he not done with wars?

Ay, hearts deny the feet of haste,
And as they muster, oh, they break!
Hate’s loudest fife no more can wake
In them the lust to kill and waste,
And madly perish, fool on fool,
That Might, the brute, may rule.

We hope! Love walks thee yet, O Earth!
Through thy untunable days she glows
A bowed but yet untrampled rose,
Wearing the fearless flush of birth, –
Yea, in our songless shame doth see
Thyself her harp to be!

Ye ages turning men to mould,
Yours be the past, the future ours!
God hear us! There are infant powers
Stronger than giant sins of old!
To all the hells that are and were
Man rises challenger.

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E. E. Cummings: Detention camp during wartime

December 28, 2020 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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E. E. Cummings
From The Enormous Room

In a little over two hours I learned an astonishing lot about La Ferté itself: it was a co-educational receiving station whither were sent from various parts of France (a) males suspected of espionage and (b) females of a well-known type found in the zone of the armies. It was pointed out to me that the task of finding such members of the human race was pas difficile: in the case of the men, any foreigner would do provided his country was neutral (e.g. Holland); as for the girls, inasmuch as the armies of the Allies were continually retreating, the zone des armées (particularly in the case of Belgium) was always including new cities, whose petites femmes became automatically subject to arrest. It was not to be supposed that all the women of La Ferté were putains: there were a large number of respectable women, the wives of prisoners, who met their husbands at specified times on the floor below the men’s quarters, whither man and woman were duly and separately conducted by plantons. In this case no charges had been preferred against the women; they were voluntary prisoners, who had preferred to freedom this living in proximity to their husbands. Many of them had children; some babies. In addition there were certain femmes honnêtes whose nationality, as in the case of the men, had cost them their liberty; Marguerite the washerwoman, for example, was a German.

====

The planton who suffered all these indignities was a solemn youth with wise eyes situated very far apart in a mealy expressionless ellipse of face, to the lower end of which clung a piece of down, exactly like a feather sticking to an egg. The rest of him was fairly normal with the exception of his hands, which were not mates; the left being considerably larger, and made of wood.

I was at first somewhat startled by this eccentricity; but soon learned that with the exception of two or three, who formed the Surveillant’s permanent staff and of whom the beefy one was a shining example, all the plantons were supposed to be unhealthy; they were indeed the disabled whom le gouvernement français sent from time to time to La Ferté and similar institutions for a little outing, and as soon as they had recovered their health under these salubrious influences they were shipped back to do their bit for world-safety, democracy, freedom, etc., in the trenches.

====

“He’s a son-of-a-bitch,” B. said heartily. “They took me up to him when I came two days ago. As soon as he saw me he bellowed: ‘Imbécile et inchrétien!’; then he called me a great lot of other things, including Shame of my country, Traitor to the sacred cause of Liberty, Contemptible coward and Vile sneaking spy. When he got all through I said ‘I don’t understand French.’ You should have seen him then.”

====

Last, I found a drawing surrounded by a scrolled motto. The drawing was a potted plant with four blossoms. The four blossoms were elaborately dead. Their death was drawn with a fearful care. An obscure deliberation was exposed in the depiction of their drooping petals. The pot tottered very crookedly on a sort of table, as near as I could see. All around ran a funereal scroll. I read: “My farewell to my beloved wife, Gaby.” A fierce hand, totally distinct from the former, wrote in proud letters above: “Punished for desertion. Six years of prison – military degradation.”

====

There were various cabinots: each sex had its regular cabinot, and there were certain extra ones. B. knew all about them from Harree and Pompom, who spent nearly all their time in the cabinot. They were rooms about nine feet square and six feet high. There was no light and no floor, and the ground (three were on the ground floor) was always wet and often a good many inches under water. The occupant on entering was searched for tobacco, deprived of his or her mattress and blanket, and invited to sleep on the ground on some planks. One didn’t need to write a letter to a member of the opposite sex to get cabinot, or even to call a planton embusqué – there was a woman, a foreigner, who, instead of sending a letter to her embassy through the bureau (where all letters were read by the mail clerk to make sure that they said nothing disagreeable about the authorities or conditions of La Ferté) tried to smuggle it outside, and got twenty-eight days of cabinot. She had previously written three times, handing the letters to the Surveillant, as per regulations, and had received no reply. Fritz, who had no idea why he was arrested and was crazy to get in touch with his embassy, had likewise written several letters, taking the utmost care to state the facts only and always handing them in; but he had never received a word in return. The obvious inference was that letters from a foreigner to his embassy were duly accepted by the Surveillant (Warden), but rarely, if ever, left La Ferté.

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Hermann Hagedorn: Slaughter! And voices, begging shrill the merciful grace of death.

December 27, 2020 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

Night! And a black and barren sky
With a wet wind in from the coast.
And only the kites to make reply
To heaving body and pleading cry –
Here where the lost battalions lie,
I walked last night with a ghost.

His face was gray, his hands were red,
And a ghostly mare he rode,
That wearily stepped, with drooping head,
Over the shadowy lines of dead,
And rolled her eyes, and shook with dread
Under her foam-white load.

The ghost turned not to left or right.
But mutely he beckoned me,
And moved like a pillar of livid light
Through the humid dark of the foggy night,
With eyes deep-sunken and greenly bright
As phosphor on the sea.

He led me where in ghostly files
The dead slept with their toys.
Miles, miles, and never-ending miles,
Along the valley’s mournful aisles,
The voiceless, vague, misshapen piles
Of men and golden boys!

He led me up the gory hill
By wood and sodden heath.
Ravage! And faces, lone and chill,
In the murmuring wash of the willow-rill!
Slaughter! And voices, begging shrill
The merciful grace of death.

A waning moon broke, sickly pale,
Through the muddy fog’s disguising;
And over the breadth of the ghastly vale
The battle-wake like a steamer’s trail,
And a heaving as of waves in a gale,
Rising and falling and rising!

And out of the air, and up from the plain,
The ancient battle-story! –
Of stricken love and laughter slain,
And hearts beneath the hoofs of pain –
But not a breath of human gain,
And not a word of glory.

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Charles Wesley: No horrid alarm of war shall break our eternal repose

December 26, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Charles Wesley
All Glory to God in the Sky

All glory to God in the sky,
And peace upon earth be restor’d!
O Jesus, exalted on high,
Appear our omnipotent Lord:
Who meanly in Bethlehem born,
Didst stoop to redeem a lost race,
Once more to thy creature return,
And reign in thy kingdom of grace.

When thou in our flesh didst appear,
All nature acknowledg’d thy birth;
Arose the acceptable year,
And heaven was open’d on earth:
Receiving its Lord from above,
The world was united to bless
The giver of concord and love,
The Prince and the author of peace.

O wouldst thou again be made known,
Again in thy Spirit descend,
And set up in each of thine own,
A kingdom that never shall end!
Thou only art able to bless,
And make the glad nations obey,
And bid the dire enmity cease,
And bow the whole world to thy sway.

Come then to thy servants again,
Who long thy appearing to know,
Thy quiet and peaceable reign
In mercy establish below:
All sorrow before thee shall fly,
And anger and hatred be o’er,
And envy and malice shall die,
And discord afflict us no more.

No horrid alarm of war
Shall break our eternal repose;
No sound of the trumpet is there,
Where Jesus’s Spirit o’erflows:
Appeas’d by the charms of thy grace
We all shall in amity join,
And kindly each other embrace,
And love with a passion like thine.


Prince of peace, control my will

Prince of peace, control my will;
Bid this struggling heart be still:
Bid my fears and doubtings cease:
Hush my spirit into peace.

Thou hast bought me with Thy blood,
Opened wide the gate to God;
Peace I ask, but peace must be,
Lord, in being one with Thee.

May Thy will, not mine be done;
May Thy will and mine be one;
Chase these doubtings from my heart,
Now Thy perfect peace impart.

Savior, at Thy feet I fall,
Thou, my life, my God, my all;
Let Thy happy servant be
One forevermore with Thee.

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Alfred Dommett: A Christmas hymn. The peaceful Prince of earth and heaven.

December 25, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Alfred Dommett
A Christmas Hymn

It was the calm and silent night!
Seven hundred years and fifty-three
Had Rome been growing up to might,
And now was queen of land and sea.
No sound was heard of clashing wars, –
Peace brooded o’er the hushed domain:
Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
Held undisturbed their ancient reign,
In the solemn midnight,
Centuries ago.

‘Twas in the calm and silent night!
The senator of haughty Rome,
Impatient, urged his chariot’s flight,
From lordly revel rolling home;
Triumphal arches, gleaming, swell
His breast with thoughts of boundless sway;
What recked the Roman what befell
A paltry province far away,
In the solemn midnight,
Centuries ago?

Within that province far away
Went plodding home a weary boor;
A streak of light before him lay,
Fallen through a half-shut stable-door
Across his path. He passed, – for naught
Told what was going on within;
How keen the stars, his only thought, –
The air how calm, and cold, and thin,
In the solemn midnight,
Centuries ago!

O, strange indifference! low and high
Drowsed over common joys and cares;
The earth was still, – but knew not why;
The world was listening, unawares.
How calm a moment may precede
One that shall thrill the world forever!
To that still moment, none would heed,
Man’s doom was linked no more to sever, –
In the solemn midnight,
Centuries ago!

It is the calm and solemn night!
A thousand bells ring out, and throw
Their joyous peals abroad, and smite
The darkness, – charmed and holy now!
The night that erst no name had worn,
To it a happy name is given;
For in that stable lay, new-born,
The peaceful Prince of earth and heaven,
In the solemn midnight,
Centuries ago!

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John Greenleaf Whittier: The Gospel of Christ is peace, not war, and love, not hatred

December 24, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

John Greenleaf Whittier: Selections on peace and war

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John Greenleaf Whittier
The “Holy Experiment” of Arbitration
November 9, 1887

Dear Friend: It is a very serious disappointment to me that I am not able to be present at the welcome of the American Peace Society to the delegation from more than two hundred members of the British Parliament who favor international arbitration.

Few events have more profoundly impressed me than the presentation of this peaceful overture to the President of the United States. It seems to me that every true patriot who seeks the best interests of his country, and every believer in the Gospel of Christ, must respond to the admirable address of Sir Lyon Play fair and that of his colleagues who represent the workingmen of England.

We do not need to be told that war is always cruel, barbarous and brutal, whether urged with ball and bayonet by professed Christians or by heathen with club and boomerang.

We cannot be blind to its waste of life and treasure and the demoralization which follows in the train, nor cease to wonder at the spectacle of Christian nations exhausting all their resources in preparing to slaughter each other, with only here and there a voice like that of Count Tolstoy in the Russian wilderness, crying in heedless ears that the Gospel of Christ is peace, not war, and love, not hatred. The overture which comes to us from English advocates of arbitration is a cheering assurance that the tide of sentiment is turning in favor of peace among English-speaking peoples.

I cannot doubt that, whatever stump orators and newspapers may say for party purposes, the heart of America will respond to this generous proposal from our kin-folk across the water.

No two nations could be more favorably conditioned than England and the United States for making the “holy experiment” of arbitration. In our associations and kinship, our aims and interests, our common claims in the great names and splendid achievements of a common ancestry, we are essentially one people. Whatever other nations may do, we, at least, should be friends. God grant that this noble and generous appeal may not be made in vain. May it hasten the time when the only rivalry between us shall be the peaceful rivalry of progress and gracious interchange of good!

“When closer strand shall lean to strand
Till meet, beneath saluting flags,
The eagle of our mountain crags
The lion of our mother land.”

I am truly thy friend,
John G. Whittier

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Wilbur F. Crafts: Not mailed but nailed the hands he turned to the world

December 23, 2020 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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Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts
Enthroned Self-sacrifice

Behold the crimsoned Lamb of God,
On the throne, slain to reign;
The kingdom of this world at last
Is His own, won with pain.
The holy city cometh down,
Where greed is banished by His frown,
And service is life’s highest crown;
Gain is loss, loss is gain.

The devil’s way of force He spurned
For the way of the cross;
Not mailed but nailed the hands he turned
To the world, on the cross;
Avengers stand before the gate
At all the palaces of hate,
But gentleness hath made Thee great
On Thy throne of the cross.

Behold thy King that meekly comes,
Lord of law, Lord of love,
No soldier shouts, no flare of drums,
Sign of peace, behold the dove.
The earth, the blessing of the meek,
Is thine, O Champion of the weak;
Thy righteousness and peace we seek,
Done on earth, as above.

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Carl Sandburg: Wars

December 22, 2020 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
Wars

In the old wars drum of hoofs and the beat of shod feet.
In the new wars hum of motors and the tread of rubber tires.
In the wars to come silent wheels and whirr of rods not yet dreamed out in the heads of men.

In the old wars clutches of short swords and jabs into faces with spears.
In the new wars long range guns and smashed walls, guns running a spit of metal and men falling in tens and twenties.
In the wars to come new silent deaths, new silent hurlers not yet dreamed out in the heads of men.

In the old wars kings quarreling and thousands of men following.
In the new wars kings quarreling and millions of men following.
In the wars to come kings kicked under the dust and millions of men following great causes not yet dreamed out in the heads of men.

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A.E.F.

There will be a rusty gun on the wall, sweetheart,
The rifle grooves curling with flakes of rust.
A spider will make a silver string nest in the
darkest, warmest corner of it.
The trigger and the range-finder, they too will be rusty.
And no hands will polish the gun, and it will hang on the wall.
Forefingers and thumbs will point casually toward it.
It will be spoken among half-forgotten, whished-to-be-forgotten things.
They will tell the spider: Go on, you’re doing good work.

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Richard Le Gallienne: Christ at Notre Dame: abhorred be they who ever draw again the sword

December 22, 2020 Leave a 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

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Richard Le Gallienne
The Lord Christ Came to Notre Dame

The Lord Christ came to Notre Dame;
Unseen within the shadows there,
He heard the high resounding psalm,
The chanted immemorial prayer;
From a far wandering he had come,
The length and breadth of Christendom.

‘Twas Christmas Eve, a solemn mirth
Filled the great fane with music sweet,
Singing the gladness of his birth.
The snow was falling in the street,
The world went by with homeless feet.

“Peace and good will…” Beneath His hood
The tears stole down – His dream of good
How little men had understood,
How often, calling on His name,
Had these old streets run wild with flame,
And yonder river roared with blood!

Slaying each other for His sake,
Marching for him with fife and drum,
Building with fagot and with stake
The gentle-hearted world to come,
With torture a new world to make,
And call it Christendom;
With fury to make fury cease,
Dancing in blood, sweet land of France,
To teach the nations how to dance,
And out of murder to bring peace;
Forging new chains to make men free,
And call it Liberty.

The Lord Christ came to Notre Dame;
From a far wandering He had come,
The length and breadth of Christendom,
And whereso’er His feet had trod,
Men, in the holy name of God,
Warred on each other, crying “Peace,”
Warring, they cried, that war should cease.
The Lord Christ bowed his head, and smiles,
Brightened His tears, for in His breast,
From the sea’s multitudinous miles,
A dove had lighted and had taken rest.

Then fell a hush, and in the place
Of the Lord Cardinal His face
Shone strangely, the strange face of Love,
And on His lifted hand the dove.
Still was the high-resounding psalm,
And then, omnipotently calm,
The Lord Christ spake in Notre Dame:
“Be they for evermore abhorred
Who calling upon Christ their Lord
Shall ever draw again the sword.”
So spake Lord Christ in Notre Dame.

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Dana Burnet: Christmas in the Trenches

December 21, 2020 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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Dana Burnet
Christmas in the Trenches
(An incident)

I

Still the guns!
There’s a ragged music on the air,
A priest has climbed the ruined temple’s stair,
Ah, still the guns!
It’s Christmas morning.
Had ye all forgot?
Peace for a little while, ye battle-scarred –
Or do ye fear to cool those minds grown hot?
Up the great lovely tower, wracked and marred,
An old priest toils –
Men of the scattered soils,
Men of the British mists,
Men of France!
Put by the lance.
Men of Irish fists,
Men of heather,
Kneel together –
Men of Prussia,
Great dark men of Russia,
Kneel, kneel!
Hark how the slow bells peal.
A thousand leagues the faltered music runs,
Ah, still the wasting thunder of the guns,
Still the guns!

II

Out of the trenches lifts a half-shamed song,
“Holy Night!”
Here, where the sappers burrowed all night long
To bring the trench up for the morrow’s fight,
A British lad, with face unwonted white,
Looks at the sky and sings a carol through,
“God rest you merry, gentlemen!”
It was the only Christmas thing he knew.
And there were tears wrung out of hard-lipped men,
Tears in the strangest places,
Tears on troopers’ faces!

III

They had forgotten what a life was for,
They had been long at suffering and war,
They had forgot old visions, one by one,
But now they heard the tolling bell of Rheims,
Tolling bell of Rheims;
They saw the bent priest, white-haired in the sun,
Climb to the hazard of the weakened spire,
They saw, and in them stirred their hearts’ desire
For Streets and Cities, Shops and Homes and Farms,
They only wanted space to love and live;
They felt warm arms about them – women’s arms,
And such caresses as a child might give
Coming all rosy in the early day
To kiss his world awake….
The British lad
Broke off his carol with a sob. The play
Of churchly musics, solemn, strange, and sad,
Fluttered in silver tatters down the wind,
Flung from the tower where the guns had sinned
Across the black and wounded fields….The bell
Sang on – a feeble protest to the skies,
Until the world stood like a halted hell,
And men with their dead brothers at their feet
Drew dirty sleeves across their tired eyes,
Finding the cracked chimes overwhelming sweet.

IV

Aye, still the guns!
And heed the Christmas bell,
Ye who have done Death’s work so well,
Ye worn embattled ones, Kneel, kneel!
Put by the blood-stained steel,
Men from the far soils and the scattered seas,
Go down upon your knees,
While there is one with faith enough to dare
The wracked cathedral’s crumbled broken stair –
While there lives one with peace upon his eyes,
While hope’s faint song is fluttered to the skies,
In that brief space between the Christmas suns,
Still the guns!

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

December 20, 2020 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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

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Doris Lessing
Excerpts from interview with the Public Broadcasting System, 2003

The World War I, I’m a child of World War I. And I really know about the children of war. Because both my parents were both badly damaged by the war. My father, physically, and both, mentally and emotionally. So, I know exactly what it’s like to be brought up in an atmosphere of a continual harping on the war.

He [her father] was obsessed with it. He talked and the other old soldiers in you know the district I was brought up in – there were half a dozen of them. The obsessive talking about the trenches, and their generals and so on. And I used to listen, it was terrible, you know? These men were – had been so traumatized. Though, of course, outwardly, they were very civilized and good and kind and everything. But in actual fact, they were war victims.

Well there, he was in the Royal Free Hospital in London – where he – when they’d cut off his leg. And the – and – the sister – there is my mother. She – was a ward sister. And – so, they got married.

Well, my mother was going to marry a young doctor who was sunk in a ship. And I don’t think she ever really got over that. I think she was very marked by it.

Other quotes:

In times of war, as everyone knows, who has lived through one, or talked to soldiers when they are allowing themselves to remember the truth, and not the sentimentalities with which we all shield ourselves from the horrors of which we are capable…in times of war we revert, as a species, to the past, and are permitted to be brutal and cruel. It is for this reason, and of course others, that a great many people enjoy war. But this is one of the facts about war that is not often talked about.

So a war begins. Into a peace-time life, comes an announcement, a threat. A bomb drops somewhere, potential traitors are whisked off quietly to prison. And for some time, days, months, a year perhaps, life has a peace-time quality, into which war-like events intrude. But when a war has been going on for a long time, life is all war, every event has the quality of war, nothing of peace remains.

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Bertha von Suttner: Outgrowing the old idolatry for war

December 19, 2020 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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Bertha von Suttner
From Lay Down Your Arms
The Autobiography of Martha von Tilling

Translated by T. Holmes

I had soon exhausted the provision of historical works to be found in our library. I begged our bookseller to send me some new historical work to look at. He sent Thomas Buckle’s History of Civilisation in England….

It is not till now that, after fifteen or twenty years I have read the book again and have studied other works conceived in the same spirit, I may, perhaps, take it on myself to say that I understand it. One thing, however, was clear to me even then: that the history of mankind was not decided by, as the old theory taught, kings and statesmen, nor by the wars and treaties that were created by the greed of the former or the cunning of the latter, but by the gradual development of the intellect. The chronicles of courts and battles which are strung together in the history books represent isolated phenomena of the condition of culture at those epochs, not the causes which produce those conditions. Of the old-fashioned admiration with which other historical writers are accustomed to relate the lives of mighty conquerors and devastators of countries I could find absolutely nothing in Buckle. On the contrary, he brings proof that the estimation in which the warrior class is held is in inverse ratio to the height of culture which the nation has reached; the lower you go in the barbaric past, the more frequent are the wars of the time, the narrower the limits of peace, province against province, city against city, family against family. He lays stress on the fact that, as society progresses, not only war itself, but the love of war will be found to diminish. That word spoke to my innermost heart. Even in my short spiritual experience this diminution had been going on, and though I had often repressed this movement as something cowardly or unworthy, believing that I alone was the cause of such a fault within me, now, on the contrary, I perceived that this feeling in me was only the faint echo of the spirit of the age, that learned men and thinkers, like this English historian, and innumerable men along with him, had lost the old idolatry for war, which, just as it had been a phase of my childhood, was represented in this book as being also a phase of the childhood of society.

====

“So on what grounds should I abandon my way of life?”

“Because killing people is repulsive to you.”

“If it is a question of defending one’s life against another man attacking it, one’s personal responsibility for causing death ceases. War is often, and justly, styled murder on a large scale; still, no individual feels himself to be a murderer. However, that fighting is repulsive to me, that the sad entry on to a field of battle causes me pain and disgust, that is true enough. I suffer from it, suffer intensely, but so must many a seaman suffer during a storm from sea-sickness; still, if he is anything of a brave man, he holds out on deck, and always, if needs must, ventures to sea again.”

“Yes, if needs must. But must there then be war?”

“That is a different question….”

====

“The best thing, my dear Tilling, to give you a shake up,” said my father, “would, I am certain, be a jolly rattling war, but unluckily there is no prospect of that before us. The peace threatens to last as long as one can see.”

“Well,” I could not help remarking, “that is an extraordinary collocation of words, ‘war’ and ‘jolly,’ ‘peace’ and ‘threatening’.”

“To be sure,” assented the Minister, “the political horizon at the moment does not show any black point, still storm-clouds sometimes rise quite unexpectedly all of a sudden, and the chance can never be excluded that a difference – even unimportant in itself – may cause the outbreak of war. I say that for your comfort, colonel. As for myself, since I, in virtue of my office, have to manage the home affairs of the country, my wishes must, to be sure, be directed exclusively to the maintenance of peace as long as possible – for it is this alone which is naturally adapted to further the interests lying in my domain. Still this does not prevent me from taking note of the just desires of those who from a military point of view are, to be sure -“

“Permit me, your excellence,” interrupted Tilling, “as far as I am myself concerned, to protest against the assumption that I wish for a war, and also to protest against the underlying principle that the military point of view ought to be different from the human. We exist in order to protect the country should an enemy threaten it, just as a fire engine exists in order to put out a fire if it breaks out, but that gives the soldier no right to desire war any more than a fireman to wish for a fire. Both involve misfortune – heavy misfortune – and no one, as a man, ought to rejoice over the misfortunes of his fellow-men.”

“You good, you dear man,” I said, in silence, to the speaker.

The latter continued: –

“I am quite aware that the opportunity for personal distinction comes to the one only from conflagrations and to the other only from campaigns; but how poor of heart and narrow of mind must a man be before his selfish interests can seem to him so gigantic as to blot out the sight of the universal misery! Peace is the greatest blessing, or rather the absence of the greatest curse. It is, as you said yourself, the only condition in which the interests of the population can be furthered, and yet you would give to a large fragment of this population, the army, the right to wish for the cessation of the condition of growth and to long for that of destruction? To nourish this ‘just’ wish till it grows into a demand, and then, perhaps, obtains its fulfilment? To make war that the army may anyhow be occupied and satisfied is just as if we set fire to houses that the fire brigade may distinguish itself and earn renown.”

“Your comparison, dear colonel, is a lame one,” replied my father, giving Tilling, contrary to his habit, his military title, perhaps to remind him that his opinions were not consistent with his calling. “Conflagrations do nothing but damage, while wars may get power and greatness for the country. How else have states been formed and extended except by victorious campaigns? Personal ambition is surely not the only thing that makes soldiers delight in war. It is above all things, pride in one’s race, in one’s country, that finds its dearest nourishment there – in a word, patriotism.”

“Especially love of home?” replied Tilling. “I do not really understand why it is we soldiers in particular who make as if we had a monopoly of this feeling, which is natural to the majority of mankind. Every one loves the soil on which he grows up; every one wishes the elevation and the good of his own countrymen. But happiness and renown are to be reached by quite other means than war; pride can be excited by quite other exploits than deeds of arms. I, for instance, am much prouder of Anastatius Grün than of any of our field-marshals.”

“Well, but can anybody even compare a poet with a commander?” cried my father.

“That is my question too. The bloodless laurel is by far the more lovely.”

“But, my dear baron,” said my aunt at this point, “I have never heard a soldier speak so. What becomes, then, of the ardour of battle, of the warlike fire?”

“Dear lady, those are feelings not at all unknown to me. It was by them that I was animated when as a youngster of nineteen I took the field for the first time. But when I had seen the realities of butchery, when I had been a witness of the bestialities which are connected with it, my enthusiasm evaporated, and I went into my subsequent battles, not with pleasure, but with resignation.”

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Amelia Josephine Burr: Two Viewpoints

December 18, 2020 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

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Amelia Josephine Burr
Two Viewpoints

A German soldier in his journal wrote:

He was a French Boy Scout – little lad
No bigger than my Hansel. He refused
To tell if any of his countrymen
Were hidden thereabout. Fifty yards on
We ran into an ambush. Well, of course
We shot him – little fool! Poor little fool!
Thinking himself a hero as he stood
Facing our guns, so little and so young
Against the sunny vineyard-green, I thought
What wasted courage! for the child was brave,
Fool as he was. The pity…

Here there came
A sudden shrapnel, and the writing stopped….

Did I write that? O God – did I write that?
Mine – they were mine, the folly and the waste.
Now the keen edge of death has cut away
The eyelids of my soul and I must bear
The perfect understanding of the dead.
Now that I know myself as I am known,
How shall my soul endure Eternity?
God, God, if there be pity left for me,
Send to my son the child that I despised
A messenger to burn into his soul
While still he lives, the truth I died to learn!

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Dana Burnet: The Dreadnaught

December 17, 2020 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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Dana Burnet
The Dreadnaught

One Fall they sent a fighting-ship to sea,
With wine-stained bows, and pennants streaming gay.
Men watched her from the docks: said she was fair,
And felt their hearts lift as she dimmed away….

She was the triumph of the world she sailed,
The sea’s supremest, proud and tall and fair;
We watched her to the far horizon’s rim
Until her smoke thinned to a single hair;

Then, turning, said one man with withered eyes:
“She’ll last her day, and then she’ll rot and die.
To-morrow, matey, they’ll invent her death
Somewhere beyond that point she touched the sky” –

His vague hands fluttered in their prophecy,
“Somewhere across the world they’ll sweat and scheme,
And break their hearts behind their secret doors,
To find a murderer for Steel and Steam….

“A German, mebbe, or a Japanee
Will guess at heavier guns and then she’ll fall.
I know her breed! I fought the Merrimac
In sixty-two….What benefits it all?”

But we, who still stood watching her dark hair,
Mocked him to silence: one by one we hailed
Her strength, her beauty smiled and drifted on,
Boasting that we had seen her as she sailed.

Three years she reigned; three years we spoke of her,
Vaunting her name along the waterside;
Then came the news a newer, foreign ship
Of heavier guns….Slowly our old faiths died.

Another Fall we gathered on the docks,
To watch her creep back through the autumn rain;
Her men stood dully at her sullen breasts,
Knowing that she would never sail again.

She came like some vast Sorrow, brooding, slow,
Damned by her dead perfection, hugely sad;
I heard a voice behind me in the rain:
“Three years! Three little years is all she had” –

The rain dripped down, and then the voice again:
“Three years! My youngest died three years ago.
Plain starved, they said….And yonder in the
Roads….Ah, mates, in God’s name why should life be so?”

We turned; a man stood with uplifted hands,
A laborer, with Death upon his face,
And in his eyes the dumb bewilderment
Of those who wear injustice for the race.

And still the great, gray ship came creeping in,
Sullen and sad….I heard his laugh ring wild:
“For what it costs to feed her lightest gun
I might have saved my little child….my child!”

A vision smote us of an Iron God
That taxed the world with fearful wrack and pain;
We saw the unguessed sacrifice of souls
Dead faces on the canvas of the rain….

Then suddenly a man with withered eyes
And vague, wan hands came leering through the crowd
“I said she’d fall,” he quavered, gesturing;
“I know her breed! The Merrimac was proud.

“But, mates, she passed.”…His voice trailed off; was still.
There was no sound except the drear rain’s fall.
We watched the dead ship creeping to her grave
I thought again: what benefits it all?

====

“Who Dreams Shall Live”

Who dreams shall live! And if we do not dream
Then we shall build no Temple into Time.
Yon dust cloud, whirling slow against the sun,
Was yesterday’s cathedral, stirred to gold
By heedless footsteps of a passing world.
The faiths of stone and steel are failed of proof,
The King who made religion of a Sword
Passes, and is forgotten in a day.
The crown he wore rots at a lily’s root,
The rose unfurls her banners o’er his dust.

The dreamer dies, but never dies the dream,
Though Death shall call the whirlwind to his aid,
Enlist men’s passions, trick their hearts with hate,
Still shall the Vision live! Say nevermore
That dreams are fragile things. What else endures
Of all this broken world save only dreams!

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Elizabeth Connor: This World War

December 16, 2020 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

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Elizabeth Connor
This World War

Why this tragedy and blood shed,
For pow’r to hold full sway
O’er the lives of men and nations?
Lives, nations, what care they?
Sown broadcast over this fair earth
Pride and greed caused it all,
But right, not might, will conquer yet,
For pride and greed must fall.

What blasphemy to say that God
Is with such sinful deeds,
No, God is love, and all that’s just,
From him all good proceeds;
Peace he proclaimed, good will to men,
Is that what we see now?
Nay, rather hatred and ill will,
To gold and pow’r they bow.

Stop, despot in your carnage bold,
Pause, think, ere ’tis too late;
For what are you but dust and clay,
Stop, think, of your sad fate;
Where is the soul God gave to you?
With avarice consumed,
Just for today; but tomorrow
What awaits thee, when doomed?

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William Dean Howells: War Stops Literature

December 15, 2020 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
War Stops Literature

New York Times
November 29, 1914

War stops literature. This is the belief of a man who for more than a quarter of a century has been in the front rank of the world’s novelists, who wrote The Rise of Silas Lapham and A Modern Instance and nearly a hundred other sympathetic interpretations of American life.

Mr. William Dean Howells was the third writer to whom was put the question, “What effect will the Great War have on literature?” And he was the first to give a direct answer.

A famous French dramatist replied: “I am not a prophet. I have enough to do to understand the present and the past; I cannot concern myself with the future.” A famous English short-story writer said, “The war has already inspired some splendid poetry; it may also inspire great plays and novels, but, of course, we cannot tell as yet.”

But Mr. Howells said, quite simply, “War stops literature.” He said it as unemotionally as if he were stating a familiar axiom.

He does not consider it an axiom, however, for he supplied proof.

“I have never believed,” he said, “that great events produced great literature. They seldom call forth the great creative powers of man. In poetry it is not the poems of occasion that endure, but the poems that have come into being independently, not as the result of momentous happenings.

“This war does not furnish the poet, the novelist, and the dramatist with the material of literature. For instance, the Germans, as every one will admit, have shown extraordinary valor. But we do not think of celebrating that valor in poetry; it does not thrill the modern writers as such valor thrilled the writers of bygone centuries. When we think of the valor of the Germans, our emotion is not admiration but pity.

“And the reason for this is that fighting is no longer our ideal. Fighting was not a great ideal, and therefore it is no longer our ideal. All that old material of literature – the clashing of swords, the thunder of shot and shell, the great clouds of smoke, the blood and fury – all this has gone out from literature. It is an anachronism.”

“But the American Civil War produced literature, did it not?” I asked.

“What great literature did it produce?” asked Mr. Howells in turn. “As I look back over my life and recall to mind the great number of books that the Civil War inspired I find that I am thinking of things that the American people have forgotten. They did not become literature, these poems and stories that came in such quantities and seemed so important in the sixties.

“There were the novels of J. W. De Forest, for instance. They were well written, they were interesting, they described some phases of the Civil War truthfully and vividly. We read them when they were written – but you probably have never heard of them. No one reads them now. They were literature, but that about which they were written has ceased to be of literary interest.

“Of course, the Civil War, because of its peculiar nature, was followed by an expansion, intellectual as well as social and economic. And this expansion undoubtedly had its beneficial effect on literature. But the Civil War itself did not have, could not have, literary expression.

“Of all the writings which the Civil War directly inspired I can think of only one that has endured to be called literature. That is Lowell‘s ‘Commemoration Ode.’

“War stops literature. It is an upheaval of civilization, a return to barbarism; it means death to all the arts. Even the preparation for war stops literature. It stopped it in Germany years ago. A little anecdote is significant.

“I was in Florence about 1883, long after the Franco-Prussian War, and there I met the editor of a great German literary weekly – I will not tell you its name or his. He was a man of refinement and education, and I have not forgotten his great kindness to my own fiction. One day I asked him about the German novelists of the day.

“He said: ‘There are no longer any German novelists worthy of the name. Our new ideal has stopped all that. Militarism is our new ideal – the ideal of Duty – and it has killed our imagination. So the German novel is dead.'”

“Why is it, then,” I asked, “that Russia, a nation of militaristic ideals, has produced so many great novels during the past century?”

“Russia is not Germany,” answered the man who taught Americans to read Turgenieff. “The people of Russia are not militaristic as the people of Germany are militaristic. In Germany war has for a generation been the chief idea of every one. The nation has had a militaristic obsession. And this, naturally, has stifled the imagination.

“But in Russia nothing of the sort has happened. Whatever the designs of the ruling classes may be, the people of Russia keep their simplicity, their large intellectuality and spirituality. And, therefore, their imagination and other great intellectual and spiritual gifts find expression in their great novels and plays.

“I well remember how the Russian novelists impressed me when I was a young man. They opened to me what seemed to be a new world – and it was only the real world. There is Tcheckoff – have you read his Orchard [The Cherry Orchard] ? What life, what color, what beauty of truth are in that book!

“Then there is Turgenieff – how grateful I am for his books! It must be thirty years since I first read him. Thomas Sargent Perry, of Boston, a man of the greatest culture, was almost the first American to read Turgenieff. Stedman read Turgenieff in those days, too. Soon all of the younger writers were reading him.

“I remember very well a dinner at Whitelaw Reid’s house in Lexington Avenue, when some of us young men were enthusiastic over the Russian novel, and the author we mentioned most frequently was Turgenieff.

“Dr. J. G. Holland, the poet who edited The Century, lived across the street from Mr. Reid, and during the evening he came over and joined us. He listened to us for a long time in silence, hardly speaking a word. When he rose to go, he said: ‘I have been listening to the conversation of these young men for over an hour. They have been talking about books. And I have never before heard the names of any of the authors they have mentioned.'”

“Were those the days,” I asked, “in which you first read Tolstoy?”

“That was long before the time,” answered Mr. Howells. “Tolstoy afterward meant everything to me – his philosophy as well as his art – far more than Turgenieff. Tolstoy did not love all his writing. He loved the thing that he wrote about, the thing that he lived and taught – equality. And equality is the best thing in the world. It is the thing for which the Best of Men lived and died.

“I never met Tolstoy,” said Mr. Howells. “But I once sent him a message of appreciation after he had sent a message to me. Tolstoy was great in the way he wrote as well as in what he wrote. Tolstoy’s force is a moral force. His great art is as simple as nature.”

“Do you think that the Russian novelists have influenced your work?” I asked.

“I think,” Mr. Howells replied, “that I had determined what I was to do before I read any Russian novels. I first thought that it was necessary to write only about things that I knew had already been written about. Certain things had already been in books; therefore, I thought, they legitimately were literary subjects and I might write about them.

“But soon I knew that this idea was wrong, that I must get my material, not out of books, but out of life. And I also knew that it was not necessary for me to look at life through English spectacles. Most of our writers had been looking at life through English spectacles; they had been closely following in the footsteps of English novelists. I saw that around me were the materials for my work. I saw around me life – wholesome, natural, human.

“I saw a young, free, energetic society. I saw a society in which love – the greatest and most beautiful thing in the world – was innocent; a society in which the relation between man and woman was simple and pure. Here, I thought, are the materials for novels. Why should I go back to the people of bygone ages and of lands not my own?”

“Do you think,” I asked, “that romanticism has lost its hold on the novelists?”

Mr. Howells smiled. “When realism,” he said, “is once in a novelist’s blood he never can degenerate into romanticism. Romanticism is no longer a literary force among English-speaking authors. Romanticism belongs to the days in which war was an aim, an ideal, instead of a tragic accident. It is something foreign to us. And literature must be native to the soil, affected, of course, by the culture of other lands and ages, but essentially of the people of the land and time in which it is produced. Realism is the material of democracy. And no great literature or art can arise outside of the democracy.”

Tolstoy was mentioned again, and Mr. Howells was asked if he did not think that the Russian novelist’s custom of devoting a part of every day to work that was not literary showed that all writers would be better off if they were obliged to make a living in some other way than by writing. Mr. Howells gave his answer with considerable vigor. His calm, blue eyes lost something of their kindliness, and his lips were compressed into a straight, thin line before he said:

“I certainly do not think so. The artist in letters or in lines should have leisure in which to perform his valuable service to society. The history of literature is full of heartbreaking instances of writers whose productive careers were retarded by their inability to earn a living at their chosen profession. The belief that poverty helps a writer is stupid and wrong. Necessity is not and never has been an incentive. Poverty is not and never has been an incentive. Writers and other creative artists are hindered, not helped, by lack of leisure.

“I remember my own early experiences, and I know that my writing suffered very much because I could not devote all my time to it. I had to spend ten hours in drudgery for every two that I spent on my real work. The fact that authors who have given the world things that it treasures are forced to live in a state of anxiety over their finances is lamentable. This anxiety cannot but have a restrictive influence on literature. It is not want, but the fear of want, that kills.”

“Still, in spite of their precarious financial condition, modern authors are doing good work, are they not?” I asked.

“Certainly they are,” answered Mr. Howells, “the novelists especially. There is Robert Herrick, for example. His novels are interesting stories, and they also are faithful reflections of American life. Will Harben’s work is admirable. It has splendid realism and fine humor. Perhaps one thing that has kept it, so far, from an appreciation so general as it will one day receive, is the fact that it deals, for the most part, with one special locality, a certain part of Georgia.

“And in Spain – what excellent novelists they have there and have had for a long time! The realistic movement reached Spain long before it reached England and the United States. In fact, English-speaking countries were the last to accept it. I have taken great pleasure in the works of Armando Valdés. Then there are Pérez Galdós and Emilia Pardo Bazián, and that priest who wrote a realistic novel about Madrid society. All these novelists are realists, and realists of power.

“Then there are the great Scandinavians. I hope that I may some time attempt to express a little of my gratitude for the pleasure that Björnson‘s works have given me.”

I asked, “What do you think of contemporary poetry?”

“I admired chiefly that of Thomas Hardy,” said Mr. Howells. “His poems have force and actuality and music and charm. Masefield I like, with reservations. Three modern poets who give me great pleasure are Thomas Hardy, William Watson, and Charles Hanson Towne. The first one of Mr. Towne’s poems that I read was “Manhattan.” I have not forgotten the truth of that poetic interpretation of New York. His poems are beautiful and they are full of humanity. In his latest book there is a poem called ‘A Ballad of Shame and Dread’ that moved me deeply. It is a slight thing, but it is wonderfully powerful. Like all of Towne’s poetry, it is warm with human sympathy.”

“Do you think,” I asked, “that the great social problems of the day, the feminine unrest, for instance, are finding their expression in literature?”

“No,” said Mr. Howells, “I cannot call to mind any adequate literary expression of the woman movement. Perhaps this is because the women who know most about it and feel it most strongly are not writers. The best things that have been said about woman suffrage in our time have been said by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She has written the noblest satire since Lowell. What wit she has, and what courage! Once I heard her address a meeting of Single-Taxers. Now, the Single-Taxers are all right so far as they go, but they don’t go far enough. The Single-Taxers heckled her, but she had a retort ready for every interruption. She stood there with her brave smile and talked them all down.”

“Do you think that Ibsen expressed the modern feminine unrest in The Doll’s House?” Mr. Howells was asked.

“Ibsen seldom expressed things,” was his reply. “He suggested them, mooted them, but he did not express them. The Doll’s House does not express the meaning of unrest, it suggests it. Ibsen told you where you stood, not where to go.”

Mr. Howells had recently presided at a meeting which was addressed by M. Brieux, and he expressed great admiration for the work of the French dramatist.

“He is a great dramatist,” he said. “He has given faithful reports of life, and faithful reports of life are necessarily criticisms of life. All great novels are criticisms of life. And I think that the poets will concern themselves more and more with the life around them. It is possible that soon we may have an epic in which the poet deals with the events of contemporary life.”

Mr. Howells is keenly awake to the effect which the war is having on conditions in New York. And in his sympathy for the society which inevitably must suffer for a war in which it is not directly concerned, the active interest of the novelist was evident. “If all this only could be reflected in a book!” he said. “If some novelist could interpret it!”

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Mikhail Artsybashev: A mother’s simple prescription against war

December 14, 2020 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Mikhail Artsybashev
From War
Translated by Thomas Seltzer

VLADIMIR. When there was talk of war last year, Daue was in despair. It was distressing to see him. And it wasn’t because he is a coward, but because for him to give up his violin is like giving up his life. [Musing.] But every one of us has something he holds especially dear.

There is a pause. The tuning of a violin and the sounds of a piano along with the tuning are heard coming from the house.

VLADIMIR. Yes, every one has something which he values above everything else. And yet, let war be declared, and we’d all drop what’s dearest to us and go out to kill and die. Come to think of it, it’s queer, isn’t it? But we’d do it, just the same. Yes, we’d go. And Daue would be among the first. He’d drop his violin and go with the rest.

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ASYA. I didn’t mean it that way. You could have told it was coming, I suppose; you know about such things; but to me it would have been unexpected, no matter when it came. I can’t imagine how people can make up their minds to such a horror. The misery and tears it has brought into almost every home! In the whole city there isn’t one who hasn’t some relative or some dear friend to take leave of. The soldiers are so jolly, and they sing as they go. Even the officers look as though they are glad. But my heart contracts when I think of the many of them that are doomed to death and terrible agony and suffering. And yet you know, Senya, I don’t feel so sorry for those who leave for the front as for those who stay behind. Why, it’s terrible to see those you love go off to war. How many of them will never return! Yet every one of them has a mother, a wife, children. What must they be feeling now! What will they be thinking all the time! How many tears they will shed! – No; it’s terrible, terrible! It’s easier to die oneself.

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OLGA. Ah, Volodya, Volodya! What is this war for? Can you tell me? What is it for? I don’t understand it. Here we were, living quietly, and all of a sudden! – I am so sorry for Nina.

Volodya takes her hand and hisses it, without replying.

OLGA. But maybe nothing will happen, after all? Eh, Volodya?

VOLODYA. How so? The war has begun already, Mamma.

OLGA. I know it has. But maybe they’ll settle it somehow over there. They’ll just take a look at each other, and they’ll say, “We are fools – that’s what we are!” Then they’ll break up and go each his own way.

VOLODYA [involuntarily smiling]. Things don’t happen that way, Mamma.

OLGA. But it’s such a pity, Volodya. It’s raining and wet outside. They might all catch cold there. God forbid! I think the best thing would be if they just dropped the whole business and went home.

VOLODYA. It’s not so simple.

OLGA. But it would be better if it were simple.

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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Selections from the Peace Sonnets

December 13, 2020 Leave a comment
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Bertha von Suttner: Mounting doubts about war

December 12, 2020 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: Education hardens children against natural horror which terrors of war awaken

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

Translated by T. Holmes

Peace is going to be maintained. My wishes, despite of all theoretical admiration of the battles of the past, were, of course, secretly directed to the preservation of peace, but the wish of my spouse called openly for the other alternative. He did not say anything out plainly, but he always communicated any news about the increase of “the black spot” with sparkling eyes; while, on the contrary, he always took note of such peaceful prospects as occurred now and then (but, alas! they became always rarer) with a kind of dejection….

The humane point of view, viz., that whether lost or won every battle demands innumerable sacrifices of blood and tears, was quite left out of sight. The interests which were here in question were represented as raised to such a height above any private destiny, that I felt ashamed of the meanness of my way of thinking, if at times the thought occurred to me: “Ah! what joy do the poor slain men, the poor cripples, the poor widows, get out of the victory?”

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“It means that the last word of the diplomatic formalities, the one which precedes the declaration of war, has been spoken. Our ultimatum to Sardinia calls on Sardinia to disarm. She, of course, will take no notice of it, and we march across the frontier.”

“Good God! But perhaps they may disarm?”

“Well, then, the quarrel would be at an end, and peace would continue.”

I fell on my knees. I could not help it. Silently, but still as earnestly as if with a cry, there rose the prayer from my soul to heaven for “Peace! peace!”

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“Battlefields”- it is surprising how this word suddenly presented itself to my mind in two radically different meanings. Partly in the accustomed historical signification, so pathetic, and so calculated to awake the highest admiration; partly in the loathsomeness of the bloody, brutal syllable “fight”. Yes, those poor men who were being hurried out had to lie stricken down on the field, with their gaping, bleeding wounds, and among them perhaps – and a loud shriek escaped me as the thought passed through my mind.

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Yes, during the whole time my lord was absent, I determined to beg so earnestly for the protection of Heaven, that it should turn aside every bullet in the volley from Arno. Turn them aside! Whither? To the breast of another, for whom, nevertheless, prayers were also being made?…And, besides, what had been demonstrated to me in my course of physics about the accurately computable and infallible effects of matter and its motion?…What, another doubt? Away with it.

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Since from Herodotus and Tacitus, down to the historians of modern times, wars have always been represented as the events of most importance and of weightiest consequence, I concluded that at the present time also a war of this sort would pass with future historians as an event to serve for the title of a chapter.

This elevated tone, overpowering in its impressiveness, was that which prevailed everywhere else. Nothing else was spoken of in rooms or streets, nothing else read in the newspapers, nothing else prayed about in the churches. Wherever one went one found everywhere the same excited faces, the same eager talk about the possibilities of the war. Everything else which engaged the people’s interest at other times – the theatre, business, art – was now looked on as perfectly insignificant. It seemed to one as if it were not right to think of anything else whilst the opening scene in this great drama of the destiny of the world was being played out. And the different orders to the army with the well-known phrases of the certainty of victory and promise of glory; and the troops marching out with clanging music and waving banners; and the leading articles and public speeches conceived in the most glowing tone of loyalty and patriotism; the eternal appeal to virtue, honour, duty, courage, self-sacrifice; the assurances made on both sides that their nation was known to be the most invincible, most courageous, most certainly destined to a higher extension of power, the best and the noblest….

Such bad qualities, however, as these – lust of conquest, love of fighting, hatred, cruelty, guile, were also certainly to be found, and were admitted to be shown in war, but always by “the enemy”. To him, his being in the wrong was quite clear. Quite apart from the political necessity of the campaign just commenced, apart also from the patriotic advantages which undoubtedly grew out of it, the conquest over one’s adversary was a moral work, a discipline carried out by the genius of culture.

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The first time that I read the names of the slain – and I had been four days without news – and saw that the name of Arno Dotzky was not among them, I folded my hands and cried aloud: “My God, I thank Thee!” But the words were hardly out of my mouth when it seemed to me like a shrill discord. I took the paper in my hand again and looked at the list of names once more. So I thank God because Adolf Schmidt and Carl Müller and many others were slain, but not Arno Dotzky. Then the same thanksgiving would have been appropriate if it had risen to heaven from the hearts of those who trembled for Schmidt and Müller, if they had read “Dotzky” instead of those names. And why should my thanks in particular be more pleasing to Heaven than theirs? Yes, this was the shrill discord of my ejaculation, the presumption and the self-seeking which lay in it, in believing that Arno had been spared in love for me, and thanking God that not I but Schmidt’s mother and Müller’s affianced and fifty others had to burst out in tears over that list.

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Christoph August Tiedge: Give to earth the light of peaceful day

December 11, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

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Christoph August Tiedge
From Elegie auf dem Schaltfelde bei Kunersdorf
Translated by T. Holmes

Oh, sight of horror! mighty prince, come, see,
And o’er this awful heap of mouldering clay
Swear to thy folk a gentler lord to be,
And give to earth the light of peaceful day.

Great leader, when thou thirstest for renown,
Come, count these skulls, before the solemn hour
When thine own head must lay aside its crown,
And in Death’s silence ends thy dream of power.

Let the dread vision hover o’er thee ever
Of these sad corpses here around thee strown,
And then say, does it charm thee, the endeavour
Upon men’s ruins to erect thy throne?

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

December 10, 2020 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

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Beatrice Witte Ravenel
Missing

Lord, how can he be dead?
For he stood there just this morn
With the live blood in his cheek
And the live light on his head?
Dost Thou remember, Lord, when he was born,
And all my heart went forth thy praise to seek,
(I, a creator even as Thou,) –
To force Thee to confess
The little, young, heart-breaking loveliness,
Like willow-buds in Spring, upon his brow?
Newest of unfledged things,
All perfect but the wings.
Master, I lit my tender candle-light
Straight at the living fire that rays abroad
From thy dread altar, God!
How should it end in night?

Lord, in my time of trouble, of tearing strife,
Even then I loved thy will, even then I knew
That nothing is so beautiful as life!…
Is not the world’s great woe thine anguish too?
It hath not passed, thine hour,
Again Thou kneelest in the olive-wood.
The lands are drunk with sharp-set lust of power,
The kings are thirsting, and they pour thy blood.
But we, the mothers, we that found thy trace
Down terrible ways, that looked upon thy face
And are not dead – how should we doubt thy grace?

How many women in how many lands –
Almost I weep for them as for mine own –
That wait beside the desolate hearthstone!
Always before the embattled army stands
The horde of women like a phantom wall,
Barring the way with desperate, futile hands.
The first charge tramples them, the first of all!

Dost Thou remember, Lord, the hearts that prayed
As down the shouting village street they swung,
The beautiful fighting-men? The sunlight flung
His keen young face up like an unfleshed blade…
O God, so young!
Lord, hast Thou gone away?
Once more through all the worlds thy touch I seek.
Lord, how can he be dead?
For he stood here just this day
With the live blood in his cheek,
And the live light on his head?
Lord, how can he be dead?

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Pierre-Jean de Béranger: The Holy Alliance of Peace

December 9, 2020 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Pierre-Jean de Béranger: When from the miseries of war we wake…

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Pierre-Jean de Béranger
The Holy Alliance of Nations
Translated by E. Hall Jackson

I have seen Peace coming down to the world
Lavishing gold with the flowers and the corn;
Calm was the air, not a missile was hurled,
Quiet was War, for his strength had been shorn;
“Ah,” she exclaimed,” one in valour so great,
English and French, Russian, German, and Dane,
Nations, a holy alliance create,
And friendship maintain!

“Mortals, you weary in enmity’s race;
Even your rest is a troubled repose;
Better than earth so divided is space;
Each has his share of the sun as it goes;
All to yoke power to the car of the state
Leave the good way where true pleasure we gain;
Nations, a holy alliance create,
And friendship maintain!

“Fire you a neighbor’s loved house or his fold,
Blows the North-wind and your roofs are in flame;
Then when the earth has again become cold,
Slow goes the plough for the ploughman is lame;
Blood on your boundaries tells of your hate;
Even the corn has a terrible stain;
Nations, a holy alliance create,
And friendship maintain!

“Free then at last let the people respire;
Over the past fling the heaviest veil;
Sow you your fields to the sounds of the lyre;
Art her pure incense to Peace will exhale,
Hope on the breast of abundance elate
Gather sweet treasures the union will rain;
Nations, a holy alliance create,
And friendship maintain!”

Such were the words of this maiden adored;
More than one king was repeating her strain;
So when the Spring has her loveliness poured
Autumn recalls the fair graces again;
Vintage of France flow for those at our gate!
Leave they our frontier their love we’ll retain!
Nations, such holy alliance create,
And friendship maintain!

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William Ellery Leonard: The Pied Piper

December 8, 2020 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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William Ellery Leonard
The Pied Piper

“Never before have four hundred million rats followed the lure of the shrill pipe of the rat-catcher.” Nicolai, Biology of War

The huge Pied Piper, in a giant dance,
Began his piping on the fields of France.
The huge Pied Piper, with a fife of steel,
Danced through the nations, toe and heel.
Four crazed years, under winds and the moon,
The Millions followed in a jigging rigadoon.

For his legs were hosed in stripèd bands,
And his sleeves were stripèd to the fingering hands,
And his cape was striped to his piping throat,
And the striped cap fluttered to step and note….
Stripes up and down, and left and right…
Red, green, yellow, black, blue, white…
Speckled between with star and crest
But the red stripes O! they outnumbered the rest.
And when failed the lure of his garments pied,
He juggled new bunting from his vest inside.
So four crazed years, under winds and the moon,
The Millions followed in a jigging rigadoon.

With a fife of steel to puckered lips,
And two cheeks puffing for his finger-tips,
He shrilled each tune of the lure of war,
And danced each measure of his repertoire:
He piped and he jigged of fear and hate,
Of love of country and glory of state;
And he piped of god and he piped of man
This giant Jester, this Charlatan.
And for those who loathed his piping shrill
He piped a tune more alluring still:
“Then hurry to my piping, more than ever,
To end my piping, now or never!”
And four crazed years, under winds and the moon,
The Millions followed in a jigging rigadoon.

And the few still slack, as he flung pied cape,
And the few still slack, as he piped his jape,
O the few still slack, as each million reels,
Jigging to the river, behind his heels,
They whipped or they hanged to bar or tree,
And passed with the Piper down the lea…

To a red, red river, all the host,
And the Piper walked, like a shadow or ghost…
And the Piper walked, like Christ on the sea
In the sunset-storm of Galilee…
And he danced on the waters, to his latest tune,
And the millions perished in a jigging rigadoon.

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Charles Edward Montague: War must first slay natural sentiment of brotherhood

December 7, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Charles Edward Montague: Selections on war and its aftermath

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Charles Edward Montague
From Disenchantment

Even on the dull earth it takes time and pains to get a clean-run boy or young man into a mean frame of mind. A fine N.C.O. of the Grenadier Guards was killed near Laventie – no one knows how – while going over to shake hands with the Germans on Christmas morning. “What! not shake on Christmas Day?” He would have thought it poor, sulky fighting. Near Armentières at the Christmas of 1914 an incident happened which seemed quite the natural thing to most soldiers then. On Christmas Eve the Germans lit up their front line with Chinese lanterns. Two British officers thereupon walked some way across No Man’s Land, hailed the enemy’s sentries, and asked for an officer. The German sentries said, “Go back, or we shall have to shoot.” The Englishmen said “Not likely!” advanced to the German wire, and asked again for an officer. The sentries held their fire and sent for an officer. With him the Englishmen made a one-day truce, and on Christmas Day the two sides exchanged cigarettes and played football together. The English intended the truce to end with the day, as agreed, but decided not to shoot next day till the enemy did. Next morning the Germans were still to be seen washing and breakfasting outside their wire; so our men, too, got out of the trench and sat about in the open. One of them, cleaning his rifle, loosed a shot by accident, and an English subaltern went to tell the Germans it had not been fired to kill. The ones he spoke to understood, but as he was walking back a German somewhere wide on a flank fired and hit him in the knee, and he has walked lame ever since. Our men took it that some German sentry had misunderstood our fluke shot. They did not impute dishonour. The air in such places was strangely clean in those distant days. During one of the very few months of open warfare a cavalry private of ours brought in a captive, a gorgeous specimen of the terrific Prussian Uhlan of tradition. “But why didn’t you put your sword through him?” an officer asked, who belonged to the school of Froissart less obviously than the private. “Well, sir,” the captor replied, “the gentleman wasn’t looking.”

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There had begun the insidious change that was to send you home, on your first leave, talking unguardedly of “old Fritz” or of “the good old Boche” to the pain of your friends, as if he were a stout dog fox or a real stag of a hare….

The deadliest solvent of your exalted hatreds is laughter. And you can never wholly suppress laughter between two crowds of millions of men standing within earshot of each other along a line of hundreds of miles…..

But while Hamilcar at home was swearing Hannibal and all the other little Hamilcars to undying hatred of the foe, an enemy dog might be trotting across to the British front line to sample its rats, and its owner be losing in some British company’s eyes his proper quality as an incarnation of all the Satanism of Potsdam and becoming simply “him that lost the dog.”

If you took his trench it might be no better; perhaps Incarnate Evil had left its bit of food half-cooked, and the muddy straw, where it lay last, was pressed into a hollow by Incarnate Evil’s back as by a cat’s. Incarnate Evil should not do these things that other people in trenches do. It ought to be more strange and beastly and keep on making beaux gestes with its talons and tail, like the proper dragon slain by St. George. Perhaps Incarnate Evil was extinct and you went over its pockets. They never contained the right things – no poison to put in our wells, no practical hints for crucifying Canadians; only the usual stuffing of all soldiers’ pockets – photographs and tobacco and bits of string and the wife’s letters, all about how tramps were always stealing potatoes out of the garden, and how the baby was worse, and was his leave never coming! No good to look at such things.

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It is hopelessly bad for your grand Byronic hates if you sit through whole winter evenings in the abhorred foe’s kitchen and the abhorred foe grants you the uncovenanted mercy of hot coffee and discusses without rancour the relative daily yields of the British and the German milch cow. And then comes into play the British soldier’s incorrigible propensity, wherever he be, to form virtuous attachments. “Love, unfoiled in the war,” as Sophocles says. The broad road has a terribly easy gradient. When all the great and wise at Paris were making peace, as somebody said, with a vengeance, our command on the Rhine had to send a wire to say that unless something was done to feed the Germans starving in the slums it could not answer for discipline in its army; the men were giving their rations away, and no orders would stop them. Rank “Pro-Germanism,” you see – the heresy of Edith Cavell; “Patriotism is not enough; I must have no hatred or bitterness in my heart.” While these men fought on, year after year, they had mostly been growing more void of mere spite all the time, feeling always more and more sure that the average German was just a decent poor devil like everyone else. One trembles to think what the really first-class haters at home would have said of our army if they had known at the time.

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Ernest Crosby: They know not love that love not peace

December 6, 2020 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
On the Rejection of the Arbitration Treaty

Shame on a Senate which withstands
The efforts of two mighty lands
Frankly to grasp each other’s hands!

Are they our servants? Should they then
Bring all our dreams to naught again
Of peace on earth, good will toward men?

From every class, North, South, East, West,
Goes up one earnest, loud request,
“Give us our treaty and be blest!”

The workingman with outstretched hand
Asks but to work – makes one demand
That peace and plenty cheer the land.

But no, this deaf, degenerate crew
Want plenty solely for the few;
Let war then split our race in two.

Turn back the years; let growth stand still
And flourish every social ill,
If so these triflers get their fill.

Shall bluster, envy, spite, conceit
Elate at this their latest feat,
Boast that their victory is complete?

What monarch, drunk with martial lust,
Treading his subjects in the dust,
E’er proved more recreant to his trust?

Are these our patriots, these, the blind
Whose love of country is combined
With petty hate for all mankind?

Nay; from their rule we pray release,
Soon may such love of country cease.
They know not love that love not peace.

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