Voltaire: The laws of robbers and war

February 20, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war

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Voltaire
From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

I was told that laws existed even among robbers, and that there were also laws in war. “They are,” said someone, “to hang up a brave officer for maintaining a weak post without cannon; to hang a prisoner if the enemy has hanged any of yours; to ravage with fire and sword those villages which shall not have delivered up their means of subsistence by an appointed day, agreeably to the commands of the gracious sovereign of the vicinage…I admit that these laws are severe, although their execution is a little severe; but I must acknowledge I am no friend to laws which authorize a hundred thousand neighbors to loyally set about cutting one another’s throats…

****

It is…very likely, after all the revolutions of our globe, that it was the art of working metals that made kings, as it is the art of casting cannon which now maintains them.

Our instinct, in the first place, impels us to beat our brother when he vexes us, if we are roused into a passion with him and feel that we are stronger than he is. Afterwards, our sublime reason leads us on to the invention of arrows, swords, pikes, and at length muskets to kill our neighbor with.

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Were you ever acquainted with any king or republic that made either war or peace, that issued decrees, or entered into conventions from any other motive than that of interest?

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Why, of all the various tribes of animals, has man alone the mad ambition of domineering over his fellow? Why and how could it happen, that out a thousand millions of men more than nine hundred and ninety-nine have been sacrificed to this mad ambition?

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Since we write upon the rights of the people, on taxation, on customs, etc., let us endeavor, by profound reasoning, to establish the novel maxim that a shepherd ought to shear his sheep, and not to flay them.

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Voltaire: Why prefer a war to the happy labors of peace?

February 18, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war

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Voltaire
From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

Why do we scarcely ever know the tenth part of the good we might do? It is clear that if a nation living between the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the sea had employed, in ameliorating and embellishing the country, a tenth part of the money it lost in the war of 1741, and one-half the men killed to no purpose in Germany, the state would have been more flourishing. Why was this done? Why prefer a war, which Europe considered unjust, to the happy labors of peace, which would have produced the useful and the agreeable?

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There are whole nations that are not wicked: The Philadephians, the Banians, have never killed anyone. The Chinese, the people of Tonquin, Lao, Siam, and even Japan, for more than a hundred years have not been acquainted with war.

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Assemble all the children of the universe; you will see in them only innocence, mildness, and fear; if they were born wicked, mischievous, and cruel, they would show some sign of it, as little serpents try to bite and little tigers to tear. But nature not having given to man more offensive arms than to pigeons and rabbits, she cannot have given them an instinct leading them to destroy.

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We never heard a word of vampires in London, nor even in Paris. I confess that in both these cities there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces.

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Voltaire: Invoking the gods of war

February 16, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war

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Voltaire
From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

At length all become armed with nearly the same description of weapons; and the blood flows from one extremity of the world to the other.

Men, however, cannot forever go on killing one another; and peace is consequently made, till either party thinks itself sufficiently strong to recommence the war. Those who cannot write draw up these treaties of peace; and the chiefs of every nation, with a view more successfully to impose upon their enemies, invoke the gods to attest with what sincerity they bind themselves to the observance of these compacts. Oaths of the most solemn character are invented and employed, and one party engages in the name of the great Somonocodom, and the other in that of Jupiter the Avenger, to live forever in peace and amity; while in the names of Somonocodom and Jupiter, they take the first opportunity of cutting one another’s throats.

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In our own times, in the course of the wars that we frequently undertake for the sake of particular cities, or even perhaps villages, the Germans and the Spaniards, when they happened to be the enemies of the French, prayed to the Virgin Mary, from the bottom of their hearts, that she would completely defeat the Gauls and the Gavaches, who in their turn supplicated her, with equal importunity, to destroy the Maranes and the Teutons.

In England advocates of the red rose offered up to St. George the most ardent prayers to prevail upon him to sink all the partisans of the white rose to the bottom of the sea. The white rose was equally devout and importunate for the very opposite event. We can all of us have some idea of the embarrassment which this must have caused St. George; and if Henry VII. had not come to his assistance, St. George would never have been able to get extricated from it.

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In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money from one part of the citizens to give to the other.

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Robert Burton: Hypocrites who make the trumpet of the gospel the trumpet of war

February 15, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burton: War’s nuptials, war’s justice

Robert Burton: We hate the hawk because it is always at war

Robert Burton: What fury first brought so devilish, so brutish a thing as war into men’s minds?

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Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

When we see and read of such cruel wars, tumults, uproars, bloody battles, so many men slain, so many cities ruinated, etc. (for what else is the subject of all our stories almost, but bills, bows and guns?), so many murders and massacres, etc., where is charity? Or see men wholly devout to God, churchmen, professed divines, holy men, “to make the trumpet of the gospel the trumpet of war”…Are these Christians? I beseech you, tell me. He that shall observe and see these things may say to them as Cato to Caesar, Credo quae de inferis dicuntur falsa estimatas, Sure I think thou art of opinion there is neither heaven nor hell. Let them pretend religion, zeal, make what shows they will, give alms, peace-makers, frequent sermons if we may guess at by the tree by the fruit, they are no better than hypocrites…

***

Mars, Jupiter, Apollo, and Æculapius have resigned their interest, names, and offices to St. George

(Maxime bellorum rector, quem nostra juventus Pro Mavorte colit),

(O great lord of war, whom our youth worship in place of Mars,)

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

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Because we are superstitious, irreligious, we do not serve God as we ought, all these plagues and miseries come upon us; what can we look for else but mutual wars, slaughters, fearful ends in this life, and in the life to come eternal damnation? What is it that hath caused so many feral battles to be fought, so much Christian blood to be shed, but superstition?

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Robert Burton: War’s nuptials, war’s justice

February 13, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burton: Hypocrites who make the trumpet of the gospel the trumpet of war

Robert Burton: We hate the hawk because it is always at war

Robert Burton: What fury first brought so devilish, so brutish a thing as war into men’s minds?

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Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

Besides private miseries, we live in perpetual fear and danger of common enemies: we have Bellona’s whips, and pitiful outcries, for epithalamiums; for pleasant music, that fearful noise of ordnance, drums, and warlike trumpets still sounding in our ears; instead of nuptial torches, we have firing of towns and cities; for triumphs, lamentations; for joy, tears.

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Thou shalt perceive that verified of Samuel to Agag (1 Sam. xv, 33): “Thy sword hath made many women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women.” It shall be done to them as they have done to others…[Let] them march on with ensigns displayed, let drums beat on, trumpets sound taratantarra, let them sack cities, take the spoil of countries, murder infants, deflower virgins, destroy, burn, persecute, and tyrannize, they shall be fully rewarded at last in the same measure, they and theirs, and that to their desert.

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John Chrysostom: God is not a God of war and fighting

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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St. John Chrysostom
From Homily XIV on Philippians
Oxford translation

God is not a God of war and fighting. Make war and fighting to cease, both that which is against Him, and that which is against your neighbor. Be at peace with all men, consider with what character God saves you. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Such always imitate the Son of God: you imitate Him too. Be at peace.

The more your brother wars against you, by so much the greater will be your reward. For hear the prophet who says, With the haters of peace I was peaceful (Psalm 120:7). This is virtue, this is above man’s understanding, this makes us near God; nothing so much delights God as to remember no evil. This sets you free from your sins, this looses the charges against you: but if we are fighting and buffeting, we become far off from God: for enmities are produced by conflict, and from enmity springs remembrance of evil.

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Cyprian: War cannot consist with peace

February 11, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Cyprian
From Treatise I
Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis

Therefore also the Holy Spirit came as a dove, a simple and joyous creature, not bitter with gall, not cruel in its bite, not violent with the rending of its claws, loving human dwellings, knowing the association of one home; when they have young, bringing forth their young together; when they fly abroad, remaining in their flights by the side of one another, spending their life in mutual intercourse, acknowledging the concord of peace with the kiss of the beak, in all things fulfilling the law of unanimity. This is the simplicity that ought to be known in the Church, this is the charity that ought to be attained, that so the love of the brotherhood may imitate the doves, that their gentleness and meekness may be like the lambs and sheep. What does the fierceness of wolves do in the Christian breast? What the savageness of dogs, and the deadly venom of serpents, and the sanguinary cruelty of wild beasts? We are to be congratulated when such as these are separated from the Church, lest they should lay waste the doves and sheep of Christ with their cruel and envenomed contagion. Bitterness cannot consist and be associated with sweetness, darkness with light, rain with clearness, battle with peace, barrenness with fertility, drought with springs, storm with tranquillity.

***

Among His divine commands and salutary teachings, the Lord, when He was now very near to His passion, added this one, saying, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. John 14:27 He gave this to us as an heritage; He promised all the gifts and rewards of which He spoke through the preservation of peace. If we are fellow-heirs with Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God, we ought to be peacemakers. Blessed, says He, are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God. Matthew 5:9 It behooves the sons of God to be peacemakers, gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, faithfully linked to one another in the bonds of unanimity.

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Democritus: Strange humor: Men covet war in time of peace

February 10, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Democritus
As cited by Robert Burton in Anatomy of Melancholy (from putative letters to Hippocrates)

“When men live in peace, they covet war, detesting quietness, deposing kings, and advancing others in their stead, murdering some men to beget children of their wives. How many strange humours are in men!”

“Some seek to destroy, one to build, another to spoil one country to enrich another and himself. In all these things they are like children, in whom there is no judgment or counsel, and resemble beasts, saving that beasts are better than they, as being contented with nature…”

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Origen: Vanquish all demons who stir up war

February 8, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Origen
From Reply to Celsus
Translator unknown

And as we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them…

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If a revolt had indeed given rise to the Christian community, if Christians took their origins from the Jews, who were allowed to take up arms in defense of their possessions and to kill their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have made homicide absolutely forbidden. He would not have taught that his disciples were never justified in taking such action against a man even if he were the greatest wrongdoer. [Jesus] considered it contrary to his divinely inspired legislation to approve any kind of homicide whatsoever. If Christians had started with a revolt, they would never have submitted to the kind of peaceful laws which permitted them to be slaughtered “like sheep” (Psalm 44:11) and which made them always incapable of taking vengeance on their persecutors because they followed the law of gentleness and love.

To those who ask about our origin and our founder we reply that we have come in response to Jesus’ commands to beat into plowshares the rational swords of conflict and arrogance and to change into pruning hooks these spears that we used to fight with. For we no longer take up the sword against any nation, nor do we learn the art of war any more. Instead of following the traditions that made us “strangers to the covenants” (Eph 2:12), we have become sons of peace through Jesus our founder.

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Robert Burton: We hate the hawk because it is always at war

February 7, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burton: Hypocrites who make the trumpet of the gospel the trumpet of war

Robert Burton: War’s nuptials, war’s justice

Robert Burton: What fury first brought so devilish, so brutish a thing as war into men’s minds?

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Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

I hate wars if they be not ad populi salutem [for the salvation of the public] upon urgent occasion. Odimus accipitrim, quia semper vivit in armis [we hate the hawk because it is always at war]. Offensive wars, except the cause be very just, I will not allow of. For I do highly magnify that saying of Hannibal to Scipio, in Livy: “It had been a blessed thing for you and us, if God had given that mind to our predecessors, that you had been content with Italy, we with Africa. For neither Sicily nor Sardinia are worth such cost and pains, so many fleets and armies, or so many famous captains’ lives.” Omnia prius tentanda, fair means shall first be tried. Peragit tranquilla potestas, Quod violenta nequit [peaceful pressure accomplishes more than violence]. I will have them proceed with all moderation: but hear you, Fabius my general, not Minutius, nam qui Consilio nititur plus hostibus nocet, quam qui sini animi ratione, viribus [for strategy can inflict greater blows on the enemy than uncalculating force]. And in such wars to abstain as much as is possible from depopulations, burning of towns, massacring of infants, &c.

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Robert Burton: What fury first brought so devilish, so brutish a thing as war into men’s minds?

February 6, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burton: Hypocrites who make the trumpet of the gospel the trumpet of war

Robert Burton: War’s nuptials, war’s justice

Robert Burton: We hate the hawk because it is always at war

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Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

If Democritus were alive now…

What would he have said to see, hear, and read so many bloody battles, so many thousands slain at once, such streams of blood able to turn mills: unius ob noxam furiasque, or to make sport for princes, without any just cause, for vain titles (saith Austin [Augustine]), precedency, some wench, or such like toy, or out of desire of domineering, vainglory, malice, revenge, folly, madness,(goodly causes all, ob quas universus orbis bellis et caedibus misceatur,) whilst statesmen themselves in the mean time are secure at home, pampered with all delights and pleasures, take their ease, and follow their lusts, not considering what intolerable misery poor soldiers endure, their often wounds, hunger, thirst, &c., the lamentable cares, torments, calamities, and oppressions that accompany such proceedings, they feel not, take no notice of it. So wars are begun, by the persuasion of a few debauched, hair-brain, poor, dissolute, hungry captains, parasitical fawners, unquiet hotspurs, restless innovators, green heads, to satisfy one man’s private spleen, lust, ambition, avarice, &c.; tales rapiunt scelerata in praelia causae. Flos hominum, proper men, well proportioned, carefully brought up, able both in body and mind, sound, led like so many beasts to the slaughter in the flower of their years, pride, and full strength, without all remorse and pity, sacrificed to Pluto, killed up as so many sheep, for devils’ food, 40,000 at once. At once, said I, that were tolerable, but these wars last always, and for many ages; nothing so familiar as this hacking and hewing, massacres, murders, desolations – ignoto coelum clangore remugit, they care not what mischief they procure, so that they may enrich themselves for the present; they will so long blow the coals of contention, till all the world be consumed with fire. The siege of Troy lasted ten years, eight months, there died 870,000 Grecians, 670,000 Trojans, at the taking of the city, and after were slain 276,000 men, women, and children of all sorts. Caesar killed a million, Mahomet the second Turk, 300,000 persons; Sicinius Dentatus fought in a hundred battles, eight times in single combat he overcame, had forty wounds before, was rewarded with 140 crowns, triumphed nine times for his good service. M. Sergius had 32 wounds; Scaeva, the Centurion, I know not how many; every nation had their Hectors, Scipios, Caesars, and Alexanders! Our Edward the Fourth was in 26 battles afoot: and as they do all, he glories in it, ’tis related to his honour. At the siege of Hierusalem, 1,100,000 died with sword and famine. At the battle of Cannae, 70,000 men were slain, as Polybius records, and as many at Battle Abbey with us; and ’tis no news to fight from sun to sun, as they did, as Constantine and Licinius, &c. At the siege of Ostend (the devil’s academy) a poor town in respect, a small fort, but a great grave, 120,000 men lost their lives, besides whole towns, dorps, and hospitals, full of maimed soldiers; there were engines, fireworks, and whatsoever the devil could invent to do mischief with 2,500,000 iron bullets shot of 40 pounds weight, three or four millions of gold consumed. Who (saith mine author) can be sufficiently amazed at their flinty hearts, obstinacy, fury, blindness, who without any likelihood of good success, hazard poor soldiers, and lead them without pity to the slaughter, which may justly be called the rage of furious beasts, that run without reason upon their own deaths: quis malus genius, quae furia quae pestis, &c.; what plague, what fury brought so devilish, so brutish a thing as war first into men’s minds? Who made so soft and peaceable a creature, born to love, mercy, meekness, so to rave, rage like beasts, and run on to their own destruction? how may Nature expostulate with mankind, Ego te divinum animal finxi, &c.? I made thee an harmless, quiet, a divine creature: how may God expostulate, and all good men? yet, horum facta (as one condoles) tantum admirantur, et heroum numero habent: these are the brave spirits, the gallants of the world, these admired alone, triumph alone, have statues, crowns, pyramids, obelisks to their eternal fame, that immortal genius attends on them, hac itur ad astra. When Rhodes was besieged, fossae urbis cadaveribus repletae sunt, the ditches were full of dead carcases: and as when the said Suleiman, great Turk, beleaguered Vienna, they lay level with the top of the walls. This they make a sport of, and will do it to their friends and confederates, against oaths, vows, promises, by treachery or otherwise;  – dolus an virtus? quis in hoste requirat? leagues and laws of arms, (silent leges inter arma,) for their advantage, omnia jura, divina, humana, proculcata plerumque sunt; God’s and men’s laws are trampled under foot, the sword alone determines all; to satisfy their lust and spleen, they care not what they attempt, say, or do, Rara fides, probitasque viris qui castra sequuntur. Nothing so common as to have father fight against the son, brother against brother, kinsman against kinsman, kingdom against kingdom, province against province, Christians against Christians: a quibus nec unquam cogitatione fuerunt laesi, of whom they never had offence in thought, word, or deed. Infinite treasures consumed, towns burned, flourishing cities sacked and ruinated, quodque animus meminisse horret, goodly countries depopulated and left desolate, old inhabitants expelled, trade and traffic decayed, maids deflowered, Virgines nondum thalamis jugatae, et comis nondum positis ephaebi; chaste matrons cry out with Andromache, Concubitum mox cogar pati ejus, qui interemit Hectorem, they shall be compelled peradventure to lie with them that erst killed their husbands: to see rich, poor, sick, sound, lords, servants, eodem omnes incommodo macti, consumed all or maimed, &c. Et quicquid gaudens scelere animus audet, et perversa mens, saith Cyprian, and whatsoever torment, misery, mischief, hell itself, the devil, fury and rage can invent to their own ruin and destruction; so abominable a thing is war, as Gerbelius concludes, adeo foeda et abominanda res est bellum, ex quo hominum caedes, vastationes, &c., the scourge of God, cause, effect, fruit and punishment of sin, and not tonsura humani generis as Tertullian calls it, but ruina. Had Democritus been present at the late civil wars in France, those abominable wars – bellaque matribus detestatawhere in less than ten years, ten thousand men were consumed, saith Collignius, twenty thousand churches overthrown; nay, the whole kingdom subverted (as Richard Dinoth adds). So many myriads of the commons were butchered up, with sword, famine, war, tanto odio utrinque ut barbari ad abhorrendam lanienam obstupescerent, with such feral hatred, the world was amazed at it: or at our late Pharsalian fields in the time of Henry the Sixth, betwixt the houses of Lancaster and York, a hundred thousand men slain, one writes; another, ten thousand families were rooted out, that no man can but marvel, saith Comineus, at that barbarous immanity, feral madness, committed betwixt men of the same nation, language, and religion. Quis furor, O civesWhy do the Gentiles so furiously rage, saith the Prophet David, Psal. ii. 1. But we may ask, why do the Christians so furiously rage? Arma volunt, quare poscunt, rapiuntque juventus? Unfit for Gentiles, much less for us so to tyrannise, as the Spaniard in the West Indies, that killed up in 42 years (if we may believe Bartholomeus a Casa, their own bishop) 12 millions of men, with stupend and exquisite torments; neither should I lie (said he) if I said 50 millions. I omit those French massacres, Sicilian evensongs, the Duke of Alva’s tyrannies, our gunpowder machinations, and that fourth fury, as one calls it, the Spanish inquisition, which quite obscures those ten persecutions, – saevit toto Mars impius orbe. Is not this mundus furiosus, a mad world, as he terms it, insanum bellum? are not these mad men, as Scaliger concludes, qui in praelio acerba morte, insaniae, suae memoriam pro perpetuo teste relinquunt posteritati; which leave so frequent battles, as perpetual memorials of their madness to all succeeding ages? Would this, think you, have enforced our Democritus to laughter, or rather made him turn his tune, alter his tone, and weep with Heraclitus, or rather howl, roar, and tear his hair in commiseration, stand amazed; or as the poets feign, that Niobe was for grief quite stupefied, and turned to a stone? I have not yet said the worst, that which is more absurd and mad, in their tumults, seditions, civil and unjust wars, quod stulte sucipitur, impie geritur, misere finitur…[V]alour is much to be commended in a wise man; but they mistake most part, auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus virtutem vocant, &c. (‘Twas Galgacus’ observation in Tacitus) they term theft, murder, and rapine, virtue, by a wrong name, rapes, slaughters, massacres, &c. jocus et ludus, are pretty pastimes, as Ludovicus Vives notes. They commonly call the most hair-brain bloodsuckers, strongest thieves, the most desperate villains, treacherous rogues, inhuman murderers, rash, cruel and dissolute caitiffs, courageous and generous spirits, heroical and worthy captains, brave men at arms, valiant and renowned soldiers, possessed with a brute persuasion of false honour, as Pontus Huter in his Burgundian history complains. By means of which it comes to pass that daily so many voluntaries offer themselves, leaving their sweet wives, children, friends, for sixpence (if they can get it) a day, prostitute their lives and limbs, desire to enter upon breaches, lie sentinel, perdu, give the first onset, stand in the fore front of the battle, marching bravely on, with a cheerful noise of drums and trumpets, such vigour and alacrity, so many banners streaming in the air, glittering armours, motions of plumes, woods of pikes, and swords, variety of colours, cost and magnificence, as if they went in triumph, now victors to the Capitol, and with such pomp, as when Darius’ army marched to meet Alexander at Issus. Void of all fear they run into imminent dangers, cannon’s mouth, &c., ut vulneribus suis ferrum hostium hebetent, saith Barletius, to get a name of valour, humour and applause, which lasts not either, for it is but a mere flash this fame, and like a rose, intra diem unum extinguitur, ’tis gone in an instant. Of 15,000 proletaries slain in a battle, scarce fifteen are recorded in history, or one alone, the General perhaps, and after a while his and their names are likewise blotted out, the whole battle itself is forgotten. Those Grecian orators, summa vi ingenii et eloquentiae, set out the renowned overthrows at Thermopylae, Salamis, Marathon, Micale, Mantinea, Cheronaea, Plataea. The Romans record their battle at Cannae, and Pharsalian fields, but they do but record, and we scarce hear of them. And yet this supposed honour, popular applause, desire of immortality by this means, pride and vainglory spur them on many times rashly and unadvisedly, to make away themselves and multitudes of others. Alexander was sorry, because there were no more worlds for him to conquer, he is admired by some for it, animosa vox videtur, et regia, ’twas spoken like a Prince; but as wise Seneca censures him, ’twas vox inquissima et stultissima, ’twas spoken like a Bedlam fool; and that sentence which the same Seneca appropriates to his father Philip and him, I apply to them all, Non minores fuere pestes mortalium quam inundatio, quam conflagratio, quibus, &c. they did as much mischief to mortal men as fire and water, those merciless elements when they rage. Which is yet more to be lamented, they persuade them this hellish course of life is holy, they promise heaven to such as venture their lives bello sacro, and that by these bloody wars, as Persians, Greeks, and Romans of old, as modern Turks do now their commons, to encourage them to fight, ut cadant infeliciterIf they die in the field, they go directly to heaven, and shall be canonised for saints. (O diabolical invention!) put in the Chronicles, in perpetuam rei memoriam, to their eternal memory: when as in truth, as some hold, it were much better (since wars are the scourge of God for sin, by which he punisheth mortal men’s peevishness and folly) such brutish stories were suppressed, because ad morum institutionem nihil habent, they conduce not at all to manners, or good life. But they will have it thus nevertheless, and so they put note of divinity upon the most cruel and pernicious plague of human kind, adore such men with grand titles, degrees, statues, images, honour, applaud, and highly reward them for their good service, no greater glory than to die in the field. So Africanus is extolled by Ennius: Mars, and Hercules, and I know not how many besides of old, were deified; went this way to heaven, that were indeed bloody butchers, wicked destroyers, and troublers of the world, prodigious monsters, hell-hounds, feral plagues, devourers, common executioners of human kind, as Lactantius truly proves, and Cyprian to Donat, such as were desperate in wars, and precipitately made away themselves, (like those Celts in Damascen, with ridiculous valour, ut dedecorosum putarent muro ruenti se subducere, a disgrace to run away for a rotten wall, now ready to fall on their heads,) such as will not rush on a sword’s point, or seek to shun a cannon’s shot, are base cowards, and no valiant men. By which means, Madet orbis mutuo sanguine, the earth wallows in her own blood, Savit amor ferri et scelerati insania belli; and for that, which if it be done in private, a man shall be rigorously executed, and which is no less than murder itself; if the same fact be done in public in wars, it is called manhood, and the party is honoured for it.

Prosperum et felix scelus,
Virtus vocatur. –
We measure all as Turks do, by the event, and most part, as Cyprian notes, in all ages, countries, places, saevitiae magnitudo impunitatem sceleris acquirit; the foulness of the fact vindicates the offender. One is crowned for that which another is tormented: Ille crucem sceleris precium tulit, hic diadema; made a knight, a lord, an earl, a great duke, (as Agrippa notes) for that which another should have hung in gibbets, as a terror to the rest,
et tamen alter,
Si fecisset idem, caderet sub judice morum.

A poor sheep-stealer is hanged for stealing of victuals, compelled peradventure by necessity of that intolerable cold, hunger, and thirst, to save himself from starving: but a great man in office may securely rob whole provinces, undo thousands, pill and poll, oppress ad libitum, flea, grind, tyrannise, enrich himself by spoils of the commons, be uncontrollable in his actions, and after all, be recompensed with turgent titles, honoured for his good service, and no man dare find fault, or mutter at it.

 

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Anatole France: War ruins all trades but its own

February 3, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Anatole France: Selections on war

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Anatole France
From Life of Joan of Arc
Translated by Winifred Stephens

At that time Jeanne was thirteen or fourteen. War everywhere around her, even in the children’s play; the husband of one of her godmothers taken and ransomed by men-at-arms; the husband of her cousin-german Mengette killed by a mortar; her native land overrun by marauders, burnt, pillaged, laid waste, all the cattle carried off; nights of terror, dreams of horror, – such were the surroundings of her childhood.

***

It was a fine war. On both sides the combatants laid hands on bread, wine, money, silver-plate, clothes, cattle big and little, and what could not be carried off was burnt. Men, women, and children were put to ransom. In most of the villages of Bassigny agriculture was suspended, nearly all the mills were destroyed.

***

From the Loire to the Seine and from the Seine to the Somme the only cultivated land was around châteaux and fortresses. Most of the fields lay fallow. In many places fairs and markets had been suspended. Labourers were everywhere out of work. War, after having ruined all trades, was now the only trade.

***

Unfortunately for the labourers of the castelleny of Vaucouleurs…there lived Robert de Saarbruck, Damoiseau of Commercy, who, subsisting on plunder, was especially given to the Lorraine custom of marauding. He was of the same way of thinking as that English king who said that warfare without burnings was no good, any more than chitterlings without mustard.

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Edward Bulwer Lytton: Ghouls on the field of slaughter

January 30, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Edward Bulwer Lytton: The heartless and miserable vanity from which arose wars neither useful nor honourable

Edward Bulwer Lytton: The sword, consecrating homicide and massacre with a hollow name

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Edward Bulwer Lytton
From The Last of The Barons

What woman will provoke war and bloodshed?…

They pursued their way, they cleared the wood; before them lay the field of battle; and a deeper silence seemed to fall over the world! The first stars had risen, but not yet the moon. The gleam of armour from prostrate bodies, which it had mailed in vain, reflected the quiet rays; here and there flickered watchfires, where sentinels were set, but they were scattered and remote. The outcasts paused and shuddered, but there seemed no holier way for their feet; and the roof of the farmer’s homestead slept on the opposite side of the field, amidst white orchard blossoms, whitened still more by the stars. They went on, hand in hand,- the dead, after all, were less terrible than the living. Sometimes a stern, upturned face, distorted by the last violent agony, the eyes unclosed and glazed, encountered them with its stony stare; but the weapon was powerless in the stiff hand, the menace and the insult came not from the hueless lips; persecution reposed, at last, in the lap of slaughter. They had gone midway through the field, when they heard from a spot where the corpses lay thickest piled, a faint voice calling upon God for pardon; and, suddenly, it was answered by a tone of fiercer agony, – that did not pray, but curse.

By a common impulse, the gentle wanderers moved silently to the spot.

The sufferer in prayer was a youth scarcely passed from boyhood: his helm had been cloven, his head was bare, and his long light hair, clotted with gore, fell over his shoulders. Beside him lay a strong-built, powerful form, which writhed in torture, pierced under the arm by a Yorkist arrow, and the shaft still projecting from the wound, – and the man’s curse answered the boy’s prayer.

“Peace to thy parting soul, brother!” said Warner, bending over the man.

“Poor sufferer!” said Sibyll to the boy; “cheer thee, we will send succour; thou mayest live yet!”

***

The boy yielded up his soul while Sibyll prayed, and her sweet voice soothed the last pang; and the man ceased to curse while Adam spoke of God’s power and mercy, and his breath ebbed, gasp upon gasp, away. While thus detained, the wanderers saw not pale, fleeting figures, that had glided to the ground, and moved, gleaming, irregular, and rapid, as marsh-fed vapours, from heap to heap of the slain. With a loud, wild cry, the robber Lancastrian half sprung to his feet, in the paroxysm of the last struggle, and then fell on his face, a corpse!

The cry reached the tymbesteres, and Graul rose from a body from which she had extracted a few coins smeared with blood, and darted to the spot; and so, as Adam raised his face from contemplating the dead, whose last moments he had sought to soothe, the Alecto of the battlefield stood before him, her knife bare in her gory arm. Red Grisell, who had just left (with a spurn of wrath – for the pouch was empty) the corpse of a soldier, round whose neck she had twined her hot clasp the day before, sprang towards Sibyll; the rest of the sisterhood flocked to the place, and laughed in glee as they beheld their unexpected prey. The danger was horrible and imminent; no pity was seen in those savage eyes. The wanderers prepared for death – when, suddenly, torches flashed over the ground. A cry was heard, “See, the riflers of the dead!” Armed men bounded forward, and the startled wretches uttered a shrill, unearthly scream, and fled from the spot, leaping over the carcasses, and doubling and winding, till they had vanished into the darkness of the wood.

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Walter Besant: Wisdom and war

January 24, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Walter Besant: War and the destruction of London, a city lone and widowed

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Walter Besant
From Dorothy Forster

I am sure that were our statesmen also scholars and persons versed in ancient history, the kingdoms of the world would be singularly preserved from external wars, civil tumults, and internal dissensions.

***

“When scholars become ministers and philosophers statesmen, the world shall be better ordered.”

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Romain Rolland: To Gandhi on mental unbalance leading whole world to destruction

January 22, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

From his diary, 1931

Gandhi tackled squarely and openly the two burning questions of capitalism and militarism…On the second, he said that all militarisms and all armies were to be condemned, and more than all the rest those of a nation claiming to be neutral and without aggressive intent. When someone raised the insidious objection: “If a foreign army wanted to cross Switzerland in order to attack another nation, would it not be the duty of Switzerland to stop it and block the way with its own army?” he replied: “Certainly it would be your duty to stop it. But the only true way of doing so would be by a wall of your own people, men, women and children, without arms. No army would dare to pass over their bodies, and if it did so once, it would not do so a second time, as it would be overwhelmed by the revolted conscience of the whole universe; thus your sacrifice would bear fruit.”

***

We are living in a fine age, despite all the disorders it brings with it. Happy the man who can live in it with a healthy body and a strong heart!

Gandhi assents, his eyes shining. And we touch on the underside of scientific grandeur, the dizzy whirlpool of murderous inventions, machines of destruction, poison gas, etc. Gandhi (confidently): This will kill itself. If such a war and such destructions take place and meet with no resistance, there will follow a revulsion against the horrible acts committed. It is not in human nature to advance without resistance and to fight, so to speak, in a vacuum. If a nation is heroic enough to submit to violence without responding to it, it will be the strongest possible object lesson. But it cannot be done without absolute faith.

***

I throw out the idea that Europe seems to be moving towards a privileged class of labourers with a sort of sacrificed proletariat below it for hard and repulsive jobs. This proletariat, recruited among foreigners and the conquered races of Africa and Asia in particular, would end up by forming a class of slaves, as in the time of the Roman Empire, when the Roman plebs unloaded its labour – and also its military defence – on to the plebs of the rest of the world. I also speak, uncomplimentarily, of Kalergi’s “Pan-Europe”.

***

From a letter to Mohandas Gandhi, 1933

At this tragic moment of history, when the whole world is exposed to the most atrocious violence, on the eve of world wars surpassing in cruelty and extent all that have gone before, – a moment when the whole of humanity is divided between oppressors and oppressed, and when the latter, maddened by their sufferings and by injustice, as if drunk by the violence which rends them, see no other recourse than in that very violence, – our self-immolation to that sacred Justice which is all love and no violence takes on a universal and holy value, – like the Cross.

Though, alas! the Cross has not saved the world, it has shown the world the way to save itself, and its rays have cast light on the night of millions of unfortunate people.

***

From a letter to Mohandas Gandhi, 1934

Europe, in which men’s minds are everywhere under excessive tension, is on the eve of a general war in which all the frenzy accumulated over the years risks being let loose, and it will be difficult then for the voices of reason and humanity to make themselves heard.

Permit me, in feverish Europe’s supreme hour of vigil, to appeal to you.

Of all forms of violence, the most crushing at the moment is that of a social state whose demon is Money. The power of Money was always great, but over the last half-century and even more so since the last war, it has become formidably extended by its close connection with the big industries (“heavy” industry, armaments, chemical products) and a colonial imperialism which spreads its exploitation over all the races of the earth. It has taken control of political affairs (governments have become nothing more than instruments in its hand), and its monstrous power has produced in those who wield it a mental unbalance which is leading the whole world to destruction. Large-scale industrial capitalism is fomenting war; it is speculating on the death of whole peoples (opium and its ever more murderous compounds, heroin, etc.). And unfortunately the middle classes are blindly sharing in the profits of these criminal speculations without being aware of it.

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Romain Rolland: Tragedy of scientists at the disposal of military powers

January 21, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
Translator unknown

From a letter to Rabindranath Tagore 1935

Dear Friend,
The World Committee Against War requests me to thank you for having kindly consented to join the Initiative Committee of the Universal Congress of Peace. They have asked me to send you the accompanying circular…It is only as a good example which is encouraging for the rest of the world that India should demonstrate her fraternal solidarity with other countries in this endeavour for a universal assemblage for the defense of Peace…

***

From a letter to Rabindranath Tagore 1940

The war has created a solitude around us. Communications are not easy, especially in winter…Unable to write in the newspaper, which the state of war does not permit, I work and write for happier days. I re-live and try to fix on paper my memories of the past century, – the days of my youth, and the first struggles, before 1900…

In a world handed over to blind violence and falsehood, we must preserve within us truth and peace.

***

From a discussion with Tagore 1930

Science in the modern world is probably the most international element, that is, the spirit of cooperation in scientific research. But the tragic thing is this, that scientists are at the disposal of military powers who are not in the least interested in the progress of human thought and culture. We have today poison gas at the disposal of politicians…

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Rolland Rolland: Letters to Tagore on peace

January 20, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From letters to Rabindranath Tagore
Translator unknown

After the disaster of this shameful world war which marked Europe’s failure, it has become evident that Europe alone cannot save herself. Her thought is in need of Asia’s, just as the latter profited from contact with European thought. These are the two hemispheres of the brain of mankind. If one is paralysed, the whole body degenerates. It is necessary to reestablish their union and their healthy development.
1919

Europe continues to struggle in confusion and it has not ended yet its trial of violence. It continues of its way to ruin…

But the mysterious working of the soul takes place in the midst of chaos and ruins. I am never troubled by the tragic and sneering spectacle of appearances. Under this inflated veil which is about to burst, I feel the roaring breath of a superhuman fate. And this fate itself is but the envelope of fire wrapping eternal Peace.
1922

For having defended during the war the highest soul of France, her genius for humanity, France denies me. The Théâtre-Français has just declared that they would never stage a work of the man who had written Au-dessus de la Mèlee. Such is the law, ironical and tragic. He who wishes to save his people is an enemy of the people, as is said in the beautiful play by Ibsen.
1925

In every country of the world, men like us are alone. I believe they have always been so. But considering that, in this our present age of paroxysms, all characters tend to become exaggerated and over-emphasized, the divergence appears wider between the crowd which exists from day to day, and the small number of men who keep in touch with the eternal.; between the clamorous riot of people who, by means of murderous war and hate, seek to assert, one against the other, their “Me” of the herd, their nations, and those who, having long passed that stage, seek to prepare the next, in order to receive therein the heirs to the present generation. The saying of Schiller, in Don Carlos, which I have taken for a motto in my Les prècurseurs, is always true of us:

…Iche lebe.
Ein Burger derer, welche kommen werden.

“I am a fellow-citizen of those who will come later.”
1925

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Romain Rolland: Mobilization of all the forces in the world for peace

January 19, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

From a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 1936

It is entrusted to me to ask you as well as Gandhi to join a Universal Assembly for Peace which we are convening towards the end of this summer, probably in September at Geneva. It will be a vast and powerful Congress, a sort of mobilisation of all the forces in the world for peace. A number of great national and international organizations and personalities from France, England, United States, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Belgium, Holland and many other countries have already joined (in England Lord Robert Cecil, Major Attlee, Norman Angell, Philip Noel Baker, Alexander and Professor Laski; in France Herriot, Pierre Cot, Jouhaux, Cadrin, Racamond, Professor Langevin, etc.; in Czechoslovakia Benes, Hodza; in Spain Azana, Alvarez del Vago, etc.; in Belgium Louis de Brouckere, Henri Lafontaine, etc.). It will be a question of organizing, simultaneously on a national and international level, resistance against the catastrophic menace of a universal conflagration. Would you please talk about this to our friends in India, while conveying to them my cordial salutations? Their reply as well as yours can be sent either to me or to the head-office of the “World Committee for the Struggle against War and Fascism”, of which I was made Honorary President (237 rue Lafayette, Paris X).

***

From An Expression of Gratitude to Gandhi from a Man of the West (1939)

He appeared in the eyes of Europe at an hour when such an example seemed almost miraculous. Europe had scarcely emerged from four years of savage warfare, whose ravages, ruins and rancours were living on and breeding the germs of new wars yet more implacable.

But if his Word of wisdom and love, like that of the Master of the Sermon on the Mount, has touched the hearts of thousands of good people, it did not fall to them – any more than it was granted to the Master of Nazareth – to change the course of a world which has devoted itself to war and destruction. In order to be applied in politics, the doctrine of non-violence needs a moral climate very different from that which prevails in Europe today: it demands a total self-sacrifice, immense and unanimous, which has no chance of present success in face of the growing ferocity of the new regimes of totalitarian dictatorship which have established themselves in the world and proved themselves pitilessly in the blood of millions of men.

May the spirit of Gandhi, as of old that of the great founders of the Christian orders, St. Bruno, St. Bernard and St. Francis, maintain, amidst the furious torments of the age of crisis and transformation through which mankind is passing, the Civitas Dei, the love of humanity and of harmony!

For the rest of us, intellectuals, scientists, writers and artists, we who also work, as much as our feeble forces will allow, to prepare for the spirit this City of all men in which reigns the peace of God, we who are the third order (in the language of the Church) and who belong to the Pan-Humanist brotherhood, -we send our fervent tribute of love and veneration to Gandhi our master and brother, who in his heart and in his action realizes our ideal of the humanity to come.

***

Gandhi’s Statement on Romain Rolland’s Death (1945)

Having been once bitten, I am too shy to believe in Romain Rolland’s reported death. But it seems that this report is true. And yet for me as for many millions, Romain Rolland is not dead. He truly lives through his famous writings and perhaps more so through his many and nameless deeds. He lived for truth and non-violence as he saw and believed them from time to time. He responded to all sufferings. He revolted against the wanton human butchery called ‘War’.

===================================

From Le Voyage Interieur

It was not only my cosmic dreams which I sought to nourish at the springs of clairvoyant India; I also bore thither my European concerns, the spectre of war, which had already ravaged the fields of the West and was still prowling round the charnel-house. I knew only too well that the Furies were still lurking behind the tombstones from which the red smoke of blood was still rising. And I was anxious to erect in their path, as at the conclusion of Aeschylus’ trilogy, a barrier built of sovereign reason which might bring the conflict to an end. This could hardly be expected of the victorious imperialisms of the West, intent on enjoying the spoils and gorged to stupefaction, who were neglecting even the most elementary precautions to keep what they held. I thought I had found the answer in the revelation brought to me in 1922 by Gandhi, the little Indian St. Francis. Did he bear, in the folds of his homespun robe, in his Ahimsa, the heroic Non-violence which resists and does not flee, the key to our liberation from future massacres? I so needed to believe it that for several years I did believe it passionately, and I generously worked to spread this faith. I was certain – and I retract nothing – that in this alone could be found the salvation of our world laden with crimes, past, present and future. But to make this possible the world had to will it, and first of all it had to find the strength for it; for such a faith demanded the consenting self-sacrifice of a people of heroes, and the post-war climate was not of a kind to encourage such a breed in the West…

***

From Introduction to Young India

I wanted to destroy a misunderstanding which would confine Gandhi within a nerveless pacifism. If Christ was the Prince of Peace, Gandhi is no less worthy of this noble title. But the peace which both of them bring to men is not the peace of passive acceptance, but the peace of active love and self-sacrifice…

A few weeks ago, after long debates about the Amnesty in the French Parliament, the public authorities, faced with little resistance from an opposition mediocre both in number and in quality, refused to include Conscientious Objectors in the proffered pardon – establishing as terms of their amnesty that it should apply only to those who fought.

Our politicians are wearing blinkers. They do not suspect that there is more than one battle going on in the modern world; and the most heroic is no longer the one being fought at the front by the national armies.

***

From The Christ of India

He [Gandhi] has come at the world’s darkest hour, at which the principles supporting Western civilization have been undermined. The tottering European world is abandoning itself to primitive and violent instincts of the most bestial kind, served by all the means of destruction which a highly refined science can offer. On the morrow of a terrible four-year war, and on the eve, not just of one war, but of ten related wars which will not leave a single neutral state in safety – between these suspended menaces, as between the parted waves of a Red Sea on the point of engulfing mankind as they close – there sits the frail sage of India…

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Romain Rolland: Letters on conscientious objection

January 18, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

From a letter to Jenny Guyot 1923

Look closely at the question of the Conscientious Objectors, Gandhi’s heroic non-violence, the International Civil Service. These are the rare roads to salvation available to a Europe infected by the spirit of violence, and pregnant with new wars which will inevitably destroy her great races unless there is a desperate effort on the part of their moral elite

***

From a letter to Pierre Cérésole 1923

I should greatly encourage young people looking for a thesis topic in history to study the origins and development of Conscientious Objectors. The movement seems to go back a long way. Gandhi in the Transvaal, twenty years ago, was referring to the English Conscientious Objectors whose activities had struck him. But in fact they must always have existed, ever since the early days of Christianity and the rebels against the orders of recantation issued by the Church rallying to the power of Constantine…

***

From a letter to Henri Barbusse 1922

But there is another arm, much more powerful and within everyone’s reach, high or low; an arm which has proved its effectiveness among other races, and it’s surprising that it’s never mentioned in France; the arm used by thousands of Conscientious Objectors among the Anglo Saxon nations, and by which Mahatma Gandhi is at present undermining the dominance of the British Empire in India. I refer to non-acceptance (and I’m not saying non-resistance), for make no mistake about it, this is the supreme resistance. To refuse consent and co-operation to the criminal State is the most heroic act open to a man of our time; it demands of him – just him, an individual, alone in face of the State colossus which can coldly throttle him behind closed doors – an energy and spirit of sacrifice incomparably greater than that of confronting death when your breath and the dying sweat on your brow are mingled with those of the throng. Such moral force is possible only if one kindles in the heart of man – each man individually – the fire of conscience, the quasi-mystic sense of the divinity which is in every mind and which, at the decisive hours of history, has raised the greatest races to the stars…

***

From a letter to B. De Ligt 1928

For a genuinely heroic soul like Vivekananda (whose life story I am at present writing), non-resistance is forbidden to anyone who hypocritically slips the slightest cowardly thought into it. For the question of the conscience, or perhaps one should say the salvation of the soul, has a much greater place in their thought than that of material social progress, for their concerns are those of the director of conscience. War is detestable in their eyes less for its ravages on the battlefield than for those it makes in the human heart.

***

From a letter to Eugen Relgis 1929

In general what seems to me most urgent, as also to Pierre Doyen, Han Ryner, Einstein, Delpeuch and Stefan Zweig, is to set aside all doctrines for the time being and come to an agreement on a precise action, a collective “No”! For war is an action, not a doctrine, and when it breaks out there will be no time for Byzantine discussions on the sex of the angels. We shall have to say ‘Yesl” or “No!” to war on the spot, and thereby accept all the terrible consequences for ourselves and those closest to us…Pacifist mobilization needs extensive preliminary intellectual exercises, so as to rehearse the parts to be played.

***

From a letter to Reginald Reynolds 1930

The “pacifism” of “good people” (It’s not very much to be “good people”! What we need is “brave people”) is fatal to all virtues, and above all else to energy, the mother of them all – energy of thought which does not evade the issue and dares to be sincere with itself – and energy of the will which dares to say what it believes to be true, and to act on what it says. The emasculated “pacifist” movement has allowed itself to be taken in by the deceptive mask of today’s democratic states, who are ruining their peoples producing armaments for the most ferocious of wars. This mask must be torn away; no dealings are possible with hypocrisy!

***

From a letter to Albert Einstein 1930

Nothing seems to me more appropriate to the celebration of one of India’s spiritual leaders than to express, as you wish to do, our moral adhesion to the principle of non-acceptance without violence, which in our civilization is translated into the refusal of military service. You know that this is my conviction as well. I should merely like to be sure that we never forget, and we never let those who listen to us forget, that in our violent Europe, on the eve of a new attack of delirium tremens, this refusal has, or will have, self-sacrifice as a necessary consequence. Those over whom we have spiritual charge must not be allowed to form illusions on the strength of our words; they must realize that we are leading them to almost certain martyrdom. If they agree to this, then so do we. In our hard human life, martyrdom is almost always the necessary stage through which reason must pass in order to progress into the world of facts.

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Romain Rolland: A little idealism to make the war booty more delectable

January 17, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

THE FAT MEN
…Money needs no bridge. Mercury has always had wings on his heels. [To the workmen, pointing to the people on the other bank.] Look, gentlemen, look over there; it’s appalling. They’re armed to the teeth. Cannons and catapults, muzzles pointing, ready to spit, their powder dry and their cord oiled. Halherds, muskets, a forest of surging arms. My flesh creeps, creeps at the sight. Prepare! It’s against us.

THE WORKMEN
No it isn’t, old fool. They’re playing. We’re doing just the same.

THE FAT MEN
They’re doing much more. Count, count! Ah! the brigands! They have seventy-one rifles, while we have only threescore and ten.

THE WORKMEN
But we have twenty-seven catapults against their twenty-six.

THE FAT MEN
Silence! Stop him!…The wretch! He is betraying the secrets of the defense.

THE WORKMEN
Defense against whom? We’re all good comrades.

THE FAT MEN
O, impious, impious! Abject creatures, can you be so far degraded that you don’t know how to hate your enemies?

THE WORKMEN
Faith, no! I neither love nor hate you.

THE FAT MEN
Men without a country! Can’t yon read? It is written: “Your enemies are the robbers who don’t belong here.”

THE WORKMEN
And what about the robbers here?

THE FAT MEN
The game is preserved here. I have a license to shoot.

THE WORKMEN
I don’t see the difference if I’m fleeced here or there.

THE FAT MEN
There’s a very great difference.

THE WORKMEN
Yes, certainly for you.

THE FAT MEN
Would you rather be fleeced here and there also? Listen a bit: isn’t it better that we should rob you in a friendly way, all in the family, leaving you for decency’s sake the breeches to your back? Rather than to see them adorning an alien’s behind? Understand, my lad: that you should be plucked, that is good, very good, and we have no fault to find; it’s the law of nature, the Law. But the law doesn’t demand that a goose should be plucked twice. Why the devil do you want to be? Upon my word I speak as your good friend; I am standing up for your rights…

***

THE CROWD OF GALLIP0ULET
It is God! God has come! God is among us! God is for us! God is ours!

The crowd has fallen into line and Master-God is seen advancing, wearing Gallipoulet uniform, epaulettes, gold braid and all, over his white robe – which makes him look like a sapper. Behind him, carried on a throne in the midst of the Dervishes and the Very-Fat, is Truth. She almost disappears under the heavy, stiff, gold-embroidered chasuble that hides her arms; her head droops under the weight of a massive tiara; a bright metallic veil covers her nose, mouth and chin as though she were an Arab woman: her eyes alone are free. With every appearance of veneration, the Very-Fat uphold the train of her long Byzantine mantle and the gold and silver cords attached to it. She is closely escorted by a bodyguard, bussolanti, journalists and diplomats, who allow no one to come near, and keep off the gapers.

MASTER-GOD
Yes, my friends, I am yours, wholly at your service, myself, my relations, my servants and my lady [He bows his head.] – the lady Truth, your queen and servant. Since one is your God, it is our duty to obey you. And, God’s truth, I love you; one is very comfortable staying in your house; the food is good; therefore your cause could not be bad. You laugh at me sometimes, I admit; but I can laugh too, and I can appreciate the worth of a good joke. Laugh away, my sons; you’ll pay for it later all the more; in the end you’re as meek as sheep. I love you, we love one another, we’re as thick as thieves. Therefore, since the time has come to take, let us take. But first a little idealism! The booty will seem the more valuable for that. Attention, please; for I am beginning…Your possessions, my friends, are sacred; so will other people’s be when they become yours, for you have Truth on your side (you can see her: she’s veiled so as not to spoil her complexion); and along with her you have Right, Mighty Liberty, Authority, Money and the Virtues (who, prudent girls, never marry a beggar). Capital and the Ideal, the Spirit that flies, hands that filch – in a word, the monopoly of Civilization. Everything about you is holy, holy, and you are holy little saints yourselves. Consequently anyone who attacks you is accursed and you may suppress him: ’tis an act of piety. Now it is obvious that you are being attacked: Truth has the proofs in a sealed envelope: but we mayn’t show them you: it’s a secret. Besides, it would really be undignified to discuss them: you are in the right; you have all the trumps in your hand; so you ought to be attacked. And attacked you are. Attack away, then; you will only be doing so to defend yourselves. What say I, yourselves alone? You will be defending Justice, the Virtues and myself, by God! whom you represent – I am not being modest – far better than We could ever do. On then, courage, kill, kill! For that is war. It is quite true that in my books it is written: “Thou shalt not kill. Love thy neighbor.” But the enemy is not your neighbor. And defending oneself isn’t killing. It’s only a matter of coming to a proper understanding of the question. My servants are here to set your hearts at rest. Cheerily, cheerily! my sons, come on; let’s fight!

ONE OF THE THIN MEN
But, my Lord, here’s Truth. Why does Truth not speak?

MASTER-GOD
She’s afraid of the air, my dear child. Her throat is delicate and she has toothache. But if you care to ask one of these gentlemen carrying her, the journalists of the escort, they know her from top to toe; they have viewed her between a pair of sheets.

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Romain Rolland: Letter to Gandhi on confronting age of global wars

January 16, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From a letter to Mohandas Gandhi
April 16, 1928
Translated by R. A. Francis

However great would be my joy to see you and speak with you, I still believe that it would be neither right nor fair for you to come to Europe solely for that.

But it would be right and it would be fair for you to come to Europe in order to make contact with the youth of Europe, which needs your help, your advice and your enlightenment.

And it is necessary in either case (whether you come or not), it is indispensable that you should give an absolutely clear, precise and definitive formulation to the listening world of your doctrine, your faith, on the matter of war and non-acceptance.

We are both of us fairly old and of suspect health; we may disappear any day. It is important that we should leave a precise testament to the youth of the world which it can use as a rule of conduct, for it will have a terrible burden to bear in the coming half-century. I see fearful trials building up in front of them. It no longer seems to me a matter of doubt that there is in preparation an era of destruction, an age of global wars beside which all those of the past will seem only children’s games, of chemical warfare which will annihilate whole populations. What moral armour are we offering to those who will have to face up to the monster which we shall not live to see? What immediate answer to the riddle of the murderous Sphinx, who will not wait? What marching orders?

Our words must not be equivocal. We have the sad example of Christ, whose admirable Gospels contain too many passages which, though not contradictory in fundamental content, at least appear so in form, and lend them selves to the self-interested interpretations of the worst Pharisees. In the last war we saw in all countries how hypocrites, fanatics, statesmen like Lloyd George, bishops and pastors, false believers and, worst of all, true believers, could by chosen passages from the New Testament justify themselves for extolling war, vengeance and holy murder. In the coming crises, there must be no doubt about Gandhi’s thought.

Then again, it is necessary to weigh all the consequences of the orders given, to weigh the forces of the men to whom they will be entrusted. The young men of Europe are aware of the trials waiting for them. They don’t want to be duped about the imminence of the danger, which too many “pacifists” are trying not to see and to put out of their minds. They want to look it clearly in the face, and they ask: “To what extent is it reasonable, to what extent is it human, not to accept? Must the sacrifice be total, absolute, without exception, without any consideration either for ourselves or for the things which surround us and depend on us? And in all honesty to ourselves, can we be sure that this total sacrifice will diminish the sum total of future human sufferings – does it not risk handing over man’s destiny to a barbarity without counterweight?”

I’m asking the questions (some of the questions) which I feel are being turned over in the minds of the young. I’m not giving my own answers. I don’t count. My importance in this matter is secondary alongside yours. The man of pure thought (pure in the intellectual sense) has no more than a weak effect on the present; his forecasts have only a long-term chance of working themselves out. But you as a man of active faith are the direct intermediary between the forces of Eternity and present movements. You are on the poop-deck; you have the power to give direct orders to the sailors how to steer the ship in the storm. Give those orders! Let’s stop thinking about the port we have left (that 1914 war, about which we seem unable to reach understanding and which risks confusing all our discussions) and look to the port we must reach – in the future! My dear friend, I’m sorry to be always speaking to you so freely. I am aware of my moral inferiority. I am not worthy to touch your feet. But I know the anxiety and the doubts which assail the best men in Europe, and I am passing on what they say.

Assuring you of my respectful affection,
Romain Rolland

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Stefan Zweig: A single conscience defies the madness of war

January 15, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

In the eyes of the patriots, Rolland’s first crime was that he openly discussed the moral problems of the war. On ne discute pas la patrie. The first axiom of war ethics is that those who cannot or will not shout with the crowd must hold their peace. Soldiers must never be taught to think; they must only be incited to hate. A lie which promotes enthusiasm is worth more in wartime than the best of truths.

***

Would the war between European brethren have ever broken out if every townsman, every countryman, every artist, had looked within to enquire whether the mines of Morocco and the swamps of Albania were truly precious to him? Would there have been a war if every one had asked himself whether he really hated his brothers across the frontier as vehemently as the newspapers and the professional politicians would have him believe? The herd instinct, the pattering of others’ arguments, a blind enthusiasm on behalf of sentiments that were never truly felt, could alone render such a catastrophe possible.

***

The war-current rose yet higher, the stream being fed by new and ever new blood flowing from innocent victims. Again and again some additional country became involved in the carnage. At length, as the clamor still grew louder, Rolland paused for a moment to take breath. He felt that it would be madness were he to continue the attempt to outcry the cries of so many madmen.

***

The spiritual character of the new work [Clerambault] recalls a long-forgotten tradition, the meditations of the old French moralists, the sixteenth century stoics who during a time of war-madness endeavored in besieged Paris to maintain their intellectual serenity by engaging in Platonic dialogues. The war itself, however, was not to be the theme, for the free soul does not strive with the elements. The author’s intention was to discuss the spiritual accompaniments of this war, for these to Rolland seemed as tragical as the destruction of millions of men. His concern was the destruction of the individual soul in the deluge produced by the overflowing of the mass soul.

***

The quiet suburban household is suddenly struck as by a thunderbolt with the news of the outbreak of war. Clerambault takes the train to Paris; and no sooner is he sprinkled with spray from the hot waves of enthusiasm, than all his ideals of international amity and perpetual peace vanish into thin air. He returns home a fanatic, oozing hate, and steaming with phrases. Under the influence of the tremendous storm he begins to sound his lyre: Theocritus has become Pindar, a war poet. Rolland gives a marvelously vivid description of something every one of us has witnessed, showing how Clerambault, like all persons of average nature, really takes a delight in horrors, however unwilling he may be to admit it even to himself. He is rejuvenated, his life seems to move on wings; the enthusiasm of the masses stirs the almost extinguished flame of enthusiasm in his own breast; he is fired by the national fire; he is physically and mentally refreshed by the new atmosphere. Like so many other mediocrities, he secures in these days his greatest literary triumph. His war songs, precisely because they give such vigorous expression to the sentiments of the man in the street, become a national property. Fame and public favor are showered upon him, so that (at this time when millions of his fellows are perishing) he feels well, self-confident, alive as never before.

“Forgive us, ye Dead,” the dialogue of the country with its children, is published. At first no one heeds the pamphlet. But after a time it arouses public animosity. A storm of indignation bursts upon Clerambault, threatening to lay his life in ruins. Friends forsake him. Envy, which had long been crouching for a spring, now sends whole regiments to the attack. Ambitious colleagues seize the opportunity of proclaiming their patriotism in contrast with his deplorable sentiments. Worst of all for Clerambault in that his innocent wife and daughter have to suffer on his account. They do not upbraid him, but he feels as if he had aimed a shaft against them. He who has hitherto sunned himself in the warmth of family life and has enjoyed the comforts of modest fame, is now absolutely alone.

He perseveres in his pilgrimage even when he has lost faith in his power to help his fellow men, for this is no longer his goal. He passes men by, marching onward towards the unseen, towards truth; his love for truth exposing him ever more pitilessly to the hatred of men. By degrees he becomes entangled in a net of calumnies; his troubles develop into a “Clerambault affair”; at length a prosecution is initiated. The state has recognized its enemy in the free man. But while the case is still in progress, the “defeatist” meets his fate from the pistol bullet of a fanatic. Clerambault’s end recalls the opening of the world catastrophe with the assassination of Jaurès.

***

For five years Romain Rolland was at war with the madness of the times. At length the fiery chains were loosened from the racked body of Europe. The war was over, the armistice had been signed. Men were no longer murdering one another; but their evil passions, their hate, continued. Romain Rolland’s prophetic insight celebrated a mournful triumph. His distrust of victory, his reiterated warnings that conquerors are merciless, were more than justified by the revengeful reality. “Victory in arms is disastrous to the ideal of an unselfish humanity. Men find it extraordinarily difficult to remain gentle in the hour of triumph.” These forecasts were terribly fulfilled. Forgotten were all the fine words anent the victory of freedom and right. The Versailles conference devoted itself to the installation of a new regime of force and to the humiliation of a defeated enemy. What the idealism of simpletons had expected to be the end of all wars, proved, as the true idealists who look beyond men towards ideas had foreseen, the seed of fresh hatred and renewed acts of violence.

***

Strange has been the rhythm of this man’s life, surging again and again in passionate waves against the time, sinking once more into the abyss of disappointment, but never failing to rise on the crest of faith renewed. Once again we see Romain Rolland as prototype of those who are magnificent in defeat. Not one of his ideals, not one of his wishes, not one of his dreams, has been realized. Might has triumphed over right, force over spirit, men over humanity.

Yet never has his struggle been grander, and never has his existence been more indispensable, than during recent years; for it is his apostolate alone which has saved the gospel of crucified Europe; and furthermore he has rescued for us another faith, that of the imaginative writer as the spiritual leader, the moral spokesman of his own nation and of all nations. This man of letters has preserved us from what would have been an imperishable shame, had there been no one in our days to testify against the lunacy of murder and hatred. To him we owe it that even during the fiercest storm in history the sacred fire of brotherhood was never extinguished. The world of the spirit has no concern with the deceptive force of numbers. In that realm, one individual can outweigh a multitude. For an idea never glows so brightly as in the mind of the solitary thinker; and in the darkest hour we were able to draw consolation from the signal example of this poet. One great man who remains human can for ever and for all men rescue our faith in humanity.

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Romain Rolland: The intellectual drunkeness of war propaganda

January 14, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From a letter to Mohandas Gandhi
February 17, 1929
Translated by R. A. Francis

All I should like to do is to offer you a few reflections on the fearful days which India faces.

You know the conditions of modern combat. You know that the first act of the modern state in warfare is to ruin its adversary in the opinion of the rest of the world; to this end it stifles its enemy’s voice and fills the world with its own. You know that the British Empire is past master in this art, and that it has all the wherewithal to blockade India and cut her off from the rest of the world, which it can then flood with its own propaganda. The process has already started. For the last month events in Bombay have served as a pretext for making the world think that India is in flames, and every day the main French papers, with a docility which I suspect is well-paid, receive the reports coming from England and carry stories with large headlines about “Hell in Bombay” and the “sinister tally” of each day – as if the trouble extended to the whole of India and as if there were no evil, crimes or massacres anywhere but in India – as if the salvation of all humanity depended on the good gaoler keeping the prison doors well bolted, to protect the world from the Indian hydra which he alone in his heroism is able to keep in chains! It is easy to imagine how shrill this propaganda will become as the decisive hour approaches, and when the gauntlet is down it will know no bounds.

Now I have already seen far too much evidence of the terrifying intellectual passivity in which the peoples of Europe are at present lying. Ever since the first day of the 1914 war their poor brains have been subjected to so much daily intoxication from the whole of their press that they have become unable to react. This is another type of intellectual alcoholism, no less ravaging in its effects than the other. There is hardly a free newspaper left in the West. There is not one where a free man like myself can write (except for a few poor news-sheets with no circulation and one or two large reviews which do not reach a wide public because they appear at infrequent intervals and cost quite a lot).

***

No one fights alone today. The whole world is involved in every conflict, and it throws the enormous weight of its opinion into one of the trays of the balance – either for or against. It was largely by this weight of opinion, well directed and well manipulated by the Allies, that the German Empire was crushed.

It would be unwise of the Indian leaders to neglect these great forces. It seems to me indispensable that they should use this year to prepare European opinion, to open the eyes of the thousands of men here who are blindfolded by their domesticated press.

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From his diary, June 1930

The British Empire may use whatever arms it wishes, but its days are numbered. Let us not be deceived by its displays of power and bluster! From this day forth it is a hunted animal fighting for its life. The British Empire was built on a pile of monstrous injustices, on the murderous exploitation of millions of men; these millions of men have rediscovered their own strength. They only have to shrug their shoulders and the British Empire is already trembling on its foundations. We all see it crumble, and may all empires based on pillage follow in its fall! We too need to settle our accounts with humanity!

***

From his diary, 1931

For our enemy is almost impossible to grasp, and has no name. It is not a foreign master, creeping in like a maggot under a nation’s skin, nor is it a national master, with whom one can, and must, settle accounts man to man. It is an international combination of capitalist interests and enterprises, secretly including the great industrial and commercial tycoons of a whole bloc of nations (even nations officially hostile to each other, like France and Germany) and spreading its net over the whole world. For twenty or thirty years now it has been working in the shadows. Its intrigues in the pre-war years have been precisely traced, and during the war it strengthened its position in monstrous fashion, as revealed by a large number of publications and even public revelations in parliamentary debates – subsequently strangled and stifled by occult financial powers. During the war, national policies and even, in some circumstances (such as the Briey mining basin in Lorraine), troop movements were subordinated to them. In the last twelve years their supremacy has become established; most national governments on the continent are no more than screens for their activities, and nearly all the European press is subject to them. How can one fight? Pacifist organizations are senile almost as soon as they are born; they waste all their energy, most of which is merely verbal anyway, against false targets; for the hidden masters of politics and the shady international businessmen use peace as well as war, one after another, to serve their profits and their domination.

We can no longer count as we used to do on the slow evolutionary rhythm of events. The same accelerated movement which carries along the European machine-age and its inventions is also arousing peoples and states. A social conflict or a world war which in the past would have taken decades or a half-centuries to ripen now takes shape, swells and erupts like an abscess in a few years. Resistance and defence must be just as prompt – and, if necessary, as overwhelming – as the attack.

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Stefan Zweig: Idea of human brotherhood buried by the grave-diggers of war

January 13, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

The events of August 2, 1914, broke Europe into fragments. Therewith collapsed the faith which the brothers in the spirit, Jean Christophe and Olivier, had been building with their lives. A great heritage was cast aside. The idea of human brotherhood, once sacred, was buried contemptuously by the grave-diggers of all the lands at war, buried among the million corpses of the slain.

***

In Jean Christophe, Romain Rolland had delivered his message to this fated hour. To make the confession a live thing, he had to give something more, himself. The time had come for him to do what Jean Christophe had done for Olivier’s son. He must guard the sacred flame; he must fulfil what his hero had prophetically foreshadowed. The way in which Rolland fulfilled this obligation has become for us all an imperishable example of spiritual heroism, which moves us even more strongly than we were moved by his written words. We saw his life and personality taking the form of an actually living conviction. We saw how, with the whole power of his name, and with all the energy of his artistic temperament, he took his stand against multitudinous adversaries in his own land and in other countries, his gaze fixed upon the heaven of his faith.

Rolland had never failed to recognize that in a time of widespread illusion it would be difficult to hold fast to his convictions, however self-evident they might seem. But, as he wrote to a French friend in September, 1914, “We do not choose our own duties. Duty forces itself upon us. Mine is, with the aid of those who share my ideas, to save from the deluge the last vestiges of the European spirit…Mankind demands of us that those who love their fellows should take a firm stand, and should even fight, if needs must, against those they love.”

For five years we have watched the heroism of this fight, pursuing its own course amid the warring of the nations. We have watched the miracle of one man’s keeping his senses amid the frenzied millions, of one man’s remaining free amid the universal slavery of public opinion. We have watched love at war with hate, the European at war with the patriots, conscience at war with the world. Throughout this long and bloody night, when we were often ready to perish from despair at the meaninglessness of nature, the one thing which has consoled us and sustained us has been the recognition that the mighty forces which were able to crush towns and annihilate empires, were powerless against an isolated individual possessed of the will and the courage to be free. Those who deemed themselves the victors over millions, were to find that there was one thing which they could not master, a free conscience.

Vain, therefore, was their triumph, when they buried the crucified thought of Europe. True faith works miracles. Jean Christophe had burst the bonds of death, had risen again in the living form of his own creator.

***

We do not detract from the moral services of Romain Rolland, but we may perhaps excuse to some extent his opponents, when we insist that Rolland had excelled all contemporary imaginative writers in the profundity of his preparatory studies of war and its problems. If to-day, in retrospect, we contemplate his writings, we marvel to note how, from the very first and throughout a long period of years, they combined to build up, as it were, a colossal pyramid, culminating in the point upon which the lightnings of war were to be discharged. For twenty years, the author’s thought, his whole creative activity, had been unintermittently concentrated upon the contradictions between spirit and force, between freedom and the fatherland, between victory and defeat. Through a hundred variations he had pursued the same fundamental theme, treating it dramatically, epically, and in manifold other ways. There is hardly a problem relevant to this question which is not touched upon by Christophe and Olivier, by Aërt and by the Girondists, in their discussions. Intellectually regarded, Rolland’s writings are a maneuvering ground for all the incentives to war. He thus had his conclusions already drawn when others were beginning an attempt to come to terms with events. As historian, he had described the perpetual recurrence of war’s typical accompaniments, had discussed the psychology of mass suggestion, and had shown the effects of wartime mentality upon the individual. As moralist and as citizen of the world, he had long ere this formulated his creed. We may say, in fact, that Rolland’s mind had been in a sense immunized against the illusions of the crowd and against infection by prevalent falsehoods.

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Romain Rolland: Gandhi vs Einstein: War must be stopped before it starts

January 12, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

Romain Rolland: Gandhi and the Satanic nature of war

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Romain Rolland
From his diary, 1931
Translated by R. A. Francis

I tell Gandhi at some length about the moral and social state of continental Europe, and France in particular. I go back briefly to the period of 1900-1914, to explain the double bankruptcy during and after the war of the so-called realists (the politicians) and the idealists, symbolized by the final failure of both Clemenceau and Wilson – hence the bitter disillusionment of the following generations. I show him the true hidden face of politics, which we began to suspect only about the middle of the war: Money, the great adventurers and industrial tycoons (Zaharoff, Deterding), the international trusts and cartels, – and their daily growing supremacy over the nation states, and over public opinion through the press which they control. I give some of the more striking examples: the Comite des Forges, the Briey affair during the war, the steelworks, the oil and petrol companies, the Hugenberg-Reynaud negotiations, the worst kind of war-mongering nationalism stimulated and made drunk by business internationalism. I consider what form of opposition may today be set up against this cancer, gnawing at the West and America, and seeking to eat away the rest of the world. The democracies have no means of defending themselves: Money has corrupted them to the core, bribed, divided and emasculated them…

***

(Quoting Gandhi) “The problems you have placed before me are terrible. Whereas non-violence is effective and will continue to be so in India, it may well be that in Europe it will fail. But this does not embarrass me. I believe non-violence has a universal application. But I do not believe that I myself can give this message to Europe…I have spoken with many sincere Englishmen, and foreigners too, and I say to them: You must not budge an inch if you do not have faith within you. But I should still believe even if the whole world did not believe. After having seen the difficulties, after yesterday’s conversation, it remains my faith that non-violence alone can save Europe. Otherwise all is lost…From what I have seen of Europe, I believe that Europe cannot avoid the need for non-violence. Luckily no extensive organization is necessary; all that is required is one man who will be faith and non-violence incarnate. Until that man appears you must wait, hope and prepare the atmosphere.”

***

England is a privileged country. The situation is different elsewhere. But there is one more danger in Europe and America, in the existence of a middle class living at the expense of the oppressed peoples of other nations. After the victory, we were told in France that “Germany will pay”. Now all the peoples of the West are being told: “The world – Asia and Africa – will pay.” Armies of coloured men are being trained for the coming wars. We are returning to the system of the Roman Empire with its privileged people, who unloaded all their burdens on to the people they enslaved. At present my people, in France, are still enjoying a well-being based on world poverty. Even our most open-minded intellectuals prefer not to look too closely; they gain too much from the situation and don’t want the present order, based on force, to be disturbed.

Gandhi: Is not the remedy in the hands of the exploited peoples? In non-co-operation with the exploiters?…

R. R.: For people without religion this is impossible. The workers will be tempted by high salaries to make the arms and ammunitions which will be used against their brothers in other lands. First of all we ought to preach to them a gospel of poverty, selflessness and abnegation, a gospel of love. But it is more difficult to preach poverty and abnegation to victors and conquerors than it is to the vanquished and the oppressed.

***

The main discussion is about the “Theory and Practice of Non-violence”, and a report of it can be read in the “Letters from Europa” sent by Desai to Young India. I shall report here only the parts of it relevant to Einstein’s thesis, about which I have written myself, and the objections to it from Gandhi’s point of view. “How to carry out nonviolence effectively.” Should one simply refuse to carry arms? Einstein has made an appeal to men not to take part in war…Gandhi replies humorously: “Really, if I may say this about a great man, it seems that Einstein has stolen my method. But if you want me to go to the heart of the matter, I should say that simply refusing military service is not enough. To refuse military service when the time has come is to leave action until the time available for combating the evil has practically passed. Military service is only a symptom of a deeper evil. All those not inscribed for military service still participate equally in the crime if they support the state in other ways. Anyone who supports, directly or indirectly, a state with a military organization participates in the crime. Every man, young or old, participates in the crime if he contributes to the maintenance of the state by paying taxes…That is why all those who wish to stop military service should do it by withdrawing all co-operation from the state. The refusal of military service is much more superficial than non-co-operation with the whole system supporting the state. But then the opposition becomes so sharp and effective that you risk not only being put in prison, but also being thrown into the street…What Einstein says can happen only once a year and with a very small number of people, but I suggest non-co-operation with the state as your first duty.”

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Stefan Zweig: The whole world of feeling, the whole world of thought, became militarized

January 11, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

During the five years of the war Romain Rolland remained in Switzerland, Europe’s heart; remained there that he might fulfil his task, “de dire ce qui est juste et humain.” Here, where the breezes blow freely from all other lands, and whence a voice could pass freely across all the frontiers, here where no fetters were imposed upon speech, he followed the call of his invisible duty. Close at hand the endless waves of blood and hatred emanating from the frenzy of war were foaming against the frontiers of the cantonal state. But throughout the storm, the magnetic needle of one intelligence continued to point unerringly towards the immutable pole of life – to point towards love.

***

In Rolland’s view it was the artist’s duty to serve his fatherland by conscientious service to all mankind, to play his part in the struggle by waging war against the suffering the war was causing and against the thousandfold torments entailed by the war. He rejected the idea of absolute aloofness. “An artist has no right to hold aloof while he is still able to help others.” But this aid, this participation, must not take the form of fostering the murderous hatred which already animated the millions. The aim must be to unite the millions further, where unseen ties already existed, in their infinite suffering. He therefore took his part in the ranks of the helpers, not weapon in hand, but following the example of Walt Whitman, who, during the American Civil War, served as hospital assistant.

Romain Rolland was one of the first to offer personal assistance. The Musée Rath was quickly made available for the purposes of the Red Cross. In one of the small wooden cubicles, among hundreds of girls, women, and students, Rolland sat for more than eighteen months, engaged each day for from six to eight hours side by side with the head of the undertaking, Dr. Ferrière, to whose genius for organization myriads owe it that the period of suspense was shortened. Here Rolland filed letters, wrote letters, performed an abundance of detail work, seemingly of little importance. But how momentous was every word to the individuals whom he could help, for in this vast universe each suffering individual is mainly concerned about his own particular grain of unhappiness. Countless persons to-day, unaware of the fact, have to thank the great writer for news of their lost relatives. A rough stool, a small table of unpolished deal, the turmoil of typewriters, the bustle of human beings questioning, calling one to another, hastening to and fro – such was Romain Rolland’s battlefield in this campaign against the afflictions of the war. Here, while other authors and intellectuals were doing their utmost to foster mutual hatred, he endeavored to promote reconciliation, to alleviate the torment of a fraction among the countless sufferers by such consolation as the circumstances rendered possible. He neither desired, nor occupied, a leading position in the work of the Red Cross; but, like so many other nameless assistants, he devoted himself to the daily task of promoting the interchange of news. His deeds were inconspicuous, and are therefore all the more memorable.

When he was allotted the Nobel peace prize, he refused to retain the money for his own use, and devoted the whole sum to the mitigation of the miseries of Europe, that he might suit the action to the word, the word to the action. Ecce homo! Ecce poeta!

***

Too well did he know as historian that in the initial outbursts of war passion the veneer of civilization and Christianity would be rubbed off; that in all nations alike the naked bestiality of human beings would be disclosed; that the smell of the shed blood would reduce them all to the level of wild beasts. He did not conceal from himself that this strange halitus is able to dull and to confuse even the gentlest, the kindliest, the most intelligent of souls. The rending asunder of ancient friendships, the sudden solidarity among persons most opposed in temperament now eager to abase themselves before the idol of the fatherland, the total disappearance of conscientious conviction at the first breath of the actualities of war – in Jean Christophe these things were written no less plainly than when of old the fingers of the hand wrote upon the palace wall in Babylon.

***

During the opening days of the war, Rolland was horrified to note how all previous wars were being eclipsed in the atrocity of the struggle, in its material and spiritual brutality, in its extent, and in the intensity of its passion. All possible anticipations had been outdone. Although for thousands of years, by twos or variously allied, the peoples of Europe had almost unceasingly been warring one with another, never before had their mutual hatreds, as manifested in word and deed, risen to such a pitch as in this twentieth century after the birth of Christ. Never before in the history of mankind did hatred extend so widely through the populations; never did it rage so fiercely among the intellectuals; never before was oil pumped into the flames as it was now pumped from innumerable fountains and tubes of the spirit, from the canals of the newspapers, from the retorts of the professors. All evil instincts were fostered among the masses. The whole world of feeling, the whole world of thought, became militarized. The loathsome organization for the dealing of death by material weapons was yet more loathsomely reflected in the organization of national telegraphic bureaus to scatter lies like sparks over land and sea. For the first time, science, poetry, art, and philosophy became no less subservient to war than mechanical ingenuity was subservient. In the pulpits and professorial chairs, in the research laboratories, in the editorial offices and in the authors’ studies, all energies were concentrated as by an invisible system upon the generation and diffusion of hatred. The seer’s apocalyptic warnings were surpassed.

A deluge of hatred and blood such as even the blood-drenched soil of Europe had never known, flowed from land to land. Romain Rolland knew that a lost world, a corrupt generation, cannot be saved from its illusions. A world conflagration cannot be extinguished by a word, cannot be quelled by the efforts of naked human hands. The only possible endeavor was to prevent others adding fuel to the flames, and with the lash of scorn and contempt to deter as far as might be those who were engaged in such criminal undertakings. It might be possible, too, to build an ark wherein what was intellectually precious in this suicidal generation might be saved from the deluge, might be made available for those of a future day when the waters of hatred should have subsided. A sign might be uplifted, round which the faithful could rally, building a temple of unity amid, and yet high above, the battlefields.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley: Peace, love and concord once shall rule again

January 10, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
From Essay on the Existing State of Things

If he who murders one to death is due,
Should not the great destroyer perish too?
The wretch beneath whose influence millions bleed?
And yet encomium is the villain’s meed.

***

The fainting Indian, on his native plains,
Writhes to superior power’s unnumbered pains;
The Asian, in the blushing face of day.
His wife, his child, sees sternly torn away;
Yet dares not to revenge, while war’s dread roar
Floats, in long echoing, on the blood-stain’d shore.
In Europe too wild ruin rushes fast:
See! like a meteor on the midnight blast,
Or evil spirit brooding over gore,
Napoleon calm can war, can misery pour.
May curses blast thee; and in thee the breed
Which forces, which compels, a world to bleed;
May that destruction, which ’tis thine to spread,
Descend with ten-fold fury on thy head.

***

Oppressive law no more shall power retain,
Peace, love, and concord, once shall rule again,
And heal the anguish of a suffering world;
Then, then shall things, which now confusedly hurled,
Seem Chaos, be resolved to order’s sway,
And error’s night he turned to virtue’s day.

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Romain Rolland: Civilized warfare allows victims choice of how to be slaughtered

January 9, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

THE WORKMEN coming back from either side with the planks of the bridge which they proceed to lay down; singing.

THE DIPLOMATS lifting up their hands in horror.
A bridge?…A bridge!…They’re making a bridge!…a bridge!

THE DIPLOMATS
By what right? In whose name? Did you ask for authorization?

THE WORKMEN
Strong enough? Our bridge. You could go across, three men, four women and five geese abreast.

THE DIPLOMATS
Men! It isn’t a question of men. The question with a proper bridge is, in primis: that cannons can pass over it!

THE WORKMEN
Cannons? Why? To shoot partridges, or wild boars, or what?

THE DIPLOMATS peremptorily.
No reason. Just to try.

THE FAT MEN with authority.
It’s always done.

THE DIPLOMATS
Back! No one may cross a bridge before the inauguration.

THE WORKMEN
Will it take long?

THE DIPLOMATS
It will take as long as is proper.

THE THIN MEN resignedly.
O, well, everything must end by coming to an end.

POLONIUS mounts the rostrum.
Dear fellow citizens, brothers of both banks, of this bank and the other and of yet a third (I don’t know if there is one; but it doesn’t matter…) All men are but a single body. Men and women…[A guffaw.] In all modesty, all honor, I speak. I come here to give my blessing to this future union. The future is not tomorrow. By no means, no, understand me well. That is what makes it so charming, so unexacting, so little troublesome. A good subject for toasts and after-dinner speeches. I know all about it. I am a delegate of the Peace Congress…[He introduces himself.] Polonius, Modeste-Napoleon. Napoleon is my Christian name. Modeste was added so as not to frighten people; I am a simple, kindly man. You see my ribbons, my decorations. [He shows them.]

There’s the order of Kamchatka now, with the Kattegat; here is the Karatschi and the Gaurisanka. [He turns round and shows his back.] I have more there. [He turns back again, satisfied.] I speak in all honor, all modesty. It commits one to nothing. Well, then, my friends, my brothers – my brothers of to-morrow, or rather of the day after to-morrow – I have come to pay my tribute to this bridge, this bridge, this prodigious bridge, this bridge so long and pompous…

ALL HANDS
Abridge, abridge! . . .

POLONIUS
This bridge of love and alliance which stretches through the air like a rainbow in the firmament. Touching symbol of the great day that is to come (it will come! it will come!…but don’t let us be in any hurry!) when States shall disarm, when the walls shall crumble, the walls of those prisons – those nations – when peoples shall fall into one another’s arms, when the ravening wolf and the gentle lamb shall crop the grass of the meadow side by side , casting sweet eyes at one another, when the workers shall have a long snooze every mornings when the rich shall share their beds and their cellars with the workmen, when arms, armies and treaties shall be put away in the museum, and to the museum the concession-mongers, governors and contractors – when hens shall have teeth…The day will come, will come, indeed it will! But we haven’t got there yet. Advance must come step by step. We make no rash pretensions that we’re going to deprive you, before the hour has struck, of war, poverty, business and land sharks. The birch is a necessary evil for children. Young folks must pass. Let us pass it by, scratching ourselves in the process.

THE ASS, rolling on the ground.
Hee-haw!

POLONIUS
The point, then, my good friends, in these happy days in which we lire is to choose, like the rabbit, with what sauce you wish your giblets stewed. Do you prefer being slaughtered above ground, under ground, in the air or in the water? (For my part, I don’t like water; good wine is more in my line.) Do you long to get in the belly a round bullet or a painted one, brown or plated, shrapnel, shell-splinter, crump or bomb, or rather the good cold steel, which is clean and pleasant? Which would you like best, to be disemboweled, broiled, punctured, squashed, boiled, roasted, or – the last fashion – electrocuted? We will deny you nothing. We only draw the line, for your own good, at the barbarous, the common – at submarines and stinking gases; in a word, badly-bred death and uncivilized war. But you’ll lose nothing by that. We police war. Let us polish it, gentlemen, and re-polish it! What should we be without war? It is through war that peace has its price. And it is by means of war that we are building up in saecula per pocula the Society of Nations. For everything hangs together; follow me carefully. Without nations, there could be no Society of Nations. And no nation, no war! No war, no nation! Well, then, all is very well and will h% much better. Count on us! Give us a free hand. We know so well how to mix black and white, right and might, peace and war, concocting war-like peaces and peace-bringing wars; we shall embellish nature for you so skillfully that yon won’t be able to recognize her at all.

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Stefan Zweig: War, the ultimate betrayal of the intellectuals

January 8, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

While the masses, deceived by words, were raging against one another in blind fury, the artists, the writers, the men of science, of Germany, France, and England, who for centuries had been coöperating for discoveries, advances, ideals, could combine to form a tribunal of the spirit which, with scientific earnestness, should devote itself to extirpating the falsehoods that were keeping their respective peoples apart. Transcending nationality, they could hold intercourse on a higher plane. For it was Rolland’s most cherished hope that the great artists and great investigators would refuse to identify themselves with the crime of the war, would refrain from abandoning their freedom of conscience and from entrenching themselves behind a facile “my country, right or wrong.” With few exceptions, intellectuals had for centuries recognized the repulsiveness of war. More than a thousand years earlier, when China was threatened by ambitious Mongols, Li Tai Peh had exclaimed: “Accursed be war! Accursed the work of weapons! The sage has nothing to do with these follies.” The contention that the sage has naught to do with such follies seems to rise like an unenunciated refrain from all the utterances of western men of learning since Europe began to have a common life. In Latin letters (for Latin, the medium of intercourse, was likewise the symbol of supranational fellowship), the great humanists whose respective countries were at war exchanged their regrets, and offered mutual philosophical solace against the murderous illusions of their less instructed fellows. Herder was speaking for the learned Germans of the eighteenth century when he wrote: “For fatherland to engage in a bloody struggle with fatherland is the most preposterous, barbarism.” Goethe, Byron, Voltaire, and Rousseau, were at one in their contempt for the purposeless butcheries of war. To-day, in Rolland’s view, the leading intellectuals, the great scientific investigators whose minds would perforce remain unclouded, the most humane among the imaginative writers, could join in a fellowship whose members would renounce the errors of their respective nations.

Such was the mood in which Rolland took up his pen for the first time after the outbreak of war. He wrote an open letter to Hauptmann, to the author whom among Germans he chiefly honored for goodness and humaneness. Within the same hour he wrote to Verhaeren, Germany’s bitterest foe. Rolland thus stretched forth both his hands, rightward and leftward, in the hope that he could bring his two correspondents together, so that at least within the domain of pure spirit there might be a first essay towards spiritual reconciliation, what time upon the battlefields the machine-guns with their infernal clatter were mowing down the sons of France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.

***

During these days, Rolland may well have recalled sacred memories of the time when Leo Tolstoi‘s letter came to give him a mission in life. Tolstoi had stood alone in the utterance of his celebrated outcry, “I can no longer keep silence.” At that time his country was at war. He arose to defend the invisible rights of human beings, uttering a protest against the command that men should murder their brothers. Now his voice was no longer heard; his place was empty; the conscience of mankind was dumb. To Rolland, the consequent silence, the terrible silence of the free spirit amid the hurly-burly of the slaves, seemed more hateful than the roar of the cannon. Those to whom he had appealed for help had refused to answer the call. The ultimate truth, the truth of conscience, had no organized fellowship to sustain it. No one would aid him in the struggle for the freedom of the European soul, the struggle of truth against falsehood, the struggle of human loving-kindness against frenzied hate. Rolland once again was alone with his faith, more alone than during the bitterest years of solitude.

***

To understand the ethical import, the heroic character, of these manifestoes, we must recall to mind the frenzy of the opening year of the war, the spiritual infection which was devastating Europe, turning the whole continent into a madhouse. It has already become difficult to realize the mental state of those days. We have to remember that maxims which now seem commonplace, as for instance the contention that we must not hold all the individuals of a nation responsible for the outbreak of a war, were then positively criminal, that to utter them was a punishable offense…Men were still so drunken with the fumes of the first bloodshed that they would have been fain, as Rolland himself has phrased it, “to crucify Christ once again should he have risen; to crucify him for saying, Love one another.”

***

This faith in a lofty ideal soars like a sea-mew over the ocean of blood. Rolland is well aware how little hope there is that his words can make themselves audible above the clamor of thirty million warriors. “I know that such thoughts have little chance of being heard to-day. I do not speak to convince. I speak only to solace my conscience. And I know that at the same time I shall solace the hearts of thousands of others who, in all lands, cannot and dare not speak for themselves.” As ever, he is on the side of the weak, on the side of the minority. His voice grows stronger, for he knows that he is speaking for the silent multitude.

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Romain Rolland: Letter to Gandhi on total inadmissibility of war

January 7, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

There are two sorts of pacifism: pacifism by renunciation, out of impoverished vitality, and pacifism by calm trust in one’s strength, out of superabundance of vitality.

Diary 1921

***

Tagore sees a universal symbol in the tragedy of Hamlet: the drama of a great idealist wanting to do his duty by means of a criminal action, who is ruined as soon as he dabbles in crime, even in intention; with his integrity, he has lost his force and his reasons for existence. This, Tagore says (in his eyes, at any rate), is the drama of Gandhi. Ever since the compromise which, during the Great War, led him to recruit soldiers for England, it has been a story of moral collapse (Tagore thinks). He honestly thought that in this way he could achieve his great object, the liberation of his people; but in vain.

Diary 1926

***

Even Gandhi, whom I revere, has made mistakes. Shall I tell him how many times I’ve had the job of calming the worries of his obscure Western disciples upset by his attitude during the 1914 war and his attempts to conciliate nonviolence with his preaching inciting people to take part in the British Empire’s war!

Letter 1927

***

From Letter to Mohandas Gandhi 1928

I (or rather my sister) have read in Young India of 16 February your examination of the part you played in the 1914 war. Forgive me if I tell you that though I should dearly love to enter into your thoughts and approve of them, I have not been able to do so!

I can understand…that men who do not believe in the nation and are horrified by war, but who cannot avoid it other than by getting themselves shot and have not enough moral force or faith to welcome this sacrifice which dishonours them in the eyes of the mass of their fellow-citizens, should weaken and allow themselves to be enlisted. I pity them, I suffer with them, and I have no right to reproach them. Each man must act according to his strength.

But for a man of great courage and absolute faith like yourself, who uncompromisingly condemns human bloodshed and national warfare, to take part in such activities – and out of choice, without being forced – in that case, nothing in the world can make me either admit or even understand it. And the reasons you cite (forgive me!) do not seem to me good ones. I could even go so far as to say that I should better understand your action without reasons than with the reasons you give!

Let us look at them:

You set out three alternatives:

1. As a citizen (either willing or by accepted force) of the British Empire, enjoying its protection and aspiring to obtain from it Home Rule for your people within the Imperial framework, you feel yourself obliged to share in its trials and injustices as well as its sufferings, – even in its crimes; and you think that from this evil heroically accepted there may come a good: that of Imperial recognition of the independence of your people, which, once master of itself, may impose on the Empire in its turn, by spiritual force alone, the law of justice and humanity called Ahimsa…Events have given you your answer – from the practical point of view. If you consider only the results, this most frank opportunism has been of no use to you; but even if it had led to practical success, to the recognition of your people’s independence, my friend, allow me to tell you quite bluntly that independence bought at that price, at the price of an accepted share in the bloody sacrifice of millions of men, would be a crime before God.

2. Boycott of the war and the Empire, which you rightly judge impracticable.

3. Individual civil disobedience, bringing with it the penalty of imprisonment. This you merely state, without dwelling on it. Why not? I don’t understand. It seems to me the only one of the three alternatives which is morally acceptable, if not adequate. And in many other circumstances you have set the example of accepting it – simply, without great gestures or phrases, without calculating the practical results – as the only way open to a conscience which has no accounts to render to anyone but God. Why not, then, have recourse to it at the hour of this “worst of crimes”, this mutual slaughter of peoples driven to the butchery by their bad shepherds. I don’t understand! And what grieves me is that an example like yours may and certainly will be exploited by our political masters as an acquiescence, as consent to the most loathsome of their crimes, which is the enlistment to help in their wars of sordid interest, of the wretched human masses of Asia and Africa, which they exploit and use as cannon and machine-gun fodder, as a substance less precious than European flesh. I’m writing to you just as I feel…I hope that one day soon we may better clarify our thought on this matter, and I rejoice in the dream that Europe – and my own eyes – may see you this year.

I assure you of my respectful and profound affection,
Romain Rolland

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Percy Bysshe Shelley: The fatal trump of useless war to swell

January 6, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
From Essay on the Existing State of Things

If he who murders one to death is due,
Should not the great destroyer perish too?
The wretch beneath whose influence millions bleed?
And yet encomium is the villain’s meed.

***

When glory’s views the titled idiot guide,
Then will oppression’s iron influence show
The great man’s comfort as the poor man’s woe,
Is’t not enough that splendour’s useless glare,
Real grandeur’s bane, must mock the poor man’s stare;
Is’t not enough that luxury’s varied power
Must cheat the rich parader’s irksome hour,
While what they want not, what they yet retain,
Adds tenfold grief, more anguished throbs of pain
To each unnumbered, unrecorded woe,
Which bids the bitterest tear of want to flow;
But that the comfort, which despotic sway
Has yet allowed, stem War must tear away.

Ye cold advisers of yet colder kings,
To whose fell breast no passion virtue brings,
Who scheme, regardless of the poor man’s pang,
Who coolly sharpen misery’s sharpest fang,
Yourselves secure, your’s is the power to breathe
O’er all the world the infectious blast of death,
To snatch at fame, to reap red murder’s spoil,
Receive the injured with a courtier’s smile,
Make a tired nation bless the oppressor’s name,
And for injustice snatch the meed of fame.
Were fetters made for anguish, for despair?
Must starving wretches torment, misery bear?

***

Though hot with gore from India’s wasted plains,
Some Chief, in triumph, guides the tightened reins
Though disembodied from this mortal coil,
Pitt lends to each smooth rogue a courtier’s smile;
Yet does not that severer frown withhold,
Which, though impervious to the power of gold,
Could daunt the injured wretch, could turn the poor
Unheard, unnoticed, from the statesman’s door.
This is the spirit which can reckless tell
The fatal trump of useless war to swell;
Can bid Fame’s loudest voice awake his praise,
Can boldly snatch the honorary bays,
Gifts to reward a ruthless, murderous deed,
A crime for which some poorer rogue must bleed.

 

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Stefan Zweig: Opposition to war, a higher heroism still

January 5, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

He only who had contemplated the coming European war as an abyss towards which the mad hunt of recent decades, making light of every warning, had been speeding, only such a one could command his soul, could refrain from joining the bacchanalian rout, could listen unmoved to the throbbing of the war drums. Who but such a man could stand upright in the greatest storm of illusion the world has ever known?

Thus it came to pass that not merely during the first hour of the war was Rolland in opposition to other writers and artists of the day. This opposition dated from the very inception of his career, and hence for twenty years he had been a solitary. The reason why the contrast between his outlook and that of his generation had not hitherto been conspicuous, the reason why the cleavage was not disclosed until the actual outbreak of war, lies in this, that Rolland’s divergence was a matter not so much of mood as of character. Before the apocalyptic year, almost all persons of artistic temperament had recognized quite as definitely as Rolland had recognized that a fratricidal struggle between Europeans would be a crime, would disgrace civilization. With few exceptions, they were pacifists. It would be more correct to say that with few exceptions they believed themselves to be pacifists. For pacifism does not simply mean, to be a friend to peace, but to be a worker in the cause of peace, an εἱρηνοποιὁς, as the New Testament has it. Pacifism signifies the activity of an effective will to peace, not merely the love of an easy life and a preference for repose. It signifies struggle; and like every struggle it demands, in the hour of danger, self-sacrifice and heroism. Now these “pacifists” we have just been considering had merely a sentimental fondness for peace; they were friendly towards peace, just as they were friendly towards ideas of social equality, towards philanthropy, towards the abolition of capital punishment. Such faith as they possessed was a faith devoid of passion. They wore their opinions as they wore their clothing, and when the time of trial came they were ready to exchange their pacifist ethic for the ethic of the war-makers, were ready to don a national uniform in matters of opinion. At bottom, they knew the right just as well as Rolland, but they had not the courage of their opinions. Goethe’s saying to Eckermann applies to them with deadly force. “All the evils of modern literature are due to lack of character in individual investigators and writers.”

Thus Rolland did not stand alone in his knowledge, which was shared by many intellectuals and statesmen. But in his case, all his knowledge was tinged with religious fervor; his beliefs were a living faith; his thoughts were actions. He was unique among imaginative writers for the splendid vigor with which he remained true to his ideals when all others were deserting the standard; for the way in which he defended the European spirit against the raging armies of the sometime European intellectuals now turned patriots. Fighting as he had fought from youth upwards on behalf of the invisible against the world of reality, he displayed, as a foil to the heroism of the trenches, a higher heroism still. While the soldiers were manifesting the heroism of blood, Rolland manifested the heroism of the spirit, and showed the glorious spectacle of one who was able, amid the intoxication of the war-maddened masses, to maintain the sobriety and freedom of an unclouded mind.

***

Of a sudden it seemed as if his whole life had become meaningless. Vain had been his exhortations, vain the twenty years of ardent endeavor. He had feared this disaster since early boyhood. He had made Olivier cry in torment of soul: “I dread war so greatly, I have dreaded it for so long. It has been a nightmare to me, and it poisoned my childhood’s days.” Now, what he had prophetically anticipated had become a terrible reality for hundreds of millions of human beings. The agony of the hour was nowise diminished because he had foreseen its coming to be inevitable. On the contrary, while others hastened to deaden their senses with the opium of false conceptions of duty and with the hashish dreams of victory, Rolland’s pitiless sobriety enabled him to look far out into the future. On August 3rd he wrote in his diary: “I feel at the end of my resources. I wish I were dead. It is horrible to live when men have gone mad, horrible to witness the collapse of civilization. This European war is the greatest catastrophe in the history of many centuries, the overthrow of our dearest hopes of human brotherhood.” A few days later, in still greater despair, he penned the following entry: “My distress is so colossal an accumulation of distresses that I can scarcely breathe. The ravaging of France, the fate of my friends, their deaths, their wounds. The grief at all this suffering, the heartrending sympathetic anguish with the millions of sufferers. I feel a moral death-struggle as I look on at this mad humanity which is offering up its most precious possessions, its energies, its genius, its ardors of heroic devotion, which is sacrificing all these things to the murderous and stupid idols of war. I am heartbroken at the absence of any divine message, any divine spirit, any moral leadership, which might upbuild the City of God when the carnage is at an end. The futility of my whole life has reached its climax. If I could but sleep, never to reawaken.”

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

January 4, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Anthony Trollope: How wars are arranged

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Anthony Trollope
From The Prime Minister

Sir Orlando’s present idea of a policy was the building four bigger ships of war than had ever been built before, – with larger guns, and more men, and thicker iron plates, and, above all, with a greater expenditure of money. He had even gone so far as to say, though not in his semi-official letter to the Prime Minister, that he thought that “The Salvation of the Empire” should be the cry of the Coalition party. “After all,” he said, “what the people care about is the Salvation of the Empire!” Sir Orlando was at the head of the Admiralty; and if glory was to be achieved by the four ships, it would rest first on the head of Sir Orlando.

***

Sir Orlando Drought had not been allowed to build his four ships, and was consequently eager in his fears that the country would be invaded by the combined forces of Germany and France, that India would be sold by those powers to Russia, that Canada would be annexed to the States, that a great independent Roman Catholic hierarchy would be established in Ireland, and that Malta and Gibraltar would be taken away from us; – all which evils would be averted by the building of four big ships.

***

In those days Sir Orlando was unhappy and irritable, doubtful of further success as regarded the Coalition, but quite resolved to pull the house down about the ears of the inhabitants rather than to leave it with gentle resignation. To him it seemed to be impossible that the Coalition should exist without him. He too had had moments of high-vaulting ambition, in which he had almost felt himself to be the great man required by the country, the one ruler who could gather together in his grasp the reins of government and drive the State coach single-handed safe through its difficulties for the next half-dozen years. There are men who cannot conceive of themselves that anything should be difficult for them, and again others who cannot bring themselves so to trust themselves as to think that they can ever achieve anything great. Samples of each sort from time to time rise high in political life, carried thither apparently by Epicurean concourse of atoms; and it often happens that the more confident samples are by no means the most capable. The concourse of atoms had carried Sir Orlando so high that he could not but think himself intended for something higher.

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Romain Rolland: Oh, fair diplomats, you rid us of irksome peace

January 3, 2019 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

THE FAT MEN among themselves.
Lord! Do you hear what these beggars are saying? No more frontiers, it’s scandalous…Look at them passing round the loving-cup, drinking out of the same jug and lapping out of the same dish…Ugh, ugh! The ideal of these swine would be to impose on every man of them one trough, one hovel, one dung-hill. These sharers are dangerous. I want each man to have his own; give me mine – and the others can have what’s left. Good God! Good God! Better and better! And see, they’re dancing now, hugging one another…It’s scandalous!…If they were all united it would be a calamity…The pee-pul wouldn’t want to work any more. Zounds, god’s blood, then we should have to sweat and work! No more rich, no more poor, no more states, no more nations. It would be, it would be sheer topsy-turvydom!…If we let them do as they liked, why, there would be no more war; why, there’d be no more God. It’s enough to make one tear one’s hair…no more anything, no more property! Every one would only think of being happy. It’s scandalous!…What an insolent pretension! To want to eliminate evil from this earth! Then what would be left for honest folk to rest their heads on? Not a stone…God created evil, pestilence, patriotism, wealth and war. He knew very well why! The earth needs manuring. Evil, that is the manure. There must be enrichment. There most be common people. There must be beggars. And there must be poverty for plow and hatred for goad,so that they may drive their furrow…Gee, haw! get along! These oxen must be made to go.

But you, gentlemen of the Diplomatic Corps, you prickers of oxen, what the devil are you doing with the goad? We had charged you with the task of watching over our safety, of maintaining the order and injustice consecrated by the past, the abuses, the traditions and the disunion of nations…And that’s the way you conduct the pee-pul for us! Oho, gentlemen, that isn’t good…straight into one another’s arms! Is it for this noble result…ha, ha!…that you’ve been paid, gilded and braided before, behind, from top to toe, covered with honor and stars! Now, then, gentlemen of the Diplomatic Corps!

THE DIPLOMATS
It’s a game. Leave us to act with our partners, the gentlemen of the Service on the other side.

THE FAT MEN
Are you in agreement, then?

THE DIPLOMATS
According to the rules, one must be: we have our game. Diplomacy is a game of chess. The roles demand that, to win, one must lose pawns. The pawns are there [pointing to the peoples]; we have only to put them on the chess-board.

CHORUS
O fair Diplomacy, thou angel sent from heaven to temper the wearisomeness of life, to rid us of irksome peace, of happiness and love, which are things all too vulgar; thou dost undo the work of nature (for nature is good for beasts); thou makest enemies of those who are united; and those who cannot bear with one another thou knittest together. None so well as thou knows the art of finding in a hayloft the solitary needle. If it be not there, thou puttest it there: thus Joseph slipping a cup into Benjamin’s wallet. We owe it to thy conjuring tricks in the manner of Robert Houdin that, on rising each morning we never know what thou wilt have done with us by evening. Through thee we are acquainted with war and its delights – ravished wife, ravaged fields, my skin punctured (ow! ow!), but then I puncture other people’s – the exquisite joys of envy (how sweet it is to get the jaundice through coveting one’s neighbor’s goods! We shall take him and destroy him; taking is very good; destroying is better; destroying is a feast for the gods.)…With thy wondrous fingers thou knowest how to tangle the thread as thou windest it, to make knots in the skein. Clever must be he who shall undo them! No one has the right to nose out the secrets of the green table. Thou playest with us, our money, our goods, our skins, our souls and our children, and none may penetrate thy game…It’s stunning!…And when, afterwards, I am beaten, pounded, fleeced and thoroughly contented, thou presentest me with a lovely treaty, covered with signed initials, and the bill, to be paid cash down. And we pay, and we say: “Thank you, thank you! Till next time.” When one’s the oyster, one must be swallowed, mustn’t one? And I am, and I shall be. It makes me gape with pleasure and pride…O lovely Diplomacy, what would life be without thee. A wine without dregs. A pleasure without envy. A summer day without rain…A most insipid contentment.

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Stefan Zweig: Origin of the Nobel Peace Prize

January 2, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

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Stefan Zweig
From The World of Yesterday
Translated by Benjamin W. Huebsch and Helmut Ripperger

In Germany, it was Werfel who gave world brotherhood its strongest lyric accent with Der Weltfreund; Rene Schickele, an Alsatian, placed by fate between the two nations, laboured passionately for an understanding; from Italy, G. A. Borgese hailed us as a comrade, and encouragement came from thee Scandinavian and the Slavic countries as well. “Why don’t you come over here!” a great Russian writer said in a letter. “Show the Panslavists who are trying to egg us into the war that you Austrians are against it.” Oh, we loved our inspired time well enough and we loved our Europe ! But this blind belief, that reason would baulk the madness at the last minute, established itself as our one shortcoming. True, we did not regard the handwriting on the wall with sufficient misgiving, but is it not the very essence of youth not to be distrustful but to believe? We relied on Jaurès, on the Socialist International, we believed that the railroad men would rather tear up the tracks than transport their comrades to the front as so much cattle to be slaughtered, we counted on the women, who would refuse to sacrifice their children and husbands to Moloch, we were convinced that the spiritual and moral forces of Europe would reveal themselves triumphantly at the critical moment. Our common idealism, our optimism based on progress, led us to misjudge and contemn the common danger.

***

The Balkan War, where Krupp and Schneider-Creusot rehearsed their guns against foreign “human material,” as later the Germans and Italians rehearsed their planes in the Spanish Civil War, drew us closer and closer to the cataract. Again and again we started up, only to breathe again: “Not yet, this time – and let us hope, never!”

***

By chance, the very next day I met Berta von Suttner, that majestic and grandiose Cassandra of our time. An aristocrat of one of the first families, in her early youth she had experienced the cruelty of the War of 1866 in the vicinity of her family seat in Bohemia. And with the passion of a Florence Nightingale she saw but one task for herself in life: to hinder a second war, or any war at all. She wrote a novel. Lay Down Your Arms, which met with universal success; she organized countless pacifist meetings, and the triumph of her life was that she had aroused the conscience of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, to such an extent that, to compensate for the evil that he had caused with his dynamite, he had established the Nobel Prize for Peace and International Understanding. She came up to me in great excitement. “The people have no idea of what is going on !” she cried quite loudly in the street, although she usually spoke quietly and with deliberation. “The war is already upon us, and once again they have hidden and kept it from us. Why don’t you do something, you young people? It is your concern most of all. Defend yourselves! Unite! Don’t always let a few old women to whom no one listens do everything.” I told her that I was going to Paris ; perhaps one could really attempt a common manifesto. “Why only ‘perhaps’?” she pressed on. “Things are worse than ever, the machine is already in motion.” Being disturbed myself, I had difficulty in quieting her.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley: Titled idiot kindles flames of war

January 1, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
From Declaration of Rights

Man has no right to kill his brother, it is no excuse that he does so in uniform. He only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.

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From Essay on the Existing State of Things

Destruction marks thee! o’er the blood-stain’d heath
Is faintly borne the stifled wail of death;
Millions to fight compell’d, to fight or die
In mangled heaps on Mar’s red altar lie.
The sternly wise, the mildly good, have sped
To the unfruitful mansions of the dead.
Whilst fell Ambition o’er the wasted plain
Triumphant guides his car – the ensanguin’d rein
Glory directs; fierce brooding o’er the scene,
With hatred glance, with dire unbending mien.
Fell Despotism sits by the red glare
Of Discord’s torch, kindling the flames of war.
For thee then does the Muse her sweetest lay
Pour ’mid the shrieks of war, ’mid dire dismay;
For thee does Fame’s obstrep’rous clarion rise,
Does Praise’s voice raise meanness to the skies.
Are we then sunk so deep in darkest gloom,
That selfish pride can virtue’s garb assume?
Does real greatness in false splendour live?
When narrow views the futile mind deceive,
When thirst of wealth, or frantic rage for fame,
Lights for awhile self-interest’s little flame,
When legal murders swell the lists of pride;
When glory’s views the titled idiot guide.

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Romain Rolland: Tolstoy and peace among men

December 31, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Life of Tolstoy (1911)
Translated by Bernard Miall

Ours it was by its ardent love of life, by its quality of youth; ours by its irony, its disillusion, its pitiless discernment, and its haunting sense of mortality. Ours by its dreams of brotherly love, of peace among men; ours by its terrible accusation of the lies of civilisation; ours by its realism; by its mysticism ours; by its savour of nature, its sense of invisible forces, its vertigo in the face of the infinite.

***

Tolstoy the Christian, forgetting the patriotism of his first narrative [Sebastopol], curses this impious war:

“And these men, Christians, who profess the same great law of love and of sacrifice, do not, when they perceive what they have done, fall upon their knees repentant, before Him who in giving them life set within the heart of each, together with the fear of death, the love of the good and the beautiful. They do not embrace as brothers, with tears of joy and happiness!”

***

Russia should withdraw from all warfare because she must accomplish “the great revolution.”

***

For a long time the Old Believers, known in Russia as the Sectators, had been obstinately practising, in spite of persecution, non-obedience to the State, and had refused to recognise the legitimacy of its power. The absurdity of the Russo-Japanese war enabled this state of mind to spread without difficulty through the rural districts. Refusals of military service became more and more general; and the more brutally they were punished the more stubborn the revolt grew in secret.

***

Those are blind who do not perceive the miracle of this great mind, the incarnation of fraternal love in the midst of a people and a century stained with the blood of hatred!

***

His article on War, written on the occasion of the Universal Peace Congress in London in 1891, is a rude satire on the peacemakers who believe in international arbitration:

“This is the story of the bird which is caught after a pinch of salt has been put on his tail. It is quite as easy to catch him without it. They laugh at us who speak of arbitration and disarmament by consent of the Powers. Mere verbiage, this! Naturally the Governments approve: worthy apostles! They know very well that their approval will never prevent their doing as they will.” (Cruel Pleasures.)

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Anthony Trollope: How wars are arranged

December 30, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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Anthony Trollope
From The Prime Minister

Does not all the world know that when in autumn the Bismarcks of the world, or they who are bigger than Bismarcks, meet at this or that delicious haunt of salubrity, the affairs of the world are then settled in little conclaves, with greater ease, rapidity, and certainty than in large parliaments or the dull chambers of public offices? Emperor meets Emperor, and King meets King, and as they wander among the rural glades in fraternal intimacy, wars are arranged, and swelling territories are enjoyed in anticipation.

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Stefan Zweig: The army of the spirit, not the army of force

December 29, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

For Olivier there is but one true freedom, that which comes from within, the freedom which a man must win for himself. The illusion of the crowd, its eternal class struggles and national struggles for power, distress him, but do not arouse his sympathy. Standing quite alone, he maintains his mental poise when war between Germany and France is imminent, when all are shaken in their convictions, and when even Jean Christophe feels that he must return home to fight for his fatherland. “I love my country,” says the Frenchman to his German brother. “I love it just as you love yours. But am I for this reason to betray my conscience, to kill my soul? This would signify the betrayal of my country. I belong to the army of the spirit, not to the army of force.” But brute force takes its revenge upon the man who despises force, and he is killed in a chance medley…

Jean Christophe’s goodness is that of instinct; it is elemental, therefore, and liable to be interrupted by passionate relapses into hate. Olivier’s goodness, on the other hand, is intellectual and wise, and is tinged merely at times by ironical skepticism. But it is this contrast between them, it is the fact that their aspirations towards goodness are complementary, which draws them together. Christophe’s robust faith revives joy in life for the lonely Olivier. Christophe, in turn, learns justice from Olivier. The sage is uplifted by the strong, who is himself enlightened by the sage’s clarity. This mutual exchange of benefits symbolizes the relationship between their nations. The friendship between the two individuals is designed to be the prototype of a spiritual alliance between the brother peoples. France and Germany are “the two pinions of the west.” The European spirit is to soar freely above the blood-drenched fields of the past.

***

The defeat which had spiritualized French idealism, had, from the German side, as a victory, materialized German idealism. “What has victorious Germany given to the world?” asks Jean Christophe. He answers his own question by saying: “The flashing of bayonets; vigor without magnanimity; brutal realism; force conjoined with greed for profit; Mars as commercial traveler.” He is grieved to recognize that Germany has been harmed by victory. He suffers; for “one expects more of one’s own country than of another, and is hurt more by the faults of one’s own land.” Ever the revolutionist, Christophe detests noisy self-assertion, militarist arrogance, the churlishness of caste feeling.

***

“The fire which had been smouldering in the European forest was now breaking forth into flame. Extinguished in one place, it promptly began to rage in another. Amid whirlwinds of smoke and a rain of sparks, it leaped from point to point, while the parched undergrowth kindled. Outpost skirmishes in the east had already begun, as preludes to the great war of the nations. The whole of Europe, that Europe which was still skeptical and apathetic like a dead forest, was fuel for the conflagration. The fighting spirit was universal. From moment to moment, war seemed imminent. Stifled, it was continually reborn. The most trifling pretext served to feed its strength. The world felt itself to be at the mercy of chance, which would initiate the terrible struggle. It was waiting. A feeling of inexorable necessity weighed upon all, even upon the most pacific. The ideologues, sheltering in the shade of Proudhon the titan, hailed war as man’s most splendid claim to nobility.

“It was for this, then, that there had been effected a physical and moral resurrection of the races of the west! It was towards these butcheries that the streams of action and passionate faith had been hastening!”

***

Christophe recalls those earlier days when he and Olivier had been concerned about the prospect of war. At that time there were but distant rumblings of the storm. Now the storm clouds covered all the skies of Europe. Fruitless had been the call to unity; vain had been the pointing out of the path through the darkness. Mournfully the seer contemplates in the distance the horsemen of the Apocalypse, the heralds of fratricidal strife.

But beside the dying man is the Child, smiling and full of knowledge; the Child who is Eternal Life.

***

“Display everyday life to everyday people – the life that is deeper and wider than the ocean. The least among us bears infinity within him…Describe the simple life of one of these simple men; …describe it simply, as it actually happens. Do not trouble about phrasing; do not dissipate your energies, as do so many contemporary writers, in straining for artistic effects. You wish to speak to the many, and you must therefore speak their language…Throw yourself into what you create; think your own thoughts; feel your own feelings. Let your heart set the rhythm to the words. Style is soul.”

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Romain Rolland: Chorus of war’s secular high priests and intellectual carpet knights

December 28, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

THE GRAND DERVISH turning toward the Fat-of-Fats, the Diplomats, the Journalists, etc.
To your posts, gentlemen! The time has come for singing. Poets, philosophers, dry-as-dusts, pedants, penny-a-liners and literary men, lords of the inkhorn, you whose blood bears a flood of generous ink, come now, complete the chorus! Let there be no one heard but you. Fly on your best goose quills, fly to the rescue of Right! Holy guardians of the capitol, blow, blow your clarion notes! Be Brutuses, be Catos! Immolate all for the Fatherland – all except your lives, for you must be left to sing of those you kill. All honor to those magnificent voices of yours that crucify and resurrect, that make corpses and heroes!…In the baser ranks let us put the counterbasses: theologians, metaphysicians – my 18-inch howitzers, who crash upon the barbarians, the Jack Johnsons of the absolute and the aerial torpedoes of the ideal!…Above them come the baritones – the historians, the jurists, all the skillful camouflagers of the
Law and the Past. Let us also have a few ministers, economists and the big industrial journalists to send up the munition shares. A few Secretaries of State: they sing out of tune; but the croak of a bird with fine feathers sounds always sweet…And now my contraltos and tenors – the writers of every sex or of – no sex (they will be the sopranos): the Amazons of the pen who, like their grandmother Venus, burn for Mars; and the despised poets who, in their effort to regain lost love and lost laurels, are all dressed up as warriors…Ah! how handsome they are, my military men, quinquagenarians, tight-laced, be-medaled, marking time!…Left, right; left, right! Keep in step! They’re regular thunderbolts – on parade. What will they be like in a battle? But fortunately – I breathe again – they don’t fight. They are the guards, and, wisely, they remember that the guard’s first duty is to guard itself. All honor to the men of duty!…Finally, on top, at their posts among the timbrels and cymbals, we shall place the fanatics, the mystics, the Mad Mullahs of journalism; they can be delirious to order, can bark away for so much the yelp, and with their howling rouse the old instinct in the sleeping crowd, the lust of blood…As soloists, one Socialist and one Catholic shall sing a duet to celebrate the virtues according to the Church and the Councils. They are not of the same brew. But what matters the wine, so long as it has no water in it! And what matters the vintage so long as men believe and drink?

***

CHORUS OF INTELLECTUALS in doggerel verse. They chant in sprightly and monotonous tones, beating time with their whole body. At, isn’t it brave – to go down to the grave – when one’s quite a boy – one gets all life’s joy – and none of its worries, or flurries, or scurries. – If I were in – your youthful skin – how gladly I’d battle – or gladlier send – these stupid cattle – to meet their end. – For death and glory I thirst and hunger! – If only I were twenty years younger!

***

THE GRAND DERVISH
Nothing will come of this…Despite our holy efforts to disgust them with it, these common people, my word! set great store by their wretched mortal bodies! [To the Intellectuals.] And these fellows hold their tongue and don’t say a word!…Sing, I say, sing, O heroes of the brain!

THE INTELLECTUALS
But one must take breath! My tongue is quite sore with singing. What a trade! We’re exhausted. Give us a drink! It’s too hot…And to tell the truth, I’d rather sing another time: I’m not Tyrtaeus. The bugles and drums, beaten with might and main, to lead to the fight these poor dolts fairly burst my ears; I’d rather suck at the whispering flute with tip of tongue or else the rheumy oboe. For the poet is made to celebrate love and the fields and peace.

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Stefan Zweig: Propaganda is as much war matériel as arms and planes

December 27, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

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Stefan Zweig
From The World of Yesterday
Translated by Benjamin W. Huebsch and Helmut Ripperger

It had only been a second, but one that showed me how easily people anywhere could be aroused in a time of a crisis, despite all attempts at understanding, despite all efforts. My whole evening was spoiled. I could not sleep. If this had occurred in Paris, it would have made me uneasy, but I would not have been so shocked. I shuddered at the thought that this hatred had eaten its way deep into the provinces, deep into the hearts of the simple, naive people. A few days later I told my friends about the episode. Most of them did not take it seriously: ‘‘How we Frenchmen laughed at fat Queen Victoria, and yet two years later we formed an alliance with England. You don’t know the French, politics do not enter into them too deeply.” Only Rolland saw things in a different light. “The more naive a people are, the easier it is to get around them. Things are bad since Poincaré was elected. His trip to Petersburg will not be a pleasure jaunt.” We spoke at length about the socialist congress which had been called for that summer in Vienna, but here too Rolland was more sceptical than the others. “Who knows how many will remain steadfast once the mobilization order has been nailed up? We live in a time of mass emotion, mass hysteria, whose power in the case of war cannot be estimated.”

***

A great wave crashed over mankind so suddenly, with so much violence, that as its foam covered the surface it brought from the depths the dark and subconscious primeval promptings and instincts of the human animal – what was insightfully described by Feud as the rejection of civilization, a yearning to escape from the middle-class world of laws and their wisdom for once and indulge in the ancient bloodlust of man. And maybe these dark forces also played a part in the savage intoxication that combined alcohol with the joy of self-sacrifice, a wish for adventure and simple gullibility, the old superstition of flags and patriotic declamations, a grotesque frenzy, one that for a time unleashed mad and virtually inexorable momentum to the gravest crime of our era.

***

Who in the villages and the cities of Austria remembered “real” war? A few ancients at best, who, in 1866, had fought against Prussia, which was now their ally. But what a quick, bloodless, far-off war that had been, a campaign that had ended in three weeks with few victims and before it had well started! A rapid excursion into the romantic, a wild, manly adventure – that is how the war of 1914 was painted in the imagination of the simple man, and the young people were honestly afraid that they might miss this most wonderful and exciting experience of their lives; that is why they hurried and thronged to the colours, and that is why they shouted and sang in the trains that carried them to the slaughter; wildly and feverishly the red wave of blood coursed through the veins of the entire nation.

But the generation of 1939 knew war. It no longer deceived itself. It knew that it was not romantic but barbaric. It knew that it would last for years and years, an irretrievable span of time. It knew that the men did not storm the enemy, decorated with oak leaves and ribbons, but hung about for weeks at a time in trenches or quarters covered with vermin and mad with thirst, and that men were crushed and mutilated from afar without ever coming face to face with the foe. The newspapers and cinemas had already made the new and devilish techniques of destruction familiar; people knew how the giant tanks ground the wounded under them in their path, and how aeroplanes destroyed women and children in their beds. They knew that a World War of 1939, because of its soulless mechanization, would be a thousand times more cruel, more bestial, more inhuman than all of the former wars of mankind. Not a single individual of the generation of 1939 believed any longer in the God-decreed justice of war : and what was worse, they no longer believed in the justice and permanence of die peace it was to achieve.

***

[T]he tales of gouged-out eyes and severed hands which appear on the third or fourth day of every war filled the newspapers. They did not know, those innocents who spread such lies, that the accusation of every possible cruelty against the enemy is as much war matériel as are munitions and planes, and that they are systematically taken out of storage at the beginning of every war. War does not permit itself to be co-ordinated with reason and righteousness. It needs stimulated emotions, enthusiasm for its own cause and hatred for the adversary.

It lies in human nature that deep emotion cannot be prolonged indefinitely, either in the individual or in a people, a fact that is known to all military organizations. Therefore it requires an artificial stimulation, a constant ‘‘doping” of excitement; and this whipping-up was to be performed by the intellectuals, the poets, the writers, and the journalists, scrupulously or otherwise, honestly or as a matter of professional routine. They were to beat the drums of hatred and beat them they did, until the ears of the unprejudiced hummed and their hearts quaked. In Germany, in France, in Italy, in Russia, and in Belgium, they all obediently served the war propaganda and thus mass delusion and mass hatred, instead of fighting against it.

The results were disastrous. At that time, propaganda not yet having worn itself thin in peace time, the nations believed everything that they saw in print in spite of thousands of disillusionments. And so the pure, beautiful, sacrificial enthusiasm of the opening days became gradually transformed into an orgy of the worst and most stupid impulses.

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Romain Rolland: The way to peace is not through weakness

December 25, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Mahatma Gandhi
Translated by Catherine D. Groth

The world is swept by the wind of violence. This storm which ravages the harvest of our civilization did not break out from a clear sky. Centuries of brutal notional pride, whetted by the idolatrous ideology of the Revolution, spread by the empty mockery of democracies, and crowned by a century of inhuman industrialism, rapacious plutocracy, and a materialistic system of economics where the soul perishes, stifled to death, were bound to culminate in these dark struggles where the treasures of the West succumbed. It is not enough to say all this was inevitable. There is a Δίκη in it. Each people kills the other in the name of the same principles which hid the same covetousness and Cainish instincts. All…claim that they have the right to use force, while refusing this right to others. Half a century ago might dominated right. To-day things are far worse. Might is right. Might has devoured right.

***

The peace of the world is far off. We have no illusions. We have seen, abundantly, during the course of half a century, the hypocrisy, the cowardice, and the cruelty of mankind. But this does not prevent us from loving mankind. For even among the worst’ there is a nescio quid Dei. We know the material ties that weigh on twentieth century Europe, the crushing determinism of economic conditions which hem it in; we know that centuries of passions and systematized error have built a crust about our souls which the light cannot pierce. But we also know what miracles the spirit can work.

***

The Realpolitiker of violence, whether revolutionary or reactionary, ridicule our faith, and reveal thereby their ignorance of deep reality. Let them jeer! I have this faith, I know it is scorned and persecuted in Europe, and that in my own land we are but a handful – are we even a handful? – who believe in it. And even if I were the only one to believe in it, what would it matter? The true characteristic of faith is not to the hostility of the world, but to recognize it and to believe in spite of it! Faith is a battle. And our non-violence is the most desperate battle. The way to peace is not through weakness. We do not fight violence so much as weakness. Nothing is worth while unless it is strong, neither good nor evil. Absolute evil is better than emasculated goodness. Moaning pacifism is the deathknell of peace; it is cowardice and lack of faith. Let those who do not believe, who fear, withdraw! The way to peace leads through self-sacrifice.

This is Gandhi’s message.

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While the whole earth was at peace

December 24, 2018 Leave a comment

Laurence Sterne: Follow Peace

William Cullen Bryant: Christmas 1875

Edwin Arnold: Light of the World

Alexander Pope: Messiah

Christmas Proclamation

In the twenty-fourth day of the month of December;
In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;
In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood;
In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham;
In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses;
In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king;
In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome;
In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus;
In the sixth age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace –

Jesus Christ
eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished, was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man. The birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.

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Stefan Zweig: I would never have believed such a crime on the part of humanity possible

December 24, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

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Stefan Zweig
From The World of Yesterday
Translated by Benjamin W. Huebsch and Helmut Ripperger

For the first time, I saw the “enemy.” In Tarnow I came upon the first transport of captured Russian soldiers. Fenced within a large square, they sat about on die ground, smoking and chatting, guarded by two or three dozen mature, bearded Tyrolese militia who were as tattered and tom as then: captives, and had but little in common with the smart, clean-shaven, brilliantly uniformed soldiers we saw pictured in the illustrated papers at home. But the guard had nothing martial or severe about it. The captives did not display the slightest desire to escape, nor the Austrian militia the slightest inclination to be strict about their duties. They sat about in a neighbourly fashion with then: captives, and the very fact that they could not understand each other s language caused huge enjoyment. They exchanged cigarettes and laughed at each other. A Tyrolese militiaman was just taking some pictures of his wife and children out of a very old and dirty pocketbook and showing them to the “enemy,” who passed them about amongst themselves asking the Austrian by means of their fingers if this child was three, or four. I could not escape the feeling that these simple, primitive people had understood the war more truly than our university professors and poets: namely, as a disaster that had come over them with which they had had nothing to do, and that everyone who had happened into this misfortune was somehow a brother. This knowledge comforted me on my entire trip past the shelled cities and the plundered shops, whose contents lay about in the middle of the streets like broken limbs or tom-out entrails . Then, too, the well-tilled fields in between the war areas made me hope that in a few years all the destruction would have disappeared. Obviously at that time I was unable to conceive that just as quickly as the traces of the war would disappear from the face of the earth, the memory of its horrors would also as quickly disappear from the minds of men.

I did not face the actual horrors of war during those first days, and when I did they exceeded my worst imaginings. As there were practically no passenger trains, on occasion I rode on an open artillery car, sitting on a caisson, or in one of the cattle cars where men, completely tired out, slept alongside and on top of each other in the midst of stench and filth, and while they were being led to the slaughter, already looked like slaughtered cattle. But the worst of all were the hospital trains which I had to use two or three times. How little they resembled the well-lighted, white, carefully cleaned ambulance trains in which the archduchesses and the fashionable ladies of Viennese society had their pictures taken as nurses at the beginning of the war! What I saw to my dismay were ordinary freight cars without real windows, with only one narrow opening for air, lighted within by sooty oil lamps. One crude stretcher stood next to the other, and all were occupied by moaning, sweating, deathly pale men, who were gasping for breath in the thick atmosphere of excrement and iodoform. The hospital orderlies staggered rather than walked, for they were terribly tired; nothing was to be seen of the gleaming bed Iinen of the photographs. Covered with blood-stained rags, the men lay on straw on the hard wood of the stretchers, and in each one of the cars there lay at least two or three dead among the dying and groaning. I spoke with the doctor who, as he admitted to me, had been nothing more than a dentist in a small Hungarian village and had had no surgical practice for years. He was in despair. He had already telegraphed ahead to seven stations for morphine. But none was available; he had no more cotton, no fresh bandages, and it was still twenty hours away to the hospital in Budapest. He asked me to help him, for his own people were too fatigued. I tried, clumsy as I was, and found that I could at least be of some use in getting out at each station to fetch a few pails of water (bad, dirty water intended for the locomotive, but still refreshing), so that the men could be washed a bit, and the blood which was constantly dripping on the floor could be mopped up.

Since all nationalities had been thrown together into this rolling coffin, the soldiers suffered additionally from the Babelish confusion of tongues. Neither the doctor nor the orderlies understood Ruthenian or Croatian. The only one who could be of some help was an old white-haired priest who – like the doctor who was in despair for want of morphine – complained for his part that he lacked the oil for the Last Sacraments. In all his long life he had never administered to so many people as during the past month. It was from him that I heard the words that I was never to forget spoken in a hard, angry voice: “I am sixty-seven and I have seen much. But I would never have believed such a crime on the part of humanity possible.”

***
It was only now that the true impulse was given me: one had to fight against war! The material lay ready within me, only this last visible confirmation of my instinct had been lacking to make me start. I had recognized the foe I was to fight – false heroism that prefers to send others to suffering and death, the cheap optimism of the conscienceless prophets, both political and military who, boldly promising victory, prolong the war, and behind them the hired chorus, the “word makers of war’’ as Werfel has pilloried them in his beautiful poem. Whoever voiced a doubt hindered them in their patriotic concerns, whoever uttered a warning was ridiculed as a pessimist, whoever fought against the war in which they themselves did not suffer was branded as a traitor. It has always been the same, the eternal pack throughout the times, calling the prudent cowardly, the humane weak, only to be supine themselves in the hour of catastrophe which they themselves wantonly conjure up. It was always the same pack, the same who derided Cassandra in Troy, Jeremiah in Jerusalem, and never had I sensed the greatness and the tragedy of those figures as in these all too similar hours. From the very beginning I had no faith in victory and was certain of but one thing: that even if it could be achieved by immeasurable sacrifice, it could never justify that sacrifice.

 

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Francis Hutcheson: To poets, war is impetuous, cruel, undistinguishing monster

December 23, 2018 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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Francis Hutcheson
From An Inquiry Into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue

Upon this same sense is founded the power of that great beauty in poetry, the prosopopoeia, by which every affection is made a person; every natural event, cause, object, is animated by moral epithets…War is an impetuous, cruel, undistinguishing monster, whom no virtue, no circumstance of compassion, can move from his bloody purposes. The steel is unrelenting; the arrow and spear are impatient to destroy, and carry death on their points. Our modern engines of war are also frightful personages, counterfeiting with their rude throats the thunder of Jove…

[The poets] show us Peace as springing up from the Earth, and mercy looking down from Heaven.

***

When one reads the fourth book of Homer, and is prepared, from the council of the Gods, to imagine the bloody Sequel, and amidst the most beautiful Description which ever was imagined of shooting an Arrow, meets with its moral Epithet:

μελαινάων ἕρμ’ ὀδυνᾴων
The source of blackest woes

he will find himself more moved by this circumstance, than by all the profusion of natural description which man could imagine.

***

A late ingenious author justly observes, “That the various sects, parties, factions, cabals of mankind in larger societies are all influenced by a public spirit…That all the contentions of the different factions, and even the fiercest wars against each other are influenced by a sociable public spirit in a limited system.” But certain it is, that men are little obliged to those who often artfully raise and foment this party spirit; to cantonize them into several sects for the defence of very trifling cause…

***

The idea of an ill-natured villain is too frightful ever to become familiar to any mortal. Hence we shall find that the basest actions are dressed in some tolerable mask…Fire, sword and desolation among enemies [appears] a just, thorough defence of our country…

***

Beauty gives a favourable presumption of good moral dispositions, and acquaintance confirms this into a real love of esteem, or begets it, where there is little beauty. This raises an expectation of the greatest moral pleasures along with the sensible, and a thousand tender sentiments of humanity and generosity; and makes us impatient for a society which we imagine big with unspeakable moral pleasures: where nothing is indifferent, and every trifling service, being an evidence of this strong love. Esteem, is mutually received with the rapture and gratitude of the greatest benefit, and of the most substantial obligation. And where prudence and good-nature influence both sides, this society may answer all their expectations…

This powerful determination even to a limited benevolence, and other moral sentiments, is observed to give a strong bias to our minds toward a universal goodness, tenderness, humanity, generosity, and contempt of private good in our whole conduct; besides the obvious Improvement it occasions in our external deportment, and in our relish of beauty, order, and harmony. As soon as a heart, before hard and obdurate, is soften’d in this flame, we shall observe arising along with it, a Love of poetry, music, the beauty of nature in rural scenes, a contempt of other selfish pleasures of the external senses, a neat dress, a humane deportment, a delight in and emulation of everything which is gallant, generous and friendly.

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Rabindranath Tagore: Secure disarmament, transform it into strength

December 22, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Rabindranath Tagore
Quoted in Romain Rolland‘s Mahatma Gandhi

I hope this spirit of sacrifice will grow, and also the will to suffer…This is real liberty. Nothing is higher, not even national independence. The West has an unshakable belief in force and material wealth; therefore no matter how much it cries for peace and disarmament, its ferocity will cry still louder…We, in India, must show the world what this truth is which not only makes disarmament possible, but transmutes it into strength. The fact that moral force is a stronger power than brute force will be proved by an unarmed people. The evolution of life shows that it has gradually cast off its formidable armature of scales and carapaces and a monstrous quantity of flesh until man was evolved who conquered brute force. The day will come when a weak, noble man absolutely unarmed will prove that the meek shall inherit the earth. It is logical that Mahatma Gandhi, weak of body and without material resources, should prove the unconquerable strength.

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Romain Rolland: The equivocating sages of Armed Peace

December 21, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

Noise of a heavy brigade marching with a ponderous beat; breathless bugles. At the head of the procession – all of them loaded with knapsacks and arms – is a stout man, tightly strapped into his uniform; plumed helmet of an Offenbach soldier, enormous knapsack, saber and rifle – sweating, puffing, mopping his face.

ALTAÏR
What harness to wear when one has to climb a steep hill without shade in the middle of the day! You’re mad, my friends! Throw away your shells…Are they convicts condemned to hard labor? Who is that fat black beetle, pot-bellied and whiskered, who, like Agamemnon, marches, rolls along at their head?

The fat man stumbles.

POLICHINELLO
It’s Peace advancing – advancing backwards.

ALTAÏR
Peace!

POLICHINELLO
O, well, of course – Armed Peace.

***

LILULI

Why do you move? You have a sound pair of legs at any rate. March a little, let me see. Swing your arms, lift your legs…What a fine soldier!

POLICHINELLO
Yes, I should be good at running away.

LILULI
That’s something. In these days, my friend, one can only run from under one fire into another. So I undertake you will always be a hero. Don’t worry.

POLICHINELLO
I don’t worry at all. A hero on a bier…I prefer beer in my gullet.

LILULI
But you’ll get it, in addition to everything else. Cool beer, good cheer, glory, obituary…”0 glorious dead, I envy you!”…by one of the great gentlemen of our Academies, whose greatness keeps him, poor man! on the hither shore…

***

ONE OF THE RECRUITING SERGEANTS at the foot of the tree, nose in air.

Come, sir, come. They’re only waiting for you. Everybody has enlisted. Come now, we’re shutting up shop. Look at these uniforms! This helmet would suit you nicely. It’s a bargain. Would you like some gold lace?

FIRST RECRUITING SERGEANT
That isn’t done. Kindly understand, sir, that a single man, if he isn’t a soldier, has no right to defend himself. It’s criminal.

***

POLICHINELLO
Never! Laughter is a weapon against Illusion.

LILULI
You’re mistaken, my good friend. You work for me. You think yourself clever because you “don’t believe in it.” “You don’t believe in it,” you laugh; but you do as the rest do. Laugh away, my boy, laugh! Your laughter helps the men I enlist to march.

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Stefan Zweig: The bloody cloud-bank of war will give way to a new dawn

December 20, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

For us moderns, it is the overwhelming power of the state, organized political force, massed destiny, against which as individuals we stand weaponless; it is the great spiritual storms, les courants de foi, which inexorably sweep us away like straws before the wind. No less incalculably than did the fabled gods of antiquity, no less overwhelmingly and pitilessly, does the world-destiny make us its sport. War is the most powerful of these mass influences, and, for this reason, nearly all Rolland’s plays take war as their theme. Their moral force consists in the way wherein again and again they show how the individual, a Prometheus in conflict with the gods, is able in the spiritual sphere to break the unseen yoke; how the individual idea remains stronger than the mass idea, the idea of the fatherland – though the latter can still destroy a hardy rebel with the thunderbolts of Jupiter.

***

The Greeks first knew the gods when the gods were angry. Our gloomy divinity, the fatherland, blood-thirsty as the gods of old, first becomes fully known to us in time of war. Unless fate lowers, man rarely thinks of these hostile forces; he despises them or forgets them, while they lurk in the darkness, awaiting the advent of their day. A peaceful, a Laodicean era had no interest in tragedies foreshadowing the opposition of the forces which were twenty years later to engage in deadly struggle in the blood-stained European arena. What should those care who strayed into the theater from the Parisian boulevards, members of an audience skilled in the geometry of adultery, what should they care about such problems as those in Rolland’s plays: whether it is better to serve the fatherland or to serve justice; whether in war time soldiers must obey orders or follow the call of conscience?…These dramas, parerga as it seemed, were aimed, in an hour when peace still ruled the world, at the center of our contemporary consciousness, which was then still unwoven by the looms of time. The stone which the builders of the stage contemptuously rejected, will perhaps become the foundation of a new theater, grandly conceived, contemporary and yet heroical, the theater of the free European brotherhood, for whose sake it was fashioned in solitude decades ago by the lonely creator.

***

Rolland has known this long night of labor. When he assumed the fateful burden, when he took the work upon his shoulders, he meant to recount but a single life. As he proceeded, what had been light grew heavy. He found that he was carrying the whole destiny of his generation, the meaning of the entire world, the message of love, the primal secret of creation. We who saw him making his way alone through the night, without recognition, without helpers, without a word of cheer, without a friendly light winking at him from the further shore, imagined that he must succumb. From the hither bank the unbelievers followed him with shouts of scornful laughter. But he pressed manfully forward during these ten years, what time the stream of life swirled ever more fiercely around him; and he fought his way in the end to the unknown shore of completion. With bowed back, but with the radiance in his eyes undimmed, did he finish fording the river. Long and heavy night of travail, wherein he walked alone! Dear burden, which he carried for the sake of those who are to come afterwards, bearing it from our shore to the still untrodden shore of the new world. Now the crossing had been safely made. When the good ferryman raised his eyes, the night seemed to be over, the darkness vanished. Eastward the heaven was all aglow. Joyfully he welcomed the dawn of the coming day towards which he had carried this emblem of the day that was done.

Yet what was reddening there was naught but the bloody cloud-bank of war, the flame of burning Europe, the flame that was to consume the spirit of the elder world. Nothing remained of our sacred heritage beyond this, that faith had bravely struggled from the shore of yesterday to reach our again distracted world. The conflagration has burned itself out; once more night has lowered. But our thanks speed towards you, ferryman, pious wanderer, for the path you have trodden through the darkness. We thank you for your labors, which have brought the world a message of hope. For the sake of us all have you marched on through the murky night. The flame of hatred will yet be extinguished; the spirit of friendship will again unite people with people. It will dawn, that new day.

***

Rolland thus recognizes that there is another greatness, a profounder greatness, than that of action, the greatness of suffering. Unthinkable would be a Rolland who did not draw fresh faith from all experience, however painful; unthinkable one who failed, in his own suffering, to be mindful of the sufferings of others. As a sufferer, he extends a greeting to all sufferers on earth. Instead of a fellowship of enthusiasm, he now looks for a brotherhood of the lonely ones of the world, as he shows them the meaning and the grandeur of all sorrow. In this new circle, the nethermost of fate, he turns to noble examples. “Life is hard. It is a continuous struggle for all those who cannot come to terms with mediocrity. For the most part it is a painful struggle, lacking sublimity, lacking happiness, fought in solitude and silence. Oppressed by poverty, by domestic cares, by crushing and gloomy tasks demanding an aimless expenditure of energy, joyless and hopeless, most people work in isolation, without even the comfort of being able to stretch forth a hand to their brothers in misfortune.” To build these bridges between man and man, between suffering and suffering, is now Rolland’s task. To the nameless sufferers, he wishes to show those in whom personal sorrow was transmuted to become gain for millions yet to come. He would, as Carlyle phrased it, “make manifest…the divine relation…which at all times unites a Great Man to other men.” The million solitaries have a fellowship; it is that of the great martyrs of suffering, those who, though stretched on the rack of destiny, never foreswore their faith in life, those whose very sufferings helped to make life richer for others. “Let them not complain too piteously, the unhappy ones, for the best of men share their lot. It is for us to grow strong with their strength. If we feel our weakness, let us rest on their knees. They will give solace. From their spirits radiate energy and goodness. Even if we did not study their works, even if we did not hearken to their voices, from the light of their countenances, from the fact that they have lived, we should know that life is never greater, never more fruitful – never happier – than in suffering.”

***

The preface to Beethoven proclaims: “The air is fetid. Old Europe is suffocating in a sultry and unclean atmosphere. Our thoughts are weighed down by a petty materialism…The world sickens in a cunning and cowardly egoism. We are stifling. Throw the windows wide; let in the free air of heaven. We must breathe the souls of the heroes.” What does Rolland mean by a hero? He does not think of those who lead the masses, wage victorious wars, kindle revolutions; he does not refer to men of action, or to those whose thoughts engender action. The nullity of united action has become plain to him. Unconsciously in his dramas he has depicted the tragedy of the idea as something which cannot be divided among men like bread, as something which in each individual’s brain and blood undergoes prompt transformation into a new form, often into its very opposite. True greatness is for him to be found only in solitude, in struggle waged by the individual against the unseen. “I do not give the name of heroes to those who have triumphed, whether by ideas or by physical force. By heroes I mean those who were great through the power of the heart. As one of the greatest (Tolstoi) has said, ‘I recognize no other sign of superiority than goodness. Where the character is not great, there is neither a great artist nor a great man of action; there is nothing but one of the idols of the crowd; time will shatter them together…What matters, is to be great, not to seem great.'”

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Stefan Zweig: “How much rottenness there is in war”

December 19, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Stefan Zweig
From Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

Le temps viendra is the third, the most impressive variation upon the earlier theme, depicting the cleavage between conviction and duty, citizenship and humanity, the national man and the free man. A war drama of the conscience staged amid a war in the material world. In Le triomphe de la raison, the problem was one of freedom versus the fatherland; in Les loups it was one of justice versus the fatherland. Here we have a yet loftier variation of the theme; the conflict of conscience, of eternal truth, versus the fatherland. The chief figure, though not spiritually the hero of the piece, is Clifford, leader of the invading army. He is waging an unjust war – and what war is just? But he wages it with a strategist’s brain; his heart is not in the work. He knows “how much rottenness there is in war”; he knows that war cannot be effectively waged without hatred for the enemy; but he is too cultured to hate. He knows that it is impossible to carry on war without falsehood; impossible to kill without infringing the principles of humanity; impossible to create military justice, since the whole aim of war is unjust. He knows this with one part of his being, which is the real Clifford; but he has to repudiate the knowledge with the other part of his being, the professional soldier. He is confined within an iron ring of contradictions. “Obéir à ma patrie? Obéir à ma conscience?” It is impossible to gain the victory without doing wrong, yet who can command an army if he lack the will to conquer? Clifford must serve that will, even while he despises the force which his duty compels him to use. He cannot be a man unless he thinks, and yet he cannot remain a soldier while preserving his humanity. Vainly does he seek to mitigate the brutalities of his task; fruitlessly does he endeavor to do good amid the bloodshed which issues from his orders. He is aware that “there are gradations in crime, but every one of these gradations remains a crime.” Other notable figures in the play are: the cynic, whose only aim is the profit of his own country; the army sportsman; those who blindly obey; the sentimentalist, who shuts his eyes to all that is painful, contemplating as a puppet-show what is tragedy to those who have to endure it. The background to these figures is the lying spirit of contemporary civilization, with its neat phrases to justify every outrage, and its factories built upon tombs. To our civilization applies the charge inscribed upon the opening page, raising the drama into the sphere of universal humanity: “This play has not been written to condemn a single nation, but to condemn Europe.”

The true hero of the piece is not General Clifford, the conqueror of South Africa, but the free spirit, as typified in the Italian volunteer, a citizen of the world who threw himself into the fray that he might defend freedom, and in the Scottish peasant who lays aside his rifle with the words, “I will kill no longer.” These men have no other fatherland than conscience, no other home than their own humanity. The only fate they acknowledge is that which the free man creates for himself. Rolland is with them, the vanquished, as he is ever with those who voluntarily accept defeat. It is from his soul that rises the cry of the Italian volunteer, “Ma patrie est partout où la liberté est menacée.” Aërt, Saint Louis, Hugot, the Girondists, Teulier, the martyrs in Les loups, are the author’s spiritual brethren, the children of his belief that the individual’s will is stronger than his secular environment. This faith grows ever greater, takes on an ever wider oscillation, as the years pass. In his first plays he was still speaking to France. His last work written for the stage addresses a wider audience; it is his confession of world citizenship.

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Romain Rolland: Gandhi and the Satanic nature of war

December 18, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

Romain Rolland: Gandhi vs Einstein: War must be stopped before it starts

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Romain Rolland
From Mahatma Gandhi
Translated by Catherine D. Groth

[T]he document to which there can be no rejoinder is that which Europe herself has traced in the life-blood of races oppressed and despoiled in the name of lying principles and, above all, in the brazen revelation of Europe’s lies, greed, and ferocity as unfolded during the last war, called the “War for Civilization.” And in it Europe sank to such depths that in her insanity she even invited the peoples of Asia and Africa to contemplate her nudity:

“The last war has shown, as nothing else has, the Satanic nature of the civilization that dominates Europe to-day. Every canon of public morality has been broken by the victors in the name of virtue. No lie has been considered too foul to be uttered. The motive behind every crime is not religious or spiritual but grossly material…Europe to-day is only nominally Christian. In reality it is worshipping Mammon.” [Mohandas Gandhi]

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