George Gissing: Games and war

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

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George Gissing
From The Nether World

He carried his point, and now he was going to spend his wedding-day at the Crystal Palace

Here already was gathered much goodly company; above their heads hung a thick white wavering cloud of dust. Swing-boats and merry-go-rounds are from of old the chief features of these rural festivities; they soared and dipped and circled to the joyous music of organs which played the same tune automatically for any number of hours, whilst raucous voices invited all and sundry to take their turn. Should this delight pall, behold on every hand such sports as are dearest to the Briton, those which call for strength of sinew and exactitude of aim. The philosophic mind would have noted with interest how ingeniously these games were made to appeal to the patriotism of the throng. Did you choose to ‘shy’ sticks in the contest for cocoa-nuts, behold your object was a wooden model of the treacherous Afghan or the base African. If you took up the mallet to smite upon a spring and make proof of how far you could send a ball flying upwards, your blow descended upon the head of some other recent foeman. Try your fist at the indicator of muscularity, and with zeal you smote full in the stomach of a guy made to represent a Russian. If you essayed the pop-gun, the mark set you was on the flank of a wooden donkey, so contrived that it would kick when hit in the true spot. What a joy to observe the tendency of all these diversions! How characteristic of a high-spirited people that nowhere could be found any amusement appealing to the mere mind, or calculated to effeminate by encouraging a love of beauty.

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Elizabeth Cobbold

From The Two Vanities, a Fable

When Cadmus, reeking from th’ empoison’d strife,
The serpent spoils by Pallas’ order strew’d,
The gory furrows heav’d with sudden life,
And, bursting forth, appear’d the warrior brood;
Awhile elate in hostile pride they stood:
Then mix’d in fierce exterminating fight,
Earth’s bosom drenching with her children’s blood,
And every corse defac’d with hellish spite,
Pale look’d the sun through clouds, and sicken’d at the sight.

***

From Lines Written in the Album of an Officer of the Kings
German Legion

Secure from satire’s shaft, or envy’s dart,
Here may his heart forget its every woe,

With social converse heal afflictions’ smart,
And all the sweets of home and friendship know,
Till peace with ray serene the world shall cheer,
And gild his native land and give a home more dear.

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The second horseman

The Red Horse

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come and see!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.

(Revelation 6:3-4)

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Charlotte Richardson: Once more let war and discord cease

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Charlotte Richardson
From When Threatened With An Invasion

Almighty God, with pitying eye,
Look down upon our troubled land,
To thee alone for aid we cry,
We trust in thy all-pow’rful hand:
Once more let war and discord cease,
Restore again the joys of peace!

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Maria Abdy

From The War-Cloud

The War-Cloud hovers o’er our way;
But yield not to the spell of sorrow:
Our country’s prospects, dim to day,
Perchance may look more bright to-morrow.

***

The strife may come, but soon may cease;
Soon may the foeman flee before us;
Soon may the gentle Dove of Peace
Extend her snowy pinions o’er us.
Shadows are sent our path to shroud –
Behold them not with vain repining;
The eye of Faith shall pierce the cloud,
And bring to view its silver lining!

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From The Ruined Castle by Sunlight

What, though he view in broken heaps around,
The mournful wreck of many a noble vision,
Though Fame’s proud towers be leveled with the ground,
Though cleft the glittering temple of Ambition; –

Yet Peace, with soothing voice, and dove-like wing,
Pours her sweet music in the dwelling shattered,
Fair blossoms still among the ruin cling,
And verdure on the rugged waste is scattered.

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Mathilde Blind: Reaping War’s harvest grim and gory

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

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Mathilde Blind
From The Leading of Sorrow
The Ascent of Man

Horror, horror! The fair town is burning,
Flames burst forth, wild sparks and ashes fly;
With her children’s blood the green earth’s turning
Blood-red – blood-red, too, the cloud-winged sky.
Crackling flare the streets: from the lone steeple
The great clock booms forth its ancient chime,
And its dolorous quarters warn the people
Of the conquering troops that march with time.

Fallen lies the fair old town, its houses
Charred and ruined gape in smoking heaps;
Here with shouts a ruffian band carouses,
There an outraged woman vainly weeps.
In the fields where the ripe corn lies mangled,
Where the wounded groan beneath the dead,
Friend and foe, now helplessly entangled,
Stain red poppies with a guiltier red.

There the dog howls o’er his perished master,
There the crow comes circling from afar;
All vile things that batten on disaster
Follow feasting in the wake of war.
Famine follows – what they ploughed and planted
The unhappy peasants shall not reap;
Sickening of strange meats and fever haunted,
To their graves they prematurely creep.

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

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

British writers on peace and war

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

Mathilde Blind: Reaping War’s harvest grim and gory

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Mathilde Blind
From The Ascent of Man

There in the rainless sands
The toil of captive hands,
That aye must do as their taskmaster bids,
Through years of dusty days
Brick by slow brick shall raise
The incarnate pride of kings – the Pyramids –
Linked with some name synonymous with slaughter
Time has effaced like a name writ in water.

For ever with fateful shocks,
Roar as of hurtling rocks,
Start fresh embattled hosts with flags unfurled,
To meet on battle-fields
With clash of spears and shields,
Widowing the world of men to win the world:
The hissing air grows dark with iron rain,
And groans the earth beneath her sheaves of slain.

***

“Peace on earth and good will unto Men!”
Came the tidings borne o’er wide dominions
The glad tidings thrilled the world as when
Spring comes fluttering on the west wind’s pinions,
When her voice is heard
Warbling through each bird. And a new-born hope
Throbs through all things infinite in scope.

“Peace on earth and good will!” came the word
Of the Son of Man, the Man of Sorrow –
But the peace turned to a flaming sword,
Turned to woe and wailing on the morrow
When with gibes and scorns,
Crowned with barren thorns,
Gashed and crucified,
On the Cross the tortured Jesus died.

***

From The Pilgrim Soul
The Ascent of Man

The Lord of the City is deafened with praises
As worshipping multitudes kneel as of old;
Nor care for the crowds of cadaverous faces,

The men that are marred and the maids that are sold –
Inarticulate masses promiscuously jumbled
And crushed ‘neath their Juggernaut idol of gold.

Lost lives of great cities bespattered and tumbled,
Black rags the rain soaks, the wind whips like a knout.
Were crouched in the streets there, and o’er them nigh stumbled

A swarm of light maids as they tripped to some rout.
The silk of their raiment voluptuously hisses
And flaps o’er the flags as loud-laughing they flout

The wine-maddened men they ne’er satiate with kisses
For the pearls and the diamonds that make them more fair.
For the flash of large jewels that fire them with blisses,

For the glitter of gold in the gold of their hair.

***

“Ah,” wailed he in tones full of agonised yearning,
Like the plaintive lament of a sickening dove
On a surf-beaten shore, whence it sees past returning

The wings of the wild flock fast fading above,
As they melt on the sky-line like foam-flakes in motion:
So sadly he wailed, ”I am Love! I am Love!”

“Behold me cast out as weed spurned of the ocean,
Half nude on the bare ground, and covered with scars,
I perish of cold here;” and, choked with emotion,

Gave a sob: at the low sob a shower of stars
Broke shuddering from heaven, pale flaming, and fell
Where the mid-city roared as with rumours of wars.

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Mathilde Blind: Reaping War’s harvest grim and gory

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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

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Mathilde Blind
From The Ascent of Man

Creature of hopes and fears.
Of mirth and many tears,
He makes himself a thousand costly altars.
Whence smoke of sacrifice,
Fragrant with myrrh and spice,
Ascends to heaven as the flame leaps and falters;
Where, like a king above the Cloud control,
God sits enthroned and rules Man’s subject soul.

Yet grievous here below
And manifold Man’s woe;
Though he can stay the flood and bind the waters.
His hand he shall not stay
That bids him sack and slay
And turn the waving fields to fields of slaughters;
And, as he reaps War’s harvest grim and gory,
Commits a thousand crimes and calls it glory.

Vast empires fall and rise,
As when in sunset skies
The monumental clouds lift flashing towers
With turrets, spires, and bars
Lit by confederate stars
Till the bright rack dissolves in flying showers:
Kindoms on kingdoms have their fleeting day,
Dazzle the conquered world, and pass away.

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Charlotte Turner Smith: The lawless soldiers’ victims

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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

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

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Charlotte Turner Smith
Fragment
Descriptive of the miseries of War; from a Poem
called “The Emigrants,” printed in 1793

To a wild mountain, whose bare summit hides
Its broken eminence in clouds; whose steeps
Are dark with woods: where the receding rocks
Are worn with torrents of dissolving snow;
A wretched woman, pale and breathless, flies,
And, gazing round her, listens to the sound
Of hostile footsteps:­ No! they die away­
Nor noise remains, but of the cataract,
Or surly breeze of night, that mutters low
Among the thickets, where she trembling seeks
A temporary shelter. ­Clasping close
To her quick throbbing heart her sleeping child,
All she could rescue of the innocent group
That yesterday surrounded her. ­Escaped
Almost by miracle!­ Fear, frantic Fear,
Wing’d her weak feet; yet, half repenting now
Her headlong haste, she wishes she had staid
To die with those affrighted Fancy paints
The lawless soldiers’ victims­. Hark! again
The driving tempest bears the cry of Death;
And with deep, sudden thunder, the dread sound
Of cannon vibrates on the tremulous earth;
While, bursting in the air, the murderous bomb
Glares o’er her mansion. ­Where the splinters fall
Like scatter’d comets, its destructive path
Is mark’d by wreaths of flame!­ Then, overwhelm’d
Beneath accumulated horror, sinks
The desolate mourner!

The feudal chief, whose gothic battlements
Frown on the plain beneath, returning home
From distant lands, alone, and in disguise,
Gains at the fall of night his castle walls,
But, at the silent gate no porter sits
To wait his lord’s admittance!­In the courts
All is drear stillness!­ Guessing but too well
The fatal truth, he shudders as he goes
Through the mute hall; where, by the blunted light
That the dim moon through painted casement lends,
He sees that devastation has been there;
Then, while each hideous image to his mind
Rises terrific, o’er a bleeding corse
Stumbling he falls; another intercepts
His staggering feet. ­All, all who used to
With joy to meet him, all his family
Lie murder’d in his way!­ And the day dawns
On a wild raving maniac, whom a fate
So sudden and calamitous has robb’d
Of reason; and who round his vacant walls
Screams unregarded, and reproaches Heaven!

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Charlotte Turner Smith: The lawless soldiers’ victims

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

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

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Charlotte Turner Smith
From The Forest Boy

At the town was a market­ and now for supplies,
Such as needed her humble abode,
Young William went forth; and his mother with sighs
Watch’d long at the window, with tears in her eyes,
Till he turn’d through the fields to the road.

Then darkness came on; and she heard with affright
The wind every moment more high;
She look’d from the door; not a star lent its light,
But the tempest redoubled the gloom of the night,
And the rain pour’d in sheets from the sky.

The clock in her cottage now mournfully told
The hours that went heavily on;
‘Twas midnight: her spirits sank hopeless and cold,
And it seem’d as each blast of wind fearfully told
That long, long would her William be gone.

Then heart‐sick and cold to her sad bed she crept,
Yet first made up the fire in the room
To guide his dark steps; but she listen’d and wept,
Or if for a moment forgetful she slept,
Soon she started!­and thought he was come.

‘Twas morn; and the wind with a hoarse sullen moan
Now seem’d dying away in the wood,
When the poor wretched mother still drooping, alone,
Beheld on the threshold a figure unknown,
In gorgeous apparel who stood.

“Your son is a soldier,” abruptly cried he,
“And a place in our corps has obtain’d,
Nay, be not cast down; you perhaps may soon see
Your William a captain, he now sends by me
The purse he already has gain’d.”

So William entrapp’d ‘twixt persuasion and force,
Is embark’d for the isles of the West,
But he seem’d to begin with ill omens his course,
And felt recollection, regret, and remorse
Continually weigh on his breast.

With useless repentance he eagerly eyed
The high coast as it faded from view,
And saw the green hills, on whose northernmost side
Was his own silvan home: and he falter’d, and cried,
“Adieu! ah! for ever adieu!

“Who now, my poor mother, thy life shall sustain,
Since thy son has thus left thee forlorn?
Ah! canst thou forgive me? And not in the pain
Of this cruel desertion, of William complain,
And lament that he ever was born?

“Sweet Phoebe!­ if ever thy lover was dear,
Now forsake not the cottage of woe,
But comfort my mother; and quiet her fear,
And help her to dry up the vain fruitless tear,
That too long for my absence will flow.

“Yet what if my Phoebe another should wed,
And lament her lost William no more?”
The thought was too cruel; and anguish now sped
The dart of disease­With the brave numerous dead
He has fall’n on the plague‐tainted shore.

In the lone village church‐yard, the chancel‐wall near,
High grass now waves over the spot,
Where the mother of William, unable to bear
His loss, who to her widow’d heart was so dear,
Has both him and her sorrows forgot.

By the brook where it winds through the wood of Arbeal,
Or amid the deep forest, to moan,
The poor wandering Phoebe will silently steal;
The pain of her bosom no reason can heal,
And she loves to indulge it alone.

Her senses are injured; her eyes dim with tears;
She sits by the river and weaves
Reed garlands, against her dear William appears,
Then breathlessly listens, and fancies she hears
His step in the half wither’d leaves.

Ah! such are the miseries to which ye give birth,
Ye statesmen! ne’er dreading a scar;
Who from pictured saloon, or the bright sculptured hearth
Disperse desolation and death through the earth,
When ye let loose the demons of war.

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Charlotte Turner Smith: The lawless soldiers’ victims

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

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

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Charlotte Turner Smith

Sonnet LXXXIII
The Sea View

The upland shepherd, as reclined he lies
On the soft turf that clothes the mountain brow,
Marks the bright sea‐line mingling with the skies;
Or from his course celestial, sinking slow,
The summer‐sun in purple radiance low,
Blaze on the western waters; the wide scene
Magnificent, and tranquil, seems to spread
Even o’er the rustic’s breast a joy serene,
When, like dark plague‐spots by the demons shed,
Charged deep with death, upon the waves, far seen,
Move the war‐freighted ships; and fierce and red,
Flash their destructive fires. ­The mangled dead
And dying victims then pollute the flood.
Ah, thus man spoils Heaven’s glorious works with blood!

***

Sonnet LXXVI
To a Young Man Entering the World

Go now, ingenious youth!­ The trying hour
Is come: The world demands that thou shouldst go
To active life: There titles, wealth, and power,
May all be purchased. ­Yet I joy to know
Thou wilt not pay their price. The base control
Of petty despots in their pedant reign
Already hast thou felt;­and high disdain
Of tyrants is imprinted on thy soul­
Not, where mistaken Glory, in the field
Rears her red banner, be thou ever found:
But, against proud Oppression raise the shield
Of patriot daring. ­So shalt thou renown’d
For the best virtues live; or that denied
May’st die, as Hampden or as Sydney died!

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Charlotte Turner Smith: The lawless soldiers’ victims

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

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

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Charlotte Turner Smith
From On the Origin of Flattery

Unhappy man, by vice and folly tost,
Found in the storms of life his quiet lost,
While Envy, Avarice, and Ambition, hurl’d
Discord and death around the warring world;
Then the blest peasant left his fields and fold,
And barter’d love and peace for power and gold;
Left his calm cottage and his native plain,
In search of wealth to tempt the faithless main;
Or, braving danger, in the battle stood,
And bathed his savage hands in human blood;
No longer then, his woodland walks among,
The shepherd lad his genuine passion sung…

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Lucy Aikin: Gentle Peace with healing hand returns

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Lucy Aikin

From Necessity

The battle roars, the day is won,
Exulting Fortune crowns her son:
Sickening I turn on yonder plain
To mourn the widows and the slain;
To mourn the woes, the crimes of man,
To search in vain the eternal plan,
In outraged nature claim a part,
And ponder, desolate of heart.

***

On Seeing Blenheim Castle

[Built for the Duke of Marlborough in reward for his role in the Battle of Blenheim]

O ask not me of Blenheim’s marble halls,
Her towering column and triumphal gate;
With vacant glance I viewed the trophied walls,
The wide unsocial haunt of sullen state!

Boast not to me the wooded green domain,
Formed by the labourer’s hand, the artist’s rule;
Joyless I saw, in yon extended plain,
A cultured desert and a stagnant pool.

Be mine the cheerful view of village green
With ruddy children scattered far and near,
The babbling brook thro’ willow hedgerows seen
That turns the mill with current cold and clear!

At scenes like these the feeling breast may warm,
And tears of young philanthropy may start,
The poet’s mind new dreams of beauty form,
And fancy own the promptings of the heart.

But ask not me of Blenheim’s marble halls;
Tho’ Marlborough’s triumphs grace her sculptured gate,
With careless glance I viewed her trophied walls,
Chilled by the frown of dull unsocial state.

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Lucy Aikin: Gentle Peace with healing hand returns

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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Lucy Aikin
From Cambria, an Ode

Not always thus, to works of peace
By patriot wisdom planned,
The labourer lent his willing hand,
And reaped the rich increase:
Mark yon tower’s embattled wall,
Proud, yet nodding to its fall;
Proud work of many a wretched thrall!

Edward! on thy parted soul
Heavy sit the murderous guilt
Of Cambrian blood in battle spilt!
Heavier still the unnumbered sighs
Of Cambria’s vanquisht bands,
As slow, beneath their forced reluctant hands,
They saw thy castles rise!

But not the warrior’s blasting breath,
But not the conqueror’s scythed arm,
Can spread eternal death;
Far refuged from the loud alarm,
Gentle Peace with healing hand
Returns: obedient to her whisper bland
Her own attendant Arts are seen,
And Time the furrows smooths of Desolation’s plough.

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John Galsworthy: War and the microbe of fatalism

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From A Hedonist

The microbe of fatalism, already present in the brains of artists before the war, had been considerably enlarged by that depressing occurrence. Could a civilisation basing itself on the production of material advantages do anything but ensure the desire for more and more material advantages? Could it promote progress even of a material character except in countries whose resources were in excess of their populations? The war had seemed to me to show that mankind was too combative an animal ever to recognise that the good of all was the good of one. The course-fibred, pugnacious, and self-seeking would, I had become sure, always carry too many guns for the refined and kindly. In short, there was not enough altruism to go around – not half, not a hundredth part enough. The simple heroism of mankind, disclosed or rather accentuated by the war, seemed to afford no hope – it was so exploitable by the rhinoceri and tigers of high life. The march of science appeared on the whole to be carrying us backward, and I deeply suspected that there had been ages when the populations of this earth, though less numerous and comfortable, had been proportionately more healthy than they were at present…

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Matilda Betham: All the horrid charms of war

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Matilda Betham

From Edgar and Ellen

“Arrest thy steps! On these sad plains,
Fair dame, no further go!
But listen to the martial strains,
Whose wildness speaks of woe!

Hark, strife is forward on the field,
I hear the trumpet’s bray!
Now spear to spear, and shield to shield,
Decides the dreadful day!

Unfit for thee, oh! Lady fair!
The scenes where men engage;
The gentle spirit could not bear
The fearful battle’s rage.”

***

“Lord Hubert pledg’d his sacred word,
He wept, and, kneeling swore,
In England ne’er to wield a sword,
Or shoot an arrow more.

From civil war, whose daily crimes
This island long shall rue,
From all the evil of the times,
In anguish he withdrew.”

====

Fragment

Where yonder mossy ruins lie,
And desolation strikes the eye,
A noble mansion, high and fair,
Once rear’d its turrets in the air.
There infant warriors drew their breath,
And learn’d to scorn the fear of death,
In halls where martial trophies hung.
They listened while the minstrels sung,
Of pain and glory, toil and care,
And all the horrid charms of war:
There, caught the fond desire of fame,
And panted for a hero’s name.
Alas! too oft in youthful bloom,
Renown has crown’d the early tomb,
Has pierced the widow’s bosom deep,
And taught the mother’s eyes to weep.
She, on whose tale the stripling hung,
While pride and sorrow rul’d her tongue,
His father’s gallant acts to tell,
How bold he fought, how bravely fell.

Methinks e’en now I hear her speak,
I see the tear upon her cheek;
The musing boy’s abstracted brow,
And the high-arching eye below,
The stifled sigh and anxious heave,
The kindling heart which dares not grieve;
The finely-elevated head,
The hand upon the bosom spread,
Proclaim him wrought by potent charms,
And speak his very soul in arms.

Incautious zeal! what hast thou done?
The tale has robb’d thee of thy son.
And while thy pious tears deplore,
The loss of him who lives no more,
Ambition wakes her restless fire,
The boy will emulate his sire,

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From The Siege of Valencia: A Dramatic Poem

So, thou hast seen
Fields, where the combat’s roar hath died away
Into the whispering breeze, and where wild flowers
Bloom o’er forgotten graves! – But know’st thou aught
Of those, where sword from crossing sword strikes fire,
And leaders are borne down, and rushing steeds
Trample the life from out the mighty hearts
That ruled the storm so late? – Speak not of death,
Till thou hast looked on such.

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Joanna Baillie: And shall we think of war? 

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

British writers on peace and war

Joanna Baillie: Do children return from rude jarring war?

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

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Joanna Baillie
From Ethwald: A Tragedy

I know, tho’ peace dilates the heart of man,
And makes his stores increase; his countenance smile,
He is by nature form’d, like savage beasts,
To take delight in war.
‘Tis a strong passion in his bosom lodged.
For ends most wise, curb’d and restrain’d to be…

We should desire our people’s good, and peace
Makes them to flourish. We confess all this…

We, therefore, stand with graceful boldness forth.
The advocates of those who wish for peace.
Worn with our rude and long continued wars,
Our native land wears now the altered face
Of an uncultur’d wild. To her fair fields
With weeds and thriftless docks now shagged o’er.
The aged grandsire, bent and past his toil,
Who in the sunny nook had plac’d his seat
And thought to toil no more, leads joyless forth
His widow’d daughters and their orphan train,
The master of a silent, cheerless band.
The half-grown stripling, urged before his time
To manhood’s labour, steps, with feeble limbs
And sallow cheek, around his unroof’d cot.
The mother on her last remaining son
With fearful bodings looks. The cheerful sound
Of whistling ploughmen, and the reaper’s song,
And the flail’s lusty stroke is heard no more.
The youth and manhood of our land are laid
In the cold earth, and shall we think of war?

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Joanna Baillie: And shall we think of war? 

Joanna Baillie: Do children return from rude jarring war?

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Joanna Baillie
From Ethwald: A Tragedy

The land is full of blood: her savage birds
O’er human carcasses do scream and batten:
The silent hamlet smokes not; in the field
The aged grandsire turns the joyless soil :
Dark spirits are abroad, and gentle worth
Within the narrow house of death is laid,
An early tenant.

***

I’m sick of worldly broils, and fain would rest
With those who war no more.

***

Did not that seeming cloud of death obscure
To your keen forecast eye tumultuous scenes
Of war and strife, and conquest yet to come.
Bought with your people’s blood? but now, my Ethwald,
Your chasten’d mind, so rich in good resolves.
Hath stretcli’d before it, future prospect fair,
Such as a God might please.

O see before thee
Thy native land, freed from the ills of war
And hard oppressive power, a land of peace!
Where yellow fields unspoil’d, and pastures green.
Mottled with herds and flocks, who crop secure
Their native herbage, nor have ever known
A stranger’s stall, smile gladly.
See, thro’ its tufted alleys to heaven’s roof
The curling smoke of quiet dwellings rise;
Whose humble masters, with forgotten spear
Hung on the webbed wail, and cheerful face
la harvest fields embrown’d, do gaily talk
Over their ev’ning meal…

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Joanna Baillie: Do children return from rude jarring war?

February 28, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Joanna Baillie: And shall we think of war? 

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

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Joanna Baillie

From Ethwald: A Tragedy

What! shall I in their low destructive strife
Put forth my strength, and earn with valiant deeds
The fair renown of mighty Woggarwolfe,
The flower of all those heroes? Hateful ruffian!
He drinks men’s blood and human flesh devours!
For scarce a heifer on his pasture feeds
Which hath not cost a gallant warrior’s life.

Our gen’rous Ethwald
Contemns not his domestic station here,
Tho’ little willing to enrich your walls
With spoils of petty war.

The native children of rude jarring war.
Full oft returning from the field, become
Beneath their shading helmets aged men:
But ah, the kind, the playful, and the gay;
They who have gladden’d their domestic board,
And cheer’d the winter fire, do they return?

***

From Basil: A Tragedy

Upon my simple word, I’d rather see
A score of friendly fellows shaking hands,
Than all the world in arms.

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D. H. Lawrence: No romance of war. The soul did not heal.

February 24, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

D. H. Lawrence: Selections on war

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D. H. Lawrence
From Aaron’s Rod

It was the same thing here in this officer as it was with the privates, and the same with this Englishman as with a Frenchman or a German or an Italian. Lilly had sat in a cowshed listening to a youth in the north country: he had sat on the corn-straw that the oxen had been treading out, in Calabria, under the moon: he had sat in a farm-kitchen with a German prisoner: and every time it was the same thing, the same hot, blind, anguished voice of a man who has seen too much, experienced too much, and doesn’t know where to turn. None of the glamour of returned heroes, none of the romance of war: only a hot, blind, mesmerised voice, going on and on, mesmerised by a vision that the soul cannot bear.

In this officer, of course, there was a lightness and an appearance of bright diffidence and humour. But underneath it all was the same as in the common men of all the combatant nations: the hot, seared burn of unbearable experience, which did not heal nor cool, and whose irritation was not to be relieved. The experience gradually cooled on top: but only with a surface crust. The soul did not heal, did not recover.

***

“No man who was awake and in possession of himself would use poison gases: no man. His own awake self would scorn such a thing. It’s only when the ghastly mob-sleep, the dream helplessness of the mass-psyche overcomes him, that he becomes completely base and obscene.”

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

February 20, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Peace and Shepherd

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

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld

From The Caterpillar

A single wretch, escaped the general doom,
Making me feel and clearly recognise
Thine individual existence, life,
And fellowship of sense with all that breathes,
Present’st thyself before me, I relent,
And cannot hurt thy weakness. So the storm
Of horrid war, overwhelming cities, fields,
And peaceful villages, rolls dreadful on:
The victor shouts triumphant; he enjoys
The roar of cannon and the clang of arms,
And urges, by no soft relentings stopped,
The work of death and carnage. Yet should one,
A single sufferer from the field escaped,
Panting and pale, and bleeding at his feet,
Lift his imploring eyes, the hero weeps;
He is grown human, and capricious Pity,
Which would not stir for thousands, melts for one
With sympathy spontaneous: T’is not Virtue,
Yet ’tis the weakness of a virtuous mind.

***

To Mrs. Marissal

Whither whither, wearied dove,
Wilt thou fly to seek thy rest?
Beat with many a heavy storm,
Where repose thy tender breast?

Hither, hither, gentle dove,
Bend thy flight and build thy home
Here repose thy tender breast,
Fix thy foot, and never roam.

Welcome, welcome, soft-eyed dove,
To the sheltering low-roofed cot,
Leave the splendid city’s throng,
Meekly kiss thy quiet lot.

Low-roofed cots and whispering groves
Suit thy pensive sweetness best;
Health shall bloom, and Peace shall smile
Round thy small but downy nest.

Try thy thrilling notes once more,
Plume again thy ruffled wing;
With thy sister turtles coo,
Drink at Pleasure’s native spring.

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

February 19, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Peace and Shepherd

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

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld

From Eighteen Hundred and Eleven

In vain with orange-blossoms scents the gale,
The hills with olives clothes, with corn the vale;
Man calls to Famine, nor invokes in vain,
Disease and Rapine follow in her train;
The tramp of marching hosts disturbs the plough,
The sword, not sickle, reaps the harvest now,
And where the soldier gleans the scant supply,
The helpless peasant but retires to die;
No laws his hut from licensed outrage shield,
And war’s least horror is th’ ensanguined field.
Fruitful in vain, the matron counts with pride
The blooming youths that grace her honoured side;
No son returns to press her widowed hand,
Her fallen blossoms strew a foreign strand.
Fruitful in vain, she boasts her virgin race,
Whom cultured arts adorn and gentlest grace;
Defrauded of its homage, Beauty mourns,
And the rose withers on its virgin thorns.
Frequent, some stream obscure, some uncouth name,
By deeds of blood is lifted into fame;
Oft o’er the daily page some soft one bends
To learn the fate of husband, brothers, friends,
Or the spread map with anxious eye explores,
Its dotted boundaries and penciled shores,
Asks where the spot that wrecked her bliss is found,
And learns its name but to detest the sound.

***

From The Invitation

While others, consecrate to higher aims.
Whose hallowed bosoms glow with purer flames,
Love in their heart, persuasion in their tongue,
With words of peace shall charm the listening throng,
Draw the dread veil that wraps the’ eternal throne,
And launch our souls into the bright unknown.

***

From Ovid to His Wife

No steadfast faith is here, no sure repose;
An armed truce is all this nation knows:
The rage of battle works, when battles cease;
And wars are brooding in the lap of peace.

***

From The Epiphany

No more the fond complaint renew,
Of human guilt and mortal woe,
Of knowledge checked by doubt, and hope with fear:
What angels wished to see, ye view;
What angels wished to learn, ye know;
Peace is proclaimed to man, and heaven begun below.

***

Written on a Marble

The world’s something bigger,
But just of this figure
And speckled with mountains and seas ;
Your heroes are overgrown schoolboys
Who scuffle for empires and toys,
And kick the poor ball as they please.
Now Caesar, now Pompey, gives law;
And Pharsalia’s plain,
Though heaped with the slain,
Was only a game at taw.

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John Galsworthy: Air war leads to reverse evolution

February 18, 2018 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy, 1911: Air war last and worst hideous development of the black arts of warfare

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From Maid in Waiting

“I sometimes wonder,” continued Hallorsen, as they reached the ducks, “whether we get our money’s worth out of speed. What do you say, Captain?”

Hubert shrugged. “The hours lost in going by car instead of by train are just about as many as the hours saved, anyway.”

“That is so,” said Hallorsen. “But flying’s a real saver of time.”

“Better wait for the full bill before we boast about flying.”

“You’re right, Captain. We’re surely headed for hell. The next war will mean a pretty thin time for those who take part in it. Suppose France and Italy came to blows, there’d be no Rome, no Paris, no Florence, no Venice, no Lyons, no Milan, no Marseilles within a fortnight. They’d just be poisoned deserts. And the ships and armies maybe wouldn’t have fired a shot.”

“Yes. And all governments know it. I’m a soldier, but I can’t see why they go on spending hundreds of millions on soldiers and sailors who’ll probably never be used. You can’t run armies and navies when the nerve centres have been destroyed. How long could France and Italy function if their big towns were gassed? England or Germany certainly couldn’t function a week.”

“Your Uncle the Curator was saying to me that at the rate Man was going he would soon be back in the fish state.”

“How?”

“Why! Surely! Reversing the process of evolution – fishes, reptiles, birds, mammals. We’re becoming birds again, and the result of that will soon be that we shall creep and crawl, and end up in the sea when land’s uninhabitable.”

“Why can’t we all bar the air for war?”

“How can we bar the air?” said Jean. “Countries never trust each other. Besides, America and Russia are outside the League of Nations.”

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Peace and Shepherd

February 15, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld
Peace and Shepherd

Low in a deep sequestered vale,
Whence Alpine heights ascend,
A beauteous nymph, in pilgrim garb,
Is seen her steps to bend.

Her olive garland drops with gore;
Her scattered tresses torn,
Her bleeding breast, her bruised feet,
Bespeak a maid forlorn.

From bower, and hall, and palace driven,
To these lone wilds I flee;
My name is Peace, I love the cot;
O Shepherd, shelter me!”

“O beauteous pilgrim, why dost thou
From bower and palace flee?
So soft thy voice, so sweet thy look,
Sure all would shelter thee.”

“Like Noah’s dove, no rest I find;
The din of battle roars
Where once my steps I loved to print
Along the myrtle shores:

“For ever in my frighted ears
The savage war-whoop sounds;
And, like a panting hare, I fly
Before the opening hounds.”

“Pilgrim, those spiry groves among,
The mansions thou mayst see,
Where cloistered saints chaunt holy hymns,
Sure such would shelter thee!”

“Those roofs with trophied banners stream,
There martial hymns resound;
And, shepherd, oft from crosiered hands
This breast has felt a wound.”

“Ah! gentle pilgrim, glad would I
Those tones for ever hear!
With thee to share my scanty lot,
That lot to me were dear.

“But lo, along the vine-clad steep,
The gleam of armour shines;
His scattered flock, his straw-roofed hut,
The helpless swain resigns.

“And now the smouldering flames aspire;
Their lurid light I see;
I hear the human wolves approach:
I cannot shelter thee.”

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Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

February 12, 2018 Leave a comment
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William Makepeace Thackeray: “Pax in bello.” The death of a single soldier.

February 9, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Makepeace Thackeray: Millions of innocent hearts wounded horribly

William Makepeace Thackeray: War taxes men and women alike

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William Makepeace Thackeray
From Vanity Fair

No more firing was heard at Brussels – the pursuit rolled miles away. Darkness came down on the field and city: and Amelia was praying for George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart.

***

The news of the great fights of Quatre Bras and Waterloo reached England at the same time. The Gazette first published the result of the two battles; at which glorious intelligence all England thrilled with triumph and fear. Particulars then followed; and after the announcement of the victories came the list of the wounded and the slain. Who can tell the dread with which that catalogue was opened and read! Fancy, at every village and homestead almost through the three kingdoms, the great news coming of the battles in Flanders, and the feelings of exultation and gratitude, bereavement and sickening dismay, when the lists of the regimental losses were gone through, and it became known whether the dear friend and relative had escaped or fallen. Anybody who will take the trouble of looking back to a file of the newspapers of the time, must, even now, feel at second-hand this breathless pause of expectation. The lists of casualties are carried on from day to day: you stop in the midst as in a story which is to be continued in our next. Think what the feelings must have been as those papers followed each other fresh from the press; and if such an interest could be felt in our country, and about a battle where but twenty thousand of our people were engaged, think of the condition of Europe for twenty years before, where people were fighting, not by thousands, but by millions; each one of whom as he struck his enemy wounded horribly some other innocent heart far away.

The news which that famous Gazette brought to the Osbornes gave a dreadful shock to the family and its chief. The girls indulged unrestrained in their grief. The gloom-stricken old father was still more borne down by his fate and sorrow. He strove to think that a judgment was on the boy for his disobedience. He dared not own that the severity of the sentence frightened him, and that its fulfilment had come too soon upon his curses. Sometimes a shuddering terror struck him, as if he had been the author of the doom which he had called down on his son. There was a chance before of reconciliation. The boy’s wife might have died; or he might have come back and said, Father I have sinned. But there was no hope now. He stood on the other side of the gulf impassable, haunting his parent with sad eyes. He remembered them once before so in a fever, when every one thought the lad was dying, and he lay on his bed speechless, and gazing with a dreadful gloom. Good God! how the father clung to the doctor then, and with what a sickening anxiety he followed him: what a weight of grief was off his mind when, after the crisis of the fever, the lad recovered, and looked at his father once more with eyes that recognised him. But now there was no help or cure, or chance of reconcilement: above all, there were no humble words to soothe vanity outraged and furious, or bring to its natural flow the poisoned, angry blood. And it is hard to say which pang it was that tore the proud father’s heart most keenly – that his son should have gone out of the reach of his forgiveness, or that the apology which his own pride expected should have escaped him.

Whatever his sensations might have been, however, the stern old man would have no confidant. He never mentioned his son’s name to his daughters; but ordered the elder to place all the females of the establishment in mourning; and desired that the male servants should be similarly attired in deep black. All parties and entertainments, of course, were to be put off. No communications were made to his future son-in-law, whose marriage-day had been fixed: but there was enough in Mr. Osborne’s appearance to prevent Mr. Bullock from making any inquiries, or in any way pressing forward that ceremony. He and the ladies whispered about it under their voices in the drawing-room sometimes, whither the father never came. He remained constantly in his own study; the whole front part of the house being closed until some time after the completion of the general mourning.

About three weeks after the 18th of June, Mr. Osborne’s acquaintance, Sir William Dobbin, called at Mr. Osborne’s house in Russell Square, with a very pale and agitated face, and insisted upon seeing that gentleman. Ushered into his room, and after a few words, which neither the speaker nor the host understood, the former produced from an inclosure a letter sealed with a large red seal. “My son, Major Dobbin,” the Alderman said, with some hesitation, “despatched me a letter by an officer of the —th, who arrived in town to-day. My son’s letter contains one for you, Osborne.” The Alderman placed the letter on the table, and Osborne stared at him for a moment or two in silence. His looks frightened the ambassador, who after looking guiltily for a little time at the grief-stricken man, hurried away without another word.

The letter was in George’s well-known bold handwriting. It was that one which he had written before daybreak on the 16th of June, and just before he took leave of Amelia. The great red seal was emblazoned with the sham coat of arms which Osborne had assumed from the Peerage, with “Pax in bello” for a motto; that of the ducal house with which the vain old man tried to fancy himself connected. The hand that signed it would never hold pen or sword more. The very seal that sealed it had been robbed from George’s dead body as it lay on the field of battle. The father knew nothing of this, but sat and looked at the letter in terrified vacancy. He almost fell when he went to open it.

Have you ever had a difference with a dear friend? How his letters, written in the period of love and confidence, sicken and rebuke you! What a dreary mourning it is to dwell upon those vehement protests of dead affection! What lying epitaphs they make over the corpse of love! What dark, cruel comments upon Life and Vanities! Most of us have got or written drawers full of them. They are closet-skeletons which we keep and shun. Osborne trembled long before the letter from his dead son.

The poor boy’s letter did not say much. He had been too proud to acknowledge the tenderness which his heart felt. He only said, that on the eve of a great battle, he wished to bid his father farewell, and solemnly to implore his good offices for the wife – it might be for the child – whom he left behind him. He owned with contrition that his irregularities and his extravagance had already wasted a large part of his mother’s little fortune. He thanked his father for his former generous conduct; and he promised him that if he fell on the field or survived it, he would act in a manner worthy of the name of George Osborne.

His English habit, pride, awkwardness perhaps, had prevented him from saying more. His father could not see the kiss George had placed on the superscription of his letter. Mr. Osborne dropped it with the bitterest, deadliest pang of balked affection and revenge. His son was still beloved and unforgiven.

About two months afterwards, however, as the young ladies of the family went to church with their father, they remarked how he took a different seat from that which he usually occupied when he chose to attend divine worship; and that from his cushion opposite, he looked up at the wall over their heads. This caused the young women likewise to gaze in the direction towards which their father’s gloomy eyes pointed: and they saw an elaborate monument upon the wall, where Britannia was represented weeping over an urn, and a broken sword and a couchant lion indicated that the piece of sculpture had been erected in honour of a deceased warrior. The sculptors of those days had stocks of such funereal emblems in hand; as you may see still on the walls of St. Paul’s, which are covered with hundreds of these braggart heathen allegories. There was a constant demand for them during the first fifteen years of the present century.

Under the memorial in question were emblazoned the well-known and pompous Osborne arms; and the inscription said, that the monument was “Sacred to the memory of George Osborne, Junior, Esq., late a Captain in his Majesty’s —th regiment of foot, who fell on the 18th of June, 1815, aged 28 years, while fighting for his king and country in the glorious victory of Waterloo. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”

The sight of that stone agitated the nerves of the sisters so much, that Miss Maria was compelled to leave the church. The congregation made way respectfully for those sobbing girls clothed in deep black, and pitied the stern old father seated opposite the memorial of the dead soldier…

 

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Felicia Hemans: A thousand voices echo “Peace!”

February 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans

From Modern Greece

How oft hath war his host of spoilers poured,
Fair Elis! o’er thy consecrated vales?
There have the sunbeams glanced on spear and sword.
And banners floated on the balmy gales.

***

From Night-Scene in Genoa
From Sismondi’s “Republiques Italiennes”

Once uttered, and for ever sealed –
I summon thee, O child of clay!
To cast thy darker thoughts away,
And meet thy foes in peace and love,
As thou wouldst join the blest above.”

Still as he speaks, unwonted feeling
Is o’er the chieftain’s bosom stealing;
Oh I not in vain the pleading cries
Of anxious thousands round him rise ;
He yields –  devotion’s mingled sense
Of faith and fear, and penitence.
Pervading all his soul, he bows
To offer on the cross his vows,
And that best incense to the skies,
Each evil passion’s sacrifice.

Then tears from warriors’ eyes were flowing.
High hearts with soft emotions glowing;
Stern foes as long-loved brothers greeting,
And ardent throngs in transport meeting;
And eager footsteps forward pressing,
And accents loud in joyous blessing;
And when their first wild tumults cease,
A thousand voices echo “Peace!”

***

From The Sceptic

When from Thy justice to Thy love we fly,
On Nature’s conflict look with pitying eye,
Bid the strong wind, the fire, the earthquake cease,
Come in the small still voice, and whisper – Peace !

***

From Dartmouth

Shall the free soul of song bow down to pay
The earthquake homage on its baleful way?
Shall the glad harp send up exulting strains
O’er burning cities and forsaken plains?
And shall no harmony of softer close.
Attend the stream of mercy as it flows,
And, mingling with the murmur of its wave,
Bless the green shores its gentle currents lave?

Oh! there are loftier themes, for him, whose eyes
Have searched the depths of life’s realities,
Than the red battle, or the trophied car.
Wheeling the monarch-victor fast and far;
There are more noble strains than those which swell
The triumphs Ruin may suffice to tell!

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William Makepeace Thackeray: Millions of innocent hearts wounded horribly

February 2, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Makepeace Thackeray: “Pax in bello.” The death of a single soldier.

William Makepeace Thackeray: War taxes men and women alike

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William Makepeace Thackeray
From Vanity Fair

All that day from morning until past sunset, the cannon never ceased to roar. It was dark when the cannonading stopped all of a sudden.

All of us have read of what occurred during that interval. The tale is in every Englishman’s mouth; and you and I, who were children when the great battle was won and lost, are never tired of hearing and recounting the history of that famous action. Its remembrance rankles still in the bosoms of millions of the countrymen of those brave men who lost the day. They pant for an opportunity of revenging that humiliation; and if a contest, ending in a victory on their part, should ensue, elating them in their turn, and leaving its cursed legacy of hatred and rage behind to us, there is no end to the so-called glory and shame, and to the alternations of successful and unsuccessful murder, in which two high-spirited nations might engage. Centuries hence, we Frenchmen and Englishmen might be boasting and killing each other still, carrying out bravely the Devil’s code of honour.

***

The news of the great fights of Quatre Bras and Waterloo reached England at the same time. The Gazette first published the result of the two battles; at which glorious intelligence all England thrilled with triumph and fear. Particulars then followed; and after the announcement of the victories came the list of the wounded and the slain. Who can tell the dread with which that catalogue was opened and read! Fancy, at every village and homestead almost through the three kingdoms, the great news coming of the battles in Flanders, and the feelings of exultation and gratitude, bereavement and sickening dismay, when the lists of the regimental losses were gone through, and it became known whether the dear friend and relative had escaped or fallen. Anybody who will take the trouble of looking back to a file of the newspapers of the time, must, even now, feel at second-hand this breathless pause of expectation. The lists of casualties are carried on from day to day: you stop in the midst as in a story which is to be continued in our next. Think what the feelings must have been as those papers followed each other fresh from the press; and if such an interest could be felt in our country, and about a battle where but twenty thousand of our people were engaged, think of the condition of Europe for twenty years before, where people were fighting, not by thousands, but by millions; each one of whom as he struck his enemy wounded horribly some other innocent heart far away.

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William Makepeace Thackeray: War taxes men and women alike

February 1, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Makepeace Thackeray: Millions of innocent hearts wounded horribly

William Makepeace Thackeray: “Pax in bello.” The death of a single soldier.

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William Makepeace Thackeray
From Vanity Fair

So it is in the world. Jack or Donald marches away to glory with his knapsack on his shoulder, stepping out briskly to the tune of “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” It is she who remains and suffers – and has the leisure to think, and brood, and remember.

***

How long had that poor girl been on her knees! what hours of speechless prayer and bitter prostration had she passed there! The war-chroniclers who write brilliant stories of fight and triumph scarcely tell us of these. These are too mean parts of the pageant: and you don’t hear widows’ cries or mothers’ sobs in the midst of the shouts and jubilation in the great Chorus of Victory. And yet when was the time that such have not cried out: heart-broken, humble protestants, unheard in the uproar of the triumph!

***

Dreadful doubt and anguish – prayers and fears and griefs unspeakable – followed the regiment. It was the women’s tribute to the war. It taxes both alike, and takes the blood of the men, and the tears of the women.

 

 

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

January 26, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

Lost are those accents of melodious charms,
‘Midst the loud clangour of surrounding arms;
Thy heart of adamant repels the strain.
Mercy! thy prayer, thy tear, thy hope, is vain.

***

Here oft has War each blooming charm effaced,
And left the glowing vale a bleak, deserted waste.
Is there a land, where halcyon peace has reigned,
From age to age, in glory unprofaned?
Has dwelt serenely in perpetual rest,
“Heaven in her eye,” and mercy in her breast,
Ah, no! from clime to clime, with ruthless train
Has War still ravaged o’er the blasted plain!
His lofty banner to the winds unfurled.
And swept the storm of vengeance o’er the world.

***

Each distant isle and lonely coast explore,
And bear the olive-branch to every shore.

From The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy

Oh! ne’er again may War, with lightning stroke,
Rend its last honours from the shattered oak!
Long be those works, revered by ages, thine,
To lend one triumph to thy dim decline.

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

January 25, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

Till stern Ambition falls, in mid career!
Then let the falchion sleep, the combat cease,
The sun of conquest light the path of peace.
Let the green laurel with tlie palm entwine,
And rear on trophies bright, her firm, eternal shrine.
Dawn, age of bliss! the wounds of discord close,
Furl the red standard, bid the sword repose…

But, ah! bold Victory! can thy festal train,
Thy purple streamers, or thy choral strain;
Can thy proud spear, in wreaths immortal drest.
Thy radiant panoply, thy wavy crest;
Can these one grief, one bosom pang beguile.
Or teach despair one heart reviving smile?
Tint the pale cheek with pleasure’s mantling hue.
Light the dim eye with joy and lustre new?
Or check one sigh, one sad, yet fruitless tear,
Fond love devotes to martyred valour’s bier,
Lo! where, with pallid look and suppliant hands,
Near the cold urn th’ imploring mother stands;
Fixed is her eye, her anguish cannot weep,
There all her hopes with youth, all virtue sleep!
There sleeps the son, whose opening years displayed
Each flattering promise, doomed so soon to fade.

***

Ah, who can tell the thousands doomed to moan,
Condemned by war, to hopeless grief unknown?

***

Power of the ruthless arm, the deathful spear,
Unmoved, unpitying, in thy dread career;
Whom no sad cries, no mournful scenes impede.
Melt thy proud heart, and curb thy lightning speed;
Around whose throne malignant spirits wait.
Whose path is ruin, and whose arm is fate!

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

January 24, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

Now, while the sounds of martial wrath assail,
While the red banner floats upon the gale;
While dark destruction, with his legion-bands
Waves the bright sabre o’er devoted lands;
While War’s dread comet flashes through the air
And fainting nations tremble at the glare;
To thee Futurity from scenes like these
Pale fancy turns, for heaven-imparted ease;
Turns to behold, in thy unclouded skies
The orb of peace in bright perspective rise;
And pour around, with joy-diffusing ray.
Life, light, and glory, in a flood of day.

***

Compose each passion to th’ eternal will.
Say to the hurricane of war, – “Be still,”
” Vengeance, expire; thy reign, ambition, cease;
Beam, light of heaven, triumphant star of peace.”
Is this the muse’s wild, illusive dream,
An airy picture, an ideal theme?
Shall death still ride victorious o’er the slain,
And his “pale charger” desolate the plain?
Ne’er shall revenge her vulture-pinion fold,
Close her dark eye, her lightning-arm withhold?
Still must oppression cause th’ eternal strife.
And breathe dire mildew o’er the blooms of life?
Must war still ravage with his car of fire,
And victim myriads in the blaze expire?

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Hilaire Belloc: After the tempest and destruction of universal war, permanence

January 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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Hilaire Belloc
From Permanence

In times of grave public anxiety, after the tempest and destruction of universal war, after the expectation of further destruction and tempest, it is of high value to consider permanence, or what may be called the “Permanency of Impermanence”. It is not only a consolation but a strength; a strength through the contemplation of a great reality and a steadfast truth.  For though you may not affirm of any one thing in  the mortal world that it is permanent, yet you may affirm of Permanency itself that it is permanent. You may repeat to yourself with confidence that the principle of permanence underlies all vicissitude.

***

[The] recurrent ritual of man and the earth will go its way at last, after we know not what aeons of time. Yet there is about the aspect of such things, the fields and their fruits, the procession of the hours and the seasons, of the days and the works of the days, something that makes them not so much an example of mortality as a mirror of permanence; and I would have any man whom our times have overwrought seek his nourishment again among those peasants who have thus, since men first dwelt together under laws and worshipped the divine, formed one with the land they till. To such a scene would I come back when the return of peace itself permits the journey…

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

January 20, 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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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Stanzas on May 1799

War teaches the bosom of Nature to sigh,
While she gazes with anguish around,
While the tear of Religion falls fast from her eye,
And each morn blushes deep on her wound.

From The Maniac

Or say, does flush’d Ambition’s wing
Around thy feverish temples fling
Dire incense, smoking from th’ ensanguined plain,
That, drain’d from bleeding warriors’ hearts,
Swift to thy shatter’d sense imparts
The victor’s savage joy, that thrills through every vein ?

From The Progress of Liberty

Pale Nature trembled: for infuriate man,
Wild with the fateful plenitude of power,
Warr’d ‘gainst his desperate fellow. Not alone
O’er proud oppression flew the bolts of fate;
But all around, as the swift summer storm
Tears from the mountain’s brow the sturdy oak,
While the small floweret and the poisonous weed
Alike are levell’d, so the vengeful shaft
Bore down the breathing race: the clang of arms
Deafen’d the ear of reason: the loud shout
Of uproar, frantic, now was heard to ring
The vanity arch of heaven, while mingling groans
Drown’d the deep sighs of nature!

Such was the mendicant that haunts thy gate!
So were his useful hours consumed for thee;
When o’er the rocking deck the sulphur’d flash
Of desolating war its terrors threw
Midst dying groans: while thundering peal on peal
The brazen tongue of slaughter roar’d revenge,
Making heaven’s concave tremble!

***

How glows the patriot soul, while fancy’s dream
Anticipates the day when ruthless war
Shall cease to desolate!

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

January 19, 2018 Leave a comment
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Vernon Lee: Satan’s rules of war

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Vernon Lee (Violet Paget)
From The Ballet of the Nations

For, whereas the Ballet had begun with the tender radiance of an August sunset above half-harvested fields, where the reaping machines hummed peacefully among the corn-stooks and the ploughs cut into the stubble, the progress of the performance had seen the deep summer starlit vault lit up by the flare of distant blazing farms, and its blue flamelit smoke and poisonous vapours, rising and sinking, coming forward and receding like a stifling fog, but ever growing denser and more blinding, and swaying obedient to Death’s baton no less than did the bleeding Nations of his Corps-de-Ballet. In and out of that lurid chasm they moved, by twos or threes, now lost to view in the billows of darkness, now issuing thence towards the Ballet-Master’s desk; or suddenly revealed, clasped in terrific embrace, by the meteor-curve of a shell or the leaping flame of an exploding munition-magazine, while overhead fluttered and whirred great wings which showered down bomb-lightnings. Backwards and forwards moved the Dancers in that changing play of light and darkness, and undergoing uncertain and fearful changes of aspect.

Since, you should know, that Nations, contrary to the opinion of Politicians, are immortal. Just as the Gods of Valhalla could slash each other to ribbons after breakfast and resurrect for dinner, so every Nation can dance Death’s Dance however much bled and maimed, dance upon stumps, or trail itself along, a living jelly of blood and trampled flesh, providing only it has its Head fairly unhurt. And that Head, which each ceased being prostrate on the ground) is very properly helmetted, and rarely gets so much as a scratch, so that it can continue to catch the Ballet-Master’s eye, and order the Nation’s body to put forth fresh limbs, and, even when that is impossible, keep its stump dancing ever new figures in obedience or disobedience to what are called the Rules of War. This being the case, Death kept up the dance regardless of the state of the Dancers, and also of the state of the Stage, which was such that, what between blood and entrails and heaps of devastated properties, it was barely possible to move even a few yards.

Yet dance they did, lopping each others’ limbs and blinding one another with spirts of blood and pellets of human flesh. And as they appeared and disappeared in the moving wreaths of fiery smoke, they lost more and more of their original shape, becoming, in that fitful light, terrible uncertain forms, armless, legless, recognisable for human only by their irreproachable-looking heads which they carried stiff and high even while crawling and staggering along, lying in wait, and leaping and rearing and butting as do fighting animals; until they became, with those decorous, well-groomed faces, mere unspeakable hybrids between man and beast, those who had come on to the stage so erect and beautiful. For the Ballet of the Nations, when Satan gets it up regardless of expense, is an unsurpassed spectacle of transformations, such as must be witnessed to be believed in.

Thus on they danced their stranger and stranger antics. And, as they appeared by turns in that chaos of flame and darkness, each of those Dancing Nations kept invoking Satan, crying out to him, “Help me, my own dear Lord.” But they called him by Another Name.

And Satan, that creative Connoisseur, rejoiced in his work and saw that it was very good.

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Mary Robinson: Impetuous War, the lord of slaughter

January 17, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From Lines to the Rev. J. Whitehouse

Next, o’er the wondering throng impetuous War,
The lord of slaughter, roll’d his brazen car!
A flaming brand the red-eyed monster held,
And waved it high in air, and madly yell’d!
While Horror bathed in agonizing dew,
Before his rattling wheels distracted flew;
Down his gaunt breast fast stream’d the scalding tear,
And now he groan’d aloud, now shrunk with fear;
His humid front was crown’d with bristling hair,
His glance was frenzy, and his voice, despair!

***

Though Envy’s eye, or Hate’s remorseless rage,
May strive to dim the philosophic page;
Though War’s hot breath may blast the wreath of Fame;
Immortal Time shall consecrate thy name.

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William Watson: Dream of perfect peace

January 16, 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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William Watson
From Peace and War

So, betwixt peace and war man’s life is cast;
Yet hath he dreamed of perfect peace at last
Shepherding all the nations ev’n as sheep.

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

January 14, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From The Foster-Child

Then Fancy led him to the battle’s rage,
Where flush’d ambition rear’d its sanguine crest,
Where men with men, like tigers, fierce engage.
The brother’s sword against the brother’s breast…

And then he raised his eyes to Heaven, and bless’d;
For blood had never stain’d his trembling hand,
But holy Innocence, by Pity drest,
Spurning the pride of insolent command…

“The soldier sheds, for gold, a brother’s blood;
The sons of Rapine revel wild in joys;
For gold the sailor ploughs the billowy flood;
The statesman barters for Ambition’s toys…”

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Mary Robinson: Spread once more the fostering rays of Peace

January 11, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From Ode to the 19th of January 1794

No more,Reflection, sorrowing maid,
O’er Reason cast thy awful veil;
Where Mirth, in careless garb array’d,
And smiles, and thoughtless jests prevail.
For shouldst thou trace, with pensive mien,
The fatal agonizing scene
Where legions wade through human gore,
And death shoots swift from shore to shore!
The splendid glare of revelry would fade,
And all its phantoms sink in sorrow’s whelming shade.

For Fancy might, perchance, descry
The wo which Pleasure’s tribe ne’er saw,
The bleeding breast, the phrenzied eye,
That chill the soul with fearful awe.
Fancy might paint the embattled plain,
The shrieking wife, the breathless swain,
The blazing cot, the houseless child,
Driven on Misfortune’s rugged wild!
And Truth might whisper to the pondering mind,
“Such is the chequered lot of half the human kind!”

***

Come, soft-eyed Hope! in spotless vest,
Come, and our brows with olive deck!
Bathe with thy balm the human breast,
And rear new charms on Nature’s wreck;
Bid drooping Commerce thrive again;
Spread rapture o’er the rustic plain;
Wash with the spring from Mercy’s eye
The blood that bids the laurel die!
And spread once more around this favoured isle
The fostering rays of Peace, and bid fair Freedom smile!

====

From Lines to the Rev. J. Whitehouse

In this dread era! when the Muse’s train
Shrink from the horrors of th’ embattled plain;
When all that Grecian elegance could boast,
‘Midst the loud thunders of the scene, is lost!
As one vast flame, with force electric hurl’d,
Grasps the roused legions of th’ enlightened world;
The bard, neglected, droops upon his lyre,
And all the thrills of poesy expire! –
Save where the melting melody of verse
Steals in slow murmurs round the soldier’s hearse,
While o’er the rugged sod that shields his clay
Soft pity chants the consecrated lay!
For, ah! no more can Fancy’s livelier art
Light the dim eye or animate the heart
Can all the tones that harmony e’er knew
The sigh suppress, the gushing tear subdue!
No charm she owns the bleeding breast to bind,
The breast that palpitates for human kind.
Thus did Reflection o’er each wounded sense
Pour the strong tide, of Reason’s eloquence!
As, ‘midst the scene of desolating wo,
She mark’d, aghast! the purple torrent’s flow!
Man against man opposed, with furious rage,
To blur with kindred gore life’s little stage;
While high above the thickening legions stood
Dark-brew’d Revenge! bathed in a nation’s blood.

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Mary Robinson: Dread-destructive power of war

January 10, 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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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Ode to Vanity

Thy light hand plumes the warrior’s brow,
Decks e’en fierce War with tinsel show,
E’en in the tented fields thy banners flow,
To thee illustrious chieftains bow;
‘Tis thy capricious influence forms
All that mad ambition warms;
The laurel wreath, though steep’d in blood,
Placed by thy fickle hand, appears
Radiant as the sunny spheres,
When morn’s proud beams roll in a golden flood.

Ah, Vanity! avert thine eye;
Check thy fell exulting joy;
With burning drops thy flush’d cheek lave,
Nor gloat upon the carnaged brave;
For what can trophied wreaths supply,
To drown the desolating cry,
That, o’er th’empurpled fields afar,
Proclaims the dread-destructive power of war?

====

From Ode to Humanity

O blest Humanity! ’tis thine
To shed consoling balm divine
Wide o’er the groaning race beneath ;
And when fell Slaughter lifts her wreath,
Let the laurel bough appear,
Gemm’d with Pity’s holy tear;
Let it moisten every bud,
Glowing, hot with human blood!
And when no crimson tint remains,
When no foul blush its lustre stains…

Mark, oh ! mark the tented plains
Where exulting Discord reigns;
Flush’ d with rage, her panting breast,
Her eye with ruthless lightnings stored,
She lifts her never-failing sword,
With wreathes of withering laurel drest.

By her side, in proud array,
Ambition stalks, with restless soul;
Maddening Vengeance leads the way;
Her giant crest disdains control;
Triumphantly she waves her iron hand,
While her red pinions sweep the desolated land!
See, beneath her murderous wing,
Howling famine seems to cling!
Feeding on the putrid breeze,
Her wither’d heart begins to freeze!
With sullen eye she scowls around,
O’er the barren hostile ground;

Where once the golden harvest waved;
Where the clustering vineyard rose,
By many a lucid streamlet laved;
Now the purple torrent flows!

***

Haste, Humanity! prepare
Chains to quell the fiend Despair;
Round pale Vengeance swiftly twine;
Discord bind in spells divine!
Now where Famine droops her head,
Reason’s balmy banquet spread;
And where the blood-stain’d laurel dies,
Oh! let the olive bloom, the favourite of the skies!

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Helen Maria Williams: Now burns the savage soul of war

January 9, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Helen Maria Williams: Heaven-born peace

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Helen Maria Williams
From An Ode on the Peace

Now burns the savage soul of war,
While terror flashes from his eyes,
Lo! waving o’er his fiery car
Aloft his bloody banner flies:
The battle wakes – with awful sound
He thunders o’er the echoing ground,
He grasps his reeking blade, while streams of blood
Tinge the vast plain, and swell the purple flood.

***

And lo! a radiant stream of light
Defending, gilds the murky cloud,
Where Desolation’s gloomy night
Retiring, folds her sable shroud;
It flashes o’er the bright’ning deep,
It softens Britain’s frowning steep –
‘Tis mild benignant Peace, enchanting form!
That gilds the black abyss, that lulls the storm.

So thro’ the dark, impending sky,
Where clouds, and fallen vapours roll’d,
Their curling wreaths dissolving fly
As the faint hues of light unfold –
The air with spreading azure streams,
The sun now darts his orient beams –
And now the mountains glow – the woods are bright –
While nature hails the season of delight.

Mild Peace! from Albion’s fairest bowers
Pure spirit! cull with snowy hands,
The buds that drink the morning showers,
And bind the realms in flow’ry bands:
Thy smiles the angry passions chase,
Thy glance is pleasure’s native grace;
Around thy form th’ exulting virtues move,
And thy soft call awakes the strain of love.

Bless, all ye powers! the patriot name
That courts fair Peace, thy gentle stay;
Ah! gild with glory’s light, his fame,
And glad his life with pleasure’s ray!
While, like th’ affrighted dove, thy form
Still shrinks, and fears some latent storm,
His cares shall sooth thy panting soul to rest,
And spread thy vernal couch on Albion’s breast.

***

No more the sanguine wreath shall twine
On the lost hero’s early tomb,
But hung around thy simple shrine
Fair Peace! shall milder glories bloom.
Lo! commerce lifts her drooping head
Triumphal, Thames! from thy deep bed;
And bears to Albion, on her sail sublime,
The riches Nature gives each happier clime.

***

Yet hide the sabre’s hideous glare
Whose edge is bath’d in streams of blood,
The lance that quivers high in air,
And falling drinks a purple flood;
For Britain! fear shall seize thy foes,
While freedom in thy senate glows,
While peace shall smile upon thy cultur’d plain,
With grace and beauty her attendant train.

***

Enlight’ning Peace! for thine the hours
That wisdom decks in moral grace,
And thine invention’s fairy powers,
The charm improv’d of nature’s face;
Propitious come! in silence laid
Beneath thy olive’s grateful shade,
Pour the mild bliss that sooths the tuneful mind,
And in thy zone the hostile spirit bind.

 

 

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

January 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Monody

When the dark demons of destructive ire
No more shall see devoted hosts expire;
When, o’er the desolated clime, the wise
Shall bid, too late, the sacred olive rise –
Then Justice shall the dreary spot illume
Where Pity lingers on the martyr’s tomb…

Trims the day hearth, and, as the faggots blaze,
Chants the old ditty of his grandsire’s days;
While his fond mate the homely meal prepares,
Smiles on his board and dissipates his cares.
No more, amidst the simple village throng,
He joins the sportive dance, the merry song;
Now, torn from those, he quits his native wood,
Braves the dread front of war, and pants for blood!
Now, to his reap-hook and his pastoral reed,
The crimson’d pike and glittering sword succeed !
His russet garb, now changed for trappings vain;
His rushy pillow, for the tented plain.

***

From Solitude

The wreath of fame, imbued with human gore;
And, worst of all – O agonizing thought!
The paltry boast of treasure, wrung, alas,
From the torn bosom of the hapless slave,
The wretched offspring of a fiercer sun!
For these, he wields the desolating sword;
Quits the dear mansion of domestic peace;
The loved companions of his native home;
The social comforts, .and the calm delights,
That thronging round the blazing hearth, beguile
The tardy winter’s night: for these he dares
The poisonous vapours of infected climes.
The torrid ray, or the pernicious blasts
Of petrifying Lapland’s cheerless skies!
For these he wanders for, o’er unknown seas,
To tame the tribes barbarian, or explore
The sad variety of human woes.
Oh! blind, misguided, and mistaken man!
To leave the garden of luxurious sweets,
And wander ‘midst a desert, fraught with thorns.

****

From The Progress of Melancholy

While horror, maddening, conjures up an host
Of spectres gaunt; of chiefs, whose mould’ring bones
Have slept beneath the green-sod where they fell,
Till village legends scarcely say – they died!
Now from their prison-graves again they start,
Hurling the airy javelin on the foe;
And now they rush, in mighty legions, on;
Now from the lengthening columns fiercely brave;
And now the broken ranks disorder’d fly,
Pale as the silvery beam that marks their course;
And now the breathless heaps bestrew the plain,
While on their mangled limbs the batter’d shield
Gleams horrible; as through the indented steel
The life-stream gushes from the recent wound!
The groan of death fills up the dreadful pause;
Sad, and more sad, it echoes o’er the scene,
Till, oft repeated, the deep murmur dies!
The cherish’d poison, now more potent grown,
Riots o’er all the faculties at will;
Strong in conceit, with fascination fraught,
Painfully pleasing. As the fever burns
The consciousness of misery recedes;
Till, fill’d with horror, Reason’s barrier fails,
And Frenzy triumphs o’er the infected brain!

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William J. Locke: Following war

January 6, 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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William J. Locke
From The Lengthened Shadow

There was a laxity in the moral code, all the more dangerous for being disavowed in practice, but proclaimed with disconcerting freedom as a philosophical theory. She disdained the speciousness…

Ardently seeking to touch rock-bottom, Suzanne found nothing but hard materialism, a negation of sentiment, save that of self-maintenance at the present standard of physical comfort. It was as though the volcanic eruptions of the war had hardened into unbreakable lava beneath which their souls were infinitely and damnably buried.

***

Of course the flower of French youth, her contemporaries, lay dead, over a million; but there were millions of survivors in France who ought to be found, like colours in a sunset, in every social sphere…

“The old France, my dear Suzanne, to which you belong and to which I wish with all my heart Fate had ordained me to belong,” said Moordius, replying to some such question, “is mourning its children, nursing its wounds, making the most of its impoverished resources, keeping, in the darkness of its cave, its claw upon such spoils as it has seized and glaring at other hungry nations who might threaten to rob her…”

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Charlotte Dacre: Peace

January 5, 2018 Leave a comment

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Charlotte Dacre: War

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Charlotte Dacre
Peace

Return, sweet Peace, and shed thy glories round,
And spread thy fair wings o’er a troubled isle;
No more let carnage stain the fruitful ground,
And blood the works of Heaven’s hand defile.

Shall Discord drive thee, mild-ey’d nymph, away?
And Faction strike thee with its ruthless hand?
Shall Havoc mock thee on the crimson’d way,
Confusion reign, and Ruin grinning stand?

Shall Famine point its all-consuming sword?
And Misery reach the sunny cottage door?
Shall naught remain to deck the frugal board,
Or bless the humble offspring of the poor?

Must the sad widow weep her loss in vain?
The little orphan vainly ask for bread?
Yet still shall strife and sanction’d murder reign,
And scalding tears be still unheeded shed?

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Felicia Hemans: War and Peace

January 4, 2018 Leave a comment

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Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

‘High the peaceful streamers wave!
‘Lo!’ they sing, ‘we come to save!
‘Come to smile on ev’ry shore,
‘Truth and Eden to restore!
‘Come, the balm of joy to bring,
‘Borne on softest gales of spring!
‘Rapture! swell the choral voice,
‘Favor’d earth! rejoice, rejoice!

‘Now the work of death is o’er,
‘Sleep, thou sword! to wake no more!
‘Never more Ambition’s hand
‘Shall wave thee o’er a trembling land!

‘Never more, in hopeless anguish,
‘Caus’d by thee, shall virtue languish!
‘Rapture! swell the choral voice,
‘Favor’d earth, rejoice, rejoice!

‘Cease to flow, thou purple flood,
‘Cease to fall, ye tears of blood!
‘Swell no more the clarion’s breath,
‘Wake no more the song of death!
‘Rise, ye hymns of concord, rise,
‘Incense, worthy of the skies!
‘Wake the Pæan, tune the voice,
‘Favor’d earth, rejoice, rejoice!

‘Nature, smile! thy vivid grace,
‘Now no more shall war deface;
‘Airs of spring, oh! sweetly breathe,
‘Summer! twine thy fairest wreath!
‘Not the warrior’s bier to spread,
‘Not to crown the victor’s head;

‘But with flowers of every hue,
‘Love and mercy’s path to strew!
‘Swell to heaven the choral voice,
‘Favor’d earth! rejoice, rejoice!

‘Sleep, Ambition! rage, expire!
‘Vengeance! fold thy wing of fire!
‘Close thy dark and lurid eye,
‘Bid thy torch, forsaken, die!
‘Furl thy banner, waving proud,
‘Dreadful as the thunder-cloud!
‘Shall destruction blast the plain?
‘Shall the falchion rage again?
‘Shall the sword thy bands dissever?
‘Never, sweet Affection! never!
‘As the halcyon o’er the ocean,
‘Lulls the billow’s wild commotion,
‘So we bid dissension cease.
‘Bloom, O Amaranth of peace!’

***

Let peace on earth resound from heav’n once more,
And angel-harps th’ exulting anthems pour;
While faith, and truth, and holy wisdom bind,
One hallow’d zone – to circle all mankind!

Categories: Uncategorized

Charlotte Dacre: War

January 3, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Charlotte Dacre: Peace

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Charlotte Dacre
War

See bloody Discord lift her envious head,
And shake the hissing serpents from her hair:
Then o’er the earth see wild Confusion spread,
And hast’ning evils beckon to Despair.

Who now with cheerfulness shall smiling toil,
And happy view the children of his care?
Say, who with industry shall dress the soil,
For whom the wife her frugal store prepare?

Must the delight which deck’d the honest brow,
The tender father sad and silent droop?
The smile contented, and the healthful glow,
Alike be banish’d from the guiltless group?

Wild with despair, the mournful father flies
To gain or death or glory in the field,
Distracted fights, to still his children’s cries,
And nobly bleeds, the bitter bread to yield.

The widow’s tears must wet the harden’d ground,
The scanty crust in tears his offspring steep;
Yet ceaseless still, no end those tears have found;
For Father, Husband, Friend, they have to weep.

Categories: Uncategorized

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

December 30, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

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Isabella Banks

From The Minstrel’s Meed

A minstrel lifted his voice on high:
Full in the ears of the gathering throng,
A pean of war and victory,
Like the blast of a trumpet, rolled along;
And fierce and fast did the pulses beat,
To the time and tune of that martial strain,
Of every man in the crowded street;
But a woman wept, she thought of the slain.

***

From Thanksgiving at Sea

“Now, let us bend in prayer.”
Well disciplined, they kneel
As though one heart throbbed there
Within those frames of steel:
“O Ruler of the flood,
Of nations, kings, and laws,
Absolve our souls from blood
Shed in our country’s cause.”

***

From The Creaking Door

Not even the maiden’s dainty nest
Sacred from their unhallowed quest.
And, wherever they go, there is clamour and clang,
And doors are opened and shut with a bang,
And riot is master, where peace was lord,
Riot that comes where the law is the sword.

***

From The Owl’s Flight

All sights and sounds that filled the air
Were of havoc, slaughter, and despair
The clash of weapons, the shriek of pain,
The victors’ shout o’er the ghastly slain,
As tongues of flame licked up the gore
That ran in streams on each oaken floor.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

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

December 29, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

====

Isabella Banks
The Bugle Call

Hark! ’tis the bugle, the bugle of War!
Banners are flying, and sabres unsheath;
Rifles and bayonets gleam from afar;
Cannon drive lumbering over the heath;
Bustle and stir from the east to the west;
Marching of troops from the north to the south;
Spectacled grandams, and babes at the breast,
Press for the last time the warrior’s mouth;
Wives from mute husbands are torn with a wrench;
Men steel their hearts ‘mid the clangour of arms;
Spades turn from tillage to dig and entrench,
And beauty to glory surrenders its charms,
At the blast of the bugle, the bugle of War!

Hark! ’tis the bugle, the bugle of War!
Sabres are clashing, and banners are rent;
Rifles are cracking and blazing afar;
Skies to the cannon their thunders have lent.
There’s neighing of chargers and trampling of hoofs,
As they beat on the limbs and the faces of men;
There’s shrieking of women, and flaming of roofs,
And crashing of trees that will ne’er rise again.
The God-given harvest beat down and accurst,
Trod with the vintage of blood into mire;
Pillage, and slaughter, and crime of the worst,
Riot and rampant – all passions afire –
At the bray of the bugle, the bugle of War!

Hark! ’tis the bugle, the bugle of Peace!
Sounds o’er the battle-field over the slain,
Hushes the strife, bids artillery cease,
Thrills through the dying stretched out on the plain.
Hark! how the call rings o’er valley and hill! ”
Light bivouac fires weary warriors, rest! ”
Up, tender-eyed Pity, to save, not to kill;
Go forth on thy errand, the blessing and blest!
Softly, white snow wreathes a shroud for the dead,
A mantle to hide the red deed War has done;
Stern foemen shake hands where their fellows have bled,
And mercy can breathe now the battle is done
In the note of the bugle, the bugle of Peace!

Categories: Uncategorized