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

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

British writers on peace and war

Jonathan Swift: Lemuel Gulliver on War

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Jonathan Swift
From A Tale of a Tub
A Digression on Wars

This being a matter of great consequence, the author intends to treat it methodically, and at large, in a treatise apart, and here to give only some hints of what his large treatise contains. The state of war natural to all creatures. War is an attempt to take by violence from others a part of what they have and we want. Every man, duly sensible of his own merit, and finding it not duly regarded by others, has a natural right to take from them all that he thinks due to himself; and every creature, finding its own wants more than those of others, has the same right to take everything its nature requires. Brutes much more modest in their pretensions this way than men; and mean men more than great ones. The higher one raises his pretensions this way, the more bustle he makes about them; and the more success he has, the greater hero. Thus greater souls, in proportion to their superior merit, claim a greater right to take everything from meaner folks. This the true foundation of grandeur and heroism, and of the distinction of degrees among men. War therefore necessary to establish subordination, and to found cities, kingdoms, etc., as also to purge bodies politic of gross humours. Wise princes find it necessary to have wars abroad, to keep peace at home. War, famine, and pestilence, the usual cures for corruptions in bodies politic. A comparison of these three. The author is to write a panegyric on each of them. The greatest part of mankind loves war more than peace. They are but few and mean-spirited that live in peace with all men. The modest and meek of all kinds, always a prey to those of more noble or stronger appetites. The inclination to war universal: those that cannot, or dare not, make war in person, employ others to do it for them. This maintains bullies, bravoes, cutthroats, lawyers, soldiers, etc. Most professions would be useless, if all were peaceable. Hence brutes want neither smiths nor lawyers, magistrates nor joiners, soldiers nor surgeons. Brutes, having but narrow appetites, are incapable of carrying on or perpetuating war against their own species, or of being led out in troops and multitudes to destroy one another. These prerogatives proper to man alone. The excellency of human nature demonstrated by the vast train of appetites, passions, wants, etc., that attend it. This matter is to be more fully treated in the author’s Panegyric on Mankind.

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Charles Mackay: Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall

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

British writers on peace and war

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Charles Mackay
From Tubal Cain

Old Tubal Cain was a man of might
In the days when earth was young:
By the fierce red light of his furnace bright
The strokes of his hammer rung;
And he lifted high his brawny hand
On the iron glowing clear,
Till the sparks rush’d out in scarlet showers,
As he fashion’d the sword and spear.
And he sang – “Hurrah for my handiwork!
Hurrah for the spear and sword!
Hurrah for the hand that shall wield them well,
For he shall be king and lord!”

***

But a sudden change came o’er his heart
Ere the setting of the sun,
And Tubal Cain was fill’d with pain
For the evil he had done;
He saw that men, with rage and hate,
Made war upon their kind,
That the land was red with the blood they shed
In their lust for carnage, blind.
And he said – “Alas! that ever I made,
Or that skill of mine should plan,
The spear and the sword for men whose joy
Is to slay their fellow-man!”

And for many a day old Tubal Cain
Sat brooding o’er his woe;
And his hand forebore to smite the ore,
And his furnace smoulder’d low.
But he rose at last with a cheerful face,
And a bright courageous eye,
And bared his strong right arm for work,
While the quick flames mounted high.
And he sang – “Hurrah for my handiwork!”
And the red sparks lit the air;
“Not alone for the blade was the bright steel made;”
And he fashion’d the first ploughshare!

And men, taught wisdom from the past,
In friendship join’d their hands,
Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall,
And plough’d the willing lands;
And sang – “Hurrah for Tubal Cain!
Our stanch good friend is he;
And for the ploughshare and the plough
To him our praise shall be…”

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John Gower: Peace is chief of all world’s wealth, war is mother of all wrongs

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

British writers on peace and war

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John Gower
In Praise of Peace

Pes is the chief of al the worldes welthe,
And to the Heven it ledeth ek the weie;
Pes is of soule and lif, the mannes helthe
Of pestilence, and doth the werre aweie.
My liege lord, tak hiede of that Y seie:
If werre may be left, tak pes on honde,
Which may noght be withoute Goddis sonde.

With pes stant every creature in reste;
Withoute pes ther may no lif be glad;
Above alle othre good, pes is the beste;
Pes hath himself whan werre is al bestad;
The pes is sauf, the werre is ever adrad:
Pes is of al charité the keie,
Which hath the lif and soul forto weie.

My liege lord, if that thee list to seche
The sothe essamples that the werre hath wroght,
Thow schalt wiel hiere of wisemennes speche,
That dedly werre turneth into noght;
For if these olde bokes be wel soght,
Ther myght thou se what thing the werre hath do,
Bothe of conqueste and conquerer also.

For vein honour or for the worldes good,
Thei that whilom the stronge werres made,
Wher be thei now? Bethenk wel in thi mod,
The day is goon, the nyght is derk and fade;
Her crualté, which mad hem thanne glade,
Thei sorwen now and yit have noght the more;
The blod is schad which no man mai restore.

The werre is modir of the wronges alle:
It sleth the prest in Holi Chirche at Masse,
Forlith the maide and doth here flour to falle;
The werre makth the grete citee lasse,
And doth the Lawe his reules overpasse.
There is no thing wherof meschef mai growe,
Which is noght caused of the werre, Y trowe.

The werre bringth in poverté at hise hieles,
Wherof the comon poeple is sore grieved.
The werre hath set his cart on thilke whieles
Wher that Fortune mai noght be believed;
For whan men wene best to have achieved,
Ful ofte it is al newe to beginne:
The werre hath no thing siker, thogh he winne.

***

In th’Olde Lawe, er Crist Himself was bore,
Among the Ten Comandementz Y rede
How that manslaghtre schulde be forbore;
Such was the will that time of the Godhede.
And aftirward, whanne Crist tok His manhede,
Pes was the ferste thing He let do crie
Agein the worldes rancour and envie.

And er Crist wente out of this erthe hiere,
And stigh to hevene, He made His testament,
Wher He beqwath to His disciples there
And gaf His pes, which is the foundement
Of charité, withouten whos assent
The worldes pes mai never wel be tried,
Ne love kept, ne lawe justefied.

***

To give ous pes was cause whi Crist dide;
Withoute pes may no thing stonde availed;
Bot now a man mai sen on everi side
How Cristes feith is every dai assailed,
With the paiens destruid, and so batailed
That for defalte of help and of defence,
Unethe hath Crist His dewe reverence.

***

The worldes cause is waited overal;
Ther ben the werres redi to the fulle.
Bot Cristes oghne cause in special,
Ther ben the swerdes and the speres dulle;
And with the sentence of the popes bulle
As forto do the folk paien obeie,
The chirche is turned al an other weie.

It is to wondre above a mannys wit,
Withoute werre, how Cristes feith was wonne;
And we that ben uppon this erthe yit,
Ne kepe it noght as it was first begonne.
To every creature undir the sonne
Crist bad Himself how that we schulden preche,
And to the folk His evangile teche.

***

Of that the heved is siek, the limes aken:
These regnes that to Cristes pes belongen,
For worldes good, these dedly werres maken,
Whiche helpples as in balance hongen;
The heved above hem hath noght undirfongen
To sette pes, bot every man sleth other,
And in this wise hath charité no brother.

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James Montgomery: War, that self-inflicted scourge of man

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

British writers on peace and war

James Montgomery: Fratricidal war speeds on inexorability of Death

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James Montgomery
From The World Before the Flood

“When war, that self-inflicted scourge of man,
His boldest crime and bitterest curse, – began;
As lions fierce, as forest-cedars tall,
And terrible as torrents, in their fall,
Headlong from rocks, through vales and vineyards hurl’d,
These men of prey laid waste the eastern world;
They taught their tributary hordes to wield
The sword, red-flaming, through the death-strown field,
With strenuous arm the uprooted rock to throw,
Glance the light arrow from the bounding bow,
Whirl the broad shield to meet the darted stroke,
And stand to combat, like the unyielding oak.
Then eye from eye with fell suspicion turn’d,
In kindred breasts unnatural hatred burn’d;
Brother met brother in the lists of strife,
The son lay lurking for the father’s life;
With rabid instinct, men who never knew
Each other’s face before, each other slew;
All tribes, all nations learn’d the fatal art,
And every hand was arm’d to pierce a heart.
Nor man alone the giants’ might subdued ;
– The camel wean’d from quiet solitude,
Grazed round their camps, or slow along the road,
Midst marching legions bore the servile load.
With flying forelock and dishevell’d mane,
They caught the wild steed prancing o’er the plain,
For war or pastime reined his fiery force;
Fleet as the wind he stretch’d along the course,
Or loudly neighing at the trumpet’s sound,
With hoofs of thunder smote the indented ground.
The enormous elephant obey’d their will,
And, tamed to cruelty with direst skill,
Roar’d for the battle, when he felt the goad.
And his proud lord his sinewy neck bestrode.
Through crashing ranks resistless havoc bore,
And writhed his trunk, and bathed his tusks in gore…”

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James Montgomery: Fratricidal war speeds on inexorability of Death

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

British writers on peace and war

James Montgomery: War, that self-inflicted scourge of man

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James Montgomery
From The World Before the Flood

From sunrise to the ocean of the west,
I found that sin, where’er the foot of man
Nature’s primeval wilderness o’er-ran,
Had tracked his steps, and through advancing time
Urged the deluded race from crime to crime,
Till wrath and strife, in fratricidal war,
Gather’d the force of nations from afar,
To deal and suffer death’s unheeded blow,
As if the curse on Adam were too slow,
Even now an host, like locusts on their way,
That desolate the earth and dim the day…

***

When first the mingling sons of God and man
The demon-sacrifice of war began,
Self-exiled here, the family of Seth
Renounced a world of violence and death,
Faithful alone amidst the faithless found,
And innocent while murder cursed the ground.

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From The Brahmin

“Now, mark the words these dying lips impart,
And wear this grand memorial. round your heart:
All that inhabit ocean, air, or earth,
From ONE eternal sire derive their birth.
The Hand that built the palace of the sky
Formed the light wings that decorate a fly:
The Power that wheels the circling planets round
Rears every infant floweret on the ground;
That Bounty which the mightiest beings share
Feeds the least gnat that gilds the evening air.
Thus all the wild inhabitants of woods.
Children of air, and tenants of the floods;
All, all are equal, independent, free,
And all the heirs of immortality!
For all that live and breathe hare once been men.
And, in succession, will be such again:
Even you, in turn, that human shape must change.
And through ten thousand forms of being range.

“Ah ! then, refrain your brethren’s blood to spill,
And, till you can create, forbear to kill!
Oft as a guiltless fellow-creature dies,
The blood of innocence for vengeance cries:
Even grim, rapacious savages of prey.
Presume not, save in self-defence, to slay;
What, though to heaven their forfeit lives they owe,
Hath heaven commissioned thee to deal the blow?
Crush not the feeble, inoffensive worm.
Thy sister’s spirit wears that humble form!
Why should thy cruel arrow smite yon bird?
In him thy brother’s plaintive song is heard.
When the poor, harmless kid, all trembling, lies,
And begs his little life with infant cries,
Think, ere you take the throbbing victim’s breath.
You doom a dear, an only child, to death.
When at the ring the beauteous heifer stands,
– Stay, monster! stay those parricidal hands;
Canst thou not, in that mild, dejected face,
The sacred features of thy mother trace?
When to the stake the generous bull you lead.
Tremble, – ah, tremble, – lest your father bleed.
Let not your anger on your dog descend,
The faithful animal was once your friend;
The friend whose courage snatch’d you from the grave,
When wrapp’d in flames or sinking in the wave.
– Rash, impious youth! renounce that horrid knife,
Spare the sweet antelope! – ah, spare – thy wife!
In the meek victim’s tear-illumined eyes.
See the soft image of thy consort rise;
Such as she is, when by romantic streams
Her spirit greets thee in delightful dreams;
Not as she look’d, when blighted in her bloom;
Not as she lies, all pale in yonder tomb…

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

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

British writers on peace and war

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Walter Besant
From London

“Why should I delay? Still the invaders flocked over. Of one nation all came – men, women, and children – leaving a desert behind. In the year of our Lord 500, the whole of the east and most of the south country were in the hands of this new people. Now this strange thing has been observed of them. They love not towns, and will not willingly dwell within walls for some reason connected with their diabolical religion; or perhaps because they suspect magic. Therefore, when they conquered the country, they occupied the lands indeed, and built thereon their farm-houses, but they left the towns deserted. When they took a place they utterly burned and destroyed it, and then they left it, so that at this day there are many once rich and flourishing towns which now stand desolate and deserted. For instance, the city and stronghold of Rutupiæ, once garrisoned by the Second Legion; this they took and destroyed. It is reported that its walls still stand, but it is quite deserted. So also Anderida, where they massacred every man, woman, and child, and then went away, leaving the houses in ashes and the dead to the wolves; and they say that Anderida still stands deserted. So, also, Calleva Atrebatum, which they also destroyed, and that, too, stands desolate. So, too, Durovernum, which they now call Cantwarabyrig. This they destroyed, and for many years it lay desolate, but is now, I learn, again peopled. So, too, alas! the great and glorious Augusta [later to be London], which now lies empty, a city lone and widowed, which before was full of people.

“When Cantia fell to the Jutes we lost our trade with that fair and rich province. When the East Saxons and the Angles occupied the east country, and the South Saxons the south, trade was lost with all this region. Then the gates of the Vicinal Way and that of the Bridge were closed. Also the navigation of the Lower Thames became full of danger. And the prosperity of Augusta daily declined. Still there stood open the great highway which led to the middle of Britannia and the north, and the river afforded a safe way for barges and for boats from the west. But the time came when these avenues were closed. For the Saxons stretched out envious hands from their seaboard settlements, and presently the whole of this rich country, where yet lived so many great and wealthy families, was exposed to all the miseries of war. The towns were destroyed, the farms ruined, the cattle driven away. Where was now the wealth of this famous province? It was gone. Where was the trade of Augusta? That, too, was gone. Nothing was brought to the port for export; the roads were closed; the river was closed; there was nothing, in fact, to send; nay, there were no more households to buy the things we formerly sent them. They lived now by the shore and in the recesses of the forest, who once lived in great villas, lay on silken pillows, and drank the wine of Gaul and Spain.

“Then we of the City saw plainly that our end was come; for not only there was no more trade, but there was no more food. The supplies had long been scanty, and food was dear; therefore those who could no longer buy food left the town, and sallied forth westward, hoping to find a place of safety, but many perished of cold, of hunger, and by sword of the enemy. Some who reached towns yet untaken joined the warriors, and received alternate defeat and victory, yet mostly the former.

“Still food became scarcer. The foreign merchants by this time had all gone away; our slaves deserted us; the wharves stood desolate; a few ships without cargo or crew lay moored beside our quays; our churches were empty; silence reigned in the streets. Now, had the enemy attacked the City there would have been no resistance, but no enemy appeared. We were left alone – perhaps forgotten. The marshes and moors which surround the City on all sides became our protection. Augusta, to the invader, was invisible. And she was silent. Her enmity could do no harm, and her friendship could do no good. She was full of rich and precious things; the Basilica and the Forum, with the columns and the statues, stood in the midst; the houses contained pictures, books, baths, costly hangings; yet the Saxon wanted none of these things. The City contained no soldiers, and therefore he passed it by, or even forgot its existence.

“There came the day when no more provisions were left. Then those who were left, a scanty band, gathered in the Basilica, and it was resolved that we should leave the place, since we could no longer live in it. Some proposed to try escape by sea, some by land. I, with my wife and children, and others who agreed to accompany me, took what we could of food and of weapons, leaving behind us the houses where our lives had been so soft and happy, and went out by the western gate, and taking refuge where we could in the forest, we began our escape. Mostly we travelled by night; we passed burning towns and flaming farmsteads; we encountered hapless fugitives more naked and miserable than ourselves. But finally we arrived in safety at the town of Glevum, where we have found shelter and repose.

“Every year our people are driven westward more and more. There seems no frontier that will stop them. My sons have fallen in battle; my daughters have lost their husbands; my grandchildren are taught to look for nothing but continual war. Should they succeed in reaching our City, the old will perish; but the young may take flight across the river Sabrina, and even among the mountains of the West – their last place of flight. Should they be driven from the hills, it will be into the sea. And of Augusta have I learned nothing for many years. Wherefore am I sure that it remains desolate and deserted to this day.”

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Henry Kirke White: Far better music inspire peace than war

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Kirke White: The red-eyeballed warrior doomed to ruin

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Henry Kirke White
From Music (juvenilia)

At her command the various passions lie;
She stirs to battle, or she lulls to peace:
Melts the charm’d soul to thrilling ecstacy,
And bids the jarring world’s harsh clangour cease.

Her martial sounds can fainting troops inspire
With strength unwonted, and enthusiasm raise;
Infuse new ardour, and with youthful fire
Urge on the warrior gray with length of days.

Far better she, when, with her soothing lyre,
She charms the falchion from the savage grasp,
And melting into pity vengeful ire,
Looses the bloody breastplate’s iron clasp.

***

Oh! surely melody from heaven was sent,
To cheer the soul when tired with human strife,
To soothe the wayward heart by sorrow rent,
And soften down the rugged road of life.

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William Watson: Curse my country for its military victory

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

British writers on peace and war

William Watson: Dream of perfect peace

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William Watson
The Soudanese

They wrong’d not us, nor sought ‘gainst us to wage
The bitter battle. On their God they cried
For succour, deeming justice to abide
In heaven, if banish’d from earth’s vicinage.
And when they rose with a gall’d lion’s rage.
We, on the captor’s, keeper’s, tamer’s side,
We, with the alien tyranny allied,
We bade them back to their Egyptian cage.
Scarce knew they who we were! A wind of blight
From the mysterious far north-west we came.
Our greatness now their veriest babes have learn’d,
Where, in wild desert homes, by day, by night.
Thousands that weep their warriors unreturn’d,
O England, O my country, curse thy name!

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Joseph Mary Plunkett: Till blooms the bud on olive branch, borne by the bird of peace

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

British writers on peace and war

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Joseph Mary Plunkett
Die Taube

To-day when I beheld you all alone
And might have stayed to speak, the watchful love
Leapt up within my heart – then quick to prove
New strength, the fruit of sorrow you have sown
Sank in my stormy bosom like a stone
Nor dared to rise on flaming plumes above
Passionless winds, till you, O shining dove
Far from the range of wounding words had flown.

Far have you flown, and blows of battle cease
To drape the skies in tapestries of blood,
Now sinks within my heart the heaving flood
And Love’s long-fluttering pinions I release,
Bidding them not return till blooms the bud
On olive branch, borne by the bird of peace.

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William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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Henry Kirke White: The red-eyeballed warrior doomed to ruin

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Kirke White: Far better music inspire peace than war

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Henry Kirke White
From Time

Where are the heroes of the ages past?
Where the brave chieftains, where the mighty ones
Who flourish’d in the infancy of days?
All to the grave gone down. On their fallen fame
Exultant, mocking at the pride of man,
Sits grim Forgetfulness. – The warrior’s arm
Lies nerveless on the pillow of its shame;
Hush’d is his stormy voice, and quench’d the blaze
Of his red eyeball. – Yesterday his name
Was mighty on the earth. – To-day – ’tis what?
The meteor of the night of distant years,
That flash’d unnoticed, save by wrinkled eld,
Musing at midnight upon prophecies,
Who at her lonely lattice saw the gleam
Point to the mist-poised shroud, then quietly
Closed her pale lips, and lock’d the secret up
Safe in the charnel’s treasures.

***

Where is Rome?
She lives but in the tale of other times;
Her proud pavilions are the hermit’s home,
And her long colonnades, her public walks,
Now faintly echo to the pilgrim’s feet,
Who comes to muse in solitude, and trace,
Through the rank moss reveal’d, her honour’d dust.
But not to Rome alone has fate confined
The doom of ruin; cities numberless,
Tyre, Sidon, Carthage, Babylon, and Troy,
And rich Phoenicia – they are blotted out,
Half razed from memory, and their very name
And being in dispute. –

***

Yet there is peace for man. – Yea, there is peace
Even in this noisy, this unsettled scene;
When from the crowd, and from the city far,
Haply he may be set (in his late walk
O’ertaken with deep thought) beneath the boughs
Of honeysuckle, when the sun is gone,
And with fix’d eye, and wistful, he surveys
The solemn shadows of the Heavens sail,
And thinks the season yet shall come, when Time
Will waft him to repose, to deep repose,
Far from the unquietness of life – from noise
And tumult far – beyond the flying- clouds.
Beyond the stars, and all this passing scene.
Where change shall cease, and Time shall be no more.

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John Galsworthy: The war made us all into barbarians

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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 The Silver Spoon

“If I had my savings.”

“Yes, Mrs. Bergfeld told me about them. I can inquire, but I’m afraid – ”

“It’s robbery.” The chattered sound let Michael at once into the confidence of the many Managers who had refused to employ him who uttered it.

“I know,” he said, soothingly, “robbing Peter to pay Paul. That clause in the Treaty was a bit of rank barbarism, of course, camouflage it as they like. Still, it’s no good to let it prey on your mind, is it?”

But his visitor had risen. “To take from civilian to pay civilian! Then why not take civilian life for civilian life? What is the difference? And England does it – the leading nation to respect the individual. It is abominable.”

Michael began to feel that he was overdoing it.

“You forget,” he said, “that the war made us all into barbarians, for the time being; we haven’t quite got over it yet…”

***

The war had deprived one of one’s own way, but the war had overdone it, and left one grasping at license. And for those, like Fleur, born a little late for the war, the tale of it had only lowered what respect they could have for anything. With veneration killed, and self-denial ‘off,’ with atavism buried, sentiment derided, and the future in the air, hardly a wonder that modernity should be a dance of gnats, taking itself damned seriously!

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Arthur Symons: A great reaction: people will be tired of wars

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

British writers on peace and war

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Arthur Symons
From a letter to his wife in 1900

By the way, I asked Hardy just now about what Harmsworth says. He entirely disbelieves it, feels sure it is merely temporary, and that there will soon be a great reaction, when people will be tired of wars and the like, and quite ready to return to literature. And he points out that some of the daily papers are giving more and more space to it, as it is.

 

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William Stokes: The peace of nations to destroy

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

British writers on peace and war

William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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William Stokes
To the Genius of War
As Embodied in the Warrior

Forbear, thou man of blood, forbear,
To claim a birth Divine;
No Son of Heaven can be the heir
Of passions such as thine.

Thy boasted trade, thy sole employ,
Is death to deal around;
The Peace of nations to destroy,
Wherever man is found.

The wide-spread earth, through all her lands,
Has mourned thy kindred tread;
And widows raise their pray’rful hands,
For vengeance on thy head.

In Europe’s polished courts, the seeds
Of hatred thou hast sown;
And yonder Southern island bleeds
With sorrows all thine own.

In thronging East, or far-spread West,
Or where the Niger rolls;
Thy murd’rous train has proved the pest
And curse, of human souls.

No sex, no nation, and no clime,
Has ‘scap’d thy cruel rage;
Thy plague has flow’d throughout all time,
And spread through every age.

And shall that plague, with curses rife,
Pass down to other times;
And spread around the seeds of strife,
To poison other climes?

Shall men be found for wealth or gain,
To doom a world to woe?
And all that earth can feel of pain,
Give earth that all to know?

Learn, then, man to murder given,
Note thou the mandate well;
“The work of Peace came down from heaven,
The work of War from hell.”

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Charles Churchill: Thousands bleed for some vile spot where fifty cannot feed

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

British writers on peace and war

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Charles Churchill
From Night

Stripp’d of her gaudy plumes and vain disguise,
See where ambition mean and loathsome lies;
Reflection with relentless hand pulls down
The tyrant’s bloody wreath and ravish’d crown.
In vain he tells of battles bravely won,
Of nations conquer’d, and of worlds undone;
Triumphs like these but ill with manhood suit,
And sink the conqueror beneath the brute.

***

Through a false medium things are shewn by day;
Pomp, wealth, and titles judgment lead astray.
How many from appearance borrow state,
Whom Night disdains to number with the great!
Must not we laugh to see yon lordling proud
Snuff up vile incense from a fawning crowd?
Whilst in his beam surrounding clients play,
Like insects in the sun’s enlivening ray,
Whilst, Jehu-like, he drives at furious rate,
And seems the only charioteer of state,
Talking himself into a little god,
And ruling empires with a single nod.
Who would not think, to hear him law dispense,
That he had interest, and that they had sense?
Injurious thought! beneath Night’s honest shade,
When pomp is buried, and false colours fade,
Plainly we see, at that impartial hour,
Them dupes to pride, and him the tool of power.

***

Vice after vice with ardour they pursue,
And one old folly brings forth twenty new.
Perplex’d with trifles through the vale of life,
Man strives ‘gainst man, without a cause for strife;
Armies embattled meet, and thousands bleed
For some vile spot, where fifty cannot feed.
Squirrels for nuts contend, and, wrong or right,
For the world’s empire kings ambitious fight.
What odds? to us ’tis all the self-same thing,
A nut, a world, a squirrel, and a king.

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Robert Louis Stevenson: Peace we found where fire and war had been

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

British writers on peace and war

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Robert Louis Stevenson
The Country Of The Camisards

We travelled in the print of olden wars;
Yet all the land was green;
And love we found, and peace,
Where fire and war had been.

They pass and smile, the children of the sword –
No more the sword they wield;
And O, how deep the corn
Along the battlefield!

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William Stokes: The Soldier

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

British writers on peace and war

William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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William Stokes
The Soldier

I saw him in his childhood,
While sporting on the green;
No sweeter bud, no lovelier flower,
The village dames had seen.

I saw him shoot in stature,
The tallest of his race;
He carried greatness in his mien,
And beauty in his face.

I saw him in his manhood,
A noble man was he;
He stood confess’d, the bravest there –
The freest of the free.

I saw him when deluded,
By words of dark deceit;
He little thought that words so fair
Were spoken by a cheat.

I saw him clothed in scarlet,
With gaudy plume and lace;
He sat upon a noble steed,
With yet more noble grace.

I saw him after battle,
To misery doomed for life;
He rued the day when first he heard
The sound of drum and fife.

I saw him wan and wretched,
A cripple, begging bread;
The “pamper’d menial” drove him forth,
With curses on his head.

I saw his last lone dwelling,
The rags and broken stool;
He breath’d out dying words and said,
“The soldier is a fool!”

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Robert Blair: Where are the mighty thunderbolts of war?

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

British writers on peace and war

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Robert Blair
From The Grave

Where are the mighty thunderbolts of war,
The Roman Caesars and the Grecian chiefs,
The boast of story? Where the hot-brain’d youth,
Who the tiara at his pleasure tore
From kings of all the then discovered globe;
And cried, forsooth, because his arm was hamper’d,
And had not room enough to do its work.

***

Here all the mighty troublers of the earth,
Who swam to sov’reign rule through seas of blood;
Th’ oppressive, sturdy, man-destroying villains,
Who ravag’d kingdoms, and laid empires waste,
And in a cruel wantonness of pow’r
Thinn’d states of half their people, and gave up
To want the rest; now, like a storm that’s spent,
Lie hush’d, and meanly sneak behind the covert.
Vain thought! to hide them from the general scorn,
That haunts and dogs them like an injured ghost
Implacable!

***

Sicknesses,
Of every size and symptom, racking pains,
And bluest plagues, are thine! See how the fiend
Profusely scatters the contagion round!
Whilst deep-mouth’d Slaughter, bellowing at her heels,
Wades deep in blood new-spilt; yet for to-morrow
Shapes out new work of great uncommon daring,
And inly pines till the dread blow is struck.

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William Stokes: The Angel of Peace

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

British writers on peace and war

William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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William Stokes
The Angel of Peace

Ring, ring the sweet bells, and unfurl the gay banners!
Let cold party-feeling and enmity cease;
Arise, ye glad nations, with lofty hosannahs!
And welcome with triumph the angel of peace.

Long, long have the foemen dealt fury around them;
Too long spread the flame of destruction and death;
Too long has the demon of discord spell-bound them,
And blasted the hope of the world with his breath.

Sing, sing the loud chorus! his spell is now broken,
And nations once more breathe the air of the free;
His watchword of “glory” shall henceforth be spoken,
To die with the echo that floats on the sea.

For, dove-like, the angel has passed o’er the waters.
And wept when he saw but a deluge of blood;
His olive-branch waved o’er the scene of the slaughters,
And Peace spread her “bow” on the face of the flood.

Then sing! for the ark safely rests on the mountain.
The crimson-dyed waters haste, blushing, away;
The sun gilds afresh both the stream and the fountain,
And man hails with rapture the the smile of the day.

Then join the loud chorus! unfurl the gay banners!
Let peace be the watchword the universe o’er;
Unite, all ye nations, in lofty hosannahs!
And sing, “Peace our glory!” and “Peace evermore!”

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John Whitehouse: Ode to War

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

British writers on peace and war

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John Whitehouse
Ode to War

Dread Offspring of Tartarian birth,
Whose nodding crest is stain’d with gore,
Whom to some giant-son of Earth,
Strife in strong pangs of childbed bore;
O War! fierce monster, homicide,
Who marchest on with hideous stride,
Shaking thy spear distilling blood;
Bellona thee, in angry mood,
Taught proud Ambition’s spoils to win,
Amidst the loud, conflicting din
Of arms, where Discord’s gorgon-featured form
High shakes her flaming torch amidst the martial storm.

Stern God! wolf-hearted, and accursed,
Foster’d by Power, by Rapine nursed,
Oppression ever in thy train,
For hapless man prepares her chain:
A thousand vulture-forms beside
Stalk on before thee; bloated Pride,
Thick-eyed Revenge, his soul on fire,
And Slaughter breathing threatenings dire,
Tumult, and Rage, and Fury fell,
And Cruelty, the imp of hell,
Her heart of adamant! and arm’d her hand
With iron hooks, and cords, and Desolation’s brand.

There, where the Battle loudest roars,
Where wide the impurpled deluge pours,
And ghastly Death, his thousands slain,
Whirls his swift chariot o’er the plain,
Rapt in wild Horror’s frantic fit,
‘Midst the dire scene thou lov’st to sit,
To catch some wretch’s parting sigh,
To mark the dimly-glazing eye,
The face into contortions thrown,
Convuls’d: the deep, deep-lengthening groan,
The frequent sob, the agonizing smart,
And nature’s dread release, the pang that rends the heart.

Avaunt, from Albion’s isle! not there
Thy arms, and maddening car prepare,
Nor bid thy crimson banners fly
Terrific, through the troubled sky;
But stay thee in thy wild career;
Lay by thy glittering shield and spear,
Thy polished casque, and nodding crest,
And let thy sable steeds have rest:
At length, the work of slaughter close,
And give to Europe’s sons repose,
Bid the hoarse clangors of the trumpet cease,
And smooth thy wrinkled front to meet the smiles of Peace.

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William Stokes: Invocation to the Spirit of Peace

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

British writers on peace and war

William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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William Stokes
Invocation to the Spirit of Peace

Come over the mountain, come over the sea,
Thou First-born of heaven, thou Pride of the free!
Come fresh on the morning, with wings of the dove,
And strew in thy passage the blessings of love.

Appear in thy radiance, thou Angel of lights
And chase from creation the gloom of the night ;
Disperse the thick shadows that over us spread,
And be to all nations as life from the dead.

Drive back to their caverns the dark hosts of death,
And scatter the forces of war with thy breath ;
Proclaim to the world a new era begun.
And let it be lasting as light from the sun.

In broad open day shew the scroll of the dead,
And let it by heroes and monarchs be read;
And give them to blush for the guilt of the hour.
That made war and bloodshed the “balance of power.”

Array to their vision the souls of the slain,
With heart-broken widows and orphans in train:
Tear off the disguise from their “glory” and pride,
And ask what they shew for the men who have died?

Before them display, in its ruin and fire,
Some Kertch or Canton, with the woe of the sire;
Then, pointing to wealth spent in battle and flame,
Demand what they give in return – but a name.

Proclaim that the Judge of the quick and the dead
Will “make inquisition for blood” they have shed;
Yet turn far away heavy judgments in store.
If, mourning their folly, they “learn war no more.”

Thus come, gentle Peace, fix thy reign upon earth.
And bring the glad day of the world’s second birth:
“The bow in the cloud,” when dark thunder-storms cease.
Be thou to creation, sweet Spirit of Peace.

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Elizabeth Bentley: On the return of celestial peace

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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

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

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Elizabeth Bentley

From Welcome to Peace

The meek-eyed angel Peace descends,
To this low world her course she bends,
Child of celestial love!
With Plenty, of co-equal birth,
In mercy to the sons of earth,
Commission’d from above.

***

On The Return of Peace and Plenty
(1801)

Lo! what descending cherub, robed in light,
With dazzling beams o’erwhelms the sight?
Is it a Genius of th’ etherial spheres?
Or Angel from before th’ Almighty’s face,
His errand fraught with blessings to our race
Lo! yet more near the heav’nly guest appears:

Ah! no, ’tis Peace hail beauteous queen!
Too long on earth a stranger hast thou been,
By crimes of mortals banish’d from below;
While clanging trumpets pierced the ear,
And War high-wav’d his sanguine spear,
And bade th’ affrighted world his empire know.

With pitying eye the God of mercy view’d,
Where slaughter’s sword in reeking gore imbrued,
Spread desolation o’er th’ unpeopled land;
He will’d his creatures’ punishment should cease,
And thus to thee, celestial Peace, –
Proclaim’d his high command:

“No more let earth thy absence mourn,
“Go, heal the wounds by Discord torn,
“With gentler thoughts inspire the vengeful mind;
“Go, bid War’s crimson streams forbear to flow,
“And round the hero’s laurel’d brow
“Thy olive chaplet bind.

“Hark! ’tis thy sister Plenty’s voice,
“Already bids the fields rejoice,
“Scattering with bounteous hand her golden store;
“Go, meet her on yon favour’d isle,
“From thence united beam the gladdening smile,
“And on mankind your genial blessings pour.”

And see, they come: O welcome lovely pair!
Famine avaunt! and blank Despair
For ever veil’d in nightly shades remain;
While Plenty binds her yellow sheaves,
And wreaths of triumph Concord weaves,
And o’er the world resumes her lasting reign.

Too long the fiend destructive War,
Has whirl’d o’er earth his flaming car,
The trembling realms no more shall dread his ire;
The cannon shuts its death-denouncing throat,
While the harsh trumpet’s brazen note,
In dulcet strains expire.

Now Peace explores the well-fought field,
Where bleeding Valour scorn’d to yield,
The clashing jar of arms resounds no more;
Changed by the magic of her word,
The useful plough-share rises from the sword,
And tills those plains it drench’d in blood before.

Too long pale Avarice, brooding o’er
His fast accumulating store,
Had seal’d his ear ‘gainst Pity’s gentle call;
Whate’er his greedy eye survey’d,
The vulture Rapine swift convey’d
Amid his gloomy walls.

At length for others’ woe he feels,
Self-love no more his bosom steels,
Soften’d by Plenty’s stream which largely flows;
By Heav’n’s benignant sun-shine warm’d,
His heart no more of ice is form’d,
Diffusive gifts his liberal hand bestows.

To greet their much-loved native home,
See Albion’s conquering sons in triumph come,
Who bade remotest climes her pow’r obey;
May inward factions ne’er her peace molest,
But loyalty pervade each honest breast,
And o’er our minds firm fix our Monarch’s sway.

In vain Britannia’s threatening foe
Sought o’er her Isle the vengeful shaft to throw,
Forbade by Heav’n’s all-ruling King,
To whom the sounds of praise shall rise,
With grateful accents penetrate the skies,
While seraphs thence to earth shall future blessings bring.

***

The Hour of Peace

Hail! silent hour of peace serene,
No busy din disturbs the scene;
The sons of toil their labours close,
And taste the sweets of sound repose;
Pent within their safe retreat,
The slumb’ring sheep no longer bleat,
While round the field, with half-shut eye,
Cumbent the drowsy cattle lie:
The buzzing bee has sought her home,
Fraught with sweets to store the comb.
There’s not a breeze to curl the rill,
And e’en the aspen leaf is still;
The sun himself seems sunk to rest,
His last faint gleam has streak’d the west;
The birds have sung their farewell lay,
Pour’d sweet to his departing ray;
And last of all the merry train,
The redbreast too has ceas’d his strain.
Hail! hour of Peace the happy time,
To meditate on themes sublime;
In union with the tranquil scene,
The mind is sooth’d to thoughts serene;
The soul now feels her heav’nly birth,
Disdains the trivial joys on earth,
And pants to gain her promised rest,
“Mid the pure spirits of the blest.

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

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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

Elizabeth Bentley: On the return of celestial peace

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Elizabeth Bentley
From Ode to War

Stern Power! who long in distant lands,
Has thunder’d out thy dire commands;
And while no lenient thought thy rage restrain’d,
Hast urged thy mad destructive course,
By Fury drawn and rude resistless Force;
And arm’d with iron shield,
Too long hast joy’d thy thirsty sword to wield,
And hurl thy massy spear with blood distain’d:
And while her brazen trumpet Discord rear’d,
Whilst appall’d the nations heard,
Hast bid its jarring voice resound afar,
And vengeful bent on murderous deeds,
Hast lash’d thy fiery-breathing steeds,
And whirl’d thy dusky car:
Behind thee Dread and Horror swift advance,
And Death insatiate points his venom’d lance.
Where’er thy breath the air pollutes,
It blasts the verdure, flow’rs, and fruits
That deck’d afertile land;
Thou bid’st pale Famine in thy train appear,
With meagre arm her leaden sceptre rear,
And dash the horn from Plenty’s lib’ral hand.
Where’er thy thundering chariot wheels are roll’d,
On trembling pinions from thy presence fly,
Those natives of a purer sky,
Angelic Peace and Commerce rob’d in gold,
Nor dares Repose sustain thy threat’ning mien;
Unsated yet with human gore…

Swift from on high
Meek Peace shall fly,
And bid her olive in the wreath combine.
Then terror-striking War,
Shalt thou from earth be banish’d far,
Nor more beneath the realms of day be seen,
On Concord frowning as thy greatest foe,
Reluctant to thy native darkness go,
And hide thy horrid mien;
Or fix thy sole domain,
On some wide desart plain,
Where human eye shall ne’er thy form survey;
Where wolves and tygers nightly prowl,
Direct the hunger-prompted howl,
And seize the quivering prey.

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William Stokes: Can fields of blood redeem mankind from error?

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

British writers on peace and war

William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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William Stokes
War in the Crimea and the Sea of Azoff

And this is progress! this the growth of nations! 
The royal training for an empty name! 
The model deed for future generations, 
To lure them on to "glory" and to fame! 

This the proud work of Christian might and treasure! 
The boon of mercy to a world depressed! 
The sacred pledge, that without stint or measure, 
Some future age with freedom shall be blest! 

For this the Saxon and the Frank united, 
Make common cause with Infidel profane! 
For freedom's sake, the Cross and Crescent plighted, 
Pour seas of blood along the Russian plain! 

Oh, vile delusion! Can the reign of terror, 
Confer true freedom on a race depraved?
Can fields of blood redeem mankind from error? 
Or burst the fetters of a land enslaved?

Will broken hearts, and widows' loud bewailing, 
With twice ten thousand orphans' piercing cries, 
Show the proud cause of liberty prevailing? 
Or give to serfdom aught that freemen prize? 

Can slaughtered hosts, with miles of martial thunder, 
The iron tempest, and the cannon's roar; 
The burning homestead, or the wholesale plunder, 
That robs the widow of her scanty store; — 

E'er prove to men how freedom is progressing, 
Or drive the Despot from his slavish work? — 
Can lust and theft convey a freeman's blessing, 
Or teach a holier faith to serf or Turk? 
Britain, go weep that deeds thus vile and savage, 
Are done by freemen in the Christian name! 
Go mourn in sackcloth that thy warriors ravage, 
The peasant's home, nor "blush to call it fame!" 

List to the cries to yonder Heavens ascending, 
The widow's wail, the orphan's heavy groan; 
Then at the feet of heaven's Avenger bending, 
Ask, — How shall Britain for this guilt atone ? 

NOTES.

“The Turkish troops were very busy pillaging the dead; an occupation which most of its were employed in, more or less. I did not, however, come across any sables in my explorations. We, however, shall have grand looting at Sebastopol, when my China experience may avail me. This is a horrible way to talk, and no doubt will shock you much; but it is one of the concomitants of grim war, and perhaps one of the most agreeable.” – From a Medical Officer in the Crimean War.

“As we approach the towns and villages, the inhabitants desert them, and as soon as we come to halt our men disperse through them in search of plunder, and such a scene you could not imagine as is to he seen here in a few minutes. Thousands of men loaded with tables, chairs, sofas, chests of drawers, pier glasses, geese, ducks, cabbages, fowls, – in fact, everything that can be imagined. Our men lie on beautiful beds and costly sofas in the open air.” – Do.

” – At Yenikale, not only did the garrison retire, but the inhabitants also, – terrible tidings of rapacity and violence had reached them. Their fears were well founded, for very soon their own town was plundered of everything moveable, and the ships of war were receptacles for the plundered property” – History of the War against Russia, vol. 2, p. 332.

“It is to be regretted that the French general in command of the place allowed the soldiers to plunder not only the houses, but the persons of the inhabitants. – Do., p 332.

Berdiansk, – “All government property was destroyed, – this included corn to the value of £60,000.Do., p. 340.

Genitschi, – “The stores and corn (destroyed) were at least worth £160,000″— Do., p. 341.

Taganrog,- ” When we arrived at Taganrog, we vented our spite upon the Russians. As for my part, I burned everything I could – in fact, anything that would catch fire, I committed to the flames.”- Do., p. 388.

Gheisk – “However, we burned all his stock, consisting of 574 large stacks of corn, besides his granaries and everything that belonged to him; his corn alone was valued at £30,000″ –

”We are still cruising about the sea, burning and destroying everything, besides what we take away. We live like fighting cocks.” – “You may depend when I come across any money, I know I can find a place for it; but it is very scarce.” – “We have in all taken fifteen vessels, burned twelve, and sent two to be sold at Constantinople, and sent one away with the Russian prisoners on board, fifty-seven in number, without compass or anything to steer by, to find the best of their way wherever chance would let them go.” – Do., p. 388.

Can anything be conceived more diabolical, more fiendish than this? To send away a vessel with fifty-seven prisoners without the means necessary for their preservation! And this by Englishmen, – and in the pay of a Christian people! If it be true, (and who can question it?) “be sure your sin will find you out,” what may not be expected as a punishment? Oh War, thou art a thou a robber and a scoundrel, all the world over!

Some of the atrocities at Kertch by our “Allies” the Turks, and others, I should be ashamed to mention. – W. S.


								
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Homer: Mars, most unjust, most odious of all the gods

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Homer: Caging the terrible Lord of War

Homer: The great gods are never pleased with violent deeds

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Homer
From The Iliad
Translated by Alexander Pope

Of lawless force shall lawless Mars complain?

Of all the gods who tread the spangled skies,
Thou most unjust, most odious in our eyes!
Inhuman discord is thy dire delight,
The waste of slaughter, and the rage of fight:
No bound, no law, thy fiery temper quells,
And all thy mother in thy soul rebels.
In vain our threats, in vain our power, we use:
She gives the example, and her son pursues.

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Jane Bowdler: War’s deadly futility

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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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Jane Bowdler
From Ode to Hope

The trumpet sounds to war:
Load shouts re-echo from the mountain’s side,
The din of battle thunders from afar,
The foaming torrent rolls a crimson tide;
The youthful warrior’s breast with ardour glows,
In thought he triumphs o’er ten thousand foes:
Elate with HOPE, he rushes on,
The battle seems already won,
The vanquish’d host before him fly,
His heart exults in fancied victory.
Nor heeds the flying shaft, nor thinks of danger nigh,
Methinks I see him now –
Fall’n his crest – his glory gone –
The opening laurel faded on his brow –
Silent the trump of his aspiring fame!
No future age shall hear his name,
But darkness spread around her sable gloom,
And deep oblivion rest upon his tomb.

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From On the Death of Mr. Garrick

With mournful awe I trod the sacred stones,
Where kings and heroes slept in long repose,
And trophies, mould’ring o’er the warrior’s bones,
Proclaim how frail the life which fame bestows.

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Théophile Gautier: One could imagine oneself in the Golden Age of Peace

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

French writers on war and peace

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Théophile Gautier
From Abécédaire du Salon de 1861

His success has been great, and that reflects well upon the public, as Puvis de Chavannes does not belong to the fastidious school. His mind dwells in the highest sphere of art, and his ambition even surpasses his talent. The various aspect of his two large compositions, War and Peace, challenges the onlooker…

The subject of War is conceived in the synthetic sense, outside the contingencies of time, place, or any particularity. It is the idea itself, rendered perceptible to the senses with a singular poetic power. War has swept through a country; the work of conquest has been accomplished; three horse-borne trumpeters, impassive, similar in their poses, sound the victory fanfare, like angels sounding the call of the Last Judgment…

Peace transports us to…a vale of large green trees, irrigated by running water. The warriors have laid down their arms; they rest or exercise their horses. The women devote their leisure to the innocent industries of peace…One could imagine oneself in the Golden Age, such is the calm, the freshness, the repose of a composition so tranquil as the other is furious. Even its color is less abstract and more human…

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

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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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Susanna Blamire
From The Cumbrian Village

“Welcome, old soldier, welcome from the wars!
Honour the man, my lads, seam’d o’er with scars!
Come give’s thy hand, and bring the t’ other can,
And tell us all thou’st done, and seen, my man.”
Now expectation stares in every eye,
The jaw falls down, and every soul draws nigh.
With ear turn’d up, and head held all awry.
“Why, sir, the papers tell you all that’s done,
What battle’s lost, and what is hardly won.
But when the eye looks into private woes,
And sees the grief that from one battle flows,
Small cause of triumph can the bravest feel,
For never yet were brave hearts made of steel.
It happen’d once, in storming of a town,
When our bold men had push’d the ramparts down,
We found them starving, the last loaf was gone,
Beef was exhausted, and they flour had none;
Their springs we drain, to ditches yet they fly –
The stagnant ditch lent treacherous supply;
For soon the putrid source their blood distains,
And the quick fever hastens through their veins.
In the same room the dying and the dead –
Nay, sometimes, even in the self-same bed, –
You saw the mother with her children lie,
None but the father left to close the sunken eye.
In a dark corner, once myself I found
A youth whose blood was pouring through the wound;
No sister’s hand, no tender mother’s eye
To stanch that wound was fondly watching by;
Famine had done her work, and low were laid
The loving mother and the blooming maid.
He rais’d his eyes, and bade me strike the blow,
I’ve nought to lose, he cried, so fear no foe…”

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Charlotte Alington Barnard: Peace Hovers

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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 Alington Barnard (Claribel)

Peace Hovers

Peace hovers, like an angel, on the vast and mighty deep,
Far o’er the ocean reaches, lying all in silver sleep;
Peace nestles ‘midst the lovely fern, around the ivy-twine;
Peace dwelleth with the primroses that blossom in the chine.
She rests on every quiet cloud that saileth o’er the sky,
She breathes in every zephyr as it passes quickly by;
And when the hush of eventide has fallen on the sea,
I fain would think, I fain would hope, Christ whispers ‘Peace’ to me.

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From Hope to the End

Hope ye when the heart’s best roses
Wither for the lack of rain,
And thy thirsty soul is empty, –
Hope ye for the shower again.

And, when on thy mid-day journey,
White-winged peace has flown afar,
Still, though all the night be cloudy,
Hope ye for the morning star.

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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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