Ralph Waldo Emerson: Universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism

September 18, 2018 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ralph Waldo Emerson: All history is the decline of war. Cannot peace be, as well as war?

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
From War

The idea [of peace] itself is the epoch; the fact that it has become so distinct to any small number of persons as to become a subject of prayer and hope, of concert and discussion, – that is the commanding fact. This having come, much more will follow. Revolutions go not backward. The star once risen, though only one man in the hemisphere has yet seen its upper limb in the horizon, will mount and mount, until it becomes visible to other men, to multitudes, and climbs the zenith of all eyes. And so it is not a great matter how long men refuse to believe the advent of peace: war is on its last legs; and a universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism, of liberal governments over feudal forms. The question for us is only How soon?

That the project of peace should appear visionary to great numbers of sensible men; should appear laughable even, to numbers; should appear to the grave and good-natured to be embarrassed with extreme practical difficulties, – is very natural. ‘This is a poor, tedious society of yours,’ they say: ‘we do not see what good can come of it. Peace! why, we are all at peace now. But if a foreign nation should wantonly insult or plunder our commerce, or, worse yet, should land on our shores to rob and kill, you would not have us sit, and be robbed and killed? You mistake the times; you overestimate the virtue of men. You forget that the quiet which now sleeps in cities and in farms, which lets the wagon go unguarded and the farmhouse unbolted, rests on the perfect understanding of all men that the musket, the halter and the jail stand behind there, ready to punish any disturber of it. All admit that this would be the best policy, if the world were all a church, if all the men were the best men, if all would agree to accept this rule. But it is absurd for one nation to attempt it alone.’

In the first place, we answer that we never make much account of objections which merely respect the actual state of the world at this moment, but which admit the general expediency and permanent excellence of the project. What is the best must be the true; and what is true – that is, what is at bottom fit and agreeable to the constitution of man – must at last prevail over all obstruction and all opposition. There is no good now enjoyed by society that was not once as problematical and visionary as this. It is the tendency of the true interest of man to become his desire and steadfast aim.

But, further, it is a lesson which all history teaches wise men, to put trust in ideas, and not in circumstances. We have all grown up in the sight of frigates and navy-yards, of armed forts and islands, of arsenals and militia. The reference to any foreign register will inform us of the number of thousand or million men that are now under arms in the vast colonial system of the British Empire, of Russia, Austria and France; and one is scared to find at what a cost the peace of the globe is kept. This vast apparatus of artillery, of fleets, of stone bastions and trenches and embankments; this incessant patrolling of sentinels; this waving of national flags; this reveille and evening gun; this martial music and endless playing of marches and singing of military and naval songs seem to us to constitute an imposing actual, which will not yield in centuries to the feeble, deprecatory voices of a handful of friends of peace.

Thus always we are daunted by the appearances; not seeing that their whole value lies at bottom in the state of mind. It is really a thought that built this portentous war-establishment, and a thought shall also melt it away. Every nation and every man instantly surround themselves with a material apparatus which exactly corresponds to their moral state, or their state of thought. Observe how every truth and every error, each a thought of some man’s mind, clothes itself with societies, houses, cities, language, ceremonies, newspapers. Observe the ideas of the present day, – orthodoxy, skepticism, missions, popular education, temperance, anti-masonry, anti-slavery; see how each of these abstractions has embodied itself in an imposing apparatus in the community; and how timber, brick, lime and stone have flown into convenient shape, obedient to the master-idea reigning in the minds of many persons.

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We surround ourselves always, according to our freedom and ability, with true images of ourselves in things, whether it be ships or books or cannons or churches. The standing army, the arsenal, the camp and the gibbet do not appertain to man. They only serve as an index to show where man is now; what a bad, ungoverned temper he has; what an ugly neighbor he is; how his affections halt; how low his hope lies. He who loves the bristle of bayonets only sees in their glitter what beforehand he feels in his heart. It is avarice and hatred; it is that quivering lip, that cold, hating eye, which built magazines and powder-houses.

It follows of course that the least change in the man will change his circumstances; the least enlargement of his ideas, the least mitigation of his feelings in respect to other men; if, for example, he could be inspired with a tender kindness to the souls of men, and should come to feel that every man was another self with whom he might come to join, as left hand works with right. Every degree of the ascendency of this feeling would cause the most striking changes of external things: the tents would be struck; the men-of-war would rot ashore; the arms rust; the cannon would become street-posts; the pikes, a fisher’s harpoon; the marching regiment would be a caravan of emigrants, peaceful pioneers at the fountains of the Wabash and the Missouri. And so it must and will be: bayonet and sword must first retreat a little from their ostentatious prominence; then quite hide themselves, as the sheriff’s halter does now, inviting the attendance only of relations and friends; and then, lastly, will be transferred to the museums of the curious, as poisoning and torturing tools are at this day.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson: All history is the decline of war. Cannot peace be, as well as war?

September 17, 2018 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
From War

Nothing is plainer than that the sympathy with war is a juvenile and temporary state. Not only the moral sentiment, but trade, learning and whatever makes intercourse, conspire to put it down. Trade, as all men know, is the antagonist of war. Wherever there is no property, the people will put on the knapsack for bread; but trade is instantly endangered and destroyed. And, moreover, trade brings men to look each other in the face, and gives the parties the knowledge that these enemies over sea or over the mountain are such men as we; who laugh and grieve, who love and fear, as we do. And learning and art, and especially religion weave ties that make war look like fratricide, as it is. And as all history is the picture of war, as we have said, so it is no less true that it is the record of the mitigation and decline of war. Early in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Italian cities had grown so populous and strong that they forced the rural nobility to dismantle their castles, which were dens of cruelty, and come and reside in the towns. The popes, to their eternal honor, declared religious jubilees, during which all hostilities were suspended throughout Christendom, and man had a breathing space. The increase of civility has abolished the use of poison and of torture, once supposed as necessary as navies now. And, finally, the art of war, what with gunpowder and tactics, has made, as all men know, battles less frequent and less murderous.

By all these means, war has been steadily on the decline; and we read with astonishment of the beastly fighting of the old times. Only in Elizabeth’s time, out of the European waters, piracy was all but universal. The proverb was, – “No peace beyond the line;” and the seaman shipped on the buccaneer’s bargain, “No prey, no pay.” The celebrated Cavendish, who was thought in his times a good Christian man, wrote thus to Lord Hunsdon, on his return from a voyage round the world: “Sept. 1588. It hath pleased Almighty God to suffer me to circumpass the whole globe of the world, entering in at the Strait of Magellan, and returning by the Cape of Buena Esperanca; in which voyage, I have either discovered or brought certain intelligence of all the rich places of the world, which were ever discovered by any Christian. I navigated along the coast of Chili, Peru, and New Spain, where I made great spoils. I burnt and sunk nineteen sail of ships, small and great. All the villages and towns that ever I landed at, I burned and spoiled. And had I not been discovered upon the coast, I had taken great quantity of treasure. The matter of most profit to me was a great ship of the king’s, which I took at California,” etc. And the good Cavendish piously begins this statement, – “It hath pleased Almighty God.”

Indeed, our American annals have preserved the vestiges of barbarous warfare down to more recent times. I read in Williams’s History of Maine, that “Assacombuit, the Sagamore of the Anagunticook tribe, was remarkable for his turpitude and ferocity above all other known Indians; that, in 1705, Vaudreuil sent him to France, where he was introduced to the king. When he appeared at court, he lifted up his hand and said, ‘This hand has slain a hundred and fifty of your majesty’s enemies within the territories of New England.’ This so pleased the king that he knighted him, and ordered a pension of eight livres a day to be paid him during life.” This valuable person, on his return to America, took to killing his own neighbors and kindred, with such appetite that his tribe combined against him, and would have killed him had he not fled his country forever.

The scandal which we feel in such facts certainly shows that we have got on a little. All history is the decline of war, though the slow decline. All that society has yet gained is mitigation: the doctrine of the right of war still remains.

For ages (for ideas work in ages, and animate vast societies of men) the human race has gone on under the tyranny – shall I so call it? – of this first brutish form of their effort to be men; that is, for ages they have shared so much of the nature of the lower animals, the tiger and the shark, and the savages of the water-drop. They have nearly exhausted all the good and all the evil of this form: they have held as fast to this degradation as their worst enemy could desire; but all things have an end, and so has this. The eternal germination of the better has unfolded new powers, new instincts, which were really concealed under this rough and base rind. The sublime question has startled one and another happy soul in different quarters of the globe, – cannot love be, as well as hate? Would not love answer the same end, or even a better? Cannot peace be, as well as war?

This thought is no man’s invention, neither St. Pierre’s nor Rousseau’s, but the rising of the general tide in the human soul, – and rising highest, and first made visible, in the most simple and pure souls, who have therefore announced it to us beforehand; but presently we all see it. It has now become so distinct as to be a social thought: societies can be formed on it. It is expounded, illustrated, defined, with different degrees of clearness; and its actualization, or the measures it should inspire, predicted according to the light of each seer.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

September 16, 2018 Leave a comment
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: War and despotism reinforce each other

September 15, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Again, anyone can understand that war and conquest without and the encroachments of despotism within give each other mutual support; that money and men are habitually taken at pleasure from a people of slaves, to bring others beneath the same yoke; and that conversely war furnishes a pretext for exactions of money and another, no less plausible, for keeping large armies constantly on foot, to hold the people in awe. In a word, anyone can see that aggressive princes wage war at least as much on their subjects as on their enemies, and that the conquering nation is left no better off than the conquered. ‘I have beaten the Romans,’ so Hannibal used to write to Carthage, ‘send me more troops. I have exacted an indemnity from Italy, send me more money.’ That is the real meaning of the Te Deums, the bonfires and rejoicings with which the people hail the triumphs of their masters.

A prince who stakes his cause on the hazards of war knows well enough that he is running risks. But he is less struck with the risks than with the gains on which he reckons, because he is much less afraid of fortune than he is content in his own wisdom. If he is strong, he counts upon his armies; if weak, upon his allies. Sometimes he finds it useful to purge ill humours, to weaken restive subjects, even to sustain reverses; and the wily statesman knows how to draw profit even from his own defeats. I trust it will be remembered that it is not I who reason in this fashion, but the court sophist, who would rather have a large territory with few subjects, poor and submissive, than that unshaken rule over the hearts of a happy and prosperous people, which is the reward of a prince who observes justice and obeys the laws.

****

It is a great miscalculation always to estimate the losses and gains of princes in terms of money; the degree of power the aim at is not to be reckoned by the millions in their cotters. The price always makes his schemes rotate: he seeks to command in order to enrich himself, and to enrich himself in order to command. He is ready by turns to sacrifice the one aim to the other, with a view to obtaining whichever of the two is most wanting at the moment. But it is only in the hope of winning them both in the long run that he pursues each of them apart. If he is to be master both of men and things, he must have empire and money at the same time.

****

Ministers are in perpetual need of war, as a means of making themselves indispensable to their master, of throwing him into difficulties from which he cannot escape without their aid, of ruining the State, if things come to the worst, as the price of keeping their own office. They are in need of it, as a means of oppressing the people on the plea of national necessity, of finding places for their creatures, of rigging the market and setting up a thousand odious monopolies. They are in need of it, as a means of gratifying their passions and driving their rivals out of favour. They are in need of it, as a means of controlling the prince and withdrawing him from court whenever a dangerous plot is formed against their power. With a lasting peace, all these resources would be gone.

****

For this, it would be essential that all, the private interests concerned, taken together; should not be stronger than the general interest, and that everyone should believe himself to see in the good of all the highest good to which he can aspire for himself. But this requires a concurrence of wisdom in so many heads, a fortuitous concourse of so many interests, such as chance can hardly be expected ever to bring about. But, in default of such spontaneous agreement, the one thing left is force; and then the question, is no longer to persuade but to compel, not to write books but to raise armies.

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From The State of War
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Land, money, men – all, in short, that can be seized as booty – these come to be the principal objects of hostilities on either side. And when this mean greed has insensibly changed the principles of men, war ends by sinking into mere brigandage; and, having started as enemies and warriors, they become by degrees tyrants and robbers.

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Nicolas de Condorcet: War, the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes

September 14, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Nicolas de Condorcet: War can never benefit the majority of individuals of a nation

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Nicolas de Condorcet
From Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind
Translator unknown

The people being more enlightened, and having resumed the right of disposing for themselves of their blood and their treasure, will learn by degrees to regard war as the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes. The first wars that will be superseded will be those into which the usurpers of sovereignty have hitherto drawn their subjects for the maintenance of rights pretendedly hereditary.

Nations will know, that they cannot become conquerors without losing their freedom; that perpetual confederations are the only means of maintaining their independance; that their object should be security, and not power. By degrees commercial prejudices will die away; a false mercantile interest will lose the terrible power of imbuing the earth with blood, and of ruining nations under the idea of enriching them. As the people of different countries will at last be drawn into closer intimacy, by the principles of politics and morality, as each, for its own advantage, will invite foreigners to an equal participation of the benefits which it may have derived either from nature or its own industry, all the causes which produce, envenom, and perpetuate national animosities, will one by one disappear, and will no more furnish to warlike insanity either fuel or pretext.

Institutions, better combined than those projects of perpetual peace which have occupied the leisure and consoled the heart of certain philosophers, will accelerate the progress of this fraternity of nations; and wars, like assassinations, will be ranked in the number of those daring atrocities, humiliating and loathsome to nature; and which set upon the country or the age whose annals are stained with them, an indelible opprobrium.

****

The people of Europe will learn in time that exclusive and chartered companies are but a tax upon the respective nation, granted for the purpose of placing a new instrument in the hands of its government for the maintenance of tyranny.

Then will the inhabitants of the European quarter of the world, satisfied with an unrestricted commerce, too enlightened as to their own rights to sport with the rights of others, respect that independence which they have hitherto violated with such audacity. Then will their establishments, instead of being filled by the creatures of power, who, availing themselves of a place or a privilege, hasten, by rapine and perfidy, to amass wealth, in order to purchase, on their return, honours and titles, be peopled with industrious men, seeking in those happy climates that ease and comfort which in their native country eluded their pursuit. There will they be retained by liberty, ambition having lost its allurements; and those settlements of robbers will then become colonies of citizens.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The advantages of peace

September 13, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

There is yet another consideration which is likely to weigh even more with men so greedy of money, as princes always are. Not only will an unbroken peace give them, as well as their subjects, every means of amassing abundant riches; they will also be spared vast expenses by the reduction of their military budget, of those innumerable fortresses, of those enormous armies, which swallow up their revenue and become daily more and more of a burden to their subjects and themselves…The result will be that the people will have to pay much less; that the prince, being much better off, will be in a position to encourage commerce, agriculture and the arts and to create useful foundations which will still further increase his subjects’ riches and his own; and, over and above all this, that the State will enjoy a security far greater than it now draws from all its armies and from all that warlike parade which drains its strength in the very bosom of peace.

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Of what use would it be to train for war, when you have no intention of ever making it? And which is the better course – to cultivate a pernicious art, or to destroy the need of it for ever? If the secret of perpetual health were discovered, would there be any sense in rejecting it, on the ground that doctors must not be deprived of the chance of gaining experience? And in making this parallel we have still to ask which of the two arts is the more beneficent in itself and the more deserving of encouragement.

****

It must be observed that we have not assumed men such as they ought to be, good, generous, disinterested and devoted to the public good from motives of pure humanity; but such as they are, unjust, grasping and setting their own interest above all things. All that I do assume in them is
understanding enough to see their own interest, and courage enough to act for their own happiness. If, in spite of all this, the project remains unrealised, that is not because it is Utopian; it is because men are crazy, and because to be sane in a world of madmen is in itself a kind of madness.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: No such thing as a successful war

September 12, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Think of the waste of men, of money, of strength in every form; think of the exhaustion in which any State is plunged by the most successful war; compare these ravages with the profit which results: and we shall find that we commonly lose where we suppose ourselves to win; that the conqueror, always enfeebled by the war, can only console himself with the thought that the conquered is still more enfeebled than himself. And even this advantage is more in appearance than reality; for the strength which has been gained upon our opponent has been lost against the neutrals who, without changing themselves, are nevertheless stronger relatively to us by all the strength that we have lost.

If all kings have not yet thrown off the folly of conquests, it would seem that the wiser of them at any rate are beginning to realise that they sometimes cost more than they are worth. Without going into a thousand distinctions which would only distract us from our purpose, we may say broadly that a prince who, in extending his frontiers, loses as many of his old subjects as he gains new ones in the process only weakens himself by his aggrandisement; because, with a larger territory to defend, he has no more soldiers to defend it. Everyone knows, however, that, as war is waged nowadays, the smallest part of the resultant loss of life is due to losses in the field.

Certainly, that is the loss which everyone sees and feels. But all the time there is taking place through the whole kingdom a loss far more serious and more irreparable than that of those who die: a loss due to those who are not born, to the increase of taxes, to the interruption of trade, to the desertion of the fields, to the neglect of their cultivation. This evil, which no one sees at first, makes itself felt in the end. And then the king is astonished to find himself so weak, as the result of making himself so strong.

****

I have nothing to say on the question of military parade because, when supported by no solid foundation either of hope or fear, such parade is mere child’s play, and kings have no business to keep dolls. I am equally silent as to the glory of conquest because, if there really were men who would break their hearts at the thought of having no one to massacre, our duty would be not to reason with such monsters but to deprive them of all means for putting their murderous frenzy into act.

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Étienne Bonnot de Condillac: Peace will not make good all the evils war has caused

September 11, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Étienne Bonnot de Condillac
Blows Directed Against Commerce: Wars
Translated by Shelagh Eltis

We have seen what freedom can achieve. It is time to sow dissension among our peoples, and to place constraints on trade: our assumptions will be the more plausible for that.

Divided by wars they form several nations which have opposing interests.

Now if we may assume that each of these nations trades freely within its boundaries we may no longer assume that they all trade freely with each other.

External trade, always hampered and sometimes suspended, will be all the less flourishing as it will be more expensive, whether from the losses to which it is exposed, or through the efforts made to sustain it.

These nations therefore do themselves mutual harm: firstly, because they each deprive themselves of the advantages which they would obtain for each other through exchanges.

Secondly, they harm themselves more, because they lay waste each others’ lands. Each time they take up arms, they destroy a stock of wealth which they could have put into circulation, and which cannot be there any more. There will be fields which warfare will not allow to be sown: there will be others, where it will not allow any harvesting. Consequently, products will diminish, and the population with them.

I want some of these nations to cover themselves with glory, with that glory which the peoples, in their stupidity, attach to conquest, and which historians, stupider still, love to celebrate to the point of boring the reader: what will be their advantage? They will rule far away in countries once populous and fertile, and now in part deserted and uncultivated. Because it is not by exterminating that they will assure their sway over previously free peoples. Let us assume that our cities are reduced to four enemy nations, more or less equally powerful, or which attempt to maintain themselves in a kind of equilibrium.

Are they equally powerful? They will hurt each other equally.

Do they try to keep themselves in a kind of balance? Two or three will join against a power whose dominance threatens to subject them, and they will hurt themselves again. The war will cost even the conquering nation provinces; because I regard as lost, provinces where the population and cultivation have been ruined or markedly damaged. Indeed, an empire which lost population and let lands fall fallow would not be the greater for having pushed back its boundaries.

But this balance, will one succeed in establishing it? Never: only false steps will be made, and anxiety will seem the sole moving force of the powers: they will confidently abandon themselves to the most ruinous projects, to carry them out in a more ruinous manner still.

Now, in this disorder, will the lands be as rich in products as when they were divided between a host of peaceful cities? They will be all the less so, as, with war taking away all freedom to trade, the surplus will cease to pass reciprocally from one nation to another. So it will not be consumed any more: now once it ceases to be consumed it ceases to reproduce itself.

While agriculture is damaged, many manufactures will collapse; and those which still exist will not have the same market any more. Normally they will only be able to sell to the nation in which they are established; and they will sell less to it, because that nation will itself be less rich.

No doubt you will say that these peoples will not always be at war. Indeed, there will be intervals of peace: but in those intervals you will not make good all the evils war has caused; and yet people will place new obstacles in the way of trade.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The scheme of founding a lasting peace is the most lofty ever conceived

September 10, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Let us admit then that the Powers of Europe stand to each other strictly in a state of war, and that all the separate treaties between them are in the nature rather of a temporary truce than a real peace whether because such treaties are seldom guaranteed by any except the contracting parties; or because the respective rights of those parties are never thoroughly determined and are therefore bound – they, or the claims which pass for rights in the eyes of Powers who recognise no earthly superior – to give rise to fresh wars as soon as a change of circumstances shall have given fresh strength to the claimants.

More than this: the public Law of Europe has never been passed or sanctioned by common agreement; it is not based upon any general principles; it varies incessantly from time to time and from place to place; it is therefore a mass of contradictions or rules which nothing but the right of the stronger can reduce to order: so that, in the absence of any sure clue to guide her, reason is bound, in every case of doubt, to obey the promptings of self-interest – which, in itself, would make war inevitable, even if all parties desired to be just.

****

With a view to answering this question, let us consider the motives by which princes are commonly led to take up arms. These motives are: either to make conquests, or to protect themselves from aggression, or to weaken a too. powerful neighbour, or to rnaintain their rights against attack, or to settle a difference which has defied friendly negotiation, or, lastly, to fulfill some treaty obligation. There is no cause or pretext of war which cannot be brought under one or other of these six heads; and it is manifest that not one of the six is left standing under the new order which I propose.

****

[T]he scheme of founding a lasting peace is the most lofty ever conceived and the most certain, if executed, to cover its author with undying glory; that such a scheme would not only do a greater service than any other to the people but also confer higher honour upon the Sovereign; that this is the only ideal not stained with blood, rapine, curses and tears; in a word, that the surest way for a Sovereign to raise himself above the common herd of kings is to labour for the good of the community.

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Giambattista Vico: Mars, the vilest of the gods

September 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

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Giambattista Vico
From New Science
Translation by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch

Mars, in a stern reproof reported by Homer, is called by Jove “The vilest of all the gods”…

Wherever a people has grown savage in warfare so that human laws have no longer any place among it, the only powerful means of reducing it is religion.

This axiom establishes the fact that divine providence initiated the process by which the fierce and violent were brought from their outlaw state to humanity and entered upon national life. It did so by awaking in them a confused idea of divinity, which they in their ignorance attributed to that to which it did not belong. Thus through the terror of this imagined divinity, they began to put themselves in some order.

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Since the door to honor in the popular commonwealth is wide open by law to the greedy multitude which is in command, in times of peace nothing remains but to struggle for power, not by law but by arms, and use the power to make laws with a view to increase of wealth…The result is civil wars at home and unjust wars abroad at the same time.

****

{The] Roman plebeians were nexi or bondsmen of the nobles and…were bound to serve them as impressed vassals at their own expense in war; a duty the Roman plebs still complained of under what has supposed to have been popular liberty. These must have been the first tribute-payers (assidui), who fought at their own expense (suis assibus militabant); but they were soldiers not of fortune but of harsh necessity.

****

What of the heroes of this time [Roman republic]?…[W]hat did any of them do for the poor and unhappy plebs? Assuredly they did but increase their burdens by war, plunge them deeper in a sea of usury, in order to bury them to a greater depth in the private prisons of the nobles, where they were beaten with rods on their backs like abject slaves. And if anyone in this period of Roman virtue attempted to relieve the lot of the plebs with some sort of agrarian law or grain law, he was accused of treason and sent to his death.

****

Wars like the ancient ones were all wars of religion, which, for reason we have taken as the first principle of this Science, made them always extremely bitter.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

September 7, 2018 Leave a comment
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Erasmus: Selections on war

September 6, 2018 Leave a comment
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: No nobler, more beautiful scheme than lasting peace

September 5, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Never did the mind of man conceive a scheme nobler, more beautiful, or more useful than that of a lasting peace between all the peoples of Europe. Never did a writer better deserve a respectful hearing than he who suggests means for putting that scheme in practice. What man, if he has a spark of goodness, but must feel his heart glow within him at so fair a prospect? Who would not prefer the illusions of a generous spirit, which overleaps all obstacles, to that dry, repulsive reason whose indifference to the welfare of mankind is ever the chief obstacle to all schemes for its attainment? I doubt not that many readers will forearm themselves with scepticism, as the best defence against the pleasure of yielding to conviction. I pity the melancholy mood which makes them take obstinacy for wisdom. On the other hand, I trust that every generous spirit will share the thrill of emotion with which I take up the pen on a subject which concerns mankind so closely. I see in my mind’s eye all men joined in the bonds of love. I call before my thoughts a gentle and peaceful brotherhood, all living in unbroken harmony, all guided by the same principles, all finding their happiness in the happiness of all. And, as I dwell upon this touching picture, the idea of an imaginary happiness will cheat me for a few moments into the enjoyment of a real one.

***

If the social order were really, as is pretended, the work not of passion but of reason, should we have been so slow to see that, in the shaping of it, either too much, or too little, has been done for our happiness? that, each one of us being in the civil state as regards our fellow citizens, but in the state of nature as regards’ the rest of the world, we have taken all kinds of precautions against private wars only to kindle national wars a thousand times more terrible? and that in joining a particular group of men, we have really declared ourselves the enemies of the whole race?

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Nicolas de Condorcet: War can never benefit the majority of individuals of a nation

September 4, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Nicolas de Condorcet: War, the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes

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Nicolas de Condorcet
From On The Benefits of the American Revolution with Respect to Preservation of Peace in Europe
Translated by Guillaume Ansart

The Abbé de Saint-Pierre had dared to believe that one day men would be reasonable enough for nations to consent by common agreement to forego the barbaric right to wage war and refer the discussion of their claims, interests or grievances to the judgment of peaceful mediators. Undoubtedly, this is not purely a visionary idea; it is so clearly demonstrated that war can never be to the benefit of the majority of the individuals of a nation! Why should men, who for so long have agreed to indulge in absurd and fatal errors, not concur one day to adopt simple and beneficial truths?…By creating more union between peoples in peacetime, such a tribunal [for mediation] could smother the seeds of war and destroy the germs of hatred as well as the kind of animosity of one people towards another which predisposes nations to war and causes them to seize on every pretext for it. Often, ambitious men who advocate war would not dare propose it without flattering themselves that they can rouse popular opinion in their favor – without the support of the very people whose blood and means of subsistence they squander…

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: Disturbing the peace of the world for domestic benefits

September 2, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

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Johann Gottfried von Herder
From Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
Translated by T.O. Churchill

[The] patricians and plebeians were almost always at variance, so that the senate found it necessary to create wars for the purpose of employing the unruly multitude, or some turbulent leader, abroad that peace might be preserved at home…[As] the senate itself was often closely beset with dangers and frequently found victories or the fame of victories necessary for its support, and as every daring patrician who wished the people to espouse his cause stood in need of donations, games, celebrity and triumphs which war alone, or for the most part, could furnish, this divided, restless government was a cause of disturbing the peace of the world and keeping it in commotion for centuries; for out of regard to its own happiness, no orderly state, tranquil in itself, would have been the actor of such a fearful tragedy.

****

Impelled by pride or necessity and favoured by various circumstances, the Romans were engaged with them [other Italian cities] in arduous, bloody wars for five centuries…Once chained to Rome’s brazen yoke, they were compelled for centuries, as subjects or allies, to spill their blood in her service and for her profit and glory, not their own. Once chained to this yoke, notwithstanding all the privileges conferred on this people or on that, every individual was at last reduced to seek fortune, honour, wealth and justice in Rome alone so that in a few centuries the great city became the grave of Italy.

****

How foul to you must appear your honour, how bloody your laurels, how base and inhuman your exterminating arts! Rome is no more: and when it did exist the feelings of every worthy man must have whispered to him that all these monstrous, ambitious victories would call down vengeance and destruction on his country.

The law of retaliation is an eternal ordinance of nature. As in a balance neither scale can be depressed without the ascent of the other; so no political equilibrium can be destroyed, no sin against the rights of nations and of mankind can be committed without avenging itself; and the more the measure is heaped, the more tremendous will be its fall.

****

[Even] without luxury, without plebeians, without a senate and without slaves, the military spirit of Rome alone must have ultimately destroyed it; and that sword, which it so often drew against innocent cities and nations, have returned into its own bowels. But here all history speaks for me. When the legions, unsatiated with spoil, found nothing more to plunder, and on the frontiers of Parthia and Germany saw an end to their fame, what could they do but turn back and devour the parent state?

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Erasmus: The Soldier and the Carthusian

September 2, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Erasmus: Selections on war

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Desiderius Erasmus
From Colloquy: The Soldier and the Carthusian
Translated by N. Bailey

The Argument.
This Colloquy sets out to the Life, the Madness of young Men that run into the Wars, and the Life of a pious Carthusian, which without the love of Study, can’t but be melancholy and unpleasant. The Manners of Soldiers, the Manners and Diet of Carthusians. Advice in chusing a Way of getting a Livelihood. The Conveniency of a single Life, to be at Leisure for Reading and Meditation. Wicked Soldiers oftentimes butcher Men for a pitiful Reward. The daily Danger of a Soldier’s Life.

SOLDIER.
Good Morrow, my Brother.

CARTHUSIAN.
Good Morrow to you, dear Cousin.

Sol.
You put too much Confidence in Habits, Meats, Forms of Prayer, and outward Ceremonies, and neglect the Study of Gospel Religion.

Cart.
It is none of my Business to judge what others do: As to myself, I place no Confidence in these Things, I attribute nothing to them; but I put my Confidence in Purity of Mind, and in Christ himself.

Sol.
Why do you observe these Things then?

Cart.
That I may be at Peace with my Brethren, and give no Body Offence. I would give no Offence to any one for the Sake of these trivial Things, which it is but a very little Trouble to observe. As we are Men, let us wear what Cloaths we will. Men are so humoursome, the Agreement or Disagreement in the most minute Matters, either procures or destroys Concord. The shaving of the Head, or Colour of the Habit does not indeed, of themselves, recommend me to God: But what would the People say, if I should let my Hair grow, or put on your Habit? I have given you my Reasons for my Way of Life; now, pray, in your Turn, give me your Reasons for yours, and tell me, were there no good Physicians in your Quarter, when you listed yourself for a Soldier, leaving a young Wife and Children at Home, and was hired for a pitiful Pay to cut Men’s Throats, and that with the Hazard of your own Life too? For your Business did not lie among Mushrooms and Poppies, but armed Men. What do you think is a more unhappy Way of living, for a poor Pay, to murder a Fellow Christian, who never did you Harm, and to run yourself Body and Soul into eternal Damnation?

Sol.
Why, it is lawful to kill an Enemy.

Cart.
Perhaps it may be so, if he invades your native Country: Nay, and it is pious too, to fight for your Wife, Children, your Parents and Friends, your Religion and Liberties, and the publick Peace. But what is all that to your fighting for Money? If you had been knocked on the Head, I would not have given a rotten Nut to redeem the very Soul of you.

Sol.
No?

Cart.
No, by Christ, I would not. Now which do you think is the harder Task, to be obedient to a good Man, which we call Prior, who calls us to Prayers, and holy Lectures, the Hearing of the saving Doctrine, and to sing to the Glory of God: Or, to be under the Command of some barbarous Officer, who often calls you out to fatiguing Marches at Midnight, and sends you out, and commands you back at his Pleasure, exposes you to the Shot of great Guns, assigns you a Station where you must either kill or be killed?

Sol.
There are more Evils than you have mentioned yet.

Cart.
If I shall happen to deviate from the Discipline of my Order, my Punishment is only Admonition, or some such slight Matter: But in War, if you do any Thing contrary to the General’s Orders, you must either be hang’d for it, or run the Gantlope; for it would be a Favour to have your Head cut off.

Sol.
I can’t deny what you say to be true.

Cart.
And now your Habit bespeaks, that you han’t brought much Money Home, after all your brave Adventures.

Sol.
As for Money, I have not had a Farthing this good While; nay, I have gotten a good Deal into Debt, and for that Reason I come hither out of my Way, that you might furnish me with some Money to bear my Charges.

Cart.
I wish you had come out of your Way hither, when you hurried yourself into that wicked Life of a Soldier. But how come you so bare?

Sol.
Do you ask that? Why, whatsoever I got of Pay, Plunder, Sacrilege, Rapine and Theft, was spent in Wine, Whores and Gaming.

Cart.
O miserable Creature! And all this While your Wife, for whose Sake God commanded you to leave Father and Mother, being forsaken by you, sat grieving at Home with her young Children. And do you think this is Living, to be involved in so many Miseries, and to wallow in so great Iniquities?

Sol.
The having so many Companions of my Wickedness, made me insensible of my Evil.

Cart.
But I’m afraid your Wife won’t know you again.

Sol.
Why so?

Cart.
Because your Scars have made you the Picture of quite another Man. What a Trench have you got here in your Forehead? It looks as if you had had a Horn cut out.

Sol.
Nay, if you did but know the Matter, you would congratulate me upon this Scar.

Cart.
Why so?

Sol.
I was within a Hair’s Breadth of losing my Life.

Cart.
Why, what Mischief was there?

Sol.
As one was drawing a Steel Cross-bow, it broke, and a Splinter of it hit me in the Forehead.

Cart.
You have got a Scar upon your Cheek that is above a Span long.

Sol.
I got this Wound in a Battel.

Cart.
In what Battel, in the Field?

Sol.
No, but in a Quarrel that arose at Dice.

Cart.
And I see I can’t tell what Sort of Rubies on your Chin.

Sol.
O they are nothing.

Cart.
I suspect that you have had the Pox.

Sol.
You guess very right, Brother. It was the third Time I had that Distemper, and it had like to have cost me my Life.

Cart.
But how came it, that you walk so stooping, as if you were ninety Years of Age; or like a Mower, or as if your Back was broke?

Sol.
The Disease has contracted my Nerves to that Degree.

Cart.
In Truth you have undergone a wonderful Metamorphosis: Formerly you were a Horseman, and now of a Centaur, you are become a Kind of semi-reptile Animal.

Sol.
This is the Fortune of War.

Cart.
Nay, ’tis the Madness of your own Mind. But what Spoils will you carry Home to your Wife and Children? The Leprosy? for that Scab is only a Species of the Leprosy; and it is only not accounted so, because it is the Disease in Fashion, and especially among Noblemen: And for this very Reason, it should be the more carefully avoided. And now you will infect with it those that ought to be the dearest to you of any in the World, and you yourself will all your Days carry about a rotten Carcass.

Sol.
Prithee, Brother, have done chiding me. I have enough upon me without Chiding.

Cart.
As to those Calamities, I have hitherto taken Notice of, they only relate to the Body: But what a Sort of a Soul do you bring back with you? How putrid and ulcered? With how many Wounds is that sore?

Sol.
Just as clean as a Paris common Shore in Maburtus’s Road, or a common House of Office.

Cart.
I am afraid it stinks worse in the Nostrils of God and his Angels.

Sol.
Well, but I have had Chiding enough, now speak to the Matter, of something to bear my Charges.

Cart.
I have nothing to give you, but I’ll go and try what the Prior will do.

Sol.
If any Thing was to be given, your Hands would be ready to receive it; but now there are a great many Difficulties in the Way, when something is to be paid.

Cart.
As to what others do, let them look to that, I have no Hands, either to give or take Money: But we’ll talk more of these Matters after Dinner, for it is now Time to sit down at Table.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: War springs from war and gives rise to another in turn

September 1, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

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Johann Gottfried von Herder
From Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
Translated by T.O. Churchill

Whenever the empire of humanity shall be established among mankind, the mad spirit of conquest which necessarily destroys itself in a few generations will immediately be renounced at her dictates. You drive men like cattle; and join them together as if they were inanimate substances without reflecting that they have minds and that perhaps the last, the outermost piece of the fabric will break off and crush the builder. A kingdom consisting of a single nation is a family, a well-regulated household: it reposes on itself, for it is founded by Nature and stands and falls by time alone. An empire formed by forcing together a hundred nations and a hundred and fifty provinces is no body public, but a monster.

***

What has been proposed in modern times as the sole mean of establishing perpetual peace throughout Europe, a tribunal of amphictyons, existed formerly among the Greeks; and indeed near the throne of the god of truth and wisdom who sanctified it by his authority.

****

A monarchy framed by wandering tribes whose political system as a continuation of their former mode of life will scarcely be of long duration: it ravages and subjugates, till at last itself is destroyed: the capture of the metropolis, or frequently the death of a king alone is sufficient to drop the curtain on the predatory scene. Thus it was with Babylon and Nineveh, with Ecbatana and Persepolis and so it is with Persia still. The empire of the great moguls in Hindostan is nearly at an end: and that of the Turks will not be lasting if they continue Chaldeans, that is foreign conquerors, and do not establish their government on a more moral foundation.

****

The Roman generals were frequently consuls whose military and civil offices usually continued but a year: accordingly they hastened to return triumphant and their successors were eager to emulate their honours. Hence the incredible progress of Roman wars: one sprang from another and gave rise to another in return. Occasions for future campaigns were reserved till the present [one] was ended; and reserved to accumulate with usury as a capital of spoil, success, and glory.

****

In vain did Numa erect the temples of Janus and Public Faith: in vain did he set up terminal gods and celebrate a boundary feast. These peaceable institutions were obeyed only during his life: for Rome, accustomed to plunder by the thirty years victories of her first ruler [Romulus], thought she could not pay more acceptable homage to Jove than by offering him the spoils of war.

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Erasmus: Of a Soldier’s Life

August 31, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Erasmus: Selections on war

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Desiderius Erasmus
From Colloquy: Of a Soldier’s Life
Translated by N. Bailey

The Argument.The wicked Life of Soldiers is here reprehended, and shewn to be very miserable: That War is Confusion, and a Sink of all manner of Vices, in as much as in it there is no Distinction made betwixt Things sacred and profane. The Hope of Plunder allures many to become Soldiers. The Impieties of a Military Life are here laid open, by this Confession of a Soldier, that Youth may be put out of Conceit of going into the Army.

HANNO, THRASYMACHUS

HANNO.
How comes it about that you that went away a Mercury, come back a Vulcan?

THRASYMACHUS.
What do you talk to me of your Mercuries and your Vulcans for?

Ha.
Because you seem’d to be ready to fly when you went away, but you’re come limping Home.

Thr.
I’m come back like a Soldier then.

Ha.
You a Soldier, that would out-run a Stag if an Enemy were at your Heels.

Thr.
The Hope of Booty made me valiant.

Ha.
Well, have you brought Home a good Deal of Plunder then?

Thr.
Empty Pockets.

Ha.
Then you were the lighter for travelling.

Thr.
But I was heavy loaden with Sin.

Ha.
That’s heavy Luggage indeed, if the Prophet says right, who calls Sin Lead.

Thr.
I have seen and had a Hand in more Villanies this Campaign than in the whole Course of my Life before.

Ha.
How do you like a Soldier’s Life?

Thr.
There is no Course of Life in the World more wicked or more wretched.

Ha.
What then must be in the Minds of those People, that for the Sake of a little Money, and some out of Curiosity, make as much Haste to a Battel as to a Banquet?

Thr.
In Truth, I can think no other but they are possess’d; for if the Devil were not in them they would never anticipate their Fate.

Ha.
So one would think, for if you’d put ’em upon any honest Business, they’ll scarce stir a Foot in it for any Money. But tell me, how went the Battel? Who got the better on’t?

Thr.
There was such a Hallooing, Hurly-burly, Noise of Guns, Trumpets and Drums, Neighing of Horses, and Shouting of Men, that I was so far from knowing what others were a doing, that I scarcely knew where I was myself.

Ha.
How comes it about then that others, after a Fight is over, do paint you out every Circumstance so to the Life, and tell you what such an Officer said, and what t’other did, as tho’ they had been nothing but Lookers on all the Time, and had been every where at the same Time?

Thr.
It is my Opinion that they lye confoundedly. I can tell you what was done in my own Tent, but as to what was done in the Battel, I know nothing at all of that.

Ha.
Don’t you know how you came to be lame neither?

Thr.
Scarce that upon my Honour, but I suppose my Knee was hurt by a Stone, or a Horse–heel, or so.

Ha.
Well, but I can tell you.

Thr.
You tell me? Why, has any Body told you?

Ha.
No, but I guess.

Thr.
Tell me then.

Ha.
When you were running away in a Fright, you fell down and hit it against a Stone.

Thr.
Let me die if you han’t hit the Nail on the Head.

Ha.
Go, get you Home, and tell your Wife of your Exploits.

Thr.
She’ll read me a Juniper-Lecture for coming Home in such a Pickle.

Ha.
But what Restitution will you make for what you have stolen?

Thr.
That’s made already.

Ha.
To whom?

Thr.
Why, to Whores, Sutlers, and Gamesters.

Ha.
That’s like a Soldier for all the World, it’s but just that what’s got over the Devil’s Back should be spent under his Belly.

Ha.
But I hope you have kept your Fingers all this While from Sacrilege?

Thr.
There’s nothing sacred in Hostility, there we neither spare private Houses nor Churches.

Ha.
How will you make Satisfaction?

Thr.
They say there is no Satisfaction to be made for what is done in War, for all Things are lawful there.

Ha.
You mean by the Law of Arms, I suppose?

Thr.
You are right.

Ha.
But that Law is the highest Injustice. It was not the Love of your Country, but the Love of Booty that made you a Soldier.

Thr.
I confess so, and I believe very few go into the Army with any better Design.

Ha.
It is indeed some Excuse to be mad with the greater Part of Mankind.

Thr.
I have heard a Parson say in his Pulpit that War was lawful.

Ha.
Pulpits indeed are the Oracles of Truth. But War may be lawful for a Prince, and yet not so for you.

Thr.
I have heard that every Man must live by his Trade.

Ha.
A very honourable Trade indeed to burn Houses, rob Churches, ravish Nuns, plunder the Poor, and murder the Innocent!

Thr.
Butchers are hired to kill Beasts; and why is our Trade found Fault with who are hired to kill Men?

Ha.
But was you never thoughtful what should become of your Soul if you happen’d to be kill’d in the Battel?

Thr.
Not very much; I was very well satisfied in my Mind, having once for all commended myself to St. Barbara.

Ha.
And did she take you under her Protection?

Thr.
I fancied so, for methought she gave me a little Nod.

Ha.
What Time was it? In the Morning?

Thr.
No, no, ’twas after Supper.

Ha.
And by that Time I suppose the Trees seem’d to walk too?

Thr.
How this Man guesses every Thing! But St. Christopher was the Saint I most depended on, whose Picture I had always in my Eye.

Ha.
What in your Tent?

Thr.
We had drawn him with Charcoal upon our Sailcloth.

Ha.
Then to be sure that Christopher the Collier was a sure Card to trust to? But without jesting, I don’t see how you can expect to be forgiven all these Villanies, unless you go to Rome.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: Divine law ordains more doves and sheep than lions and tigers

August 30, 2018 1 comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

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Johann Gottfried von Herder
From Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
Translated by T.O. Churchill

It is a divine law in the animal kingdom that not so many lions and tigers are capable of existence, and actually exist, as sheep and doves: in history we find the same beneficent disposition of things; so that we have a much smaller number of Nebuchadnezzars, Cambyses, Alexanders, Syllas, Attilas, and Genghis-Khans, than of less ferocious generals, or quiet peaceful monarchs. To the production of the former either very inordinate passions and faulty natural dispositions are requisite, whence they appear to the Earth as fiery meteors instead of associate planets; or singular circumstances of education, rare occurrences of early habit or the imperious demands of hostile, political necessity, stir up these scourges of divine wrath, as they are called, against mankind and keep up their relentless swing. If it be true, therefore, that Nature deviates not from her course on our account, when, among the innumerable varieties of form and temperament she produces she occasionally exhibits to the World men of unruly passions, spirits of destruction, not of preservation; still it remains in men’s own power not to entrust their flocks to these wolves and tigers and even to tame them by the laws of humanity. The wild ox no longer appears in Europe, which formerly enjoyed its forest domains in every part of it; and Rome at length found it difficult to procure the number of African monsters she required for her amphitheatres. In proportion as lands are cultivated, deserts are diminished and their wild inhabitants become rarer. In the human species the increasing civilization of man has had a similar effect; his disposition to unruly passions giving way with his decrease of strength, a more delicate creature was formed. With all this, irregularities are possible; and these frequently rage more perniciously from being founded on infantile weakness, as the examples of many Roman and Eastern despots show: however, as a spoiled child is always more easy to restrain than a bloodthirsty tiger, Nature, with her corrective regulations has taught us the way to rule the lawless and tame the insatiable savage by increasing diligence. If there be no longer regions of dragons to employ the arms of the giants of antiquity we require no Herculean destructive powers against men themselves. Heroes of this stamp may pursue their bloody game on Caucasus, or in Africa, and there seek new minotaurs to encounter…

***

One passion kicks up the scale of reason, another drives it down, and thus history goes on for years and ages, before the period of tranquility returns. Thus Alexander destroyed the equilibrium of an extensive region of the World; and it was long after his death before the storm subsided. Thus Rome disturbed the peace of the Globe for more than a thousand years; and half a World of savage nations was requisite for the slow restoration of its quiet. The peaceable progress of an asymptote could by no means be expected, in these convulsions of countries and nations.

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Erasmus: What is it that moves people to be so hot for war? What will they get by it?

August 29, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Erasmus: Selections on war

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Desiderius Erasmus
From Colloquy: Charon
Translated by N. Bailey

Alastor.
But what was it that Ossa [Rumor] told you?

Charon.
That the three Monarchs of the World were bent upon one another’s Destruction with a mortal Hatred, and that there was no Part of Christendom free from the Rage of War; for these three have drawn all the rest in to be engag’d in the War with them. They are all so haughty, that not one of them will in the least submit to the other: Nor are the Danes, the Poles, the Scots, nor the Turks at Quiet, but are preparing to make dreadful Havock. The Plague rages every where, in Spain, Britain, Italy, and France; and more than all, there is a new Fire sprung out of the Variety of Opinions, which has so corrupted the Minds of all Men, that there is no such Thing as sincere Friendship any where; But Brother is at Enmity with Brother, and Husband and Wife cannot agree. And it is to be hop’d, that this Distraction will be a glorious Destruction of Mankind, if these Controversies, that are now managed by the Tongue and the Pen, come once to be decided by Arms.

Al.
All that Fame has told you is very true; for I myself, having been a constant Companion of the Furies, have with these Eyes seen more than all this, and that they never at any Time have approv’d themselves more worthy of their Name, than now.

Ch.
But there is Danger, lest some Good Spirit should start up, and of a sudden exhort them to Peace: And Men’s Minds are variable, for I have heard, that among the Living there is one Polygraphus [Erasmus], who is continually, by his Writing, inveighing against Wars, and exhorting to Peace.

Al.
Ay, ay, but he has a long Time been talking to the Deaf. He once wrote a Sort of Hue and Cry after Peace, that was banish’d or driven away; and after that, an Epitaph upon Peace defunct. But then, on the other Hand, there are others that advance our Cause no less than the Furies do themselves.

Ch.
Who are they?

Al.
They are a certain Sort of Animals in black and white Vestments, Ash-colour’d Coats, and various other Dresses, that are always hovering about the Courts of Princes, and are continually instilling into their Ears the Love of War, and exhorting the Nobility and common People to it, haranguing them in their Sermons, that it is a just, holy and religious War. And that which would make you stand in admiration at the Confidence of these Men, is the Cry of both Parties. In France they preach it up, that God is on the French Side, and they can never be overcome, that have God for their Protector. In England and Spain the Cry is, the War is not the King’s, but God’s; therefore, if they do but fight like Men, they depend upon getting the Victory; and if any one should chance to fall in the Battle, he will not die, but fly directly up into Heaven, Arms and all.

***

Ch.
But what is it that moves these People to be so hot for War? What will they get by it?

Al.

Because they get more by those that die, than those that live. There are last Wills and Testaments, Funeral Obsequies, Bulls, and a great many other Articles of no despicable Profit. And in the last Place, they had rather live in a Camp, than in their Cells. War breeds a great many Bishops, who were not thought good for any Thing in a Time of Peace.

Ch.
Well, they understand their Business.

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Erasmus: Against War

August 28, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Erasmus: Selections on war

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Desiderius Erasmus
Against War
Dulce Bellum Inexpertis
Translator unknown

It is both an elegant proverb, and among all others, by the writings of many excellent authors, full often and solemnly used, Dulce bellum inexpertis, that is to say, War is sweet to them that know it not. There be some things among mortal men’s businesses, in the which how great danger and hurt there is, a man cannot perceive till he make a proof. The love and friendship of a great man is sweet to them that be not expert: he that hath had thereof experience, is afraid. It seemeth to be a gay and a glorious thing, to strut up and down among the nobles of the court, and to be occupied in the king’s business; but old men, to whom that thing by long experience is well known, do gladly abstain themselves from such felicity. It seemeth a pleasant thing to be in love with a young damsel; but that is unto them that have not yet perceived how much grief and bitterness is in such love. So after this manner of fashion, this proverb may be applied to every business that is adjoined with great peril and with many evils: the which no man will take on hand, but he that is young and wanteth experience of things.

Aristotle, in his book of Rhetoric, showeth the cause why youth is more bold, and contrariwise old age more fearful: for unto young men lack of experience is cause of great boldness, and to the other, experience of many griefs engendereth fear and doubting. Then if there be anything in the world that should be taken in hand with fear and doubting, yea, that ought by all manner of means to be fled, to be withstood with prayer, and to be clean avoided, verily it is war; than which nothing is either more wicked, or more wretched, or that more farther destroyeth, or that never hand cleaveth sorer to, or doth more hurt, or is more horrible, and briefly to speak, nothing doth worse become a man (I will not say a Christian man) than war. And yet it is a wonder to speak of, how nowadays in every place, how lightly, and how for every trifling matter, it is taken in hand, how outrageously and barbarously it is gested and done, not only of heathen people, but also of Christian men; not only of secular men, but also of priests and bishops; not only of young men and of them that have no experience, but also of old men and of those that so often have had experience; not only of the common and movable vulgar people, but most specially of the princes, whose duty had been, by wisdom and reason, to set in a good order and to pacify the light and hasty movings of the foolish multitude. Nor there lack neither lawyers, nor yet divines, the which are ready with their firebrands to kindle these things so abominable, and they encourage them that else were cold, and they privily provoke those to it that were weary thereof. And by these means it is come to that pass that war is a thing now so well accepted, that men wonder at him that is not pleased therewith. It is so much approved, that it is counted a wicked thing (and I had almost said heresy) to reprove this one thing, the which as it is above all other things most mischievous, so it is most wretched. But how more justly should this be wondered at, what evil spirit, what pestilence, what mischief, and what madness put first in man’s mind a thing so beyond measure beastly, that this most pleasant and reasonable creature Man, the which Nature hath brought forth to peace and benevolence, which one alone she hath brought forth to the help and succour of all other, should with so wild wilfulness, with so mad rages, run headlong one to destroy another? At the which thing he shall also much more marvel, whosoever would withdraw his mind from the opinions of the common people, and will turn it to behold the very pure strength and nature of things; and will apart behold with philosophical eyes the image of man on the one side, and the picture of war on the other side.

Then first of all if one would consider well but the behaviour and shape of man’s body shall he not forthwith perceive that Nature, or rather God, hath shaped this creature, not to war, but to friendship, not to destruction, but to health, not to wrong, but to kindness and benevolence? For whereas Nature hath armed all other beasts with their own armour, as the violence of the bulls she hath armed with horns, the ramping lion with claws; to the boar she hath given the gnashing tusks; she hath armed the elephant with a long trump snout, besides his great huge body and hardness of the skin; she hath fenced the crocodile with a skin as hard as a plate; to the dolphin fish she hath given fins instead of a dart; the porcupine she defendeth with thorns; the ray and thornback with sharp prickles; to the cock she hath given strong spurs; some she fenceth with a shell, some with a hard hide, as it were thick leather, or bark of a tree; some she provideth to save by swiftness of flight, as doves; and to some she hath given venom instead of a weapon; to some she hath given a much horrible and ugly look, she hath given terrible eyes and grunting voice; and she hath also set among some of them continual dissension and debate – man alone she hath brought forth all naked, weak, tender, and without any armour, with most soft flesh and smooth skin. There is nothing at all in all his members that may seem to be ordained to war, or to any violence. I will not say at this time, that where all other beasts, anon as they are brought forth, they are able of themselves to get their food. Man alone cometh so forth, that a long season after he is born, he dependeth altogether on the help of others. He can neither speak nor go, nor yet take meat; he desireth help only by his infant crying: so that a man may, at the least way, by this conject, that this creature alone was born all to love and amity, which specially increaseth and is fast knit together by good turns done eftsoons of one to another. And for this cause Nature would, that a man should not so much thank her, for the gift of life, which she hath given unto him, as he should thank kindness and benevolence, whereby he might evidently understand himself, that he was altogether dedicate and bounden to the gods of graces, that is to say, to kindness, benevolence, and amity. And besides this Nature hath given unto man a countenance not terrible and loathly, as unto other brute beasts; but meek and demure, representing the very tokens of love and benevolence. She hath given him amiable eyes, and in them assured marks of the inward mind. She hath ordained him arms to clip and embrace. She hath given him the wit and understanding to kiss: whereby the very minds and hearts of men should be coupled together, even as though they touched each other. Unto man alone she hath given laughing, a token of good cheer and gladness. To man alone she hath given weeping tears, as it were a pledge or token of meekness and mercy. Yea, and she hath given him a voice not threatening and horrible, as unto other brute beasts, but amiable and pleasant. Nature not yet content with all this, she hath given unto man alone the commodity of speech and reasoning: the which things verily may specially both get and nourish benevolence, so that nothing at all should be done among men by violence.

She hath endued man with hatred of solitariness, and with love of company. She hath utterly sown in man the very seeds of benevolence. She hath so done, that the selfsame thing, that is most wholesome, should be most sweet and delectable. For what is more delectable than a friend? And again, what thing is more necessary? Moreover, if a man might lead all his life most profitably without any meddling with other men, yet nothing would seem pleasant without a fellow: except a man would cast off all humanity, and forsaking his own kind would become a beast.

Besides all this, Nature hath endued man with knowledge of liberal sciences and a fervent desire of knowledge: which thing as it doth most specially withdraw man’s wit from all beastly wildness, so hath it a special grace to get and knit together love and friendship. For I dare boldly say, that neither affinity nor yet kindred doth bind the minds of men together with straiter and surer bands of amity, than doth the fellowship of them that be learned in good letters and honest studies. And above all this, Nature hath divided among men by a marvellous variety the gifts, as well of the soul as of the body, to the intent truly that every man might find in every singular person one thing or other, which they should either love or praise for the excellency thereof; or else greatly desire and make much of it, for the need and profit that cometh thereof. Finally she hath endowed man with a spark of a godly mind: so that though he see no reward, yet of his own courage he delighteth to do every man good: for unto God it is most proper and natural, by his benefit, to do everybody good. Else what meaneth it, that we rejoice and conceive in our minds no little pleasure when we perceive that any creature is by our means preserved.

Moreover God hath ordained man in this world, as it were the very image of himself, to the intent, that he, as it were a god on earth, should provide for the wealth of all creatures. And this thing the very brute beasts do also perceive, for we may see, that not only the tame beasts, but also the leopards, lions, and other more fierce and wild, when they be in any great jeopardy, they flee to man for succour. So man is, when all things fail, the last refuge to all manner of creatures. He is unto them all the very assured altar and sanctuary.

I have here painted out to you the image of man as well as I can. On the other side (if it like you) against the figure of Man, let us portray the fashion and shape of War.

Now, then, imagine in thy mind, that thou dost behold two hosts of barbarous people, of whom the look is fierce and cruel, and the voice horrible; the terrible and fearful rustling and glistering of their harness and weapons; the unlovely murmur of so huge a multitude; the eyes sternly menacing; the bloody blasts and terrible sounds of trumpets and clarions; the thundering of the guns, no less fearful than thunder indeed, but much more hurtful; the frenzied cry and clamour, the furious and mad running together, the outrageous slaughter, the cruel chances of them that flee and of those that are stricken down and slain, the heaps of slaughters, the fields overflowed with blood, the rivers dyed red with man’s blood. And it chanceth oftentimes, that the brother fighteth with the brother, one kinsman with another, friend against friend; and in that common furious desire ofttimes one thrusteth his weapon quite through the body of another that never gave him so much as a foul word. Verily, this tragedy containeth so many mischiefs, that it would abhor any man’s heart to speak thereof. I will let pass to speak of the hurts which are in comparison of the other but light and common, as the treading down and destroying of the corn all about, the burning of towns, the villages fired, the driving away of cattle, the ravishing of maidens, the old men led forth in captivity, the robbing of churches, and all things confounded and full of thefts, pillages, and violence. Neither I will not speak now of those things which are wont to follow the most happy and most just war of all.

The poor commons pillaged, the nobles overcharged; so many old men of their children bereaved, yea, and slain also in the slaughter of their children; so many old women destitute, whom sorrow more cruelly slayeth than the weapon itself; so many honest wives become widows, so many children fatherless, so many lamentable houses, so many rich men brought to extreme poverty. And what needeth it here to speak of the destruction of good manners, since there is no man but knoweth right well that the universal pestilence of all mischievous living proceedeth at once from war. Thereof cometh despising of virtue and godly living; thereof cometh, that the laws are neglected and not regarded; thereof cometh a prompt and a ready stomach, boldly to do every mischievous deed. Out of this fountain spring so huge great companies of thieves, robbers, sacrilegers, and murderers. And what is most grievous of all, this mischievous pestilence cannot keep herself within her bounds; but after it is begun in some one corner, it doth not only (as a contagious disease) spread abroad and infect the countries near adjoining to it, but also it draweth into that common tumult and troublous business the countries that be very far off, either for need, or by reason of affinity, or else by occasion of some league made. Yea and moreover, one war springeth of another: of a dissembled war there cometh war indeed, and of a very small, a right great war hath risen. Nor it chanceth oftentimes none otherwise in these things than it is feigned of the monster, which lay in the lake or pond called Lerna.

For these causes, I trow, the old poets, the which most sagely perceived the power and nature of things, and with most meet feignings covertly shadowed the same, have left in writing, that war was sent out of hell: nor every one of the Furies was not meet and convenient to bring about this business, but the most pestilent and mischievous of them all was chosen out for the nonce, which hath a thousand names, and a thousand crafts to do hurt. She being armed with a thousand serpents, bloweth before her her fiendish trumpet. Pan with furious ruffling encumbereth every place. Bellona shaketh her furious flail. And then the wicked furiousness himself, when he hath undone all knots and broken all bonds, rusheth out with bloody mouth horrible to behold.

The grammarians perceived right well these things, of the which some will, that war have his name by contrary meaning of the word Bellum, that is to say fair, because it hath nothing good nor fair. Nor bellum, that is for to say war, is none otherwise called Bellum, that is to say fair, than the furies are called Eumenides, that is to say meek, because they are wilful and contrary to all meekness. And some grammarians think rather, that bellum, war, should be derived out of this word Belva, that is for to say, a brute beast: forasmuch as it belongeth to brute beasts, and not unto men, to run together, each to destroy each other. But it seemeth to me far to pass all wild and all brute beastliness, to fight together with weapons.

First, for there are many of the brute beasts, each in his kind, that agree and live in a gentle fashion together, and they go together in herds and flocks, and each helpeth to defend the other. Nor is it the nature of all wild beasts to fight, for some are harmless, as does and hares. But they that are the most fierce of all, as lions, wolves, and tigers, do not make war among themselves as we do. One dog eateth not another. The lions, though they be fierce and cruel, yet they fight not among themselves. One dragon is in peace with another. And there is agreement among poisonous serpents. But unto man there is no wild or cruel beast more hurtful than man.

Again, when the brute beasts fight, they fight with their own natural armour: we men, above nature, to the destruction of men, arm ourselves with armour, invented by craft of the devil. Nor the wild beasts are not cruel for every cause; but either when hunger maketh them fierce, or else when they perceive themselves to be hunted and pursued to the death, or else when they fear lest their younglings should take any harm or be stolen from them. But (O good Lord) for what trifling causes what tragedies of war do we stir up? For most vain titles, for childish wrath, for a wench, yea, and for causes much more scornful than these, we be inflamed to fight.

Moreover, when the brute beasts fight, then war is one for one, yea, and that is very short. And when the battle is sorest fought, yet is there not past one or two, that goeth away sore wounded. When was it ever heard that an hundred thousand brute beasts were slain at one time fighting and tearing one another: which thing men do full oft and in many places? And besides this, whereas some wild beasts have natural debate with some other that be of a contrary kind, so again there be some with which they lovingly agree in a sure amity. But man with man, and each with other, have among them continual war; nor is there league sure enough among any men. So that whatsoever it be, that hath gone out of kind, it hath gone out of kind into a worse fashion, than if Nature herself had engendered therein a malice at the beginning.

Will ye see how beastly, how foul, and how unworthy a thing war is for man? Did ye never behold a lion let loose unto a bear? What gapings, what roarings, what grisly gnashing, what tearing of their flesh, is there? He trembleth that beholdeth them, yea, though he stand sure and safe enough from them. But how much more grisly a sight is it, how much more outrageous and cruel, to behold man to fight with man, arrayed with so much armour, and with so many weapons? I beseech you, who would believe that they were men, if it were not because war is a thing so much in custom that no man marvelleth at it? Their eyes glow like fire, their faces be pale, their marching forth is like men in a fury, their voice screeching and grunting, their cry and frenzied clamour; all is iron, their harness and weapons jingling and clattering, and the guns thundering. It might have been better suffered, if man, for lack of meat and drink, should have fought with man, to the intent he might devour his flesh and drink his blood: albeit, it is come also now to that pass, that some there be that do it more of hatred than either for hunger or for thirst. But now this same thing is done more cruelly, with weapons envenomed, and with devilish engines. So that nowhere may be perceived any token of man. Trow ye that Nature could here know it was the same thing, that she sometime had wrought with her own hands? And if any man would inform her, that it were man that she beheld in such array, might she not well, with great wondering, say these words?

“What new manner of pageant is this that I behold? What devil of hell hath brought us forth this monster. There be some that call me a stepmother, because that among so great heaps of things of my making I have brought forth some venomous things (and yet have I ordained the selfsame venomous things for man’s behoof); and because I have made some beasts very fierce and perilous: and yet is there no beast so wild nor so perilous, but that by craft and diligence he may be made tame and gentle. By man’s diligent labour the lions have been made tame, the dragons meek, and the bears obedient. But what is this, that worse is than any stepmother, which hath brought us forth this new unreasonable brute beast, the pestilence and mischief of all this world? One beast alone I brought forth wholly dedicate to be benevolent, pleasant, friendly, and wholesome to all other. What hath chanced, that this creature is changed into such a brute beast? I perceive nothing of the creature man, which I myself made. What evil spirit hath thus defiled my work? What witch hath bewitched the mind of man, and transformed it into such brutishness? What sorceress hath thus turned him out of his kindly shape? I command and would that the wretched creature should behold himself in a glass. But, alas, what shall the eyes see, where the mind is away? Yet behold thyself (if thou canst), thou furious warrior, and see if thou mayst by any means recover thyself again. From whence hast thou that threatening crest upon thy head? From whence hast thou that shining helmet? From whence are those iron horns? Whence cometh it, that thine elbows are so sharp and piked? Where hadst thou those scales? Where hadst thou those brazen teeth? Of whence are those hard plates? Whence are those deadly weapons? From whence cometh to thee this voice more horrible than of a wild beast? What a look and countenance hast thou more terrible than of a brute beast? Where hast thou gotten this thunder and lightning, both more fearful and hurtful than is the very thunder and lightning itself? I formed thee a goodly creature; what came into thy mind, that thou wouldst thus transform thyself into so cruel and so beastly fashion, that there is no brute beast so unreasonable in comparison unto man?”

These words, and many other such like, I suppose, the Dame Nature, the worker of all things, would say. Then since man is such as is showed before that he is, and that war is such a thing, like as too oft we have felt and known, it seemeth to me no small wonder, what ill spirit, what disease, or what mishap, first put into man’s mind, that he would bathe his mortal weapon in the blood of man. It must needs be, that men mounted up to so great madness by divers degrees. For there was never man yet (as Juvenal saith) that was suddenly most graceless of all. And always things the worst have crept in among men’s manners of living, under the shadow and shape of goodness. For some time those men that were in the beginning of the world led their lives in woods; they went naked, they had no walled towns, nor houses to put their heads in: it happened otherwhile that they were sore grieved and destroyed with wild beasts. Wherefore with them first of all, men made war, and he was esteemed a mighty strong man, and a captain, that could best defend mankind from the violence of wild beasts. Yea, and it seemed to them a thing most equable to strangle the stranglers, and to slay the slayers, namely, when the wild beast, not provoked by us for any hurt to them done, would wilfully set upon us. And so by reason that this was counted a thing most worthy of praise (for hereof it rose that Hercules was made a god), the lusty-stomached young men began all about to hunt and chase the wild beasts, and as a token of their valiant victory the skins of such beasts as they slew were set up in such places as the people might behold them. Besides this they were not contented to slay the wild beasts, but they used to wear their skins to keep them from the cold in winter. These were the first slaughters that men used: these were their spoils and robberies. After this, they went so farforth, that they were bold to do a thing which Pythagoras thought to be very wicked; and it might seem to us also a thing monstrous, if custom were not, which hath so great strength in every place: that by custom it was reputed in some countries a much charitable deed if a man would, when his father was very old, first sore beat him, and after thrust him headlong into a pit, and so bereave him of his life, by whom it chanced him to have the gift of life. It was counted a holy thing for a man to feed on the flesh of his own kinsmen and friends. They thought it a goodly thing, that a virgin should be made common to the people in the temple of Venus. And many other things, more abominable than these: of which if a man should now but only speak, every man would abhor to hear him. Surely there is nothing so ungracious, nor nothing so cruel, but men will hold therewith, if it be once approved by custom. Then will ye hear, what a deed they durst at the last do? They were not abashed to eat the carcases of the wild beasts that were slain, to tear the unsavoury flesh with their teeth, to drink the blood, to suck out the matter of them, and (as Ovid saith) to hide the beasts’ bowels within their own. And although at that time it seemed to be an outrageous deed unto them that were of a more mild and gentle courage: yet was it generally allowed, and all by reason of custom and commodity. Yet were they not so content. For they went from the slaying of noisome wild beasts, to kill the harmless beasts, and such as did no hurt at all. They waxed cruel everywhere upon the poor sheep, a beast without fraud or guile. They slew the hare, for none other offence, but because he was a good fat dish of meat to feed upon. Nor they forbare not to kill the tame ox, which had a long season, with his sore labour, nourished the unkind household. They spared no kind of beasts, of fowls, nor of fishes. Yea, and the tyranny of gluttony went so farforth that there was no beast anywhere that could be sure from the cruelty of man. Yea, and custom persuaded this also, that it seemed no cruelty at all to slay any manner of beast, whatsoever it was, so they abstained from manslaughter. Now peradventure it lieth in our power to keep out vices, that they enter not upon the manners of men, in like manner as it lieth in our power to keep out the sea, that it break not in upon us; but when the sea is once broken in, it passeth our power to restrain it within any bounds. So either of them both once let in, they will not be ruled, as we would, but run forth headlong whithersoever their own rage carrieth them. And so after that men had been exercised with such beginnings to slaughter, wrath anon enticed man to set upon man, either with staff, or with stone, or else with his fist. For as yet, I think they used no other weapons. And now had they learned by the killing of beasts, that man also might soon and easily be slain with little labour. But this cruelty remained betwixt singular persons, so that yet there was no great number of men that fought together, but as it chanced one man against another. And besides this, there was no small colour of equity, if a man slew his enemy; yea, and shortly after, it was a great praise to a man to slay a violent and a mischievous man, and to rid him out of the world, such devilish and cruel caitiffs, as men say Cacus and Busiris were. For we see plainly, that for such causes, Hercules was greatly praised. And in process of time, many assembled to take part together, either as affinity, or as neighbourhood, or kindred bound them. And what is now robbery was then war. And they fought then with stones, or with stakes, a little burned at the ends. A little river, a rock, or such other like thing, chancing to be between them, made an end of their battle.

In the mean season, while fierceness by use increaseth, while wrath is grown great, and ambition hot and vehement, by ingenious craft they arm their furious violence. They devise harness, such as it is, to fence them with. They invent weapons to destroy their enemies with. Thus now by few and few, now with greater company, and now armed they begin to fight. Nor to this manifest madness they forget not to give honour. For they call it Bellum, that is to say, a fair thing; yea, and they repute it a virtuous deed, if a man, with the jeopardy of his own life, manly resist and defend from the violence of his enemies, his wife, children, beasts, and household. And by little and little, malice grew so great, with the high esteeming of other things, that one city began to send defiance and make war to another, country against country, and realm against realm. And though the thing of itself was then most cruel, yet all this while there remained in them certain tokens, whereby they might be known for men: for such goods as by violence were taken away were asked and required again by an herald at arms; the gods were called to witness; yea, and when they were ranged in battle, they would reason the matter ere they fought. And in the battle they used but homely weapons, nor they used neither guile nor deceit, but only strength. It was not lawful for a man to strike his enemy till the sign of battle was given; nor was it not lawful to fight after the sounding of the retreat. And for conclusion, they fought more to show their manliness and for praise, than they coveted to slay. Nor all this while they armed them not, but against strangers, the which they called hostes, as they had been hospites, their guests. Of this rose empires, of the which there was never none yet in any nation, but it was gotten with the great shedding of man’s blood. And since that time there hath followed continual course of war, while one eftsoons laboureth to put another out of his empire, and to set himself in. After all this, when the empires came once into their hands that were most ungracious of all other, they made war upon whosoever pleased them; nor were they not in greatest peril and danger of war that had most deserved to be punished, but they that by fortune had gotten great riches. And now they made not war to get praise and fame, but to get the vile muck of the world, or else some other thing far worse than that.

I think not the contrary, but that the great, wise man Pythagoras meant these things when he by a proper device of philosophy frightened the unlearned multitude of people from the slaying of silly beasts. For he perceived, it should at length come to pass, that he which (by no injury provoked) was accustomed to spill the blood of a harmless beast, would in his anger, being provoked by injury, not fear to slay a man.

War, what other thing else is it than a common manslaughter of many men together, and a robbery, the which, the farther it sprawleth abroad, the more mischievous it is? But many gross gentlemen nowadays laugh merrily at these things, as though they were the dreams and dotings of schoolmen, the which, saving the shape, have no point of manhood, yet seem they in their own conceit to be gods. And yet of those beginnings, we see we be run so far in madness, that we do naught else all our life-days. We war continually, city with city, prince with prince, people with people, yea, and (it that the heathen people confess to be a wicked thing) cousin with cousin, alliance with alliance, brother with brother, the son with the father, yea, and that I esteem more cruel than all these things, a Christian man against another man; and yet furthermore, I will say that I am very loath to do, which is a thing most cruel of all, one Christian man with another Christian man. Oh, blindness of man’s mind! at those things no man marvelleth, no man abhorreth them. There be some that rejoice at them, and praise them above the moon: and the thing which is more than devilish, they call a holy thing. Old men, crooked for age, make war, priests make war, monks go forth to war; yea, and with a thing so devilish we mingle Christ. The battles ranged, they encounter the one the other, bearing before them the sign of the Cross, which thing alone might at the leastwise admonish us by what means it should become Christian men to overcome.

But we run headlong each to destroy other, even from that heavenly sacrifice of the altar, whereby is represented that perfect and ineffable knitting together of all Christian men. And of so wicked a thing, we make Christ both author and witness. Where is the kingdom of the devil, if it be not in war? Why draw we Christ into war, with whom a brothel-house agreeth more than war? Saint Paul disdaineth, that there should be any so great discord among Christian men, that they should need any judge to discuss the matter between them. What if he should come and behold us now through all the world, warring for every light and trifling cause, striving more cruelly than ever did any heathen people, and more cruelly than any barbarous people? Yea, and ye shall see it done by the authority, exhortations, and furtherings of those that represent Christ, the prince of peace and very bishop that all things knitteth together by peace and of those that salute the people with good luck of peace. Nor is it not unknown to me what these unlearned people say (a good while since) against me in this matter, whose winnings arise of the common evils. They say thus: We make war against our wills: for we be constrained by the ungracious deeds of other. We make war but for our right. And if there come any hurt thereof, thank them that be causers of it. But let these men hold their tongues awhile, and I shall after, in place convenient, avoid all their cavillations, and pluck off that false visor wherewith we hide all our malice.

But first as I have above compared man with war, that is to say, the creature most demure with a thing most outrageous, to the intent that cruelty might the better be perceived: so will I compare war and peace together, the thing most wretched, and most mischievous, with the best and most wealthy thing that is. And so at last shall appear, how great madness it is, with so great tumult, with so great labours, with such intolerable expenses, with so many calamities, affectionately to desire war: whereas agreement might be bought with a far less price.

First of all, what in all this world is more sweet or better than amity or love? Truly nothing. And I pray you, what other thing is peace than amity and love among men, like as war on the other side is naught else but dissension and debate of many men together? And surely the property of good things is such, that the broader they be spread, the more profit and commodity cometh of them. Farther, if the love of one singular person with another be so sweet and delectable, how great should the felicity be if realm with realm, and nation with nation, were coupled together, with the band of amity and love? On the other side, the nature of evil things is such, that the farther they sprawl abroad, the more worthy they are to be called evil, as they be indeed. Then if it be a wretched thing, if it be an ungracious thing, that one man armed should fight with another, how much more miserable, how much more mischievous is it, that the selfsame thing should be done with so many thousands together? By love and peace the small things increase and wax great, by discord and debate the great things decay and come to naught. Peace is the mother and nurse of all good things. War suddenly and at once overthroweth, destroyeth, and utterly fordoeth everything that is pleasant and fair, and bringeth in among men a monster of all mischievous things.

In the time of peace (none otherwise than as if the lusty springtime should show and shine in men’s businesses) the fields are tilled, the gardens and orchards freshly flourish, the beasts pasture merrily; gay manours in the country are edified, the towns are builded, where as need is reparations are done, the buildings are heightened and augmented, riches increase, pleasures are nourished, the laws are executed, the common wealth flourisheth, religion is fervent, right reigneth, gentleness is used, craftsmen are busily exercised, the poor men’s gain is more plentiful, the wealthiness of the rich men is more gay and goodly, the studies of most honest learnings flourish, youth is well taught, the aged folks have quiet and rest, maidens are luckily married, mothers are praised for bringing forth of children like to their progenitors, the good men prosper and do well, and the evil men do less offence.

But as soon as the cruel tempest of war cometh on us, good Lord, how great a flood of mischiefs occupieth, overfloweth, and drowneth all together. The fair herds of beasts are driven away, the goodly corn is trodden down and destroyed, the good husbandmen are slain, the villages are burned up, the most wealthy cities, that have flourished so many winters, with that one storm are overthrown, destroyed, and brought to naught: so much readier and prompter men are to do hurt than good. The good citizens are robbed and spoiled of their goods by cursed thieves and murderers. Every place is full of fear, of wailing, complaining, and lamenting. The craftsmen stand idle; the poor men must either die for hunger, or fall to stealing. The rich men either stand and sorrow for their goods, that be plucked and snatched from them, or else they stand in great doubt to lose such goods as they have left them: so that they be on every side woebegone. The maidens, either they be not married at all, or else if they be married, their marriages are sorrowful and lamentable. Wives, being destitute of their husbands, lie at home without any fruit of children, the laws are laid aside, gentleness is laughed to scorn, right is clean exiled, religion is set at naught, hallowed and unhallowed things all are one, youth is corrupted with all manner of vices, the old folk wail and weep, and wish themselves out of the world, there is no honour given unto the study of good letters. Finally, there is no tongue can tell the harm and mischief that we feel in war.

Perchance war might be the better suffered, if it made us but only wretched and needy; but it maketh us ungracious, and also full of unhappiness. And I think Peace likewise should be much made of, if it were but only because it maketh us more wealthy and better in our living. Alas, there be too many already, yea, and more than too many mischiefs and evils, with the which the wretched life of man (whether he will or no) is continually vexed, tormented, and utterly consumed.

It is near hand two thousand years since the physicians had knowledge of three hundred divers notable sicknesses by name, besides other small sicknesses and new, as daily spring among us, and besides age also, which is of itself a sickness inevitable.

We read that in one place whole cities have been destroyed with earthquakes. We read, also, that in another place there have been cities altogether burnt with lightning; how in another place whole regions have been swallowed up with opening of the earth, towns by undermining have fallen to the ground; so that I need not here to remember what a great multitude of men are daily destroyed by divers chances, which be not regarded because they happen so often: as sudden breaking out of the sea and of great floods, falling down of hills and houses, poison, wild beasts, meat, drink, and sleep. One hath been strangled with drinking of a hair in a draught of milk, another hath been choked with a little grapestone, another with a fishbone sticking in his throat. There hath been, that sudden joy hath killed out of hand: for it is less wonder of them that die for vehement sorrow. Besides all this, what mortal pestilence see we in every place. There is no part of the world, that is not subject to peril and danger of man’s life, which life of itself also is most fugitive. So manifold mischances and evils assail man on every side that not without cause Homer did say: Man was the most wretched of all creatures living.

But forasmuch these mischances cannot lightly be eschewed, nor they happen not through our fault, they make us but only wretched, and not ungracious withal. What pleasure is it then for them that be subject already to so many miserable chances, willingly to seek and procure themselves another mischief more than they had before, as though they yet wanted misery? Yea, they procure not a light evil, but such an evil that is worse than all the others, so mischievous, that it alone passeth all the others; so abundant, that in itself alone is comprehended all ungraciousness; so pestilent, that it maketh us all alike wicked as wretched, it maketh us full of all misery, and yet not worthy to be pitied.

Now go farther, and with all these things consider, that the commodities of Peace spread themselves most far and wide, and pertain unto many men. In war if there happen anything luckily (but, O good Lord, what may we say happeneth well and luckily in war?), it pertaineth to very few, and to them that are unworthy to have it. The prosperity of one is the destruction of another. The enriching of one is the spoil and robbing of another. The triumph of one is the lamentable mourning of another, so that as the infelicity is bitter and sharp, the felicity is cruel and bloody. Howbeit otherwhile both parties wept according to the proverb, Victoria Cadmaea, Cadmus victorie, where both parties repented. And I wot not whether it came ever so happily to pass in war, that he that had victory did not repent him of his enterprise, if he were a good man.

Then seeing Peace is the thing above all other most best and most pleasant, and, contrariwise, war the thing most ungracious and wretched of all other, shall we think those men to be in their right minds, the which when they may obtain Peace with little business and labour will rather procure war with so great labour and most difficulty?

First of all consider, how loathly a thing the rumour of war is, when it is first spoken of. Then how envious a thing it is unto a prince, while with often tithes and taxes he pillageth his subjects. What a business hath he to make and entertain friends to help him? what a business to procure bands of strangers and to hire soldiers?

What expenses and labours must he make in setting forth his navy of ships, in building and repairing of castles and fortresses, in preparing and apparelling of his tents and pavilions, in framing, making, and carrying of engines, guns, armour, weapons, baggage, carts, and victual? What great labour is spent in making of bulwarks, in casting of ditches, in digging of mines, in keeping of watches, in keeping of arrays, and in exercising of weapons? I pass over the fear they be in; I speak not of the imminent danger and peril that hangeth over their heads: for what thing in war is not to be feared? What is he that can reckon all the incommodious life that the most foolish soldiers suffer in the field? And for that worthy to endure worse, in that they will suffer it willingly. Their meat is so ill that an ox of Cyprus would be loath to eat it; they have but little sleep, nor yet that at their own pleasure. Their tents on every side are open on the wind. What, a tent? No, no; they must all the day long, be it hot or cold, wet or dry, stand in the open air, sleep on the bare ground, stand in their harness. They must suffer hunger, thirst, cold, heat, dust, showers; they must be obedient to their captains; sometimes they be clapped on the pate with a warder or a truncheon: so that there is no bondage so vile as the bondage of soldiers.

Besides all this, at the sorrowful sign given to fight, they must run headlong to death: for either they must slay cruelly, or be slain wretchedly. So many sorrowful labours must they take in hand, that they may bring to pass that thing which is most wretched of all other. With so many great miseries we must first afflict and grieve our own self, that we may afflict and grieve other!

Now if we would call this matter to account, and justly reckon how much war will cost, and how much peace, surely we shall find that peace may be got and obtained with the tenth part of the cares, labours, griefs, perils, expenses, and spilling of blood, with which the war is procured. So great a company of men, to their extreme perils, ye lead out of the realm to overthrow and destroy some one town: and with the labour of the selfsame men, and without any peril at all, another town, much more noble and goodly, might be new edified and builded. But you say, you will hurt and grieve your enemy: so even that doing is against humanity. Nevertheless, this I would ye should consider, that ye cannot hurt and grieve your enemies, but ye must first greatly hurt your own people. And it seemeth a point of a madman, to enterprise where he is sure and certain of so great hurt and damage, and is uncertain which way the chance of war will turn.

But admit, that either foolishness, or wrath, or ambition, or covetousness, or outrageous cruelty, or else (which I think more like) the furies sent from hell, should ravish and draw the heathen people to this madness. Yet from whence cometh it into our minds, that one Christian man should draw his weapon to bathe it in another Christian man’s blood? It is called parricide, if the one brother slay the other. And yet is a Christian man nearer joined to another than is one brother to another: except the bonds of nature be stronger than the bonds of Christ. What abominable thing, then, is it to see them almost continually fighting among themselves, the which are the inhabitants of one house the Church, which rejoice and say, that they all be the members of one body, and that have one head, which truly is Christ; they have all one Father in heaven; they are all taught and comforted by one Holy Spirit; they profess the religion of Christ all under one manner; they are all redeemed with Christ’s blood; they are all newborn at the holy font; they use alike sacraments; they be all soldiers under one captain; they are all fed with one heavenly bread; they drink all of one spiritual cup; they have one common enemy the devil; finally, they be all called to one inheritance. Where be they so many sacraments of perfect concord? Where be the innumerable teachings of peace? There is one special precept, which Christ called his, that is, Charity. And what thing is so repugnant to charity as war? Christ saluted his disciples with the blessed luck of peace. Unto his disciples he gave nothing save peace, saving peace he left them nothing. In those holy prayers, he specially prayed the Father of heaven, that in like manner as he was one with the Father, so all his, that is to say, Christian men, should be one with him. Lo, here you may perceive a thing more than peace, more than amity, more than concord.

Solomon bare the figure of Christ: for Solomon in the Hebrew tongue signifieth peaceable or peaceful. Him God would have to build his temple. At the birth of Christ the angels proclaimed neither war nor triumphs, but peace they sang. And before his birth the prophet David prophesied thus of him: Et factus est in pace locus ejus, that is to say, His dwelling place is made in peace. Search all the whole life of Christ, and ye shall never find thing that breathes not of peace, that signifieth not amity, that savoureth not of charity. And because he perceived peace could not well be kept, except men would utterly despise all those things for which the world so greedily fighteth, he commanded that we should of him learn to be meek. He calleth them blessed and happy that setteth naught by riches, for those he calleth poor in spirit. Blessed be they that despise the pleasures of this world, the which he calleth mourners. And them blessed he calleth that patiently suffer themselves, to be put out of their possessions, knowing that here in this world they are but as outlaws; and the very true country and possession of godly creatures is in heaven. He calleth them blessed which, deserving well of all men, are wrongfully blamed and ill afflicted. He forbade that any man should resist evil. Briefly, as all his doctrine commandeth sufferance and love, so all his life teacheth nothing else but meekness. So he reigned, so he warred, so he overcame, so he triumphed.

Now the apostles, that had sucked into them the pure spirit of Christ, and were blessedly drunk with that new must of the Holy Ghost, preached nothing but meekness and peace. What do all the epistles of Paul sound in every place but peace, but long-suffering, but charity? What speaketh Saint John, what rehearseth he so oft, but love? What other thing did Peter? What other thing did all the true Christian writers? From whence then cometh all this tumult of wars amongst the children of peace? Think ye it a fable, that Christ calleth himself a vine tree, and his own the branches? Who did ever see one branch fight with another? Is it in vain that Paul so oft wrote, The Church to be none other thing, than one body compact together of divers members, cleaving to one head, Christ? Whoever saw the eye fight with the hand, or the belly with the foot? In this universal body, compact of all those unlike things, there is agreement. In the body of a beast, one member is in peace with another, and each member useth not the property thereto given for itself alone, but for the profit of all the other members. So that if there come any good to any one member alone, it helpeth all the whole body. And may the compaction or knitting of Nature do more in the body of a beast, that shortly must perish, than the coupling of the Holy Ghost in the mystical and immortal body of the Church? Do we to no purpose pray as taught by Christ: Good Lord, even as thy will is fulfilled in heaven, so let it be fulfilled in the earth? In that city of heaven is concord and peace most perfect. And Christ would have his Church to be none other than a heavenly people in earth, as near as might be after the manner of them that are in heaven, ever labouring and making haste to go thither, and always having their mind thereon.

Now go to, let us imagine, that there should come some new guest out of the lunar cities, where Empedocles dwelleth, or else out of the innumerable worlds, that Democritus fabricated, into this world, desiring to know what the inhabitants do here. And when he was instructed of everything, it should at last be told him that, besides all other, there is one creature marvellously mingled, of body like to brute beasts and of soul like unto God. And it should also be told him, that this creature is so noble, that though he be here an outlaw out of his own country, yet are all other beasts at his commandment, the which creature through his heavenly beginning inclineth alway to things heavenly and immortal. And that God eternal loved this creature so well, that whereas he could neither by the gifts of nature, nor by the strong reasons of philosophy attain unto that which he so fervently desired, he sent hither his only begotten son, to the intent to teach this creature a new kind of learning. Then as soon as this new guest had perceived well the whole manner of Christ’s life and precepts, would desire to stand in some high place, from whence he might behold that which he had heard. And when he should see all other creatures soberly live according to their kind, and, being led by the laws and course of nature, desire nothing but even as Nature would; and should see this one special creature man given riotously to tavern haunting, to vile lucre, to buying and selling, chopping and changing, to brawling and fighting one with another, trow ye that he would not think that any of the other creatures were man, of whom he heard so much of before, rather than he that is indeed man? Then if he that had instructed him afore would show him which creature is man, now would he look about to see if he could spy the Christian flock and company, the which, following the ordinance of that heavenly teacher Christ, should exhibit to him a figure or shape of the evangelical city. Think ye he would not rather judge Christians to dwell in any other place than in those countries, wherein we see so great superfluity, riot, voluptuousness, pride, tyranny, discord, brawlings, fightings, wars, tumults, yea, and briefly to speak, a greater puddle of all those things that Christ reproveth than among Turks or Saracens? From whence, then, creepeth this pestilence in among Christian people? Doubtless this mischief also is come in by little and little, like as many more other be, ere men be aware of them. For truly every mischief creepeth by little and little upon the good manners of men, or else under the colour of goodness it is suddenly received.

So then first of all, learning and cunning crept in as a thing very meet to confound heretics, which defend their opinions with the doctrine of philosophers, poets, and orators. And surely at the beginning of our faith, Christian men did not learn those things; but such as peradventure had learned them, before they knew what Christ meant, they turned the thing that they had learned already, into good use.

Eloquence of tongue was at the beginning dissembled more than despised, but at length it was openly approved. After that, under colour of confounding heretics, came in an ambitious pleasure of brawling disputations, which hath brought into the Church of Christ no small mischief. At length the matter went so farforth that Aristotle was altogether received into the middle of divinity, and so received, that his authority is almost reputed holier than the authority of Christ. For if Christ spake anything that did little agree with our life, by interpretation of Aristotle it was lawful to make it serve their purpose. But if any do never so little repugn against the high divinity of Aristotle, he is quickly with clapping of hands driven out of the place. For of him we have learned, that the felicity of man is imperfect, except he have both the good gifts of body and of fortune. Of him we have learned, that no commonweal may flourish, in which all things are common. And we endeavour ourselves to glue fast together the decrees of this man and the doctrine of Christ – which is as likely a thing as to mingle fire and water together. And a gobbet we have received of the civil laws, because of the equity that seemeth to be in them. And to the end they should the better serve our purpose, we have, as near as may be, writhed and plied the doctrine of the gospel to them. Now by the civil law it is lawful for a man to defend violence with violence, and each to pursue for his right. Those laws approve buying and selling; they allow usury, so it be measurable; they praise war as a noble thing, so, it be just. Finally all the doctrine of Christ is so defiled with the learning of logicians, sophisters, astronomers, orators, poets, philosophers, lawyers, and gentles, that a man shall spend the most part of his life, ere he may have any leisure to search holy scripture, to the which when a man at last cometh, he must come infected with so many worldly opinions, that either he must be offended with Christ’s doctrines, or else he must apply them to the mind and of them that he hath learned before. And this thing is so much approved, that it is now a heinous deed, if a man presume to study holy scripture, which hath not buried himself up to the hard ears in those trifles, or rather sophistries of Aristotle. As though Christ’s doctrine were such, that it were not lawful for all men to know it, or else that it could by any means agree with the wisdom of philosophers. Besides this we admitted at the beginning of our faith some honour, which afterward we claimed as of duty. Then we received riches, but that was to distribute to relieve poor men, which afterwards we turned to our own use. And why not, since we have learned by the law civil, that the very order of charity is, that every man must first provide for himself? Nor lack there colours to cloak this mischief: first it is a good deed to provide for our children, and it is right that we foresee how to live in age; finally, why should we, say they, give our goods away, if we come by them without fraud? By these degrees it is by little and little come to pass, that he is taken for the best man that hath most riches: nor never was there more honour given to riches among the heathen people, than is at this day among the Christian people. For what thing is there, either spiritual or temporal, that is not done with great show of riches? And it seemed a thing agreeable with those ornaments, if Christian men had some great jurisdiction under them. Nor there wanted not such as gladly submitted themselves. Albeit at the beginning it was against their wills, and scantly would they receive it. And yet with much work, they received it so, that they were content with the name and title only: the profit thereof they gladly gave unto other men. At the last, little by little it came to pass, that a bishop thought himself no bishop, except he had some temporal lordship withal; an abbot thought himself of small authority, if he had not wherewith to play the lordly sire. And in conclusion, we blushed never a deal at the matter, we wiped away all shamefastness, and shoved aside all the bars of comeliness. And whatever abuse was used among the heathen people, were it covetousness, ambition, riot, pomp, or pride, or tyranny, the same we follow, in the same we match them, yea, and far pass them. And to pass over the lighter things for the while, I pray you, was there ever war among the heathen people so long continually, or more cruelly, than among Christian people? What stormy rumblings, what violent brays of war, what tearing of leagues, and what piteous slaughters of men have we seen ourselves within these few years? What nation hath not fought and skirmished with another? And then we go and curse the Turk; and what can be a more pleasant sight to the Turks, than to behold us daily each slaying other?

Xerxes doted, when he led out of his own country that huge multitude of people to make war upon the Greeks. Trow ye, was he not mad, when he wrote letters to the mountain called Athos, threatening that the hill should repent except it obeyed his lust? And the same Xerxes commanded also the sea to be beaten, because it was somewhat rough when he should have sailed over.

Who will deny but Alexander the Great was mad also? He, the young god, wished that there were many worlds, the which he might conquer – so great a fever of vainglory had embraced his young lusty courage. And yet these same men, the which Seneca doubted not to call mad thieves, warred after a gentler fashion than we do; they were more faithful of their promise in war, nor they used not so mischievous engines in war, nor such crafts and subtleties, nor they warred not for so light causes as we Christian men do. They rejoiced to advance and enrich such provinces as they had conquered by war; and the rude people, that lived like wild beasts without laws, learning, or good manners, they taught them both civil conditions and crafts, whereby they might live like men. In countries that were not inhabited with people, they builded cities, and made them both fair and profitable. And the places that were not very sure, they fenced, for safeguard of the people, with bridges, banks, bulwarks; and with a thousand other such commodities they helped the life of man. So that then it was right expedient to be overcome. Yea, and how many things read we, that were either wisely done, or soberly spoken of them in the midst of their wars. As for those things that are done in Christian men’s wars they are more filthy and cruel than is convenient here to rehearse. Moreover, look what was worst in the heathen peoples’ wars, in that we follow them, yea, we pass them.

But now it is worth while to hear, by what means we maintain this our so great madness. Thus they reason: If it had not been lawful by no means to make war, surely God would never have been the author to the Jews to make war against their enemies. Well said, but we must add hereunto, that the Jews never made war among themselves, but against strangers and wicked men. We, Christian men, fight with Christian men. Diversity of religion caused the Jews to fight against their enemies: for their enemies worshipped not God as they did. We make war oftentimes for a little childish anger, or for hunger of money, or for thirst of glory, or else for filthy meed. The Jews fought by the commandment of God; we make war to avenge the grief and displeasure of our mind. And nevertheless if men will so much lean to the example of the Jews, why do we not then in like manner use circumcision? Why do we not sacrifice with the blood of sheep and other beasts? Why do we not abstain from swine’s flesh? Why doth not each of us wed many wives? Since we abhor those things, why doth the example of war please us so much? Why do we here follow the bare letter that killeth? It was permitted the Jews to make war, but so likewise as they were suffered to depart from their wives, doubtless because of their hard and froward manners. But after Christ commanded the sword to be put up, it is unlawful for Christian men to make any other war but that which is the fairest war of all, with the most eager and fierce enemies of the Church, with affection of money, with wrath, with ambition, with dread of death. These be our Philistines, these be our Nabuchodonosors, these be our Moabites and Ammonites, with the which it behooveth us to have no truce. With these we must continually fight, until (our enemies being utterly vanquished) we may be in quiet, for except we may overcome them, there is no man that may attain to any true peace, neither with himself, nor yet with no other. For this war alone is cause of true peace. He that overcometh in this battle, will make war with no man living. Nor I regard not the interpretation that some men make of the two swords, to signify either power spiritual or temporal. When Christ suffered Peter to err purposely, yea, after he was commanded to put up his sword, no man should doubt but that war was forbidden, which before seemed to be lawful. But Peter (say they) fought. True it is, Peter fought; he was yet but a Jew, and had not the spirit of a very Christian man. He fought not for his lands, or for any such titles of lands as we do, nor yet for his own life, but for his Master’s life. And finally, he fought, the which within a while after forsook his Master. Now if men will needs follow the example of Peter that fought, why might they not as well follow the example of him forsaking his Master? And though Peter through simple affection erred, yet did his Master rebuke him. For else, if Christ did allow such manner of defence, as some most foolishly do interpret, why doth both all the life and doctrine of Christ preach no other thing but sufferance? Why sent he forth his disciples again tyrants, armed with nothing else but with a walking-staff and a scrip? If that sword, which Christ commanded his disciples to sell their coats to buy, be moderate defence against persecutors, like as some men do not only wickedly but also blindly interpret, why did the martyrs never use that defence? But (say they) the law of nature commandeth, it is approved by the laws, and allowed by custom, that we ought to put off from us violence by violence, and that each of us should defend his life, and eke his money, when the money (as Hesiod saith) is as lief as the life. All this I grant, but yet grace, the law of Christ, that is of more effect than all these things, commandeth us, that we should not speak ill to them that speak shrewdly to us; that we should do well to them that do ill to us, and to them that take away part of our possessions, we should give the whole; and that we should also pray for them that imagine our death. But these things (say they) appertain to the apostles; yea, they appertain to the universal people of Christ, and to the whole body of Christ’s Church, that must needs be a whole and a perfect body, although in its gifts one member is more excellent than another. To them the doctrine of Christ appertaineth not, that hope not to have reward with Christ. Let them fight for money and for lordships, that laugh to scorn the saying of Christ: Blessed be the poor men in spirit; that is to say, be they poor or rich, blessed be they that covet no riches in this world. They that put all their felicity in these riches, they fight gladly to defend their life; but they be those that understand not this life to be rather a death, nor they perceive not that everlasting life is prepared for good men. Now they lay against us divers bishops of Rome, the which have been both authors and abettors of warring. True it is, some such there have been, but they were of late, and in such time as the doctrine of Christ waxed cold. Yea, and they be very few in comparison of the holy fathers that were before them, which with their writings persuade us to flee war. Why are these few examples most in mind? Why turn we our eyes from Christ to men? And why had we rather follow the uncertain examples, than the authority that is sure and certain? For doubtless the bishops of Rome were men. And it may be right well, that they were either fools or ungracious caitiffs. And yet we find not that any of them approved that we should still continually war after this fashion as we do, which thing I could with arguments prove, if I listed to digress and tarry thereupon.

Saint Bernard praised warriors, but he so praised them, that he condemned all the manner of our warfare. And yet why should the saying of Saint Bernard, or the disputation of Thomas the Alquine, move me rather than the doctrine of Christ, which commandeth, that we should in no wise resist evil, specially under such manner as the common people do resist.

But it is lawful (say they) that a transgressor be punished and put to death according to the laws: then is it not lawful for a whole country or city to be revenged by war? What may be answered in this place, is longer than is convenient to reply. But this much will I say, there is a great difference. For the evil-doer, found faulty and convicted, is by authority of the laws put to death. In war there is neither part without fault. Whereas one singular man doth offend, the punishment falleth only on himself; and the example of the punishment doth good unto all others. In war the most part of the punishment and harm falls upon them that least deserve to be punished; that is, upon husbandmen, old men, honest wives, young children, and virgins. But if there may any commodity at all be gathered of this most mischievous thing, that altogether goeth to the behoof of certain most vengeable thieves, hired soldiers, and strong robbers, and perhaps to a few captains, by whose craft war was raised for that intent, and with which the matter goeth never better than when the commonweal is in most high jeopardy and peril to be lost. Whereas one is for his offence grievously punished, it is the wealthy warning of all other: but in war to the end to revenge the quarrel of one, or else peradventure of a few, we cruelly afflict and grieve many thousands of them that nothing deserved. It were better to leave the offence of a few unpunished than while we seek occasion to punish one or two, to bring into assured peril and danger, both our neighbours and innocent enemies (we call them our enemies, though they never did us hurt); and yet are we uncertain, whether it shall fall on them or not, that we would have punished. It is better to let a wound alone, that cannot be cured without grievous hurt and danger of all the whole body, than go about to heal it.

Now if any man will cry out and say: It were against all right, that he that offendeth should not be punished; hereunto I answer, that it is much more against all right and reason, that so many thousands of innocents should be brought into extreme calamity and mischief without deserving. Albeit nowadays we see, that almost all wars spring up I cannot tell of what titles, and of leagues between princes, that while they go about to subdue to their dominion some one town, they put in jeopardy all their whole empire. And yet within a while after, they sell or give away the same town again, that they got with shedding of so much blood.

Peradventure some man will say: Wouldst not have princes fight for their right? I know right well, it is not meet for such a man as I am, to dispute overboldly of princes’ matters, and though I might do it without any danger, yet is it longer than is convenient for this place. But this much will I say: If each whatsoever title be a cause convenient to go in hand with war, there is no man that in so great alterations of men’s affairs, and in so great variety and changes, can want a title. What nation is there that hath not sometime been put out of their own country, and also have put other out? How oft have people gone from one country to another? How oft have whole empires been translated from one to another either by chance or by league. Let the citizens of Padua claim now again in God’s name the country of Troy for theirs, because Antenor was sometime a Trojan. Let the Romans now hardily claim again Africa and Spain, because those provinces were sometime under the Romans. We call that a dominion, which is but an administration. The power and authority over men, which be free by Nature, and over brute beasts, is not all one. What power and sovereignty soever you have, you have it by the consent of the people. And if I be not deceived, he that hath authority to give, hath authority to take away again. Will ye see how small a matter it is that we make all this tumult for? The strife is not, whether this city or that should be obeisant to a good prince, and not in bondage of a tyrant; but whether Ferdinand or Sigismund hath the better title to it, whether that city ought to pay tribute to Philip or to King Louis. This is that noble right, for the which all the world is thus vexed and troubled with wars and manslaughter.

Yet go to, suppose that this right or title be as strong and of as great authority as may be; suppose also there be no difference between a private field and a whole city; and admit there be no difference between the beasts that you have bought with your money and men, which be not only free, but also true Christians: yet is it a point for a wise man to cast in his mind, whether the thing that you will war for, be of so great value, that it will recompense the exceedingly great harms and loss of your own people. If ye cannot do in every point as becometh a prince, yet at the leastways do as the merchantman doeth: he setteth naught by that loss, which he well perceiveth cannot be avoided without a greater loss, and he reckoneth it a winning, that fortune hath been against him with his so little loss. Or else at the leastwise follow him, of whom there is a merry tale commonly told.

There were two kinsmen at variance about dividing of certain goods, and when they could by no means agree, they must go to law together, that in conclusion the matter might be ended by sentence of the judges. They got them attorneys, the pleas were drawn, men of law had the matter in hand, they came before the judges, the complaint was entered, the cause was pleaded, and so was the war begun between them. Anon one of them remembering himself, called aside his adversary to him and said on this wise: “First it were a great shame, that a little money should dissever us twain, whom Nature hath knit so near together. Secondly, the end of our strife is uncertain, no less than of war. It is in our hands to begin when we will, but not to make an end. All our strife is but for an hundred crowns, and we shall spend the double thereof upon notaries, upon promoters, upon advocates, upon attorneys, upon judges, and upon judges’ friends, if we try the law to the uttermost. We must wait upon these men, we must flatter and speak them fair, we must give them rewards. And yet I speak not of the care and thought, nor of the great labour and travail, that we must take to run about here and there to make friends; and which of us two that winneth the victory, shall be sure of more incommodity than profit. Wherefore if we be wise, let us rather see to our own profit, and the money that shall be evil bestowed upon these bribers, let us divide it between us twain. And forgive you the half of that ye think should be your due, and I will forgive as much of mine. And so shall we keep and preserve our friendship, which else is like to perish, and we shall also eschew this great business, cost, and charge. If you be not content to forgo anything of your part, I commit the whole matter into your own hands; do with it as you will. For I had liefer my friend had this money, than those insatiable thieves. Methinks I have gained enough, if I may save my good name, keep my friend, and avoid this unquiet and chargeable business.” Thus partly the telling of the truth, and partly the merry conceit of his kinsman, moved the other man to agree. So they ended the matter between themselves, to the great displeasure of the judges and servants, for they, like a sort of gaping ravens, were deluded and put beside their prey.

Let a prince therefore follow the wisdom of these two men, specially in a matter of much more danger. Nor let him not regard what thing it is that he would obtain, but what great loss of good things he shall have, in what great jeopardies he shall be, and what miseries he must endure, to come thereby. Now if a man will weigh, as it were in a pair of balances, the commodities of war on the one side and the incommodities on the other side, he shall find that unjust peace is far better than righteous war. Why had we rather have war than peace? Who but a madman will angle with a golden fish-hook? If ye see that the charges and expenses shall amount far above your gain, yea, though all things go according to your mind, is it not better that ye forgo part of your right than to buy so little commodity with so innumerable mischiefs? I had liefer that any other man had the title, than I should win it with so great effusion of Christian men’s blood. He (whosoever he be) hath now been many years in possession; he is accustomed to rule, his subjects know him, he behaveth him like a prince; and one shall come forth, who, finding an old title in some histories or in some blind evidence, will turn clean upside down the quiet state and good order of that commonweal. What availeth it with so great troubling to change any title, which in short space by one chance or other must go to another man? Specially since we might see, that no things in this world continue still in one state, but at the scornful pleasure of fortune they roll to and fro, as the waves of the sea. Finally, if Christian men cannot despise and set at naught these so light things, yet whereto need they by and by to run to arms? Since there be so many bishops, men of great gravity and learning; since there be so many venerable abbots; since there be so many noble men of great age, whom long use and experience of things hath made right wise: why are not these trifling and childish quarrels of princes pacified and set in order by the wisdom and discretion of these men? But they seem to make a very honest reason of war, which pretend as they would defend the Church: as though the people were not the Church, or as though the Church of Christ was begun, augmented, and stablished with wars and slaughters, and not rather in spilling of the blood of martyrs, sufferance, and despising of this life, or as though the whole dignity of the Church rested in the riches of the priests. Nor to me truly it seemeth not so allowable, that we should so oft make war upon the Turks. Doubtless it were not well with the Christian religion, if the only safeguard thereof should depend on such succours. Nor it is not likely, that they should be good Christians, that by these means are brought thereto at the first. For that thing that is got by war, is again in another time lost by war. Will ye bring the Turks to the faith of Christ? Let us not make a show of our gay riches, nor of our great number of soldiers, nor of our great strength. Let them see in us none of these solemn titles, but the assured tokens of Christian men: a pure, innocent life; a fervent desire to do well, yea, to our very enemies; the despising of money, the neglecting of glory, a poor simple life. Let them hear the heavenly doctrine agreeable to such a manner of life. These are the best armours to subdue the Turks to Christ. Now oftentimes we, being ill, fight with the evil. Yea, and I shall say another thing (which I would to God were more boldly spoken than truly), if we set aside the title and sign of the Cross, we fight Turks against Turks. If our religion were first stablished by the might and strength of men of war, if it were confirmed by dint of sword, if it were augmented by war, then let us maintain it by the same means and ways. But if all things in our faith were brought to pass by other means, why do we, then (as we mistrusted the help of Christ), seek such succour as the heathen people use? But why should we not (say they) kill them that would kill us? So think they it a great dishonour, if other should be more mischievous than they. Why do ye not, then, rob those that have robbed you before? Why do ye not scold and chide at them that rail at you? Why do ye not hate them that hate you? Trow ye it is a good Christian man’s deed to slay a Turk? For be the Turks never so wicked, yet they are men, for whose salvation Christ suffered death. And killing Turks we offer to the devil most pleasant sacrifice, and with that one deed we please our enemy, the devil, twice: first because a man is slain, and again, because a Christian man slew him. There be many, which desiring to seem good Christian men, study to hurt and grieve the Turks all that ever they may; and where they be not able to do anything, they curse and ban, and bid a mischief upon them. Now by the same one point a man may perceive, that they be far from good Christian men. Succour the Turks, and where they be wicked, make them good if ye can; if ye cannot, wish and desire of God they may have grace to turn to goodness. And he that thus doeth, I will say doeth like a Christian man. But of all these things I shall entreat more largely, when I set forth my book entitled Antipolemus, which whilom when I was at Rome I wrote to Julius, bishop of Rome, the second of that name, at the same time, when he was counselled to make war on the Venetians.

But there is one thing which is more to be lamented then reasoned: That if a man would diligently discuss the matter, he shall find that all the wars among us Christian men do spring either of foolishness, or else of malice. Some young men without experience, inflamed with the evil examples of their forefathers, that they find by reading of histories, written of some foolish authors (and besides this being moved with the exhortations of flatterers, with the instigation of lawyers, and assenting thereto of the divines, the bishops winking thereat, or peradventure enticing thereunto), have rather of foolhardiness than of malice, gone in hand with war; and with the great hurt and damage of all this world they learn, that war is a thing that should be by all means and ways fled and eschewed. Some other are moved by privy hatred, ambition causeth some, and some are stirred by fierceness of mind to make war. For truly there is almost now no other thing in our cities and commonweals than is contained in Homer’s work Iliad, The wrath of indiscreet princes and people.

There be those who for no other cause stir up war but to the intent they may by that means the more easily exercise tyranny on their subjects. For in the time of peace, the authority of the council, the dignity of the rulers, the vigour and strength of the laws, do somewhat hinder, that a prince cannot do all that him listeth; but as soon as war is once begun, now all the handling of matters resteth in the pleasure of a few persons. They that the prince favoureth are lifted up aloft, and they that be in his displeasure, go down. They exact as much money as pleaseth them. What need many words? Then they think themselves, that they be the greatest princes of the world. In the meantime the captains sport and play together, till they have gnawed the poor people to the hard bones. And think ye that it will grieve them, that be of this mind, to enter lightly into war, when any cause is offered? Besides all this, it is worth while to see by what means we colour our fault. I pretend the defence of our religion, but my mind is to get the great riches that the Turk hath. Under colour to defend the Church’s right, I purpose to revenge the hatred that I have in my stomach. I incline to ambition, I follow my wrath; my cruel, fierce and unbridled mind compelleth me; and yet will I find a cavillation and say, the league is not kept, or friendship is broken, or something (I wot not what myself) concerning the laws of matrimony is omitted. And it is a wonder to speak, how they never obtain the very thing that they so greatly desire. And while they foolishly labour to eschew this mischief or that, they fall into another much worse, or else deeper into the same. And surely if desire of glory causeth them thus to do, it is a thing much more magnificent and glorious to save than to destroy; much more gay and goodly to build a city than to overthrow and destroy a city.

Furthermore admit that the victory in battle is got most prosperously, yet how small a portion of the glory shall go unto the prince: the commons will claim a great part of it, by the help of whose money the deed was done; foreign soldiers, that are hired for money, will challenge much more than the commons; the captains look to have very much of that glory; and fortune has the most of all, which striking a great stroke in every matter, in war may do most of all. If it come of a noble courage or stout stomach, that you be moved to make war: see, I pray you, how far wide ye be from your purpose. For while ye will not be seen to bow to one man, as to a prince your neighbour, peradventure of your alliance, who may by fortune have done you good: how much more abjectly must ye bow yourself, what time ye seek aid and help of barbarous people; yea, and, what is more unworthy, of such men as are defiled with all mischievous deeds, if we must needs call such kind of monsters men? Meanwhile ye go about to allure unto you with fair words and promises, ravishers of virgins and of religious women, men-killers, stout robbers and rovers (for these be thy special men of war). And while you labour to be somewhat cruel and superior over your equal, you are constrained to submit yourselves to the very dregs of all men living. And while ye go about to drive your neighbour out of his land, ye must needs first bring into your own land the most pestilent puddle of unthrifts that can be. You mistrust a prince of your own alliance, and will you commit yourself wholly to an armed multitude? How much surer were it to commit yourself to concord!

If ye will make war because of lucre, take your counters and cast. And I will say, it is better to have war than peace, if ye find not, that not only less, but also uncertain winning is got with inestimable costs.

Ye say ye make war for the safeguard of the commonweal, yea, but noway sooner nor more unthriftily may the commonweal perish than by war. For before ye enter into the field, ye have already hurt more your country than ye can do good getting the victory. Ye waste the citizens’ goods, ye fill the houses with lamentation, ye fill all the country with thieves, robbers, and ravishers. For these are the relics of war. And whereas before ye might have enjoyed all France, ye shut yourselves from many regions thereof. If ye love your own subjects truly, why revolve you not in mind these words: Why shall I put so many, in their lusty, flourishing youth, in all mischiefs and perils? Why shall I depart so many honest wives and their husbands, and make so many fatherless children? Why shall I claim a title I know not, and a doubtful right, with spilling of my subjects’ blood? We have seen in our time, that in war made under colour of defence of the Church, the priests have been so often pillaged with contributions, that no enemy might do more. So that while we go about foolishly to escape falling in the ditch, while we cannot suffer a light injury, we afflict ourselves with most grievous despites. While we be ashamed of gentleness to bow to a prince, we be fain to please people most base. While we indiscreetly covet liberty, we entangle ourselves in most grievous bondage. While we hunt after a little lucre, we grieve ourselves and ours with inestimable harness. It had been a point of a prudent Christian man (if he be a true Christian man) by all manner of means to have fled, to have shunned, and by prayer to have withstood so fiendish a thing, and so far both from the life and doctrine of Christ. But if it can by no means be eschewed, by reason of the ungraciousness of many men, when ye have essayed every way, and that ye have for peace sake left no stone unturned, then the next way is, that ye do your diligence that so ill a thing may be gested and done by them that be evil, and that it be achieved with as little effusion of man’s blood as can be.

Now if we endeavour to be the selfsame thing that we hear ourselves called,- that is, good Christian men, – we shall little esteem any worldly thing, nor yet ambitiously covet anything of this world. For if we set all our mind, that we may lightly and purely part hence; if we incline wholly to heavenly things; if we pitch all our felicity in Christ alone; if we believe all that is truly good, truly gay and glorious, truly joyful, to remain in Christ alone; if we thoroughly think that a godly man can of no man be hurt; if we ponder how vain and vanishing are the scornful things of this world; if we inwardly behold how hard a thing it is for a man to be in a manner transformed into a god, and so here, with continual and indefatigable meditation, to be purged from all infections of this world, that within a while the husk of this body being cast off, it may pass hence to the company of angels; finally, if we surely have these three things, without which none is worthy of the name of a Christian man, – Innocency, that we may be pure from all vices; Charity, that we may do good, as near as we can, to every man; Patience, that we may suffer them that do us ill, and, if we can, with good deeds overcome wrongs to us done: I pray you, what war can there be among us for trifles? If it be but a tale that is told of Christ, why do we not openly put him out of our company? Why should we glory in his title? But if he be, as he is in very deed, the true way, the very truth, and the very life, why doth all the manner of our living differ so far asunder from the true example of him? If we acknowledge and take Christ for our author, which is very Charity, and neither taught nor gave other thing but charity and peace, then go to, let us not in titles and signs, but in our deeds and living, plainly express him. Let us have in our hearts a fervent desire of peace, that Christ may again know us for his. To this intent the princes, the prelates, and the cities and commonalties should apply their counsels. There hath been hitherto enough spilt of Christian man’s blood. We have showed pleasure enough to the enemies of the Christian religion. And if the common people, as they are wont, make any disturbance, let the princes bridle and quail them, which princes ought to be the selfsame thing in the commonweal that the eye is in the body, and the reason in the soul. Again, if the princes make any trouble, it is the part of good prelates by their wisdom and gravity to pacify and assuage such commotion. Or else, at the least, we being satiate with continual wars, let the desire of peace a little move us. The bishop exhorteth us (if ever any bishop did Leo the Tenth doth, which occupieth the room of our peaceable Solomon, for all his desire, all his intent and labour, is for this intent) that they whom one common faith hath coupled together, should be joined in one common concord. He laboureth that the Church of Christ should flourish, not in riches or lordships, but in her own proper virtues. Surely this is a right goodly act, and well beseeming a man descended of such a noble lineage as the Medici: by whose civil prudence the noble city of Florence most freshly flourished in long-continued peace; whose house of Medici hath been a help unto all good letters. Leo himself, having alway a sober and a gentle wit, giving himself from his tender youth to good letters of humanity, was ever brought up, as it were, in the lap of the Muses, among men most highly learned. He so faultless led his life, that even in the city of Rome, where is most liberty of vice, was of him no evil rumour, and so governing himself came to the dignity to be bishop there, which dignity he never coveted, but was chosen thereto when he least thought thereon, by the provision of God to help to redress things in great decay by long wars. Let Julius the bishop have his glory of war, victories, and of his great triumphs, the which how evil they beseem a Christian bishop, it is not for such a one as I am to declare. I will this say, his glory, whatsoever it be, was mixed with the great destruction and grievous sorrow of many a creature. But by peace restored now to the world, Leo shall get more true glory than Julius won by so many wars that he either boldly begun, or prosperously fought and achieved.

But they that had liefer hear of proverbs, than either of peace or of war, will think that I have tarried longer about this digression than is meet for the declaration of a proverb.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: Peace, not war, is the natural state of mankind

August 26, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

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Johann Gottfried von Herder
From Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
Translated by T.O. Churchill

Peace, therefore, not war is the natural state of mankind when at liberty; war is the offspring of necessity, not the legitimate child of enjoyment…

In proportion as reason increases among mankind, man must learn from their infancy to perceive that there is a nobler greatness than the inhuman greatness of tyrants; and that it is more laudable, as well as more difficult, to form than to ravage a nation, to establish cities than to destroy them. The industrious Egyptians, the ingenious Greeks, the mercantile Phoenicians not only make a more pleasing figure in history, but enjoyed, during the period of their existence, a more useful and agreeable life than the destroying Persians, the conquering Romans, the avaricious Carthaginians. The remembrance of the former still lives with fame, and their influence upon Earth will continue eternally with increasing power; while the ravagers, with their demoniacal might, reaped no farther benefit than that of becoming a wretched, luxurious people amid the ruins of their plunder, and at last quaffing off the poisoned draught of severe retaliation.

Such was the fate of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans: even the Greeks received more injury from their internal dissensions, and from their luxury in many cities and provinces than from the sword of the enemy. Now as these are fundamental principles of a natural order, which not only shows itself in particular cases of history or in fortuitous instances; but is founded on its own intrinsic properties, that is, on the nature of oppression and an overstretched power, or on the consequences of victory, luxury and arrogance, as on the laws of a disturbed equiponderance, and holds on coeternally with the course of things: why must we be compelled to doubt that this law of Nature is not as generally acknowledged as any other, and does not operate, from the forcibleness with which it is perceived with the infallible efficacy of a natural truth? What may be brought to mathematical certainty, and political demonstration, must be acknowledged as truth, soon or late; for no one has yet questioned the accuracy of the multiplication table or the propositions of Euclid.

Even our brief history already demonstrates beyond all doubt that the increased diffusion of true knowledge among people has happily diminished their inhuman, mad destroyers. Since the downfall of Rome there has arisen no other cultivated nation in Europe which has founded the whole of its constitution on war and conquest; for the military nations of the Middle Ages were rude and savage. In proportion as they advanced in civilization, and learned to have a regard for their property, the more amiable and peaceful spirit of industry, of agriculture, of trade, and of science forced itself upon them unnoticed, or indeed often against their wills. Men learned to use without destroying, as what was destroyed was no longer capable of being used; and thus in time, from the nature of the case itself, a peaceful balance between nations took place; for, after centuries of wild warring all began to perceive, that the object of every one’s wish was not to be attained, unless they contributed to promote it in common. Even that, which of all things appeared most to require exclusive possession, commerce, could take no other way; as it is a law of nature, against which passions and prejudice are ultimately of no avail. Every commercial nation of Europe now laments, and will hereafter lament still more, what envy or superstition once prompted it foolishly to destroy. As reason increases, the object of navigation will proportionally turn from conquest to trade; which is founded on reciprocal justice and courtesy, on a progressive emulation to excel in arts and industry, in short, on humanity and its eternal laws.

Our minds feel inward satisfaction when they not only perceive the balm which flows from the laws of human nature, but see it spread and make its way among mankind, even against their wills, from its natural force. God himself could not divest man of the capability of error; but he implanted this in the nature of human mistakes, that soon or late they should show themselves to be such, and become evident to the calculating creature. No prudent sovereign of Europe now governs his provinces as did the kings of Persia, or even the Romans themselves; if not from philanthropic motives, yet from a clearer insight into the business, as with the course of time political calculation has become more certain, easy, and perspicuous. A madman only would build Egyptian pyramids in our days; and any one that should attempt such useless enterprises would be deemed insane by all the rational part of the World, if not from his want of love for the people, yet from considerations of economy. The bloody combats of gladiators and barbarous fights with animals are no longer suffered among us: the human species has run through these wild tricks of youth and learned at length to see that its mad frolics cost more than they are worth. In like manner, we no longer require the poor oppressed slaves of the Romans or helots of Sparta; because in our constitutions we know how to obtain more easily from free beings what they accomplished with more danger, and even expense, by means of human animals: nay the time must come when we shall look back with as much compassion on our inhuman traffic in Negroes as on the ancient Roman Slaves or Spartan helots; if not from humanity, yet from calculation. In short, we have to thank God for having given us, with our weak fallible nature, reason, that immortal beam from his sun the essence of which it is to dispel night and show things in their real forms.

***

Man-devouring war, for example, was during ages the trade of robbery rudely exercised. It was long the practice of men swayed by turbulent passions; for while personal strength, cunning, and address were its requisites, it could cherish only the dangerous virtues of robbers and
murderers, even in those who possessed the most laudable qualities; as the wars of ancient times, of the Middle Ages, and even some of modern date abundantly testify. But in the midst of this depraving trade the art of war was invented, perhaps involuntarily; for the inventors of this art perceived not that it would sap the foundations of war itself. In proportion as the art of fighting became a profound study and various mechanical inventions were introduced into it, the passions and brute strength of individuals became useless. Soldiers were converted into mere machines, moved by the mind of a single general, and at the order of a few commanders; till at length sovereigns alone were permitted to play this dangerous and costly game, while in ancient times almost all warlike nations were continually in arms. We have seen proofs of this in several Asiatic nations, and not less in the Greeks and Romans. The latter were for centuries almost constantly in the field: the Volscian war continued 106 years; the Samnite, 71: the city of Veii was besieged ten years, like a second Troy: and the destructive Peloponnesian war of 28 years among the Greeks is sufficiently known. But as in all wars, to fall in battle is the least of evils, while the diseases and devastation that attend the motions of an army or the siege of a town, with the lawless spirit of plunder, that then pervades all ranks and conditions, are much greater evils, which passion-stirring war calls forth in a thousand frightful forms…

 

 

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Erasmus: How an astute general conducts warfare

August 25, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Erasmus: Selections on war

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Desiderius Erasmus
From Colloquy: The Funeral
Translated by N. Bailey

Marcolphus.
The Man understood Oeconomy, I perceive, that had the Skill to compose so many Differences, even upon his Death-Bed.

Phaedrus.
Phoo; he had been an Officer in the Army for many Years, where such Sort of Mutinies are common among the Soldiers.

Mar.
Had he a great Estate?

Ph.
A very great one.

Mar.
But ill-gotten perhaps, as is common, by Rapine, Sacrilege, and Extortion.

Ph.
Indeed Officers commonly do so, and I will not swear for him that he was a Jot better than his Neighbours: But if I don’t mistake the Man, he made his Fortune by his Wit, rather than by down-right Violence.

Mar.
After what Manner?

Ph.
He understood Arithmetic very well.

Mar.
And what of that?

Ph.
What of that? why, he would reckon 30000 Soldiers when there were but 7000, and a great many of those he never paid neither.

Mar.
A very compendious Way of accounting!

Ph.
Then he would lengthen out the War, and raise Contributions monthly, both from Friends and Foes; from his Enemies, that they might not be plunder’d; and from his Friends, that they might have Commerce with the Enemy.

Mar.
I know the common Way of Soldiers…

***

Ph.
Now the Pope’s Bull is to be read, wherein he is promised a full Pardon of all his Sins, and an Exemption from the Fear of Purgatory; and with a Justification over and above of his whole Estate.

Mar.
What, of an Estate gotten by Rapine?

Ph.
Gotten by the Law of Arms, and Fortune of War…

Categories: Uncategorized

Pierre Bayle: The God of fratricide is a lunatic invention

August 24, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Pierre Bayle: Men of blood not permitted to build temples

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Pierre Bayle
Historical and Critical Dictionary
Translated by Richard H. Popkin

From Spinoza

Let men hate one another, let them murder one another in a forest, let them meet in armies to kill one another, let the conquerors sometime eat the vanquished; this may be understood, because it is supposed that they are distinct from one another and that the mine and thine produce contrary passions in them. But that there should be wars and battles when men are only the modifications of the same being, when, consequently, only God acts, and when the God who modifies himself into a Turk is the same God in number who modifies himself into a Hungarian; this is what surpasses all monstrosities and chimerical disorders of the craziest people who were ever put away in lunatic asylums.

From Clarifications

People every day sign formularies of faith against their conscience in order to safeguard their wealth or to avoid jail, exile, death, or the like. A military man who has given up everything for his religion, and who finds himself in the dilemma of either offending God if he avenges himself for a blow, or of appearing a coward if he does not avenge himself, will not let himself rest until he has been righted for this affront, even at the risk of killing or being killed in a state that will be followed by eternal damnation.

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Pierre Bayle: Men of blood not permitted to build temples

August 22, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Pierre Bayle: The God of fratricide is a lunatic invention

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Pierre Bayle
Historical and Critical Dictionary
Translated by Richard H. Popkin

From Henry of Eppendorf

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” says the Bible. This is very true in terms of the other world; but in terms of this one they are very miserable. They do not want to be the hammer, and because of this they are continually the anvil, beaten from all sides.

***

From David

The conquests of David shall be the subject of my last observation. There are some rigid casuists who do not think that a Christian prince can lawfully engage in a war merely from a desire to aggrandize himself. These casuists only approve of defensive wars, or, in general, those that tend only to restore to every man the possessions belonging to him. On the basis of this view, David had frequently undertaken unjust wars; for, besides the fact that Scripture often presents him as the aggressor, we find that he “extended the limits of his empire from Egypt to the Euphrates”…

But if, generally speaking, the conquests of that holy monarch have increased his glory without prejudice to his justice, it will be difficult to admit this proposition when we enter in particulars…Let us confine ourselves to what the Sacred History has told us of the way in which he treated the vanquished. “And he brought forth the people that were therein and put them under saws and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon” (II Samuel 12:31)…Let us see how he treated the Moabites: “And he smote Moab and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he put to death, and with one full line to keep alive” (II Samuel 8:2). That is to say, he decided to put precisely two-thirds of them to death, neither more nor less. Edom received yet a harsher treatment. He slew all the males there. “For six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom” (I Kings 11:16). Can it be said that this way of waging war is not to be condemned? Have not the Turks and the Tartars a little more humanity? And if a vast number of pamphlets complain about the military executions of our time, which are really cruel and much to be blamed, though mild in comparison to David’s, what would the authors of those pamphlets not say if they had the saws, harrows, and brickkilns of David, and the general slaughter of all the males, young and old, to condemn?

***

From all that has been said in the preceding remarks…it may be easily inferred that if the Syrians had been as great writers of libels as Europeans are nowadays, they would have strangely disfigured David’s glory. What infamous names and titles would they not have used for that band of adventurers who joined him after he left Saul’s court? The Scripture informs us that all those who were persecuted by the creditors, all the discontented, and all those who were in bad circumstances went to him, and he became their captain…Those who have written the history of Cataline and of Caesar would furnish a satirical painter with a great many colors…It is true that by the testimony of God himself, David was a man of blood; for which reason God would not permit him to build the temple…

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Thomas Carlyle: War is a quarrel between two thieves

August 19, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Carlyle: The works of peace versus battles and war-tumults

Thomas Carlyle: What blood-filled trenches, and contentious centuries, may still divide us!

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Thomas Carlyle
From The French Revolution. A History

Battles, in these ages, are transacted by mechanism; with the slightest possible development of human individuality or spontaneity: men now even die, and kill one another, in an artificial manner.

***

War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against one other.

(Attributed by Emma Goldman)

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Thomas Holcroft: In wars and wretchedness I cannot say that I delight

August 18, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Holcroft: Reaping vast crops of famine, sword, and fire

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Thomas Holcroft
From The Soldier’s Tale

‘Here men have writh’d in agonizing pain!
‘Here bodies, limbs, and heads, have strew’d the ground;
‘While thousands gnash’d the teeth, and call’d in vain
‘On death t’ inflict a last relieving wound.

‘Rivers have I forded, cities have sacked,
‘Batter’d their ramparts, climbed their counterscarps:
‘To find his treasure have the ruler rack’d;
‘Matrons have ravish’d on the husband corpse:

‘Kingdoms have plunder’d, lands laid desolate:
‘The Sultan bad me march, his foes invade;
‘With famine, fire, and sword exterminate!
‘His dread commands proudly have I obey’d!

‘Many and dreadful battles have I fought;
‘Defenseless towns and provinces have plunder’d…

‘Giaffar, thy turn is come, I wait to hear
‘Tale of a softer kind, and less affright;
‘In wars and wretchedness, to be sincere,
‘I cannot say, my sons, that I delight.’

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Thomas Holcroft: Reaping vast crops of famine, sword, and fire

August 17, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Holcroft: In wars and wretchedness I cannot say that I delight

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Thomas Holcroft
From Know Thyself

A man there was, virtuous and wise,
Whose worth the tyrant’s rage enflam’d
To madness, if he were but nam’d;
Yet every tongue that would recognize.
I grant this man with freedom spoke
Some truths, that might surmise provoke;
For sweet humanity he lov’d,
And all the arts of peace approv’d;
Nay openly professed to hate
The broils, and wars, that make earth desolate:
When prejudice of nations stood
Against their mutual brotherhood,
And when he heard the wicked aim
Such hell-born false and fatal prejudice t’ inflame,
And animosities prolong,
At times like these,
I grant this language might be strong…

****

From The Arab and his Three Sons

And first the man of war, the fighting blade,
Those prowess made both wise and foolish wonder,
He found that enemies the more he made,
The more he had to conquer, kill, and plunder.

Revengeful wrath became his daily bread;
Oh with what gusto did he hurl defiance!
He scorn’d him, who went peaceably to bed;
With slaughter, wounds, and death, he sought alliance.

He from compassion felt himself exempt;
His business with mankind was t’ inflame ’em;
Your quiet souls he held in high contempt,
For he by quarrelling could only tame ’em.

That heroes were destroyers well he knew,
For he had read their wondrous praise in story;
The more infernal mischief they could do
The brighter blaz’d that circle call’d their glory.

Well, let us then suppose him, for the present,
Reaping vast crops of famine, sword, and fire…

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Thomas Tickell: The Soldier’s late destroying Hand shall rear new Temples in his native Land

August 15, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Thomas Tickell
From A Poem, on the Prospect of Peace

To Britain’s QUEEN the scepter’d Suppliant bends,
To Her his Crowns and Infant Race commends,
Who grieves Her Fame with Christian Blood to buy,
Nor asks for Glory at a Price so high.
At Her Decree, the War suspended stands,
And Britain’s Heroes hold their lifted Hands,
Their open Brows no threat’ning Frowns disguise,
But gentler Passions sparkle in their Eyes.
The Gauls, who never in their Courts could find
Such temper’d Fire with manly Beauty join’d,
Doubt if they’re those, whom, dreadful to the View
In Forms so fierce their fearful Fancies drew;
At whose dire Names ten thousand Widows prest
Their helpless Orphans clinging to the Breast.
In silent Rapture each his Foe surveys,
They vow firm Friendship, and give mutual Praise.
Brave Minds, howe’er at War, are secret Friends,
Their gen’rous Discord with the Battel ends;
In Peace they wonder whence Dissension rose,
And ask how Souls so like could e’er be Foes…

Henceforth be Thine, Vice-Gerent of the Skies,
Scorn’d Worth to raise, and Vice in Robes chastise,
To dry the Orphan’s Tears, and from the Bar,
Chace the Brib’d Judge, and hush the wordy War,
Deny the curst Blasphemer’s Tongue to rage,
And turn God’s Fury from an impious Age.
Blest Change! the Soldier’s late destroying Hand
Shall rear new Temples in his native Land…

At length, Heaven’s Wrath appeas’d, he quits the War,
To roll his Orb, and guide his destin’d Star,
To shed kind Fate, and lucky Hours bestow,
And smile propitious on the World below…

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Philip Freneau: The Prospect of Peace

August 14, 2018 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Philip Freneau
The Prospect of Peace

Though clad in winter’s gloomy dress
All nature’s works appear,
Yet other prospects rise to bless
The new returning year:
The active sail again is seen
To greet our western shore,
Gay plenty smiles, with brow serene,
And wars distract no more.

No more the vales, no more the plains
An iron harvest yields;
Peace guards our doors, impels our swains
To till the grateful field:
From distant climes, no longer foes,
(Their years of misery past,)
Nations arrive, to find repose
In these domains at last.

And, if a more delightful scene
Attracts the mortal eye,
Where clouds nor darkness intervene,
Behold, aspiring high,
On freedom’s soil those fabrics plann’d,
On virtue’s basis laid,
That make secure our native land,
And prove our toils repaid.

Ambitious aims and pride severe,
Would you at distance keep,
What wanderer would not tarry here,
Here charm his cares to sleep?
O, still may health her balmy wings
O’er these fair fields expand,
While commerce from all climates brings
The products of each land.

Through toiling care and lengthen’d views,
That share alike our span,
Gay, smiling hope her heaven pursues,
The eternal friend of man:
The darkness of the days to come
She brightens with her ray,
And smile’s o’er Nature’s gaping tomb,
When sickening to decay!

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James Jennings: Reign goddess, Peace, throughout eternal years

August 13, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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James Jennings
Ode on the Prospect of Peace

I

What heavenly goddess from yon cloud
Her radiant form begins t’ unshroud;
Whose banners, fair and bright unfurl’d
Revive the bloody-weltering world,
With halcyon days of happiest scope?
‘Tis she – the everlasting Hope!
Who long, by War and Discord’s cohorts driven,
From earth, sought peace and love, and amity in heaven.

II

Lo! too, descending in her train,
Her whom long time the nations sought in vain;
Her whom, long time, each honoured son,
Or ere the work of death begun,
With strong entreaty and with many a year,
By every name to love and friendship dear,
Sought to detain below: but faction loud
And mad Ambition, ‘midst fierce Folly’s crowd,
The gentle accents drowned; then to the car
Of wild Destruction chained the steeds of War,
Whose clattering hoofs flung desolation round,
Whilst Murder laughed at every groan profound.

III

Lo! now she peers above yon darkening cloud!
Hope leads her on! each name of prowess proud:
The stern companions in array
Of bloody War, behold the day
Begins to dawn, whose sun shall rise,
And scatter darkness from the skies.
Behold and tremble, Slaughter rears
His sword aloft; but, filled with fears
To strike delays, whilst from his hand,
As touched by magic’s forceful wand,
Drops the dread weapon, ere the gentle Peace
Can even proclaim that even Havoc’s hands shall cease.

IV

Discord abashed retires, and drops her scroll
Of lies; and Famine pale no more
Shall o’er the dying with sunk eyebrows pore,
Nor smile to hear the cannon’s deaf’ning roll.
Distress looks up, and from the cottage peeps,
Where orphaned infancy still sleeps,
Unconscious of his loss, – The war smoke flies,
And beams of gladness streak the azure skies: –
The mother’s heart beats high; – the sorrowing maid
With timid step, by love betrayed,
Midst scenes of horror roved;
A noble form with light steps moves!
‘Tis he, her Hero; far away he throws
His sword: for gone are all their woes.
He clasps her to his breast; the angel’s past
Who vollies in the storm
And Peace appears at last!

V

But Desolation hovers yet around!
Let Moscow tell, or Leipzic’s classic ground,
Whose peaceful halls the muses bless’d,
Where Science many a sage caress’d; –
Let tell Iberia, or those fields
Where Plenty’s stream abundance yields;
Woe stalks abroad; and Hunger nigh
Derides of Want the widow’s sigh!
What hand to heal – what arm to save
The pining wretch beside the grave,
Who asks not, but whose looks impart
Important lessons to the heart?
Yes, there are hands to save – to heal!
The sons of Britain still can feel;
And, midst of war the direful woe,
Their healing streams of charity shall flow.

VI

On thee, O Peace! we call; O deign descend;
And may earth’s sons thy holy cause befriend.
O Hope benign! our wishes aid!
And Justice, be thou nigh?
O bid Persuasion haste the maid
With Mercy from on high.
O Peace! thine altars long destroyed restore!
And bid the mountains leap – the vallies sing!
O wave thy olive branch below once more,
And let the nations willing tribute bring!
Assert thy power! and thy benignant sway
Shall princes, kings, and potentates obey.

VII

Let the harp’s loud lively measure
Lead along the airy dance!
Let the mazy round of pleasure
For awhile the soul entrance!
Be the strain, in echoing numbers,
Wafted down the fruitful dell;
Peace approaching from his slumbers
Rouses Mirth – to Care farewell!
Age may now repeat his story
Underneath the ivied tree;
Let the youth who sighs for glory
Consecrate his heart to thee.
To thee, O Peace, be every blessing,
Love and happiness abound;
Science, Virtue, Truth caressing,
Freedom fair by just laws crowned.

VIII

Behold her tributary deities – the Arts
Lend their conspiring aid, and trophies rear
Of all her conquering power! what time all hearts
Join in the general joy; whilst some appear
To woo the muse of song.
And many a name the stream of time along
Exultant floats; fair Science lends her hand,
And grand improvement scatters through the land
Bridges and roads, canals and lofty domes,
Prompted by patriot wealth, or patriot power;
Commerce the cheerful sailors from their homes
Tempts with rich traffic; riches shower
Their blessings far abroad – the poor no more
Ask alms in vain. The seas and every shore
Free as the winds; no hostile sail is seen,
As gay the vessels glide upon the ocean green.

IX

The sons of genius and of learning look
No more in vain through Nature’s ample book;
Nor from her pages seek delight,
The hidden stores of glory bright,
To guide the sons of man with the meed
Of fostering wealth and high deserving praise;
The inspiring goddess of the poets days;
The fair reward of every patriot deed.
Religion, too, no more shall stand
And shake her fetters to the astonished crowd;
But in Persuasion’s accents loud
Shall lead Benevolence by her right hand.
Nor Superstition her gross chains shall bind
Around the fairest works of heaven – the mind!
For truth’s Ithuriel spear,
Shall, as a wand, the mists of error clear,
And Conscience leap for joy in every land.

X

The sons of Britain and of Gallia meet
No more in hostile strife, but greet
With Cordiality’s warm-shaking hand,
Their long divided hearts, and deep deplore
The havoc Folly broods for evermore;
Whilst young Columbia stretches o’er the seas
The arm of amity; each favouring breeze
Glad accent brings
From many a distant land:
The Austrian, Prussian now look up indeed.
Assembled princes and most potent kings
Welcome the newborn hopes. The nations smile,
And many a heart felt pang the tidings half beguile.

XI

O gladd’ning prospect of the happiest days!
Let Memory consecrate in solemn lays
The past, as lessons dear
Which princes and which people ought revere;
Princes – That justice and the people’s right
Be their sole aim, their every day delight;
The people – that their meal
Is best obtained by steady, temperate zeal;
Nor may foul anarchy intrude,
Lest stern Oppression rouse her ready barking brood.

XII

She hears, nor shall the cannon’s roar
And War’s dread Whoop appal us more;
The angels’ song the vaulted heavens fill,
Sweet peace descends, and in her train Goodwill.
Long may she reign, a grateful world replies,
Sole sovereign here as in her native skies.
Amen, amen echo the whirling spheres,
Reign goddess, Peace, throughout eternal years.

 

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Nathaniel Evans: Ode on the Prospect of Peace

August 12, 2018 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Nathaniel Evans
From Ode on the Prospect of Peace

When elemental conflicts rage,
And heaven is wrapp’d in tempests dire,
When storms with storms dread combat wage,
And thunders roll etherial fire; –
Returning zephyr’s odorous race,
And radiant Sol’s all-cheering face,
The trembling mortals most desire.

When Eurus, charged with livid clouds,
Scours o’er old ocean’s wild domain,
And Boreas rends the vessel’s shrouds,
And o’er her swells the raging main;
If lighter breezes should succeed,
And Iris sweet, of varied hue,
Lift o’er the main her beamy head,
What raptures fill the marine crew!
Thus, when Bellona (ruthless maid!)
Her empire through the world has spread,
And death his flag has proud display’d
O’er legions that in battle bled; –
If peace, bedeck’d with olive robe,
(Resplendent nymph, sweet guest of heaven)
Transfuse her balm around the globe,
A theme of joy to man is given.
Then wake, O muse! thy sweetest lays –
Returning peace demands thy praise;
And while the notes in varied cadence sound,
Eye thou the Theban swan that soars o’er heav’nly ground.

If thou from Albion’s sea-girt shore,
Advent’rous muse, wilt deign to rove,
Inclined remotest realms to explore
And soothe the savage soul to love;
Hither wave thy wandering pinion,
Here be fix’d thy last dominion.
Warbling in ’Sylvania’s grove,
Bright-eyed Euphrosyne! attend.
If genial peace can aught avail,
With all thy graceful charms descend,
And o’er the youthful lyre prevail.
Bounteous peace with lavish hand,
To every shore thy blessings strew,
O veil the blood-polluted land,
And all thy grateful joys renew.
Thy blissful pregnant reign restore,
And calm the breasts of angry kings;
Thy horn of Amalthean store
Ope, and expand thy golden wings;
Till trade secure her treasure beams,
And science reassumes her shades;
Till shepherds quaff untainted streams,
And hinds enjoy their native glades;
Till the glad muses strike the lyre,
And virtuous social deeds inspire;
Till the loud drum no more shall bid to arms prepare,
Nor brazen trumpets breathe the horrid din of war.

Auspicious power, whose salutary ray
Form’d this new world, and rear’d her infant fame,
Extend anew thy mitigating sway,
And quell the hero’s battle-breathing flame.
Ye fragrant myrtles, ope your peaceful bowers,
And charm the warrior with your pleasing scenes,
Shield him with woodbine’s aromatic flowers,
And for his sopha spread your velvet greens.
For him the flute mellifluous shall blow
In Lydian music, sounding soft and low,
And blooming beauty, with attractive art,
Shall sweetly melt the tumults of his heart;
The nectar’d bowl, with rosy garlands twined,
Shall waft his sorrows to the vagrant wind,
While the victorious laurel of renown,
In verdant wreaths his manly brows shall crown.

Too long has war’s terrific train,
(The barbed spear and reeking blade)
Made nations rue their chieftains slain,
And sanguined every muse’s shade.
From distant Volga’s rapid floods,
To Canada’s high towering woods,
Has the deadly cannon bray’d.
From whence the effulgent god of day
Impearls Arabia’s spicy fields,
To where his setting lustres play –

***

Descend then, Peace, angelic maid,
And smooth Bellona’s haggard brow;
Haste to diffuse thy healing aid,
Where’er implored by scenes of woe.
Henceforth, whoe’er disturbs thy reign,
Or stains the world with human gore,
Be they from earth (a gloomy train!)
Banish’d to hell’s profoundest shore;
Where vengeance, on Avernus’ lake,
Rages, with furious Até bound;
And black rebellion’s fetters shake,
And discord’s hideous murmurs sound;
Where envy’s noxious snakes entwine
Her temples round, in gorgon mood,
And bellowing faction rolls supine
Along the flame-becurled flood! –
Hence, then, to that accursed place,
Disturbers of the human race!
And with you bear ambition wild, and selfish pride,
With persecution foul, and terror by her side.

Thus driven from earth war’s horrid train –
O Peace, thou nymph divine, draw near!

***

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Jules Michelet: My book is a book of peace

August 11, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Jules Michelet
From The Bird
Translated by A.E.

For myself, I had long hailed, with all my heart, the great French Revolution which had occurred in the Natural Sciences – the era of Lamarck and of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, so fertile in method, the mighty restorers of all science. With what happiness I traced their features in their legitimate sons – those ingenious children who have inherited their intellect!

At their head let me name the amiable and original author of the “Monde des Oiseaux,” whom the world has long recognized as one of the most solid, if not also the most amusing, of naturalists. I shall refer to him more than once; but I hasten, on the threshold of my book, to pay this preliminary homage to a truly great observer, who, in all that concerns his own observations, is as weighty, as special, as Wilson or Audubon.

He has wronged himself by saying that, in his noble work, “he has only sought a pretext for a discourse on man.” On the contrary, numerous pages demonstrate that, apart from all analogy, he has loved and studied the Bird for its own sake. And it is for this reason that he has surrounded it with so many legends, with such vivid and profound personifications. Each bird which Toussenel treats of is now, and will for ever remain, a person.

***

Another difference between this book and that of Toussenel’s is, that, harmonious as he is, and a disciple of the gentle Fourier, he is not the less a sportsman. In every page the military calling of the Lorraine is clearly visible.

My book, on the contrary, is a book of peace, written specifically in hatred of sport.

Hunt the eagle and the lion, if you will; but do not hunt the weak.

The devout faith which we cherish at heart, and which we teach in these pages, is, that man will peaceably subdue the whole earth, when he shall gradually perceive that every adopted animal, accustomed to a domesticated life, or at least to that degree of friendship or neighbourliness of which its nature is capable, will be a hundred times more useful to him than if he had simply cut its throat.

Man will not be truly man – we return to this topic at the close of our volume – until he shall labour seriously to accomplish the mission which the earth expects of him:

The pacification and harmonious communion of all living nature.

“A woman’s dreams!” you exclaim. What matters that?

Since a woman’s heart breathes in this book, I see no reason to reject the reproach. We accept it as an eulogy. Patience and gentleness, tenderness and pity, and maternal warmth – these are the things which beget, preserve, develop a living creation.

May this, in due time, become not a book, but a reality! Then, haply, it shall prove suggestive, and others derive from it their inspiration.

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Mary Heron: Ode on the General 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

Mary Heron: Bid brazen-throated war and discord cease

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Mary Heron
From Ode on the General Peace

Britannia! rear thy drooping head,
The noisy din of war is fled;
Celestial peace from heaven descends,
To this blest isle her course she bends,
And waves the olive-branch on high,
Diffusing fragrance thro’ the sky.
Hark! Albion’s joyful shores rebound,
Her rocks re-echo back the sound!
The listening plains
Repeat the strains,
And hail the goddess all around.

See smiling plenty in her train,
Attendant on her blissful reign;
Enfeebled commerce quickly springs,
Exerts her powers, expands her wings,
Shakes off dull sloth, inactive sleep,
And boldly launches thro’ the deep…

O direful scene! what streams of blood,
With crimson stain the sanguine flood!
O dreadful sound! what shrieks arise,
And dismal groans ascend the skies!

Hark! how the bursting cannons roar,
And loud explosions shake the shore;
Array’d in every horrid form,
Death rides triumphant in the storm;
With terror crown’d,
He stalks around,
There bids the raging flames devour,
And Ocean smoke with human gore.

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Mary Heron: Bid brazen-throated 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

Mary Heron: Ode on the General Peace

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Mary Heron
From On the Capitulation of Lord Cornwallis in America

What eye but must with gushing tears o’erflow?
What sympathetic heart but bleed with woe?
See those, with frantic grief distracted, run,
And mourn for fathers, brothers, husbands, sons!
Each dear relative, (now, perhaps, no more)
Stabb’d to the heart, lay weltring in their gore,
Till welcome death appeas’d the mortal strife,
And kindly clos’d the avenues of life…

“Curst be that fatal day which first began,
“In horrid war to found the bloody plan;
“Sure some internal phrenzy seiz’d my mind,
“And made me to the ties of nature blind!
“See all around what devastations rage,
“Brothers with brothers, fathers with sons engage;
“Invet’rate enemies the dearest friends,
“Whilst each his life in the contention ends…”

Bid brazen-throated war and discord cease,
And fill her realms with universal peace;
Her bright, unsullied majesty restore,
And make her great and happy as before…

Categories: Uncategorized

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

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

French writers on war and peace

Women writers on peace and war

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Germaine de Staël
From Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution

When Louis XVI and his ministers had left the hall, the Assembly voted war by acclamation. Some members took no share in the deliberations; but the galleries applauded with transport: the deputies threw their hats in the air, and that day, the first of the bloody struggle which has torn Europe during twenty-three years, that day did not, in most minds, produce the slightest disquietude. Yet, of the deputies who voted for this war, many fell by a violent death, and those who rejoiced at it the most were unconsciously pronouncing their own death sentence.

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Mary Elizabeth Coleridge: Lilies and Doves

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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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Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Lilies and Doves
(May 1902)

Bring not the lily hither; she is pale,
And we have bought with blood the end of strife.
She lives a day; and then her glories fail.
The peace we died for shall outlive our life.

Make not the dove an emblem; she has wings
And she will fly: ’tis not her cooing song
That shall proclaim the concord whence there springs
Stern peace – a joy inflexible and strong.

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George Saintsbury: The odious profession

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

British writers on peace and war

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George Saintsbury
From A Short History of French Literature

The procureurs (advocates) of arms and of ladies endeavour to show each that his client – war or love – deserves the chief attention of a prince. Here, as elsewhere with Coquillart, though of course more covertly, satire dominates. But the best of the pieces attributed to Coquillart are his monologues. There are three of these, the Monologue Coquillart, the Monologue du Puys, and the Monologue du Gendarme Cassé. This last is a ferocious satire on its subject, coarse in language, like most of the author’s poems, but full of rude vigour. The professional soldier as distinguished from the feudal militia or the train-bands of the towns was odious to the later middle ages.

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

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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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Vita Sackville-West
From To Any M.F.H.

Though warring men must stain the west
Doubly with sunset’s barbarous dye,
Leaving the plumes of manhood’s crest,
A shameful yet proud bequest,
In trails of blood across the sky,

Within the acres that I rule
The little patch of peace I vaunt,
Where ways are safe and shadows cool,
Shall come no scarlet-coated fool
To tease my foxes from their haunt.

****

From Out With a Gun

Christ! has the world not pain enough
That I should shatter with a shot
– As one who crept with conscious plot,
Evil, malevolent, and rough –
This innocence of lowlihood?

****

Sometimes When Night…

Sometimes when night has thickened on the woods,
And we in the house’s square security
Read, speak a little, read again,
Read life at second-hand, speak of small things,
Being content and withdrawn for a little hour
From the dangers and fears that are either wholly absent
Or wholly invading, – sometimes a shot rings out
Sudden and sharp; complete. It has no sequel,
No sequel for us, only the sudden crack
Breaking a silence followed by a silence,
Too slight a thing for comment; slight, and usual,
A shot in the dark, fired by a hand unseen
At a life unknown; finding, or missing, the mark?
Bringing death? bringing hurt? teaching, perhaps, escape,
Escape from a present threat, a threat recurrent,
Or ending, once and for all? But we read on,
Since the shot was not at our hearts, since the mark was not
Your heart or mine, not this time, my companion.

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Ernest Renan: No military path to the kingdom of God

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

French writers on war and peace

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Ernest Renan
From a letter to David Strauss

That which admits to Valhalla excludes from the kingdom of God. Have you remarked that neither in the beatitudes, nor in the Sermon on the Mount, not in the Gospels, is there a word giving a place to military virtues among those which gain the kingdom of God?

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Sara Teasdale: Spring in War-Time

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Sara Teasdale
Spring in War-Time

I feel the spring far off, far off,
The faint, far scent of bud and leaf –
Oh, how can spring take heart to come
To a world in grief,
Deep grief?

The sun turns north, the days grow long,
Later the evening star grows bright –
How can the daylight linger on
For men to fight,
Still fight?

The grass is waking in the ground,
Soon it will rise and blow in waves –
How can it have the heart to sway
Over the graves,
New graves?

Under the boughs where lovers walked
The apple-blooms will shed their breath –
But what of all the lovers now
Parted by Death,
Grey Death?

***

There Will Come Soft Rains

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

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Vachel Lindsay: Speak Now for Peace

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Vachel Lindsay
Speak Now for Peace

Lady of Light, and our best woman, and queen,
Stand now for peace, (though anger breaks your heart),
Though naught but smoke and flame and drowning is seen.

Lady of Light, speak, though you speak alone,
Though your voice may seem as a dove’s in this howling flood,
It is heard to-night by every senate and throne.

Though the widening battle of millions and millions of men
Threatens to-night to sweep the whole of the earth,
Back of the smoke is the promise of kindness again.

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James Darmesteter: War and prophecy

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

French writers on war and peace

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James Darmesteter
From The Prophets of Israel
Translated by Helen B. Jastrow

When prophetic literature appeared, the moral and political horizon stretching before the eyes of the dreamers of Israel and of Judah consisted of a number of small states, Moab, Edom, Tyre, Philistia, Israel, Judah, all contending with one another with the bitterness characteristic of small states. War and pillage were the order of the day, perpetual razzias supplying captives for the slave trade of Tyre and the Greek islands. Farther off, a powerful state, Damascus, and, still farther, mighty Assyria, with their vast armies, their wars of extermination, their frightful systems of deportation and transportation in mass, already throw the shadow of death upon this chaos of lawless communities. The gods are as wicked and as bigoted as men; religion is become a school of prostitution in the temple of Astarte, of barbarity on the altars of Moloch; worship vacillating between silly and atrocious practices; divination, sorcery, imposture, are closely bound up with all the cults. And when the prophet of Jehovah extends his gaze to his own people, he beholds political and moral anarchy. Israel is divided against herself, and presents a united front only when opposing Judah. Bloody military revolutions create and overthrow kings, and all the horrors of a pretorian regime exist in a kingdom of several square miles. In the intermittent hours of peace, force remains absolute master, as in the time of war; the poor are oppressed by the rich….

The cruelty, the degradation, the iniquity, characteristic of those times, were certainly no worse than in preceding centuries, both in Israel and in the rest of the Semitic world; nor worse than those which prevailed later in Greece and in Rome…It was part of the spirit of prophecy to be dumfounded at human ferocity as at something against nature and reason. In the presence of the iniquities of the world, the heart of the prophets bled as though from a wound of the divine spirit, and their cry of indignation reechoed the wrath of the deity…

Then, at the sight of the crushed Assyrian, a vision of peace that has ever since haunted the universe passes before the eyes of the prophet. War had come to an end, hatred had ceased, Jehovah became the arbiter of nations. The nations no longer raised the sword against one another, and swords were to be forged into ploughshares.

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James Montgomery: Selections on war and peace

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James Montgomery: The poet tracks not the warrior’s fiery road

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

British writers on peace and war

James Montgomery: Selections on war and peace

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James Montgomery
From M.S.
To the memory of a female whom sickness had reconciled to the notes of sorrow

What is the Poet’s highest aim,
His richest heritage of fame? –
– To track the warrior’s fiery road,
With havoc, spoil, destruction strew’d,
While nations bleed along the plains,
Dragg’d at his chariot-wheels in chains?

– With fawning hand to woo the lyre,
Profanely steal celestial fire,
And bid an idol’s altar blaze
With incense of unhallow’d praise?
– With syren strains, Circean art,
To win the ear, beguile the heart,
Wake the wild passions into rage,
And please and prostitute the age!

NO! – to the generous bard belong
Diviner themes and purer song…

****

From The Mole-Hill

Yon gloomy ruffian, gash’d and gored,
Was he, whose fatal skill
First beat the plough-share to a sword,
And taught the art to kill?

Behind him skulks a shade, bereft
Of fondly worshipt fame;
He built the Pyramids, but left
No stone to tell his name.

****

Vultures

Abominable harpies, spare the dead.
– We only clear the field which man has spread;
On which should Heaven its hottest vengeance rain?
You slay the living, we but strip the slain.

****

From The Lyre

“That which Alexander sigh’d for,
That which Caesar’s soul possess’d.
That which heroes, kings, have died for –
Glory! – animates my breast:
Hark! the charging trumpets’ throats
Pour their death-defying notes;
‘To arms!’ they call: to arms I fly,
Like Wolfe to conquer, and like Wolfe to die.

“Soft! – the blood of murdered legions
Summons vengeance from the skies;
Flaming towns and ravaged regions,
All in awful judgment rise. –
O then, innocently brave,
I will wrestle with the wave;
Lo! Commerce spreads the daring sail,
And yokes her naval chariots to the gale.

“Blow, ye breezes! – gently blowing,
Waft me to that happy shore,
Where, from fountains ever flowing,
Indian realms their treasures pour;
Thence returning, poor in health,
Rich in honesty and wealth,
O’er thee, my dear paternal soil,
I’ll strew the golden harvest of my toil.

“Then shall Misery’s sons and daughters
In their lowly dwellings sing:
Bounteous as the Nile’s dark waters,
Undiscover’d as their spring,
I will scatter o’er the land
Blessings with a secret hand;
For such angelic tasks design’d,
I give the lyre and sorrow to the wind.”

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Shaftesbury: Improvement of arts and scholarship requires rest from war

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

British writers on peace and war

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Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury
From Advice to an Author
Grandees and men in power

It would be very hard if the princes of our nation refused to permit the industrious race of authors to do their work; since their royal ancestors and predecessors have had so much honour brought to them from their being writers. It’s to authorship that they owe that bright jewel of their crown, purchased by a warlike prince [Henry VIII] who took on the role of author and tried his strength in the polemical writings of the scholastic theologians, and thought it was an honour on this account to retain the title of Defender of the Faith.

Another prince [James I], with a more peaceful nature and fluent thought, put scholarship ahead of arms and military discipline. Putting his trust in his princely knowledge and profound learning, he made his style and speech the nerve and sinew of his government. He gave us his works full of wise exhortation and advice to his royal son as well as of instruction to his good people…At that time one might have seen our nation growing young and teachable, with the simplicity of heart that qualified them to profit like a scholar-people under their royal teacher…

It’s barely a quarter-century since our prince and our people reached such a good balance of power that our previously fragile liberties are now firmly secured, and we are freed from the fear of civil commotions – and of wars and violence…

It’s the same with us as it was with the Roman people in those early days, when to apply themselves to the improvement of arts and scholarship all they needed was a rest from war.

****

From Concerning Virtue or Merit

The last passions that we have to examine are the ones that don’t lead to a public or a private good, and don’t bring any advantage to the species in general or to the creature in particular. I call these the ‘unnatural affections’, to distinguish them from the ‘social’ (or ‘natural’) affections and from the ‘private’ affections.

Of this kind is the unnatural and inhuman delight in beholding torments, and getting a special joy and pleasure from viewing distress, calamity, blood, massacre and destruction. This has been the dominant passion of many tyrants and barbarous nations; and some degree of it belongs to temperaments that have thrown off the courteousness of behaviour that retains in us a proper reverence for mankind and prevents the growth of harshness and brutality. Wherever civility or affable manners have any place, however small, this passion doesn’t occur. It is in the nature of ‘good breeding’, as we call it, that even in the midst of many other corruptions it won’t allow inhumanity or savage pleasure. To get cruel delight from an enemy’s suffering may come from intense anger, vengefulness, fear, or some other extreme self-passion; but to delight in the torture and pain of other creatures even-handedly – natives or foreigners, human or of some other species, related to us or not, known or unknown – to feed on death (so to speak), and to be entertained with dying agonies, can’t be explained in terms of self-interest or private good, but is wholly and absolutely unnatural, as well as being horrible and miserable.

 

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James Montgomery: ‘Twas but a dream. But one word found utterance – “Peace, peace! peace!”

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

British writers on peace and war

James Montgomery: Selections on war and peace

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James Montgomery
From Lord Falkland’s Dream

Oft from his lips a shrill, sad moan would start,
And cold misgivings creep around his heart,
When he beheld the plague of war increase,
And but one word found utterance – “Peace, peace! peace!”

***

“Henceforth let civil war for ever cease;
Henceforth, my sons and daughters, dwell in peace;
Amidst the ocean-waves that never rest.
My lovely Isle, be thou the halcyon’s nest;
Amidst the nations, evermore in arms,
Be thou a haven, safe from all alarms;
Alone immovable ‘midst ruins stand,
Th’ unfailing hope of every failing land:

To thee for refuge kings enthroned repair;
Slaves flock to breathe the freedom of thine air.
Hither, from chains and yokes, let exiles bend
Their footsteps; here the friendless find a friend;
The country of mankind shall Britain be,
The home of peace, the whole world’s sanctuary.”

The pageant fled; ’twas but a dream: he, woke,
And found himself beneath the Druid-oak,
Where first the phantom on his vigil broke.
Around him gleam’d the morn’s reviving light;
But distant trumpets summon’d to the fight,
And Falkland slept among the slain at night.

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Petrarch: Return, O heaven-born Peace!

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Petrarch: Wealth and power at a bloody rate is wicked, better bread and water eat with peace

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Petrach
From To the Princes of Italy
An Exhortation to Peace
Translated by Barbarina Brand, Lady Dacre

O my own Italy! though words are vain
The mortal wounds to close,
Unnumbered, that thy beauteous bosom stain,
Yet may it soothe my pain
To sigh forth Tiber’s woes,
And Arno’s wrongs, as on Po’s saddened shore
Sorrowing I wander, and my numbers pour.
Ruler of heaven! By the all-pitying love
That could thy Godhead move
To dwell a lowly sojourner on earth,
Turn, Lord! on this thy chosen land thine eye:
See, God of Charity!
From what light cause this cruel war has birth;
And the hard hearts by savage discord steeled,
Thou, Father! from on high,
Touch by my humble voice, that stubborn wrath may yield!

***

From broken fortunes and from humble toil
The hard-earned dole to wring,
While from afar ye bring
Dealers in blood, bartering their souls for hire?
In truth’s great cause I sing,
Nor hatred nor disdain my earnest lay inspire.

***

My song! with courtesy, and numbers sooth,
Thy daring reasons grace;
For thou the mighty, in their pride of place,
Must woo to gentle ruth,
Whose haughty will long evil customs nurse,
Ever to truth averse!
Thee better fortunes wait,
Among the virtues few, the truly great!
Tell them – but who shall bid my terrors cease?
Peace! Peace! on thee I call! Return, O heaven-born Peace!

 

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Arnold Bennett: War casualties and war profiteers

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

British writers on peace and war

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Arnold Bennett
From Mr. Prohack

Silas Angmering had evidently been what is called a profiteer. He had made his money “out of the war.” And Silas was an Englishman. While Englishmen, and – later – Americans, had given up lives, sanity, fortunes, limbs, eyesight, health, Silas had gained riches…Prohack had himself seen, in the very club in which he was now entertaining Softly Bishop, a man who had left an arm in France chatting and laughing with a man who had picked up over a million pounds by following the great principle that a commodity is worth what it will fetch when people want it very badly and there is a shortage of it…

Few facts gave Mr. Prohack a more serene and proud satisfaction than the fact that he had materially lost through the war. He was positively glad that he had lost, and that the Government, his employer, had treated him badly…And now to become the heir of a profiteer!

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John Milton: No war or battle’s sound was heard the world around

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

British writers on peace and war

Milton: Men levy cruel wars, wasting the earth, each other to destroy

John Milton: What can war but endless war still breed?

Milton: Without ambition, war, or violence

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John Milton
From On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

[T]he meek-ey’d Peace:
She, crown’d with olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphere,
His ready harbinger,
With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing;
And waving wide her myrtle wand,
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.

No war or battle’s sound
Was heard the world around;
The idle spear and shield were high uphung;
The hooked chariot stood
Unstain’d with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sate still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.

But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of Light
His reign of peace upon the earth began:
The winds with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kist,
Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.

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