Emma Catherine Embury: Proud soldier turns from scenes of war

December 5, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Emma Catherine Embury (Ianthe)
From Guido: A Tale

Why does my song thus linger? The dark day
Of strife was gone, and peace resumed her sway.
E en as the prophet’s wand could once unlock
The hidden waters of the riftless rock,
So thou, sweet Peace, from iron hearts can bring
Th unwonted freshness of affection’s spring;
Till spurns the haughty chief his plumed crest,
And clasps his smiling infant to his breast,
While the proud soldier turns from scenes of war,
Rejoiced to worship beauty’s gentler star.

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François Rabelais: Waging war in good earnest

December 4, 2019 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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François Rabelais
From Gargantua and Pantagruel
Translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty

Now is it that the minds of men are qualified with all manner of discipline, and the old sciences revived which for many ages were extinct. Now it is that the learned languages are to their pristine purity restored, viz., Greek, without which a man may be ashamed to account himself a scholar, Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldaean, and Latin. Printing likewise is now in use, so elegant and so correct that better cannot be imagined, although it was found out but in my time by divine inspiration, as by a diabolical suggestion on the other side was the invention of ordnance. 

(The attack)

Picrochole incontinent grew angry and furious; and, without asking any further what, how, why, or wherefore, commanded the ban and arriere ban to be sounded throughout all his country, that all his vassals of what condition soever should, upon pain of the halter, come, in the best arms they could, unto the great place before the castle, at the hour of noon, and, the better to strengthen his design, he caused the drum to be beat about the town. Himself, whilst his dinner was making ready, went to see his artillery mounted upon the carriage, to display his colours, and set up the great royal standard, and loaded wains with store of ammunition both for the field and the belly, arms and victuals. At dinner he despatched his commissions, and by his express edict my Lord Shagrag was appointed to command the vanguard, wherein were numbered sixteen thousand and fourteen arquebusiers or firelocks, together with thirty thousand and eleven volunteer adventurers. The great Touquedillon, master of the horse, had the charge of the ordnance, wherein were reckoned nine hundred and fourteen brazen pieces, in cannons, double cannons, basilisks, serpentines, culverins, bombards or murderers, falcons, bases or passevolins, spirols, and other sorts of great guns. The rearguard was committed to the Duke of Scrapegood. In the main battle was the king and the princes of his kingdom. Thus being hastily furnished, before they would set forward, they sent three hundred light horsemen, under the conduct of Captain Swillwind, to discover the country, clear the avenues, and see whether there was any ambush laid for them. But, after they had made diligent search, they found all the land round about in peace and quiet, without any meeting or convention at all; which Picrochole understanding, commanded that everyone should march speedily under his colours. Then immediately in all disorder, without keeping either rank or file, they took the fields one amongst another, wasting, spoiling, destroying, and making havoc of all wherever they went, not sparing poor nor rich, privileged or unprivileged places, church nor laity, drove away oxen and cows, bulls, calves, heifers, wethers, ewes, lambs, goats, kids, hens, capons, chickens, geese, ganders, goslings, hogs, swine, pigs, and such like; beating down the walnuts, plucking the grapes, tearing the hedges, shaking the fruit-trees, and committing such incomparable abuses, that the like abomination was never heard of. Nevertheless, they met with none to resist them, for everyone submitted to their mercy, beseeching them that they might be dealt with courteously in regard that they had always carried themselves as became good and loving neighbours, and that they had never been guilty of any wrong or outrage done upon them, to be thus suddenly surprised, troubled, and disquieted, and that, if they would not desist, God would punish them very shortly…

So much they did, and so far they went pillaging and stealing, that at last they came to Seville, where they robbed both men and women, and took all they could catch: nothing was either too hot or too heavy for them. Although the plague was there in the most part of all the houses, they nevertheless entered everywhere, then plundered and carried away all that was within…The town being thus pillaged, they went unto the abbey with a horrible noise and tumult, but they found it shut and made fast against them. Whereupon the body of the army marched forward towards a pass or ford called the Gue de Vede, except seven companies of foot and two hundred lancers, who, staying there, broke down the walls of the close, to waste, spoil, and make havoc of all the vines and vintage within that place.

****

(The counterattack)

As he spake this he threw off his great monk’s habit, and laid hold upon the staff of the cross, which was made of the heart of a sorbapple-tree, it being of the length of a lance, round, of a full grip, and a little powdered with lilies called flower de luce, the workmanship whereof was almost all defaced and worn out. Thus went he out in a fair long-skirted jacket, putting his frock scarfwise athwart his breast, and in this equipage, with his staff, shaft or truncheon of the cross, laid on so lustily, brisk, and fiercely upon his enemies, who, without any order, or ensign, or trumpet, or drum, were busied in gathering the grapes of the vineyard. For the cornets, guidons, and ensign-bearers had laid down their standards, banners, and colours by the wall sides: the drummers had knocked out the heads of their drums on one end to fill them with grapes: the trumpeters were loaded with great bundles of bunches and huge knots of clusters: in sum, everyone of them was out of array, and all in disorder. He hurried, therefore, upon them so rudely, without crying gare or beware, that he overthrew them like hogs, tumbled them over like swine, striking athwart and alongst, and by one means or other laid so about him, after the old fashion of fencing, that to some he beat out their brains, to others he crushed their arms, battered their legs, and bethwacked their sides till their ribs cracked with it. To others again he unjointed the spondyles or knuckles of the neck, disfigured their chaps, gashed their faces, made their cheeks hang flapping on their chin, and so swinged and balammed them that they fell down before him like hay before a mower. To some others he spoiled the frame of their kidneys, marred their backs, broke their thigh-bones, pashed in their noses, poached out their eyes, cleft their mandibles, tore their jaws, dung in their teeth into their throat, shook asunder their omoplates or shoulder-blades, sphacelated their shins, mortified their shanks, inflamed their ankles, heaved off of the hinges their ishies, their sciatica or hip-gout, dislocated the joints of their knees, squattered into pieces the boughts or pestles of their thighs, and so thumped, mauled and belaboured them everywhere, that never was corn so thick and threefold threshed upon by ploughmen’s flails as were the pitifully disjointed members of their mangled bodies under the merciless baton of the cross. If any offered to hide himself amongst the thickest of the vines, he laid him squat as a flounder, bruised the ridge of his back, and dashed his reins like a dog. If any thought by flight to escape, he made his head to fly in pieces by the lamboidal commissure, which is a seam in the hinder part of the skull. If anyone did scramble up into a tree, thinking there to be safe, he rent up his perinee, and impaled him in at the fundament. If any of his old acquaintance happened to cry out, Ha, Friar John, my friend Friar John, quarter, quarter, I yield myself to you, to you I render myself! So thou shalt, said he, and must, whether thou wouldst or no, and withal render and yield up thy soul to all the devils in hell; then suddenly gave them dronos, that is, so many knocks, thumps, raps, dints, thwacks, and bangs, as sufficed to warn Pluto of their coming and despatch them a-going. If any was so rash and full of temerity as to resist him to his face, then was it he did show the strength of his muscles, for without more ado he did transpierce him, by running him in at the breast, through the mediastine and the heart. Others, again, he so quashed and bebumped, that, with a sound bounce under the hollow of their short ribs, he overturned their stomachs so that they died immediately. To some, with a smart souse on the epigaster, he would make their midriff swag, then, redoubling the blow, gave them such a homepush on the navel that he made their puddings to gush out. To others through their ballocks he pierced their bumgut, and left not bowel, tripe, nor entrail in their body that had not felt the impetuosity, fierceness, and fury of his violence. Believe, that it was the most horrible spectacle that ever one saw. Some cried unto Sanct Barbe, others to St. George. O the holy Lady Nytouch, said one, the good Sanctess; O our Lady of Succours, said another, help, help! Others cried, Our Lady of Cunaut, of Loretto, of Good Tidings, on the other side of the water St. Mary Over. Some vowed a pilgrimage to St. James, and others to the holy handkerchief at Chamberry, which three months after that burnt so well in the fire that they could not get one thread of it saved. Others sent up their vows to St. Cadouin, others to St. John d’Angely, and to St. Eutropius of Xaintes. Others again invoked St. Mesmes of Chinon, St. Martin of Candes, St. Clouaud of Sinays, the holy relics of Laurezay, with a thousand other jolly little sancts and santrels. Some died without speaking, others spoke without dying; some died in speaking, others spoke in dying. Others shouted as loud as they could Confession, Confession, Confiteor, Miserere, In manus! So great was the cry of the wounded, that the prior of the abbey with all his monks came forth, who, when they saw these poor wretches so slain amongst the vines, and wounded to death, confessed some of them. But whilst the priests were busied in confessing them, the little monkies ran all to the place where Friar John was, and asked him wherein he would be pleased to require their assistance. To which he answered that they should cut the throats of those he had thrown down upon the ground. They presently, leaving their outer habits and cowls upon the rails, began to throttle and make an end of those whom he had already crushed. Can you tell with what instruments they did it? With fair gullies, which are little hulchbacked demi-knives, the iron tool whereof is two inches long, and the wooden handle one inch thick, and three inches in length, wherewith the little boys in our country cut ripe walnuts in two while they are yet in the shell, and pick out the kernel, and they found them very fit for the expediting of that weasand-slitting exploit. In the meantime Friar John, with his formidable baton of the cross, got to the breach which the enemies had made, and there stood to snatch up those that endeavoured to escape. Some of the monkitos carried the standards, banners, ensigns, guidons, and colours into their cells and chambers to make garters of them. But when those that had been shriven would have gone out at the gap of the said breach, the sturdy monk quashed and felled them down with blows, saying, These men have had confession and are penitent souls; they have got their absolution and gained the pardons; they go into paradise as straight as a sickle, or as the way is to Faye (like Crooked-Lane at Eastcheap). Thus by his prowess and valour were discomfited all those of the army that entered into the close of the abbey, unto the number of thirteen thousand, six hundred, twenty and two, besides the women and little children, which is always to be understood…

****

(Gargantua’s military training)

There he broke not his lance; for it is the greatest foolery in the world to say, I have broken ten lances at tilts or in fight. A carpenter can do even as much. But it is a glorious and praise-worthy action with one lance to break and overthrow ten enemies. Therefore, with a sharp, stiff, strong, and well-steeled lance would he usually force up a door, pierce a harness, beat down a tree, carry away the ring, lift up a cuirassier saddle, with the mail-coat and gauntlet. All this he did in complete arms from head to foot. As for the prancing flourishes and smacking popisms for the better cherishing of the horse, commonly used in riding, none did them better than he. The cavallerize of Ferrara was but as an ape compared to him. He was singularly skilful in leaping nimbly from one horse to another without putting foot to ground, and these horses were called desultories. He could likewise from either side, with a lance in his hand, leap on horseback without stirrups, and rule the horse at his pleasure without a bridle, for such things are useful in military engagements. Another day he exercised the battle-axe, which he so dexterously wielded, both in the nimble, strong, and smooth management of that weapon, and that in all the feats practicable by it, that he passed knight of arms in the field, and at all essays.

Then tossed he the pike, played with the two-handed sword, with the backsword, with the Spanish tuck, the dagger, poniard, armed, unarmed, with a buckler, with a cloak, with a target. Then would he hunt the hart, the roebuck, the bear, the fallow deer, the wild boar, the hare, the pheasant, the partridge, and the bustard. He played at the balloon, and made it bound in the air, both with fist and foot. He wrestled, ran, jumped – not at three steps and a leap, called the hops, nor at clochepied, called the hare’s leap, nor yet at the Almains; for, said Gymnast, these jumps are for the wars altogether unprofitable, and of no use – but at one leap he would skip over a ditch, spring over a hedge, mount six paces upon a wall, ramp and grapple after this fashion up against a window of the full height of a lance. He did swim in deep waters on his belly, on his back, sideways, with all his body, with his feet only, with one hand in the air, wherein he held a book, crossing thus the breadth of the river of Seine without wetting it, and dragged along his cloak with his teeth, as did Julius Caesar; then with the help of one hand he entered forcibly into a boat, from whence he cast himself again headlong into the water, sounded the depths, hollowed the rocks, and plunged into the pits and gulfs. Then turned he the boat about, governed it, led it swiftly or slowly with the stream and against the stream, stopped it in his course, guided it with one hand, and with the other laid hard about him with a huge great oar, hoisted the sail, hied up along the mast by the shrouds, ran upon the edge of the decks, set the compass in order, tackled the bowlines, and steered the helm. Coming out of the water, he ran furiously up against a hill, and with the same alacrity and swiftness ran down again. He climbed up at trees like a cat, and leaped from the one to the other like a squirrel. He did pull down the great boughs and branches like another Milo; then with two sharp well-steeled daggers and two tried bodkins would he run up by the wall to the very top of a house like a rat; then suddenly came down from the top to the bottom, with such an even composition of members that by the fall he would catch no harm.

He did cast the dart, throw the bar, put the stone, practise the javelin, the boar-spear or partisan, and the halbert. He broke the strongest bows in drawing, bended against his breast the greatest crossbows of steel, took his aim by the eye with the hand-gun, and shot well, traversed and planted the cannon, shot at butt-marks, at the papgay from below upwards, or to a height from above downwards, or to a descent; then before him, sideways, and behind him, like the Parthians. They tied a cable-rope to the top of a high tower, by one end whereof hanging near the ground he wrought himself with his hands to the very top; then upon the same track came down so sturdily and firm that you could not on a plain meadow have run with more assurance. They set up a great pole fixed upon two trees. There would he hang by his hands, and with them alone, his feet touching at nothing, would go back and fore along the foresaid rope with so great swiftness that hardly could one overtake him with running; and then, to exercise his breast and lungs, he would shout like all the devils in hell. I heard him once call Eudemon from St. Victor’s gate to Montmartre. Stentor had never such a voice at the siege of Troy. Then for the strengthening of his nerves or sinews they made him two great sows of lead, each of them weighing eight thousand and seven hundred quintals, which they called alteres. Those he took up from the ground, in each hand one, then lifted them up over his head, and held them so without stirring three quarters of an hour and more, which was an inimitable force. He fought at barriers with the stoutest and most vigorous champions; and when it came to the cope, he stood so sturdily on his feet that he abandoned himself unto the strongest, in case they could remove him from his place, as Milo was wont to do of old. In whose imitation, likewise, he held a pomegranate in his hand, to give it unto him that could take it from him.

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Lori Petri: Battleships

December 3, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Lori Petri
Battleships

They rock and ride like great grey gulls
Upon the waters of the world,
Within their sullen, stately hulls
The dreams and toil of ages furled.
For men have cowed the stubborn earth,
Made sun and stars their truths reveal,
To bring to fearful, floating birth
These savages of smoking steel.
They lead the craft of life, they stream
Triumphant on the tides of time, –
While through their armored glories gleam
The black lusts of the primal slime.

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Emily Huntington Miller: Hymn of Peace

December 2, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Emily Huntington Miller
Hymn of Peace

Breath of the Lord that moved of old
Through chaos of the quickening earth,
Till the wide heavens in light unrolled,
And sun and star and flower had birth,

Breathe on this warring world of men,
To bid its strife and tumult cease;
Till stars of morning sing again,
With Sons of God, the Song of Peace.

Still on the waters broods Thy power;
Through all our discords echo still
That music of that later hour,
“Peace on the Earth! in Heaven goodwill!”

Teach Thou our hearts that nobler song
Of nobler souls by truth set free,
Till the full chorus, sweet and strong,
From Thy glad earth goes up to Thee.

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Hala Jean Hammond: War’s black hatred

December 1, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Hala Jean Hammond
Hate

Peace…will you buy it with blood and tears?
With women despoiled, with children’s dark fears?
Crushed under the wheels, men…give in vain;
But deep in the earth-holes hearing always the rain…
Of shrapnel.

Conquering…conquered! Bend the knee
To bayonet-blazoned apostasy.
Seeding in souls; strange plants to grow
Out of its loins; and who to know
Whither the wind its pollen shall blow
At midnight?

The heavens are brass to cannons’ boom;
And rent the earth with a hell-simoon
Led hard by Death…Let us go away…
No, not to preach, nor even to pray;
But with murderous blade to smite, to slay,
Black hatred.

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Rossiter Johnson: Infinitely better to learn how to avert war

November 30, 2019 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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Rossiter Johnson
At the End of the War
From A Short History of the War of Secession

The home-coming at the North was almost as sorrowful as at the South, because of those that came not. In all the festivities and rejoicings there was hardly a participator whose joy was not saddened by missing some well-known face and form now numbered with the silent three hundred thousand. Grant was there, the commander that had never taken a step backward; and Farragut was there, the sailor without an equal; and the unfailing Sherman, and the patient Thomas, and the intrepid Hancock, and the fiery Sheridan, and the brilliant Custer, and many of lesser rank, who in a smaller theatre of conflict would have won a larger fame. But where was young Ellsworth? Shot dead as soon as he crossed the Potomac. And Winthrop – killed in the first battle, with his best books unwritten. And Lyon – fallen at the head of his little army in Missouri, the first summer of the war. And Baker – sacrificed at Ball’s Bluff. And Kearny at Chantilly, and Reno at South Mountain, and Mansfield at Antietam, and Reynolds at Gettysburg, and Wadsworth in the Wilderness, and Sedgwick at Spottsylvania, and McPherson before Atlanta, and Craven in his monitor at the bottom of the sea, and thousands of others, the best and bravest, all gone—all, like Latour, the immortal captain, dead on the field of honor, but none the less dead and a loss to their mourning country. The hackneyed allegory of Curtius had been given a startling illustration and a new significance. The South, too, had lost heavily of her foremost citizens in the great struggle – Bee and Bartow at Bull Run; Albert Sidney Johnson, leading a desperate charge at Shiloh; Zollicoffer, soldier and journalist, at Mill Spring; Stonewall Jackson, Lee’s right arm, at Chancellorsville; Polk, priest and warrior, at Lost Mountain; Armistead, wavering between two allegiances and fighting alternately for each, and Barksdale and Garnets – all at Gettysburg; Hill at Petersburg; and the dashing Stuart, and Daniel, and Perrin, and Dearing, and Doles, and numberless others. The sudden hush and sense of awe that impresses a child when he steps upon a single grave may well overcome the strongest man when he looks upon the face of his country scarred with battle-fields like these, and considers what blood of manhood was rudely wasted there. And the slain were mostly young, unmarried men, whose native virtues fill no living veins, and will not shine again on any field.

It is poor business measuring the mouldered ramparts and counting the silent guns, marking the deserted battle-fields and decorating the grassy graves, unless we can learn from it all some nobler lesson than to destroy. Men write of this as of other wars as if the only thing necessary to be impressed upon the rising generation were the virtue of physical courage and contempt of death. It seems to me that is the last thing that we need to teach; for since the days of John Smith in Virginia and the men of the Mayflower in Massachusetts, no generation of Americans has shown any lack of it. From Louisburg to Petersburg – a hundred and twenty years, the full span of four generations – they have stood to their guns and been shot down in greater comparative numbers than any other race on earth. In the War of Secession there was not a State, not a county, probably not a town, between the Great Lakes and the Gulf, that was not represented on fields where all that men could do with powder and steel was done, and valor was exhibited at its highest pitch. It was a common saying in the Army of the Potomac that courage was the cheapest thing there; and it might have been said of all the other armies as well. There is not the slightest necessity for lauding American bravery or impressing it upon American youth. But there is the gravest necessity for teaching them respect for law, and reverence for human life, and regard for the rights of their fellow-men, and all that is significant in the history of our country – lest their feet run to evil and they make haste to shed innocent blood. I would be glad to convince my compatriots that it is not enough to think they are right, but they are bound to know they are right, before they rush into any experiments that are to cost the lives of men and the tears of orphans, in their own land or in any other. I would warn them to beware of provincial conceit. I would have them comprehend that one may fight bravely, and still be a perjured felon; that one may die humbly, and still be a patriot whom his country cannot afford to lose; that as might does not make right, so neither do rags and bare feet necessarily argue a noble cause. I would teach them that it is criminal either to hide the truth or to refuse assent to that which they see must follow logically from ascertained truth. I would show them that a political lie is as despicable as a personal lie, whether uttered in an editorial, or a platform, or a president’s message, or a colored cartoon, or a disingenuous ballot; and that political chicanery, when long persisted in, is liable to settle its shameful account in a stoppage of civilization and a spilling of life. These are simple lessons, yet they are not taught in a day, and some whom we call educated go through life without mastering them at all.

It may be useful to learn from one war how to conduct another; but it is infinitely better to learn how to avert another. I am doubly anxious to impress this consideration upon my readers, because history seems to show us that armed conflicts have a tendency to come in pairs, with an interval of a few years, and because I think I see, in certain circumstances now existing within our beloved Republic, the elements of a second civil war. No American citizen should lightly repeat that the result is worth all it cost, unless he has considered how heavy was the cost, and is doing his utmost to perpetuate the result. To strive to forget the great war, for the sake of sentimental politics, is to cast away our dearest experience and invite, in some troubled future, the destruction we so hardly escaped in the past. There can be remembrance without animosity, but there cannot be oblivion without peril.

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Laura Bell Everett: The Skein of Grievous War

November 29, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Laura Bell Everett
The Skein of Grievous War
Translated from the Iliad, xiv. 86

War calls and drowns the kind command
Of Peace to plow, to plant the trees,
Press back the marge of desert land
And widen out its oases.

Home vainly begs its brave to stay;
Can they be needed more afar?
The bugles sound; in armed array
They wind the skein of grievous war.
The cities need their brave to clear
The spots with foulness overgrown,
And call for those who know not fear
To work where only fear is known.

The art of living we would know;
The arts of death our souls abhor.
Stay, men, but even now they go
To weave the web of woeful war.

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Caroline Atherton Mason: Enemy, oh, let our warfare cease!

November 28, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Caroline Atherton Mason
Reconciliation

If thou wert lying, cold and still and white,
In death’s embraces, O mine enemy!
I think that if I came and looked on thee
I should forgive; that something in the sight
Of thy still face would conquer me, by right
Of death’s sad impotence, and I should see
How pitiful a thing it is to be
At feud with aught that’s mortal.

So, to-night,
My soul, unfurling her white flag of peace, –
Forestalling that dread hour when we may meet,
The dead face and the living, – fain would cry
Across the years, “Oh, let our warfare cease!
Life is so short, and hatred is not sweet;
Let there be peace between us ere we die.”

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Louise Morgan Sill: I am the Hell-god, War!

November 27, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Louise Morgan Sill
The Hell-God

I am the Hell-god, War!
When I go forth from the dim caves of Hell
I mask, that none may know me, and I wear
A brow of Honour, with deep eyes of Faith,
A mouth of Valour, and a patriot’s smile.
Thus go I forth, the Hell-god, War.

But deeper writhe the serpents in their pits
As though with silent laughter, and the spears
Of new-roused demons flicker in the gloom.

I travel to my place, and lo, the mask
Falls from me, and men see me as I am –
Then in my blood boils the demoniac rage
Of my true being. Men who dare my power –

Though they be what their fellows deem the highest
Of all earth’s children, though they be as fair
As were their mothers, though they be as loved
As angels in high Heaven, yet I dash them,
Puppets, to earth, and grind their horrorful eyes
Into the mud with my twice-cloven heel.
Women I soil, and torture with such deeds
As men with horrid mouthings dare not name.
Old men I strangle, and old women – faugh!
Into the ditch they fall to smother there
Beneath dead horses, or dead men, or what
Of death is chancing by. Their homes I burn;
Their guerdon – many a hungry day was spent,
Toil-sweating days, to hoard those foolish coins –
I take them, as I laugh and laugh again.
And when there’s death enough, I call my friends
The vultures, and they make a merry feast.

Then on I go into the homes of these,
The dead pawns of my game, and in the hearts
Of fathers, mothers, children, aye, and wives –
Deep, deep in wives – I drive the blood-red swords
The dead men fought with – not to give them death,
But fill their veins with agony, alive.
Some weep, some moan, some sink in hopeless woe,
Old heads bow low, and younger heads turn grey.
The game is rich and fiery – it passes,
But this long aftermath of gaunt despair
Yields me good profit, fills my heart with joy,
My mouth with laughter. Ho. oho, oho!
I am the Hell-god, War!

Then I go home to Hell, wherein one night,
One murky, sullen night, I was engendered,
My father the Arch-fiend, and my dark mother
As foul a witch as ever murdered souls.
They taught me from my birth this game of War.
A pretty game, that set my temper hot
And stormed my sense with blood-lust. Many cycles
Have passed while men have striven hard to check
My noble play, and evermore have failed.
The nether gods are with me, and their power
Works for my ends. For what could be more worthy
Of godly sport than this same game of War?
What finer deed than murder? What more great
Than swift destruction of a humble home,
Crushing of hope, starving of fighting men,
The maiming of the strong, or sudden, strange
And horrible disappearance of a man
Blown into formless atoms? What more rare
Than mothers felled and bound, that I may feed
Their butchered children to them – as they eat
Their reason bursts and goes. Oh, ’tis a game
Only the nether gods can look upon
And smile, for theirs must be a rough-hewn sport.

And when my little pawns, men, prate of peace
I laugh, and all my demons laugh again,
For well we know their weakness, well we know
Their greed, their egotism and their fear –
Fear of the little pawns – that other men
May call them coward; one of the many fears
Of the fearful little pawns. Oh how we laugh!
How wide the murmur ripples through all Hell,
Through blackened arches, gloomy gates and caves!
From fiend to fiend, from from pit to lower pit,
That cackling laughter in the glimmering light
Echoes for ever, pleasing to the ears,
Warming the bloody currents of my veins –
I am the Hell-god, War!

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H. Lavinia Baily: By the Sea. An Argument for Peace.

November 26, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

====

H. Lavinia Baily
By the Sea
An Argument for Peace

“You do but dream; the world will never see
Such time as this you picture, when the sword
Shall lie inglorious in its sheath, and be
No more of valorous deeds incentive or reward.”

The ocean breezes fanned them where they sat,
At leisure from life’s conflict, toil and care,
Yet not unthoughtful, nor unmindful that
In all its weal and woe they held their share.

The rose-light charm and pride of earliest youth
A chastening touch had toned to lovelier hue,
And the white soul of purity and truth
Looked out alike from eyes of brown and blue.

“I covet your fair hope,” he spake again,
“I cannot share it; all the hoary past
Denies that mightier prowess of the pen
The poet claims, and proves it still surpassed.

“By sword and musket and the arts of war.
And ’twere not so, – the query will return,
Albeit such conflict we must all abhor –
How should the fires of patriotism burn?

“Their flames are kindled by the flash of arms,
And fed by recount of heroic deed;
The sanguinary story has its charms
Tho the heart sicken o’er it as we read.

“And what were Greece without her Marathon?
Or Rome, had not her Caesars fought and won?
How reigns Britannia, Empress near and far,
But for her Waterloo and Trafalgar?

“And we, know not our souls a quickening thrill
At thought of Lexington and Bunker Hill?
And with a pride no rival passion mars
Greet we not now our glorious Stripes and Stars?

“Yes, friend, I own your theory is fine;
I grant your outlook far exceedeth mine
In excellence and beauty, in its scope
Embracing that millennial age of bliss.
The spirit pants for while it chafes in this;
I covet, tho I cannot share, your hope.”

“My hope,” she answered, smiling, “is a faith;
The kingdoms of this world are yet to be.
The kingdoms of our blessed Lord, the Christ; –
Lord of all life thro’ dire and vengeful death –
Wrought thro’ such sacrifice, unspared, unpriced,
His word and purpose must fulfilment see,
And realms by mountains bounded or by seas
Must own allegiance to the Prince of Peace.

“I yield to none” – and as she spoke there sped
Across the opal beauty of the sea
A light-winged vessel, bearing at its head
The starry emblem of the brave and free –

“I yield to none in loyalty and love
For yon bright banner, but I hold it still
As token to the world, all else above,
Of peace on earth and unto man good will.”

“God gave His land to be the home of man;
And all that brightens and upbuilds the home
Uplifts humanity; tramp, tribe and clan,
Knowing no hearthstone, are content to roam,

“But drawing nearer God the man returns
And rears his household altar. In some quest
The feet may wander, but the heart still yearns
For the soft home-light and the quiet rest.

“Think yet again, good brother, is it not
From off such altar, whether it may glow
In princely palace or in lowliest cot,
That the true flame of country-love must flow?
While that enkindled by the flash of arms
Is a ‘strange fire,’ consuming while it charms.

“Lives Greece less nobly in her Parthenon,
In what her Solons wrote, her poets sang,
Than in the gastly pride of Marathon,
And kindred fields where victors’ praises rang?

“And we, enriched thro’ Commerce, Letters, Art,
Forgot our earlier grievances and scars,
Are we not ready for a better part?
Have we not now outgrown our need of wars?

“Surely it should be so,” he made reply;
“The sated earth cries out against the flow
Of human blood: ‘How long? how long?’ The cry
Must pierce the heavens from writhing hearts below.

“But men heed not; the glamor and the gain
Of warfare blind them to its sin and pain;
They know not pity and they count not cost
Till armies meet and life and cause are lost.

“Would they but listen ’twere an errand blest
To plead against oppressor for oppressed;
Would they but follow it were joy indeed
Up the white hills of truth and peace to lead.

“But, ah! the multitudes are gone astray,
The powerful of the earth will have their way;
What profit, sister, in our prayers and tears?
Why mar the spring-time gladness of our years

“In vain pursuit of universal good?
In fruitless care for earth’s vast brotherhood?
Glad would I grasp such work could I but see.
Or near, or far, your hoped-for victory.”

“Whether they hear,” she answered, “or forbear,
‘Tis ours with signal truths to light the skies;
God’s promises and warnings to declare; –
How can men follow if no leader rise?

“The Christ shall be the victor; O my friend,
Why do we limit His almighty power
Who sees from far beginning to the end?
Whose day may be an æon or an hour?

“The sea is His; He made it; and His word
Can speak its wildest tumult into calm;
As He may will its deepest founts are stirred,
Or surface-ripples breathe a praiseful psalm.

“As well His power the rise and fall doth sway
Of human passion, tho He suffer long;
The puny pride of man shall yet obey
The mandate of the Only Wise and Strong.

“But God would have the children of His grace
In this great reclamation have a share;
And each in his appointed hour and place
Must stand, or other brow his crown will wear.”

She paused, and o’er them, as with magic spell,
For a brief space a holy silence fell;
Then while the sunset crimson of the sky
Set ocean all a-blush, he made reply:

“Reason and candor justify your claim;
The Infinite is infinite in all;
The Power that touches into life that flame
Holds earth and heaven subject to His call,
And at His fiat peoples rise and fall.

“Your dauntless zeal doth shame my coward heart;
Your word of faith my courage doth inspire;
I see ’tis only noble to have part
In moral contest; not to fan the fire
Of a false glory, which must ever feed
On souls that perish, and on hearts that bleed.

“And this I gather from your earnest plea; –
That souls which walk in light and see the way
To heights of truth yet unattained, must be
Fore-runners for their Lord, must work and pray
For the incoming of the perfect day.

“Join we in this sweet service; cherish still
The trust that gives you courage for the fight;
Your ‘peaceful war’ on all that’s base and ill,
Your patient battle for the pure, the right.
Let us press on and mount the hills of light.”

The ocean murmur fell upon their ears
Sweeter than bird-song or the voice of mirth,
As beamed her answering smile, thro’ grateful tears,
While her lips whispered only “Peace on earth.”

“Peace! peace!” – the evening zephyrs caught the strain,
The wavelets sent the word across the sea;
Exultant Nature trilled the glad refrain; –
“Peace! peace! The Christ is come, and peace shall be!”

****

Myself and You

There are only myself and you in the world,
There are only myself and you;
‘Tis clear, then, that I unto you should be kind,
And that you unto me should be true.

And if I unto you could be always kind,
And you unto me could be true,
Then the criminal courts might all be adjourned,
And the sword would have nothing to do.

A few fertile acres are all that I need, –
Not more than a hundred or two, –
And the great, wide earth holds enough, I am sure,
Enough for myself and for you.

The sweet air of heaven is free to us all;
Upon all fall the rain and the dew;
And the glorious sun in his cycle of light
Shines alike on myself and on you.

The infinite love is as broad as the sky,
And as deep as the ocean’s blue,
We may breathe it, bathe in it, live in it, aye,
It is life for myself and for you.

And the Christ who came when the angels sang
Will come, if the song we renew,
And reign in his kingdom, – the Prince of Peace, –
Reigning over myself and you.

O, then, may I be unto you always kind,
And be you unto me always true;
So the land may rest from its turmoil and strife,
And the sword may have nothing to do.

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Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray: What is called the grand art of war

November 25, 2019 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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Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray
From Chevalier de Faublas
Translated by G.C.

I learned the French language, which was already spread throughout Europe. I read with delight some famous works, eternal monuments of genius, and wondered how, in an idiom so unfavourable for poetry, so many great poets had been able to distinguish themselves, and so many great writers had, with justice, obtained immortality. I applied myself seriously to the study of geometry; I adopted, moreover, that noble trade which makes a hero at the expense of a hundred thousand victims, and which men, less humane than valiant, have called the grand art of war.

****

Of all the rights which the death of your father transmits to you, the most valuable, without doubt, is that of assisting at the states, where you will go as a representative; it is there that your father should revive in you; it is there that you must prove a courage much more difficult than that of braving death in the field of battle. The valour of a soldier is but a common virtue; but those are not ordinary men who preserve a tranquil firmness on the most trying occasions; and by displaying a penetrating activity, discover the projects of the powerful who cabal, frustrate secret intrigues, and set at defiance the most daring factions; who, always firm, incorruptible and just, never give their votes but to those they deem the most worthy of them; who study nothing so much as the welfare of their country; whom neither gold nor promises can seduce, entreaties, bend, or menaces intimidate…May God, the protector of my country, spare it from evil war!

****

French and English, cease at last, cease forever those blood discords, the fury of which has too often extended itself over both hemispheres! Let the empires of the universe be no longer divided, but by the force of your example, and the ascendancy of your genius, instead of terrifying and enslaving mankind, dispute the glory of enlightening their ignorance, and of breaking their chains.

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Sara Louisa Oberholtzer: The dawn of peace is breaking!

November 24, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Sara Louisa Oberholtzer
The Dawn of the Centennial

The dawn of peace is breaking! breaking!
See the lights and hear the heralds of the century to be!
While the whole united people, with a bending heart and knee,
Crave the blessing of the Father, and thank Him that they are free.
The dawn of peace is breaking! breaking!

The nation unto joy is waking!
Note the throbbings of its full heart as they daily stronger grow:
Forgotten are the old discomforts, and the petty feuds I know
Vanish, as we group together of our proudest life-blood flow.
The dawn of peace is breaking! breaking!

The nation unto joy is waking!
A joy that will be pure, absorbing, untempered by the grief
That comes with victories of war, and brings of sorrow with relief.
A great outburst of gladness, a country’s fully ripened sheaf.
The dawn of peace is breaking! breaking!

The nation unto joy is waking!
Its first hundred years are passing, and to celebrate its birth
We extend free invitation all about the lovely earth,
That our friends in lavish numbers sit at our Centennial hearth.
The dawn of peace is breaking! breaking!

The dawn of peace is breaking! breaking!
See the lights and hear the heralds of the century to be!
While the whole united people, with a bending heart and knee,
Crave a blessing of the Father, and thank Him that they are free.
The dawn of peace is breaking! breaking!

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Lucia Trent: Women of War

November 23, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Lucia Trent
Women of War

Women, who lust for blood and harbor hate,
Who drive your men on branded spikes of fate
To die in terror on a blood-drenched sod
To the extortionate glory of your God,
How do you dare to hold a sacred place
And claim to be the mothers of the race?
How can you heal and cleanse with heart and mind
The old recurrent blunders of mankind,
Cherish a rebel longing in your breast
To right each wrong and grievance unredressed?
Oh, we who follow where true mothers lead
Pity the fruit of your unhallowed seed!

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Jane Wilde: Peace with the Olive, and Mercy with the Palm

November 22, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Jane Wilde
From The Dawn

“Each bears a symbol, glorious in its meaning,
Holy as the music of the crown’d Bard’s Psalm:
Faith gazing upward, on her Anchor leaning,
Peace with the Olive, and Mercy with the Palm.”
Long have we waited, O Watcher, for the vision,
Splendid in promise we now can see it rise,
Scattering the darkness, while with hero‐mission
Brave hands uplift Hope’s banner to the skies.
Not with vain clamour, but the soul’s strength revealing
In the golden silence of all great true deeds,
Banded in strength for human rights appealing,
Banded in love for our poor human needs.
Bitter was the Past; let it rest, a new Æon
Preaches a new Gospel to man not in vain,
Earth through all her kingdoms echoes back the Pæan
Chanted once by Angels on the star‐lit plain.
Brotherhood of Nations, disdaining ancient quarrel,
Brotherhood of Peoples, flushed with a nobler rage,
Palm branch and Olive let us mingle with the Laurel
In the radiant future of the coming Age!

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Anne Finch: Enquiry After Peace

November 21, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Anne Finch
Enquiry after Peace
A Fragment.

Peace! where art thou to be found?
Where, in all the spacious Round,
May thy Footsteps be pursu’d?
Where may thy calm Seats be view’d?
On some Mountain dost thou lie,
Serenely near the ambient Sky,
Smiling at the Clouds below,
Where rough Storms and Tempests grow?
Or, in some retired Plain,
Undisturb’d dost thou remain?
Where no angry Whirlwinds pass,
Where no Floods oppress the Grass.

High above, or deep below,
Fain I thy Retreat wou’d know.
Fain I thee alone wou’d find,
Balm to my o’er-weary’d Mind.
Since what here the World enjoys,
Or our Passions most employs,
Peace opposes, or destroys.
Pleasure’s a tumultuous thing,
Busy still, and still on Wing;
Flying swift, from place to place,
Darting from each beauteous Face;
From each strongly mingled Bowl
Through th’inflam’d and restless Soul.
Sov’reign Pow’r who fondly craves,
But himself to Pomp enslaves;
Stands the Envy of Mankind,
Peace, in vain, attempts to find.
Thirst of Wealth no Quiet knows,
But near the Death-bed fiercer grows;

Wounding Men with secret Stings,
For Evils it on Others brings.
War who not discreetly shuns,
Thorough Life the Gauntlet runs.
Swords, and Pikes, and Waves, and Flames,
Each their Stroke against him aims.
Love (if such a thing there be)
Is all Despair, or Extasie.
Poetry‘s the feav’rish Fit,
Th’ o’erflowing of unbounded Wit. etc.

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James Russell Lowell: The military qualifications of a prospective president

November 20, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

James Russell Lowell: Dante and universal peace

James Russell Lowell on Lamartine: Highest duty of man, to summon peace when vulture of war smells blood

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James Russell Lowell
From The Bigelow Papers

I have in the foregoing letter mentioned General Scott in connexion with the Presidency, because I have been given to understand that he has blown to pieces and otherwise caused to be destroyed more Mexicans than any other commander. His claim would therefore be deservedly considered the strongest. Until accurate returns of the Mexican killed, wounded, and maimed be obtained, it would be difficult to settle these nice points of precedence. Should it prove that any other officer has been more meritorious and destructive than General. S., and has thereby rendered himself more worthy of the confidence and support of the conservative portion of our community, I shall cheerfully insert his name, instead of that of General S., in a future edition. It may be thought, likewise, that General S. has invalidated his claims by too much attention to the decencies of apparel, and the habits belonging to a gentleman. These abstruser points of statesmanship are beyond my scope. I wonder not that successful military achievement should attract the admiration of the multitude. Rather do I rejoice with wonder to behold how rapidly this sentiment is losing its hold upon the popular mind. It is related of Thomas Warton, the second of that honoured name who held the office of Poetry Professor at Oxford, that, when one wished to find him, being absconded, as was his wont, in some obscure alehouse, he was counselled to traverse the city with a drum and fife, the sound of which inspiring music would be sure to draw the Doctor from his retirement into the street. We are all more or less bitten with this martial insanity. Nescio quâ dulcedine…cunctos ducit. I confess to some infection of that itch myself. When I see a Brigadier-General maintaining his insecure elevation in the saddle under the severe fire of the training-field, and when I remember that some military enthusiasts, through haste, inexperience, or an over-desire to lend reality to those fictitious combats, will sometimes discharge their ramrods, I cannot but admire, while I deplore, the mistaken devotion of those heroic officers. Semel insanivimus omnes. I was myself, during the late war with Great Britain, chaplain of a regiment, which was fortunately never called to active military duty. I mention this circumstance with regret rather than pride. Had I been summoned to actual warfare, I trust that I might have been strengthened to bear myself after the manner of that reverend father in our New England Israel, Dr. Benjamin Colman, who, as we are told in Turell’s life of him, when the vessel in which he had taken passage for England was attacked by a French privateer, “fought like a philosopher and a Christian,…and prayed all the while he charged and fired.” As this note is already long, I shall not here enter upon a discussion of the question, whether Christians may lawfully be soldiers. I think it sufficiently evident, that, during the first two centuries of the Christian era, at least, the two professions were esteemed incompatible. Consult Jortin on this head.

—H. W.

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Frances Sargent Osgood: Peace and the olive branch

November 19, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Frances Sargent Osgood
Peace
Olive

To thee the heavens, in thy nativity,
Adjudged an olive branch, and laurel-crown,
As likely to be blessed in peace and war.

SHAKESPEARE

This tree has been celebrated in all ages as the bounteous gift of Heaven, and as the emblem of peace and plenty. Peace – wisdom – concord – clemency – joy – the graces – have ever been crowned with olive.

The dove sent out of the ark by Noah to ascertain if the waters were assuaged, returned bearing a branch of olive, as a symbol of that rest which Heaven was about to restore to the earth.

The sinner placed a verdant spray
Within her dead child’s hand,
And turned, in wordless grief, away –
A lost one, barred and banned!
In that fond act were prayer and vow –
Oh! be her guilt forgiven!
Her dovelet bears an olive-bough,
To make her peace with Heaven.

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Lily Alice Lefevre: The Bridge of Peace

November 18, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

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Lily Alice Lefevre
The Bridge of Peace

Steadfast we stood, for we had feared to see
Above the murky depths of war and gloom,
Some flowery path miraged on mists of death
To lure the world, unwary, to its doom.

Long had we gazed into that dread abyss
Which hid our dearest, bravest, from our sight.
And prayed that He who is the Way should guide
Our steps through grief and darkness to the light.

Behold! He sends His angel, laurel-crowned,
The Builder, Peace. With labour grave and wise,
Justice and Truth she lays secure and deep,
Beneath her feet their strong foundations rise;

Her hand has set the arch of Freedom high,
The gulf of bitter hate and loss to span –
We pass victorious to a world new-born,
The reign of Right, the Brotherhood of Man!

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George Eliot: Tart rebuke of crude war propaganda

November 17, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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George Eliot
Review of Alfred Tennyson‘s Maud and Other Poems
(1855)

These family sorrows and mortifications the hero regards as the direct results of the anti-social tendencies of Peace, which he proceeds to expose to us in all its hideousness; looking to war as the immediate curative for unwholesome lodging of the poor, adulteration of provisions, child-murder and wife-beating – an effect which is as yet by no means visible in our police reports. It seems indeed that in the opinion of our hero, nothing short of an invasion of our own coasts is the consummation devoutly to be wished:

For I trust that if an enemy’s fleet came yonder round by the hill,
And the rushing battle-bolt rang from the three-decker out of the foam,
That the smoothfaced snubnosed rogue would leap from his counter and his till,
And strike, if he could, were it but with his cheating yard wand, home.

***

And now he find the hero an exile on the Breton coast, where, from delivering some stanzas from Natural Theology à propos of a shell, he proceed to retrace the sad memories of his love, until he becomes mad. We have then a Bedlam soliloquy, in which he fancies himself dead, and mingles with images of Maud, her father, and her brother, his earlyfixed idea – the police reports. From this madness he is recovered by the news that the Allies have declared war against Russia; whereupon he bursts into a paean, that

The long, long canker of Peace is over and done.

It is possible, no doubt, to allegorize all this into a variety of edifying meanings; but it remains true that the ground-notes of the poem are nothing more than hatred of peace and the Peace Society, hatred of commerce and coal-mines, hatred of young gentlemen with flourishing whiskers and padded coats, adoration of a clear-cut face, and faith in War as the unique social regenerator.

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Kate Brownlee Sherwood: This one soft whisper – Peace

November 16, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Kate Brownlee Sherwood
Peace

O beautiful one, my Country,
Thou fairest daughter of Time.
To-day are thine eyes unclouded
In the light of a faith sublime!
No thunder of battle appals thee;
From thy woe thou has found release;
From the graves of thy sons steals only
This one soft whisper, – “Peace!”

Gettysburg 1863-1889

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Stephen Vincent Benét: Nightmare For Future Reference: The second year of the Third World War

November 15, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Stephen Vincent Benét: The dead march from the last to the next blind war

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Stephen Vincent Benét
Nightmare For Future Reference

That was the second year of the Third World War,
The one between Us and Them.
Well we’ve gotten used.
We don’t talk much about it, queerly enough.
There was all sorts of talk the first years after the Peace,
A million theories, a million wild suppositions,
A million hopeful explanations and plans,
But we don’t talk about it, now. We don’t even ask.
We might do the wrong thing. I don’t guess you’d understand that.
But you’re eighteen, now. You can take it. You’d better know.

You see, you were born just before the war broke out.
Who started it? Oh, they said it was Us or Them
And it looked like it at the time. You don’t know what that’s like.
But anyhow, it started and there it was,
Just a little worse, of course, than the one before,
But mankind was used to that. We didn’t take notice.
They bombed our capital and we bombed theirs.
You’ve been to the Broken Towns? Yes, they take you there.
They show you the look of the tormented earth.
But they can’t show the smell or the gas or the death
Or how it felt to be there, and a part of it.
But we didn’t know. I swear that we didn’t know.

I remember the first faint hint there was something wrong,
Something beyond all wars and bigger and strange,
Something you couldn’t explain.
I was back on leave –
Strange, as you felt on leave, as you always felt –
But I went to see the Chief at the hospital
And there he was, in the same old laboratory,
A little older, with some white in his hair
But the same eyes that went through you and the same tongue.
They hadn’t been able to touch him – not the bombs
Nor the ruin of his life’s work nor anything.
He blinked at me from behind his spectacles
And said, “Huh. It’s you. They won’t let me have guinea pigs
Except for the war work, but I steal a few.
And they’ve made me a colonel – expect me to salute.
Damn fools. A damn-fool business. I don’t know how.
Have you heard what Erickson’s done with the ductless glands?
The journals are four months late. Sit down and smoke.”
And I did and it was like home.
He was a great man.
You might remember that and I’d worked with him.
Well, finally he said to me, “How’s your boy?”
“Oh-healthy,” I said. “We’re lucky.”
“Yes,” he said,
And a frown went over his face. “He might even grow up,
Though the intervals between wars are getting shorter.
I wonder if it wouldn’t simplify things
To declare mankind in a permanent state of siege.
It might knock some sense in their heads.”
“You’re cheerful,” I said
“Oh, I’m always cheerful,” he said. “Seen these, by the way?”
He tapped some charts on a table.
“Seen what?” I said.
“Oh,” he said, with that devilish, sidelong grin of his,
“Just the normal city statistics death and birth.
You’re a soldier now. You wouldn’t be interested.
But the birth rate’s dropping -”
“Well, really, sir,” I said,
“We know that it’s always dropped, in every war.”

“Not like this,” he said. “I can show you the curve.
It looks like the side of a mountain, going down.
And faster, the last three months yes, a good deal faster.
I showed it to Lobenheim and he was puzzled.
It makes a neat problem yes?” He looked at me.

“They’d better make peace,” he said. “They’d better make peace.”

“Well, sir,” I said, “if we break through, in the spring -”

“Break through?” he said. “What’s that? They’d better make peace.
The stars may be tired of us. No, I’m not a mystic.
I leave that to the big scientists in bad novels.
But I never saw such a queer maternity curve.
I wish I could get to Ehrens, on their side.
He’d tell me the truth. But the fools won’t let me do it.”

His eyes looked tired as he stared at the careful charts.
“Suppose there are no more babies?” he said. “What then?
It’s one way of solving the problem.”
“But, sir-” I said.
“But, sir!” he said. “Will you tell me, please, what is life?
Why it’s given, why it’s taken away?
Oh, I know we make a jelly inside a test tube,
We keep a cock’s heart living inside a jar.
We know a great many things and what do we know?
We think we know what finished the dinosaurs,
But do we? Maybe they were given a chance
And then it was taken back. There are other beasts
That only kill for their food. No, I’m not a mystic,
But there’s a certain pattern in nature, you know,
And we’re upsetting it daily. Eat and mate
And go back to the earth after that, and that’s all right.
But now we’re blasting and sickening earth itself.
She’s been very patient with us. I wonder how long.”

Well, I thought the Chief had gone crazy, just at first,
And then I remembered the look of no man’s land,
That bitter landscape, pockmarked like the moon,
Lifeless as the moon’s face and horrible,
The thing we’d made with the guns.
If it were earth,
It looked as though it hated.
“Well? “I said,
And my voice was a little thin. He looked hard at me.
“Oh – ask the women,” he grunted. “Don’t ask me.
Ask them what they think about it.”
I didn’t ask them,
Not even your mother—she was strange, those days –
But, two weeks later, I was back in the lines
And somebody sent me a paper –
Encouragement for the troops and all of that –
All about the fall of Their birth rate on Their side.

I guess you know, now. There was still a day when we fought
And the next day, the women knew. I don’t know how they knew,
But they smashed every government in the world
Like a heap of broken china, within two days,
And we’d stopped firing by then. And we looked at each other.

We didn’t talk much, those first weeks. You couldn’t talk.
We started in rebuilding and that was all,
And at first, nobody would even touch the guns,
Not even to melt them up. They just stood there, silent,
Pointing the way they had and nobody there.
And there was a kind of madness in the air,
A quiet, bewildered madness, strange and shy.
You’d pass a man who was muttering to himself
And you’d know what he was muttering, and why.
I remember coming home and your mother there.
She looked at me, at first didn’t speak at all,
And then she said, “Burn those clothes. Take them off and burn them
Or I’ll never touch you or speak to you again.”
And then I knew I was still in my uniform.

Well, I’ve told you, now. They tell you now at eighteen.
There’s no use telling before.
Do you understand?
That’s why we have the Ritual or the Earth,
The Day of Sorrow, the other ceremonies.
Oh yes, at first people hated the animals
Because they still bred, but we’ve gotten over that.
Perhaps they can work it better, when it’s their turn,
If it’s their turn – I don’t know. I don’t know at all.
You can call it a virus, of course, if you like the word,
But we haven’t been able to find it. Not yet. No.
It isn’t as if it had happened all at once.
There were a few children born in the last six months
Before the end of the war, so there’s still some hope.
But they’re almost grown. That’s the trouble. They’re almost grown.
Well, we had a long run. That’s something. At first they thought
There might be a nation somewhere, a savage tribe.
But we were all in it, even the Eskimos,
And we keep the toys in the stores, and the colored books,
And people marry and plan and the rest of it,
But, you see, there aren’t any children. They aren’t born.

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Mary Weston Fordham: Ode to Peace

November 14, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Mary Weston Fordham
Ode to Peace

Come Peace, on snowy pinions,
Come, nestle like a dove;
Encircle earth’s dominions
With harmony and love.
Let anger, pride and malice,
And strife forgotten lie;
Nor from their venomed chalice,
Quaff more bitter draughts and die.

Come Peace, with arms extended,
Come, brood o’er this fair land;
Let battle scenes be ended,
And heart be joined with hand.
Let fields now crimsoned over,
With the life-blood of the brave,
Loom as monuments of warning,
Shine, as beacon lights to save.

Come Peace, a welcome waits thee,
From many a stricken life;
And many a heart-crushed mourner,
Now weary of the strife;
Methinks e’en now a footfall
Breaks like music on my ear,
As the distant sound of gladness,
When ’tis borne on summer’s air.

May the echoes prove prophetic;
May thy murmurs from afar
Shed a radiance as refulgent,
Beam as bright as Bethlehem’s Star.
And the hearts that have been riven,
And the bosoms that have bled,
Soon will change their griefs to gladness,
Yield to God and earth their dead.

Categories: Uncategorized

Isabella Valancy Crawford: War

November 13, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

Isabella Valancy Crawford: The Forging of the Sword

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Isabella Valancy Crawford
War

Shake, shake the earth with giant tread,
Thou red-maned Titan bold;
For every step a man lies dead,
A cottage hearth is cold.
Take up the babes with mailèd hands,
Transfix them with thy spears,
Spare not the chaste young virgin-bands,
Tho’ blood may be their tears.

Beat down the corn, tear up the vine,
The waters turn to blood;
And if the wretch for bread doth whine,
Give him his kin for food.
Ay, strew the dead to saddle-girth,
They make so rich a mold,
Thou wilt enrich the wasted earth –
They’ll turn to yellow gold.

On with thy thunders! Shot and shell
Send screaming, featly hurled –
Science has made them in her cell
To civilize the world.
Not, not alone where Christian men
Pant in the well-armed strife,
But seek the jungle-throttled glen –
The savage has a life!

He has a soul – so priests will say –
Go, save it with thy sword!
Thro’ his rank forests force thy way,
Thy war cry, “For the Lord!”
Rip up his mines, and from his strands
Wash out the gold with blood –
Religion raises blessing hands,
“War’s evil worketh good!”

When striding o’er the conquered land
Silence thy rolling drum,
And, led by white-robed choiring band,
With loud, “Te Deum” come.
Seek the grim chancel, on its wall
Thy blood-stiff banner hang;
They lie who say thy blood is gall,
Thy tooth the serpent’s fang.

See, the white Christ is lifted high,
Thy conquering sword to bless!
Smiles the pure Monarch of the sky –
Thy king can do no less.
Drink deep with him the festal wine,
Drink with him drop for drop;
If like the sun his throne doth shine,
Of it thou art the prop.

If spectres wait upon the bowl,
Thou needst not be afraid;
Grin hell-hounds for thy bold, black soul,
His purple be thy shade.
Go, feast with Commerce, be her spouse!
She loves thee, thou art hers;
For thee she decks her board and house,
Then how may others curse

If she, mild-seeming matron, leans
Upon thine iron neck,
And leaves with thee her household scenes
To follow at thy beck?
Bastard in brotherhood of kings,
Their blood runs in thy veins;
For them the crowns; the sword that swings
For thee, to hew their chains.

For thee the rending of the prey;
They, jackals to the lion,
Tread after in the gory way
Trod by the mightier scion.
O slave, that slayest other slaves,
O’er vassals crowned a king,
O War, build high thy throne with graves,
High as the vulture’s wing!

Categories: Uncategorized

Giambattista Basile: “To war, to war”: Tavern warriors

November 12, 2019 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 Basile
From Il Pentamerone
Translated by Sir Richard Burton

And now hearken to this, and gape with wonder;
Some folk praise war,
And lift it to a high pinnacle,
And when the time cometh
That from afar they sight the standard flying,
And listen to the tramping and neighing of steeds,
They sign their names to the roll,
Feeling themselves drawn to the fight
By sighting a few medals laid on a bench:
They take a few new coppers,
And dress in Jewish garb,
And don a rusty sword,
And look as mules of burden,
With drooping plume, and foot in stirrup.
If a friend asketh, ‘Where do we go?’
They answer cheerfully,
With foot aloft,
‘To war, to war,’
And go from tavern to tavern,
Bespeaking triumphs in advance,
Run to their lodgings
Bid farewell to all,
Kick up a shindy, overthrow all things,
And would not stand aside even for a Gradasso.

Thou speakest sooth, and cuttest out the rotten –
Naught can be said:
‘Tis truth, and more than truth,
As a poor soldier’s fate
Is to return a beggar, and crushed down.

****
And now for the man of valour,
The first of Spartan braves,
The chief of all swashbucklers,
The prompter of all disputes,
Fourth in the art of neck-breaking,
Bravest of the brave,
Commander-in-chief of the valiant:
He pointedly presumeth
To frighten all the folk,
To make thee tremble
With a side-glance of his eyes ;
He walketh with a swagger,
He weareth a slashed coat,
His hat drawn over his eyes,
His hair disorderly,
His mustachios twisted on end,
His eyes fiercely rolling,
One hand on side,
Swearing, and stamping with his feet;
Even a straw causeth him to be wroth,
And he squabbleth with the flies;
He companieth with soldiers and brigands;
If thou hearken to his speech,
He speaketh of naught, but of cutting,
Of slashing, and piercing, and hanging,
Of killing, and running through the body;
Of one he draweth out the heart,
Of another the liver,
Of one he draweth out the entrails,
Of another the kidneys,
He trampleth on one,
Another he heweth in quarters.
If thou listen to his boasting,
The earth is too small to hold them :
This one, he writeth his name in the book,
That other, he sendeth out of the world,
This one, he sendeth unto his friends,
That other, he emptieth his pockets of gold,
This one, he salteth,
That other, he striketh to earth,
Of this one, he maketh mince-meat:
An hundred he turneth, and an hundred he gathereth,
And always passing truth, and with havoc,
Splitting heads, and breaking limbs.
But the sword hung by his side,
No matter how strong and sharp its edge,
Is virgin of blood, and widowed of honour:
And this crucible will to thee make clear,
That the big words carried so high
Hide the heart’s trembling;
The rolling of the eyes,
Retreat of feet;
The eastern thunderclaps,
Looseness of ice;
The visionary boastings
Indicate the wakeful hours of night;
And the swearing and stamping
Is but an excuse to keep sword in sheath,
Which, like an honoured woman,
Feeleth ashamed to show itself naked.
Seemeth he bitter as gall,
He hath but a chicken’s heart;
Seemeth he an eater of lions,
He is but a catcher of rabbits;
Challengeth he, he gaineth a thrashing;
Threateneth he, he receiveth annoyance double weight;
Gambleth he with his boasting dice,
He always meeteth his equal;
In words he is brave,
But in actions brief;
Layeth hand on hilt,
But draweth not sword;
Seeketh quarrel, and withdraweth from it;
And he lifteth heel easier than show valour,
If he lighteth upon one who bendeth him down,
Or one who sets his coat to rights,
And dealeth him a rain of blows with change,
Who settleth his accounts,
Who cardeth out his wool,
‘Who beateth well his sides,
Who whistleth in his ears,
Who knocketh down his teeth,
Who pusheth him down a pit,
Who bravely throttleth him,
Who passeth his blood through a sieve,
Who breaketh his lantern to pieces,
Who giveth him a good dressing,
Who prepareth him for a feast,
Or casteth him with the box,
Or boxeth well his ears,
Or giveth him back-handed cuffs,
Kicks, pushes, knocks, and cuts,
Or thrusteth a knife in his side.
Enough for him to cut and thrust,
And speak in manly voice:
He steppeth deal faster than a deer;
He soweth spittle, and gathereth marrows;
And when thou thinkest
That he is about to lay waste an army,
Then it is that the scene changeth;
Goodby, farewell, and good-day,
He disappeareth, weigheth anchor, is gone,
And shooting the parting shaft,
Lifteth his heels, and runneth a way;
Taketh with him his saddle-bags well-filled,
‘And help me, 0 my feet, because I cover ye,’
His heel toucheth shoulder,
And rivalleth hare in speed;
And well he playeth with his two-legged sword,
And like a great poltroon
In haste he flieth: is caught, and taken in gaol!

Categories: Uncategorized

Remembrance/Armistice/Veterans Day: Alfred Noyes’s The Victory Ball

November 10, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war

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Alfred Noyes
The Victory Ball

The cymbals crash,
And the dancers walk,
With long white stockings
And arms of chalk,
Butterfly skirts,
And white breasts bare,
And shadows of dead men
Watching ’em there.

Shadows of dead men
Stand by the wall,
Watching the fun
Of the Victory Ball.
They do not reproach,
Because they know,
If they’re forgotten
It’s better so.

Under the dancing
Feet are the graves.
Dazzle and motley,
In long white waves,
Brushed by the palm-fronds
Grapple and whirl
Ox-eyed matron,
And slim white girl.

Fat wet bodies
Go waddling by,
Girdled with satin,
Though God knows why:
Gripped by satyrs
In white and black,
With a fat wet hand
On the fat wet back.

See, there’s one child
Fresh from school,
Learning the ropes
As the old hands rule.
God! how the dead men
Chuckle again,
As she begs for a dose
Of the best cocaine.

[Alternate lines:
God, how that dead boy
Gapes and grins
As the tom-toms bang
And the shimmy begins.]

“What do you think
We should find”, said the shade,
“When the last shot echoed
And peace was made?”
“Christ,” laughed the fleshless
Jaws of his friend,
“I thought they’d be praying
For worlds to mend,

“And making earth better
Or something silly
Like white-washing hell
Or Picca-damn-dilly.
They’ve a sense of humour,
These women of ours,
These exquisite lilies,
These fresh young flowers!”

“Pish”, said a statesman
Standing near,
“I’m glad they keep busy
Their thoughts elsewhere!
We mustn’t reproach ‘em,
They’re young you see.”
“Ah”, said the dead men,
“So were we!”

Victory! Victory!
On with the dance!
Back to the jungle
The new beasts prance!
God, how the dead men
Grin by the wall,
Watching the fun
Of the Victory Ball.

Categories: Uncategorized

Roger Martin du Gard: Warnings from World War I

November 10, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

British writers on peace and war

French writers on war and peace

German writers on peace and war

Russian writers on war

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Roger Martin du Gard
From speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm
December 10, 1937

I should like to conclude with a more sombre hypothesis, although I am embarrassed to disturb this festive mood by arousing those painful thoughts that haunt all of us. However, perhaps the Swedish Academy did not hesitate to express a special purpose by drawing the attention of the intellectual world to the author of L’Été 1914 [Summer 1914].

That is the title of my last book. It is not for me to judge its value. But at least I know what I set out to do: in the course of these three volumes I tried to revivify the anguished atmosphere of Europe on the eve of the mobilizations of 1914. I tried to show the weakness of the governments of that day, their hesitations, indiscretions, and unavowed desires; I tried above all to give an impression of the stupefaction of the peaceful masses before the approach of that cataclysm whose victims they were going to be, that cataclysm which was to leave nine million men dead and ten million men crippled.

When I see that one of the highest literary juries in the world supports these books with the prestige of its incontestable authority, I ask myself whether the reason may not be that these books through their wide circulation have appeared to defend certain values that are again being threatened and to fight against the evil contagion of the forces of war.

For I am a son of the West, where the noise of arms does not let our minds rest. Since we have come together today on the tenth of December, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel (that man of action, “no mere shadow,” who in the last years of his life seems indeed to have put his supreme hope in the brotherhood of nations), permit me to confess how good it would be to think that my work – the work that has just been honoured in his name – might serve not only the cause of letters, but even the cause of peace.

In these months of anxiety in which we are living, when blood is already being shed in two extreme parts of the globe, when practically everywhere in an atmosphere polluted by misery and fanaticism passions are seething around pointed guns, when too many signs are again heralding the return of that languid defeatism, that general consent which alone makes wars possible: at this exceptionally grave moment through which humanity is passing, I wish, without vanity, but with a gnawing disquietude in my heart, that my books about Summer 1914 may be read and discussed, and that they may remind all – the old who have forgotten as well as the young who either do not know or do not care – of the sad lesson of the past.

Categories: Uncategorized

Charles Eliot Norton: Fighting the devil with his own arms: Declaration of war does not change the moral law

November 10, 2019 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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Charles Eliot Norton
Speech delivered in 1898

 

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A generation has grown up that has known nothing of war. The blessings of peace have been poured out upon us. We have congratulated ourselves that we were free from the misery and the burdens that war and standing armies have brought upon the nations of the Old World. “Their fires” – I cite a fine phrase of Sir Philip Sidney in a letter to Queen Elizabeth – “Their fires have given us light to see our own quietness.”

And now of a sudden, without cool deliberation, without prudent preparation, the nation is hurried into war, and America, she who more than any other land was pledged to peace and good-will on earth, unsheathes her sword, compels a weak and unwilling nation [Spain] to a fight, rejecting without due consideration her earnest and repeated offers to meet every legitimate demand of the United States. It is a bitter disappointment to the lover of his country; it is a turning-back from the path of civilization to that of barbarism.

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There are moments in every man’s life, in the life of every nation, when, under the excitement of passion, the simple truths which in common times are the foundation upon which the right order and conduct of life depend are apt to be forgotten and disregarded. I shall venture tonight to recall to you some of these commonplace truths, which in these days of war need more than ever to be kept in mind.

There never was a land that better deserved the love of her people than America, for there never was a mother-country kinder to her children. She has given to them all that she could give. Her boundless resources have lain open to them, to use at their will. And the consequence has been that never in the history of man has there been so splendid a spectacle of widely diffused and steadily increasing material welfare as America has displayed during the last hundred years.

Millions upon millions of men have lived here with more comfort, with less fear, than any such numbers elsewhere in any age have lived. Countless multitudes, whose forefathers from the beginning of human life on earth have spent weary lives in unrewarded toil, in anxiety, in helplessness, in ignorance, have risen here, in the course of even a single generation, to the full and secure enjoyment of the fruits of their labor, to confident hope, to intelligent possession of their own faculties. Is not the land to be dearly loved in which this has been possible, in which this has been achieved?

But there is a deeper source of love of country than the material advantages and benefits it may afford. It is in the character of its people, in their moral life, in the type of civilization which they exhibit. The elements of human nature are indeed so fixed that favorable or unfavorable circumstances have little effect upon its essential constitution, but prosperity or the reverse brings different traits into prominence. The conditions which have prevailed in America have, if broadly considered, tended steadily and strongly to certain good results in the national character; not, indeed, to unmixed good, but to a preponderance of good.

The institutions established for self-government have been founded with intent to secure justice and independence for all. The social relations among the whole body of the people, are humane and simple. The general spirit of the people is liberal, is kindly, is considerate. The ideals for the realization of which in private and public conduct there is more or less steady and consistent effort, are as high and as worthy as any which men have pursued. Every genuine American holds to the ideal of justice for all men, of independence, including free speech and free action within the limits of law, of obedience to law, of universal education, of material well-being for all the well-behaving and industrious, of peace and good-will among men. These, however far short the nation may fall in expressing them in its actual life, are, no one will deny it, the ideals of our American democracy.

And it is because America represents these ideals that the deepest love for his country glows in the heart of the American, and inspires him with that patriotism which counts no cost, which esteems no sacrifice too great to maintain and to increase the influence of these principles which embody themselves in the fair shape of his native land, and have their expressive symbol in her flag. The spirit of his patriotism is not an intermittent impulse; it is an abiding principle; it is the strongest motive of his life; it is his religion.

And because it is so, and just in proportion to his love of the ideals for which his country stands, is his hatred of whatever is opposed to them in private conduct or public policy. Against injustice, against dishonesty, against lawlessness, against whatever may make for war instead of peace, the good citizen is always in arms.

No thoughtful American can have watched the course of affairs among us during the last thirty years without grave anxiety from the apparent decline in power to control the direction of public and private conduct, of the principles upon regard for which the permanent and progressive welfare of America depends; and especially the course of events during the last few months and the actual condition of the country today, should bring home to every man the question whether or not the nation is true to one of the chief of the ideals to which it has professed allegiance.

A generation has grown up that has known nothing of war. The blessings of peace have been poured out upon us. We have congratulated ourselves that we were free from the misery and the burdens that war and standing armies have brought upon the nations of the Old World. “Their fires” – I cite a fine phrase of Sir Philip Sidney in a letter to Queen Elizabeth – “Their fires have given us light to see our own quietness.”

And now of a sudden, without cool deliberation, without prudent preparation, the nation is hurried into war, and America, she who more than any other land was pledged to peace and good-will on earth, unsheathes her sword, compels a weak and unwilling nation [Spain] to a fight, rejecting without due consideration her earnest and repeated offers to meet every legitimate demand of the United States. It is a bitter disappointment to the lover of his country; it is a turning-back from the path of civilization to that of barbarism.

“There never was a good war,” said Franklin. There have indeed been many wars in which a good man must take part, and take part with grave gladness to defend the cause of justice, to die for it if need be, a willing sacrifice, thankful to give life for what is dearer than life, and happy that even by death in war he is serving the cause of peace. But if a war be undertaken for the most righteous end, before the resources of peace have been tried and proved vain to secure it, that war has no defense; it is a national crime. And however right, however unavoidable a war may be, and those of us who are old enough to remember the war for the Union know that war may be right and unavoidable, yet, I repeat the words of Franklin, “There never was a good war.”

It is evil in itself, it is evil in its never-ending train of consequences. No man has known the nature of war better than General Sherman, and in his immortal phrase he has condensed its description — “War is hell.” “From the earliest dawnings of policy to this day,” said Edmund Burke, more than a hundred years ago, “the invention of men has been sharpening and improving the mystery of murder, from the first rude essays of clubs and stones to the present perfection of gunnery, cannoneering, bombarding, mining, and all these species of artificial, learned and refined cruelty in which we are now so expert, and which make a principal part of what politicians have taught us to believe is our principal glory.”

And it is now, at the end of this century, the century in which beyond any other in history knowledge has increased and the arts of peace have advanced, that America has been brought by politicians and writers for the press, faithless to her noble ideals, against the will of every right-minded citizen, to resort to these cruel arts, these arts of violence, these arts which rouse the passions of the beast in man, before the resources of peace had been fairly tested and proved insufficient to secure the professed ends, which, however humane and desirable, afford no sufficient justification for resorting to the dread arbitrament of arms.

There are, indeed, many among us who find justification of the present war in the plea that its motive is to give independence to the people of Cuba, long burdened by the oppressive and corrupt rule of Spain, and especially to relieve the suffering of multitudes deprived of their homes and of means of subsistence by the cruel policy of the general who exercised for a time a practical dictatorship over the island. The plea so far as it is genuine deserves the respect due to every humane sentiment. But independence secured for Cuba by forcible overthrow of the Spanish rule means either practical anarchy or the substitution of the authority of the United States for that of Spain. Either alternative might well give us pause. And as for the relief of suffering, surely it is a strange procedure to begin by inflicting worse suffering still. It is fighting the devil with his own arms. That the end justifies the means is a dangerous doctrine, and no wise man will advise doing evil for the sake of an uncertain good. But the plea that the better government of Cuba and the relief of the reconcentrados could only be secured by war is the plea either of ignorance or of hypocrisy.

But the war is declared; and on all hands we hear the cry that he is no patriot who fails to shout for it, and to urge the youth of the country to enlist, and to rejoice that they are called to the service of their native land. The sober counsels that were appropriate before the war was entered upon must give way to blind enthusiasm, and the voice of condemnation must be silenced by the thunders of the guns and the hurrahs of the crowd.

Stop! A declaration of war does not change the moral law. “The ten commandments will not budge” at a joint resolve of Congress. Was James Russell Lowell aught but a good patriot when during the Mexican war he sent the stinging shafts of his matchless satire at the heart of the monstrous iniquity, or when, years afterward, he declared, that he thought at the time and that he still thought the Mexican war was a national crime? Did John Bright ever render greater service to his country than when, during the Crimean war, he denounced the Administration which had plunged England into it, and employed his magnificent power of earnest and incisive speech in the endeavor to repress the evil spirit which it evoked in the heart of the nation?

No! the voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent, and spite of obloquy, misrepresentation and abuse, to insist on being heard, and with sober counsel to maintain the everlasting validity of the principles of the moral law.

So confused are men by false teaching in regard to national honor and the duty of the citizen that it is easy to fall into the error of holding a declaration of war, however brought about, as a sacred decision of the national will, and to fancy that a call to arms from the Administration has the force of a call from the lips of the country, of the America to whom all her sons are ready to pay the full measure of devotion. This is indeed a natural and for many a youth not a discreditable error. But if the nominal, though authorized, representatives of the country have brought us into a war that might and should have been avoided, and which consequently is an unrighteous war, then, so long as the safety of the State is not at risk, the duty of the good citizen is plain. He is to help to provide the Administration responsible for the conduct of the war with every means that may serve to bring it to the speediest end. He is to do this alike that the immediate evils of the war may be as brief and as few as possible, and also that its miserable train of after evils may be diminished and the vicious passions excited by it be the sooner allayed. Men, money, must be abundantly supplied. But must he himself enlist or quicken the ardent youth to enter service in such a cause? The need is not yet. The country is in no peril.

There is always in a vast population like ours an immense, a sufficient supply of material of a fighting order, often of a heroic courage, ready and eager for the excitement of battle, filled with the old notion that patriotism is best expressed in readiness to fight for our country, be she right or wrong. Better the paying of bounties to such men to fill the ranks than that they should be filled by those whose higher duty is to fit themselves for the service of their country in the patriotic labors of peace. We mourn the deaths of our noble youth fallen in the cause of their country when she stands for the right; but we may mourn with a deeper sadness for those who have fallen in a cause which their generous hearts mistook for one worthy of the last sacrifice.

My friends, America has been compelled against the will of all her wisest and best to enter into a path of darkness and peril. Against their will she has been forced to turn back from the way of civilization to the way of barbarism, to renounce for the time her own ideals. With grief, with anxiety must the lover of his country regard the present aspect and the future prospect of the nation’s life. With serious purpose, with utter self-devotion he should prepare himself for the untried and difficult service to which it is plain he is to be called in the quick-coming years.

Two months ago America stood at the parting of the ways. Her first step is irretrievable. It depends on the virtue, on the enlightened patriotism of her children whether her future steps shall be upward to the light or downward to the darkness.

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Adelaide George Bennett: The Peace-Pipe Quarry

November 9, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Adelaide George Bennett
The Peace-Pipe Quarry

Outward swell the rolling prairies like the waves of ocean deep;
Higher rise the crested billows rolling upward as they sweep
From horizon to horizon, and the air grows pure and free,
“On the mountains of the prairie,” on the wind-swept emerald sea.

As in olden time the zealots who would build unto their God,
Sacred temples for his worship, chose a “high place,” and the sod
Of the consecrated mountain was made holy by the rites
Of footsore and weary pilgrims who had sought the sacred heights,
So instinctively the red-men, roaming o’er the boundless main,
Looked for their Manitou above the low level of the plain;
Sought and found him on the summit of the green wave’s swelling crest
Rising upward like a mountain, in the valley of the West.

Not to him they founded temples, gilded fanes and altars fair;
Looking up, they saw already Manitou enthronèd there
In the fastness of the mountain, with his sphynx-like, stony face
Watching like a guardian spirit, o’er the dusky lawless race
Who regarded not each other, and their deadly hatred slaked
In the blood of friends and foemen, when their slumbering ire was waked.

“Gitche Manitou, the Mighty,” the Great Spirit throned above,
Was a God of truth and wisdom, was a God of peace and love;
And as God upon Mount Sinai, stooping from his heavenly throne,
Gave the law unto his people, deeply graven into stone,
“Gitche Manitou, the Mighty,” in compassion for the race
Of unlettered, untaught heathen who knew not his god-like face
Save they saw it in the tempest or the lightning’s livid glare,
Or in some familiar emblem they could see, or feel, or wear,
Taught them peace and love to kindred, through an emblem formed of stone,
Fashioned in the well-known outlines of a thing they called their own.
In the caverns of his store-house, deeply sunken in the ground,
Lay the mystical red pipe-stone, never yet by sachem found.
With his strong right hand almighty, rent he now the ground in twain,
Broke the red stone of the quarry, and, resounding o’er the plain,
Came this message to the warriors: – “Let this be to you a sign:
Make you calumets of pipe-stone, pledge you peace and love divine,
By the smoking of this signet. Let it pass from hand to hand.
Cease you from your wars and wrangling, and be brothers in the land.”

The Great Spirit’s words were heeded, and the calumet, the pipe
Which they often smoked together in their councils, was the type
Of good-will and peace thereafter, and upon the quarry’s site,
Hostile tribes and tongues and races meeting, never meet to fight.

Many legends and traditions cluster round this sacred spot;
Many histories and records deep with hidden meaning fraught,
Have been chiseled on the ledges at the ancient bowlders’ base,
Who, like strangers in the valley, drifted to a resting place.

Here, ere Manitou had given to the tribes the pipe of peace,
Saw he mighty war and bloodshed, saw the tribes of men decrease,
Until fleeing from destruction, come three maidens to the rocks –
The last remnant of all women, hiding from the fearful shocks
Of the deadly fight and carnage which was raging through the air,
Driven to these three large bowlders, as a refuge in despair.
Now in memory of the conflict and the part the bowlders bore,
They are named in weird tradition, “The Three Maidens,” evermore.

Here the thunder-bird portentous, Wakan, terrible in might,
Made his home in awful grandeur on the cliff’s mysterious height.
Here the flapping of his pinions brought the fierce, hot lightning’s glare,
Glazing all the fissured surface like enamel smooth and fair;
Melting all the red rock’s substance till a foot-print of the bird,
Plastic then, took form and hardened for a witness of the word.

Northward, just beyond the quarry, stands the famous “Leaping Rock,”
With its proud head reared to heaven, with an air that seems to mock
And to set at stern defiance, boastful braves who seek for fame,
And from agile feats to gather for themselves an envied name.
Hither came to try his daring, with brave heart to valor nerved,
Hopefully a young Sioux chieftain, never from his purpose swerved,
Came in all his youthful vigor, with his band of stalwart braves,
From the land of the Dakotas; zealously his spirit craves
To lead them all in bravery as he oft before has led,
And the plumes of the war eagle proudly waving on his head,
To wear in boastful triumph on the far-famed treacherous height,
And in his tribe’s traditions, thus his envied name to write.

Fearlessly he stands a moment on the overhanging edge
Of the nearest cliff’s high summit, eyes the small and slippery ledge
Just beyond the yawning chasm which his daring feet must leap;
Stands there bold and free and fearless, taking inward at a sweep
All the fearful odds and chances, the deep chasm he must cross –
Calculates with hope of winning, never with a fear of loss.
High above him arch the heavens; deep below him yawns the gulf;
In his ears the cataract thunders, and before him stands the rough,
Towering rock with air defiant, standing mocking, beckoning there.
With a fixed resolve and purpose, he leaps upward in the air –
Leaps, but not as he had counted, for his feet touch not the goal,
But his body plunges downward, and the young Sioux warrior’s soul,
Rising upward through the ether, seeks the happy hunting ground
Just as anxious friends and kindred gather hastily around,
Dropping tears unto his memory and with slow and measured tread,
Bear away the bold young chieftain, to the mansions of the dead.
Fear the falls of Winnewissa sweetly wooing to repose
With its murmurous plash of waters perfume-laden of the rose,
‘Neath the soil which once his kindred claimed and lived in until we
Rising eastward like a storm-cloud, swept the land from sea to sea.

Sleepeth well the brave young warrior in this legend-hallowed ground,
The long sleep that knows no waking till the common trump shall sound.
Still the Indian camp-fires glimmer round the sacred quarry’s edge,
And the calumet, the peace-pipe, is to them a friendly pledge:
And the doubting pale-face dwelling near the blood-red mystic stone,
Feels around him peace and safety like Elijah’s mantle thrown.

Long may Manitou, the mighty, the Great Spirit throned above,
Smile upon his helpless children, fill their lives with peace and love;
And at last, in the great council, at the bidding of his voice,
May they meet to smoke the peace-pipe with the people of his choice.

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Benvenuto Cellini: War kept behind closed doors

November 8, 2019 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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Benvenuto Cellini
From Autobiography
Translated by John Addington Symonds

I went home and set myself to finishing the medal which I had begun, with the head of Pope Clement and a figure of Peace on the reverse. The figure was a slender woman, dressed in very thin drapery, gathered at the waist, with a little torch in her hand, which was burning a heap of arms bound together like a trophy. In the background I had shown part of a temple, where was Discord chained with a load of fetters. Round about it ran a legend in these words: ‘Clauduntur belli portae.’

***

The Duke took so much pleasure in my work and conversation, that he not unfrequently posed through four or five hours at a stretch for his own portrait, and sometimes invited me to supper. It took me eight days to complete his likeness; then he ordered me to design the reverse. On it I modelled Peace, giving her the form of a woman with a torch in her hand, setting fire to a trophy of arms; I portrayed her in an attitude of gladness, with very thin drapery, and below her feet lay Fury in despair, downcast and sad, and loaded with chains.

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Peter Handke: The horror unleashed by NATO’s first war

November 7, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

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Peter Handke
From a 2008 interview
Translated by Tim Fenton

I was in Kosovo in April and I have been there four other times recently. I remained truly struck by what I saw in the enclaves of Velika Hoca, a village with a large Orthodox church, and then in Orahovac. They are two enclaves near each other and there one understands how the Serbs are living, how they spend their time, robbed of every possession, forced to go out only at four in the morning, terrorised all the time. The Suddeutsche Zeitung, speaking of a Serbian enclave, has unbelievably written: “The Serbs pretend to be afraid”. You see, it’s ideology, their minds already made up. No, the Serbs are not “pretending to be afraid”, they are simply living in terror and they have suffered so many murders in this period. There are no longer Serbian cemeteries outside the villages as elsewhere in Serbia. In Orahovac the cemeteries have been transferred to the centre of villages, within the enclaves, and the buses which come every so often from Mitrovica have to wait so as not to disturb the new graves. So even the ordinary tending of graves is impossible when those who do it may end up murdered and the gravestones themselves are often destroyed. I have seen only hate in Kosovo. It is NATO that has created this tragic and unsustainable situation, NATO that bombed the whole of ex-Yugoslavia. And now NATO and the European Union insist that it is necessary to grant independence because, otherwise, they know that the Kosovar Albanians will kill again and threaten a new war. But how does one come to deserve independence not by right but because one threatens violence and another war? What democratic logic is this which has been brought to bear by Europe and the US? Even worse they have never let up in eight years from murdering and terrorising. It’s enough even to see a Serbian symbol, a bus or a coach as it approaches the most beautiful monasteries in Europe like Decani or Gracanica, then even the children, in an automatic reaction, throw rocks. The Serbs are reduced to a flock of sheep, lost and impoverished. They have spoken of the violence of the Serbs against the Albanians but they have remained silent in all these years about the hundreds and hundreds of murders and the destruction of the monasteries. They have told us that the Serbs wanted to expel two million Albanians, and for that reason the campaign of aerial bombardment was justified. They have made a great theatre along the border, great for the world’s television crews and for NATO’s propaganda. Those refugees, for the most part were in flight because they were afraid of the aerial bombardment, they were accommodated as soon as they reached the Macedonian border and they have all returned home two months later. Thus they have contrived a new wretched war from photographs and TV broadcasts. In 1996 I was in Decani to deliver a lecture and there were no Italian troops in front of the monastery then as there are now protecting it, near there there was a lone Serbian restaurant and they did not want to leave. Inside there were traces of an attack by the KLA where an Albanian woman had been murdered: five minutes before on the street the Albanian houses had all of a sudden turned off their lights. The Serbs have also committed crimes and it has been a disgrace to that nation and who governs it. But no-one was describing it as an interethnic war, no-one was mentioning these armed attacks against the Serbs and the moderate Albanians themselves on behalf of the “freedom fighters.” A few days into NATO’s war Le Monde and also newspapers on the Left had headlines “All out terror in Europe. 50,000 victims.” There were a lot of victims but from both sides and many moderate Albanians killed by the KLA. In the end the Hague Tribunal found the graves of two thousand bodies for the most part fallen in combat. But not the fifty thousand or the “five hundred thousand” with which the New York Times headlined.

****

They have waged a campaign against me that resulted in the Comedie Francaise withdrawing my work from their programme, and then they have kept quiet about the fact that what they had said was not true. I deeply love the France of George Bernanos, of Francois Mauriac, and above all of Albert Camus, but the culture of today’s France is truly shameful. Nowadays the men of letters and philosophers are caricatures like André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy and those jokers of international humanitarian rights like Bernard Kouchner, who in the meantime has become Foreign Minister.

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Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

November 6, 2019 1 comment

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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

Henri Barbusse: Selections on war

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: All labor’s dread of war’s mad waste and murder

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: I saw a dove fear-daunted

Heinrich Böll: Every death in war is a murder – a murder for which someone is responsible

Heinrich Böll: I’m going to die soon and before the war is over. I shall never know peace again.

Albert Camus: Where war lives. The reign of beasts has begun.

William Faulkner: There is only the question: When will I be blown up?

Anatole France: Selections on war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

Gabriel García Márquez: Five wars and seventeen military coups

André Gide: Transformation of a war supporter

Peter Handke: The horror unleashed by NATO’s first war

Gerhart Hauptmann: American politics and warships

Ernest Hemingway: Selections on war

Pär Lagerkvist: If such a thing as war can end

Selma Lagerlöf: The Fifth Commandment. The Great Beast is War.

Selma Lagerlöf: The mark of death was on them all

Halldór Laxness: In war there is no cause except the cause of war. A bitter disappointment when it turned out they could defend themselves

Sinclair Lewis: Selections on war

Maurice Maeterlinck: Bloodshed, battle-cry and sword-thrust are the joys of barbarians

Thomas Mann: Selections on war

Roger Martin du Gard: Selections on war

Eugenio Montale: Poetry in an era of nuclear weapons and Doomsday atmosphere

Pablo Neruda: Bandits with planes, jackals that the jackals would despise

Kenzaburō Ōe: Categorical imperative to renounce war forever

Kenzaburo Ōe: Nuclear war and its lemmings

Eugene O’Neill: The hell that follows war

Harold Pinter: Art, Truth and Politics

Salvatore Quasimodo: In every country a cultural tradition opposes war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

Jean-Paul Sartre: When the rich fight the rich, it is the poor who die

George Bernard Shaw: Selections on war

Mikhail Sholokhov: Selections on war

Wole Soyinka: Civilian and Soldier

Rabindranath Tagore: Secure disarmament, transform it into strength

Mario Vargas Llosa: More than enough atomic and conventional weapons to wipe out several planets

William Butler Yeats: The Rose of Peace

Categories: Uncategorized

Katherine Lee Bates: Children of the War

November 5, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Katherine Lee Bates
Children of the War

Shrunken little bodies, pallid baby faces,
Eyes of staring terror, innocence defiled,
Tiny bones that strew the sand of silent places,
– This upon our own star where Jesus was a child.

Broken buds of April, is there any garden
Where they yet may blossom, comforted of sun,
While their sad Creator bows to ask their pardon
For the life He gave them, life and death in one?

Spared by steel and hunger, still shall horror blazon
Those white and tender spirits with anguish unforgot;
Half a century hence the haggard look shall gaze on
The outrage of a mother, shall see a grandsire shot.

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Edgar Guest: The Peaceful Warriors

November 4, 2019 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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Edgar Guest
The Peaceful Warriors

Let others sing their songs of war
And chant their hymns of splendid death,
Let others praise the soldiers’ ways
And hail the cannon’s flaming breath.
Let others sing of Glory’s fields
Where blood for Victory is paid,
I choose to sing some simple thing
To those who wield not gun or blade –
The peaceful warriors of trade.

Let others choose the deeds of war
For symbols of our nation’s skill,
The blood-red coat, the rattling throat,
The regiment that charged the hill,
The boy who died to serve the flag,
Who heard the order and obeyed,
But leave to me the gallantry
Of those who labor unafraid –
The peaceful warriors of trade.

Aye, let me sing the splendid deeds
Of those who toil to serve mankind,
The men who break old ways and make
New paths for those who come behind.
The young who war with customs old
And face their problems, unafraid,
Who think and plan to lift for man
The burden that on him is laid –
The splendid warriors of trade.

I sing of battles with disease
And victories o’er death and pain,
Of ships that fly the summer sky,
And glorious deeds of strength and brain.
The call for help that rings through space
By which a vessel’s course is stayed,
Thrills me far more than fields of gore,
Or heroes decked in golden braid –
I sing the warriors of trade.

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Charles Mackay: Awake the song of peace!

November 1, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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Charles Mackay
From The Festival of Labour
Opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851

The world is growing wiser,
New thoughts and hopes are born;
Too long we’ve dwelt in darkness,
And tarried for the morn.
Too long in foolish warfare
We’ve dipp’d our bleeding hands;
But wisdom, taught by suffering keen,
Comes beaming o’er the lands.
Our princes and our peoples
The grateful truth have learn’d,
And strive for glory purer far
Than Caesar ever earn’d.
Gather, ye nations, gather!
Let ancient discords cease,
And earth, with myriad voices
Awake the song of peace!

Categories: Uncategorized

Ludovico Ariosto: Cast new weapons into the hell from which they came

October 22, 2019 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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Ludovico Ariosto
From Orlando Furioso
Translated by William Stewart Rose

“Lo! Lionel! lo! Borse great and kind!
First duke of thy fair race, his realm’s delight;
Who reigns secure, and shall more triumphs find
In peace, than warlike princes win in fight.
Who struggling Fury’s hands shall tie behind
Her back, and prison Mars, removed from sight.
His fair endeavours bent to bless and stay
The people, that his sovereign rule obey.”

***

From street to street, before the count he made;
And vanished clean; but after little stay,
Came with new arms, with tube and fire purveyed;
Which, at his hest, this while his men convey.
And posted at a corner, he waylaid:
His foe, as hunter watches for his prey,
In forest, with armed dogs and spear, attending
The boar in fury from the hill descending…
He seized the tube, and said: “That cavalier
May never vail through thee his knightly pride,
Nor base be rated with a better foe,
Down with thee to the darkest deep below!

“O loathed, O cursed piece of enginery,
Cast in Tartarean bottom, by the hand
Of Beelzebub, whose foul malignity
The ruin of this world through thee has planned!
To hell, from whence thou came, I render thee.”
So said, he cast away the weapon…”

***

More than a hundred fathom buried so,
Where hidden it had lain a mighty space,
The infernal tool by magic from below
Was fished and born amid the German race;
Who, by one proof and the other, taught to know
Its powers, and he who plots for our disgrace,
The demon, working on their weaker wit,
As last upon its fatal purpose hit.

To Italy and France, on every hand
The cruel art among all people past:
And these the bronze in hollow mould expand,
First in the furnace melted by the blast:
Others the iron bore, and small or grand,
Fashion the various tube they pierce or cast.
And bombard, gun, according to its frame,
Or single cannon this, or double, name.

This saker, culverine, or falcon hight,
I hear (all names the inventor has bestowed);
Which splits or shivers steel and stone outright,
And, where the bullet passes, makes a road.
– Down to the sword, restore thy weapons bright,
Sad soldier, to the forge, a useless load;
And gun or carbine on thy shoulder lay,
Who without these, I wot, shalt touch no pay.

How, foul and pestilent discovery,
Didst thou find place within the human heart?

Categories: Uncategorized

Pietro Aretino: Overjoyed at statue of Peace and her flames burning up arms of war

October 18, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Pietro Aretino: Proper task, the giving of a beginning to peace and an end to wars

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Pietro Aretino
From his letters
Translated by Samuel Putnam

I, you big madman, was forced the other day to put out of your head, with threats of excommunication, the fancy of taking a wife; and now, I have to set to work to disabuse you of the whim of going to camp. It is gospel truth that bread and soldiers are not worth much in the end; although you might reply, “What are you going to do in time of famine or time of war?” It seems to me you are mad even to think of going, and madder still to adhere to the purpose; for the art of war is like the art of the courtezan – indeed, they might be called sisters, since both are the slaves of desperation and the step-daughters of that swinish fortune which never tires of crucifying us at every turn. Certainly, the court and the field may be embraced together, since in the one you will find want, envy, old age and the hospital, while in the other you have only to gain wounds, prison and fame.

***

To Messer Ambrogio Eusebia
In Which He Advises Him Against the Army

I like such crazy dreaming, because a man in such thoughts appears to himself a very Trojan; but I very much disapprove of putting those thoughts into action, for if you do, in two months you will be eating your own clothes, your servant and your pony, having made an enemy of your patron and of paradise, in case you go there. That martial and fulminating manner you should regard as a bizarre and bestial gesture, that bragging of what you did and said to the French, as, giving yourself a thousand followers and two hundred helmets, you proceed to take castles, burn villages, plunder peoples and seize treasures; and if you merely wish to cut a couple of capers on your charger in front of your lady love, with your head all decked out in feathers, stay at home; you can do is just as well here! For a gaudeamus in front of a hen-roost, you go without bread for supper for a week, and for a bundle of rags, which is your booty, and a prison, which is yours whenever God wills it, you have as recompense the right to come home with a staff in your hand and to sell everything you have, even to your vineyard, in order to keep put of the domo Petri.

***

I am overjoyed at the statue of Peace and her flames burning up the arms of war which was placed on the Medici palace, and it is right that this most admirable work should be set up in the worthiest spot in the city. [Translated by Thomas Caldecot Chubb]

Categories: Uncategorized

Pietro Aretino: Proper task, the giving of a beginning to peace and an end to wars

October 17, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Pietro Aretino: Overjoyed at statue of Peace and her flames burning up arms of war

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Pietro Aretino
From his letters
Translated by Samuel Putnam

Pen versus the sword

I am a captain myself, and my malice does not steal soldiers’ pay, cause peoples to revolt or betray forts; but with my inky cohorts, and with the truth painted on my banners, I acquire more glory for a prince I serve than armed men do.

***

I, who have made kings tremble and who have assured them of prosperity, give myself to you, the fathers of your people, the brothers of your servants, the little sons of truth, the friends of virtue, the companions of strangers, the supports of religion, the observers of the faith, the executors of justice, the heirs of charity and the subjects of clemency. For the same reason, illustrious prince, receive my affection into a hem of your piety, so that I may go on praising the nurse of cities [Venice] and the mother elect of God. Make her the most famous of any in the world, by moderating her customs, by giving humanity to me, by humiliating the proud and by pardoning the erring. Such an exercise is, indeed, your proper task, as is the giving of a beginning to peace and an end to wars…

***

In Which He Dissuades His Friend from Going to War

I counseled you not to be stubborn in the matter, endeavoring to make you feel that killing or crippling others would not be to your credit, since you are not armorum; follow my advice, and you will not have to give an account to the mourners; for if Your Lordship is killed, every one will say: “Served him right!”

But alas! madness and the devil tempt you and drag you away; go, then, but take it easy behind the baggage trains, for in a “Salvum me fac” lies the safety of nos otros, and not in getting into the rout, receiving half a dozen wounds and, in addition, being looked upon as a beast.

If worst comes to worst, lose no time in getting out, take to your legs, fly away, for it is better for your hide that they should say: “What coward is fleeing there?” than “What corpse is lying here?” Glory is good enough in its place; but when we are dead, old lady Fame can sound the bagpipes and play the Pavan all she chooses, but we will not be there to hear them; we shall be crowned with laurel and mingling with the dust of Cyprus. And if you do not take my word for it, take the assurance of Messer Lionardo Bartolino, that war is something more than talk…

Categories: Uncategorized

Torquato Tasso: Pastoral refuge from war

October 12, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Torquato Tasso: War’s devouring minister, the sword

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Torquato Tasso
From Jerusalem Delivered
Translated by J. H. Wiffen

“But, Father, say, whilst the destructive fire
Of war lays waste the country wide and far,
How live you free from military ire,
Beneath the charm of what benignant star?”
“My son,” said he, ” from the rude wrongs of war
My family and flocks in this lone nook
Were ever safe; no fears my quiet mar;
These groves to the hoarse trumpet never shook;
Calm rolls yon stately stream, calm flows each woodland brook.

“Whether it be that Heaven protects in love
The chaste humility of shepherd swains,
Or, as its lightnings strike the crag’s tall grove,
But leave untouched the roses of the plains, –
That so the wrath of foreign swords diadains
To harm the meek heads of the lowly poor,
Aiming alone at lofty kings, – our gains
Tempt not the greedy soldier to our door;
Safe stands our simple shed, despised our little store.

“Despised by others, but so dear to me,
That gems and crowns I hold in less esteem;
From pride, from avarice is my spirit free,
And mad ambition’s visionary dream.
My thirst I quench in the pellucid stream,
Nor fear lest poison the pure wave pollutes;
With flocks my fields, my fields with herbage teem;
My garden-plot supplies nutritious roots;
And my brown orchard bends with Autumn’s wealthiest fruits.

”Few are our wishes, few our wants; Man needs
But little to preserve the vital spark:
These are my sons; they keep the flock that feeds,
And rise in the grey morning with the lark.
Thus in my hermitage I live; now mark
The goats disport amid the budding brooms;
Now the slim stags bound through the forest dark;
The fish glide by; the bees hum round the blooms;
And the birds spread to heaven the splendour of their plumes.

“Time was (these grey hairs then were golden locks),
When other wishes wantoned in my veins;
I scorned the simple charge of tending flocks,
And fled disgusted from my native plains.
Awhile in Memphis I abode, where reigns
The mighty Caliph; he admired my port,
And made me keeper of his flower-domains;
And though to town I rarely made resort,
Much have I seen and known of the intrigues of court.

“Long by presumptuous hopes was I beguiled,
And many, many a disappointment bore;
But when with youth false hope no longer smiled,
And the scene palled that charmed so much before, –
I sighed for my lost peace, and brooded o’er
The’ abandoned quiet of this humble shed;
Then, farewell State’s proud palaces! once more
To these delightful solitudes I fled;
And in their peaceful shades harmonious days have led.”

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Defend Peter Handke

October 11, 2019 3 comments

Distinguished Austrian novelist, playwright, poet and essayist Peter Handke has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature along with Polish author Olga Tokarczuk.

Western news sources are uniformly reporting on this by attacking and highlighting others’ attacks on the recipient in reference to his opposition to U.S. and NATO policies in the Balkans over the past 28 years.

Handke’s alleged “outrages” and “crimes” consist of his speaking out against the forcible break-up of former Yugoslavia, NATO’s military campaigns against the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, NATO expansion through the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a whole and, perhaps especially, to the one-sided demonization of ethnic Serbs in the former Yugoslavia.

No sooner was his award announced than the full force of the American and European opinion-making juggernaut was activated against him: not as a writer but as a person.

It seems only a matter of days, if not hours, before his award is revoked. Please do what you can to defend Handke the writer and the principle of a person of letters’ right, indeed responsibility, to speak the truth as he discovers it.

Interview with Peter Handke:
A freedom as though I were innocent
As a writer you are born as a guilty person

Handke’s Ray Davies reference

Stefan Zweig: Origin of the Nobel Peace Prize

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Baldassare Castiglione: Leaders must prepare their people for peace, not war

October 10, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Baldassare Castiglione: Sabine peace

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Baldassare Castiglione
From The Book of the Courtier
Translated by Leonard Eckstein Opdyke

“Therefore it is also the good prince’s office so to establish his people, and under such laws and ordinances, that they may live at ease and peace, without danger and with dignity, and may worthily enjoy this end of their actions, which ought to be tranquillity. For many republics and princes are often found that have been very prosperous and great in war, and as soon as they have had peace they have gone to ruin and lost their greatness and splendour, like iron laid aside. And this has come about from nothing else but from their not having been well established for living at peace, and from their not knowing how to enjoy the blessing of ease. And to be always at war, without seeking to arrive at the end of peace, is not permitted: albeit some princes think that their chief aim ought to be to lord it over their neighbours; and therefore they train their people to a warlike ferocity for spoil, killing and the like, and give rewards to excite it, and call it virtue.

“Thus it was once a custom among the Scythians that whoever had not slain an enemy might not drink from the bowl which was handed about to the company at solemn feasts. In other places they used to set up, around a tomb, as many obelisks as he who was buried there had slain enemies; and all these things were done to make men warlike, solely in order to lord it over others: which was almost impossible, because the undertaking was endless (until the whole world should be subjugated) and far from reasonable according to the law of nature, which will not have us pleased with that in others which is displeasing to us in ourselves.

“Therefore princes ought not to make their people warlike for lust of rule, but for the sake of being able to defend themselves and their people against him who would reduce them to bondage or do them wrong in any wise; or to drive out tyrants and govern those people well who were ill used, or to reduce to bondage those who are by nature such as to deserve being made slaves, with the object of governing them well and giving them ease and rest and peace. To this end also the laws and all the ordinances of justice ought to be directed, by punishing the wicked, not from hatred, but in order that they may not be wicked and to the end that they may not disturb the tranquillity of the good. For in truth it is a monstrous thing and worthy of blame for men to show themselves valiant and wise in war (which is bad in itself) and in peace and quiet (which are good) to show themselves ignorant and of so little worth that they know not how to enjoy their happiness.

“Hence, just as in war men ought to apply themselves to the qualities that are useful and necessary to attain its end, which is peace, – so in peace, to attain its end also, which is tranquillity, they ought to apply themselves to the righteous qualities that are the end of the useful. And thus subjects will be good, and the prince will have much more to praise and reward than to punish; and dominion will be very happy for the subjects and for the prince -not imperious, like that of master over slave, but sweet and gentle, like that of a good father over a good son.”

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Baldassare Castiglione: Sabine peace

October 9, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Baldassare Castiglione: Leaders must prepare their people for peace, not war

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Baldassare Castiglione
From The Book of the Courtier
Translated by Leonard Eckstein Opdyke

“Nor did the Sabine women contribute less to its [Rome’s] increase than the Trojan women did to its beginning. For Romulus, having excited general enmity among all his neighbours by the seizure of their women, was harassed by wars on every side; which (he being a man of ability) were soon brought to a successful issue, except that with the Sabines, which was very great because Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines, was very powerful and wise. Wherefore, a severe conflict having taken place between Romans and Sabines, with very heavy loss on both sides, and a new and cruel battle making ready, the Sabine women, – clad in black, with hair loose and torn, weeping, sorrowful, fearless of the weapons that were already drawn to strike, – rushed in between the fathers and husbands, imploring them to refrain from defiling their hands with the blood of fathers-in-law and sons-in-law. And if the men were still displeased with the alliance, let the weapons be turned against the women, for it were better for them to die than to live widowed or fatherless and brotherless, and to remember that their children were begotten of those who had slain their fathers, or that they themselves were born of those who had slain their husbands. Lamenting thus and weeping, many of them carried their little babes in their arms, some of whom were already beginning to loose the tongue and seemed to try to call and to make merry with their grandsires; to whom the women showed the little ones, and said, weeping: ‘Behold your blood, which with such heat and fury you are seeking to shed with your own hands.’

“The women’s dutifulness and wisdom wrought such great effect at this pass, that not only were lasting friendship and union established between the two hostile kings, but what was stranger, the Sabines came to live at Rome, and of the two peoples a single one was made. And thus this union greatly increased the power of Rome, thanks to those wise and lofty-minded women, who were rewarded by Romulus in such fashion that in dividing the people into thirty wards he gave thereto the names of the Sabine women.”

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Torquato Tasso: War’s devouring minister, the sword

October 4, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Torquato Tasso: Pastoral refuge from war

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Torquato Tasso
From Jerusalem Delivered
Translated by J. H. Wiffen

“Now is thy noon of honour, but the night
Succeeds to noon; and wise it surely were
To shun the dubious accidents of fight, –
If conqueror, conquest proves a fruitless care;
But – once beguiled in fate’s malignant snare,
Empire, past spoils, and victories, all are crossed!”

***

“But if thine eye no keen resentment veils,
If it strikes not the light of reason blind,
With fear, not hope, must thou regard the scales
Of war, and tremble as the beam’s inclined;
For Fortune’s favour is a varying wind.
Wafting now ill, now good, – now joy, now woe!
She least rewards us when she seems most kind:
Oft serpents lurk where freshest roses blow.
And for the loftiest flight a gulf yawns deep below.”

***

“But granting Heaven’s almightiness decree
That War’s devouring minister, the sword,
Which fatal proves to others, harm not thee,
Famine will bow thee still! when, unrestored,
Life’s rosy currents from the heart are poured,
Where wilt thou turn? what refuge will remain?
Quails in the desert will thy God afford?
Wave thy bright sword, thy javelin shake! – ‘t is vain!
Victory will nothing be but mockery of thy pain.”

***

“Lovelier is Mercy’s smile than Valour’s frown,
A suppliant cherished than a foe undone:
And ’twere less glorious to thy just renown,
Whatever hazards in the task were run,
To lay whole realms in dust than thus relumine one.”

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Alessandro Manzoni: The havoc of war devastated the state

September 27, 2019 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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Alessandro Manzoni
From The Betrothed (I promessi sposi)

This was the second year of the scarcity; in the preceding one, the provisions, remaining from past years, had supplied in some measure the deficiency, and we find the population neither altogether satisfied, nor yet starved; but certainly unprovided for in the year 1628, the period of our story. Now this harvest, so anxiously desired, was still more deficient than that of the past year, partly from the character of the season itself (and that not only in the Milanese but also in the surrounding country), and partly from the instrumentality of men. The havoc of the war, of which we have before made mention, had so devastated the state, that a greater number of farms than ordinary remained uncultivated and deserted by the peasants, who, instead of providing, by their labour, bread for their families, were obliged to beg it from door to door. We say a greater number of farms than ordinary, because the insupportable taxes, levied with a cupidity and folly unequalled; the habitual conduct, even in time of peace, of the standing troops (conduct which the mournful documents of the age compare to that of an invading army), and other causes which we cannot enumerate, had for some time slowly operated to produce these sad effects in all the Milanese, – the particular circumstances of which we now speak were, therefore, like the unexpected exasperation of a chronic disease. Hardly had this harvest been gathered, when the supplies for the army, and the waste which always accompanies them, caused an excessive scarcity, and with it its painful but profitable concomitant, a high price upon provisions…

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Giovanni Boccaccio: Avarice armed mankind in violence

September 3, 2019 Leave a comment

Giovanni Boccaccio
From The Fates of Illustrious Men
Translated by Louis Brewer Hall

(With gratitude to the translator and for fair use only.)

What does great power bring with it except a covering of gold and purple, mantles and gems, the certain envy of many, the greatest misfortune, and very often a lamentable and ignominious end. Among all these things is mixed deceptive love, which brings the greatest danger to those who receive it. This delight, by the delicacies which sets it free, infects the spirit with its poison. If Troy was not enough to demonstrate this fact, how many conflagrations, how many ruins, how many killings are necessary? And in addition, slaughtered Agamemnon bears witness to it.

***

People should not be threatened with force, trampled underfoot, nor tortured. Rulers should always remember that people are not slaves but fellow servants of God. Because it is the sweat of the people that makes the royal eminence shine, the king should be diligent to guard peace and the welfare of the people. How many rulers perform this today, God knows. Rule has been transferred into tyranny. Rulers despise the feelings of their subjects. They want to glitter with gems and gold; they want to be surrounded by great bands of servants, to build palaces into the sky, to spend their time with groups of parasites, prostitutes and fools. They feast their eyes on obscenities. They spend their nights in endless debauchery, drunkenness and scandal. Their days they spent in deepest sleep while the people guard their well-being.

***

Nature has hidden gold in the most secret depths of the earth, as it is dangerous to the human species. But Avarice, the prospector, searches voraciously and brings it to light. Avarice taught us to dig out the mountains, tunnel the bowels of the earth, and even to invade the depths of the sea with fish hooks. First, Avarice leveled the height of the mountains and cut down the woods to make roads. Then he showed us how to occupy foreign shores, to sign false contracts, to deceive wild beasts, to put serpents to sleep, to spread discord, to lie. He armed mankind in violence, invented poisons and treacheries. By all these methods and others as well, he gathered this glittering peril for some men in vast quantities.

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Dante: The fate of those who deal in bloodshed and in pillaging

August 31, 2019 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

James Russell Lowell: Dante and universal peace

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Dante Alighieri
From The Divine Comedy
Inferno Canto XII
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“But fix thine eyes below; for draweth near
The river of blood, within which boiling is
Whoe’er by violence doth injure others.

O blind cupidity, O wrath insane,
That spurs us onward so in our short life,
And in the eternal then so badly steeps us!”

***

We with our faithful escort onward moved
Along the brink of the vermilion boiling,
Wherein the boiled were uttering loud laments.

People I saw within up to the eyebrows,
And the great Centaur said: “Tyrants are these,
Who dealt in bloodshed and in pillaging.

Here they lament their pitiless mischiefs; here
Is Alexander, and fierce Dionysius
Who upon Sicily brought dolorous years.

That forehead there which has the hair so black
Is Azzolin; and the other who is blond,
Obizzo is of Esti, who, in truth,

Up in the world was by his stepson slain.”
Then turned I to the Poet; and he said,
“Now he be first to thee, and second I.”

A little farther on the Centaur stopped
Above a folk, who far down as the throat
Seemed from that boiling stream to issue forth.

A shade he showed us on one side alone,
Saying: “He cleft asunder in God’s bosom
The heart that still upon the Thames is honoured.”

Then people saw I, who from out the river
Lifted their heads and also all the chest;
And many among these I recognised.

Thus ever more and more grew shallower
That blood, so that the feet alone it covered;
And there across the moat our passage was.

“Even as thou here upon this side beholdest
The boiling stream, that aye diminishes,”
The Centaur said, “I wish thee to believe

That on this other more and more declines
Its bed, until it reunites itself
Where it behoveth tyranny to groan.

Justice divine, upon this side, is goading
That Attila, who was a scourge on earth,
And Pyrrhus, and Sextus; and for ever milks

The tears which with the boiling it unseals
In Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo,
Who made upon the highways so much war.”

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Henry James: War, the waste of life and time and money

August 26, 2019 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Henry James: Beguiled into thinking war, worst horror that attends the life of nations, could not recur

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Henry James
From The American

Newman had come out of the war with a brevet of brigadier-general, an honor which in this case – without invidious comparisons – had lighted upon shoulders amply competent to bear it. But though he could manage a fight, when need was, Newman heartily disliked the business; his four years in the army had left him with an angry, bitter sense of the waste of precious things – life and time and money and “smartness” and the early freshness of purpose; and he had addressed himself to the pursuits of peace with passionate zest and energy.

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Tobias Smollett: The war glories of a demagogue

August 17, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Tobias Smollett: War contractors fattened on the blood of the nation

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Tobias Smollett
From The History and Adventures of an Atom

Success of any kind is apt to perturb the weak brain of a Japonese [Englishman]; but the acquisition of any military trophy, produces an actual delirium. – The streets of Meaco [London] were filled with the multitudes who shouted, whooped and hollowed. They made processions with flags and banners; they illuminated their houses; they extolled lan-on-i [Major-General Sir William Johnson], a provincial captain of Fatsisio [North America], who had by accident repulsed a body of the enemy and reduced an old barn which they had fortified. They magnified Brut-an-tiffi [Frederick the Great]; they deified orator Taycho [William Pitt the Elder]; they drank, they damned, they squabbled, and acted a thousand extravagancies which I shall not pretend to enumerate or particularize. Taycho, who knew their trim, seized this opportunity to strike while the iron was hot. – He forthwith mounted an old tub, which was his public rostrum, and waving his hand in an oratorial attitude, was immediately surrounded with the thronging populace. – I have already given you a specimen of his manner, and therefore shall not repeat the tropes and figures of his harangue: but only sketch out the plan of his address, and specify the chain of his argument alone. He assailed them in the way of paradox, which never fails to produce a wonderful effect upon a heated imagination and a shallow understanding. Having, in his exordium, artfully fascinated their faculties, like a juggler in Bartholomew-fair, by means of an assemblage of words without meaning or import; he proceeded to demonstrate, that a wife and good man ought to discard his maxims the moment he finds they are certainly established on the foundation of eternal truth. That the people of Japan ought to preserve the farm of Yesso [Hanover], as the apple of their eye, because nature had disjoined it from their empire; and the maintenance of it would involve them in all the quarrels of Tartary [the German states]: that it was to be preserved at all hazards, because it was not worth preserving: that all the power and opulence of Japan ought to be exerted and employed in its defence, because, by the nature of its situation, it could not possibly be defended: that Brut-an-tiffi was the great protector of the religion of the Bonzas [Anglican clergymen], because he had never shewn the least regard to any religion at all: that he was the fast friend of Japan, because he had more than once acted as a rancorous enemy to this empire, and never let slip the least opportunity of expressing his contempt for the subjects of Niphon [Great Britain]: that he was an invincible hero, because he had been thrice beaten, and once compelled to raise a siege in the course of two campaigns: that he was a prince of consummate honour, because he had in the time of profound peace, usurped the dominions and ravaged the countries of his neighbours, in defiance of common honesty; in violation of the most solemn treaties: that he was the most honourable and important ally that the empire of Japan could choose, because his alliance was to be purchased with an enormous annual tribute, for which he was bound to perform no earthly office of friendship or assistance; because connexion with him effectually deprived Japan of the friendship of all the other princes and states of Tartary; and the utmost exertion of his power could never conduce, in the smallest degree, to the interest or advantage of the Japonese empire.

***

The Dairo [the English monarch] rejoiced in his success, the first-fruits of which consisted in their agreeing to maintain an army of twenty thousand Tartar mercenaries, who were reinforced by the flower of the national troops of Japan, sent over to defend the farm of Yesso; and in their consenting to prolong the annual tribute granted to Brut-an-tiffi, who, in return for this condescension, accommodated the Dairo with one of his free-booting captains to command the Yessite army.

***

As the war of Yesso, therefore, engrossed all the specie of Niphon, and some currency was absolutely necessary to the subsistence of the Japonese, the orator contrived a method to fave the expence of solid food. He composed a meal that should fill their bellies, and, at the same time, protract the intoxication of their brains, which it was so much his interest to maintain.

***

The people had been so well prepared for infatuation, by the speeches of Taycho, and the tidings of success from Tartary, that every passenger greedily swallowed the drench, and in a little time the whole nation was converted; that is, they were totally freed from those troublesome and impertinent faculties of reason and reflection, which could have served no other purpose but to make them miserable under the burthens to which, their backs were now subjected. They offered up all their gold and silver, their jewels, their furniture and apparel, at the shrine of Fakkubasi [House of Hanover], singing psalms and hymns in praise of the White Horse [of Hanover]. They put arms into the hands of their children, and drove them into Tartary.

***

The Chinese [French] were successful in other parts of Fatsisio. They demolished some forts, they defeated some parties, and massacred some people, belonging to the colonies of Japan. Perhaps the tidings of these disasters would have roused the people of Niphon from the lethargy of intoxication in which they were overwhelmed, had not their delirium been kept up by some fascinating amulets from Tartary: these were no other than the bubbles which Brut-an-tiffi swelled into mighty victories over the Chinese and Ostrog [Austria]; though, in fact, he had been severely cudgelled, and more than once in very great danger of crucifixion. Taycho presented the monster with a bowl of blood, which he told it this invincible ally had drawn from its enemies the Chinese, and, at the fame time, blowed the gay bubbles athwart its numerous eyes. The hydra lapped the gore with signs of infinite relish; groaned and grunted to fee the bubbles dance; exclaimed, “O rare Taycho!” and relapsed into the arms of slumber. Thus passed the first campaign of Taycho’s administration.

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George Gissing: Peace, no word more beautiful

August 10, 2019 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

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George Gissing
From The Crown of Life

He had tired himself; his mind slipped from the beautiful things around him, and fell into the old reverie. He murmured the haunting name – Irene. As well as for her who bore it, he loved the name for its meaning. Peace! As a child he had been taught that no word was more beautiful, more solemn; at this moment, he could hear it in his father’s voice, sounding as a note of music, with a tremor of deep feeling. Peace! Every year that passed gave him a fuller understanding of his father’s devotion to that word in all its significance; he himself knew something of the same fervour, and was glad to foster it in his heart. Peace! What better could a man pursue? From of old the desire of wisdom, the prayer of the aspiring soul.

****

“And after all, there’s no harm in a little fighting. It’s better to fight and have done with it than keeping on plotting between compliments. Nations arc just like schoolboys, you know; there has to be a round now and then; it settles things, and is good for the blood.”

Otway was biting a blade of grass; he smiled and said nothing. Mrs. Borisoff glanced from him to Irene, who also was smiling, but looked half vexed.

“How can it be good, for health or anything else?” Miss Derwent asked suddenly, turning to the speaker.

“Oh, we couldn’t do without fighting. It’s in human nature.”

“In uncivilised human nature, yes.”

“But really, you know,” urged March, with good-natured deference, “it wouldn’t do to civilise away pluck – courage – heroism – whatever one likes to call it.”

“Of course it wouldn’t. But what has pluck or heroism to do with bloodshed? How can anyone imagine that courage is only shown in fighting? I don’t happen to have been in a battle, but one knows very well how easy it must be for any coward or brute, excited to madness, to become what’s called a hero. Heroism is noble courage in ordinary life. Are you serious in thinking that life offers no opportunities for it?”

“Well – it’s not quite the same thing -”

“Happily, not! It’s a vastly better thing. Every day some braver deed is done by plain men and women – yes, women, if you please – than was ever known on the battle-field. One only hears of them now and then. On the railway – on the sea – in the hospital – in burning houses – in accidents of road and street – are there no opportunities for courage? In the commonest everyday home life, doesn’t any man or woman have endless chances of being brave or a coward? And this is civilised courage, not the fury of a bull at a red rag.”

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George Gissing: Next stage in civilization: peace made a religion

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

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George Gissing
From The Crown of Life

With a boldness natural to the hour, he drew nearer, nearer, watching his opportunity. The chair by Irene’s side became vacant; he stepped forward, and was met with a frank countenance, which invited him to take the coveted place. Miss Derwent spoke at once of her interest in the Russian sectaries with whom – she had heard – Otway was well acquainted, the people called Dukhobortsi, who held the carrying of arms a sin, and suffered persecution because of their conscientious refusal to perform military service. Piers spoke with enthusiasm of these people.

“They uphold the ideal above all necessary to our time. We ought to be rapidly outgrowing warfare; isn’t that the obvious next step in civilisation? It seems a commonplace that everyone should look to that end, and strive for it. Yet we’re going back – there’s a military reaction – fighting is glorified by everyone who has a loud voice, and in no country more than in England. I wish you could hear a Russian friend of mine speak about it, a rich man who has just given up everything to join the Dukhobortsi. I never knew before what religious passion meant. And it seems to me that this is the world’s only hope – peace made a religion. The forms don’t matter; only let the supreme end be peace. It is what people have talked so much about – the religion of the future.”

His tones moved the listener, as appeared in her look and attitude.

“Surely all the best in every country lean to it,” she said.

“Of course! That’s our hope – but at the same time the pitiful thing; for the best hold back, keep silence, as if their quiet contempt could prevail against this activity of the reckless and the foolish.”

“One can’t make a religion,” said Irene sadly. “It is just this religious spirit which has decayed throughout our world. Christianity turns to ritualism. And science – we were told you know, that science would be religion enough.”

“There’s the pity – the failure of science as a civilising force. I know,” added Piers quickly, “that there are men whose spirit, whose work, doesn’t share in that failure; they are the men – the very few – who are above self-interest. But science on the whole, has come to mean money-making and weapon-making. It leads the international struggle; it is judged by its value to the capitalist and the soldier.”

“Isn’t this perhaps a stage of evolution that the world must live through – to its extreme results?”

“Very likely. The signs are bad enough.”

“You haven’t yourself that enthusiastic hope?”

“I try to hope,” said Piers, in a low, unsteady voice, his eyes falling timidly before her glance. “But what you said is so true – one can’t create the spirit of religion. If one hasn’t it- -” He broke off, and added with a smile, “I think I have a certain amount of enthusiasm. But when one has seen a good deal of the world, it’s so very easy to feel discouraged. Think how much sheer barbarism there is around us, from the brutal savage of the gutter to the cunning savage of the Stock Exchange!”

Irene had a gleam in her eyes; she nodded appreciation.

“If,” he went on vigorously, “if one could make the multitude really understand – understand to the point of action – how enormously its interest is peace!”

“More hope that way, I’m afraid,” said Irene, “than through idealisms.”

“Yes, yes. If it comes at all, it’ll be by the way of self-interest. And really it looks as if the military tyrants might overreach themselves here and there. Italy, for instance. Think of Italy, crushed and cursed by a blood-tax that the people themselves see to be futile. One enters into the spirit of the men who freed Italy from foreigners – it was glorious; but how much more glorious to excite a rebellion there against her own rulers! Shouldn’t you enjoy doing that?”

At times, there is no subtler compliment to a woman than to address her as if she were a man. It must be done involuntarily, as was the case with this utterance of Otway’s. Irene rewarded him with a look such as he had never had from her, the look of rejoicing comradeship.

“Indeed I should! Italy is becoming a misery to those who love her. Is no plot going on? Couldn’t one start a conspiracy against that infamous misgovernment?”

“There’s an arch-plotter at work. His name is Hunger. Let us be glad that Italy can’t enrich herself by manufactures. Who knows? The revolution against militarism may begin there, as that against feudalism did in France. Talk of enthusiasm! How should we feel if we read in the paper some morning that the Italian people had formed into an army of peace – refusing to pay another centesimo for warfare?

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George Gissing: A parable on war, industry and the press

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

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George Gissing
From The Crown of Life

“There’s an amusing thing – called ‘Historical Fragment.’ I remember, oh I remember very well, how it pleased me when I first read it.”

He read it aloud now, with many a chuckle, many a pause of sly emphasis.

“‘The Story of the last war between the Asiatic kingdoms of Duroba and Kalaya, though it has reached us in a narrative far too concise, is one of the most interesting chapters in the history of ancient civilisation.

“‘They were bordering states, peopled by races closely akin, whose languages, it appears, were mutually intelligible; each had developed its own polity, and had advanced to a high degree of refinement in public and private life. Wars between them had been frequent, but at the time with which we are concerned the spirit of hostility was all but forgotten in a happy peace of long duration. Each country was ruled by an aged monarch, beloved of the people, but, under the burden of years, grown of late somewhat less vigilant than was consistent with popular welfare. Thus it came to pass that power fell into the hands of unscrupulous statesmen, who, aided by singular circumstances, succeeded in reviving for a moment the old sanguinary jealousies.

“‘We are told that a General in the army of Duroba, having a turn for experimental chemistry, had discovered a substance of terrible explosive power, which, by the exercise of further ingenuity, he had adapted for use in warfare. About the same time, a public official in Kalaya, whose duty it was to convey news to the community by means of a primitive system of manuscript placarding, hit upon a mechanical method whereby news-sheets could be multiplied very rapidly and be sold to readers all over the kingdom. Now the Duroban General felt eager to test his discovery in a campaign, and, happening to have a quarrel with a politician in the neighbouring state, did his utmost to excite hostile feeling against Kalaya. On the other hand, the Kalayan official, his cupidity excited by the profits already arising from his invention, desired nothing better than some stirring event which would lead to still greater demand for the news-sheets he distributed, and so he also was led to the idea of stirring up international strife. To be brief, these intrigues succeeded only too well; war was actually declared, the armies were mustered, and marched to the encounter.

“‘They met at a point of the common frontier where only a little brook flowed between the two kingdoms. It was nightfall; each host encamped, to await the great engagement which on the morrow would decide between them.

“‘It must be understood that the Durobans and the Kalayans differed markedly in national characteristics. The former people was distinguished by joyous vitality and a keen sense of humour; the latter, by a somewhat meditative disposition inclining to timidity; and doubtless these qualities had become more pronounced during the long peace which would naturally favour them. Now, when night had fallen on the camps, the common soldiers on each side began to discuss, over their evening meal, the position in which they found themselves. The men of Duroba, having drunk well, as their habit was, fell into an odd state of mind. “What!” they exclaimed to one another. “After all these years of tranquillity, are we really going to fight with the Kalayans, and to slaughter them and be ourselves slaughtered! Pray, what is it all about? Who can tell us?” Not a man could answer, save with the vaguest generalities. And so, the debate continuing, the wonder growing from moment to moment, at length, and all of a sudden, the Duroban camp echoed with huge peals of laughter. “Why, if we soldiers have no cause of quarrel, what are we doing here? Shall we be mangled and killed to please our General with the turn for chemistry? That were a joke, indeed!” And, as soon as mirth permitted, the army rose as one man, threw together their belongings, and with jovial songs trooped off to sleep comfortably in a town a couple of miles away.

“‘The Kalayans, meanwhile, had been occupied with the very same question. They were anything but martial of mood, and the soldiery, ill at ease in their camp, grumbled and protested. “After all, why are we here?” cried one to the other. “Who wants to injure the Durobans? And what man among us desires to be blown to pieces by their new instruments of war? Pray, why should we fight? If the great officials are angry, as the news-sheets tell us, e’en let them do the fighting themselves.” At this moment there sounded from the enemy’s camp a stupendous roar; it was much like laughter; no doubt the Durobans were jubilant in anticipation of their victory. Fear seized the Kalayans; they rose like one man, and incontinently fled far into the sheltering night!

“‘Thus ended the war – the last between these happy nations, who, not very long after, united to form a noble state under one ruler. It is interesting to note that the original instigators of hostility did not go without their deserts. The Duroban General, having been duly tried for a crime against his country, was imprisoned in a spacious building, the rooms of which were hung with great pictures representing every horror of battle with the ghastliest fidelity; here he was supplied with materials for chemical experiment, to occupy his leisure, and very shortly, by accident, blew himself to pieces. The Kalayan publicist was also convicted of treason against the state; they banished him to a desert island, where for many hours daily he had to multiply copies of his news-sheet – that issue which contained the declaration of war – and at evening to burn them all. He presently became imbecile, and so passed away.'”

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