Tobias Smollett: The war glories of a demagogue

August 17, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

====

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.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized

George Gissing: Peace, no word more beautiful

August 10, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

====

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.”

Categories: Uncategorized

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

====

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

====

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?

Categories: Uncategorized

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

====

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

====

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.'”

Categories: Uncategorized

George Gissing: The morbid love of war

====

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

====

George Gissing
From The Crown of Life

Arnold was interested. He had only the slightest acquaintance with Hannaford, and would like to hear more of him.

“Not long ago,” Piers responded, “he was a teacher of chemistry at Geneva – I got to know him there. He seems to speak half a dozen languages in perfection; I believe he was born in Switzerland. His house down in Surrey is a museum of modern weapons – a regular armoury. He has invented some new gun.”

“So I gathered. And a new explosive, I’m told.”

“I hope he doesn’t store it in his house?” said Mr. Jacks, looking with concern at Piers.

“I’ve had a moment’s uneasiness about that, now and then,” Otway replied, laughing, “especially after hearing him talk.”

“A tremendous fellow!” Arnold exclaimed admiringly. “He showed me, by sketch diagrams, how many men he could kill within a given space.”

“If this gentleman were not your friend, Mr. Otway,” began the host, “I should say -”

“Oh, pray say whatever you like! He isn’t my friend at all, and I detest his inventions.”

“Shocking!” fell sweetly from the lady at the head of the table.

****

Mr. Hannaford’s sanctum alone had character; it was hung about with lethal weapons of many kinds and many epochs, including a memento of every important war waged in Europe since the date of Waterloo. A smoke-grimed rifle from some battlefield was in Hannaford’s view a thing greatly precious; still more, a bayonet with stain of blood; these relics appealed to his emotions. Under glass were ranged minutiae such as bullets, fragments of shells, bits of gore-drenched cloth or linen, a splinter of human bone – all ticketed with neat inscription. A bookcase contained volumes of military history, works on firearms, treatises on (chiefly explosive) chemistry; several great portfolios were packed with maps and diagrams of warfare. Upstairs, a long garret served as laboratory, and here were ranged less valuable possessions; weapons to which some doubt attached, unbloody scraps of accoutrements, also a few models of cannon and the like.

****

Mrs. Hannaford was something of an artist; her husband spoke of all art with contempt – except the great art of human slaughter. She liked the society of foreigners; he, though a remarkable linguist, at heart distrusted and despised all but English-speaking folk. As a girl in her teens, she had been charmed by the man’s virile accomplishments, his soldierly bearing and gay talk of martial things, though Hannaford was only a teacher of science. Nowadays she thought with dreary wonder of that fascination, and had come to loathe every trapping and habiliment of war. She knew him profoundly selfish, and recognised the other faults which had hindered so clever a man from success in life; indolent habits, moral untrustworthiness, and a conceit which at times menaced insanity. He hated her, she was well aware, because of her cold criticism; she returned his hate with interest.

Categories: Uncategorized

Fyodor Dostoevsky: Decide for yourself, has civilization made mankind more bloodthirsty?

====

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

Russian writers on war

Fyodor Dostoevsky: Selections on war

====

Fyodor Dostoevsky
From Notes from Underground (1964)
Translated by Constance Garnett

Only look about you: blood is being spilt in streams, and in the merriest way, as though it were champagne. Take the whole of the nineteenth century in which Buckle lived. Take Napoleon – the Great and also the present one. Take North America – the eternal union. Take the farce of Schleswig-Holstein…And what is it that civilisation softens in us? The only gain of civilisation for mankind is the greater capacity for variety of sensations–and absolutely nothing more. And through the development of this many-sidedness man may come to finding enjoyment in bloodshed. In fact, this has already happened to him. Have you noticed that it is the most civilised gentlemen who have been the subtlest slaughterers, to whom the Attilas and Stenka Razins could not hold a candle, and if they are not so conspicuous as the Attilas and Stenka Razins it is simply because they are so often met with, are so ordinary and have become so familiar to us. In any case civilisation has made mankind if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty. In old days he saw justice in bloodshed and with his conscience at peace exterminated those he thought proper. Now we do think bloodshed abominable and yet we engage in this abomination, and with more energy than ever. Which is worse? Decide that for yourselves.

Categories: Uncategorized

Hugh Walpole: Selections on war

Categories: Uncategorized

Hugh Walpole: War both protracts and strangles youth

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Hugh Walpole: Selections on war

====

Hugh Walpole
From The Young Enchanted

It has been asserted again and again that the Great War of 1914 turned many thousands of boys into old men long before their time. The exact contrary may also be proved to be true – namely that the War caught many boys in their teens, held them in a sort of vise for five years, keeping them from life as it is usually lived, teaching them nothing but war and then suddenly flinging them out into a Peace about which they were as ignorant as blind puppies. Boys of eighteen chronologically supposed to be twenty-four and superficially disguised as men of forty and disillusioned cynical men at that, those were to be found in their thousands in that curious tangled year of 1920. Henry thought he was a man; he was much less a man than he would have been had no war broken out at all.

Categories: Uncategorized

Voltaire: Annals with no mention of any war undertaken at any time

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war

====

Voltaire
Philosophical Dictionary
From Brahmins

Their annals make no mention of any war undertaken by them at any time. The words “arms,” “killing,” “maiming,” are to be found neither in the fragments of the Shastah that have reached us, nor in the Yajurvedah, nor in the Kormovedah. At least, I can affirm that I have not seen them in either of these two latter collections; and it is most singular that the Shastah, which speaks of a conspiracy in heaven, makes no mention of any war in the great peninsula between the Indus and Ganges.

The Hebrews, who were unknown until so late a period, never name the Brahmins; they knew nothing of India till after Alexander’s conquests and their own settling in that Egypt of which they had spoken so ill. The name of India is to be found only in the book of Esther, and in that of Job, who was not a Hebrew. We find a singular contrast between the sacred books of the Hebrews and those of the Indians. The Indian books announce only peace and mildness; they forbid the killing of animals: but the Hebrew books speak of nothing but the slaughter and massacre of men and beasts; all are butchered in the name of the Lord; it is quite another order of things.

****

General Reflection on Man

It needs twenty years to lead man from the plant state in which he is within his mother ‘s womb, and the pure animal state which is the lot of his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of the reason begins to appear. It has needed thirty centuries to learn a little about his structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes an instant to kill him.

****

From Marriage

“Let your soldiers marry, and they will no longer desert. Bound to their families, they will be bound to their country. An unmarried soldier is frequently nothing but a vagabond, to whom it matters not whether he serves the king of Naples or the king of Morocco.”

The Roman warriors were married: they fought for their wives and their children; and they made slaves of the wives and the children of other nations.

Categories: Uncategorized

Samuel Johnson: Selections on war

Categories: Uncategorized

Samuel Johnson: The violence of war admits no distinction

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Johnson: Selections on war

====

Samuel Johnson
From Rasselas

‘The violence of war admits no distinction: the lance that is lifted at guilt and power will sometimes fall on innocence and gentleness.’

****

From Idler (Number 30)

“Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.”

====

The Vulture (Idler, Number 22)

Many naturalists are of opinion, that the animals which we commonly consider as mute, have the power of imparting their thoughts to one another. That they can express general sensations is very certain; every being that can utter sounds, has a different voice for pleasure and for pain. The hound informs his fellows when he scents his game; the hen calls her chickens to their food by her cluck, and drives them from danger by her scream.

Birds have the greatest variety of notes; they have indeed a variety, which seems almost sufficient to make a speech adequate to the purposes of a life which is regulated by instinct, and can admit little change or improvement. To the cries of birds, curiosity or superstition has always been attentive; many have studied the language of the feathered tribes, and some have boasted that they understood it.

The most skilful or most confident interpreters of the sylvan dialogues have been commonly found among the philosophers of the east, in a country where the calmness of the air, and the mildness of the seasons, allow the student to pass a great part of the year in groves and bowers. But what may be done in one place by peculiar opportunities, may be performed in another by peculiar diligence. A shepherd of Bohemia has, by long abode in the forests, enabled himself to understand the voice of birds; at least he relates with great confidence a story, of which the credibility is left to be considered by the learned.

“As I was sitting,” said he, “within a hollow rock, and watching my sheep that fed in the valley, I heard two vultures interchangeably crying on the summit of the cliff. Both voices were earnest and deliberate. My curiosity prevailed over my care of the flock; I climbed slowly and silently from crag to crag, concealed among the shrubs, till I found a cavity where I might sit and listen without suffering or giving disturbance.

“I soon perceived that my labour would be well repaid; for an old vulture was sitting on a naked prominence, with her young about her, whom she was instructing in the arts of a vulture’s life, and preparing, by the last lecture, for their final dismission to the mountains and the skies.

“‘My children,’ said the old vulture, ‘you will the less want my instructions, because you have had my practice before your eyes; you have seen me snatch from the farm the household fowl, you have seen me seize the leveret in the bush, and the kid in the pasture; you know to fix your talons, and how to balance your flight when you are laden with your prey. But you remember the taste of more delicious food; I have often regaled you with the taste of man.’ ‘Tell us,’ said the young vultures, ‘where man may be found, and how he may be known; his flesh is surely the natural food of the vulture. Why have you never brought a man in your talons to the nest?’ ‘He is too bulky,’ said the mother: ‘when we find a man we can only tear away his flesh, and leave his bones upon the ground.’ ‘Since man is so big,’ said the young ones, ‘how do you kill him? You are afraid of the wolf and of the bear, by what power are vultures superior to man? is man more defenceless than a sheep?’ ‘We have not the strength of a man,’ returned the mother, ‘and I am sometimes in doubt whether we have the subtilty; and the vultures would seldom feed upon his flesh, had not nature, that devoted him to our uses, infused into him a strange ferocity, which I have never observed in any other being that feeds upon the earth. Two herds of men will often meet and shake the earth with noise, and fill the air with fire. When you hear noise and see fire, with flashes along the ground, hasten to the place with your swiftest wing, for men are surely destroying one another; you will then find the ground smoking with blood and covered with carcasses; of which many are dismembered and mangled for the convenience of the vulture.’ ‘But when men have killed their prey,’ said the pupil, ‘why do they not eat it? When the wolf has killed a sheep, he suffers not the vulture to touch it till he is satisfied himself. Is not man another kind of wolf?’ ‘Man,’ said the mother, ‘is the only beast who kills that which he does not devour, and this quality makes him so much a benefactor to our species.’ ‘If men kill our prey and lay it in our way,’ said the young one, ‘what need shall we have of labouring for ourselves?’ ‘Because man will, sometimes,’ replied the mother, ‘remain for a long time quiet in his den. The old vultures will tell you when you are to watch his motions. When you see men in great numbers moving close together, like a flock of storks, you may conclude that they are hunting, and that you will soon revel in human blood.’ ‘But still,’ said the young one, ‘I would gladly know the reason of this mutual slaughter. I could never kill what I could not eat.’ ‘My child,’ said the mother, ‘this is a question which I cannot answer, though I am reckoned the most subtle bird of the mountain. When I was young, I used frequently to visit the aerie of an old vulture, who dwelt upon the Carpathian rocks; he had made many observations; he knew the places that afforded prey round his habitation, as far in every direction as the strongest wing can fly between the rising and setting of the summer sun; he had fed year after year on the entrails of men. His opinion was, that men had only the appearance of animal life, being really vegetables with a power of motion; and that as the boughs of an oak are dashed together by the storm, that swine may fatten upon the falling acorns, so men are, by some unaccountable power, driven one against another, till they lose their motion, that vultures may be fed. Others think they have observed something of contrivance and policy among these mischievous beings; and those that hover more closely round them, pretend, that there is, in every herd, one that gives directions to the rest, and seems to be more eminently delighted with a wide carnage. What it is that entitles him to such preeminence we know not; he is seldom the biggest or the swiftest, but he shows by his eagerness and diligence that he is, more than any of the others, a friend to the vultures.’ “

Categories: Uncategorized

James Boswell: Samuel Johnson – war is worst type of all violence

====

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

British writers on peace and war

James Boswell: On War

James Boswell: Who profits by war?

Samuel Johnson: Selections on war

====

James Boswell
From Life of Samuel Johnson

In 1771 he published another political pamphlet, entitled ‘Thoughts on the Late Transactions respecting Falkland’s Islands,‘ in which, upon materials furnished to him by ministry, and upon general topicks expanded in his richest style, he successfully endeavoured to persuade the nation that it was wise and laudable to suffer the question of right to remain undecided, rather than involve our country in another war. It has been accepted by some, with what truth I shall not take upon me to decide, that he rated the consequence of those islands to Great-Britain too low. But however this may be, every humane mind must surely applaud the earnestness with which he averted the calamity of war; a calamity so dreadful, that it is astonishing how civilised, nay, Christian nations, can deliberately continue to renew it. His description of its miseries in this pamphlet, is one of the finest pieces of eloquence in the English language. Upon this occasion, too, we find Johnson lashing the party in opposition, with unbounded severity, and making the fullest use of what he ever reckoned a most effectual argumentative instrument, – contempt. His character of their able mysterious champion, Junius, is executed with all the force of his genius, and finished with the highest care. He seems to have exulted in sallying forth to single combat against the boasted and formidable hero, who bade defiance to ‘principalities and powers, and the rulers of this world.’

****

He this day again defended duelling, and put his augument upon what I have ever thought the most solid basis; that if publick war be allowed to be consistent with morality, private war must be equally so. Indeed we may observe what strained arguments are used, to reconcile war with the Christian religion. But, in my opinion, it is exceedingly clear that duelling, having better reasons for its barbarous violence, is more justifiable than war, in which thousands go forth without any cause of personal quarrel, and massacre each other.

****

Johnson. [to Oliver Goldsmith] ‘Sir, as to voluntary suicide, as you call it, there are twenty thousand men in an army who will go without scruple to be shot at, and mount a breach for five-pence a day.’

Categories: Uncategorized

David Graham Phillips: Hate war and fightin’ and money grabbin’

====

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

American writers on peace and against war

David Graham Phillips: Captains of industry, industrial warfare, marauders and renegade generals

====

David Graham Phillips
From Susan Lenox

“…Listen to me. There was a man named Jesus once”- gasp – gasp – “You’ve heard about him, but you don’t know about him” – gasp – gasp – “I’ll tell you – listen. He was a low fellow – a workin’ man – same trade as mine – born without a father – born in a horse trough – in a stable” – gasp – gasp-

Susan leaned forward. “Born without a father,” she murmured, her eyes suddenly bright.

“That’s him. Listen” – gasp – gasp – gasp – “He was a big feller – big brain – big heart – the biggest man that ever lived”- gasp – gasp – gasp – gasp -“And he looked at this here hell of a world from the outside, he being an outcast and a low-down common workingman. And he saw – he did –

“Yes, he saw!” – gasp – gasp – gasp – “And he said all men were brothers – and that they’d find it out some day. He saw that this world was put together for the strong and the cruel – that they could win out – and make the rest of us work for ’em for what they chose to give – like they work a poor ignorant horse for his feed and stall in a dirty stable – “gasp – gasp – gasp –

“For the strong and the cruel,” said Susan.

“And this feller Jesus–he set round the saloons and such places – publicans, they called ’em” – gasp – gasp – gasp – “And he says to all the poor ignorant slaves and such cattle, he says, ‘You’re all brothers. Love one another'” – gasp – gasp – gasp – “‘Love one another,’ he says, ‘and learn to help each other and stand up for each other,’ he says, ‘and hate war and fightin’ and money grabbin’ – ‘”gasp – gasp – gasp -“‘Peace on earth,’ he says, ‘Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ – and he saw there’d be a time” – the old man raised himself on one elbow – “Yes, by God – there will be! – a time when men’ll learn not to be beasts and’ll be men – men, little gal!”

“Men,” echoed Susan, her eyes shining, her bosom heaving.

“It ain’t sense and it ain’t right that everything should be for the few – for them with brains – and that the rest – the millions – should be tramped down just because they ain’t so cruel or so ‘cute’ – they and their children tramped down in the dirt. And that feller Jesus saw it.”

“Yes – yes,” cried Susan. “He saw it.”

“I’ll tell you what he was,” said old Tom in a hoarse whisper. “He wasn’t no god. He was bigger’n that – bigger’n that, little gal! He was the first man that ever lived. He said, ‘Give the weak a chance so as they kin git strong.’ He says – ”

The dying man fell back exhausted. His eyes rolled wildly, closed; his mouth twitched, fell wide open; there came from his throat a sound Susan had never heard before, but she knew what it was, what it meant.

****

What do they come here for! To do good! Yes – to themselves. To make themselves feel how generous and sweet they was. Well, they’d better go home and read their Russia-leather covered Bibles. They’d find out that when God wanted to really do something for man, he didn’t have himself created a king, or a plutocrat, or a fat, slimy church deacon in a fashionable church. No, he had himself born a bastard in a manger.”

****

“Yes,” said the girl, “you are right. I see it now. But, Mr. Brashear, they meant well.”

“The hell they did,” retorted the old man. “If they’d, a’ had love in their hearts, they’d have seen the truth. Love’s one of the greatest teachers in the world. If they’d, a’ meant well, they’d, a’ been goin’ round teachin’ and preachin’ and prayin’ at their friends and fathers and brothers, the plutocrats. They’d never ‘a’ come down here, pretendin’ they was doin’ good, killin’ one bedbug out of ten million and offerin’ one pair of good pants where a hundred thousand pairs is needed. They’d better go read about themselves in their Bible – what Jesus says. He knew ’em. He belonged to us – and they crucified him.”

Categories: Uncategorized

James Huneker: Remy de Gourmont and philosophic abhorrence of war

====

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

American writers on peace and against war

Remy de Gourmont: Getting drunk at the dirty cask of militarism

Remy de Gourmont: If they wage war, in what state must the world be?

====

James Huneker
From Remy de Gourmont
His Ideas. The Color of His Mind

As a philosopher he deprecated war; as a man, though too old to fight, he urged his countrymen to victory, as may be noted in his last book, Pendant l’Orage (1916). But the philosopher persists in such a sorrowful sentence as: “In the tragedy of man peace is but an entr’acte.” To show his mental balance at a time when literary men, artists, and even philosophers, indulged in unseemly abuse, we read in Jugements his calm admission that the war has not destroyed for him the intellectual values of Goethe, Schopenhauer, or Nietzsche. He owes much to their thought as they owed much to French thought; Goethe has said as much; and of Voltaire and Chamfort, Schopenhauer was a disciple. Without being a practical musician, De Gourmont was a lover of Beethoven and Wagner. He paid his compliments to Romain Rolland

Categories: Uncategorized

Henry Fielding: War creates the professors of human blood-shedding

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Fielding: An alternative to heaps of mangled and murdered human bodies

Henry Fielding: On the condign fate of Great Men and conquerors

====

Henry Fielding
From Tom Jones

Indeed, nothing is more unjust than to carry our prejudices against a profession into private life, and to borrow our idea of a man from our opinion of his calling. Habit, it is true, lessens the horror of those actions which the profession makes necessary, and consequently habitual; but in all other instances, Nature works in men of all professions alike; nay, perhaps, even more strongly with those who give her, as it were, a holiday, when they are following their ordinary business. A butcher, I make no doubt, would feel compunction at the slaughter of a fine horse; and though a surgeon can feel no pain in cutting off a limb, I have known him compassionate a man in a fit of the gout. The common hangman, who hath stretched the necks of hundreds, is known to have trembled at his first operation on a head: and the very professors of human blood-shedding, who, in their trade of war, butcher thousands, not only of their fellow-professors, but often of women and children, without remorse; even these, I say, in times of peace, when drums and trumpets are laid aside, often lay aside all their ferocity, and become very gentle members of civil society.

Categories: Uncategorized

Henry Fielding: An alternative to heaps of mangled and murdered human bodies

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Fielding: On the condign fate of Great Men and conquerors

Henry Fielding: War creates the professors of human blood-shedding

====

Henry Fielding
From Tom Jones

Here we cannot suppress a pious wish, that all quarrels were to be decided by those weapons only with which Nature, knowing what is proper for us, hath supplied us; and that cold iron was to be used in digging no bowels but those of the earth. Then would war, the pastime of monarchs, be almost inoffensive, and battles between great armies might be fought at the particular desire of several ladies of quality; who, together with the kings themselves, might be actual spectators of the conflict. Then might the field be this moment well strewed with human carcasses, and the next, the dead men, or infinitely the greatest part of them, might get up, like Mr Bayes’s troops, and march off either at the sound of a drum or fiddle, as should be previously agreed on.

I would avoid, if possible, treating this matter ludicrously, lest grave men and politicians, whom I know to be offended at a jest, may cry pish at it; but, in reality, might not a battle be as well decided by the greater number of broken heads, bloody noses, and black eyes, as by the greater heaps of mangled and murdered human bodies? Might not towns be contended for in the same manner?

Categories: Uncategorized

Hugh Walpole: It would indeed be a disheartening sight….

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Hugh Walpole: Selections on war

====

Hugh Walpole
From Jeremy

“How old are you, Jeremy dear?” she asked him.

“Eight,” he answered, wriggling.

“What a nice age! And one day you’ll go to school?”

“In September.”

“And what will you be when you’re a man?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ll be a soldier, perhaps.”

“Oh, I’m sure you wouldn’t like to be a soldier and kill people.”

“Yes, I would. There’s lots of people I’d like to kill.”

Mrs. Le Page drew her skirts back a little.

“How horrible! I’m sure your mother wouldn’t like to hear that.”

But Mr. Cole had caught the last words of the dialogue and interrupted with:

“But what could be finer, Mrs. Le Page, than the defence of one’s country? Would you have our young lads grow up faint-hearted and fail their Motherland when she calls? What can be finer, I say, than to die for Queen and country? Would not every mother have her son shed his blood for liberty and freedom?… No, Jeremy, not another. You’ve had quite enough. It would indeed be a disheartening sight if we elders were to watch our sons and grandchildren turning their swords into ploughshares -”

He was interrupted by a shrill cry from Mrs. Le Page:

“Charlotte, darling, do hold your sunshade up. All the left side of your face is exposed. That’s better, dear. I beg your pardon, Mr. Cole.”

But Mr. Cole was offended.

“I hope no son of mine will ever show himself a faint heart,” he concluded severely.

Categories: Uncategorized

Étienne Pivert de Senancour: War, state-sanctioned suicide

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Senancour: Lottery of war amid heaps of the dead

====

Étienne Pivert de Senancour
From Obermann
Translated by J. Anthony Barnes

If I cannot put an end to my life, no more can I expose myself to imminent death. Is that the kind of prudence you expect of your subjects? Then on the battlefield they ought to estimate the probabilities before charging the enemy, and your heroes are all of them criminals. The command you give them does not justify them; you have no right to send them to death if they had no right to agree to be sent. An identical unreason sanctions your martial fury and dictates your maxims, and by glaring inconsistency you justify injustice equally glaring.

If I have not this right of death over myself, who has given it to society? Have I surrendered what was not mine to give? What social principle have you devised which will explain to me how a society can acquire an internal and mutual authority which was not possessed by its members, and how I have conferred a right which may be used to oppress me, when I did not possess it even to escape from oppression?

***

How can my wishes be ill-regulated? I see nothing in them but the need, nay, the sense of harmony and the proprieties of life. How can my affections be distasteful to other men? I only like what the best among them have liked, I seek nothing at the expense of any one of them; I seek only what everyone can have, what the needs of all require, what would end their woes, what draws men together, unites, and consoles them; I only want the life of the good, my peace in the peace of all.

***

We give reins to fancy, and see a world of peace, order, unity, and justice, in which all men feel, desire, and enjoy with the restraint that makes pleasure and with the simplicity that enhances it. When one has had a glimpse of delights that cannot be tarnished or destroyed, when one has imagined unstinted ecstasy, how vain and pitiful seem many of the cares, the longings, and the pleasures of the visible world. Everything feels cold and hollow; we languish in a place of exile, and from the core of our loathings we set our outweary heart on its imagined homeland.

***

Without money one cannot even get what money cannot buy, or avoid what money procures.

***

In the very act of recording one’s thought for future reference there is somethings that savours of bondage and the cares of a life of dependence.

***

If a man had to choose a friend by mere chance he would do better to take one from the canine than the human race. The lowest of his fellows would be a less fruitful source of peace and comfort than the lowest of dogs.

***

The history of ever so many religious and political sects proves that expeditious methods only produce ephemeral results.

***

You who call yourselves Christians are still men, and yet in spite of the laws you cannot repudiate, and in spite of those you adore, you foster and perpetuate the most glaring disparities in the culture and interests of your fellow-men. The inequality exists in Nature, but you have exaggerated it beyond measure, though you ought rather to have striven to reduce it. The prodigies created by your efforts may well be a drug in the market, for you have neither time nor skill to do so many things that need doing. The mass of mankind is brutal, stupid, and left to its own devices; all our miseries spring from that. Either do not bring them into being, or give them a chance of living like men. What then do all these long arguments of mine lead up to? That as man is insignificant in Nature, and everything to himself, he ought to concern himself somewhat less with the laws of the world and somewhat more with his own; dispensing perhaps with abstract sciences that have never dried a single tear in hamlet or attic; dispensing too with certain fine but useless arts, and with heroic but destructive passions, he ought to aim, if he can, at having institutions that will keep man human instead of brutalizing him, at having less science but also less ignorance, and to admit that if man is not a blind force which must be left at the mercy of fatalism, if his activities have any spontaneity, then morality is the only science for man whose fate is in the hands of his fellows.

Categories: Uncategorized

Richard Le Gallienne: A nation is merely a big fool with an army

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Richard Le Gallienne: The Illusion of War

Richard Le Gallienne: Is this to be strong, ye nations, your vulgar battles to fight?

====

Richard Le Gallienne
From The Fallacy of a Nation

As a matter of fact, so-called national interests are merely certain private interests on a large scale, the private interests of financiers, ambitious politicians, soldiers, and great merchants. Broadly speaking, there are no rival nations – there are rival markets; and it is its Board of Trade and its Stock Exchange rather than its Houses of Parliament that virtually govern a country. Thus one seaport goes down and another comes up, industries forsake one country to bless another, the military and naval strengths of nations fluctuate this way and that; and to those whom these changes affect they are undoubtedly important matters – the great capitalist, the soldier, and the politician; but to the quiet man at home with his wife, his children, his books, and his flowers, to the artist busied with brave translunary matters, to the saint with his eyes filled with ‘the white radiance of eternity,’ to the shepherd on the hillside, the milkmaid in love, or the angler at his sport – what are these pompous commotions, these busy, bustling mimicries of reality? England will be just as good to live in though men some day call her France. Let the big busybodies divide her amongst them as they like, so that they leave one alone with one’s fair share of the sky and the grass, and an occasional, not too vociferous, nightingale.

The reader will perhaps forgive the hackneyed references to Sir Thomas Browne peacefully writing his Religio Medici amid all the commotions of the Civil War, and to Gautier calmly correcting the proofs of his new poems during the siege of Paris. The milkman goes his rounds amid the crash of empires. It is not his business to fight. His business is to distribute his milk – as much after half-past seven as may be inconvenient. Similarly, the business of the thinker is with his thought, the poet with his poetry. It is the business of politicians to make national quarrels, and the business of the soldier to fight them. But as for the poet – let him correct his proofs, or beware the printer.

The idea, then, of a nation is a grandiloquent fallacy in the interests of commerce and ambition, political and military. All the great and good, clever and charming people belong to one secret nation, for which there is no name unless it be the Chosen People. These are the lost tribes of love, art, and religion, lost and swamped amid alien peoples, but ever dreaming of a time when they shall meet once more in Jerusalem.

***

For what is ‘national greatness’ but the glory reflected from the memories of a few great individuals? and what is ‘public opinion’ but the blustering echoes of the opinion of a few clever young men on the morning papers?

For how can people in themselves little become great by merely congregating into a crowd, however large? And surely fools do not become wise, or worth listening to, merely by the fact of their banding together.

A ‘public opinion’ on any matter except football, prize-fighting, and perhaps cricket, is merely ridiculous – by whatever brutal physical powers it may be enforced – ridiculous as a town council’s opinion upon art; and a nation is merely a big fool with an army.

Categories: Uncategorized

William J. Locke: I’m good at killing things, I ought to have been a soldier

====

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

British writers on peace and war

William J. Locke: Following war

====

William J. Locke
From Viviette

Once Katherine, escaping from Mrs. Ware’s platitudinous ripple, took pity on him, and asked him when he was going to redeem his promise and show her his collection of armour and weapons. Dick brightened. This was the only keen interest he had in life outside things of earth and air and stream. He had inherited a good family collection, and had added to it occasionally, as far as his slender means allowed. He had read deeply, and understood his subject.

“Whenever you like, Katherine,” he said.

“This afternoon?”

“I’m afraid they want polishing up and arranging. I’ve got some new things which I’ve not placed. I’ve rather neglected them lately. Let us say to-morrow afternoon. Then they’ll all be spick and span for you.”

Katherine assented. “I’ve been down here so often and never seen them,” she said. “It seems odd, considering the years we’ve known each other.”

“I only took it up after father’s death,” said Dick. “And since then, you know, you haven’t been here so very often.”

“It was only the last time that I discovered you took an interest an the collection. You hid your light under a bushel. Then I went to London and heard that you were a great authority on the subject.”

Dick’s tanned face reddened with pleasure.

“I do know something about it. You see, guns and swords and pistols are in my line. I’m good at killing things. I ought to have been a soldier, only I couldn’t pass examinations, so I sort of interest myself in the old weapons and do my killing in imagination.”

***

“Now, Dick, we’re all here. Put on your most learned and antiquarian manner. Ladies and gentlemen, I call on Mr. Richard Ware to deliver his interesting lecture on the ingenious instruments men have devised for butchering each other.”

Categories: Uncategorized

George Gissing: “Civilisation rests upon a military basis”

====

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

====

George Gissing
From Isabel Clarendon

There they found the gentleman in question conversing with Mrs. Stratton, a man of smooth appearance and fluent speech. His forte seemed to be politics, on which subject he discoursed continuously during luncheon. There happened to be diplomatic difficulties with Russia, and Mr. Lyster – much concerned, by-the-bye, with Indian commerce – was emphatic in denunciation of Slavonic craft and treachery, himself taking the stand-point of disinterested honesty, of principle in politics.

“We shall have to give those fellows a licking yet,” remarked Colonel Stratton, with confidence inspired by professional feeling.

“What I want to know,” exclaimed Mr. Lyster, “is whether England is a civilising power or not. If so, it is our duty to go to war; if not, of course we may prepare to go to the – ”

“Don’t hesitate, Mr. Lyster,” said Mrs. Stratton good-naturedly, “I’m sure we all agree with you.”

“Civilisation!” proceeded the politician, when the laugh had subsided; “that is what England represents, and civilisation rests upon a military basis, if it has any basis at all. It’s all very well to talk about the humanity of arbitration and fudge of that kind; it only postpones the evil day. Our position is the result of good, hard fighting, and mere talking won’t keep it up; we must fight again. Too long a peace means loss of prestige, and loss of prestige means the encroachment of barbarians, who are only to be kept in order by repeated thrashings. They forget that we are a civilising power; unfortunately we are too much disposed to forget it ourselves.”

“The mistake is,” remarked Frank Stratton, “to treat with those fellows at all. Why don’t we take a map of Asia and draw a line just where it seems good to us, and bid the dogs keep on their own side of it? Of course they wouldn’t do so – and then we lick’em!”

His mother looked at him with pride.

“I respect our constitution,” pursued Mr. Lyster, who was too much absorbed in his own rhetoric to pay much attention to the frivolous remarks of others; “but I’ve often thought it wouldn’t be amiss if we could have a British Bizmarck” – so he pronounced the name. “A Bizmarck would make short work with Radical humbug. He would keep up patriotism; he would remind us of our duties as a civilising power.”

“And he’d establish conscription,” remarked Frank. “That’s what we want.”

Categories: Uncategorized

George Gissing: Large-scale murder as fair sport

====

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

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war

====

George Gissing
From Isabel Clarendon

Not many days later Mrs. Stratton arrived at Knights well, bringing her youngest boy, a ten-year-old, whose absence from school was explained by recent measles. This lady was the wife of an officer at present with his regiment in Africa; her regret at the colonel’s remoteness, and her anxiety on his behalf in a time of savage warfare, were tempered by that spirit of pride in things military which so strongly infuses a certain type of the British matron, destined to bring forth barbarians and heroes…

Young Stratton caught a glimpse of her at it in the park one day, and rushed to join the sport.

“After a rabbit, eh?” he shouted, coming up with them.

Ada at once dropped to a walk, and spoke to the dog, instead of answering the boy’s question.

“I say, you look here!” Edgar suddenly exclaimed in a whisper.

She turned, and saw him aiming with a catapult at a bird perched on a bush hard by. Before the aim was perfect, Ada had snatched the tool from his hands.

“Well, I call that!” cried the youngster, at a loss for words. “What do you want to spoil my shot for?”

“Can’t you amuse yourself without murdering!” returned the girl, hot in anger. “Shoot at that tree-trunk if you must shoot.”

“Murdering!” echoed the youth, in blank astonishment. “Come now, Miss Warren! Murdering a bird – I call that good!”

“What else is it? What right have you to rob the bird of its life? What is it that drives you to kill every creature that you safely may?”

“It’s fair sport!” urged the young Briton, in amaze at this outlandish mode of regarding things.

“Sport?”

She stood regarding him, the catapult still in her hand.

“What are you going to be when you grow up?”

“What am I going to be? A soldier, of course.”

“I thought so; then you can murder on a large scale.”

“You call killing the enemy in battle, murder?”

“What do you call it? Fair sport?”

Categories: Uncategorized

Hugh Walpole: Continual screaming, men without faces

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Hugh Walpole: Selections on war

====

Hugh Walpole
From The Dark Forest

The wagons waited there, the horses stamping now and then, and the wounded men on the only wagon that was filled, moaned and cried. Shrapnel whizzed overhead – sometimes crying, like an echo, in the far distance, sometimes screaming with the rage of a hurt animal close at hand. Groups of soldiers ran swiftly past me, quite silent, their heads bent. Somewhere on the high road I could hear motor-cars spluttering and humming. At irregular intervals Red Cross men would arrive with wounded, would ask in a whisper that was inhuman and isolating whether there were room on my carts. Then the body would be lifted up; there would be muttered directions, the wounded man would cry, then the other wounded would also cry – after that, there would be the dismal silence again, silence broken only by the shrapnel and the heavy plopping smothers of the rain…At the threat of every shrapnel I bent my head and shrugged my shoulders, at every cry of the wounded men – one man was delirious and sang a little song – a shudder trembled all down my body. I thought of the bridge between myself and the Otriad – how easily it might be blown up! and then, if the Division were beaten back what massacre there would be! I wanted to go home, to sleep, to be safe and warm – above all, to be safe! I saw before me some of the wounded whom I had bandaged to-day – men without faces or with hanging jaws that must be held up with the hand whilst the bandage was tied. One man blind, one man mad (he thought he was drowning in hot water), one man holding his stomach together with his hands. I saw all these figures crowding round me in the lane – I also saw the dead men in the forest, the skull, the flies, the strong blue-grey trousers…I shook so that my teeth chattered – a very pitiful figure.

***

Near the town-hall we found a company of fantastic creatures awaiting us. They were pressed together in a dense crowd as though they were afraid of some one attacking them. There were many old men, like the clowns in Shakespeare, dirty beyond belief in tattered garments, wide-brimmed hats, broad skirts and baggy trousers; old men with long tangled hair, bare bony breasts and slobbering chins. Many of the women seemed strong and young; their faces were on the whole cheerful – a brazen indifference to anything and everything was their attitude. There were many children. Two gendarmes guarded them with rough friendly discipline. I thought that I had seen nothing more terrible at the war than the eager pitiful docility with which they moved to and fro in obedience to the gendarmes’ orders. A dreadful, broken, creeping submission….

But it was their fantasy, their coloured incredible unreality that overwhelmed me. The building, black and twisted against the hard blue sky, raised its head behind us like a malicious monster. Before us this crowd, all tattered faded pieces of scarlet and yellow and blue, men with huge noses, sunken eyes, sharp chins, long skinny hands, women with hard, bright, dead faces, little children with eyes that were afraid and indifferent, hungry and mad, all this crowd swaying before us, with the cannon muttering beyond the walls, and the thin miserable thread of the funeral hymn trickling like water under our feet…

***

That! This!…there’s the Forest road hot like red-hot iron under the sun; it winds away into the Forest, but so far as the eye can see it is covered with things that have been left by flying men – such articles! Swords, daggers, rifles, cartridge-cases, of course, but also books, letters, a hair-brush, underclothes, newspapers, these tilings in thick, tangled profusion, rifles in heaps, cartridge-cases by the hundred! Under the sun up and down the road there are dead and dying, Russians and Austrians together. The Forest is both above and below the road and from out of it there comes a continual screaming. There is every note in this babel of voices, mad notes, plaintive notes, angry notes, whimpering notes. One wounded man is very slowly trying to drag himself across the road, and his foot which is nearly severed from his leg waggles behind him. One path that leads from the road to the Forest is piled with bodies and is a stream of blood. Some of the dead are lying very quietly in the ditch, their heads pillowed on their arms – every now and then something that you had thought dead stirs…And the screaming from the Forest is incessant so that you simply don’t hear the shell (now very close indeed)…

***

It seemed that we were the first Red Cross people to arrive. Oh! what rewards would I have offered for another ten wagons! How lamentably insufficient our three carts appeared standing there in the road with this screaming Forest on every side of one! As I waited there, overwhelmed by the blind indifference of the place, listening still to the incredible birds, seeing in the businesslike attentions of my sanitars only a further incredible indifference, a great stream of soldiers came up the road, passing into the first line of trenches, only a little deeper in the Forest. They were very hot, the perspiration dripping down their faces, but they went through to the position without a glance at the dead and wounded. No concern of theirs – that. Life had changed; they had changed with it…Meanwhile they did as they were told…

We worked there, filling our wagons. The selection was a horrible difficulty. All the wounded were Austrians and how they begged not to be left! It would be many hours, perhaps, before the next Red Cross Division would appear. An awful business! One man dying in the wood tore at his stomach with an unceasing gesture and the air came through his mouth like gas screaming through an “escape” hole. One Austrian, quite an old man, died in my arms in the middle of the road. He was not conscious, but he fumbled for his prayer-book, which he gave me, muttering something. His name “Schneidher Gyorgy Pelmonoster” was written on the first page.

Categories: Uncategorized

Hugh Walpole: Dream of horror: the false reality of war

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Hugh Walpole: Selections on war

====

Hugh Walpole
From The Dark Forest

In the early morning, when the light was so cold and inhuman, when the candles stuck in bottles on the window-sills shivered and quavered in the little breeze, when the big basin on the floor seemed to swell ever larger and larger, with its burden of bloody rags and soiled bandages and filthy fragments of dirty clothes, when the air was weighted down with the smell of blood and human flesh, when the sighs and groans and cries kept up a perpetual undercurrent that one did not notice and yet faltered before, when again and again bodies, torn almost in half, faces mangled for life, hands battered into pulp, legs hanging almost by a thread, rose before one, passed and rose again in endless procession, then, in those early hours, some fantastic world was about one. The poplar trees beyond the window, the little beechwood on the hill, the pond across the road, a round grey sheet of ruffled water, these things in the half-light seemed to wait for our defeat. One instant on our part and it seemed that all the pain and torture would rise in a flood and overwhelm one…in those early morning hours the enemy crept very close indeed. We could almost hear his hot breath behind the bars of our fastened doors.

***

On the day following we did not know of what had happened. Trenchard was not with us, as he was sent about midday with some sanitars to bury the dead in a wood five miles from M – -. That must have been, in many ways, the most terrible day of his life and during it, for the first time, he was to know that unreality that comes to every one, sooner or later, at the war. It is an unreality that is the more terrible because it selects from reality details that cannot be denied, selects them without transformation, saying to his victim: “These things are as you have always seen them, therefore this world is as you have always seen it. It is real, I tell you.” Let that false reality be admitted and there is no more peace.

***

“It was there,” he told me, “when I scarcely knew what was real and what was not, that I saw that for which I was searching. I noticed first the dark grey-blue of the trousers, then the white skull. There was a horrible stench in the air. I called and the sanitars answered me. Then I looked at it. I had never seen a dead man before. This man had been dead for about a fortnight, I suppose. Its grey-blue trousers and thick boots were in excellent condition and a tin spoon and some papers were showing out of the top of one boot. Its face was a grinning skull and little black animals like ants were climbing in and out of the mouth and the eye-sockets. Its jacket was in good condition, its arms were flung out beyond its head. I felt sick and the whole place was so damp and smelt so badly that it must have been horribly unhealthy. The sanitars began to dig a grave. Those who were not working smoked cigarettes, and they all stood in a group watching the body with a solemn and serious interest. One of them made a little wooden cross out of some twigs. There was a letter just beside the body which they brought me. It began: ‘Darling Heinrich, – Your last letter was so cheerful that I have quite recovered from my depression. It may not be so long now before…’ and so on, like the other letters that I had read. It grinned at us there with a devilish sarcasm, but its trousers and boots were pitiful and human. The men finished the grave and then, with their feet, turned it over. As it rolled a flood of bright yellow insects swarmed out of its jacket, and a grey liquid trickled out of the skull. The last I saw of it was the gleam of the tin spoon above its boot…”

“We searched after that,” he told me, “for several hours and found three more bodies. They were Austrians, in the condition of the first. I walked in a dream of horror. It was, I suppose, a bad day for me to have come with my other unhappiness weighing upon me, but I was, in some stupid way, altogether unprepared for what I had seen. I had, as I have told you, thought of death very often in my life but I had never thought of it like this. I did not now think of death very clearly but only of the uselessness of trying to bear up against anything when that was all one came to in the end. I felt my very bones crumble and my flesh decay on my body, as I stood there. I felt as though I had really been caught at last after a silly aimless flight and that even if I had the strength or cleverness to escape I had not the desire to try…”

***

They came to the trench and to their surprise found it absolutely deserted. Then, plunging on, they arrived at the two wagons, climbed on to one of them, leaving Trenchard alone with the driver on the other. “I tell you,” he remarked to me afterwards, “I sank into that wagon as though into my grave. I don’t know that ever before or since in my life have I felt such exhaustion. It was reaction, I suppose – a miserable, wretched exhaustion that left me well enough aware that I was the most unhappy of men and simply forced me, without a protest, to accept that condition. Moreover, I had always before me the vision of the dead body. Wherever I turned there it was, grinning at me, the black flies crawling in and out of its jaws, and behind it something that said to me: ‘There! now I have shown you what I can do…To that you’re coming’…”

Categories: Uncategorized

Arnold Bennett: The miraculous lunacy of war

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Arnold Bennett: The Slaughterer

Arnold Bennett: War casualties and war profiteers

====

Arnold Bennett
From The Pretty Lady

The story of the evacuation of Gallipoli had grown old and tedious…The Germans were discussing their war aims; and on the Verdun front they had reached Mort Homme in the usual way, that was, according to the London Press, by sacrificing more men than any place could possibly be worth; still, they had reached Mort Homme. And though our losses and the French losses were everywhere – one might assert, so to speak – negligible, nevertheless the steadfast band of thinkers and fact-facers who held a monopoly of true patriotism were extremely anxious to extend the Military Service Act, so as to rope into the Army every fit male in the island except themselves.

***

The group vanished, crestfallen, round another corner. G.J. laughed to Christine. Then the noise of guns was multiplied. That he was with Christine in the midst of an authentic air-raid could no longer be doubted. He was conscious of the wine he had drunk at the club. He had the sensation of human beings, men like himself, who ate and drank and laced their boots, being actually at that moment up there in the sky with intent to kill him and Christine. It was a marvellous sensation, terrible but exquisite. And he had the sensation of other human beings beyond the sea, giving deliberate orders in German for murder, murdering for their lives; and they, too, were like himself, and ate and drank and either laced their boots or had them laced daily. And the staggering apprehension of the miraculous lunacy of war swept through his soul.

***

He and Christine were in the air-raid, and in it they should remain. He had just the senseless, monkeyish curiosity of the staring crowd so lyrically praised by the London Press. He was afraid, but his curiosity and inertia were stronger than his fear. Then came a most tremendous explosion – the loudest sound, the most formidable physical phenomenon that G.J. had ever experienced in his life. The earth under their feet trembled. Christine gave a squeal and seemed to subside to the ground, but he pulled her up again, not in calm self-possession, but by the sheer automatism of instinct. A spasm of horrible fright shot through him. He thought, in awe and stupefaction:

“A bomb!”

He thought about death and maiming and blood. The relations between him and those everyday males aloft in the sky seemed to be appallingly close. After the explosion perfect silence – no screams, no noise of crumbling – perfect silence, and yet the explosion seemed still to dominate the air! Ears ached and sang. Something must be done. All theories of safety had been smashed to atoms in the explosion. G.J. dragged Christine along the street, he knew not why. The street was unharmed. Not the slightest trace in it, so far as G.J. could tell in the gloom, of destruction! But where the explosion had been, whether east, west, south or north, he could not guess. Except for the disturbance in his ears the explosion might have been a hallucination.

Suddenly he saw at the end of the street a wide thoroughfare, and he could not be sure what thoroughfare it was. Two motor-buses passed the end of the street at mad speed; then two taxis; then a number of people, men and women, running hard. Useless and silly to risk the perils of that wide thoroughfare! He turned back with Christine. He got her to run. In the thick gloom he looked for an open door or a porch, but there was none. The houses were like the houses of the dead. He made more than one right angle turn. Christine gave a sign that she could go no farther. He ceased trying to drag her. He was recovering himself. Once more he heard the guns – childishly feeble after the explosion of the bomb. After all, one spot was as safe as another.

The outline of a building seemed familiar. It was an abandoned chapel; he knew he was in St. Martin’s Street. He was about to pull Christine into the shelter of the front of the chapel, when something happened for which he could not find a name. True, it was an explosion. But the previous event had been an explosion, and this one was a thousandfold more intimidating. The earth swayed up and down. The sound alone of the immeasurable cataclysm annihilated the universe. The sound and the concussion transcended what had been conceivable. Both the sound and the concussion seemed to last for a long time. Then, like an afterthought, succeeded the awful noise of falling masses and the innumerable crystal tinkling of shattered glass. This noise ceased and began again…

G.J. was now in a strange condition of mild wonder. There was silence in the dark solitude of St. Martin’s Street. Then the sound of guns supervened once more, but they were distant guns. G.J. discovered that he was not holding Christine, and also that, instead of being in the middle of the street, he was leaning against the door of a house. He called faintly, “Christine!” No reply. “In a moment,” he said to himself, “I must go out and look for her. But I am not quite ready yet.” He had a slight pain in his side; it was naught; it was naught, especially in comparison with the strange conviction of weakness and confusion.

He thought:

“We’ve not won this war yet,” and he had qualms.

One poor lamp burned in the street. He started to walk slowly and uncertainly towards it. Near by he saw a hat on the ground. It was his own. He put it on. Suddenly the street lamp went out. He walked on, and stepped ankle-deep into broken glass. Then the road was clear again. He halted. Not a sign of Christine! He decided that she must have run away, and that she would run blindly and, finding herself either in Leicester Square or Lower Regent Street, would by instinct run home. At any rate, she could not be blown to atoms, for they were together at the instant of the explosion. She must exist, and she must have had the power of motion. He remembered that he had had a stick; he had it no longer. He turned back and, taking from his pocket the electric torch which had lately come into fashion, he examined the road for his stick. The sole object of interest which the torch revealed was a child’s severed arm, with a fragment of brown frock on it and a tinsel ring on one of the fingers of the dirty little hand. The blood from the other end had stained the ground. G.J. abruptly switched off the torch. Nausea overcame him, and then a feeling of the most intense pity and anger overcame the nausea. (A month elapsed before he could mention his discovery of the child’s arm to anyone at all.) The arm lay there as if it had been thrown there. Whence had it come? No doubt it had come from over the housetops…

He smelt gas, and then he felt cold water in his boots. Water was advancing in a flood along the street. “Broken mains, of course,” he said to himself, and was rather pleased with the promptness of his explanation. At the elbow of St. Martin’s Street, where a new dim vista opened up, he saw policemen, then firemen; then he heard the beat of a fire-engine, upon whose brass glinted the reflection of flames that were flickering in a gap between two buildings. A huge pile of debris encumbered the middle of the road. The vista was closed by a barricade, beyond which was a pressing crowd. “Stand clear there!” said a policeman to him roughly. “There’s a wall going to fall there any minute.” He walked off, hurrying with relief from the half-lit scene of busy, dim silhouettes. He could scarcely understand it; and he was incapable of replying to the policeman. He wanted to be alone and to ponder himself back into perfect composure. At the elbow again he halted afresh. And as he stood figures in couples, bearing stretchers, strode past him. The stretchers were covered with cloths that hung down. Not the faintest sound came from beneath the cloths.

Categories: Uncategorized

W.H. Davies: The blind hatred engendered by war

====

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

British writers on peace and war

====

W.H. Davies
From The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp

This was at the time of the Boer War and Flanagan’s long dark beard and slouched hat gave him the exact appearance of one of those despised people. Therefore we seldom took a walk together but what we were stoned by boys in the street, and even grown up people passed insulting remarks. In fact everywhere we went we were regarded with suspicion. Our clothes not being of the best, drew the attention of attendants at museums and art galleries, and we, being swarthy and alien in appearance, never paused near a palace but what sentry and police watched our every movement. One morning we  were passing through Whitehall, what time a regiment of soldiers were being drilled and inspected by a gentleman in a silk hat. Now Flanagan was a man of great courage and never thought it necessary to whisper. Therefore a vein of savage satire broke in Flanagan’s heart when he beheld a man in a silk hat inspecting a troop of soldiers. “See!” he cried, “there’s a sight for the Boers.” A number of bystanders resented this remark, and there were loud murmurs of disapproval. On which Flanagan asked the following question: “Will the best man in the crowd step forward?” But no man seemed inclined to attempt Flanagan’s chastisement, without being assisted. Although I did not entirely approve of him on this occasion, still, seeing that the words could not be recalled, I was quite prepared to be carried with him half dead on a stretcher to the nearest hospital; for I liked the man, and he certainly seemed to like me, since he always took his walks alone when I did not accompany him.

***

[My] artificial leg would certainly not stand the strain of this enforced march from town to town on the country roads, that were so often rough and uneven. For even now it was creaking, and threatened at every step to break down. On mentioning these difficulties to a fellow lodger, he at once advised me to go to the Surgical Aid Society for a wooden leg, of the common peg sort; which, he was pleased to mention, would not only be more useful for such a knockabout life, but would not deceive people as to my true condition…I again consulted my fellow lodger, who had at first referred me to the Surgical Aid Society, and his explanation was, undoubtedly, reasonable and true. He explained that not only was the time of the year unfavourable, it being summer, and most of the subscribers were away from home on their holidays – but, unfortunately, the South African war was still in progress, and numbers of soldiers were daily returning from the front in need of artificial assistance one way or another.

***

In less than two hours we were at the gentleman’s lodge. Passing boldly through the gates we followed the drive until we saw before us a fine large mansion. Reaching the front door we rang the bell, which was soon answered by a servant. To our enquiries as to whether the master was in the servant replied in the negative, but intimated that the mistress was. Of course, this made not the least difference, as many a tramp knew, except that had we been old soldiers the lady not being able to test us by drill, would therefore not have given more than the civilian’s shilling. Now, almost unfortunately for us, the downrighter, knowing that the lady would not drill us, and thinking that there might be a possibility of getting the master’s double pay to old soldiers, without danger of drill or cross examination – suddenly made up his mind to say that we were two old soldiers. For, thought he, if it does no good, it cannot do any harm. Therefore, when the lady appeared smiling at the door Long John, being spokesman, told a straightforward tale of hardship, and added that we had both served our country on the battlefield as soldiers. He had scarcely mentioned the word soldiers when a loud authoritative voice behind us cried – “Shoulder Arms!” I was leaning heavily on a thick stick when this command was given, but lost my balance and almost fell to the ground. We both turned our faces towards the speaker and saw a tall military looking gentleman scrutinising us with two very sharp eyes. Giving us but very little time to compose ourselves he shouted again – “Present Arms!” This second command was no more obeyed than the first. Long John blew his nose, and I stood at ease on my staff, as though I did not care whether the dogs were set upon us or we were to be lodged in jail. After another uncomfortable pause the retired officer said, looking at us severely – “Two old soldiers, indeed! You are two imposters and scoundrels! Perhaps you understand this command” – and in a voice fiercer and louder than ever he cried, “Quick March!” Long John and I, although not old soldiers, certainly understood this command, for we started down the drive at a good pace, with the military looking gentleman following. When we reached the public road, he gave another command – “Halt!” But this was another of those commands which we did not understand. However, on its being repeated less sternly we obeyed. “Here,” said he, “you are not two old soldiers, but you may not be altogether scoundrels; and I never turn men away without giving them some assistance.” Saying which he gave us a shilling each. But what a narrow escape we had of being turned penniless away, all through Long John’s greed and folly!

Categories: Uncategorized

Osbert Sitwell: Totally out of place in a war-mad world

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Osbert Sitwell: Wilfred Owen, poetry and war

====

Osbert Sitwell
From Noble Essences
Ronald Firbank

He felt himself totally out of place in a khaki-clad, war-mad world, where neither music nor gaiety existed, and in which one could no longer travel except about the business of death. He failed to summon up any enthusiasm whatever over the current war, protesting that for his part he had always found the Germans “most polite.” In fact, in after years, “that awful persecution was the phrase which it was most often his wont to use in alluding to the First World War. It had driven him to become more than ever a recluse: it had deprived him of all outside interests, until finally ennui forced him to write the book about which he had talked for so many years. These volumes were, therefore, far more truly than any others in the English language the product of the conflict. He was in the best, the least boring, sense a “war writer.”

***

From Violet Gordon Woodhouse

[George Bernard Shaw remarked]

“I hate all this destruction. Every time a bomb falls on Berlin or London it kills a number of young Europeans: a fact which, as an old European, I deplore.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Osbert Sitwell: Wilfred Owen, poetry and war

====

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

British writers on peace and war

Wilfred Owen: Selections on war

Osbert Sitwell: Totally out of place in a war-mad world

====

Osbert Sitwell
From Noble Essences
Wilfred Owen

I did not know Wilfred Owen for long, hardly for more than a year, I suppose, notably with Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Ross, and the fact that we were deeply in sympathy in our views concerning the war and its conduct – a link of nonconformity that in those years bound together the disbelievers with almost the same force with which faith had knitted together the early Christians – soon matured our relationship…

The quality of greatness that differentiates him from other war poets is in the truth both of his poetry and of his response to war. If he can be properly called a War Poet – since, greater than that, he was a Poet – he may be the only writer who answers truly to that description; the first, as he may be the last, for the very phrase War Poet indicates a strange twentieth-century phenomenon, the attempt to combine two incompatibles. There had been no war poets in the Peninsular, Crimean or Boer wars. But war had suddenly become transformed by the effort of scientist and mechanician into something so infernal, so inhuman, that it was recognized that only their natural enemy, the poet, could pierce through the armor of horror with which they were encased, to the pity at the human core; only the poet could steadily contemplate the struggle at the level of tragedy…The invention of the atomic bomb again changed these values: for war has once more altered its character, and an Atomic-Bomb Poet is one not to be thought of…No, Owen was a poet – a War Poet only because the brief span of his maturity coincided with a war of hitherto unparalleled sweep, viciousness and stupidity…

Each war produces its own particular harvest of horrors for the soldier…

He had on him a collection of photographs of mutilated and wounded men which he had made in order to bring home to the unimaginative the horrors that others faced for them. (I remember those photographs. Robert Ross, too, used to carry some of them on him, and, when an acquaintance voiced views that seemed to him stupid, overenthusiastic for war and bellicose, would take them out of his pocket, saying, “Then these will interest you!”)

****

At the first meeting, he was inclined to be shy of me, although, as I have said, he was at ease with his own contemporaries, conscious of their esteem: but I had already had a different, and perhaps a larger, experience of the world. His shyness in my presence, however, soon wore off, for we possessed in common a delight in the company of our friends, a love of books, and a hatred of modern war and of those who did not feel its burden. Moreover, we shared the unspeakable experiences of the infantry officer of the time and an enormous pity for those engaged in this vile warfare. We both knew the look he had described: “…the very strange look on all faces in that camp; an incomprehensible look, which a man will never see in England, though wars should be in England; nor can it be seen in any battle…It was not despair, or terror, it was more terrible than terror, for it was a blindfold look, and without expression, like a dead rabbit’s. It will never be painted, and no actor will ever seize it. And to describe it, I think I must go back and be with them…”

Categories: Uncategorized

Voltaire: The laws of robbers and war

February 20, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war

====

Voltaire
From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

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

****

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

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

****

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

****

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

****

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

February 18, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war

====

Voltaire
From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

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

****

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

****

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

****

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Voltaire: Invoking the gods of war

February 16, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war

====

Voltaire
From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

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

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

****

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

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

****

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

February 15, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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

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

====

Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

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

***

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

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

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

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

****

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

February 13, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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

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

====

Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

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

****

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

====

St. John Chrysostom
From Homily XIV on Philippians
Oxford translation

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Cyprian: War cannot consist with peace

February 11, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

====

Cyprian
From Treatise I
Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis

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

***

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

February 10, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

====

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Origen: Vanquish all demons who stir up war

February 8, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

====

Origen
From Reply to Celsus
Translator unknown

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

***

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

February 7, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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

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

====

Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

February 6, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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

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

====

Robert Burton
From Anatomy of Melancholy

If Democritus were alive now…

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

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

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

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Anatole France: War ruins all trades but its own

February 3, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Anatole France: Selections on war

====

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Edward Bulwer Lytton: Ghouls on the field of slaughter

January 30, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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

====

Edward Bulwer Lytton
From The Last of The Barons

What woman will provoke war and bloodshed?…

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Walter Besant: Wisdom and war

January 24, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

British writers on peace and war

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

====

Walter Besant
From Dorothy Forster

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

***

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

January 22, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

From his diary, 1931

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

From a letter to Mohandas Gandhi, 1933

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

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

***

From a letter to Mohandas Gandhi, 1934

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

January 21, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

Romain Rolland
Translator unknown

From a letter to Rabindranath Tagore 1935

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

***

From a letter to Rabindranath Tagore 1940

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

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

***

From a discussion with Tagore 1930

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Rolland Rolland: Letters to Tagore on peace

January 20, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

Romain Rolland
From letters to Rabindranath Tagore
Translator unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

January 19, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

From a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 1936

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

From Le Voyage Interieur

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

***

From Introduction to Young India

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

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

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

***

From The Christ of India

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Romain Rolland: Letters on conscientious objection

January 18, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

From a letter to Jenny Guyot 1923

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

***

From a letter to Pierre Cérésole 1923

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

***

From a letter to Henri Barbusse 1922

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

***

From a letter to B. De Ligt 1928

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

***

From a letter to Eugen Relgis 1929

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

***

From a letter to Reginald Reynolds 1930

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

***

From a letter to Albert Einstein 1930

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

January 17, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WORKMEN
And what about the robbers here?

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

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

THE FAT MEN
There’s a very great difference.

THE WORKMEN
Yes, certainly for you.

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

January 16, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assuring you of my respectful affection,
Romain Rolland

Categories: Uncategorized

Stefan Zweig: A single conscience defies the madness of war

January 15, 2019 Leave a comment

====

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

Stefan Zweig: Selections on peace and war

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

====

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized