Leo Tolstoy: As if there were any rules for killing people

January 8, 2022 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

If the aim of the European wars at the beginning of the nineteenth century had been the aggrandizement of Russia, that aim might have been accomplished without all the preceding wars and without the invasion. If the aim was the aggrandizement of France, that might have been attained without the Revolution and without the Empire. If the aim was the dissemination of ideas, the printing press could have accomplished that much better than warfare. If the aim was the progress of civilization, it is easy to see that there are other ways of diffusing civilization more expedient than by the destruction of wealth and of human lives.

***

Napoleon felt this, and from the time he took up the correct fencing attitude in Moscow and instead of his opponent’s rapier saw a cudgel raised above his head, he did not cease to complain to Kutuzov and to the Emperor Alexander that the war was being carried on contrary to all the rules – as if there were any rules for killing people.

***

The troops were moving on, leaving about ten thousand wounded behind them. There were wounded in the yards, at the windows of the houses, and the streets were crowded with them. In the streets, around carts that were to take some of the wounded away, shouts, curses, and blows could be heard.

***

We need only confess that we do not know the purpose of the European convulsions and that we know only the facts – that is, the murders, first in France, then in Italy, in Africa, in Prussia, in Austria, in Spain, and in Russia – and that the movements from the west to the east and from the east to the west form the essence and purpose of these events, and not only shall we have no need to see exceptional ability and genius in Napoleon and Alexander, but we shall be unable to consider them to be anything but like other men….

***

“Yes – love,” he thought again quite clearly. “But not love which loves for something, for some quality, for some purpose, or for some reason, but the love which I – while dying – first experienced when I saw my enemy and yet loved him. I experienced that feeling of love which is the very essence of the soul and does not require an object. Now again I feel that bliss. To love one’s neighbors, to love one’s enemies, to love everything, to love God in all His manifestations. It is possible to love someone dear to you with human love, but an enemy can only be loved by divine love. That is why I experienced such joy when I felt that I loved that man. What has become of him? Is he alive?…”

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Leo Tolstoy: How is it that millions of men commit collective crimes – make war, commit murder, and so on?

January 7, 2022 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

In 1789 a ferment arises in Paris; it grows, spreads, and is expressed by a movement of peoples from west to east. Several times it moves eastward and collides with a countermovement from the east westward. In 1812 it reaches its extreme limit, Moscow, and then, with remarkable symmetry, a countermovement occurs from east to west, attracting to it, as the first movement had done, the nations of middle Europe. The counter movement reaches the starting point of the first movement in the west – Paris – and subsides.

During that twenty-year period an immense number of fields were left untilled, houses were burned, trade changed its direction, millions of men migrated, were impoverished, or were enriched, and millions of Christian men professing the law of love of their fellows slew one another.

What does all this mean? Why did it happen? What made those people burn houses and slay their fellow men? What were the causes of these events? What force made men act so? These are the instinctive, plain, and most legitimate questions humanity asks itself when it encounters the monuments and tradition of that period.

***

For reasons known or unknown to us the French began to drown and kill one another. And corresponding to the event its justification appears in people’s belief that this was necessary for the welfare of France, for liberty, and for equality. People ceased to kill one another, and this event was accompanied by its justification in the necessity for a centralization of power, resistance to Europe, and so on. Men went from the west to the east killing their fellow men, and the event was accompanied by phrases about the glory of France, the baseness of England, and so on. History shows us that these justifications of the events have no common sense and are all contradictory, as in the case of killing a man as the result of recognizing his rights, and the killing of millions in Russia for the humiliation of England. But these justifications have a very necessary significance in their own day.

These justifications release those who produce the events from moral responsibility. These temporary aims are like the broom fixed in front of a locomotive to clear the snow from the rails in front: they clear men’s moral responsibilities from their path.

Without such justification there would be no reply to the simplest question that presents itself when examining each historical event. How is it that millions of men commit collective crimes – make war, commit murder, and so on?

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Leo Tolstoy: “For what, for whom, must I kill and be killed?”

January 2, 2022 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

Several tens of thousands of the slain lay in diverse postures and various uniforms on the fields and meadows belonging to the Davydov family and to the crown serfs – those fields and meadows where for hundreds of years the peasants of Borodino, Gorki, Shevardino, and Semenovsk had reaped their harvests and pastured their cattle. At the dressing stations the grass and earth were soaked with blood for a space of some three acres around. Crowds of men of various arms, wounded and unwounded, with frightened faces, dragged themselves back to Mozhaysk from the one army and back to Valuevo from the other. Other crowds, exhausted and hungry, went forward led by their officers. Others held their ground and continued to fire.

Over the whole field, previously so gaily beautiful with the glitter of bayonets and cloudlets of smoke in the morning sun, there now spread a mist of damp and smoke and a strange acid smell of saltpeter and blood. Clouds gathered and drops of rain began to fall on the dead and wounded, on the frightened, exhausted, and hesitating men, as if to say: “Enough, men! Enough! Cease…bethink yourselves! What are you doing?”

To the men of both sides alike, worn out by want of food and rest, it began equally to appear doubtful whether they should continue to slaughter one another; all the faces expressed hesitation, and the question arose in every soul: “For what, for whom, must I kill and be killed?…You may go and kill whom you please, but I don’t want to do so any more!” By evening this thought had ripened in every soul. At any moment these men might have been seized with horror at what they were doing and might have thrown up everything and run away anywhere.

But though toward the end of the battle the men felt all the horror of what they were doing, though they would have been glad to leave off, some incomprehensible, mysterious power continued to control them, and they still brought up the charges, loaded, aimed, and applied the match, though only one artilleryman survived out of every three, and though they stumbled and panted with fatigue, perspiring and stained with blood and powder. The cannon balls flew just as swiftly and cruelly from both sides, crushing human bodies….

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Leo Tolstoy: He who kills most people receives the highest rewards

January 1, 2022 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

“If there was none of this magnanimity in war, we should go to war only when it was worthwhile going to certain death, as now. Then there would not be war because Paul Ivanovich had offended Michael Ivanovich. And when there was a war, like this one, it would be war! And then the determination of the troops would be quite different. Then all these Westphalians and Hessians whom Napoleon is leading would not follow him into Russia, and we should not go to fight in Austria and Prussia without knowing why. War is not courtesy but the most horrible thing in life; and we ought to understand that and not play at war. We ought to accept this terrible necessity sternly and seriously. It all lies in that: get rid of falsehood and let war be war and not a game. As it is now, war is the favorite pastime of the idle and frivolous. The military calling is the most highly honored.

“But what is war? What is needed for success in warfare? What are the habits of the military? The aim of war is murder; the methods of war are spying, treachery, and their encouragement, the ruin of a country’s inhabitants, robbing them or stealing to provision the army, and fraud and falsehood termed military craft. The habits of the military class are the absence of freedom, that is, discipline, idleness, ignorance, cruelty, debauchery, and drunkenness. And in spite of all this it is the highest class, respected by everyone. All the kings, except the Chinese, wear military uniforms, and he who kills most people receives the highest rewards.

“They meet, as we shall meet tomorrow, to murder one another; they kill and maim tens of thousands, and then have thanksgiving services for having killed so many people (they even exaggerate the number), and they announce a victory, supposing that the more people they have killed the greater their achievement. How does God above look at them and hear them?” exclaimed Prince Andrei in a shrill, piercing voice. “Ah, my friend, it has of late become hard for me to live. I see that I have begun to understand too much. And it doesn’t do for man to taste of the tree of knowledge of good and evil….Ah, well, it’s not for long!” he added.

***

And why do they all speak of a ‘military genius’? Is a man a genius who can order bread to be brought up at the right time and say who is to go to the right and who to the left? It is only because military men are invested with pomp and power and crowds of sycophants flatter power, attributing to it qualities of genius it does not possess. The best generals I have known were, on the contrary, stupid or absent-minded men. Bagration was the best, Napoleon himself admitted that. And of Bonaparte himself! I remember his limited, self-satisfied face on the field of Austerlitz. Not only does a good army commander not need any special qualities, on the contrary he needs the absence of the highest and best human attributes – love, poetry, tenderness, and philosophic inquiring doubt….God forbid that he should be humane, should love, or pity, or think of what is just and unjust. It is understandable that a theory of their ‘genius’ was invented for them long ago because they have power! The success of a military action depends not on them, but on the man in the ranks who shouts, ‘We are lost!’ or who shouts, ‘Hurrah!’ And only in the ranks can one serve with assurance of being useful.”

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Leo Tolstoy: War began, that is, an event took place opposed to human reason and to human nature

December 29, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

On the twelfth of June, 1812, the forces of Western Europe crossed the Russian frontier and war began, that is, an event took place opposed to human reason and to human nature. Millions of men perpetrated against one another such innumerable crimes, frauds, treacheries, thefts, forgeries, issues of false money, burglaries, incendiarisms, and murders as in whole centuries are not recorded in the annals of all the law courts of the world, but which those who committed them did not at the time regard as being crimes.

What produced this extraordinary occurrence? What were its causes? The historians tell us with naïve assurance that its causes were the wrongs inflicted on the Duke of Oldenburg, the nonobservance of the Continental System, the ambition of Napoleon, the firmness of Alexander, the mistakes of the diplomatists, and so on.

To us it is incomprehensible that millions of Christian men killed and tortured each other either because Napoleon was ambitious or Alexander was firm, or because England’s policy was astute or the Duke of Oldenburg wronged. We cannot grasp what connection such circumstances have with the actual fact of slaughter and violence: why because the Duke was wronged, thousands of men from the other side of Europe killed and ruined the people of Smolensk and Moscow and were killed by them.

To us, their descendants, who are not historians and are not carried away by the process of research and can therefore regard the event with unclouded common sense, an incalculable number of causes present themselves. The deeper we delve in search of these causes the more of them we find; and each separate cause or whole series of causes appears to us equally valid in itself and equally false by its insignificance compared to the magnitude of the events, and by its impotence – apart from the cooperation of all the other coincident causes – to occasion the event. To us, the wish or objection of this or that French corporal to serve a second term appears as much a cause as Napoleon’s refusal to withdraw his troops beyond the Vistula and to restore the duchy of Oldenburg; for had he not wished to serve, and had a second, a third, and a thousandth corporal and private also refused, there would have been so many less men in Napoleon’s army and the war could not have occurred.

Millions of men, renouncing their human feelings and reason, had to go from west to east to slay their fellows, just as some centuries previously hordes of men had come from the east to the west, slaying their fellows.

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Leo Tolstoy: Then why those severed arms and legs and those dead men?

December 27, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

On the narrow Augesd Dam where for so many years the old miller had been accustomed to sit in his tasseled cap peacefully angling, while his grandson, with shirt sleeves rolled up, handled the floundering silvery fish in the watering can, on that dam over which for so many years Moravians in shaggy caps and blue jackets had peacefully driven their two-horse carts loaded with wheat and had returned dusty with flour whitening their carts – on that narrow dam amid the wagons and the cannon, under the horses’ hoofs and between the wagon wheels, men disfigured by fear of death now crowded together, crushing one another, dying, stepping over the dying and killing one another, only to move on a few steps and be killed themselves in the same way.

Every ten seconds a cannon ball flew compressing the air around, or a shell burst in the midst of that dense throng, killing some and splashing with blood those near them.

Dolokhov – now an officer – wounded in the arm, and on foot, with the regimental commander on horseback and some ten men of his company, represented all that was left of that whole regiment. Impelled by the crowd, they had got wedged in at the approach to the dam and, jammed in on all sides, had stopped because a horse in front had fallen under a cannon and the crowd were dragging it out. A cannonball killed someone behind them, another fell in front and splashed Dolokhov with blood. The crowd, pushing forward desperately, squeezed together, moved a few steps, and again stopped.

***

Now he remembered Denisov with his changed expression, his submission, and the whole hospital, with arms and legs torn off and its dirt and disease. So vividly did he recall that hospital stench of dead flesh that he looked round to see where the smell came from. Next he thought of that self-satisfied Bonaparte, with his small white hand, who was now an Emperor, liked and respected by Alexander. Then why those severed arms and legs and those dead men?…

***

“We civilians, as you know, have a very bad way of deciding whether a battle was won or lost. Those who retreat after a battle have lost it is what we say; and according to that it is we who lost the battle of Pultusk. In short, we retreat after the battle but send a courier to Petersburg with news of a victory….”

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W. H. Auden: The shield of Achilles

December 24, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

W.H. Auden: A land laid waste, its towns in terror and all its young men slain

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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W. H. Auden
The Shield of Achilles

She looked over his shoulder
For vines and olive trees,
Marble well-governed cities
And ships upon untamed seas,
But there on the shining metal
His hands had put instead
An artificial wilderness
And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
An unintelligible multitude,
A million eyes, a million boots in line,
Without expression, waiting for a sign.

Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

She looked over his shoulder
For ritual pieties,
White flower-garlanded heifers,
Libation and sacrifice,
But there on the shining metal
Where the altar should have been,
She saw by his flickering forge-light
Quite another scene.

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
A crowd of ordinary decent folk
Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

She looked over his shoulder
For athletes at their games,
Men and women in a dance
Moving their sweet limbs
Quick, quick, to music,
But there on the shining shield
His hands had set no dancing-floor
But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

The thin-lipped armorer,
Hephaestos, hobbled away,
Thetis of the shining breasts
Cried out in dismay
At what the god had wrought
To please her son, the strong
Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
Who would not live long.

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Stephen Leacock: War-Time Christmas

December 23, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Stephen Leacock: In the Good Time After the War

Stephen Leacock: Merry Christmas.

Stephen Leacock: The war mania of middle age and embonpoint

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Stephen Leacock
From War-Time Christmas 1941

Think back, as all people even in middle life can do, to what the world was like while world-war was just a dream….To realize this alteration, come back with me in recollection, to church together – to an evening service, on Christmas Eve….Quiet and dim the church seems, the lights low – and from the altar comes the voice, half reading, half intoned, and from the dimness of the body of the church the murmur of the responses….Give peace in our time, O Lord….Peace! why, it was always peace! What did we know then of world war, of world brutality, of the concentration camp and the mass-slaughter of the innocent….

From plague and famine….The voice is intoning the Litany now, the prayer for deliverance…from plague, pestilence and famine, from battle and murder and from sudden death…and the murmured response through the church….Good Lord, deliver us….The words are old, far older than the rubric of the church that uses them, handed down from prayer to prayer, since the days of the Barbarian Conquests of Europe, when they first went up as a cry of distress, a supplication….But can the ear not catch, in this new hour, the full meaning that was here – the cry of anguish that first inspired the prayers…to show thy mercy upon all prisoners and captives….In this too is now an infinity of meaning, of sympathy, of suffering…and as the service draws to its close…while there is time…intones the voice from the half-darkness, while there is time….What? What is that he’s saying – while there is time? Does it mean it may be too late?

***

From War-Time Christmas: Santa Claus

So, first I’ll tell Santa Claus that I don’t want any new presents, only just to have back some of the old ones that are broken – well, yes, perhaps I broke them myself. Give me back, will you, that pretty little framed certificate called Belief in Humanity; you remember – you gave them to ever so many of us as children to hang up beside our beds. Later on I took mine out to look what was on the back of it, and I couldn’t get it back in the frame and lost it.

Here, listen, this is what I want, Santa Claus, and here I’m speaking for of us, all of us, millions and millions. Bring us back the World We Had, and didn’t value at its worth – the Universal Peace, the Good Will Toward Men – all that we had and couldn’t use and broke and threw away.

Give us that. This time we’ll really try.

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Leo Tolstoy: Men attribute the greatest merit to skill in killing one another

December 19, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

I have had a letter from my brother, who announces his speedy arrival at Bald Hills with his wife. This pleasure will be but a brief one, however, for he will leave us again to take part in this unhappy war into which we have been drawn, God knows how or why. Not only where you are – at the heart of affairs and of the world – is the talk all of war, even here amid fieldwork and the calm of nature – which townsfolk consider characteristic of the country – rumors of war are heard and painfully felt. My father talks of nothing but marches and countermarches, things of which I understand nothing; and the day before yesterday during my daily walk through the village I witnessed a heartrending scene….It was a convoy of conscripts enrolled from our people and starting to join the army. You should have seen the state of the mothers, wives, and children of the men who were going and should have heard the sobs. It seems as though mankind has forgotten the laws of its divine Saviour, Who preached love and forgiveness of injuries – and that men attribute the greatest merit to skill in killing one another.”

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Leo Tolstoy: Dialogues on war

December 16, 2021 2 comments

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

“If no one fought except on his own conviction, there would be no wars,” he said.

“And that would be splendid,” said Pierre.

Prince Andrew smiled ironically.

“Very likely it would be splendid, but it will never come about….”

“Well, why are you going to the war?” asked Pierre.

“What for? I don’t know. I must. Besides that I am going….” He paused. “I am going because the life I am leading here does not suit me!”

***

“And I am still arguing with your husband. I can’t understand why he wants to go to the war,” replied Pierre, addressing the princess with none of the embarrassment so commonly shown by young men in their intercourse with young women.

The princess started. Evidently Pierre’s words touched her to the quick.

“Ah, that is just what I tell him!” said she. “I don’t understand it; I don’t in the least understand why men can’t live without wars. How is it that we women don’t want anything of the kind, don’t need it?…”

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F. Marion Crawford: The real issue is between civilization and barbarism, between peace and war

December 15, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

F. Marion Crawford: When everyone understands war it will stop by universal consent

F. Marion Crawford: The world dreads the very name of war, lest it should become universal once it breaks out

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F. Marion Crawford
From An American Politician

“In our times there is much talk of civilization and culture. Two words define all that is necessary to be known about them. Civilization is peace. The uncivilized state of man is incessant war. Culture is conscience, because conscience means the exercise of honest judgment, and an ignorant people can form no honest judgment of their own which can be exercised.

“In a state of peace, educated and truthful men judge fairly, and act sensibly on their decisions. In other words, the majority is right and free. In times of war and in times of great ignorance majorities have rarely been either free or right.”

***

“The issue turns upon no such absurdities, neither does it rest with any consideration of so-called platforms – free trade, civil service, free navigation, tariff reform, and all the rest of those things. The real issue is between civilization and barbarism, between peace and war.”

***

“Civilization is peace, and to extend civilization is to increase the security of property in the world – of property and life and conscience. The natural and barbarous state of man is that where the human animal satisfies its cravings without any thought of consequences. The cultivated state is that where humanity has ceased to be merely animal, and considers the consequences first and the cravings afterwards. Civilization unites men so that they dwell together in harmony; to separate them into parties that strive to annihilate each other is to undo the work of civilization, to plunge the state into civil war; to hew it in pieces, and split it and tear it to shreds, till the magnificent body of thinking beings, acting as one man for the public good, is reduced to the miserable condition of a handful of hostile tribes, whose very existence depends upon successful robbery and well-timed violence.”

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Stephen Leacock: Merry Christmas

December 14, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Stephen Leacock: In the Good Time After the War

Stephen Leacock: The war mania of middle age and embonpoint

Stephen Leacock: War-Time Christmas

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Stephen Leacock
Merry Christmas (1917)

“My Dear Young Friend,” said Father Time, as he laid his hand gently upon my shoulder, “you are entirely wrong.”

Then I looked up over my shoulder from the table at which I was sitting and I saw him.

But I had known, or felt, for at least the last half-hour that he was standing somewhere near me.

You have had, I do not doubt, good reader, more than once that strange uncanny feeling that there is someone unseen standing beside you, in a darkened room, let us say, with a dying fire, when the night has grown late, and the October wind sounds low outside, and when, through the thin curtain that we call Reality, the Unseen World starts for a moment clear upon our dreaming sense.

You have had it? Yes, I know you have. Never mind telling me about it. Stop. I don’t want to hear about that strange presentiment you had the night your Aunt Eliza broke her leg. Don’t let’s bother with your experience. I want to tell mine.

“You are quite mistaken, my dear young friend,” repeated Father Time, “quite wrong.”

“Young friend?” I said, my mind, as one’s mind is apt to in such a case, running to an unimportant detail. “Why do you call me young?”

“Your pardon,” he answered gently – he had a gentle way with him, had Father Time. “The fault is in my failing eyes. I took you at first sight for something under a hundred.”

“Under a hundred?” I expostulated. “Well, I should think so!”

“Your pardon again,” said Time, “the fault is in my failing memory. I forgot. You seldom pass that nowadays, do you? Your life is very short of late.”

I heard him breathe a wistful hollow sigh. Very ancient and dim he seemed as he stood beside me. But I did not turn to look upon him. I had no need to. I knew his form, in the inner and clearer sight of things, as well as every human being knows by innate instinct, the Unseen face and form of Father Time.

I could hear him murmuring beside me, “Short – short, your life is short”; till the sound of it seemed to mingle with the measured ticking of a clock somewhere in the silent house.

Then I remembered what he had said.

“How do you know that I am wrong?” I asked. “And how can you tell what I was thinking?”

“You said it out loud,” answered Father Time. “But it wouldn’t have mattered, anyway. You said that Christmas was all played out and done with.”

“Yes,” I admitted, “that’s what I said.”

“And what makes you think that?” he questioned, stooping, so it seemed to me, still further over my shoulder.

“Why,” I answered, “the trouble is this. I’ve been sitting here for hours, sitting till goodness only knows how far into the night, trying to think out something to write for a Christmas story. And it won’t go. It can’t be done – not in these awful days.”

“A Christmas Story?”

“Yes. You see, Father Time,” I explained, glad with a foolish little vanity of my trade to be able to tell him something that I thought enlightening, “all the Christmas stuff – stories and jokes and pictures – is all done, you know, in October.”

I thought it would have surprised him, but I was mistaken.

“Dear me,” he said, “not till October! What a rush! How well I remember in Ancient Egypt – as I think you call it – seeing them getting out their Christmas things, all cut in hieroglyphics, always two or three years ahead.”

“Two or three years!” I exclaimed.

“Pooh,” said Time, “that was nothing. Why in Babylon they used to get their Christmas jokes ready – all baked in clay – a whole Solar eclipse ahead of Christmas. They said, I think, that the public preferred them so.”

“Egypt?” I said. “Babylon? But surely, Father Time, there was no Christmas in those days. I thought -”

“My dear boy,” he interrupted gravely, “don’t you know that there has always been Christmas?”

I was silent. Father Time had moved across the room and stood beside the fireplace, leaning on the mantelpiece. The little wreaths of smoke from the fading fire seemed to mingle with his shadowy outline.

“Well,” he said presently, “what is it that is wrong with Christmas?”

“Why,” I answered, “all the romance, the joy, the beauty of it has gone, crushed and killed by the greed of commerce and the horrors of war. I am not, as you thought I was, a hundred years old, but I can conjure up, as anybody can, a picture of Christmas in the good old days of a hundred years ago: the quaint old-fashioned houses, standing deep among the evergreens, with the light twinkling from the windows on the snow; the warmth and comfort within; the great fire roaring on the hearth; the merry guests grouped about its blaze and the little children with their eyes dancing in the Christmas fire-light, waiting for Father Christmas in his fine mummery of red and white and cotton wool to hand the presents from the yule-tide tree. I can see it,” I added, “as if it were yesterday.”

“It was but yesterday,” said Father Time, and his voice seemed to soften with the memory of bygone years. “I remember it well.”

“Ah,” I continued, “that was Christmas indeed. Give me back such days as those, with the old good cheer, the old stage coaches and the gabled inns and the warm red wine, the snapdragon and the Christmas-tree, and I’ll believe again in Christmas, yes, in Father Christmas himself.”

“Believe in him?” said Time quietly. “You may well do that. He happens to be standing outside in the street at this moment.”

“Outside?” I exclaimed. “Why don’t he come in?”

“He’s afraid to,” said Father Time. “He’s frightened and he daren’t come in unless you ask him. May I call him in?”

I signified assent, and Father Time went to the window for a moment and beckoned into the darkened street. Then I heard footsteps, clumsy and hesitant they seemed, upon the stairs. And in a moment a figure stood framed in the doorway – the figure of Father Christmas. He stood shuffling his feet, a timid, apologetic look upon his face.

How changed he was!

I had known in my mind’s eye, from childhood up, the face and form of Father Christmas as well as that of Old Time himself. Everybody knows, or once knew him – a jolly little rounded man, with a great muffler wound about him, a packet of toys upon his back and with such merry, twinkling eyes and rosy cheeks as are only given by the touch of the driving snow and the rude fun of the North Wind. Why, there was once a time, not yet so long ago, when the very sound of his sleigh-bells sent the blood running warm to the heart.

But now how changed.

All draggled with the mud and rain he stood, as if no house had sheltered him these three years past. His old red jersey was tattered in a dozen places, his muffler frayed and ravelled.

The bundle of toys that he dragged with him in a net seemed wet and worn till the cardboard boxes gaped asunder. There were boxes among them, I vow, that he must have been carrying these three past years.

But most of all I noted the change that had come over the face of Father Christmas. The old brave look of cheery confidence was gone. The smile that had beamed responsive to the laughing eyes of countless children around unnumbered Christmas-trees was there no more. And in the place of it there showed a look of timid apology, of apprehensiveness, as of one who has asked in vain the warmth and shelter of a human home – such a look as the harsh cruelty of this world has stamped upon the faces of its outcasts.

So stood Father Christmas shuffling upon the threshold, fumbling his poor tattered hat in his hand.

“Shall I come in?” he said, his eyes appealingly on Father Time.

“Come,” said Time. He turned to speak to me, “Your room is dark. Turn up the lights. He’s used to light, bright light and plenty of it. The dark has frightened him these three years past.”

I turned up the lights and the bright glare revealed all the more cruelly the tattered figure before us.

Father Christmas advanced a timid step across the floor. Then he paused, as if in sudden fear.

“Is this floor mined?” he said.

“No, no,” said Time soothingly. And to me he added in a murmured whisper, “He’s afraid. He was blown up in a mine in No Man’s Land between the trenches at Christmas-time in 1914. It broke his nerve.”

“May I put my toys on that machine gun?” asked Father Christmas timidly. “It will help to keep them dry.”

“It is not a machine gun,” said Time gently. “See, it is only a pile of books upon the sofa.” And to me he whispered, “They turned a machine gun on him in the streets of Warsaw. He thinks he sees them everywhere since then.”

“It’s all right, Father Christmas,” I said, speaking as cheerily as I could, while I rose and stirred the fire into a blaze. “There are no machine guns here and there are no mines. This is but the house of a poor writer.”

“Ah,” said Father Christmas, lowering his tattered hat still further and attempting something of a humble bow, “a writer? Are you Hans Andersen, perhaps?”

“Not quite,” I answered.

“But a great writer, I do not doubt,” said the old man, with a humble courtesy that he had learned, it well may be, centuries ago in the yule-tide season of his northern home. “The world owes much to its great books. I carry some of the greatest with me always. I have them here—”

He began fumbling among the limp and tattered packages that he carried. “Look! The House that Jack Built – a marvellous, deep thing, sir – and this, The Babes in the Wood. Will you take it, sir? A poor present, but a present still – not so long ago I gave them in thousands every Christmas-time. None seem to want them now.”

He looked appealingly towards Father Time, as the weak may look towards the strong, for help and guidance.

“None want them now,” he repeated, and I could see the tears start in his eyes. “Why is it so? Has the world forgotten its sympathy with the lost children wandering in the wood?”

“All the world,” I heard Time murmur with a sigh, “is wandering in the wood.” But out loud he spoke to Father Christmas in cheery admonition, “Tut, tut, good Christmas,” he said, “you must cheer up. Here, sit in this chair the biggest one; so – beside the fire. Let us stir it to a blaze; more wood, that’s better. And listen, good old Friend, to the wind outside – almost a Christmas wind, is it not? Merry and boisterous enough, for all the evil times it stirs among.”

Old Christmas seated himself beside the fire, his hands outstretched towards the flames. Something of his old-time cheeriness seemed to flicker across his features as he warmed himself at the blaze.

“That’s better,” he murmured. “I was cold, sir, cold, chilled to the bone. Of old I never felt it so; no matter what the wind, the world seemed warm about me. Why is it not so now?”

“You see,” said Time, speaking low in a whisper for my ear alone, “how sunk and broken he is? Will you not help?”

“Gladly,” I answered, “if I can.”

“All can,” said Father Time, “every one of us.”

Meantime Christmas had turned towards me a questioning eye, in which, however, there seemed to revive some little gleam of merriment.

“Have you, perhaps,” he asked half timidly, “schnapps?”

“Schnapps?” I repeated.

“Ay, schnapps. A glass of it to drink your health might warm my heart again, I think.”

“Ah,” I said, “something to drink?”

“His one failing,” whispered Time, “if it is one. Forgive it him. He was used to it for centuries. Give it him if you have it.”

“I keep a little in the house,” I said reluctantly perhaps, “in case of illness.”

“Tut, tut,” said Father Time, as something as near as could be to a smile passed over his shadowy face. “In case of illness! They used to say that in ancient Babylon. Here, let me pour it for him. Drink, Father Christmas, drink!”

Marvellous it was to see the old man smack his lips as he drank his glass of liquor neat after the fashion of old Norway.

Marvellous, too, to see the way in which, with the warmth of the fire and the generous glow of the spirits, his face changed and brightened till the old-time cheerfulness beamed again upon it.

He looked about him, as it were, with a new and growing interest.

“A pleasant room,” he said. “And what better, sir, than the wind without and a brave fire within!”

Then his eye fell upon the mantelpiece, where lay among the litter of books and pipes a little toy horse.

“Ah,” said Father Christmas almost gayly, “children in the house!”

“One,” I answered, “the sweetest boy in all the world.”

“I’ll be bound he is!” said Father Christmas and he broke now into a merry laugh that did one’s heart good to hear. “They all are! Lord bless me! The number that I have seen, and each and every one – and quite right too – the sweetest child in all the world. And how old, do you say? Two and a half all but two months except a week? The very sweetest age of all, I’ll bet you say, eh, what? They all do!”

And the old man broke again into such a jolly chuckling of laughter that his snow-white locks shook upon his head.

“But stop a bit,” he added. “This horse is broken. Tut, tut, a hind leg nearly off. This won’t do!”

He had the toy in his lap in a moment, mending it. It was wonderful to see, for all his age, how deft his fingers were.

“Time,” he said, and it was amusing to note that his voice had assumed almost an authoritative tone, “reach me that piece of string. That’s right. Here, hold your finger across the knot. There! Now, then, a bit of beeswax. What? No beeswax? Tut, tut, how ill-supplied your houses are to-day. How can you mend toys, sir, without beeswax? Still, it will stand up now.”

I tried to murmur by best thanks.

But Father Christmas waved my gratitude aside.

“Nonsense,” he said, “that’s nothing. That’s my life. Perhaps the little boy would like a book too. I have them here in the packet. Here, sir, Jack and the Bean Stalk, most profound thing. I read it to myself often still. How damp it is! Pray, sir, will you let me dry my books before your fire?”

“Only too willingly,” I said. “How wet and torn they are!”

Father Christmas had risen from his chair and was fumbling among his tattered packages, taking from them his children’s books, all limp and draggled from the rain and wind.

“All wet and torn!” he murmured, and his voice sank again into sadness. “I have carried them these three years past. Look! These were for little children in Belgium and in Serbia. Can I get them to them, think you?”

Time gently shook his head.

“But presently, perhaps,” said Father Christmas, “if I dry and mend them. Look, some of them were inscribed already! This one, see you, was written ‘With father’s love.’ Why has it never come to him? Is it rain or tears upon the page?”

He stood bowed over his little books, his hands trembling as he turned the pages. Then he looked up, the old fear upon his face again.

“That sound!” he said. “Listen! It is guns – I hear them.”

“No, no,” I said, “it is nothing. Only a car passing in the street below.”

“Listen,” he said. “Hear that again – voices crying!”

“No, no,” I answered, “not voices, only the night wind among the trees.”

“My children’s voices!” he exclaimed. “I hear them everywhere – they come to me in every wind – and I see them as I wander in the night and storm – my children – torn and dying in the trenches – beaten into the ground -I hear them crying from the hospitals – each one to me, still as I knew him once, a little child. Time, Time,” he cried, reaching out his arms in appeal, “give me back my children!”

“They do not die in vain,” Time murmured gently.

But Christmas only moaned in answer:

“Give me back my children!”

Then he sank down upon his pile of books and toys, his head buried in his arms.

“You see,” said Time, “his heart is breaking, and will you not help him if you can?”

“Only too gladly,” I replied. “But what is there to do?”

“This,” said Father Time, “listen.”

He stood before me grave and solemn, a shadowy figure but half seen though he was close beside me. The fire-light had died down, and through the curtained windows there came already the first dim brightening of dawn.

“The world that once you knew,” said Father Time, “seems broken and destroyed about you. You must not let them know – the children. The cruelty and the horror and the hate that racks the world to-day -keep it from them. Some day he will know” – here Time pointed to the prostrate form of Father Christmas – “that his children, that once were, have not died in vain: that from their sacrifice shall come a nobler, better world for all to live in, a world where countless happy children shall hold bright their memory for ever. But for the children of To-day, save and spare them all you can from the evil hate and horror of the war. Later they will know and understand. Not yet. Give them back their Merry Christmas and its kind thoughts, and its Christmas charity, till later on there shall be with it again Peace upon Earth Good Will towards Men.”

His voice ceased. It seemed to vanish, as it were, in the sighing of the wind.

I looked up. Father Time and Christmas had vanished from the room. The fire was low and the day was breaking visibly outside.

“Let us begin,” I murmured. “I will mend this broken horse.”

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F. Marion Crawford: When everyone understands war it will stop by universal consent

December 13, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

F. Marion Crawford: The real issue is between civilization and barbarism, between peace and war

F. Marion Crawford: The world dreads the very name of war, lest it should become universal once it breaks out

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F. Marion Crawford
From An American Politician

“I don’t understand politics,” said the old lady….

“Nobody understands politics,” said Vancouver. “When people do, there will be an end of them. Politics consist in one half of the world trying to drive paradoxes down the throats of the other half.”

Joe laughed a little.

“I do not know anything about politics here,” she said, “though I do at home, of course. I must say, though, Mr. Harrington did not seem so very paradoxical.”

“Oh no,” answered Vancouver, blandly, “I did not mean in this case. Harrington is very much in earnest. But it is like war, you see. When every one understands it thoroughly, it will stop by universal consent. Did you ever read Bulwer’s ’Coming Race’?”

“Yes,” said Joe. “I always read those books. Vril, and that sort of thing, you mean? Oh yes.”

“Approximately,” answered Vancouver. “It was an allegory, you know. A hundred years hence people will write a book to explain what Bulwer meant. Vril stands for the cumulative power of potential science, of course.”

“I think Bulwer’s word shorter, and a good deal easier to understand,” said Joe, laughing.

“It is a great thing to be great,” remarked Miss Schenectady. “Sarah, I think you might bring us some tea, please, and ask John if he couldn’t stir the furnace a little. And then to have people explain you. Goethe must be a good deal amused, I expect, when people write books to prove that Byron was Euphorion.” Miss Schenectady was fond of German literature, and the extent of her reading was a constant surprise to her niece.

“What a lot of things you know, Aunt Zoë!” said Joe. “But what had Bulwer to do with war, Mr. Vancouver?”

“Oh, in the book – the ‘Coming Race,’ you know – they abolished war because they could kill each other so easily.”

“How nice that would be!” exclaimed Joe, looking at him.

“Why, you perfectly shock me, Joe,” cried Miss Schenectady.

“I mean, to have no war,” returned Joe, sweetly.

“Oh; I belonged to the Peace Conference myself,” said her aunt, immediately pacified.

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Lucy Aikin: Freedom and Peace with radiant smile now carol o’er the dungeon vile

December 12, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Lucy Aikin: Gentle Peace with healing hand returns

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

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Lucy Aikin
From Ode to Ludlow Castle

But see! beneath yon shattered roof
What mouldy cavern, sun-beam proof,
With mouth of horror yawns?
O sight of grief! O ruthless doom!
On that deep dungeon’s solid gloom
Nor hope nor daylight dawns.

Yet there, at midnight’s sleepless hour,
While boisterous revels shook the tower,
Bedewed with damps forlorn,
The warrior-captive pressed the stones,
And lonely breathed unheeded moans,
Despairing of the morn.

That too is past: unsparing Time,
Stern miner of the tower sublime,
Its night of ages broke;
Freedom and Peace with radiant smile
Now carol o’er the dungeon vile
That cumbrous ruins choke.

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Louise Imogen Guiney: The voice of Peace

December 11, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Louise Imogen Guiney
From The Two Voices

A grateful spirit would fain bestow on the glorious voice an ardent welcome, and on the gentle voice a lingering caress. Both I loved, and unto both my soul hearkened; for they were the voices of angels, and one was Joy, and one was Peace.

Then, as in a vision, I beheld a fair prospect before me, and in the centre of its green beauty arose two hills, from whose separate summits the voices ruled perennially, showering blessings, healing sorrow, banishing care, cheering and solacing the earth. Now the weak needed not to rely on the strong; and pity and protection were scarcely asked or given; for music, “the most divine striker of the senses,” – music alone was the arbitress of the world. And all day, past twilight into the deep gloom, were the voices singing, not incapable of being wearied, but revivified forever by the smiles and tears of pilgrims who departed from the hill-top with hearts made whole.

I watched, time on time, soldiers marching to the wars, sustained by the glad voice, and hastening forwards with its spell upon them like a consecration; and again, the weary troops returning, with tattered colors and broken ranks, pausing in the lovely courts of the grave voice, to chant with it a song of memory and reparation and thanksgiving….

It may be that even in my day-dream I might have called my beloved singers by their earthly names; and that so I might this hour, were it not for a clinging scruple. For I have been made wiser, and know verily that both are angels, and that one is Joy, and one is Peace.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selections on war

December 10, 2021 Leave a comment
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Henri Fauconnier: A chance encounter on the evening of a day of slaughter

December 9, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Henri Fauconnier
From Malaisie
Translated by Eric Sutton

“Listen. When I went off to the war I merely thought of killing Germans. But, later on, when I heard the rattle of our machine guns I thought that a Goethe or Schumann might be in the trenches opposite.”

***

Those fugitive war-time contacts that suddenly revealed the abysses of a man’s soul, are an estranging influence afterwards, from fear of the mechanical intercourse of everyday. Him I still pictured in the light of the flares that seared the treacherous night around us. We were alone in a shell-hole; a chance encounter on the evening of a day of slaughter. Our machine-gun post was stationed near one of those calvaries that stand just outside every Picardy village. There the struggle is hottest; much blood flows at the foot of a crucifix. At that moment a vast silence had fallen, and the stranger realised that I was overwhelmed by that awful silence. He spoke to me and asked me questions. He knew what I was going through. He probed my flayed soul with gentle fingers that seem to pour out a corrosive drug. He seemed pleased to observe that I was as empty as that plain was ravaged. I had lost faith, love, and even self-respect; I had gone beyond contempt, which still offers some support, I knew no longer why I suffered since I was indifferent to life and to death….

I fell silent again because I distrusted my voice, and it is ridiculous to talk heroics in a voice that trembles. I wondered if I were not like those old women who do not weep when they think of their misfortunes but only when they talk about them….

***

“Did you ever find yourself,” he went on calmly, “in open country, standing before a line of sputtering machine gun fire. The whole earth quakes; you are helpless in the meshes of that network of steel. Then you suddenly have the sense of disembodiment, an exhilarating impression. That is what is called heroism. It is no more than that.”

“Do you mean to say you enjoy war?”

“No, I hate it. You’ve missed the point. You might as well say I was anxious to die.”

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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Did iron-hearted War itself ever do so hard and cruel a thing as this before?

December 8, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selections on war

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Nathaniel Hawthorne
From Grandfather’s Chair

Among all the events of the old French War, Grandfather thought that there was none more interesting than the removal of the inhabitants of Acadia. From the first settlement of this ancient province of the French, in 1604, until the present time, its people could scarcely ever know what kingdom held dominion over them. They were a peaceful race, taking no delight in warfare, and caring nothing for military renown. And yet, in every war, their region was infested with iron-hearted soldiers, both French and English, who fought one another for the privilege of ill-treating these poor, harmless Acadians. Sometimes the treaty of peace made them subjects of one king, sometimes of another.

The Acadians were about seven thousand in number. A considerable part of them were made prisoners, and transported to the English colonies. All their dwellings and churches were burned, their cattle were killed, and the whole country was laid waste, so that none of them might find shelter or food in their old homes after the departure of the English.

“If such an incident did happen, Shirley, reflecting what a ruin of peaceful and humble hopes had been wrought by the cold policy of the statesman and the iron band of the warrior, might have drawn a deep moral from it. It should have taught him that the poor man’s hearth is sacred, and that armies and nations have no right to violate it. It should have made him feel that England’s triumph and increased dominion could not compensate to mankind nor atone to Heaven for the ashes of a single Acadian cottage. But it is not thus that statesmen and warriors moralize.”

“Grandfather,” cried Laurence, with emotion trembling in his voice, “did iron-hearted War itself ever do so hard and cruel a thing as this before?”

“You have read in history, Laurence, of whole regions wantonly laid waste,” said Grandfather….

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Elizabeth Inchbald: War, a choice of words

December 7, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Elizabeth Inchbald
From Nature and Art

In addition to his ignorant conversation upon many topics, young Henry had an incorrigible misconception and misapplication of many words. His father having had but few opportunities of discoursing with him, upon account of his attendance at the court of the savages, and not having books in the island, he had consequently many words to learn of this country’s language when he arrived in England. This task his retentive memory made easy to him; but his childish inattention to their proper signification still made his want of education conspicuous.

He would call compliments, lies; reserve, he would call pride; stateliness, affectation; and for the words war and battle, he constantly substituted the word massacre.

“Sir,” said William to his father one morning, as he entered the room, “do you hear how the cannons are firing, and the bells ringing?”

“Then I dare say,” cried Henry, “there has been another massacre.”

The dean called to him in anger, “Will you never learn the right use of words? You mean to say a battle.”

“Then what is a massacre?” cried the frightened, but still curious Henry.

“A massacre,” replied his uncle, “is when a number of people are slain -”

“I thought,” returned Henry, “soldiers had been people!”

“You interrupted me,” said the dean, “before I finished my sentence. Certainly, both soldiers and sailors are people, but they engage to die by their own free will and consent.”

“What! all of them?”

“Most of them.”

“But the rest are massacred?”

The dean answered, “The number who go to battle unwillingly, and by force, are few; and for the others, they have previously sold their lives to the state.”

“For what?”

“For soldiers’ and sailors’ pay.”

“My father used to tell me, we must not take away our own lives; but he forgot to tell me we might sell them for others to take away.”

“William,” said the dean to his son, his patience tired with his nephew’s persevering nonsense, “explain to your cousin the difference between a battle and a massacre.”

“A massacre,” said William, rising from his seat, and fixing his eyes alternately upon his father, his mother, and the bishop (all of whom were present) for their approbation, rather than the person’s to whom his instructions were to be addressed – “a massacre,” said William, “is when human beings are slain, who have it not in their power to defend themselves.”

“Dear cousin William,” said Henry, “that must ever be the case with every one who is killed.”

After a short hesitation, William replied: “In massacres people are put to death for no crime, but merely because they are objects of suspicion.”

“But in battle,” said Henry, “the persons put to death are not even suspected.”

The bishop now condescended to end this disputation by saying emphatically,

“Consider, young savage, that in battle neither the infant, the aged, the sick, nor infirm are involved, but only those in the full prime of health and vigour.”

As this argument came from so great and reverend a man as the bishop, Henry was obliged, by a frown from his uncle, to submit, as one refuted; although he had an answer at the veriest tip of his tongue, which it was torture to him not to utter. What he wished to say must ever remain a secret….

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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Every warlike achievement involves an amount of physical and moral evil

December 6, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selections on war

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Nathaniel Hawthorne
From Grandfather’s Chair

Since Grandfather began the history of our chair, little Alice had listened to many tales of war. But probably the idea had never really impressed itself upon her mind that men have shed the blood of their fellow-creatures. And now that this idea was forcibly presented to her, it affected the sweet child with bewilderment and horror.

***

“The English Parliament,” replied Grandfather, “agreed to pay the colonists for all the expenses of the siege. Accordingly, in 1749, two hundred and fifteen chests of Spanish dollars and one hundred casks of copper coin were brought from England to Boston. The whole amount was about a million of dollars. Twenty-seven carts and trucks carried this money from the wharf to the provincial treasury. Was not this a pretty liberal reward?”

“The mothers of the young men who were killed at the siege of Louisburg would not have thought it so,” said Laurence.

“No; Laurence,” rejoined Grandfather; “and every warlike achievement involves an amount of physical and moral evil, for which all the gold in the Spanish mines would not be the slightest recompense….”

***

“Oh Grandfather,” cried Charley, “you must tell us about that famous battle.”

“No, Charley,” said Grandfather, “I am not like other historians. Battles shall not hold a prominent place in the history of our quiet and comfortable old chair….”

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Horace Walpole: I wish there were an excuse for not growing military mad

December 5, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Walpole: Selections on war and peace

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Horace Walpole
From his correspondence

We are going to send many more troops thither; and it is so much the fashion to raise regiments, that I wish there were such a neutral kind of beings in England as abbès, that one might have an excuse for not growing military mad, when one has turned the heroic corner of one’s age. I am ashamed of being a young rake, when my seniors are covering their gray toupees with helmets and feathers, and accoutering their pot-bellies with cuirasses and martial masquerade habits.

I am much obliged for the notice of Sir Compton’s illness; if you could send me word of peace too, I should be completely satisfied on Mr. Conway’s account.

Till the campaign is ended, I shall be in no humour to smile. For the war, when it will be over, I have no idea. The peace is a jack o’ lanthorn that dances before one’s eyes….

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Nathaniel Hawthorne: How glorious it would have been if our forefathers could have kept the country unspotted with blood!

December 4, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selections on war

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Nathaniel Hawthorne
From Grandfather’s Chair

What with recruiting and drilling of soldiers, there was now nothing but warlike bustle in the streets of Boston. The drum and fife, the rattle of arms, and the shouts of boys were heard from morning till night….

“The people of New England were probably glad of some repose; for their young men had been made soldiers, till many of them were fit for nothing else. And those who remained at home had been heavily taxed to pay for the arms, ammunition; fortifications, and all the other endless expenses of a war. There was great need of the prayers of Cotton Mather and of all pious men, not only on account of the sufferings of the people, but because the old moral and religious character of New England was in danger of being utterly lost.”

“How glorious it would have been,” remarked Laurence, “if our forefathers could have kept the country unspotted with blood!”

“Yes,” said Grandfather; “but there was a stern, warlike spirit in them from the beginning. They seem never to have thought of questioning either the morality or piety of war.”

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C. S. Lewis: The folly and danger of noble and humanitarian war

November 25, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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C. S. Lewis
From The Four Loves

Rulers must somehow nerve their subjects to defend them or at least to prepare for their defence. Where the sentiment of patriotism has been destroyed this can be done only by presenting every international conflict in a purely ethical light. If people will spend neither sweat nor blood for “their country” they must be made to feel that they are spending them for justice, or civilisation, or humanity. This is a step down, not up. Patriotic sentiment did not of course need to disregard ethics. Good men needed to be convinced that their country’s cause was just; but it was still their country’s cause, not the cause of justice as such. The difference seems to me important. I may without self-righteousness or hypocrisy think it just to defend my house by force against a burglar; but if I start pretending that I blacked his eye purely on moral grounds – wholly indifferent to the fact that the house in question was mine – I become insufferable….If our country’s cause is the cause of God, wars must be wars of annihilation. A false transcendence is given to things which are very much of this world.

***

If ever the book which I am not going to write is written it must be the full confession by Christendom of Christendom’s specific contribution to the sum of human cruelty and treachery. Large areas of “the World” will not hear us till we have publicly disowned much of our past. Why should they? We have shouted the name of Christ and enacted the service of Moloch.

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Horace Walpole: We peaceable folks are now to govern the world

November 22, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Walpole: Selections on war and peace

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Horace Walpole
From his correspondence (1761)

You may frown if you please at my imprudence, you who are gone with all the disposition in the world to be well with your commander; the peace is in a manner made, and the anger of generals will not be worth sixpence these ten years. We peaceable folks are now to govern the world, and you warriors must in your turn tremble at our Subjects the mob, as we have done before your hussars and court-martials.

Good night! mine is a life of letter-writing; I pray for a peace that I may sheath my Pen.

In spite of you, and all the old barons our ancestors, I pray that we may have done with glory, and would willingly burn every Roman and Greek historian who have don nothing but transmit precedents for cutting throats.

I am writing, I am building – both works that will outlast the memory of battles and heroes!

If it produces a peace, I shall be happy for mankind – if not, shall content myself with the single but pure joy of Mr. Conway’s being safe.

You have heard our politics; they do not mend, sick of glory, without being tired of war, and surfeited with unanimity before it had finished its work, we are running into all kinds of confusion. The city have bethought themselves, and have voted that they will still admire Mr. Pitt; consequently, be, without the cheek of seeming virtue, may do what he pleases. An address of thanks to him has been carried by one hundred and nine against fifteen, and the city are to instruct their members; that is, because we are disappointed of a Spanish war, we must have one at home.

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John Erskine: Dedication

November 20, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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John Erskine
Dedication

When imperturbable the gentle moon
Glides above war and onslaught through the night,
When the sun burns magnificent at noon
On hate contriving horror by its light,
When man, for whom the stars were and the skies,
Turns beast to rend his fellow, fang and hoof
Shall we not think, with what ironic eyes
Nature must look on us and stand aloof?
But not alone the sun, the moon, the stars,
Shining unharmed above man’s folly move;
For us three beacons kindle one another
Which waver not with any wind of wars:
We love our children still, still them we love
Who gave us birth, and still we love each other.

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William Morris: The role of soldiers and how they will disappear

November 18, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Morris: No man knew the sight of blood

William Morris: Protecting the strong from the weak, selling each other weapons to kill their own countrymen

William Morris: War abroad but no peace at home

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William Morris
From lectures on art

The magistrate, the judge, the policeman, and the soldier are the sword and pistol of this modern highwayman, and I may add that he is also furnished with what he can use of the name of morals and religion.

…a mere nation is the historical deduction from the ancient tribal family in which there was peace between the individuals composing it and war with the rest of the world. A nation is a body of people kept together for purposes of rivalry and war with other similar bodies, and when competition shall have given place to combination, the function of the nation will be gone.

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C. P. Snow: Their day is done

November 14, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

C.P. Snow: Selections on war

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C. P. Snow
From The Light and The Dark

The news glared at him – for his melancholy was the melancholy of his nature, but it had drawn him into the horror of war.

Most of the college was uncomfortable and strained about the prospect of war: only one or two of the very old escaped….

***

They found themselves in a strong and sudden sympathy about the prospect of war. They could see no way out, and they were full of a revulsion almost physical in its violence….

“It will be frightful,” said Roy. Throughout he had spoken moderately and sensibly; he had said no more than many men were saying: he had remarked quietly that he did not know his own courage – it might be adequate, he could not tell.

“It will be frightful,” Lord Boscastle echoed the phrase. And I saw his eyes leave Roy and turn with clouded, passionate anxiety upon his son. Humphrey Bevill was good-looking in his frail, girlish way; his skin was pink, smooth and clear; he has his father’s beakish nose, which somehow did not distract from his delicacy. His eyes were bright blue, like his mother’s….

Lord Boscastle stared at his son with anxiety and longing; for Lord Boscastle could not restrain his strong instinctive devotion, and for him war meant nothing less than danger to his beloved son.

***

“No, Lewis, I’m afraid that Humphrey will always be innocent. He’s like his father. They’re quite unfit to cope with what will happen to them.”

“What will happen to them?”

“You know as well as I do. Their day is done. It will finish this time – if it didn’t in 1914, which I’m sometimes inclined to think….”

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Hervey Allen: Dragon’s Breath

November 11, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Hervey Allen: Hands off our dead! To war orators.

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Hervey Allen
Dragon’s Breath

We held the last stone wall – when day was red –
They crept like morning shadows through the dead,
The flammenwerfer with their dragon’s breath
Compressed in nippled bottle-tanks of death.

They puffed along the wall and one long cry
Withered away into the morning sky,
And some made crablike gestures where they lay
And all our faces turned oil gray,
Before the smoke rolled by.

It is beyond belief
How men can live
All curled up like a leaf.

I saw a man bloom in a flower of flame,
Roaring with fire,
Three times he called a name;
Three times he whirled within a white-hot pod
With busy hands and cried, “Oh, God! Oh, God!”

Now when the crumpets lie with blusterous joy
And the silk, wind-tweaked colors virgin fresh,
Borne by the blithe, boy bodies glitter past,
As the old gladiators throw their mesh;
The dragon’s breath leaps from the bugle blast
And Azrael comes pounding with his drum –
Fe, fe,…fi, fo, fum
I smell the roasting flesh!

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Richard Jefferies: The raven, a fable

November 10, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Richard Jefferies
From Wood Magic: A Fable

“In his rage Kapchack ordered a decimation of the wood-pigeons, which I myself think was a great mistake; but, as I have told you before, I do not meddle with politics. Still I cannot help thinking that if he had, instead, of his royal bounty and benevolence, given the wood-pigeons an increase of territory, seeing how near they sometimes came to a famine, that they would have been disarmed and their discontent turned to gratitude; but he ordered in his rage and terror that they should be decimated, and let loose the whole army of his hawks upon them, so that the slaughter was awful to behold, and the ground was strewn with their torn and mangled bodies….”

***

“I counsel instant attack. War to the beak is my motto!”

“War to the beak,” said the crow.

“War to the beak,” said the jay, carefully adjusting his brightest feathers, “and our ladies will view our deeds.”

***

The raven, you must know, my dear Sir Bevis, was once the principal judge and arbiter of justice amongst us, so much so that he was above kings, and it is certain that had he been here we should not have had to submit to the sanguinary tyranny of Kapchack, nor condemned to witness the scandalous behaviour of his court, or the still greater scandal of his own private life. But for some reason the raven mysteriously left this country about a hundred years ago, leaving behind him certain prophecies, some of which no doubt you have heard, especially that upon his return there will be no more famine, nor frost, nor slaughter, nor conflict, but we shall all live together in peace.

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Hervey Allen: Hands off our dead! To war orators.

November 9, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Hervey Allen: Dragon’s Breath

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Hervey Allen
From Water Lilies

They make me think of battlefields I saw
Where butterflies with wings of sulphurous gold
Crawled on gray faces death had made obscene
That stared with stolid dolls’ eyes from the mold.

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Hands Off

Dedicated to Orators and Others.

I know a glade in Argonne where they lean –
Those crosses – loosened by last winter’s snows,
Throwing their silent shadows on the green;
There I could go this very day – God knows!
To hide a sorrow mocked by tears and words,
To fall face downward on the catholic grass
That sprang this springtime through the shroud of snows
And let the little, greenwood birds say mass.

Like sound of taps at twilight from the hill,
The solemn thought comes that these lads are gone;
At evening when the breathing world grows still
And ghostly day steals from the bird-hushed lawn,
When over wooded crests the swimming moon
Casts ivory spells of beauty they have lost,
Across delicious valleys warm with June
I count the ghastly price the victory cost.

I count it in moongold and coin of life,
The love and beauty that these dead have missed,
Who lived to reap no glory from the strife,
But are like sleepers by the loved one kissed;
Each sleeps and knows not that she is so near,
Or at the most sinks deeper in his dream,
And life, and all blithe things they once held dear,
Are far and faint like voices of a stream.

Hands off our dead! For all they did forbear
To drag them from their graves to point some speech;
Less sickening was the gas reek over there,
Less deadly was the shrapnel’s whirring screech;
You cannot guess the uttermost they gave;
Those martyrs did not die for chattering daws
To loot false inspiration from the grave
When mouthing fools turn ghouls to gain applause.

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Angela Morgan: War! Shall you be our lover? War! Shall you be our mate?

November 5, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Angela Morgan: Selections on war and peace

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Angela Morgan
The Maidens of Europe Speak

War! Shall you be our lover?
War! Shall you be our mate?
Speak and answer us, Robber!
How shall you compensate?
You who came like a thief in the night
And snatched your men for the brutal fight,
Nor reckoned with the maidens,
The white-faced maidens.
The star-eyed maidens standing in a row –
(My lover, O my lover! God calls and you must go.)
How shall you answer the heart’s call
And the soul’s call
And the blood’s call
For him who was all in all?
You who have killed our lovers, and let the love remain.
How shall you kill the pain?
Who is the Fiend from whom you came?…
Can you name his name
Who gave you the right
Masked with glory and armed with might
To steal away our brave men, our dear men, our young men
With all their lives untold…
(O kiss me, kiss me, lover I But alas, his lips are cold.)
Do you know when you slaughter a million men
You slaughter more than a million dreams never to bloom again?…
And break the hearts of maidens.
White-armed maidens,
Sad-faced maidens standing in a row.
(Oh, empty moonlit places where lovers used to go!)
We with our womanhood denied.
Never to bear the name of bride
Challenge and face you, Robber!
How can your kingdom stand?
You who have dared to countermand
Edicts of Love, and cannot see
You rob, not us, but the race to be.
You who stole our dear men, our brave men, our sweet men.
With all their powers furled
(Those who should have lived, not have died, for the world)
Do you know that with every million men you killed
You scoffed at the rights of maidens, unfulfilled?…
Right of the ewe to the lamb, right of the tree
To flower and fruit, right of the rose to the bee.
Right of woman to mate with man.
Right of God to His plan.
(Oh, shattered dream of a tender nest And a babe at the breast!)
War! Shall you be our lover?
War! Shall you be our mate?
We who must go love-starved for life,
Never to know the name of wife,
Challenge and face you, Robber!
How shall you compensate?
You who came like a thief in the night
And stole your men for the brutal fight
Must answer to the maidens.
The million weeping maidens.
The stark-eyed maidens
Standing in a row.
(My lover, O my lover! Why did I let you go!)

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Lillian Rozell Messenger: Why this feast of shells each day, the fury, blood and wail of war?

November 4, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Lillian Rozell Messenger: Seeking a new world of peace

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Lillian Rozell Messenger
“The Time Needs Heart”

New science-ships sail in from vasty seas,
And touch our shores, and leave the keys
Of secret worlds, with giants of high thought –
The wise who toiled and wrought –
Then pass to other shores of truth:
Albeit with every treasure great they bring,
The mighty bard, and poets truly sing,
With all of mind and science, creed, and art,
“The time needs Heart!”

Invention stands supreme on summits high,
With eager, piercing eye;
Above the world, colossal queen, she coils
Around her secrets, strands as strong as steel,
Yet light as mist from brow to heel,
And signs: -“The world is mine!”
While greed laughs out, “Nay, mine, not thine!”
Still comes the poet’s song from vale and height:
“‘Tis never might makes right,
But love, supreme o’er mind and art;
“The time needs Heart!”

And art speaks out her dream: “The world is mine;
I came of and I give you the divine;
In every music-note, star-wave, and flower
I the resultant am of mind and power.”
But still, the lonely bard who died for bread,
The hapless sculptor by his statue dead,
Gave their true souls mayhap for love, not art;
“The iron age needs Heart!”

Else why this feast of shells each day
For men? this weeping in life’s sorrow-vale
Of tortured souls? The prisoner on his way
To double-death? the fury, blood and wail
Of war, involving men in God’s great image made?
Why should one creature be of life afraid?
Alas, the age of iron, greed and gain
Puts out the torch, the truth and flame
Of love and art as on each soul (the poet’s page),
Of this most wonderous age,
Is burned – “The time needs heart !”

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André Pieyre de Mandiargues: Mercy and Peace squares

November 3, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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André Pieyre de Mandiargues
From The Margin
Translated by Richard Howard

The sun, which had moved down the sky, is still warm once he leaves the narrow streets behind, and in the open space the mild atmosphere of the Plaza de la Merced persists, despite the presence at the quay of three American destroyers aiming clawlike objects at the sky….

***

He reaches the enormous Plaza de la Paz, in front of a kind of barracks where two employees in mud-colored uniforms, bayonets on their rifles, stand guard, and the word paz, which he has read on the corner of the building, appears before his eyes a second time on a sign flank by the soldiers of Castile aggressively posted in the Catalan city. Their unappealing aspect makes him turn his back, without reading further.

***

He circles the pedestal quickly, the traffic light is red, permitting him to cross the Paseo to the presumed barracks, he passes in front of the paz sign between the bayonets of the soldiers on duty….

***

From this point on, he is led to think of the enormous slaughters commanded in the outskirts of Seville by General Queipo de Llano, whose name is fixed in his memory on account of Sergine who, based on her reading of Max Aub, has told him how this hero, after murdering indiscriminately for several months, had ordered his men to “stop shooting anyone under the age of fifteen.”

***

This stir is for a group of American sailors, apparently from the Altair, three of whom (heavy-set) are in blue uniforms, two (lanky) in whites, and two older men in civilian clothes.

First the Americans order a bottle of cognac and various carbonated drinks, mostly caramel-colored and chemically constituted under the trade-marks Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

***

There is no city where statues are placed so high as in Barcelona, as if it were dangerous to leave them within men’s reach.

***

A red dot moves up along his left side – a ladybug which has landed on the lapel of his jacket, without his having seen it appear….He takes between his two fingers, delicately, the tiny beetle which resembles a miniature tortoise decorated with a brush in the Swiss taste, and sets it down on one of the loveliest roses….Never, he thinks, has he wanted, never will he want to kill any animal, not even the smallest, to uproot the least seed.

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H. Lavinia Baily: Recall

November 2, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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

H. Lavinia Baily: A Lost Song?

H. Lavinia Baily: A New Earth

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H. Lavinia Baily
Recall

Put up thy sword, O Nation, grand and strong!
Call in thy fleet-winged missiles from the sea;
Art thou not great enough to suffer wrong,
Land of the brave, the freest of the free?

Put up thy sword. ‘Tis nobler to endure
Than to avenge thee at another’s cost;
And while thy claim and purpose are made sure,
Behold that other’s life and honor lost.

Put up thy sword. It hath not hushed the cry
That called it all too rashly from its sheath;
Still o’er the fated isle her children lie
And find surcease from anguish but in death.

Put up thy sword, O Country, strong and free,
Let strife and avarice and oppression cease;
So shall the world thy Star of Empire see
Resplendent o’er the heaven-touched hills of Peace.

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D. H. Lawrence: If they do not kill him in this war

November 1, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

D. H. Lawrence: Selections on war

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D. H. Lawrence
From Twilight in Italy

We ate in the kitchen, where the olive and laurel wood burned in the open fireplace. It was always soup in the evening. Then we played games or cards, all playing; or there was singing, with the accordion, and sometimes a rough mountain peasant with a guitar.

But it is all passing away. Giovanni is in America, unless he has come back to the War. He will not want to live in San Gaudenzio when he is a man, he says. He and Marco will not spend their lives wringing a little oil and wine out of the rocky soil, even if they are not killed in the fighting which is going on at the end of the lake. In my loft by the lemon-houses now I should hear the guns. And Giovanni kissed me with a kind of supplication when I went on to the steamer, as if he were beseeching for a soul. His eyes were bright and clear and lit up with courage. He will make a good fight for the new soul he wants – that is, if they do not kill him in this War.

====

‘What does a Government mean? It makes us work, it takes part of our wages away from us, it makes us soldiers – and what for? What is government for?’

‘Have you been a soldier?’ I interrupted him.

He had not, none of them had: that was why they could not really go back to Italy. Now this was out; this explained partly their curious reservation in speaking about their beloved country. They had forfeited parents as well as homeland.

‘What does the Government do? It takes taxes; it has an army and police, and it makes roads. But we could do without an army, and we could be our own police, and we could make our own roads. What is this Government? Who wants it? Only those who are unjust, and want to have advantage over somebody else. It is an instrument of injustice and of wrong.

‘Why should we have a Government? Here, in this village, there are thirty families of Italians. There is no government for them, no Italian Government. And we live together better than in Italy. We are richer and freer, we have no policemen, no poor laws. We help each other, and there are no poor.

‘Why are these Governments always doing what we don’t want them to do? We should not be fighting in the Cirenaica if we were all Italians. It is the Government that does it. They talk and talk and do things with us: but we don’t want them.’

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Emmanuel Roblès: The war has changed my soul

October 31, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Emmanuel Roblès: Respect is first due to the living

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Emmanuel Roblès
From Vesuvius 
Translated by Milton Stansbury

I remember that as a child, I used to write my stronger resolutions in a notebook: I would stop telling lies; I would endure injustice; never seek revenge. I would be austere, unsullied, my soul would attain crystal purity. Oh, Silvia, Silvia, the war has changed my soul, tarnished it and at times I felt it shuddering with hatred and disgust. I had been taught, Silvia, to respect mankind, to respect life, and I recall having felt sick with remorse at even having crushed a spider under my heel. I hadn’t been able to suppress my repulsion and was haunted by the vision of the whitish pink spot on which the long mutilated legs still moved. I was of the breed, Silvia, of men the least prepared for cruelty and violence, and I had been born into a world dominated by just that – by the passion for destruction, the will to humiliate and debase!

***

I lingered in the room, took a few steps forward to the altar. The tortured Christ bent his head sorrowfully on the copper cross….I did not believe in the God I saw dying there, yet I knew that everyday in this war that agony began all over again. And I thought I had suddenly discovered what Christians among themselves call charity.

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G. B. Stern: Conventions of war? War itself is the outrage.

October 30, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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G. B. Stern
From Children of No Man’s Land

“But people move about. Cross over. Get mixed. You cannot actually fasten down humanity as neatly as on a map; a line here, and a line there, and this side is English, and this side German. During all these years of peace, little separate individuals busily and happily intermarrying and begetting children; becoming entangled in trade and in friendship; by a million amenities of commerce and art and amusement and family, semi-obliterating the sharp boundary outlines.

“People drift about. And then a war happens. Like a ripping of canvas. No – like two lines of trenches….A scramble apart to either trench – lucky beggars who know quite distinctly where they belong. And No Man’s Land between. And some stranded in No Man’s Land….

***

And suddenly Richard stood still and began to laugh. And what chance of defence had a man standing beside a bursting bomb thrown by an unseen hand from fifty yards away? Little silly, fretful rules – with death and destruction and decay streaming wide over one country after another; whirring in the very air above God’s churches; throbbing in the sea under the millionaire’s pleasure-ship; each individual helplessly involved with their bodies or with their goods or with their hearts. Then, what the devil is the use of some abstract gabble about the conventions of a game?…All that was for five hundred years ago, when one soldier had it out with another soldier according to the laws of chivalry. But in this wholesale welter….All that fuss about two or three isolated lives sacrificed against the rules, as compared to the thousands according to rule; agony outside the rules, and agony according to rule. When it comes to it, what’s the difference? Ludicrous to reason in the old way – the ravings of an idiot; we have ramped so far round in the circle of civilization that we are miles behind again….

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H. Lavinia Baily: A New Earth

October 29, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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

H. Lavinia Baily: A Lost Song?

H. Lavinia Baily: Recall

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H. Lavinia Baily
A New Earth

I have dreamed a sweet dream; I have seen a fair vision;
I have looked the wide universe o’er;
And earth’s nations arise in a glory elysian –
They do not learn war any more.

There are music and mirth; there are childhood’s sweet voices,
Winsome age lends its placid charm there;
There are laughter and glee as when home-life rejoices
Unshadowed by sorrow or care.

In all noble achievement, all worthy endeavor,
Men in kindly ambition contend;
But the valiant of heart may yet know he hath ever
In his sturdiest foeman a friend.

Nevermore the proud boast or the haughty defiance; –
Without end shall His kingdom increase;
‘Tis the day of all nations in Holy Alliance,
‘Tis the reign of truth, justice, and peace.

Nevermore shall a nation lift sword against nation,
The dominion of Hatred is o’er;
‘Tis the triumph of Love, ’tis the dawn of Christ’s kingdom,
They shall not learn war any more.

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Clément Richer: The impatience of dead generals

October 28, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Clément Richer
From Son of Ti-Coyo
Translated by Gerard Hopkins

Famous generals by the dozens were turning in their graves because they had not yet been able to clamber onto metal horses – preferably of bronze – in the middle of public squares, or at the corners of the avenues that bore their names – and all because the necessary funds had been lacking. Neither group of claimants – the defunct ministers and the late generals – could wait any longer. Thus it came about that the ruined city had to possess itself in patience – which it had long grown used to doing.

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G. J. Whyte-Melville: Death is gathering his harvest – and the iron voice tolls on

October 27, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

G. J. Whyte-Melville: A soldier who fattens a battlefield, encumbers a trench, has his name misspelled in a gazette

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G. J. Whyte-Melville
From The Interpreter: A Tale of the War

Boom! – there it is again! Every eye lightens at that dull, distant sound. Every man’s pulse beats quicker, and his head towers more erect, for he feels that he has arrived at the real thing at last. No sham fighting is going on over yonder, not two short leagues from where he stands – no mock bivouac at Chobham, nor practice in Woolwich Marshes, nor meaningless pageant in the Park: that iron voice carries death upon its every accent. For those in the trenches it is a mere echo – the unregarded consequence that necessarily succeeds the fierce rush of a round-shot or the wicked whistle of a shell; but for us here at Balaklava it is one of the pulsations of England’s life-blood – one of the ticks, so to speak, of that great Clock of Doom which points ominously to the downfall of the beleaguered town.

Boom! Yes, there it is again; you cannot forget why you are here. Day and night, sunshine and storm, scarce five minutes elapse in the twenty-four hours without reminding you of the work in hand. You ride out from the camp for your afternoon exercise, you go down to Balaklava to buy provisions, or you canter over to the monastery at St. George’s to visit a sick comrade – the iron voice tolls on. In the glare of noon, when everything else seems drowsy in the heat, and the men lie down exhausted in the suffocating trenches – the iron voice tolls on. In the calm of evening, when the breeze is hushed and still, and the violet sea is sleeping in the twilight – the iron voice tolls on. So when the flowers are opening in the morning, and the birds begin to sing, and reviving nature, fresh and dewy, seems to scatter health and peace and good-will over the earth – the iron voice tolls on. Nay, when you wake at midnight in your tent from a dream of your far-away home – oh! what a different scene to this! – tired as you may be, ere you have turned to sleep once more, you hear it again. Yes, at midnight as at noon, at morn as at evening, every day and all day long, Death is gathering his harvest – and the iron voice tolls on.

***

Tonight he is as gay, as lively, as cheerful as usual; tomorrow he will be but a form of senseless clay, shot through the head in the trenches.

Categories: Uncategorized

H. Lavinia Baily: A Lost Song?

October 26, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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

H. Lavinia Baily: A New Earth

H. Lavinia Baily: Recall

====

H. Lavinia Baily
A Lost Song?

Horror of combat, and tumult and dread;
Thunder of cannon and bursting of bomb;
Moans of the wounded (who envy the dead)
Lost in the clamor of trumpet and drum.
O where is the song of the angels?
O when shall we hear it again?
“Peace on earth,” rang the chorus seraphic,
“And good will evermore among men.”

Here is fierce anger and hatred and death,
Pitiless slaughter of pitiless foe;
Blessings and curses poured forth in a breath;
Brave self-forgetting, and measureless woe.
But where is the song of the angels?
O when shall we hear it again?
“Peace on earth,” rang the chorus seraphic,
“And good will evermore among men.”

Blue waves of ocean are reddened with gore,
Victor and victim earth holds to her breast;
Hearts that will thrill with ambition no more;
Heads that so lately fond mothers caressed.
O where is the song of the angels?
O when shall we hear it again?
“Peace on earth,” rang the chorus seraphic,
“And good will evermore among men.”

Victory, purchased at infinite cost,
Honors and titles so fearfully won,
Fame, at the price of lives blighted and lost,
Graves, all unnoted, unnumbered, unknown.
O where is the song of the angels?
Dear Christ, let us hear it again;
“Peace on earth,” send the chorus seraphic,
“Peace on earth, and good will among men.”

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: War has tricked us

October 25, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Saint-Exupéry: Charred flesh of children viewed with indifference

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
From Peace or War?
Translated by Adrienne Foulke

We must never forget that modern warfare trafficks in the bomb and in mustard gas. War is no longer delegated to a group that garners heroes’ laurels along the national frontier.

Let war be declared, and the next instant our stations, bridges, and factories will be pulverized. Our asphyxiated cities will retch and spew their populations over the countryside. Europe is an organism of two hundred million men. In the first moment of war, it will lose its entire nervous system, exactly as if it were burned out by acid; its control centers, regulatory glands. and semicircular canals will be one enormous cancer that will commence at once to corrode the whole. And how are two hundred million men to be fed? Grub as they will, they will never find roots enough.

Men can, of course, be stirred into life by being dressed up in uniforms and made to blare out chants of war. It must be confessed that this is one way to break bread with comrades and to find what they are seeking, which is a sense of something universal, of self-fulfillment. But of this bread men die.

In a world become a desert we thirst for comradeship. It is the savor of bread broken with comrades that makes us accept the values of war. But there are other ways than war to bring us the warmth of a race, shoulder to shoulder, toward an identical goal. War has tricked us. It is not true that hatred adds anything to the exaltation of the race.

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Maurice Druon: Why I exhort you not to threaten each other with your armaments

October 24, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Maurice Druon: A contempt for all things military

Maurice Druon: The dual prerogatives of minting coins and waging wars

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Maurice Druon
From Memoirs of Zeus
Translated by Humphrey Hare

Nature for man is a school of wisdom, and he who watches over the harvest knows the value of peace.

Wild or cultivated, a flower is a mysterious manifestation of passing beauty. It invites you to marvel, ad therefore to gratitude; it invites you to thought, and therefore to tolerance. A fragile culmination, it is a moment of happiness, and demands restraint in action. I often see you, mortals my children, proudly clasping a weapon or a purse; but I see you all too rarely carrying a flower in your hands.

***

Do you not think it a miracle that in the great lottery of life, among the millions of billions of numbers, yours should have been drawn? To be born, my sons, is to be one of the elect!

Two thousand million threads, two thousand million spindles! Think of the immense amount of work Lachesis has; and understand why it is I recommend you not to procreate without reflection, why I advise you to be very careful in your enterprises, of your food, of every step you take, and why I exhort you not to threaten each other with your armaments.

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Henri Bosco: Man kills just for the sake of killing

October 23, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Henri Bosco
From The Farm Théotime
Translated by Mervyn Savill

“We have frightened the tribes of the air,” he declared.

“In the time of Monsieur Clodius, your predecessor,” he went on, “these little creatures could never have received any visitors. That is why our presence frightens them today. Man kills for a trifle, just for the sake of killing – you know that as well as I do. And the birds know it too. They are certainly watching us from the tops of the trees, and just waiting for our departure before they start singing again. But I am afraid that they will no longer sing in the same carefree manner: in future they will live in a state of uneasiness.” He sighed once or twice, and repeated sadly: “It’s a pity.”

***

There is peace in the pure alone, and it is probably only the solitary who are pure. This is the reason why I, who am stamped with mediocrity, aspire to my appeasement through the paths of solitude to which, alas! my savage nature alone and not a natural elevation of the spirit has disposed me. I know myself.

***

One does not attain to the peace of the heart, if it is of this world, except by untiring work, frequent disappointment, and the sentiment of a true humility.

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G. J. Whyte-Melville: A soldier who fattens a battlefield, encumbers a trench, has his name misspelled in a gazette

October 22, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

G. J. Whyte-Melville: Death is gathering his harvest – and the iron voice tolls on

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G. J. Whyte-Melville
From The Interpreter: A Tale of the War

“Any news, Ropsley?” says Sir Harry, observing the pile of letters at his friend’s elbow; “no officials, I hope, to send you back to London.”

“None as yet, thank Heaven, Sir Harry” replies his friend; “and not much in the papers. We shall have war, I think.”

“Oh, don’t say so, Mr. Ropsley,” observes Constance, with an anxious look. “I trust we shall never see anything so horrid again.”

***

“Your health, Vere, and mon enfant, and vive le guerre!”

Vive le guerre!” I repeated; but the words stuck in my throat, for I had already seen something of the miseries brought by war into a peaceful country, and I could not look upon the struggle in which we were engaged with quite as much indifference as my volatile friend.

***

But what was I, to dream thus? A mere adventurer, at best a poor soldier of fortune, whose destiny, sooner or later, would be but too fatten a battle-field or encumber a trench, and have his name misspelled in a Gazette.

***

Young soldiers were they, mostly striplings of eighteen and twenty summers, with the smooth cheeks, fresh colour, and stalwart limbs of the Anglo-Saxon race – too good to fill a trench! And yet what would be the fate of at least two-thirds of that keen, light-hearted draft? Vestigia nulla retrorsum. Many a time has it made my heart ache to see a troop-ship ploughing relentlessly onward with her living freight to “the front,”- any a time have I recalled Æsop’s fable, and the foot-prints that were all towards the lion’s den, – many a time have I thought how every unit there in red was himself the centre of a little world at home; and of the grey heads that would tremble, and the loving faces that would pale in peaceful villages far away in England, when no news came from foreign parts of “our John,” or when the unrelenting Gazette arrived at last and proclaimed, as too surely it would, that he was coming back “never, never no more.”

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Jean Blewett: The doves are nesting in the cannons grim

October 21, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

Jean Blewett: Above the din of martial clamor, a crying in the dark

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Jean Blewett
Quebec

Quebec, the gray old city on the hill,
Lies, with a golden glory on her head,
Dreaming throughout this hour so fair, so still,
Of other days and her belovèd dead.
The doves are nesting in the cannons grim,
The flowers bloom where once did run a tide
Of crimson when the moon rose pale and dim
Above a field of battle stretching wide.
Methinks within her wakes a mighty glow
Of pride in ancient times, her stirring past,
The strife, the valor of the long ago
Feels at her heart-strings. Strong and tall, and vast
She lies, touched with the sunset’s golden grace,
A wondrous softness on her gray old face.

***

Peace

Unbroken peace, I ween, is sweeter far
Than reconciliation. Love’s red scar,
Though salved with kiss of penitence, and tears,
Remains, full oft, unhealed through all the years.

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Hilaire Belloc: War, propaganda and lies

October 20, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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Hilaire Belloc

The war has produced propaganda. Truth took to its bed in the spring of 1915 and died unregretted, with few attendants, about a year later. Everything since then has been propaganda.

It is an imperative duty to serve one’s country, and one’s country in danger of death had to be served by silence and by lies. But now the root has struck, and all this lying and all this silence has become a habit. So to-day, when you read this or that in a paper, you know very well that you are not reading any cold truth, but an advertisement.

On Truth and the Admiralty

They had put it up for a trophy. Never was a war with trophies so promiscuous!…But I never see a Bavarian or a Prussian gun stuck up mournfully in a little English town without thinking of the English and French guns which are knocking about somewhere among the German states.

Ultimata Ratio

I asked him whether he had made Harmsworth’s phrase “Rolling the French in mud and blood.” He said yes, but he had originally written it with a blank – “Rolling the (blank) in mud and blood,” and had hawked it all round London for years according as our foreign policy changed. The mud and the blood made a very good rhyme, and any old nation would do to fit into the blank. He had used the words “Russians” and “Spaniards.” and even – I say it with horror – “Yankees,” for he was at work as long ago as the Alabama claim, which I wasn’t. He only wished he had lived long enough to put “Germans,” but it happened just to fit in with the French at the moment he wrote it. He sold it to Harmsworth (he told me), and it came out in his papers, “We will roll the French in mud and blood.” It did great service, for it frightened the French to death and kept them out of Morocco in 1899.

On a Tag Provider

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Jean Renoir: War’s solemn human sacrifice

October 19, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Jean Renoir
From The Notebooks of Captain Georges
Translated by Norman Denny

At first I thought he was simply responding out of kindness with a similar tale of his own. However he continued with it, in the offhand manner with which I had become familiar, but which I knew to be only an appearance. He asked me to stop him if he was boring me. “After all,” he said, “this gorse and bracken is really more interesting than our human ups and downs. The struggle for life goes on forever, unlike the high-flown sentiments that inspire our wars.”

***

On the other hand, the war which we are now fighting does not hold up. Everybody knows that as soon as the echoes of gunfire have died down the former adversaries will be dancing in a ring around the golden calf.

***

Sixteen grindstones had been set up in the barracks square, one for each platoon. The armorers went back and forth, showing officers and men how to use them. It might have been the ritual of some barbaric religion. Each man piously held his blade against the stone, which he operated with treadle. The scream of steel against stone was like the wailing of wind through a thicket. Blunt in times of peace, the blades were now given their cutting edge, no longer to be aimed at straw-stuffed dummies but at human breasts. The regiment was passing from the frivolity of horsemanship to the solemnity of human sacrifice.

***

I might have stayed in the army, but I hated war and we may as well admit that the one exists only for the other.

***

War had hardened me. I had killed Germans who had done me no harm. I remember to this day a round-cheeked boy into whom I thrust my bayonet, like killing a baby.

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Angela Morgan: The Summons

October 18, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Angela Morgan: Selections on war and peace

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Angela Morgan
The Summons

Hate is the thing that will save mankind;
We love too much in our witless way,
Pulpit, sinner and state allied,
We are far too smug in our peace and pride,
Nation of blind men leading blind
We are all too dull in the psalms we say,
In the hymns we sing and the prayers we pray –
Insults flung in the face of Him
And His flaming cherubim.
Hate is the call we are waiting for,
Trumpeting high o’er the boom of war,
A hate so strong and a hate so wide
No wrong can stand in its ruthless tide.
Hate of tyranny, hate of lies.
Hate of the world’s hypocrisies.
Hate of arrogance, hate of sword.
Hate of systems that mock the Lord;
Hate of prayers to the Prince of Peace
For terror and war to cease.

Love is the thing that will save mankind.
We hate too much in the sordid way,
Pulpit, sinner and state the same
Our wrath is fanning the brutal flame : –
Hate of Germany, furious, blind;
Hate of English, or hate of Slav;
Hate of foes and the gains they have…
We are far too fierce in the prayers we pray
In the deeds we do and the things we say –
Insults flung in the face of God
While war is drenching the sod!
Love is the call we are waiting for,
Trumpeting high o’er the boom of war –
Not love that sits in a silken pew
And plays the game of the fattened few
Pleading for peace that man must make
While shells are sold for the Lord Christ’s sake,
But love that hates with a hate divine
The savage call of the firing line
Where man, whose every pulse is love
Must kill, kill! For the kings above;
Kill, kill! Though his sad heart break.
Kill, kill! For his country’s sake.
Hate is the power that will save the world;
We hold too hard to the outworn things.
Nations bending before the rod
In the blood-red path their fathers trod.
Keeping the time-worn flag unfurled: –
Love of “honor” and love of kings,
Love of war and the wrath it brings.
Love of money and love of creed
In face of the sad world’s need.

Hate is the summons, loud and late…
Hate that is love, love that is hate.
A hate so strong and a love so wide
No wrong can stand in their ruthless tide.
Love for the peoples wrecked by war,
Hate of the goals they grovel for.
Hate of jealousy, hate of strife.
Love for the humblest human life.
O Christ, most passionate Lover of all,
Help us to answer thy trumpet call…
Rally all nations under the sun.
Thy warring peoples pledge as one
In a great world-oath of brotherhood
To toil for the Future’s good.
If we hate with a hate that is pure enough.
And love with a love that is sure enough.
Thy Dream for man shall yet have birth.
Thy kingdom come on earth!

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W. H. Hudson: A mother’s plea

October 17, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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W. H. Hudson
From Far Away and Long Ago

These pleasant adventures with Dardo on the plain were suddenly put a stop to by the war. One morning a number of persons on foot and on horseback were seen coming to us over the green plain from the shepherd’s ranch, and as they drew nearer we recognized our old Alcalde on his horse as the leader of the procession, and behind him walked Dona Nata, holding her son by the hand; then followed others on foot, and behind them all rode four old gauchos, the Alcalde’s henchmen, wearing their swords.

What matter of tremendous importance had brought this crowd to our house? The Alcalde, Don Amaro Avalos, was not only the representative of the “authorities” in our parts – police officer, petty magistrate of sorts, and several other things besides – but a grand old man in himself, and he looms large in memory among the old gaucho patriarchs in our neighbourhood. He was a big man, about six feet high, exceedingly dignified in manner, his long hair and beard of a silvery whiteness; he wore the gaucho costume with a great profusion of silver ornaments, including ponderous silver spurs weighing about four pounds, and heavy silver whip-handle. As a rule he rode on a big black horse which admirably suited his figure and the scarlet colour and silver of his costume.

On arrival Don Amaro was conducted to the drawing-room, followed by all the others; and when all were seated, including the four old gauchos wearing swords, the Alcalde addressed my parents and informed them of the object of the visit. He had received an imperative order from his superiors, he said, to take at once and send to headquarters twelve more young men as recruits for the army from his small section of the district. Now most of the young men had already been taken, or had disappeared from the neighbourhood in order to avoid service, and to make up this last twelve he had even to take boys of the age of this one [15-years-old], and Medardo would have to go. But this woman would not have her boy taken, and after spending many words in trying to convince her that she must submit he had at last, to satisfy her, consented to accompany her to her master’s house to discuss the matter again in her master and mistress’s presence.

It was a long speech, pronounced with great dignity; then, almost before it finished, the distracted mother jumped up and threw herself on her knees before my parents, and in her wild tremulous voice began crying to them, imploring them to have compassion on her and help her to save her boy from such a dreadful destiny. What would he be, she cried, a boy of his tender years dragged from his home, from his mother’s care, and thrown among a crowd of old hardened soldiers, and of evil-minded men – murderers, robbers, and criminals of all descriptions drawn from all the prisons of the land to serve in the army!

It was dreadful to see her on her knees wringing her hands, and to listen to her wild lamentable cries; and again and again while the matter was being discussed between the old Alcalde and my parents, she would break out and plead with such passion and despair in her voice and words, that all the people in the room were affected to tears. She was like some wild animal trying to save her offspring from the hunters. Never, exclaimed my mother, when the struggle was over, had she passed so painful, so terrible, an hour! And the struggle had all been in vain, and Dardo was taken from us.

***

The young officer, whose home was more than a day’s journey from our district, had visited the neighbourhood on a former occasion and remembered that he had relations in it; and when he broke away from the men, divining that it was their intention to murder him, he made for the old Alcalde’s house. He succeeded in keeping ahead of his pursuers until he arrived at the gate, and throwing himself from his horse and rushing into the house, and finding the old Alcalde surrounded by the women of the house, addressed him as uncle and claimed his protection. The Alcalde was not, strictly speaking, his uncle but was his mother’s first cousin. It was an awful moment: the nine armed ruffians were already standing outside, shouting to the owner of the place to give them up their prisoner, and threatening to burn down the house and kill all the inmates if he refused. The old Alcalde stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by a crowd of women and children, his own two handsome daughters, aged about twenty and twenty-two respectively, among them, fainting with terror and crying for him to save them, while the young officer on his knees implored him for the sake of his mother’s memory, and of the Mother of God and of all he held sacred, to refuse to give him up to be slaughtered.

The old man was not equal to the situation: he trembled and sobbed with anguish, and at last faltered out that he could not protect him – that he must save his own daughters and the wives and children of his neighbours who had sought refuge in his house. The men outside, hearing how the argument was going, came to the door, and finally seizing the young man by the arm led him out and made him mount his horse again and ride with them. They rode back the way they had gone for half a mile towards our house, then pulled him off his horse and cut his throat.

On the following day a mulatto boy who looked after the flock and went on errands for the Alcalde, came to me and said that if I would mount my pony and go with him he would show me something. It was not seldom this same little fellow came to me to offer to show me something, and it usually turned out to be a bird’s nest, an object which keenly interested us both. I gladly mounted my pony and followed. The broken army had ceased passing our way by now, and it was peaceful and safe once more on the great plain. We rode about a mile, and he then pulled up his horse and pointed to the turf at our feet, where I saw a great stain of blood on the short dry grass. Here, he told me, was where they had cut the young officer’s throat: the body had been taken by the Alcalde to his house, where it had been lying since the evening before, and it would be taken for burial next day to our nearest village, about eight miles distant.

The murder was the talk of the place for some days, chiefly on account of the painful facts of the case – that the old Alcalde, who was respected and even loved by everyone, should have failed in so pitiful a way to make any attempt at saving his young relation. But the mere fact that the soldiers had cut the throat of their officer surprised no one; it was a common thing in the case of a defeat in those days for the men to turn upon and murder their officers. Nor was throat-cutting a mere custom or convention: to the old soldier it was the only satisfactory way of finishing off your adversary, or prisoner of war, or your officer who had been your tyrant, on the day of defeat.

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