Hannah More: War

September 25, 2017 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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Hannah More
War

O War, What art thou?
After the brightest conquest, what remains
Of all thy glories? For the vanquish’d – chains –
For the proud victor – what? Alas! to reign
O’er desolated nations – a drear waste,
By one man’s crime, by one man’s lust of power,
Unpeopled! Naked plains and ravaged fields,
Succeed to smiling harvests and the fruits
Of peaceful olive – luscious fig and vine!
Here, rifled temples are the cavern’d dens
Of savage beasts, or haunt of birds obscene;
There, populous cities blacken in the sun,
And in the general wreck proud palaces
Lie undistinguish’d, save by the dun smoke
Of recent conflagration! When the song
Of dear-bought joy, with many a triumph swell’d,
Salutes the victory’s ear, and soothes his pride,
How is the grateful harmony profaned
With the sad dissonance of virgins’ cries,
Who mourn their brothers slain! Of matrons hoar,
Who clasp their wither’d hands, and fondly ask
With iteration shrill – their slaughter’d sons!
How is the laurel’s verdure stain’d with blood
And soil’d with widows’ tears!

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Polybius: Diplomacy versus war

September 24, 2017 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Polybius: The bestialization of man by war

Polybius: Peace is a blessing for which we all pray to the gods

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Polybius
From The Histories
Translated by W.R. Paton

And surely to conquer one’s enemies by generosity and equity is of far higher service than any victory in the field; for to arms the vanquished yield from necessity, to virtue from conviction; in the one case the correction of error is made with much sacrifice, in the other the erring are guided to better ways without suffering hurt.

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William Tennant: While some sing of Mars’s bloody game…

September 23, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Tennant: Ode to Peace

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William Tennant
From Anster Fair

While some of Troy and pettish heroes sing,
And some of Rome and chiefs of pious fame,
And some of men that thought it harmless thing
To smite off heads in Mars’s bloody game,
And some of Eden’s garden gay with spring,
And Hell’s dominions terrible to name,
I sing a theme far livelier, happier, gladder…

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Marcus Aurelius: Military conquests lead but to the grave

September 22, 2017 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Marcus Aurelius
From Meditations
Translated by George Long

Alexander, and Pompeius, and Caius Caesar, after so often completely destroying whole cities, and in battle cutting to pieces many ten thousands of cavalry and infantry, themselves too at last departed from life.

***

Think continually…how many commanders after killing thousands; and how many tyrants who have used their power over men’s lives with terrible insolence as if they were immortal; and how many cities are entirely dead, so to speak, Helice and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and others innumerable. Add to the reckoning all whom thou hast known, one after another. One man after burying another has been laid out dead, and another buries him: and all this in a short time.

***
Alexander the Macedonian and his groom by death were brought to the same state; for either they were received among the same seminal principles of the universe, or they were alike dispersed among the atoms.

***

Alexander and Gaius and Pompeius, what are they in comparison with Diogenes and Heraclitus and Socrates? For they were acquainted with things, and their causes (forms), and their matter, and the ruling principles of these men were the same. But as to the others, how many things had they to care for, and to how many things were they slaves?

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Henry Lawson: And all the nations of the world prepare for war again!

September 21, 2017 1 comment

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

Henry Lawson
A Fantasy of War

From Australia.

Oh, tell me, God of Battles! Oh, say what is to come!
The King is in his trenches, the millionaire at home;
The Kaiser with his toiling troops, the Czar is at the front.
Oh! Tell me, God of Battles! Who bears the battle’s brunt?
The Queen knits socks for soldiers, the Empress does the same,
And know no more than peasant girls which nation is to blame.
The wounded live to fight again, or live to slave for bread;
The Slain have graves above the Slain – the Dead are with the Dead.
The widowed young shall wed or not, the widowed old remain –
And all the nations of the world prepare for war again!
But ere that time shall be, O God, say what shall here befall!
Ten millions at the battle fronts, and we’re five millions all!
The world You made was wide, O God, the world we made is small.
We toiled not as our fathers toiled, for
Sport was all our boast;
And so we built our cities, Lord, like warts, upon the coast.

*****

From Europe.

The seer stood on the mountain side, the witch was in her cave;
The gipsy with his caravan, the sailor on the wave;
The sophist in his easy chair, with ne’er a soul to save,
The factory slaves went forth to slave, the peasant to the field;
The women worked in winter there for one-tenth of the yield;
The village Granny nursed their babes to give them time to slave;
The child was in the cradle, and the grandsire in his grave.
The rich man slumbered in his chair, full fed with wine and meat;
The lady in her carriage sat, the harlot walked the street
With paint upon her cheek and neck, through winter’s snow and sleet.
We saw the pride of Wealth go mad, and Misery increase –
And still the God of Gods was dumb and all the world was Peace!

*****

The wizard on the mountain side, he drew a rasping breath,
For he was old and near to life, as he was near to death;
And he looked out and saw the star they saw at Nazareth.
“Two thousand years have passed,” he said. “A thousand years,” he said.
“A hundred years have passed,” he said, “and, lo! the star is red!
The time has come at last,” he said, and bowed his hoary head.
He laid him on the mountain-side – and so the seer was dead.
And so the Eastern Star was red, and it was red indeed –
We saw the Red Star in the South, but we took little heed.
(The Prophet in his garret starved or drank himself to death.)

*****

The witch was mumbling in her hole before the dawn was grey;
The witch she took a crooked stick and prodded in the clay;
She doddered round and mumbled round as is the beldame’s way.
“Four children shall be born,” she said, “four children at a birth;
Four children of a peasant brood – and what shall come on earth?
Four of the poorest peasantry that Europe knows,” she said,
“And all the nations of the world shall count their gory dead!”
The babes are born in Italy -and all the world is red!

*****

The Ship.

The world You gave was wide, O Lord, and wars were far away!
The goal was just as near, O Lord, to-morrow or to-day!
The tree You grew was stout and sound to carve the plank and keel.
(And when the darkness hid the sky Your hand was on the wheel.)
The pine You grew was straight and tall to fashion spar and mast.
Our sails and gear from flax and hemp were stout and firm and fast.
You gave the metal from the mine and taught the carpenter
To fasten plank and rib and beam, and sheath and iron her.
The world You made was wide, O Lord, with signs on sea and sky;
And all the stars were true, O Lord, you gave to steer her by.
More graceful than the albatross upon the morning breeze.
Ah me! she was the fairest thing that ever sailed the seas;
And when the madness of mankind burns out at last in war,
The world may yet behold the day she’ll sail the seas once more.
We were not satisfied, O Lord, we were not satisfied;
We stole Your electricity to fortify our pride!
You gave the horse to draw our loads, You gave the horse to ride;
But we must fly above the Alps and race beneath the tide.
We searched in sacred places for the things we did not need;
Your anger shook our cities down – and yet we took no heed.
We robbed the water and the air to give us “energy,”
As we’d exhaust Thy secret store of electricity.
The day may come – and such a day! – when we shall need all three.

*****

And lest Thou shouldst not understand our various ways and whys,
We cut Thy trees for paper, Lord, where-on to print our lies.
We sent the grand Titanic forth, for pleasure, gold and show;
And all her skeletons of wealth and jewels lie below.
For fame or curiosity, for pride, and greed, or trade,
We sought to know all things and make all things that Thou hast made!
From Pole to Pole we sought to speak, and Heaven’s powers employ –
Our cruisers feverishly seek such language to destroy.
We shaped all things for war, and now the Sister Nations wade
Knee-deep in white man’s blood to wreck all things that we have made!
For in the rottenness of Peace – worse than this bitter strife! –
We murdered the Humanity and Poetry of Life.

*****

The Bells and the Child.

The gongs are in the temple – the bells are in the tower;
The “tom-tom” in the jungle and the town clock tells the hour;
And all Thy feathered kind at morn have testified Thy power.
Did ever statesman save a land or science save a soul? –
Did ever Tower of Babel stand or wardrums cease to roll? –
Or wedding-bells to ring, O Lord – or requiems to toll?
Did ever child in cradle laid – born of a healthy race –
Cease for an hour, all unafraid, to testify Thy grace?
That shook its rattle from its bed in its proud father’s face?
Cathedral bells must cease awhile, because of Pride and Sin,
That never failed a wedding-morn that hailed a king and queen,
Or failed to peal for victory that brave men died to win.
(Or failed to ring the Old Year out and ring the New Year in.)
The world You made was wide, O God! – O God, ’tis narrow now –
And all its ways must run with blood, for we knew more than Thou!
And millions perish at the guns or rot beside the plough,
For we knew more than Thou.

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Aelian: A parable of two cities

September 20, 2017 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Aelian
From Historical Miscellany
Translated by N.G. Wilson

Silenus spoke to Midas on the following themes.

Europe, Asia, and Libya [Africa] are islands, around which the ocean flows, and the only continent is the one surrounding the outside of this world. He explained how infinitely big it is…There are many large cities, with various styles of life, and laws in force among them are different from those customary among us. He said that there were two very big cities, not at all like each other, one called Warlike and the other Pious. The inhabitants of Pious live in peace and with great wealth; they obtain the fruits of the earth without the plough and oxen, and they have no need to farm and cultivate. They remain healthy and free of disease, he said, and end their lives full of laughter and contented. They are indisputably just, so that even the gods frequently deign to visit them. The citizens of Warlike are for their part very bellicose; they are born with weapons, they are always fighting, and they subdue their neighbors; this one city controls a great many nations. The inhabitants are not less than twenty million. Sometimes they die of illness, but this is rare, since for the most part they lose their lives in battle…

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William Congreve: No more do youth leave the sacred arts for stubborn arms

September 19, 2017 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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William Congreve
From The Birth of the Muse

The madding winds are hush’d, the tempests cease,
And ev’ry rolling surge resides in peace.
And now the sacred leaf a landscape wears,
Where, Heav’n serene, and air unmov’d appears.
The rose and lily paint the verdant plains,
And palm and olive shade the sylvan scenes.
The peaceful Thames beneath his banks abides,
And soft and still the silver surface glides.

***

Whole nature wears a gay and joyous face,
And blooms and ripens with the fruits of peace.

***

No more the forward youth pursues alarms,
Nor leaves the sacred arts for stubborn arms.
No more the mothers from their hopes are torn,
Nor weeping maids the promis’d lover mourn.
No more the widows’ shrieks and orphans’ cries
Torment the patient air and pierce the skies.

 

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Julius Myron Alexander: The Flag of Peace

September 18, 2017 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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Julius Myron Alexander
The Flag of Peace

0 Nations of Earth! Make a banner of Peace,
An emblem to wave when carnage shall cease,
From ocean to ocean forever unfurled,
A love-gift of Heaven illuming the world;
Not for glory of gold, for nations or cast,
But to float o’er all people in Peace at last.

Peace to the land now red from the battle.
Peace to the cannon and canister’s rattle. I
Furled be the flag of the conflict on ocean,
Stilled be the waters from wars bloody potion;
As quiet of eve, when the sun falls asleep,
A soft song of peace o’er the land and the deep.

In the flag we exalt, weave threads of love,
As pure deep and true as the heavens above;
Let every fold that the winds may lift,
Proclaim the sweet, wonderful, world-wide gift;
By the breezes kissed, let it ever wave
As Life new-born, to the Free and the Slave.

Over North and South, over East and West,
Over valley and plain and mountain’s white crest,
Where great cities lie, a tumult of toil,
Where laborers barrow the sodden soil,
Float there the Flag, ’tis the Century’s right,
The breaking of day from the shades of night.

This be the waiting, the long years’ reward,
Prayers that are answered for those ’neath the sward;
Tho’ folded in death be the warrior’s hands,
Victory theirs in the Peace of the lands;
The sorrows of Mothers, the flaming of Mars,
Quenched in the light of the rising stars.

O Nations of Earth! Make a Flag of forgiving,
Make a Flag of glory in loving and living;
Crush not our hearts with burdens of sorrow,
End the brief day with a Peace for the marrow.
A Peace to the land now red from the battle,
A Peace to the cannon and canister’s rattle.

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Henry Jones: Bid discord cease, and open wide the gates of peace

September 17, 2017 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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Henry Jones
The Royal Vision: In an Ode to Peace

The mighty God of armies bows his ear
To wailing mankind’s moan,
The Lord of Hosts from heav’n looks down,
No more with awful eye severe;
He hears the bleeding nations groan,
He sees the vanquish’d fall, the victor frown;
He turns aside his face
By pity touch’d and godlike grace:
He calls BRITANNIA’s guardian angel loud,
Go, quell the sanguine, and assuage the proud:
Thy glorious lot on yonder orb below
That globe shall rule, my laurel there shall grow;
Arrest the rapid bolt, beat down the mortal steel,
For man laid waste my tender mercies feel.
He said, and pointed to the bless’d around
The gasping soldier, and the gushing wound,
With human nature fainting on the ground.
The bless’d themselves seem’d sad that space,
And begg’d that mankind might have peace.
Go forth, my strength, thy mighty wings outspread,
Yon crimson guilty banners tread,
Beneath the foot of peace, he said;
And sheath, oh! sheath the murd’rous sword;
This olive from thy radiant wing
(That near my mercy-seat still grows)
In GEORGE’s breast make joyful spring,
And with it wast my world creating word:
Let famine, pestilence and slaughter cease,
‘Tis my command, give weeping EUROPE peace,
And let her angry kings no more be foes.
With loud hosannas heav’ns eternal concave rung,
And halleluiahs to the God of peace were sung.
Th’ obedient angel cleaves th’ ethereal skies,
To GEORGE’s downy pillow straight he flies,
When balmy slumbers closed his happy eyes,
And on the organs of his fancy wrought,
The inmost fibres of his feeling heart;
With mystic sketch divine, angelic trace,
Before his melting mental eye he spread
The sick, the wounded, dying, and the dead:
The burning city sack’d, the raging battle fought,
In hideous groupes by form creating art;
With all the barb’rous mischiefs that deface
The works of God, since CAIN his brother slew,
He placed before his visionary view:
The infant sprawling on the soldier’s spear,
Or clinging to the murther’d mother’s breast,
Whose face retains a tenderness in death,
What heart of flesh a sight like this can bear?
See, for her babe she looks, ev’n now distress’d!
Her swelling sorrows seem to give her breath,
How agonizing fear her features fix
Lest with her flowing blood her milk should mix!
The venerable sire, see, by the hoary hairs,
Athwart the pavement dragg’d, that floats in blood,
The dagger through the matrons bosom thrust,
Who, ‘twixt the murd’rer and her husband, stood;
The screaming daughter mad her tresses tears,
When ravish’d at her gasping mother’s feet,
Whilst fury, blood, and lust
Polute each guilty street:
As if some fiend had snatch’d the love of kind,
And hell itself was lodg’d within the human mind:
There mines, and caves of death, their entrails burst
At one infernal blast, one horrid blow accurst:
See limbs and heads of men, and bodies fly
Like whirling feathers, scatter’d thro’ the frighted sky!
There wrapt in smoke, in sulphur, stench, and fire,
Whole armies in th’ astonish’d air expire!
But those, alas! are scenes of single woe,
Behold vast empires fall, at one destructive blow
The king lamented inly as he slept,
With tender throbs, for murder’d mankind wept;
When straight before his eye the angel plac’d
Those human fiends that lay all nature waste:
Ambition in the guilty front was there,
Who tortures heav’n and earth, and sea and air;
And tyranny with smiling frown,
Whose iron rod seems deck’d in down;
Discord in human gore deep dy’d,
With fire and water at her side;
Her hostile visage with itself at war,
Inverted eyes that glare, and horrid brows that jar:
And bigotry in meek disguise,
With dagger’d hand, and upcast eyes;
And envy, daughter of despair,
With palid lip, and ghastly air,
Who copies from tormented fiends her face,
The pest of hell, and bane of human race:
And pride, that parent of th’ infernal crew,
With haughty eye askance, and sanguine hue:
All these were martial’d in their dread array,
And horrid attributes before his eye,
The monarch startled, as in sleep he lay;
And from his inmost soul upheav’d a sigh.
The angel now with pow’r serene,
All gracious chang’d the horrid scene;
A milder vision gently drew,
The kings of EUROPE in his view,
With lifted hands and bended knees
Imploring peace, he pitying sees;
The christian virtues all around
Were kneeling near him on the ground:
Religion mounted mild, up to her sacred place,
Sublime she rose, awful, with heav’nly grace,
(That white-rob’d queen of sweet command,)
Still near his best-lov’d throne, and heart would stand:
The cross erect in one seraphic hand,
She held before the royal eye,
His love immense, that would for mankind die:
A precious crown, by purest virtue won,
Richer than rubies, brighter than the sun;
Where twice ten thousand various gems unite
Their trembling rays, in one celestial light
Her other hand divine holds up to view:
The horrid vices dazzled at the glorious sight
Sunk down at once to hell’s eternal night;
Whilst ravag’d realms, and sea, and air, look new.
Bid mankind smile whom heav’n ordains
To bind EUROPA’s bleeding veins,
Religion said; bid discord cease,
And open wide the gates of peace:
Call back that precious dove, my son proceed,
Compleat the god like work, behold thy glorious meed!
With seraphs thron’d thy diadem shall shine,
This crown to all eternity is thine:
Let christian kings in christian leagues agree,
And give the human heart to God and me.
The king bid EUROPE’s prostrate monarchs rise,
Whilst tears of pity from his flowing eyes,
Ran trickling down his crimson cheek,
Religion made him mild and meek,
And half his soul consented;
He bad the weeping world rejoyce,
With intellectual voice,
And ev’ry manly faculty relented:
CAESAR himself might now give o’er;
Conquest has her fill;
A christian monarch should do more,
Forbear the christian blood to spill:
Let glory hide her guilty rays,
Be mercy now my highest praise,
Let me my foes forgive;
Arise, ye vanquish’d monarchs, rise and live.
The social angel, when by pity press’d,
That moment lodg’d the heav’nly olive in his breast,
And fill’d his heart with clemency and grace,
The king awoke, he will’d; and all was peace.

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Ford Maddox Ford: Millions massacred for picturesque phrases in politicians’ speeches

September 16, 2017 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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Ford Maddox Ford
From No More Parades

Intense dejection, endless muddles, endless follies, endless villainies. All these men given into the hands of the most cynically care-free intriguers in long corridors who made plots that harrowed the hearts of the world. All these men toys, all these agonies mere occasions for picturesque phrases to be put into politicians’ speeches without heart or even intelligence. Hundreds of thousands of men tossed here and there in that sordid and gigantic mud-brownness of midwinter…by God, exactly as if they were nuts wilfully picked up and thrown over the shoulder by magpies…But men. Men you worried over there. Each man a man with a backbone, knees, breeches, braces, a rifle, a home, passions, fornications, drunks, pals, some scheme of the universe. corns, inherited diseases, a green-grocer’s business, a milk walk, a paper stall, brats, a slut of a wife…

Heavy depression settled down more heavily upon him. The distrust of the home Cabinet, felt by then the greater part of the army, became like physical pain. These immense sacrifices, this ocean of mental sufferings, were all undergone to further the private vanities of men who amidst these hugenesses of landscapes and forces appeared pygmies! It was the worries of all these wet millions in mud-brown that worried him. They could die, they could be massacred, by the quarter million, in shambles. But that they should be massacred without jauntiness, without confidence, with depressed brows, without parade…

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Isaac Watts: Clamor, and wrath, and war, begone

September 15, 2017 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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Isaac Watts
Hymn 130
Love and hatred. Phil. 2:2; Eph. 4:30, etc.

Now by the bowels of my God,
His sharp distress, his sore complaints,
By his last groans, his dying blood,
I charge my soul to love the saints.

Clamor, and wrath, and war, begone,
Envy and spite, for ever cease;
Let bitter words no more be known
Amongst the saints, the sons of peace.

The Spirit, like a peaceful dove,
Flies from the realms of noise and strife:
Why should we vex and grieve his love
Who seals our souls to heav’nly life?

Tender and kind be all our thoughts,
Through all our lives let mercy run;
So God forgives our num’rous faults,
For the dear sake of Christ his Son.

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John Whitehouse: Ode to War

September 14, 2017 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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Rev. John Whitehouse
Ode To War

I.

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

II.

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

III.

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

IV.

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

 

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Thomas Chatterton: Peace, gentlest, softest of the virtues

September 13, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Thomas Chatterton

From The Bacchanalian

What is war and all its joys?
Useless mischief, empty noise.
What are arms and trophies won?
Spangles glittering in the sun.

****

From The Prophesy

When Civil Power shall snore at ease,
While soldiers fire – to keep the peace;
When murders sanctuary find,
And petticoats can Justice blind;
Look up ye Britons, cease to sigh,
For your redemption draweth nigh.

When soldiers, paid for our defence,
In wanton pride slay innocence;
Blood from the ground for vengeance reeks,
Till Heaven the inquisition makes;
Look up ye Britons, cease to sigh,
For your redemption draweth nigh.

****

From Elegy On The Death Of Mr. Phillips

Peace, deck’d in all the softness of the dove,
Over thy passions spread her silver plume;
The rosy veil of harmony and love
Hung on thy soul in eternal bloom.

Peace, gentlest, softest of the virtues, spread
Her silver pinions, wet with dewy tears,
Upon her best distinguished poet’s head,
And taught his lyre the music of the spheres.

Temp’rance, with health and beauty in her train,
And massy-muscled strength in graceful pride,
Pointed at scarlet luxury and pain,
And did at every frugal feast preside.

Black melancholy stealing to the shade
With raging madness, frantic, loud, and dire,
Whose bloody hand displays the reeking blade,
Were strangers to thy heaven-directed lyre.

Content, who smiles in every frown of fate,
Wreath’d thy pacific brow and sooth’d thy ill:
In thy own virtues and thy genius great,
The happy muse laid every trouble still.

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Sydney Smith: War, hailing official murderers as the greatest and most glorious of human creatures

September 12, 2017 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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Rev. Sydney Smith

If three men were to have their legs and arms broken, and were to remain all night exposed to the inclemency of weather, the whole country would be in a state of the most dreadful agitation. Look at the wholesale death of a field of battle, ten acres covered with dead, and half dead, and dying; and the shrieks and agonies of many thousands human beings. There is more of misery inflicted upon mankind by one year of war, than by all the civil peculations and oppressions of a century. Yet it is a state into which the mass of mankind rush with the greatest of avidity, hailing official murderers, in scarlet, gold and cocks’ feathers, as the greatest and most glorious of human creatures. It is the business of every wise and good man to set himself against this passion for military glory, which really seems to be the most fruitful source of human misery.

What would be said of a party of gentlemen who were to sit very peaceably conversing for half an hour, then were to fight for another half hour, then shake hands, and at the expiration of thirty minutes fight again? Yet such has been the state of the world between 1714 and 1815, a period in which there was in England as many years of war as peace. Societies have been instituted for the preservation of peace, and for lessening the popular love of war. They deserve every encouragement…

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Lewis Morris: White-winged Peace triumphs over War’s red rapine

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris

From Ode Sung at the First Co-operative Festival (1888)

Come let us sing together a new song,
The triumph of the weak made strong;
The victories of peace we celebrate,
Not those of war and hate.
The victories of peace, won after many days:
Let us our voices tune to joy and praise;
Come let us sing a new and happy song!

****

From To John Bright

Friend of the friendless else, and art thou dead?
Great Master of our vigorous Saxon speech,
Unwearied pleader for the people’s
Hater of war, strong to convince and teach,
With passionate faith and indignation strong,
Mighty to slay the hydra-heads of wrong.

Thy voice was aye for Freedom, and thy heart
Warlike for Peace…

****

From Song of Empire

And shall, if Heaven so will, still more increase
With thy remaining years, till blessed Peace,
Half frighted from us now by grave alarms
Of half a world in arms,
Shall brood, a white-winged Angel, o’er the Earth.
Then may the rule of Wrong be done!
Then may a new and Glorious Sun
Gild the illumined World! and then
Come Righteousness to men!

***

From The Imperial Institute

No more we seek our Realm’s increase
By War’s red rapine, but by white-winged Peace…

 

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Thomas Hardy: As war-waste classed

September 10, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Hardy: All-Earth-gladdening Law of Peace, war’s apology wholly stultified

Thomas Hardy: Channel Firing

Thomas Hardy: The Man He Killed

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Thomas Hardy
Horses Aboard

Horses in horsecloths stand in a row
On board the huge ship that at last lets go:
Whither are they sailing? They do not know,
Nor what for, nor how. –
They are horses of war,
And are going to where there is fighting afar;
But they gaze through their eye-holes unwitting they are,
And that in some wilderness, gaunt and ghast,
Their bones will bleach ere a year has passed,
And the item be as ‘war-waste’ classed. –
And when the band booms, and the folk say ‘Good-bye!’
And the shore slides astern, they appear wrenched awry
From the scheme Nature planned for them, – wondering why.

***

A Parting Scene

The two pale women cried,
But the man seemed to suffer more,
Which he strove hard to hide.
They stayed in the waiting-room, behind the door,
Till startled by the entering engine-roar,
As if they could not bear to have unfurled
Their misery to the eyes of all the world.

A soldier and his young wife
Were the couple; his mother the third,
Who had seen the seams of life.
He was sailing for the East I later heard.
– They kissed long, but they did not speak a word;
Then, strained, he went. To the elder the wife in tears
“Too long; too long!” burst out. (‘Twas for five years.)

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Amelia Opie: Grant, Heaven, those tears may be the last that war, detested war, shall cause!

September 9, 2017 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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Amelia Opie
Lines Written at Norwich
On The First News of Peace (1802)

What means that wild and joyful cry?
Why do yon crowds in mean attire
Throw thus their ragged arms on high?
In want what can such joy inspire?

And why on every face I meet
Now beams a smile, now drops a tear?
Like longloved friends, lo! strangers greet,…
Each to his fellow man seems dear.

In one warm glow of Christian love
Forgot all proud distinctions seem;
The rich, the poor, together rove;
Their eyes with answering kindness beam…

Blest sound! blest sight!…But pray ye pause
And bid my eager wonder cease;
Of joy like this, say, what’s the cause?…
A thousand voices answer…’PEACE!’

O sound most welcome to my heart!
Tidings for which I’ve sighed for years!
But ill would words my joy impart;
Let me my rapture speak in tears.

Ye patient poor, from wonder free
Your signs of joy I now survey,
And hope your sallow cheeks to see
Once more the bloom of health display.

Of those poor babes that on your knees
Imploring food have vainly hung,
You’ll soon each craving want appease,…
For Plenty comes with Peace along.

And you, fond parents, faithful wives,
Who’ve long for sons and husbands feared,
Peace now shall save their precious lives;
They come by danger more endeared.

But why, to all these transports dead,
Steals yon shrunk form from forth the throng?
Has she not heard the tidings spread?
Tell her these shouts to Peace belong…

‘Talk not of Peace,…the sound I hate,’
The mourner with a sigh replied;
‘Alas! Peace comes for me too late,…
For my brave boy in Egypt died!’

Poor mourner! at thy tale of grief
The crowd was mute and sad awhile;
But e’en compassion’s tears are brief
When general transport claims a smile.

Full soon they checked the tender sigh
Their glowing hearts to pity gave;
But, while the mourner yet was nigh,
They warmly blessed the slaughtered brave:…

And from all hearts, as sad she passed,
This virtuous prayer her sorrow draws:…
‘Grant, Heaven, those tears may be the last
That war, detested war, shall cause!…

Oh! if with pure ambition fraught
All nations join this virtuous prayer,
If they, by late experience taught,
No longer wish to slay, but spare,…

Then hostile bands on War’s red plain
For conquest have not vainly burned,
Nor then through long long years in vain
Have thousands died and millions mourned.

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William Crowe: On poets who sing of war

September 8, 2017 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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William Crowe
In evil hour, and with unhallow’d voice (1796)

In evil hour, and with unhallow’d voice
Profaning the pure gift of poesy
Did he begin to sing, he first who sung
Of arms and combats, and the proud array
Of warriors on the embattled plain and raised
The aspiring spirit to hopes of fair renown
By deeds of violence. For since that time
The imperious victor, oft unsatisfied
With bloody spoil and tyrannous conquest, dares
To challenge fame and honour; and too oft
The poet, bending low to lawless power,
Hath paid unseemly reverence, yea, and brought
Streams clearest of the Aonian fount, to wash
Blood-stain’d ambition. If the stroke of war
Fell certain on the guilty head none else;
If they who make the cause might taste the effect,
And drink themselves the bitter cut they mix,
Then might the bard (though child of peace) delight
To twine fresh wreaths around the conqueror’s brow,
Or haply strike his high toned harp to swell
The trumpet’s martial sound, and bid them on,
Whom justice arms for vengeance: but alas!
That undistinguishing and deathful storm
Beats heaviest on the exposed Innocent;
And they that stir its fury, while it raves
Stand at safe distance; send their mandate forth
Unto the mortal Ministers that wait
To do their bidding – Ah! who then regards
The Widow’s tears, the friendless Orphan’s cry,
And Famine, and the ghastly train of woes
That follow at the dogged heels of war?
They in the pomp and pride of victory,
Rejoicing o’er the desolated Earth,
As at an altar wet with human blood,
And flaming with the fire of cities burnt,
Sing their mad hymns of triumph, hymns to God
O’er the destruction of his gracious works! –
Hymns to the Father o’er his slaughter’d Sons!
Detested by their sword, abhorred their name,
And scorn’d the tongues that praise them.

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Mary Russell Mitford: Sheath thy gory blade in peace

September 7, 2017 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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Mary Russell Mitford
The Pen and the Sword

Inscribed to the Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan

And dar’st thou then with me compare,
Frail fleeting passenger of air!
Say, am not I my country’s rock,
The lion in the battle’s shock?
I pour impetuous from afar
The mighty torrent of the war,
Like Kissoun’s waters, Phison’s flood,
Spreads far the whelming tide of blood!
Forsaken parents well can tell
How fierce the raging currents swell;
Deserted lands the tide-mark form,
And nations perish in the storm.
Bright is the forked lightning’s stream;
As bright, as fatal too, my beam!
From me the bravest warrior flies,
Or pausing bleeds, and sinks, and dies.
And as the dews of Heav’n that fall
On vines that clothe the cottage wall,
Send life through ev’ry drooping cell,
The tendrils curl, the clusters swell;
To baths of blood my pow’rs restore,
My nourishment the hero’s gore!
From me the lion’s princely whelp
Expects and finds its only help;
Her prey from me the vulture seeks,
And pays me with her dismal shrieks;
And with the wild wolf’s deepen’d howl,
Makes music for my restless soul.
Fear not! while I exist ye ne’er
Shall pangs of thirst and hunger share;
Still be the warrior’s flesh your food,
Still be your drink the hero’s blood!
And dar’st thou, frail and brittle reed!
Match thy weak word with my proud deed?
Can’st thou resist the eddying storm;
Will not the flames consume thy form?
And I, whom thou hast dar’d to brave,
My very touch would be thy grave.
Yes, such thou art, the pen replied –
Yes, such is war’s ensanguin’d tide!
Thine be the fame to latest times,
To shine supreme in blood and crimes.
Oh! innocents untimely slain;
Oh! matrons kill’d in child-birth pain!
Babes from their mother’s bosom borne!
Sons from their dying father’s torn!
Nations of orphans and of slaves!
Unpeopl’d earth and peopl’d graves!
‘Tis yours to tell what endless fame
This all-consuming sword may clams.
My pure, unblemished rights to share!
Learn thy contracted sphere to scan;
If strength were pow’r, then what were man?
The elephant had rul’d the world,
And monarchs from their thrones had hurl’d.
‘Tis mind, ’tis reason’s sovereign sway,
That nations own and states obey.
And what art thou? and what am I?
The globe shall hear the proud reply.
Me, science, wisdom, virtue claim,
And gain a never ending fame.
Through me the eloquence that dies
Fast as the fleeting shadow flies,
To ages yet unborn, shall shew
The Priest’s pure zeal, the Patriot’s glow.
Through me, the high behest, ye share,
That bids frail man his fellow spare;
And still the heav’nly thunders roll
“Commit no murder” on the soul!
Thou dwell’st among the mountain rocks,
Haunt of the chamois, and the fox;
Thou sleep’st upon the rugged bed,
Where foaming torrents erst have spread;
Thou roam’st along the blasted heath,
Or shades of plunder and of death,
Where murd’rers ply their dreadful trade,
And bathe in blood thy reeking blade.
Such is thy fate! and dar’st thou then
Compare therewith the blameless pen?
Scourge of the weak, but wisdom’s slave,
Dar’st thou to threat an early grave?
My waving banners once unfurl’d,
Have launch’d thee o’er a conquer’d world;
My breath can bid the havoc cease,
And sheath thy gory blade in peace.

 

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William Cunningham: A thousand gifts are thine, Sweet Peace! – which War can never know

September 6, 2017 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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William Cunningham
On the Peace (1801)

Long banish’d Peace again descends,
Array’d in all her heav’nly charms;
Her dove-like wings to earth she bends,
Bids Europe drop the deathful arms.

Aghast she stands at her return,
To view War, Death, and Horror reign;
Hears widows, mothers, orphans mourn,
For husbands, sons, and fathers slain.

Scarce had the Heav’nly Goddess spoke,
When France and Britain heard her voice;
The hostile bands of war were broke –
Let all the world around rejoice!

Armies commission’d to destroy,
Shall ravage Europe’s plains no more;
No longer they their arms employ
To drench her fertile fields with gore.

The Rhine shall cease with blood to flow,
Th’ affrighted Po shall limpid stray;
Where late encamp’d the warlike foe.
Blithe shepherds and their flocks will play.

Victorious Nelson! war give o’er,
With laurel wreaths and olive crown’d;
Now moor thy fleet round Albion’s shore,
That long hath aw’d the great Profound.

Commerce displays her canvas wings,
To foreign climes bounds o’er the flood;
Their choicest stores from thence she brings;
Her constant aim’s the public good.

Life-aiding Agriculture spreads
Beneath th’ industrious peasant’s care;
The hostile bands no more he dreads,
To mar the labour of the year.

E’en Science self will wake anew,
In ev’ry grace divinely drest;
And ope new prospects to our view,
While love and friendship warms each breast.

The tender mother fondly hears
The darling son from danger freed;
Whose breast for his oft heav’d with fears,
Lest War should him to battle lead.

The lovely nymph of blooming chains
May fearless yield her heart and all,
Since War no more will from her arms
Her favourite swain to battle call.

These, and a thousand gifts are thine,
Sweet Peace! – which War can never know:
Now Europe bows before thy shrine,
From thee her choicest blessings flow.

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Ann Yearsley: The anarchy of war

September 5, 2017 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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Ann Yearsley
Anarchy: A Sonnet

FURIES! Why sleep amid the carnage? – Rise!
Bring up my wolves of war, my pointed spears.
Daggers yet reeking, banners fill’d with sighs,
And paint your cheeks with gore, and lave your locks in tears.
On yon white bosom see that happy child!
Seize it, deface its infant charms! and say,
Anarchy view’d its mangled limbs, and smil’d!
Strike the young mother to the earth! – Away!
This is my era! O’er the dead I go!
From my hot nostrils minute murders fall!
Behind my burning ear lurks feeble woe!
Fill’d with my dragon’s ire, my slaves for kingdoms call!
Hear them not, father of the ensanguin’d race! –
World! give my monsters way! – Death! Keep thy steady chase!

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Peter L. Courtier: Ode to Peace

September 4, 2017 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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Peter L. Courtier
Ode to Peace (1796)

Spirit of Harmony, descend;
Thro’ universal Man
Diffuse thy godlike plan!
Shall mortal still by fellow mortal bleed,
And unavailing Pity mourn the deed?
Let the revolving years more swiftly flee,
And bring the promis’d time
When Animosity shall end;
Joy sound to ev’ry clime
The sweet return of Peace – Creation’s Jubilee!

Forgive the Muse: Peace is her darling theme –
The groans of Widows, and the Virgin’s scream,
The sack of cities, and the daring fight,
Afford her no delight!
Willing from Devastation’s reign she turns,
With trembling nerves and bitterness of soul,
To scenes for which with ecstasy she burns!
When Happiness shall reach the farthest pole;
When Amity each barrier will remove,
And hostile nations join the bands of love.

Philanthropy! thy influence can chase
Each dreadful purpose of revenge,
Charm the dark mind of Discord to embrace,
And with Benevolence avenge.
He whom thy powers invigorate
Feels not the galling force of hate;
Anger ne’er clouds his gen’rous face:
He knows the frailties of this mortal frame,
If others err – that he has done the same;
And feels compassion for the human race.

Bring the transcendent age,
Reveal’d in Prophecy’s unerring page,
When war and tyranny shall ne’er disgrace
Th’ unsullied earth, nor Discord find a place
Throughout Creation’s unrecorded space:
But Concord’s amaranthine chain
Unite the Continent, embrace the Main:
From Albion’s shores, to the last southern isle,
Prosperity extend, and Nature smile!

Millions in joyful expectation wait
To see the heart of enmity dilate;
To see wide Liberality divest
Contracted notions from the human breast;
Candour the bonds of sectaries unbind,
And heav’n-born Charity exalt the mind!
Welcome, celestial morn!
Whose beams no intervening mists will shroud;
On thee the sun of truth shall dawn,
Attain meridian strength, and shine without a cloud.

Bright Day-star of the skies,
Eternal Truth, arise!
The lingering shades of Prejudice dispel;
Let thy resistless charm
His votaries disarm,
And ‘keen Enquiry’ break the hoary spell;
Then shall sweet harmony resound
Through Nature’s universal round,
Nor fiend-like deeds deform the vernal year!
Justice and Reason shall preside,
And Philanthropy’s blissful tide,
In one vast sea, encircle every sphere!

 

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Lewis Morris: The evil blight of war torments the race from age to age

September 3, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Morris Lewis
From The Ode of Evil

The evil blight of war
Torments the race from age to age,
And savage lust and brutal rage
Deform this glorious heritage of earth.
We shudder and grow faint,
Knowing the dim fair dreams of seer and saint
Show thin and little worth.

***

From Suffrages

But wherefore is it that such things are;
That want and famine, and blood and war
Are everywhere, and do prevail?
And wherefore is it the same monotonous tale
Is ever told by the lips of men?

And the hospital wards are choked; and the fire and the flood
Vex men still, and the leaguered cities are red with blood.

***

From Confession

What if a myriad ages still
Of wrong and pain, of waste and blood,
Confuse our thought, triumphant Good
At length, at last, our souls can fill…

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Albert-Paul Granier: The deadweight cortege of death grinds past

September 2, 2017 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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Albert-Paul Granier
The Mortars
Translated by Ian Higgins

Juddering iron buckets clanging,
jerking deadweight chains clanking,
the thunder lumbering caravan
labours on, along the baking roads and tracks,
all thunderous crash and clash.

The straining, weary horses
ponderingly nod,
as though to doubt
their onward slog will ever end . . .

Wheels as thick as millstones
mill the crunching road.

And in towns and villages along the way
thunderstruck groups watch
the deadweight cortege of death grind past,
the squat carriages, bolt-stubbled muscles bulging,
and, mute, menacing, brutal,
the black barrels, muzzled and bound like lunatics.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay: Conscientious Objector

September 1, 2017 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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Edna St. Vincent Millay
Conscientious Objector

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me shall you be overcome.

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Ellen Wheeler Wilcox: The Paean of Peace

August 31, 2017 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ella Wheeler Wilcox: A Plea To Peace

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Ellen Wheeler Wilcox
The Paean of Peace

With ever some wrong to be righting,
With self ever seeking for place,
The world has been striving and fighting
Since man was evolved out of space.
Bold history into dark regions,
His torchlight has fearlessly cast,
He shows us tribes warring in legions,
In jungles of ages long passed.

Religion, forgetting her station,
Forgetting her birthright from God,
Set nation to warring with nation
And scattered dissension abroad.
Dear creeds have made men kill each other.
Fair faith has bred hate and despair,
And brother has battled with brother
Because of a difference in prayer.

But earth has grown wiser and kinder,
For man is evolving a soul:
From wars of an age that was blinder,
We rise to a peace-girdled goal.
Where once men would murder in treason
And slaughter each other in hordes,
They now meet together and reason,
With thoughts for their weapons, not swords.

The brute in humanity dwindles,
And lessens as time speeds along,
And the spark of Divinity kindles
And blazes up brightly and strong.
The seer can behold in the distance
The race that shall people the world;
Strong men of a godlike existence
Unarmed, and with war banners furled.

No longer the bloodthirsty savage
Man’s vast spirit strength shall unfold;
And tales of red warfare and ravage
Shall seem like ghost stories of old.
For the booming of guns and the rattle
Of carnage and conflict shall cease,
And the bugle call, leading to battle,
Shall change to a pæan of peace.

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Jules Claretie: A sensible man can but have one opinion on the question of war and peace

August 30, 2017 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Jules Claretie
(As cited by Leo Tolstoy)

A sensible man can but have one opinion on the question of war and peace. Humanity was created to live – to live for the purpose of perfecting its existence by peaceful labor. The mutual relations of cordiality which are promoted and preached by the Universal Congress of Peace may be but a dream perhaps, yet certainly is the most delightful of dreams. The vision of the land of promise is ever before our eyes, and upon the soil of the future the harvest will ripen, secure from the plowing of the projectile, of the crushing of cannon-wheels.

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Martha Lavinia Hoffman: The Song of Peace

August 29, 2017 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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Martha Lavinia Hoffman
The Song of Peace

The war-song and the battle-hymn
Their stirring notes have stilled;
That oft in vally, ghastly grim,
Brave soldier-hearts have thrilled.
Then wake a new and nobler strain,
And may it never cease;
A better song, a sweeter song,
The glorious song of Peace.

Within our country’s broadest bound
Is seen no martialed host;
No wrathful cannon’s roars resound
To quake from coast to coast.
No wounded soldier waits his end,
No captive his release;
No anxious, troubled guards defend
The blessed throne of Peace.

But Youth goes forth to fight and win,
Where no red sabers shine;
And Age rejoices that war’s din
Jars not on life’s decline.
And Love, whose heart-strings were her chains,
Smiles in war’s long surcease;
Whose tears were blood, a princess reigns,
In all the realm of Peace.

In war – a country’s hopes stagnate,
In war – her strong are slain.
In war – dark evils desecrate
Her council hall and fane.
In war – with wings of omen dark
Her wrongs and debts increase,
Prosperity and progress mark
The golden realm of Peace.

Then swell the chorus loud and long
‘Till it reverberates,
Thanksgiving hymn and natal song,
Of our United States.
And be our nation’s greatest boast,
O’er wrong and hate’s decrease;
To louder swell from coast to coast,
The triumph song of Peace.

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William Tennant: Ode to Peace

August 28, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Tennant: While some sing of Mars’s bloody game…

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William Tennant
Ode to Peace

Daughter of God! that sitt’st on high
Amid the dances of the sky,
And guidest with thy gentle sway
The planets on their tuneful way;
Sweet Peace! shall ne’er again
The smile of thy most holy face,
From thine ethereal dwelling-place,
Rejoice the wretched, weary race
Of discord-breathing men?
Too long, O gladness-giving Queen!
Thy tarrying in heaven has been;
Too long o’er this fair blooming world
The flag of blood has been unfurled,
Polluting God’s pure day;
Whilst, as each maddening people reels,
War onward drives his scythed wheels,
And at his horses’ bloody heels
Shriek Murder and Dismay.

Oft have I wept to hear the cry
Of widow wailing bitterly;
To see the parent’s silent tear
For children fallen beneath the spear;
And I have felt so sore
The sense of human guilt and woe,
That I, in Virtue’s passioned glow,
Have cursed (my soul was wounded so)
The shape of man I bore!
Then come from thy serene abode,
Thou gladness-giving child of God!
And cease the world’s ensanguined strife,
And reconcile my soul to life;
For much I long to see,
Ere I shall to the grave descend,
Thy hand its blessed branch extend,
And to the world’s remotest end
Wave Love and Harmony!

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François Coppée: God preserve us from scientific war, the worst of any

August 27, 2017 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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François Coppée

On the battleship Trident:

“Pray God we may never have to us this fearful machine of war. I was stifled in the iron monster, where all the inventions of modern genius are united for destruction and death. The enormous guns sphered like bottles, the great mortars for throwing shells, all the strange and fearful appliances from which the touch of the commander on an electric button placed in his cabin can call forth fire and death inspire mysterious terror, a shudder at the tragic mystery. As I left the floating citadel I could but curse the progress which results in these refined cruelties and horrors. God preserve us, I repeat, from scientific war, the worst of any; and let us hope the moral effect of these structures, which have cost so much labor, talent and money, will be an avoidance, a prevention of the conflicts for which they are made.”

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Lewis Morris: The blight of war surges in waves of blood

August 23, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris

From Helen

The glittering panoply, the bold young hearts,
Athirst for fame of war, and with the night
The broken spear, the shattered helm, the plume
Dyed red with blood, the ghastly dying face,
And nerveless limbs laid lifeless.

***

From Herakles

For ever from the toilsome days I gave
To the suffering race of men. And yet, indeed,
Methinks they suffer still…
Treacheries come, and wars,
And slay them still. Vaulting ambition leaps
And falls in bloodshed still.

***

From Gwen

The powers of Pain and Wrong,
Immeasurably strong,
Assail our souls, and chill with common doubt
Clear brain and heart devout:
War, Pestilence, and Famine, as of old,
The lust of the flesh, the baser lust of gold,
Vex us and harm us still…

***

From The Ode of Love

Great empires fall;
The onward march of Man seems spent;
The nations rot in dull content;
The blight of war, a bitter flood,
From continent to continent,
Surges in waves of blood;
The light of knowledge sinks, the fire of thought burns low…

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Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

August 15, 2017 Leave a comment
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Helen Maria Williams: Heaven-born peace

August 14, 2017 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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Helen Maria Williams
From Ode To Peace

She comes, benign enchantress, heav’n born PEACE!
With mercy beaming in her radiant eye;
She bids the horrid din of battle cease,
And at her glance the savage passions die.
‘Tis Nature’s festival, let earth rejoice,
And pour to Liberty exulting songs,
In distant regions, with according voice,
Let Man the vict’ry bless, its prize to Man belongs.

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Horace Smith: Manufactured to machines for killing human creatures

August 13, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

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Horace Smith
From Projects and Companies

Better our superflux to waste
On peaceful schemes, howe’er misplaced.
Than war and its abuses…

***

From Third Poetical Epistle

Another class there was, in trappings gay,
Fine colours – laces – feathers – ribbons – wreaths,
Who let themselves for hire, to kill and slay,
For which they carried earring knives in sheaths;
Of shoulder-knots, and liveried array,
Prouder than any popinjay that breathes;
And what was strange, the women seemed to love
These men-destroyers other men above.

***

From Charade (Barrack)

My Third is fashion’d to enfold
Strange implements of war. – Behold
Those frames with human features;
By time and artificial means
They’re manufactured to machines
For killing human creatures.
Obedient moves – east, west, north, south,
Up to the breach, or cannon’s mouth:
Each automatic figure, –
‘Gainst friend or foe, whate’er the cause.
With equal nonchalance he draws
His death dispensing-trigger.
Enslaved alike in frame and mind.
Life’s object for its means resign’d,
What gains th’unlucky varlet?
Dying, he sleeps on honours couch,
And living, flaunts with empty pouch.
In outward gold and scarlet.
Never were muscles, bones, and will.
By such self-sacrificing skill,
Made neuter, passive, active.
Machine! thou’rt mechanism’s pride.
But never was its art applied
To purpose less attractive!

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André Maurois: The killing machine started up with pitiless smoothness

August 12, 2017 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 Maurois
From The Family Circle
Translated by Hamish Miles

The killing machine started up with pitiless smoothness. Just as the aprons of the cards slowly and steadily bore the flocks of wool to the hard-pointed rollers that gripped and tore them, so did courage and fear draw this peaceable town into war and carry out the smooth sifting of death. In one single day all the young men vanished. The red-eyed women came back alone to silent houses. The the older men appeared in uniform…

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Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

August 11, 2017 Leave a comment
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Remy de Gourmont: If they wage war, in what state must the world be?

August 10, 2017 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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

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Remy de Gourmont
From Mr. Antiphilos, Satyr
Translated by John Howard

The great gods no longer descending to an earth soiled by war, ownership, gold and those human laws which so badly translate the gentle divine laws, we remain the sole immortals that a herdsman can chance upon at the fall of day, as he walks along the path…They say the golden age will return. Let us hope so.

***

She faithfully returns, as she has promised, bringing on each trip a quantity of golden money with the most diverse effigies: I would never have supposed that the world contained so many tyrants. If they wage war, as was customary in the old days, in what state must the world be…?

***

Love is serious. When one has deep sensibility, love can cause tears; laughter, never. It is only among mortals that love is accompanied with laughter. The gods never laugh, except at the silliness of mankind.

***

Like nature, the gods exist only at the instant you speak and think of them, and as soon as your attention is distracted from divine things, they fall again into the dim, pantheistic immensity where their lives glide by, mute, deep and plant-like.

***

We are all,children of destiny and our immortal life is but a succession of mortal lives badly joined to each other by the confused mortar of recollection.

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Lewis Morris: Red war, the dungeon, and the stake

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris

From The Youth of Thought

Fulfilled with thoughts, more fair and dear
Than all the lighter joys of yore,
Immeasurable hopes brought near,
And Heaven laid open more and more.

But not with love and peace alone
Time came, which older joys could take;
But with fierce brand and hopeless groan,
Red war, the dungeon, and the stake…

***

From Tantalus

The glitter of the gems, the precious webs
Plundered from every clime by cruel wars
That strewed the sands with corpses…

And only cared for power; content to shed
Rivers of innocent blood, if only thus
I might appease my thirst. Until I grew
A monster gloating over blood and pain.

***

From A Cynic’s Day-Dream

If fate should grant me such a home,
So sweet the tranquil days would come,
I should not need, I trust, to sink
My weariness in lust or drink.
Scant pleasure should I think to gain
From endless scenes of death and pain;
‘Twould little profit me to slay
A thousand innocents a day;
I should not much delight to tear
With wolfish dogs the shrieking hare;
With horse and hound to track to death
A helpless wretch that gasps for breath;
To make the fair bird check its wing,
And drop, a dying, shapeless thing;
To leave the joy of all the wood
A mangled heap of fur and blood,
Or else escaping, but in vain,
To pine, a shattered wretch, in pain;
Teeming, perhaps, or doomed to see
Its young brood starve in misery;
With neither risk nor labour, still
To live for nothing but to kill –
I dare not! If perplexed I am
Between the tiger and the lamb;
If fate ordain that these shall give
Their poor brief lives that I may live:
Whate’er the law that bids them die,
Others shall butcher them, not I,
Not such my work. Surely the Lord,
Who made the devils by a word,
Not men, but those who’d wield them well
Gave these sad tortures of his Hell.

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George Meredith: All your gains from War resign

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

British writers on peace and war

George Meredith: Selections on peace and war

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George Meredith
From Il y a cent ans

What figures will be shown the century hence?
What lands intact?  We do but know that Power
From piety divorced, though seen immense,
Shall sink on envy of the humblest flower.

Our cry for cradled Peace, while men are still
The three-parts brute which smothers the divine,
Heaven answers: Guard it with forethoughtful will,
Or buy it; all your gains from War resign.

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Homer: Caging the terrible Lord of War

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Homer: The great gods are never pleased with violent deeds

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Homer
From The Illiad
Translated by George Meredith

Dedicated to the Council at the Hague, 1899

These two combining strength and craft had snared,
Enmeshed, bound fast with thongs, discreetly caged
The blood-shedder, the terrible Lord of War;
Destroyer, ravager, superb in plumes;
The barren furrower of anointed fields;
The scarlet heel in towns, foul smoke to sky,
Her hated enemy, too long her scourge:
Great Ares.  And they gagged his trumpet mouth
When they had seized on his implacable spear,
Hugged him to reedy helplessness despite
His godlike fury startled from amaze.
For he had eyed them nearing him in play,
The giant cubs, who gambolled and who snarled,
Unheeding his fell presence, by the mount
Ossa, beside a brushwood cavern; there
On Earth’s original fisticuffs they called
For ease of sharp dispute: whereat the God,
Approving, deemed that sometime trained to arms,
Good servitors of Ares they would be,
And ply the pointed spear to dominate
Their rebel restless fellows, villain brood
Vowed to defy Immortals.  So it chanced
Amusedly he watched them, and as one
The lusty twain were on him and they had him.
Breath to us, Powers of air, for laughter loud!
Cock of Olympus he, superb in plumes!
Bound like a wheaten sheaf by those two babes!
Because they knew our Mother Gaea loathed him,
Knew him the famine, pestilence and waste;
A desolating fire to blind the sight
With splendour built of fruitful things in ashes;
The gory chariot-wheel on cries for justice;
Her deepest planted and her liveliest voice,
Heard from the babe as from the broken crone.
Behold him in his vessel of bronze encased,
And tumbled down the cave.

***

Among the wheat-blades proud of stalk; beneath
Young vine-leaves pushing timid fingers forth,
Confidently to cling.  And when brown corn
Swayed armied ranks with softened cricket song,
With gold necks bent for any zephyr’s kiss;
When vine-roots daily down a rubble soil
Drank fire of heaven athirst to swell the grape;
When swelled the grape, and in it held a ray,
Rich issue of the embrace of heaven and earth;
The very eye of passion drowsed by excess,
And yet a burning lion for the spring;
Then in that time of general cherishment,
Sweet breathing balm and flutes by cool wood-side,
He the harsh rouser of ire being absent, caged,
Then did good Gaea’s children gratefully
Lift hymns to Gods they judged, but praised for peace,
Delightful Peace, that answers Reason’s call
Harmoniously and images her Law;
Reflects, and though short-lived as then, revives,
In memories made present on the brain
By natural yearnings, all the happy scenes;
The picture of an earth allied to heaven;
Between them the known smile behind black masks;
Rightly their various moods interpreted;
And frolic because toilful children borne
With larger comprehension of Earth’s aim
At loftier, clearer, sweeter, by their aid.

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George Meredith: Selections on peace and war

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Xenophon: Guile without guilt. Peace and joy reigned everywhere.

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Xenophon: Begin wars as tardily, end them as speedily as possible

Xenophon: Socrates’ war sophistry; civil crimes are martial virtues

Xenophon: War as obsession, warfare as mistress

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Xenophon
From Cyropaedia
Translated by Walter Miller

“Well, Cyrus, I used to think that you surpassed all other men in that you were the greatest general; and now, I swear by the gods, you seem actually to excel even more in kindness than in generalship.”

“Aye, by God,” answered Cyrus; “and what is more, I assure you that I take much more pleasure in showing forth my deeds of kindness than ever I did in my deeds of generalship.”

“How so?” asked Gobryas.

“Because,” said he, “in the one field, one must necessarily do harm to men; in the other, only good.”

***

At day-break he took his stand with his army between the two and summoned the leaders of the two factions. And when they saw one another they were indignant, for they both thought they had been duped. Adusius, however, addressed them as follows:

“Gentlemen, I gave you my oath that I would without treachery enter your walls for the advantage of those who admitted me. If, therefore, I destroy either party of you, I think that I have come in to the injury of the Carians; whereas, if I can secure peace for you and security for all to till the fields, I think I am here for your advantage. Now, therefore, from this day you must live together like friends, till your lands without fear of one another, and intermarry your children one party with the other; and if any one in defiance of these regulations attempts to make trouble, Cyrus, and we with him, will be that man’s enemies.”

After that, the gates of the city were opened, the streets filled up with people passing to and fro, and the farms with labourers; they celebrated their festivals together, and peace and joy reigned everywhere.

***

“Next to the gods, however, show respect also to all the race of men as they continue in perpetual succession; for the gods, do not hide you away in darkness, but your works must ever live on in the sight of all men; and if they are pure and untainted with unrighteousness, they will make your power manifest among all mankind. But if you conceive any unrighteous schemes against each other, you will forfeit in the eyes of all men your right to be trusted. For no one would be able any longer to trust you – not even if he very much desired to do so – if he saw either of you wronging that one who has the first claim to the other’s love.”

 

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Music

In progress

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George Meredith: War’s rivers of blood no crown for future generations

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

British writers on peace and war

George Meredith: Selections on peace and war

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George Meredith
From The Empty Purse

Ask what crown
Comes of our tides of the blood at war,
For men to bequeath generations down!

***

When our Earth we have seen, and have linked
With the home of the Spirit to whom we unfold,
Imprisoned humanity open will throw
Its fortress gates, and the rivers of gold
For the congregate friendliness flow.

***

Nor History written in blood or in foam,
For vendetta of Parties in cursing accursed.

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From To the Comic Spirit

These, that would have men still of men be foes,
Eternal fox to prowl and pike to feed;
Would keep our life the whirly pool
Of turbid stuff dishonouring History…

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From Napoléon

Up withered avenues of waste-blood war,
To the pitiless red mounts of fire afume,
As ’twere the world’s arteries opened!  Woe the race!

***

Poured streams of Europe’s veins the flood
Full Rhine or Danube rolls off morning-tide
Through shadowed reaches into crimson-dyed:
And Rhine and Danube knew her gush of blood
Down the plucked roots the deepest in her breast.

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Philosophy is Life’s one match for Fate.

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Polybius: Peace is a blessing for which we all pray to the gods

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Polybius: The bestialization of man by war

Polybius: Diplomacy versus war

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Polybius
From The Histories
Translated by W.R. Paton

Peace is a blessing for which we all pray to the gods; we submit to every suffering from the desire to attain it, and it is the only one of the so‑called good things in life to which no man refuses this title. If then there be any people which, while able by right and with all honour to obtain from the Greeks perpetual and undisputed peace, neglect this object or esteem any other of greater importance, everyone would surely agree that they are much in the wrong. Perhaps indeed they might plead that such a manner of life exposes them to the attack of neighbours bent on war and regardless of treaties. But this is a thing not likely to happen often and claiming if it does occur the aid of all the Greeks; while to secure themselves against any local and temporary damage, amidst a plentiful supply of wealth, such as will probably be theirs if they enjoy constant peace, they will be in no want of foreign mercenary soldiers to protect them at the place and time required. But now simply from fear of rare and improbable perils they expose their country and their properties to constant war and devastation.

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Lewis Morris: When the cannons roar and the trumpets blare no longer

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris
From The New Order

There shall come a time when brotherhood shines stronger
Than the narrow bounds which now distract the world;
When the cannons roar and the trumpets blare no longer,
And the ironclad rusts, and battle flags are furled…

 

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Lewis Morris: Who will free us from the dreadful past of war and hatred?

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris
From The Living Past

O faithful souls that watch and yearn,
Expectant of the coming light,
With kindling hearts and eyes that burn
With hope to see the rule of right;

The time of peace and of good will,
When the thick clouds of wrong and pain
Roll up as from a shining hill
And never more descend again…

Though war and hatred come to cease
And sorrow be no more, nor sin,
And in their stead an endless peace
Its fair unbroken reign begin, –

What comfort have ye? What shall blot
The memories of bitter years…?

For that which has been, still must live,
And ‘neath the shallow Present last,
Oh who will sweet oblivion give,
Who free us from the dreadful Past?

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Lewis Morris: The world rang with the fierce shouts of war and cries of pain

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

 

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Lewis Morris
From The Wanderer

The strong bold sway that held mankind in thrall,
Soldier and jurist marching side by side,
Till came the sure slow blight, when all the world
Grew sick, and swooned, and died;

Again the long dark night, when Learning dozed
Safe in her cloister, and the world without
Rang with fierce shouts of war and cries of pain,
Base triumph, baser rout…

And how, when worthier souls bore rule, to hold
Faction more dear than Truth, or stoop to cheat,
With cozening words and shallow flatteries
The Solons of the street?

Or, failing this, to wear a hireling sword –
Ready, whate’er the cause, to kill and slay…

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Pausanias: Woe to man

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Pausanias: Peace cradling Wealth in her arms

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Pausanias
From Description of Greece
Translated by J.G. Frazer

When Lichas arrived the Spartans were seeking the bones of Orestes in accordance with an oracle. Now Lichas inferred that they were buried in a smithy, the reason for this inference being this. Everything that he saw in the smithy he compared with the oracle from Delphi, likening to the winds the bellows, for that they too sent forth a violent blast, the hammer to the “stroke,” the anvil to the “counterstroke” to it, while the iron is naturally a “woe to man,” because already men were using iron in warfare. In the time of those called heroes the god would have called bronze a woe to man.

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Xenophon: Begin wars as tardily, end them as speedily as possible

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Xenophon: Guile without guilt. Peace and joy reigned everywhere.

Xenophon: Socrates’ war sophistry; civil crimes are martial virtues

Xenophon: War as obsession, warfare as mistress

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Xenophon
From Hellenica
Translated by Carleton L. Brownson

“The right course, indeed, would have been for us not to take up arms against one another in the beginning…But if it is indeed ordered of the gods that wars should come among men, then we ought to begin war as tardily as we can, and, when it has come, to bring it to an end as speedily as possible.”

***

“Moreover, we all know that wars are forever breaking out and being concluded, and that we – if not now, still at some future time – shall desire peace again. Why, then, should we wait for the time when we shall have become exhausted by a multitude of ills, and not rather conclude peace as quickly as possible before anything irremediable happens?

“Again, I for my part do not commend those men who, when they have become competitors in the games and have already been victorious many times and enjoy fame, are so fond of contest that they do not stop until they are defeated and so end their athletic training; nor on the other hand do I commend those dicers who, if they win one success, throw for double stakes, for I see that the majority of such people become utterly impoverished.

“We, then, seeing these things, ought never to engage in a contest of such a sort that we shall either win all or lose all, but ought rather to become friends of one another while we are still strong and successful. For thus we through you, and you through us, could play even a greater part in Greece than in times gone by.”

***

When these things had taken place, the opposite of what all men believed would happen was brought to pass. For since well-nigh all the people of Greece had come together and formed themselves in opposing lines, there was no one who did not suppose that if a battle were fought, those who proved victorious would be the rulers and those who were defeated would be their subjects; but the deity so ordered it that both parties set up a trophy as though victorious and neither tried to hinder those who set them up, that both gave back the dead under a truce as though victorious, and both received back their dead under a truce as though defeated, and that while each party claimed to be victorious, neither was found to be any better off, as regards either additional territory, or city, or sway, than before the battle took place; but there was even more confusion and disorder in Greece after the battle than before.

 

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