Home > Uncategorized > Joseph Addison: Already have our quarrels fill’d the world with widows and with orphans

Joseph Addison: Already have our quarrels fill’d the world with widows and with orphans


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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Addison and Richard Steele: It is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms


Joseph Addison
From Cato (1713)


Let not a torrent of impetuous zeal

Transport thee thus beyond the bounds of reason:

True fortitude is seen in great exploits

That justice warrants, and that wisdom guides,

All else is towering phrenzy and distraction.

Are not the lives of those who draw the sword

In Rome’s defence intrusted to our care!

Should we thus lead them to a field of slaughter,

Might not the impartial world with reason say

We lavish’d at our death the blood of thousands,

To grace our fall, and make our ruin glorious!

Lucius, we next would know what’s your opinion?


My thoughts, I must confess, are turn’d on peace.

Already have our quarrels fill’d the world

With widows and with orphans: Scythia morns

Our guilty wars, and earth’s remotest regions

Lie half unpeopled by the feuds of Rome:

‘Tis time to sheath the sword, and spare mankind.

It is not Caesar, but the gods, my fathers,

The gods declare against us, and repel

Our vain attempts. To urge the foe to battle,

(Prompted by blind revenge and wild despair)

Were to refuse th’ awards of Providence,

And not to rest in heaven’s determination.

Already have we shown our love to Rome,

Now let us show submission to the gods.

We took up arms, not to revenge ourselves,

But free the commonwealth; when this end fails,

Arms have no farther use; our country’s cause,

That drew our swords, now wrests them from our hands,

And bids us not delight in Roman blood

Unprofitably shed; what men could do

Is done already: heaven and earth will witness,

If Rome must fall, that we are innocent.

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