Home > Uncategorized > Boethius: Provoking death’s destined day by waging unjust and cruel wars

Boethius: Provoking death’s destined day by waging unjust and cruel wars

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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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Boethius
From The Consolation of Philosophy
Translated by H.R. James

The Unreasonableness of Hatred

Why all this furious strife? Oh, why
With rash and wilful hand provoke death’s destined day?
If death ye seek – lo! Death is nigh,
Not of their master’s will those coursers swift delay!

The wild beasts vent on man their rage,
Yet ‘gainst their brothers’ lives men point the murderous steel;
Unjust and cruel wars they wage,
And haste with flying darts the death to meet or deal.

No right nor reason can they show;
‘Tis but because their lands and laws are not the same.
Wouldst thou give each his due; then know
Thy love the good must have, the bad thy pity claim.

*****

The Former Age

Too blest the former age, their life
Who in the fields contented led,
And still, by luxury unspoiled,
On frugal acorns sparely fed.

No skill was theirs the luscious grape
With honey’s sweetness to confuse;
Nor China’s soft and sheeny silks
T’ empurple with brave Tyrian hues.

The grass their wholesome couch, their drink
The stream, their roof the pine’s tall shade;
Not theirs to cleave the deep, nor seek
In strange far lands the spoils of trade.

The trump of war was heard not yet,
Nor soiled the fields by bloodshed’s stain;
For why should war’s fierce madness arm
When strife brought wound, but brought not gain?

Ah! would our hearts might still return
To following in those ancient ways.
Alas! the greed of getting glows
More fierce than Etna’s fiery blaze.

Woe, woe for him, whoe’er it was,
Who first gold’s hidden store revealed,
And – perilous treasure-trove – dug out
The gems that fain would be concealed!

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