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La Fontaine: When shall Peace pack up these bloody darts?


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

French writers on war and peace


Jean de La Fontaine
From An Animal in the Moon (1677)
Translator unknown

Some change had taken place on high,
Presaging earthly changes nigh;
Perhaps, indeed, it might betoken
The wars that had already broken
Out wildly over the Continent.

A mouse, between the lenses caged,
Had caused these wars, so fiercely waged!
No doubt the happy English folks
Laughed at it as the best of jokes.
How soon will Mars afford the chance
For like amusements here in France!

We wish for peace, but do not sigh.
The English Charles the secret knows
To make the most of his repose.
And more than this, he’ll know the way,
By valour, working sword in hand,
To bring his sea encircled land
To share the fight it only sees today.
Yet, could he but this quarrel quell,
What incense-clouds would grateful swell!
What deed more worthy of his fame!
Augustus, Julius, pray, which Caesar’s name
Shines now on story’s page with purest flame?
O people happy in your sturdy hearts!
Say, when shall Peace pack up these bloody darts,
And send us all, like you, to softer arts?


From the translation by Edward Marsh

And though we pray for peace, we do not sigh.
Charles has his choice of Peace and War:
Well graced to shine in both, will he resolve
T’indulge his prowess, and his Isle involve
In these fierce sports she watches from afar?
Nay, could his mediation bring surcease
Of rage and strife, ’twere worthier of his fame.
Think you Augustus left a lower name
Than the first Caesar with his conquering star?
Too happy England! When shall we
Like you with single mind have liberty
To follow undistraught the arts of Peace?

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