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Archive for December, 2011

Julia Ward Howe: Mother’s Day Proclamation 1870

December 31, 2011 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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Julia Ward Howe
Mother’s Day Proclamation (1870)

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Stephen Crane: There was crimson clash of war

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Stephen Crane: An Episode of War

Stephen Crane: War Is Kind

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Stephen Crane
There was crimson clash of war (1905)

There was crimson clash of war.
Lands turned black and bare;
Women wept;
Babes ran, wondering.
There came one who understood not these things.
He said, “Why is this?”
Whereupon a million strove to answer him.
There was such intricate clamour of tongues,
That still the reason was not.

Categories: Uncategorized

William Vaughn Moody: Bullet’s scream went wide of its mark to its homeland’s heart

December 29, 2011 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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William Vaughn Moody
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League
On a Soldier Fallen in the Philippines (1901)

     
Streets of the roaring town,
Hush for him, hush, be still!
He comes, who was stricken down
Doing the word of our will.
Hush! Let him have his state,
Give him his soldier’s crown.
The grists of trade can wait
Their grinding at the mill,
But he cannot wait for his honor, now the trumpet has been blown.
Wreathe pride now for his granite brow, lay love on his breast of stone.

Toll! Let the great bells toll
Till the clashing air is dim.
Did we wrong this parted soul?
We will make it up to him.
Toll! Let him never guess
What work we set him to.
Laurel, laurel, yes;
He did what we bade him do.
Praise, and never a whispered hint but the fight he fought was good;
Never a word that the blood on his sword was his country’s own heart’s-blood.

A flag for the soldier’s bier
Who dies that his land may live;
O, banners, banners here,
That he doubt not nor misgive!
That he heed not from the tomb
The evil days draw near
When the nation, robed in gloom,
With its faithless past shall strive.
Let him never dream that his bullet’s scream went wide of its island mark,
Home to the heart of his darling land where she stumbled and sinned in the dark. 

Categories: Uncategorized

American writers on peace and against war

December 28, 2011 1 comment

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

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George Ade: The dubious rights granted a people “liberated” through war

Conrad Aiken: The history of war is the history of mankind, seven thousand million dead on the field of battle

Conrad Aiken: Vast symphonic dance of death

Julius Myron Alexander: The Flag of Peace

James Lane Allen: Then white and heavenly Peace again. Eteocles and Polyneices in America

Sherwood Anderson: War destroys brotherhood

Joel Barlow: War after war his hungry soul require, each land lie reeking with its people’s slain

Edward Bellamy: We have no wars now, and our governments no war powers

Stephen Vincent Benét: The dead march from the last to the next blind war

Ambrose Bierce: Selections on war

Ambrose Bierce: Warlike America

Ambrose Bierce: Chickamauga

Ambrose Bierce: The Coup de Grâce

Ambrose Bierce: Killed At Resaca

Ambrose Bierce: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Ambrose Bierce: War as parricide

Robert Bly: War, writers and government money

Randolph Bourne: Selections on war

Randolph Bourne: The War and the Intellectuals

Randolph Bourne: War and the State

Randolph Bourne: Willing war means willing all the evils that are organically bound up with it

Randolph Bourne: Conscience and Intelligence in War

Randolph Bourne: Twilight of Idols

Randolph Bourne: Below the Battle

Louis Bromfield: NATO, Permanent War Panic and America’s Messiah Complex

Van Wyck Brooks: The truth about war that Mark Twain could only divulge after death

Charles Brockden Brown: Such is the spectacle exhibited in every field of battle

William Cullen Bryant: Christmas 1875

William Cullen Bryant: Emblem of the peace that yet shall be, noise of war shall cease from sea to sea

Charles Chesnutt: Justice, Peace – the seed and the flower of civilisation

Humphrey Cobb: Selections on war

Humphrey Cobb: Generals are reassured by the smell of the dead

Humphrey Cobb: Hallucination of fantastic butchery; too much for one man to bear

Humphrey Cobb: The paths of glory lead but to the rats

Humphrey Cobb: Reworking the sixth commandment for war; thou shalt not commit individual murder

Humphrey Cobb: War never settled anything except who was the strongest

James Fenimore Cooper: Is there a star where war and bloodshed aren’t known?

James Fenimore Cooper: Oppression and injustice the natural consequences of military power uncurbed by restraints of civil authority

James Fenimore Cooper: War’s victory not worth the sacrifice of human life

Malcolm Cowley: By day there are only the dead

Stephen Crane: An Episode of War

Stephen Crane: There was crimson clash of war

Stephen Crane: War Is Kind

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

Richard Harding Davis: Destruction versus civilization, soldiers and engineers

John William De Forest: Uncivil war

Emily Dickinson: I many times thought Peace had come

John Dos Passos: Selections on war

John Dos Passos: Meat for guns. Shot for saying the war was wrong.

John Dos Passos: The miserable dullness of industrialized slaughter

John Dos Passos: Not wake up till the war was over and you could be a human being again

John Dos Passos: They were going to kill everybody who spoke that language

John Dos Passos: Three Soldiers

John Dos Passos on Randolph Bourne: War is the health of the state

John Dos Passos: What was the good of stopping the war if the armies continued?

Theodore Dreiser: If he went he might be shot, and what would his noble emotion amount to then? He would rather make money, regulate current political, social and financial affairs

Theodore Dreiser: The logic of military victory, an apologue

Theodore Dreiser and Smedley Butler: War is a Racket

W.E.B. Du Bois: Work for Peace

Paul Laurence Dunbar: Birds of peace and deadened hearts

Finley Peter Dunne: A great nation at war (in the vernacular)

William Faulkner: There is only the question: When will I be blown up?

William Faulkner: To militarists, all civilians, even their own, are alien intruders

Eugene Field and Thorne Smith: Bacchus disables Mars

F. Scott Fitzgerald: War comes to Princeton

Harold Frederic: War inflicts stifling political conformity

Henry Blake Fuller: Killed and wounded on the fields of hate

Margaret Fuller: America, with no prouder emblem than the Dove

Hamlin Garland: Cog in a vast machine for killing men

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Flag of Peace

Ellen Glasgow: Selections on war

Ellen Glasgow: The Altar of the War God

Ellen Glasgow: His vision of the future only an endless warfare and a wasted land

Ellen Glasgow: The Reign of the Brute

Ellen Glasgow: “That killed how many? how many?”

Ellen Glasgow: Then the rows of dead men stared at him through the falling rain in the deserted field

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Do Not Cheer, Men Are Dying

Frank Harris: Soulless selfishness of war; Anglo-Saxon domineering combativeness greatest danger to Humanity

Frank Harris: Henri Barbusse and the war against war

Charles Yale Harrison: Selections on war

Charles Yale Harrison: Bombardment, maniacal congealed hatred

Charles Yale Harrison: This is called an artillery duel

Charles Yale Harrison: Two kinds of people in the world, those who like wars and those who fight them

Charles Yale Harrison: War and really murdering someone

Charles Yale Harrison: War is a hell that no god, however cruel, would fashion for his most deadly enemies

Charles Yale Harrison: War’s snarling, savage beasts

Charles Yale Harrison: War’s whispered reminder, you must come back to my howling madness

Charles Yale Harrison: We have learned who our enemies are

Charles Yale Harrison: Who can comfort whom in war? The mother of the man who died at the end of my bayonet

Nathaniel Hawthorne on war: Drinking out of skulls till the Millennium

Ernest Hemingway: Selections on war

Ernest Hemingway: All armies are the same

Ernest Hemingway: Beaten to start with, beaten when they took them from their farms and put them in the army

Ernest Hemingway: Combat the murder that is war

Ernest Hemingway: “Down with the officers. Viva la Pace!”

Ernest Hemingway: “If everybody would not attack the war would be over”

Ernest Hemingway: “It doesn’t finish. There is no finish to a war.”

Ernest Hemingway: Nothing sacred about war’s stockyards

Ernest Hemingway: Perhaps wars weren’t won any more. Maybe they went on forever.

Ernest Hemingway: There are people who would make war, there are other people who would not make war

Ernest Hemingway: Who wins wars?

O. Henry: The ethics of justifiable slaughter

Stefan Heym: Sure it’s a vicious circle, it’s war

Stefan Heym: The whole scene was immersed in the silence of absolute death

Stefan Heym: The world market…making new wars

Martha Lavinia Hoffman: The Song of Peace

Oliver Wendell Holmes: Hymn to Peace

Oliver Wendell Holmes: Not so enamored of the drum and trumpet

Julia Ward Howe: Mother’s Day Proclamation 1870

William Dean Howells: Selections on war

William Dean Howells: Editha

William Dean Howells: If we have war, every good cause will be set back

William Dean Howells to Henry James: The most stupid and causeless war

William Dean Howells: Spanish Prisoners of War

William Dean Howells: On Mark Twain and war

William Dean Howells to Mark Twain: War for humanity turned into war for coal-stations

William Dean Howells: Warmongers should tremble when they remember that God is just

William Dean Howells: Wilson’s Mexican war, wickeder than that of 1846

Langston Hughes: A mighty army serving human kind, not an army geared to kill

Washington Irving: The laudable spirit of military emulation. Soldiers, poor animals

Washington Irving: Most pacific nation in the world? Rather the most warlike

Washington Irving: The renown not purchased by deeds of violence and blood

Henry James: Beguiled into thinking war, worst horror that attends the life of nations, could not recur

William James: The Moral Equivalent of War

William James: The Philippine Tangle

Randall Jarrell: In bombers named for girls, we burned the cities we had learned about in school

Robinson Jeffers: Eagle Valor, Chicken Mind

Sidney Lanier: Selections on war

Sidney Lanier: Blood-red flower of war, whose odors strangle a people, whose roots are in hell

Sidney Lanier: Death in Eden

Sidney Lanier: Dialogue on the war-flower

Sidney Lanier: War by other means

Sidney Lanier: The wind blew all the vanes in the country in one way – toward war

Richard Le Gallienne: The Illusion of War

Sinclair Lewis: Selections on war

Sinclair Lewis: Can’t depend On Providence to supply wars when you need them

Sinclair Lewis: College education makes soldiers more patriotic, flag-waving, and skillful in the direction of slaughter

Sinclair Lewis: The disguised increase, false economizing of war budgets

Sinclair Lewis: Don’t much care what kind of war they prepare for

Sinclair Lewis: For the first time in all history, a great nation must go on arming itself more and more…for peace!

Sinclair Lewis: General: State of peace far worse than war

Sinclair Lewis: Get us into war just to grease their insane vanity and show the world that we’re the huskiest nation going

Sinclair Lewis: Inevitable war with Canada, Mexico, Russia, Cuba, Japan, or perhaps Staten Island

Sinclair Lewis: It Can(‘t) Happen Here

Sinclair Lewis: The only thing not absurd about wars was that they kill a good many millions of people

Sinclair Lewis: Other Unavoidable Wars to End All Wars

Sinclair Lewis: Pining for a good war

Jack London: War

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Peace! and no longer from its brazen portals the blast of War’s great organ shakes the skies!

Amy Lowell: A pattern called a war. Christ! What are patterns for?

James Russell Lowell on Lamartine: Highest duty of man, to summon peace when vulture of war smells blood

Archibald MacLeish: The disastrous war, the silent slain

Albert Maltz: A children’s wartime bestiary

Albert Maltz: Conquering the world but losing your son

Albert Maltz: “Ten thousand dead today. That’s what the war means.”

Edgar Lee Masters: “The honor of the flag must be upheld”

Edgar Lee Masters: The Philippine Conquest

Edgar Lee Masters: The words, Pro Patria, what do they mean, anyway?

Herman Melville: Trophies of Peace

Herman Melville: War-pits and rattraps. Soldier sold to the army as Faust sold himself to the devil.

H.L. Mencken: New wars will bring about an unparalleled butchery of men

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Conscientious Objector

William Vaughn Moody: Bullet’s scream went wide of its mark to its homeland’s heart

Marianne Moore: I must fight till I have conquered in myself what causes war

Christopher Morley: No enthusiasm for hymns of hate

Eugene O’Neill: The hell that follows war

Edgar Allan Poe: The Valley of Unrest

Ernest Poole: Apply for death certificates here. War’s house of death.

Ernest Poole: The hatred rising in all men has already butchered millions and will butcher millions more!

Ernest Poole: War cuts off the past from the future

Ernest Poole: War was the fashion. War was a pageant, a thing of romance.

James Whitcomb Riley: Sang! sang on! sang hate – sang war –

Edwin Arlington Robinson: Though your very flesh and blood the Eagle eats and drinks, you’ll praise him for the best of birds

Edgar Saltus: Soldiers and no farmers; imperial sterility…and demise

Carl Sandburg: Ready to Kill

Carl Sandburg: What it costs to move two buttons one inch on the war map

George Santayana: Selections on war

George Santayana on war and militarism

George Santayana: Fatal wars: equally needless, equally murderous

George Santayana: If dreadful outer world became troublesome, it would be necessary to make war on it and teach it a lesson

George Santayana: Only the dead have seen the end of war

George Santayana: Such blind battles ought not to be our battles

George Santayana: We want peace and make war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war

Upton Sinclair: After war, the color revolution cleanup

Upton Sinclair: A banker’s post-war nightmare

Upton Sinclair: Decade of national cynicism, corruption followed “war for democracy”

Upton Sinclair: Gigantic stir of war preparation for global territorial aggrandizement

Upton Sinclair: How wars start, how they can be prevented

Upton Sinclair: The Juggernaut of war flattens out all opposition

Upton Sinclair: The lost people are those who go to be shot, killed in big war (Dante through Vanzetti)

Upton Sinclair: New Lysistratas: Women must refuse to have babies until men stop killing

Upton Sinclair: Spending several times as much money to prepare for an even greater war to end war

Upton Sinclair: U.S. invasion of Russia: nothing but wholesale murder; American army and navy as a world police-force

Upton Sinclair: Using all the machinery and brains of civilization to slaughter one another

Upton Sinclair: The war system, bankers recouping the costs of war propaganda

Upton Sinclair: War’s one-sided boost to the economy

Upton Sinclair: What it costs a woman to keep the world at war

Upton Sinclair: World war as a business enterprise

Thorne Smith: Make statues of war’s wholesale butchers before they strike

Frank Stockton: Battles of annihilation, the Anglo-American War Syndicate

Frank Stockton: The Great War Syndicate: “On to Canada!”

Henry David Thoreau: Taxes enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood

Mark Twain: Selections on war

Mark Twain: Grotesque self-deception of war

Mark Twain: The War Prayer

Mark Twain: To the Person Sitting in Darkness

Mark Twain: The basest type of patriotism: support for war and imperialism

Mark Twain: The Battle Hymn of the Republic (Brought Down to Date)

Mark Twain: Epitome of war, the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity

Mark Twain: I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

Mark Twain: Maxims on battleships and statesmanship

Mark Twain: Only dead men dare tell the whole truth about war

Mark Twain: Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War

Mark Twain: An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war

Mark Twain on Western military threat to China: I am a Boxer

Mark Twain: Cecil Rhodes and the civilizing mission: He wants the earth and wants it for his own

Thorstein Veblen: Habituation to war entails a body of predatory habits of thought

Nathanael West: Selections on war

Nathanael West: Every defeat is a victory in a war of attrition

Nathanael West: The noble motives, the noble methods of war

Nathanael West: Not their fault, they thought they had bombed a hospital

Nathanael West: One live recruit is better than a dozen dead veterans

Nathanael West: They haven’t the proper military slant

John Greenleaf Whittier: Selections on peace and war

John Greenleaf Whittier: Disarmament

John Greenleaf Whittier: If this be Peace, pray what is War?

John Greenleaf Whittier: Nobler than the sword’s shall be the sickle’s accolade

John Greenleaf Whittier: The Peace Convention at Brussels

John Greenleaf Whittier: The stormy clangor of wild war music o’er the earth shall cease

Ellen Wheeler Wilcox: The Paean of Peace

Ella Wheeler Wilcox: A Plea To Peace

Thomas Wolfe: His imperial country at war, possessed of the inspiration for murder

Thomas Wolfe: Santimony and cant of war

Categories: Uncategorized

Edgar Allan Poe: The Valley of Unrest

December 28, 2011 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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Edgar Allan Poe
The Valley of Unrest (1845)

Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless —
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye —
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep: — from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.

Categories: Uncategorized

Edwin Arlington Robinson: Though your very flesh and blood the Eagle eats and drinks, you’ll praise him for the best of birds

December 27, 2011 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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Edwin Arlington Robinson

“Today I have been thinking of Hitler and of what one fanatic neurotic may yet do to us and drag us into. It is all right to say it can’t happen here, but unfortunately it can.”

Letter, 1934

*****

Cassandra (1914)

I heard one who said: “Verily,
What word have I for children here?
Your Dollar is your only Word,
The wrath of it your only fear.

“You build it altars tall enough
To make you see but you are blind;
You cannot leave it long enough
To look before you or behind.

“When Reason beckons you to pause,
You laugh and say that you know best;
But what it is you know, you keep
As dark as ingots in a chest.

“You laugh and answer, ‘We are young;
Oh, leave us now, and let us grow:’
Not asking how much more of this
Will Time endure or Fate bestow.

“Because a few complacent years
Have made your peril of your pride,
Think you that you are to go on
Forever pampered and untried?

“What lost eclipse of history,
What bivouac of the marching stars,
Has given the sign for you to see
Milleniums and last great wars?

“What unrecorded overthrow
Of all the world has ever known,
Or ever been, has made itself
So plain to you, and you alone?

“Your Dollar, Dove, and Eagle make
A Trinity that even you
Rate higher than you rate yourselves;
It pays, it flatters, and it’s new.

“And though your very flesh and blood
Be what the Eagle eats and drinks,
You’ll praise him for the best of birds,
Not knowing what the eagle thinks.

“The power is yours, but not the sight;
You see not upon what you tread;
You have the ages for your guide,
But not the wisdom to be led.

“Think you to tread forever down
The merciless old verities?
And are you never to have eyes
To see the world for what it is?

“Are you to pay for what you have
With all you are?” – No other word
We caught, but with a laughing crowd
Moved on. None heeded, and few heard.

*****

The Valley of the Shadow (1921)

There were faces to remember in the Valley of the Shadow,
There were faces unregarded, there were faces to forget;
There were fires of grief and fear that are a few forgotten ashes,
There were sparks of recognition that are not forgotten yet.
For at first, with an amazed and overwhelming indignation
At a measureless malfeasance that obscurely willed it thus,
They were lost and unacquainted—till they found themselves in others,
Who had groped as they were groping where dim ways were perilous.

There were lives that were as dark as are the fears and intuitions
Of a child who knows himself and is alone with what he knows;
There were pensioners of dreams and there were debtors of illusions,
All to fail before the triumph of a weed that only grows.
There were thirsting heirs of golden sieves that held not wine or water,
And had no names in traffic or more value there than toys:
There were blighted sons of wonder in the Valley of the Shadow,
Where they suffered and still wondered why their wonder made no noise.

There were slaves who dragged the shackles of a precedent unbroken,
Demonstrating the fulfilment of unalterable schemes,
Which had been, before the cradle, Time’s inexorable tenants
Of what were now the dusty ruins of their father’s dreams.
There were these, and there were many who had stumbled up to manhood,
Where they saw too late the road they should have taken long ago:
There were thwarted clerks and fiddlers in the Valley of the Shadow,
The commemorative wreckage of what others did not know.

And there were daughters older than the mothers who had borne them,
Being older in their wisdom, which is older than the earth;
And they were going forward only farther into darkness,
Unrelieved as were the blasting obligations of their birth;
And among them, giving always what was not for their possession,
There were maidens, very quiet, with no quiet in their eyes;
There were daughters of the silence in the Valley of the Shadow,
Each an isolated item in the family sacrifice.

There were creepers among catacombs where dull regrets were torches,
Giving light enough to show them what was there upon the shelves—
Where there was more for them to see than pleasure would remember
Of something that had been alive and once had been themselves.
There were some who stirred the ruins with a solid imprecation,
While as many fled repentance for the promise of despair:
There were drinkers of wrong waters in the Valley of the Shadow,
And all the sparkling ways were dust that once had led them there.

There were some who knew the steps of Age incredibly beside them,
And his fingers upon shoulders that had never felt the wheel;
And their last of empty trophies was a gilded cup of nothing,
Which a contemplating vagabond would not have come to steal.
Long and often had they figured for a larger valuation,
But the size of their addition was the balance of a doubt:
There were gentlemen of leisure in the Valley of the Shadow,
Not allured by retrospection, disenchanted, and played out.

And among the dark endurances of unavowed reprisals
There were silent eyes of envy that saw little but saw well;
And over beauty’s aftermath of hazardous ambitions
There were tears for what had vanished as they vanished where they fell.
Not assured of what was theirs, and always hungry for the nameless,
There were some whose only passion was for Time who made them cold:
There were numerous fair women in the Valley of the Shadow,
Dreaming rather less of heaven than of hell when they were old.

Now and then, as if to scorn the common touch of common sorrow,
There were some who gave a few the distant pity of a smile;
And another cloaked a soul as with an ash of human embers,
Having covered thus a treasure that would last him for a while.
There were many by the presence of the many disaffected,
Whose exemption was included in the weight that others bore:
There were seekers after darkness in the Valley of the Shadow,
And they alone were there to find what they were looking for.

So they were, and so they are; and as they came are coming others,
And among them are the fearless and the meek and the unborn;
And a question that has held us heretofore without an answer
May abide without an answer until all have ceased to mourn.
For the children of the dark are more to name than are the wretched,
Or the broken, or the weary, or the baffled, or the shamed:
There are builders of new mansions in the Valley of the Shadow,
And among them are the dying and the blinded and the maimed.

Categories: Uncategorized

William Cullen Bryant: Christmas 1875

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

William Cullen Bryant: Emblem of the peace that yet shall be, noise of war shall cease from sea to sea

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William Cullen Bryant
Christmas 1875

(Supposed to be written by a Spaniard)

No trumpet-blast profaned
The hour in which the Prince of Peace was born;
No bloody streamlet stained
Earth’s silver rivers on that sacred morn;
But, o’er the peaceful plain,
The war-horse drew the peasant’s loaded wain.

The soldier had laid by
The sword and stripped the corselet from his breast,
And hung his helm on high –
The sparrow’s winter home and summer nest;
And, with the same strong hand
That flung the barbed spear, he tilled the land.

Oh, time for which we yearn;
Oh, sabbath of the nations long foretold!
Season of peace, return,
Like a late summer when the year grows old,
When the sweet sunny days
Steeped mead and mountain-side in golden haze.

For now two rival kings
Flaunt, o’er our bleeding land, their hostile flags,
And every sunrise brings
The hovering vulture from his mountain-crags
To where the battle-plain
Is strewn with dead, the youth and flower of Spain.

Christ is not come, while yet
O’er half the earth the threat of battle lowers,
And our own fields are wet,
Beneath the battle-cloud, with crimson showers –
The life-blood of the slain,
Poured out where thousands die that one may reign.

Soon, over half the earth,
In every temple crowds shall kneel again
To celebrate His birth
Who brought the message of good-will to men,
And bursts of joyous song
Shall shake the roof above the prostrate throng.

Christ is not come, while there
The men of blood whose crimes affront the skies
Kneel down in act of prayer,
Amid the joyous strains, and when they rise
Go forth, with sword and flame,
To waste the land in His most holy name.

Oh, when the day shall break
O’er realms unlearned in warfare’s cruel arts,
And all their millions wake
To peaceful tasks performed with loving hearts,
On such a blessed morn,
Well may the nations say that Christ is born.

Categories: Uncategorized

Alexander Pope: Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Alexander Pope: War, horrid war, your thoughtful walks invades

Alexander Pope: Where Peace scatters blessings from her dovelike wing

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Alexander Pope
Messiah
A Sacred Eclogue, in Imitation of Virgil’s Pollio
(1712)

*****

All crimes shall cease, and ancient frauds shall fail;
Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from Heaven descend.

No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be covered o’er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.

*****

Ye nymphs of Solyma! begin the song:
To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus and th’ Aonian maids,
Delight no more – O thou my voice inspire
Who touched Isaiah’s hallowed lips with fire!
Rapt into future times, the bard begun:
A Virgin shall conceive, a Virgin bear a Son!
From Jesse’s root behold a branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:
Th’ ethereal spirit o’er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descends the mystic Dove.
Ye Heavens! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly shower!
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storm a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient frauds shall fail;
Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from Heaven descend.
Swift fly the years, and rise th’ expected morn!
Oh spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born!
See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring:
See lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests on the mountains dance:
See spicy clouds from lowly Saron rise,
And Carmel’s flowery top perfumes the skies!
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers:
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears!
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply,
The rocks proclaim th’ approaching Deity.
Lo, Earth receives him from the bending skies!
Sink down, ye mountains! and ye valleys, rise!
With heads declined, ye cedars, homage pay!
Be smooth, ye rocks! ye rapid floods, give way!
The Saviour comes! by ancient bards foretold:
Hear him, ye deaf! and all ye blind, behold!
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eyeball pour the day:
‘Tis he th’ obstructed paths of sound shall clear
And bid new music charm th’ unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe.
No sigh, no murmur, the wide world shall hear.
From every face he wipes off every tear.
In adamantine chains shall Death be bound.
And Hell’s grim tyrant feel th’ eternal wound.
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture, and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,
By day o’ersees them, and by night protects;
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms:
Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage,
The promised Father of the future age.
No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be covered o’er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield.
And the same hand that sowed, shall reap the field.
The swain in barren deserts with surprise
Sees lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;
And starts, amidst the thirsty wilds, to hear
New falls of water murmuring in his ear.
On rifted rocks, the dragon’s late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.
Waste sandy valleys, once perplexed with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn:
To leafless shrubs the flowery palms succeed,
And odorous myrtle to the noisome weed.
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead
And boys in flowery bands the tiger lead:
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim’s feet.
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk and speckled snake,
Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongue shall innocently play.
Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem, rise!
Exalt thy towery head, and lift thy eyes!
See a long race thy spacious courts adorn:
See future sons and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies!
See barbarous nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend!
See thy bright altars thronged with prostrate kings,
And heaped with products of Sabean springs!
For thee Idumè’s spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir’s mountains glow.
See Heaven his sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon thee in a flood of day!
No more the rising Sun shall gild the morn,
Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn;
But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
O’erflow thy courts: the Light himself shall shine
Revealed, and God’s eternal day be thine!
The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away!
But fixed his word, his saving power remains;
Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns!

Categories: Uncategorized

Milton: Without ambition, war, or violence

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Milton: Men levy cruel wars, wasting the earth, each other to destroy

John Milton: What can war but endless war still breed?

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John Milton
From Paradise Regained

miltonportrait2

[Jesus speaking to Satan]

They err who count it glorious to subdue
By Conquest far and wide, to over-run
Large Countries, and in field great Battels win,
Great Cities by assault: what do these Worthies,
But rob and spoil, burn, slaughter, and enslave
Peaceable Nations, neighbouring, or remote,
Made Captive, yet deserving freedom more
Then those thir Conquerours, who leave behind
Nothing but ruin wheresoe’re they rove,
And all the flourishing works of peace destroy,
Then swell with pride, and must be titl’d Gods,
Great Benefactors of mankind, Deliverers,
Worship’t with Temple, Priest and Sacrifice;
One is the Son of Jove, of Mars the other,
Till Conquerour Death discover them scarce men,
Rowling in brutish vices, and deform’d,
Violent or shameful death thir due reward.
But if there be in glory aught of good,
It may be means far different be attain’d
Without ambition, war, or violence;
By deeds of peace, by wisdom eminent,
By patience, temperance.

Categories: Uncategorized

John Greenleaf Whittier: If this be Peace, pray what is War?

December 21, 2011 4 comments

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

American writers on peace and against war

John Greenleaf Whittier: Selections on peace and war

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John Greenleaf Whittier
The Peace Of Europe (1852)

“Great peace in Europe! Order reigns
From Tiber’s hills to Danube’s plains!”
So say her kings and priests; so say
The lying prophets of our day.

Go lay to earth a listening ear;
The tramp of measured marches hear;
The rolling of the cannon’s wheel,
The shotted musket’s murderous peal,
The night alarm, the sentry’s call,
The quick-eared spy in hut and hall!
From Polar sea and tropic fen
The dying-groans of exiled men!
The bolted cell, the galley’s chains,
The scaffold smoking with its stains!
Order, the hush of brooding slaves
Peace, in the dungeon-vaults and graves!

O Fisher! of the world-wide net,
With meshes in all waters set,
Whose fabled keys of heaven and hell
Bolt hard the patriot’s prison-cell,
And open wide the banquet-hall,
Where kings and priests hold carnival!
Weak vassal tricked in royal guise,
Boy Kaiser with thy lip of lies;
Base gambler for Napoleon’s crown,
Barnacle on his dead renown!
Thou, Bourbon Neapolitan,
Crowned scandal, loathed of God and man
And thou, fell Spider of the North!
Stretching thy giant feelers forth,
Within whose web the freedom dies
Of nations eaten up like flies!
Speak, Prince and Kaiser, Priest and Czar
If this be Peace, pray what is War?

White Angel of the Lord! unmeet
That soil accursed for thy pure feet.
Never in Slavery’s desert flows
The fountain of thy charmed repose;
No tyrant’s hand thy chaplet weaves
Of lilies and of olive-leaves;
Not with the wicked shalt thou dwell,
Thus saith the Eternal Oracle;
Thy home is with the pure and free!
Stern herald of thy better day,
Before thee, to prepare thy way,
The Baptist Shade of Liberty,
Gray, scarred and hairy-robed, must press
With bleeding feet the wilderness!
Oh that its voice might pierce the ear
Of princes, trembling while they hear
A cry as of the Hebrew seer
Repent! God’s kingdom draweth near!

Categories: Uncategorized

William James: The Philippine Tangle

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

William James: The Moral Equivalent of War

William Dean Howells: Spanish Prisoners of War

Edgar Lee Masters: The Philippine Conquest

Leo Tolstoy: Two Wars and Carthago Delenda Est

Mark Twain: To the Person Sitting in Darkness

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William James
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League
The Philippine Tangle (1899)

*****

Why, then, do we go on? First, the war fever; and then the pride which always refuses to back down when under fire. But these are passions that interfere with the reasonable settlement of any affair; and in this affair we have to deal with a factor altogether peculiar with our belief, namely, in a national destiny which must be “big” at any cost, and which for some inscrutable reason it has become infamous for us to disbelieve in or refuse. We are to be missionaries of civilization, and to bear the white man’s burden, painful as it often is. We must sow our ideals, plant our order, impose our God. The individual lives are nothing. Our duty and our destiny call, and civilization must go on.

The issue is perfectly plain at last. We are cold-bloodedly, wantonly and abominably destroying the soul of a people who never did us an atom of harm in their lives. It is bald, brutal piracy, impossible to dish up any longer in the cold pot-grease of President McKinley’s cant…

The impotence of the private individual, with imperialism under full headway as it is, is deplorable indeed. But every American has a voice or a pen, and may use it. So, impelled by my own sense of duty, I write these present words. One by one we shall creep from cover, and the opposition will organize itself.

*****

An observer who should judge solely by the sort of evidence which the newspapers present might easily suppose that the American people felt little concern about the performances of our Government in the Philippine Islands, and were practically indifferent to their moral aspects. The cannon of our gunboats at Manila and the ratification of the treaty have sent even the most vehement anti-imperialist journals temporarily to cover, and the bugbear of copperheadism has reduced the freest tongues for a while to silence. The excitement of battle, this time as always, has produced its cowing and disorganizing effect upon the opposition.

But since then, Executive and all, we have been swept away by the overmastering flood. And now what it has swept us into is an adventure that in sober seriousness and definite English speech must be described as literally piratical. Our treatment of the Aguinaldo movement at Manila and at Iloilo is piracy positive and absolute, and the American people appear as pirates pure and simple, as day by day the real facts of the situation are coming to the light.

What was only vaguely apprehended is now clear with a definiteness that is startling indeed. Here was a people towards whom we felt no ill-will, against whom we had not even a slanderous rumor to bring; a people for whose tenacious struggle against their Spanish oppressors we have for years past spoken (so far as we spoke of them at all) with nothing but admiration and sympathy. Here was a leader who, as the Spanish lies about him, on which we were fed so long, drop off, and as the truth gets more and more known, appears as an exceptionally fine specimen of the patriot and national hero; not only daring, but honest; not only a fighter, but a governor and organizer of extraordinary power. Here were the precious beginnings of an indigenous national life, with which, if we had any responsibilities to these islands at all, it was our first duty to have squared ourselves. Aguinaldo’s movement was, and evidently deserved to be, an ideal popular movement, which as far as it had had time to exist was showing itself “fit” to survive and likely to become a healthy piece of national self-development. It was all we had to build on, at any rate, so far – if we had any desire not to succeed to the Spaniards’ inheritance of native execration.

And what did our Administration do? So far as the facts have leaked out, it issued instructions to the commanders on the ground simply to freeze Aguinaldo out, as a dangerous rival with whom all compromising entanglement was sedulously to be avoided by the great Yankee business concern. We were not to “recognize” him, we were to deny him all account of our intentions; and in general to refuse any account of our intentions to anybody, except to declare in abstract terms their “benevolence,” until the inhabitants, without a pledge of any sort from US, should turn over their country into our hands. Our President’s bouffe-proclamation was the only thing vouchsafed: “We are here for your own good; therefore unconditionally surrender to our tender mercies, or we’ll blow you into kingdom come.”

It is horrible, simply horrible. Surely there cannot be many born and bred Americans who, when they look at the bare fact of what we are doing, the fact taken all by itself, do not feel this, and do not blush with burning shame at the unspeakable meanness and ignominy of the trick?

Why, then, do we go on? First, the war fever; and then the pride which always refuses to back down when under fire. But these are passions that interfere with the reasonable settlement of any affair; and in this affair we have to deal with a factor altogether peculiar with our belief, namely, in a national destiny which must be “big” at any cost, and which for some inscrutable reason it has become infamous for us to disbelieve in or refuse. We are to be missionaries of civilization, and to bear the white man’s burden, painful as it often is. We must sow our ideals, plant our order, impose our God. The individual lives are nothing. Our duty and our destiny call, and civilization must go on.

Could there be a more damning indictment of that whole bloated idol termed “modern civilization” than this amounts to? Civilization is, then, the big, hollow, resounding, corrupting, sophisticating, confusing torrent of mere brutal momentum and irrationality that brings forth fruits like this! It is safe to say that one Christian missionary, whether primitive, Protestant or Catholic, of the original missionary type, one Buddhist or Mohammedan of a genuine saintly sort, one ethical reformer or philanthropist, or one disciple of Tolstoi would do more real good in these islands than our whole army and navy can possibly effect with our whole civilization at their back. He could build up realities, in however small a degree; we can only destroy the inner realities; and indeed destroy in a year more of them than a generation can make good.

It is by their moral fruits exclusively that these benighted brown people, “half-devil and half-child” as they are, are condemned to judge a civilization. Ours is already execrated by them forever for its hideous fruits.

Shall it not in so far forth be execrated by ourselves? Shall the unsophisticated verdict upon its hideousness which the plain moral sense pronounces avail nothing to stem the torrent of mere empty “bigness” in our destiny, before which it is said we must all knock under, swallowing our higher sentiments with a gulp? The issue is perfectly plain at last. We are cold-bloodedly, wantonly and abominably destroying the soul of a people who never did us an atom of harm in their lives. It is bald, brutal piracy, impossible to dish up any longer in the cold pot-grease of President McKinley’s cant at the recent Boston banquet – surely as shamefully evasive a speech, considering the right of the public to know definite facts, as can often have fallen even from a professional politician’s lips. The worst of our imperialists is that they do not themselves know where sincerity ends and insincerity begins. Their state of consciousness is so new, so mixed of primitively human passions and, in political circles, of calculations that are anything but primitively human; so at variance, moreover, with their former mental habits – and so empty of definite data and contents; that they face various ways at once, and their portraits should be taken with a squint. One reads the President’s speech with a strange feeling – as if the very words were squinting on the page.

The impotence of the private individual, with imperialism under full headway as it is, is deplorable indeed. But every American has a voice or a pen, and may use it. So, impelled by my own sense of duty, I write these present words. One by one we shall creep from cover, and the opposition will organize itself. If the Filipinos hold out long enough, there is a good chance (the canting game being already pretty well played out, and the piracy having to show itself henceforward naked) of the older American beliefs and sentiments coming to their rights again, and of the Administration being terrified into a conciliatory policy towards the native government.

The programme for the opposition should, it seems to me, be radical. The infamy and iniquity of a war of conquest must stop. A “protectorate,” of course, if they will have it, though after this they would probably rather welcome any European Power; and as regards the inner state of the island, freedom, “fit” or “unfit;” that is, home rule without humbugging phrases, and whatever anarchy may go with it until the Filipinos learn from each other, not from us, how to govern themselves. Mr. Adams’s programme – which anyone may have by writing to Mr. Erving Winslow, Anti-Imperialist League, Washington, D.C. – seems to contain the only hopeful key to the situation. Until the opposition newspapers seriously begin, and the mass meetings are held, let every American who still wishes his country to possess its ancient soul – soul a thousand times more dear than ever, now that it seems in danger of perdition – do what little he can in the way of open speech and writing, and above all let him give his representatives and senators in Washington a positive piece of his mind.

Categories: Uncategorized

Mark Twain: To the Person Sitting in Darkness

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Mark Twain: Selections on war

***

William Dean Howells: Spanish Prisoners of War

William James: The Philippine Tangle

Edgar Lee Masters: The Philippine Conquest

Leo Tolstoy: Two Wars and Carthago Delenda Est

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Mark Twain
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League
To the Person Sitting in Darkness (1901)

*****

“It is yet another Civilized Power, with its banner of the Prince of Peace in one hand and its loot-basket and its butcher-knife in the other. Is there no salvation for us but to adopt Civilization and lift ourselves down to its level?”

The Person Sitting in Darkness is almost sure to say: “There is something curious about this – curious and unaccountable. There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land.”

What we wanted, in the interest of Progress and Civilization, was the Archipelago, unencumbered by patriots struggling for independence; and the War was what we needed.

And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one – our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.

*****

Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked – but not enough, in my judgement, to make any considerable risk advisable. The People that Sit in Darkness are getting to be too scarce ­– too scarce and too shy. And such darkness as is now left is really of but an indifferent quality, and not dark enough for the game. The most of those People that Sit in Darkness have been furnished with more light than was good for them or profitable for us. We have been injudicious.

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it – they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization. More – they have begun to examine them. This is not well. The Blessings of Civilization are all right, and a good commercial property; there could not be a better, in a dim light. In the right kind of a light, and at a proper distance, with the goods a little out of focus, they furnish this desirable exhibit to the Gentlemen who Sit in Darkness:

LOVE,
LAW AND ORDER,
JUSTICE,
LIBERTY,
GENTLENESS,
EQUALITY,
CHRISTIANITY,
HONORABLE DEALING,
PROTECTION TO THE WEAK,
MERCY,
TEMPERANCE,
EDUCATION,

– and so on.

There. Is it good? Sir, it is pie. It will bring into camp any idiot that sits in darkness anywhere. But not if we adulterate it. It is proper to be emphatic upon that point. This brand is strictly for Export – apparently. Apparently. Privately and confidentially, it is nothing of the kind. Privately and confidentially, it is merely an outside cover, gay and pretty and attractive, displaying the special patterns of our Civilization which we reserve for Home Consumption, while inside the bale is the Actual Thing that the Customer Sitting in Darkness buys with his blood and tears and land and liberty. That Actual Thing is, indeed, Civilization, but it is only for Export. Is there a difference between the two brands? In some of the details, yes.

We all know that the Business is being ruined. The reason is not far to seek. It is because our Mr. McKinley, and Mr. Chamberlain, and the Kaiser, and the Czar and the French have been exporting the Actual Thing with the outside cover left off. This is bad for the Game. It shows that these new players of it are not sufficiently acquainted with it.

It is a distress to look on and note the mismoves, they are so strange and so awkward. Mr. Chamberlain manufactures a war out of materials so inadequate and so fanciful that they make the boxes grieve and the gallery laugh, and he tries hard to persuade himself that it isn’t purely a private raid for cash, but has a sort of dim, vague respectability about it somewhere, if he could only find the spot; and that, by and by, he can scour the flag clean again after he has finished dragging it through the mud, and make it shine and flash in the vault of heaven once more as it had shone and flashed there a thousand years in the world’s respect until he laid his unfaithful hand upon it. It is bad play – bad. For it exposes the Actual Thing to Them that Sit in Darkness, and they say: “What! Christian against Christian? And only for money? Is this a case of magnanimity, forbearance, love, gentleness, mercy, protection of the weak – this strange and over-showy onslaught of an elephant upon a nest of field-mice, on the pretext that the mice had squeaked an insolence at him – conduct which ‘no self-respecting government could allow to pass unavenged?’ as Mr. Chamberlain said. Was that a good pretext in a small case, when it had not been a good pretext in a large one? ­– for only recently Russia had affronted the elephant three times and survived alive and unsmitten. Is this Civilization and Progress? Is it something better than we already possess? These harryings and burnings and desert-makings in the Transvaal ­– is this an improvement on our darkness? Is it, perhaps, possible that there are two kinds of Civilization – one for home consumption and one for the heathen market?”

Then They that Sit in Darkness are troubled, and shake their heads; and they read this extract from a letter of a British private, recounting his exploits in one of Methuen’s victories, some days before the affair of Magersfontein, and they are troubled again:

“We tore up the hill and into the intrenchments, and the Boers saw we had them; so they dropped their guns and went down on their knees and put up their hands clasped, and begged for mercy. And we gave it them – with the long spoon.”

The long spoon is the bayonet. See Lloyd’s Weekly, London, of those days. The same number – and the same column – contains some quite unconscious satire in the form of shocked and bitter upbraidings of the Boers for their brutalities and inhumanities!

Next, to our heavy damage, the Kaiser went to playing the game without first mastering it. He lost a couple of missionaries in a riot in Shantung, and in his account he made an overcharge for them. China had to pay a hundred thousand dollars apiece for them, in money; twelve miles of territory, containing several millions of inhabitants and worth twenty million dollars; and to build a monument, and also a Christian church; whereas the people of China could have been depended upon to remember the missionaries without the help of these expensive memorials. This was all bad play. Bad, because it would not, and could not, and will not now or ever, deceive the Person Sitting in Darkness. He knows that it was an overcharge. He knows that a missionary is like any other man: he is worth merely what you can supply his place for, and no more. He is useful, but so is a doctor, so is a sheriff, so is an editor; but a just Emperor does not charge war-prices for such. A diligent, intelligent, but obscure missionary, and a diligent, intelligent country editor are worth much, and we know it; but they are not worth the earth. We esteem such an editor, and we are sorry to see him go; but, when he goes, we should consider twelve miles of territory, and a church, and a fortune, over-compensation for his loss. I mean, if he was a Chinese editor, and we had to settle for him. It is no proper figure for an editor or a missionary; one can get shop-worn kings for less. It was bad play on the Kaiser’s part. It got this property, true; but it produced the Chinese revolt, the indignant uprising of China’s traduced patriots, the Boxers. The results have been expensive to Germany, and to the other Disseminators of Progress and the Blessings of Civilization.

The Kaiser’s claim was paid, yet it was bad play, for it could not fail to have an evil effect upon Persons Sitting in Darkness in China. They would muse upon the event, and be likely to say: “Civilization is gracious and beautiful, for such is its reputation; but can we afford it? There are rich Chinamen, perhaps they could afford it; but this tax is not laid upon them, it is laid upon the peasants of Shantung; it is they that must pay this mighty sum, and their wages are but four cents a day. Is this a better civilization than ours, and holier and higher and nobler? Is not this rapacity? Is not this extortion? Would Germany charge America two hundred thousand dollars for two missionaries, and shake the mailed fist in her face, and send warships, and send soldiers, and say: ‘Seize twelve miles of territory, worth twenty millions of dollars, as additional pay for the missionaries; and make those peasants build a monument to the missionaries, and a costly Christian church to remember them by?’ And later would Germany say to her soldiers: ‘March through America and slay, giving no quarter; make the German face there, as has been our Hun-face here, a terror for a thousand years; march through the Great Republic and slay, slay, slay, carving a road for our offended religion through its heart and bowels?’ Would Germany do like this to America, to England, to France, to Russia? Or only to China the helpless ­– imitating the elephant’s assault upon the field-mice? Had we better invest in this Civilization ­– this Civilization which called Napoleon a buccaneer for carrying off Venice’s bronze horses, but which steals our ancient astronomical instruments from our walls, and goes looting like common bandits ­– that is, all the alien soldiers except America’s; and (Americans again excepted) storms frightened villages and cables the result to glad journals at home every day: ‘Chinese losses, 450 killed; ours, one officer and two men wounded. Shall proceed against neighboring village to-morrow, where a massacre is reported.’ Can we afford Civilization?”

And, next, Russia must go and play the game injudiciously. She affronts England once or twice – with the Person Sitting in Darkness observing and noting; by moral assistance of France and Germany, she robs Japan of her hard-earned spoil, all swimming in Chinese blood ­– Port Arthur – with the Person again observing and noting; then she seizes Manchuria, raids its villages, and chokes its great river with the swollen corpses of countless massacred peasants – that astonished Person still observing and noting. And perhaps he is saying to himself: “It is yet another Civilized Power, with its banner of the Prince of Peace in one hand and its loot-basket and its butcher-knife in the other. Is there no salvation for us but to adopt Civilization and lift ourselves down to its level?”

And by and by comes America, and our Master of the Game plays it badly – plays it as Mr. Chamberlain was playing it in South Africa. It was a mistake to do that; also, it was one which was quite unlooked for in a Master who was playing it so well in Cuba. In Cuba, he was playing the usual and regular American game, and it was winning, for there is no way to beat it. The Master, contemplating Cuba, said: “Here is an oppressed and friendless little nation which is willing to fight to be free; we go partners, and put up the strength of seventy million sympathizers and the resources of the United States: play!” Nothing but Europe combined could call that hand: and Europe cannot combine on anything. There, in Cuba, he was following our great traditions in a way which made us very proud of him, and proud of the deep dissatisfaction which his play was provoking in Continental Europe. Moved by a high inspiration, he threw out those stirring words which proclaimed that forcible annexation would be “criminal aggression;” and in that utterance fired another “shot heard round the world.” The memory of that fine saying will be outlived by the remembrance of no act of his but one – that he forgot it within the twelvemonth, and its honorable gospel along with it.

For, presently, came the Philippine temptation. It was strong; it was too strong, and he made that bad mistake: he played the European game, the Chamberlain game. It was a pity; it was a great pity, that error; that one grievous error, that irrevocable error. For it was the very place and time to play the American game again. And at no cost. Rich winnings to be gathered in, too; rich and permanent; indestructible; a fortune transmissible forever to the children of the flag. Not land, not money, not dominion – no, something worth many times more than that dross: our share, the spectacle of a nation of long harassed and persecuted slaves set free through our influence; our posterity’s share, the golden memory of that fair deed. The game was in our hands. If it had been played according to the American rules, Dewey would have sailed away from Manila as soon as he had destroyed the Spanish fleet – after putting up a sign on shore guaranteeing foreign property and life against damage by the Filipinos, and warning the Powers that interference with the emancipated patriots would be regarded as an act unfriendly to the United States. The Powers cannot combine, in even a bad cause, and the sign would not have been molested.

Dewey could have gone about his affairs elsewhere, and left the competent Filipino army to starve out the little Spanish garrison and send it home, and the Filipino citizens to set up the form of government they might prefer, and deal with the friars and their doubtful acquisitions according to Filipino ideas of fairness and justice – ideas which have since been tested and found to be of as high an order as any that prevail in Europe or America.

But we played the Chamberlain game, and lost the chance to add another Cuba and another honorable deed to our good record.

The more we examine the mistake, the more clearly we perceive that it is going to be bad for the Business. The Person Sitting in Darkness is almost sure to say: “There is something curious about this – curious and unaccountable. There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land.”

The truth is, the Person Sitting in Darkness is saying things like that; and for the sake of the Business we must persuade him to look at the Philippine matter in another and healthier way. We must arrange his opinions for him. I believe it can be done; for Mr. Chamberlain has arranged England’s opinion of the South African matter, and done it most cleverly and successfully. He presented the facts – some of the facts – and showed those confiding people what the facts meant. He did it statistically, which is a good way. He used the formula: “Twice 2 are 14, and 2 from 9 leaves 35.” Figures are effective; figures will convince the elect.

Now, my plan is a still bolder one than Mr. Chamberlain’s, though apparently a copy of it. Let us be franker than Mr. Chamberlain; let us audaciously present the whole of the facts, shirking none, then explain them according to Mr. Chamberlain’s formula. This daring truthfulness will astonish and dazzle the Person Sitting in Darkness, and he will take the Explanation down before his mental vision has had time to get back into focus. Let us say to him:

“Our case is simple. On the 1st of May, Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet. This left the Archipelago in the hands of its proper and rightful owners, the Filipino nation. Their army numbered 30,000 men, and they were competent to whip out or starve out the little Spanish garrison; then the people could set up a government of their own devising. Our traditions required that Dewey should now set up his warning sign, and go away. But the Master of the Game happened to think of another plan – the European plan. He acted upon it. This was, to send out an army – ostensibly to help the native patriots put the finishing touch upon their long and plucky struggle for independence, but really to take their land away from them and keep it. That is, in the interest of Progress and Civilization. The plan developed, stage by stage, and quite satisfactorily. We entered into a military alliance with the trusting Filipinos, and they hemmed in Manila on the land side, and by their valuable help the place, with its garrison of 8,000 or 10,000 Spaniards, was captured – a thing which we could not have accomplished unaided at that time. We got their help by – by ingenuity. We knew they were fighting for their independence, and that they had been at it for two years. We knew they supposed that we also were fighting in their worthy cause – just as we had helped the Cubans fight for Cuban independence – and we allowed them to go on thinking so. Until Manila was ours and we could get along without them. Then we showed our hand. Of course, they were surprised – that was natural; surprised and disappointed; disappointed and grieved. To them it looked un-American; uncharacteristic; foreign to our established traditions. And this was natural, too; for we were only playing the American Game in public – in private it was the European. It was neatly done, very neatly, and it bewildered them. They could not understand it; for we had been so friendly – so affectionate, even – with those simple-minded patriots! We, our own selves, had brought back out of exile their leader, their hero, their hope, their Washington – Aguinaldo; brought him in a warship, in high honor, under the sacred shelter and hospitality of the flag; brought him back and restored him to his people, and got their moving and eloquent gratitude for it. Yes, we had been so friendly to them, and had heartened them up in so many ways! We had lent them guns and ammunition; advised with them; exchanged pleasant courtesies with them; placed our sick and wounded in their kindly care; entrusted our Spanish prisoners to their humane and honest hands; fought shoulder to shoulder with them against “the common enemy” (our own phrase); praised their courage, praised their gallantry, praised their mercifulness, praised their fine and honorable conduct; borrowed their trenches, borrowed strong positions which they had previously captured from the Spaniard; petted them, lied to them – officially proclaiming that our land and naval forces came to give them their freedom and displace the bad Spanish Government – fooled them, used them until we needed them no longer; then derided the sucked orange and threw it away. We kept the positions which we had beguiled them of; by and by, we moved a force forward and overlapped patriot ground – a clever thought, for we needed trouble, and this would produce it. A Filipino soldier, crossing the ground, where no one had a right to forbid him, was shot by our sentry. The badgered patriots resented this with arms, without waiting to know whether Aguinaldo, who was absent, would approve or not. Aguinaldo did not approve; but that availed nothing. What we wanted, in the interest of Progress and Civilization, was the Archipelago, unencumbered by patriots struggling for independence; and the War was what we needed. We clinched our opportunity. It is Mr. Chamberlain’s case over again – at least in its motive and intention; and we played the game as adroitly as he played it himself.”

At this point in our frank statement of fact to the Person Sitting in Darkness, we should throw in a little trade-taffy about the Blessings of Civilization – for a change, and for the refreshment of his spirit – then go on with our tale:

“We and the patriots having captured Manila, Spain’s ownership of the Archipelago and her sovereignty over it were at an end – obliterated – annihilated – not a rag or shred of either remaining behind. It was then that we conceived the divinely humorous idea of buying both of these spectres from Spain! [It is quite safe to confess this to the Person Sitting in Darkness, since neither he nor any other sane person will believe it.] In buying those ghosts for twenty millions, we also contracted to take care of the friars and their accumulations. I think we also agreed to propagate leprosy and smallpox, but as to this there is doubt. But it is not important; persons afflicted with the friars do not mind the other diseases.

“With our Treaty ratified, Manila subdued, and our Ghosts secured, we had no further use for Aguinaldo and the owners of the Archipelago. We forced a war, and we have been hunting America’s guest and ally through the woods and swamps ever since.”

At this point in the tale, it will be well to boast a little of our war-work and our heroisms in the field, so as to make our performance look as fine as England’s in South Africa; but I believe it will not be best to emphasize this too much. We must be cautious. Of course, we must read the war-telegrams to the Person, in order to keep up our frankness; but we can throw an air of humorousness over them, and that will modify their grim eloquence a little, and their rather indiscreet exhibitions of gory exultation. Before reading to him the following display heads of the dispatches of November 18, 1900, it will be well to practice on them in private first, so as to get the right tang of lightness and gaiety into them:

“ADMINISTRATION WEARY OF PROTRACTED HOSTILITIES!”
“REAL WAR AHEAD FOR FILIPINO REBELS!”
“WILL SHOW NO MERCY!”
“KITCHENER’S PLAN ADOPTED!”

Kitchener knows how to handle disagreeable people who are fighting for their homes and their liberties, and we must let on that we are merely imitating Kitchener, and have no national interest in the matter, further than to get ourselves admired by the Great Family of Nations, in which august company our Master of the Game has bought a place for us in the back row.

Of course, we must not venture to ignore our General MacArthur’s reports – oh, why do they keep on printing those embarrassing things? – we must drop them trippingly from the tongue and take the chances:

“During the last ten months our losses have been 268 killed and 750 wounded; Filipino loss, three thousand two hundred and twenty-seven killed, and 694 wounded.”

We must stand ready to grab the Person Sitting in Darkness, for he will swoon away at this confession, saying: “Good God, those ‘niggers’ spare their wounded, and the Americans massacre theirs!”

We must bring him to, and coax him and coddle him, and assure him that the ways of Providence are best, and that it would not become us to find fault with them; and then, to show him that we are only imitators, not originators, we must read the following passage from the letter of an American soldier-lad in the Philippines to his mother, published in Public Opinion, of Decorah, Iowa, describing the finish of a victorious battle:

“WE NEVER LEFT ONE ALIVE. IF ONE WAS WOUNDED, WE WOULD RUN OUR BAYONETS THROUGH HIM.”

Having now laid all the historical facts before the Person Sitting in Darkness, we should bring him to again, and explain them to him. We should say to him:

“They look doubtful, but in reality they are not. There have been lies; yes, but they were told in a good cause. We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil. True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn’t it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit’s work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America’s honor and blackened her face before the world; but each detail was for the best. We know this. The Head of every State and Sovereignty in Christendom and ninety per cent. of every legislative body in Christendom, including our Congress and our fifty State Legislatures, are members not only of the church, but also of the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. It knows what it is about. Give yourself no uneasiness; it is all right.”

Now then, that will convince the Person. You will see. It will restore the Business. Also, it will elect the Master of the Game to the vacant place in the Trinity of our national gods; and there on their high thrones the Three will sit, age after age, in the people’s sight, each bearing the Emblem of his service: Washington, the Sword of the Liberator; Lincoln, the Slave’s Broken Chains; the Master, the Chains Repaired.

It will give the Business a splendid new start. You will see.

Everything is prosperous, now; everything is just as we should wish it. We have got the Archipelago, and we shall never give it up. Also, we have every reason to hope that we shall have an opportunity before very long to slip out of our Congressional contract with Cuba and give her something better in the place of it. It is a rich country, and many of us are already beginning to see that the contract was a sentimental mistake. But now – right now – is the best time to do some profitable rehabilitating work – work that will set us up and make us comfortable, and discourage gossip. We cannot conceal from ourselves that, privately, we are a little troubled about our uniform. It is one of our prides; it is acquainted with honor; it is familiar with great deeds and noble; we love it, we revere it; and so this errand it is on makes us uneasy. And our flag – another pride of ours, our chiefest! We have worshipped it so; and when we have seen it in far lands – glimpsing it unexpectedly in that strange sky, waving its welcome and benediction to us – we have caught our breath, and uncovered our heads, and couldn’t speak, for a moment, for the thought of what it was to us and the great ideals it stood for. Indeed, we must do something about these things; we must not have the flag out there, and the uniform. They are not needed there; we can manage in some other way. England manages, as regards the uniform, and so can we. We have to send soldiers – we can’t get out of that – but we can disguise them. It is the way England does in South Africa. Even Mr. Chamberlain himself takes pride in England’s honorable uniform, and makes the army down there wear an ugly and odious and appropriate disguise, of yellow stuff such as quarantine flags are made of, and which are hoisted to warn the healthy away from unclean disease and repulsive death. This cloth is called khaki. We could adopt it. It is light, comfortable, grotesque, and deceives the enemy, for he cannot conceive of a soldier being concealed in it.

And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one – our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones. And we do not need that Civil Commission out there. Having no powers, it has to invent them, and that kind of work cannot be effectively done by just anybody; an expert is required. Mr. Croker can be spared. We do not want the United States represented there, but only the Game.

By help of these suggested amendments, Progress and Civilization in that country can have a boom, and it will take in the Persons who are Sitting in Darkness, and we can resume Business at the old stand.

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Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz: The word pax, pax, pax

December 18, 2011 1 comment

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

Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (1894-1980)
From The Brotherhood of Man
Translated by Adam Gillon and Ludwik Krzyzanowski

When tempests rage upon the ocean, and many-storied
waves clap
against each other,
emitting sounds like many thousands clapping hands,
and toss ships and fishing boats against the rocks,
and cast men upon the waters of the sea, their heads
bobbing
like wooden logs from shipwrecks –
then suddenly the clouds are rent asunder, like grey
curtains upon
the stage, and a solitary ray falls,
like a gigantic arrow, or a chord that joins the sky
with sea, and
the sea is calmed, and the vessels creep to their ports,
lowering their
tattered sails.
As a mother standing over her son’s grave drops her
arms.
And the ray upon the turgid but already clearer wave
draws the word: pax, pax, pax…
Thus we too await for heavens to draw open and to
give a sign
to all of us, to clasp our hands,
and to exclaim as that ray of sun:
pax

Think of those whose mouths were filled with plaster,
and of those felled by bullets before they could cry out,
and of those who eyes were filled with blood and could
not cast a glance upon the sky,
as you look upon it now,
nor on the victorious banner,
because they died in degradation –
and think about the brotherhood of Man!

And if you cannot fight for man
and if you too take to swords and rifles
and kill your brothers –
mankind shall not attain salvation.

Think, think of this now.
Think of happiness and freedom.
For only the struggle for good can win goodness
and only the degradation of evil can elevate goodness
and only the brotherhood of man can raise upon the
mast
the Olympic flag, great as the world.

Take each other’s hand and sing:
pax, pax, pax
to signify the brotherhood of Man.

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Wole Soyinka: Civilian and Soldier

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Wole Soyinka
Civilian and Soldier (1967)

My apparition rose from the fall of lead,
Declared, ‘I am a civilian.’ It only served
To aggravate your fright. For how could I
Have risen, a being of this world, in that hour
Of impartial death! And I thought also: nor is
Your quarrel of this world.

You stood still
For both eternities, and oh I heard the lesson
Of your training sessions, cautioning –
Scorch earth behind you, do not leave
A dubious neutral to the rear. Reiteration
Of my civilian quandary, burrowing earth
From the lead festival of your more eager friends
Worked the worse on your confusion, and when
You brought the gun to bear on me, and death
Twitched me gently in the eye, your plight
And all of you came clear to me.

I hope some day
Intent upon my trade of living, to be checked
In stride by your apparition in a trench,
Signalling, I am a soldier. No hesitation then
But I shall shoot you clean and fair
With meat and bread, a gourd of wine
A bunch of breasts from either arm, and that
Lone question – do you friend, even now, know
What it is all about?

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Alfred Tennyson: Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d 

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selections on war and peace

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Alfred Tennyson
From Locksley Hall (1835)

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;

Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.

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Émile Verhaeren: I hold war in execration; ashamed to be butchers of their fellows

December 15, 2011 1 comment

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

Émile Verhaeren
From The Dawn (1898)
Translated by Arthur Symons

emile_verhaeren_in_1910

Know, then, that it is in the name of the clearest, simplest, most unvarying law that I appeal to your honour as a man. In a few days this plain will be ruin, putrefaction, and blood. You have a mere word to say, and all our lives, to which we all have a right, will be saved. The help that men owe to men, you who bear arms, you first of all owe to us. This duty wipes out all others. There was a time when the very name of army and of watchword was unknown.

*****

This captain belongs to the race of men who realize the impossible. Think! he and I, to kill the war dead, here, before the discharged and powerless chiefs! To bring about the public reconciliation of the foreign soldiers and ours! To exhaust all the forces of one’s being, all the energies of one’s faith, for that supreme end! What a splendid dream!

*****

…The troops refuse to fight; they are tired out; they disband. Ideas of justice are in the air. There is vague talk of concord; the spark is set to the grate. I await the breath of wind that shall set the wood and straw alight.

*****

I hold war in execration. This between men of the same soil terrifies me more than any other. You, in Oppidomagne, have moved heaven and earth to bring it about. You have cultivated the misery of the people; you have refused it bread, justice, dignity; you have tyrannized it in its body and in its thought; you have helped yourselves with its ignorance, as with your disloyalty, your cleverness, your lying, your irony, and your contempt. You are unworthy and culpable.

*****

The army itself is in a ferment with our dreams. Every discontent, every grudge, every injustice, every oppression, every enslavement, takes an unknown voice to make itself heard! Our masters hate each other. They have no more strength. They obey a phantom. Among the enemy, the same confusion, the same weakness. Mutinies break out among the soldiers. There are revolts against the cruelty of chiefs, against the horrors and follies of the campaign. Storms of hatred arise. Sick of nameless dreads, distresses, and miseries, all long after the necessary union of man with man. They are ashamed to be butchers of their fellows. And now, if this conflagration of instincts could be extinguished; if our besiegers could be made to feel that they would find brotherly souls among us; if by a sudden understanding we might realize to-day a little of the great human dream, Oppidomagne would be forgiven for all its shame, its folly, its blasphemy; it would become the place in the world where one of the few sacred events had happened. It is with this thought that you must all follow me down, towards your children.

*****
 
I was his disciple, and his unknown friend. His books were my Bible. It is men like this who give birth to men like me, faithful, long obscure, but whom fortune permits, in one overwhelming hour, to realize the supreme dream of their master. If fatherlands are fair, sweet to the heart, dear to the memory, armed nations on the frontiers are tragic and deadly; and the whole world is yet bristling with nations. It is in their teeth that we throw them this example of our concord. They will understand some day the immortal thing accomplished here, in this illustrious Oppidomagne, whence the loftiest ideas of humanity have taken flight, one after another, through all the ages. For the first time since the beginning of power, since brains have reckoned time, two races, one renouncing its victory, the other its humbled pride, are made one in an embrace. The whole earth must needs have quivered, all the blood, all the sap of the earth must have flowed to the heart of things. Concord and good will have conquered hate. Human strife, in its form of bloodshed, has been gainsaid. A new beacon shines on the horizon of future storms. Its steady rays shall dazzle all eyes, haunt all brains, magnetize all desires. Needs must we, after all these trials and sorrows, come at last into port, to whose entrance it points the way, and where it gilds the tranquil masts and vessels.  

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: All labor’s dread of war’s mad waste and murder

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: I saw a dove fear-daunted

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
For the Wounded (1871)
Translated by Arthur Hubbell Palmer

no-nb_blds_01191 001

A still procession goes
Amid the battle’s booming,
Its arm the red cross shows;
It prays in many forms of speech,
And, bending o’er the fallen,
Brings peace and home to each.

Not only is it found
Where bleed the wounds of battle,
But all the world around.
It is the love the whole world feels
In noble hearts and tender,
While gentle pity kneels; –

It is all labor’s dread
Of war’s mad waste and murder,
Praying that peace may spread;
It is all sufferers who heed
The sighing of a brother,
And know his sorrow’s need; –

It is each groan of pain
Heard from the sick and wounded,
‘T is Christian prayer humane;
It is their cry who lonely grope,
‘T is the oppressed man’s moaning,
The dying breath of hope; –

This rainbow-bridge of prayers
Up through the world’s wild tempest
In light of Christ’s faith bears:
That love and loving deeds
May conquer strife and passion;
For thus His promise reads.

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George Bernard Shaw: The shallowness of the ideals of men ignorant of history is their destruction

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

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

George Bernard Shaw: Selections on war

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George Bernard Shaw
The Quintessence of Ibsenism
From the Preface to the Third Edition (1922)

 

Since the last edition of this book was printed, war, pestilence and famine have wrecked civilization and killed a number of people of whom the first batch is calculated as not less than fifteen millions. Had the gospel of Ibsen been understood and heeded, these fifteen millions might have been alive now; for the war was a war of ideals. Liberal ideals, Feudal ideals, National ideals, Dynastic ideals, Republican ideals, Church ideals, State ideals, and class ideals, bourgeois and proletarian, all heaped up into a gigantic pile of spiritual high explosive, and then shovelled daily into every house with the morning milk by the newspapers, needed only a bomb thrown at Sarajevo by a handful of regicide idealists to blow the centre out of Europe. Men with empty phrases in their mouths and foolish fables in their heads have seen each other, not as fellow-creatures, but as dragons and devils, and have slaughtered each other accordingly. Now that our frenzies are forgotten, our commissariats disbanded, and the soldiers they fed demobilized to starve when they cannot get employment in mending what we broke, even the iron-mouthed Ibsen, were he still alive, would perhaps spare us, disillusioned wretches as we are, the well-deserved ‘I told you so.’ 

Not that there is any sign of the lesson being taken to heart. Our reactions from Militarist idealism into Pacifist idealism will not put an end to war: they are only a practical form of reculer pour mieux sauter (“recoil the better to jump forward”). We still cannot bring ourselves to criticize our ideals, because that would be a form of self-criticism. The vital force that drives men to throw away their lives and those of others in the pursuit of an imaginative impulse, reckless of its apparent effect on human welfare, is, like all natural forces, given to us in enormous excess to provide against an enormous waste. Therefore men, instead of economizing it by consecrating it to the service of their highest impulses, grasp at a phrase in a newspaper article, or in the speech of a politician on a vote-catching expedition, as an excuse for exercising it violently, just as a horse turned out to grass will gallop and kick merely to let off steam. The shallowness of the ideals of men ignorant of history is their destruction.

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William Collins: Ode to Peace

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

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

William Collins
From Ode to Peace (1747)

O Thou, who bad’st thy Turtles bear
Swift from his Grasp thy golden Hair,
And sought’st thy native Skies:
When War, by Vultures drawn from far,
To Britain bent his Iron Car,
And bad his Storms arise!

Tir’d of his rude tyrannic Sway,
Our Youth shall fix some festive Day,
His sullen Shrines to burn:
But Thou who hear’st the turning Spheres,
What Sounds may charm thy partial Ears,
And gain thy blest Return!

O Peace, thy injur’d Robes up-bind,
O rise, and leave not one behind
Of all thy beamy Train:
The British Lion, Goddess sweet,
Lies stretch’d on Earth to kiss thy Feet,
And own thy holier Reign.

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Federico García Lorca: War goes crying with a million gray rats

December 10, 2011 2 comments

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

Federico García Lorca
From Ode to Walt Whitman
Translated by Rick Rozoff

240x240_bio_lorca-12

Agony, agony, dream, ferment and dream.
This is the world, friend, agony, agony.
The dead decompose under the clock of the cities,
war goes crying with a million gray rats,
the rich give to their mistresses
small illuminated dying things,
and life is not noble, nor good, nor sacred.

*****

Agonía, agonía, sueño, fermento y sueño.
Éste es el mundo, amigo, agonía, agonía.
Los muertos se descomponen bajo el reloj de las ciudades,
la guerra pasa llorando con un millón de ratas grises,
los ricos dan a sus queridas
pequeños moribundos iluminados,
y la vida no es noble, ni buena, ni sagrada.

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James Thomson: Peace is the natural state of man; war his corruption, his disgrace

December 10, 2011 Leave a comment

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

James Thomson: Philosophy’s plans of policy and peace

James Thomson: Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war

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James Thomson

james_thomson

From Coriolanus (1745)

I glory…
To own myself an advocate for peace.
Peace is the natural state of man;
War his corruption, his disgrace.

Why should we purchase with the blood of thousands,
What may be gained by mutual, just concession?
Why give up peace, the best of human blessings,
For the vain cruel pride of useless conquest?

*****

Peace (1740)

O Peace! the fairest child of heaven,
To whom the sylvan reign was given,
The vale, the fountain, and the grove,
With every softer scene of love:
Return, sweet Peace! and cheer the weeping swain!
Return, with Ease and Pleasure in thy train.

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Paul Laurence Dunbar: Birds of peace and deadened hearts

December 9, 2011 1 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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Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Sparrow (1896)

A little bird, with plumage brown,
Beside my window flutters down,
A moment chirps its little strain,
Ten taps upon my window-pane,
And chirps again, and hops along,
To call my notice to its song;
But I work on, nor heed its lay,
Till, in neglect, it flies away.

So birds of peace and hope and love
Come fluttering earthward from above,
To settle on life’s window-sills,
And ease our load of earthly ills;
But we, in traffic’s rush and din
Too deep engaged to let them in,
With deadened heart and sense plod on,
Nor know our loss till they are gone.

*****

We Wear the Mask (1896)

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, –
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

*****

The Lesson (1896)

My cot was down by a cypress grove,
And I sat by my window the whole night long,
And heard well up from the deep dark wood
A mocking-bird’s passionate song.

And I thought of myself so sad and lone,
And my life’s cold winter that knew no spring;
Of my mind so weary and sick and wild,
Of my heart too sad to sing.

But e’en as I listened the mock-bird’s song,
A thought stole into my saddened heart,
And I said, “I can cheer some other soul
By a carol’s simple art.”

For oft from the darkness of hearts and lives
Come songs that brim with joy and light,
As out of the gloom of the cypress grove
The mocking-bird sings at night.

So I sang a lay for a brother’s ear
In a strain to soothe his bleeding heart,
And he smiled at the sound of my voice and lyre,
Though mine was a feeble art.

But at his smile I smiled in turn,
And into my soul there came a ray:
In trying to soothe another’s woes
Mine own had passed away.

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

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

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

W.H. Auden

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Embassy 

As evening fell the day’s oppression lifted: 
Far peaks came into focus; it had rained: 
Across wide lawns and cultured flowers drifted 
The conversation of the highly trained. 

Two gardeners watched them pass and priced their shoes: 
A chauffeur waited, reading in the drive, 
For them to finish their exchange of views; 
It seemed a picture of the private life. 

Far off, no matter what good they intended, 
The armies waited for a verbal error 
With all the instruments for causing pain:
 
And on the issue of their charm depended
A land laid waste, with all its young men slain,
Its women weeping, and its towns in terror.

*****

Fleet Visit

The sailors come ashore
Out of their hollow ships,
Mild-looking middle-class boys
Who read the comic strips;
One baseball game is more
To them than fifty Troys.

They look a bit lost, set down
In this unamerican place
Where natives pass with laws
And futures of their own;
They are not here because
But only just-in-case.

The whore and ne’er-do-well
Who pester them with junk
In their grubby ways at least
Are serving the Social Beast;
They neither make nor sell –
No wonder they get drunk.

But the ships on the dazzling blue
Of the harbor actually gain
From having nothing to do;
Without a human will
To tell them whom to kill
Their structures are humane

And, far from looking lost,
Look as if they were meant
To be pure abstract design
By some master of pattern and line,
Certainly worth every cent
Of the millions they must have cost.

*****

Epitaph On A Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

*****

The Quarry (O What Is That Sound)

O what is that sound which so thrills the ear
Down in the valley drumming, drumming?
Only the scarlet soldiers, dear,
The soldiers coming.

O what is that light I see flashing so clear
Over the distance brightly, brightly?
Only the sun on their weapons, dear,
As they step lightly.

O what are they doing with all that gear,
What are they doing this morning, morning?
Only their usual manoeuvres, dear,
Or perhaps a warning.

O why have they left the road down there,
Why are they suddenly wheeling, wheeling?
Perhaps a change in their orders, dear,
Why are you kneeling?

O haven’t they stopped for the doctor’s care,
Haven’t they reined their horses, horses?
Why, they are none of them wounded, dear,
None of these forces.

O is it the parson they want, with white hair,
Is it the parson, is it, is it?
No, they are passing his gateway, dear,
Without a visit.

O it must be the farmer that lives so near.
It must be the farmer so cunning, so cunning?
They have passed the farmyard already, dear,
And now they are running.

O where are you going? Stay with me here!
Were the vows you swore deceiving, deceiving?
No, I promised to love you, dear,
But I must be leaving.

O it’s broken the lock and splintered the door,
O it’s the gate where they’re turning, turning;
Their boots are heavy on the floor
And their eyes are burning.

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Rousseau: The State of War

December 7, 2011 2 comments

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

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From The State of War
Translated by Charles Edwyn Vaughan

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*****

I hear a hideous noise. What a tumult and what cries! I draw near; before me lies a scene of murder, ten thousand slaughtered, the dead piled in heaps, the dying trampled under foot by horses, on every side the image of death and the throes of death. And that is the fruit of your peaceful institutions! Indignation and pity rise from the very bottom of my heart. Yes, heartless philosopher! come and read us your book on a field of battle!

*****

These examples suffice to give some notion of the various means by which a hostile State may be weakened and which the usages of war seem to justify as methods of injuring the enemy. With regard to the treaties presupposed by some of these means, what are such forms of peace at bottom but a continuation of the war, now waged with all the more cruelty that the enemy has no longer the right of self-defence?…

Add to all this such plain proofs of ill-will as to refuse to another Power its recognised titles, to reject its just claims, to treat its rights with contempt, to deny free trade to its subjects, to incite other powers to attack it: in a word, the breach of international law to its prejudice, under any pretext whatsoever.

I must beg my readers to remember that I am not asking what makes war profitable to him who wages it, but what makes it legitimate. To be just almost always entails some sacrifice. But does that entitle a man to be unjust?

If there never was and never could be such a thing as a war between individuals, who then are those between whom war takes place and who alone can truly be called enemies? I answer that they are public persons. And what is a ‘public person’? I answer that it is that moral creation called a Sovereign, which owes its existence to a social compact and all the decisions of which go by the name of ‘laws.’ Applying here the distinctions made above, we are entitled to say, when considering the results of war, that it is the Sovereign which causes the injury and the State which suffers it. And if war is possible only between such ‘moral beings’ it follows that the belligerents have no quarrel with individual enemies and can wage war without destroying a single life. This, however, requires explanation.

What then is it to make war upon a sovereign Power? It is to attack the social convention and all that is involved in it; for it is that which constitutes the essence of the State. And if the social compact could be dissolved at a single stroke, that instant the war would be at an end. At that one stroke, and without the loss of a single life, the State would be killed.

I open the books on Right and on ethics; I listen to the professors and jurists; and, my mind full of their seductive doctrines, I admire the peace and justice established by the civil order; I bless the wisdom of our political institutions and, knowing myself a citizen, cease to lament I am a man. Thoroughly instructed as to my duties and my happiness, I close the book, step out of the lecture room, and look around me. I see wretched nations groaning beneath a yoke of iron. I see mankind ground down by a handful of oppressors. I see a famished mob, worn down by sufferings and famine, while the rich drink the blood and tears of their victims at their ease. I see on every side the strong armed with the terrible powers of the Law against the weak.

And all this is done quietly and without resistance. It is the peace of Ulysses and his comrades, imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops and waiting their turn to be devoured. We must groan and be silent. Let us for ever draw a veil over sights so terrible. I lift my eyes and look to the horizon. I see fire and flame, the fields laid waste, the towns put to sack. Monsters! where are you dragging those hapless wretches? I hear a hideous noise. What a tumult and what cries! I draw near; before me lies a scene of murder, ten thousand slaughtered, the dead piled in heaps, the dying trampled under foot by horses, on every side the image of death and the throes of death. And that is the fruit of your peaceful institutions! Indignation and pity rise from the very bottom of my heart. Yes, heartless philosopher! come and read us your book on a field of battle!

What soul of man but would be moved at these woeful sights? But in our days it is forbidden to be a man, or to plead the cause of humanity. Justice and truth are commanded to give way before the interest of the powerful: that is the rule of the world. No pension, no office, no chair in the Academy is in the gift of the people. Why then should the people be protected? High-souled princes! I speak in the name of the literary profession. Oppress the people with a clear conscience! It is to you only that we look for advancement. To us the people is good for nothing.

How can a voice so weak as mine make itself heard through the din of corrupt applause? Alas! I must hold my peace, though the cry of my heart would fain break the cruel silence. And without entering into hateful details, which would be taken for satire just because they are the truth, I will confine myself to testing the institutions of man by their first principles; to correcting, if so it may be, the false notions which the self-interest of writers strives to spread among us; at least, to making it impossible that injustice and violence should impudently usurp the names of Right and justice.

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Oliver Wendell Holmes: Hymn to Peace

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Oliver Wendell Holmes: Not so enamored of the drum and trumpet

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Oliver Wendell Holmes
Hymn to Peace (1869)

[The author was a fervent war supporter four years prior to writing this, but the sentiment expressed in the verses is valid notwithstanding.]

Angel of Peace, thou hast wandered too long!
Spread thy white wings to the sunshine of love!
Come while our voices are blended in song, —
Fly to our ark like the storm-beaten dove!
Fly to our ark on the wings of the dove, —
Speed o’er the far-sounding billows of song,
Crowned with thine olive-leaf garland of love, —
Angel of Peace, thou hast waited too long!

Joyous we meet, on this altar of thine
Mingling the gifts we have gathered for thee,
Sweet with the odors of myrtle and pine,
Breeze of the prairie and breath of the sea, —
Meadow and mountain and forest and sea!
Sweet is the fragrance of myrtle and pine,
Sweeter the incense we offer to thee,
Brothers once more round this altar of thine!

Angels of Bethlehem, answer the strain!
Hark! a new birth-song is filling the sky! —
Loud as the storm-wind that tumbles the main
Bid the full breath of the organ reply, —
Let the loud tempest of voices reply, —
Roll its long surge like the-earth-shaking main!
Swell the vast song till it mounts to the sky!
Angels of Bethlehem, echo the strain!

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W.E.B. Du Bois: Work for Peace

December 5, 2011 3 comments

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

American writers on peace and against war

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W.E.B. Du Bois
From Work for Peace
Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois (1963)

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*****

“Leading this new colonial imperialism comes my own native land, built by my father’s toil and blood, the United States. The United States is a great nation; rich by grace of God and prosperous by the hard work of its humblest citizens…Drunk with power we are leading the world to hell in a new colonialism with the same old human slavery which once ruined us; and to a Third World War which will ruin the world.”

“I represent millions of citizens of the United States who are just as opposed to war as you are. But it is not easy for American citizens either to know the truth about the world or to express it.”

The half-billion persons in the world who signed the Stockholm Appeal and the billion who would have signed if given the chance, were moved not by the thought of defending the Soviet Union so much as by the desire to prevent modern culture from relapsing into primitive barbarism.

“Manifestly, to meet this hysteria, it is not so much a question of the concept of war under any circumstances, as the far deeper problem of getting the truth to the masses of the citizens of the United States who still in overwhelming majority hate murder, crippling destruction and insanity, as a means of progress. By personal contact, by honest appeal, by knowing the truth ourselves, we can yet win the peace in America. But it is going to take guts and the willingness to jeopardize jobs and respectability…”

*****

My connection with the peace movement had been long. Even in my college days I had vowed never to take up arms. I wrote in The Crisis in 1913 concerning the meeting of the peace societies at St. Louis:

“Peace today, if it means anything, means the stopping of the slaughter of the weaker by the stronger in the name of Christianity and culture. The modern lust for land and slaves in Africa, Asia,and the South Seas is the greatest and almost the only cause of war between the so-called civilized peoples. For such ‘colonial’ aggression and ‘imperial’ expansion, England, France, Germany, Russia, and Austria are straining every nerve to arm themselves; against such policies Japan and China are arming desperately. And yet the American peace movement thinks it bad policy to take up this problem of machine guns, natives, and rubber, and wants ‘constructive’ work in ‘arbitration treaties and international law.’ For our part we think that a little less dignity and dollars and a little more humanity would make the peace movement in America a great democratic philanthropy instead of an aristocratic refuge.”

At the Congress of Versailles in 1919, my contribution was the Pan-African Congresses, and appeals to the Mandate Commission and the International Labor Organization. In 1945, as consultant to the American delegation to the UNO in San Francisco, I tried to stress the colonial question. I wrote May 16, 1945:

“The attempt to write an International Bill of Rights into the San Francisco Conference without any specific mention of the people living in colonies seems to me a most unfortunate procedure. If it were clearly understood that freedom of speech, freedom from want and freedom from fear, which the nations are asked to guarantee, would without question be extended to the 750 million people who live in colonial areas, this would be a great and fateful step. But the very fact that these people, forming the most depressed peoples in the world, with 90 per cent illiteracy, extreme poverty and a prey to disease, who hitherto for the most part have been considered as sources of profit and not included in the democratic development of the world; and whose exploitation for three centuries has been a prime cause of war, turmoil, and suffering – the omission of specific reference to these peoples is almost advertisement of their tacit exclusion as not citizens of free states, and that their welfare and freedom would be considered only at the will of the countries owning them and not at the demand of enlightened world public opinion.”

On February 5, 1949, O. John Rogge, formerly U.S. Assistant Attorney-General, wrote me:

“The recent development in American-Soviet relations places a new emphasis on the need for a meeting such as our Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace. Certainly intellectuals today are faced with no greater challenge than to give the best of their talent, skills, and special knowledge to the problem of how we achieve a real peace.

“We are most eager to make this Conference a real contribution to the solution of the problems that now block the way to peace. For that reason we are asking you and a small group of key individuals among our sponsors to meet with us to help in the preparation of the subject matter and program as well as speakers for this Conference…”

The conference took place in March 1949, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, and marked an era in the cultural history of the United States. It was sponsored by 550 of the outstanding leaders of American cultural and liberal thought. It succeeded in bringing together an extraordinary representation of the leaders of modern culture, and especially cultural leaders of the Soviet Union.

So rabid was its reception by the American press, that a concerted and directed movement against peace and in favor of war against the Soviet Union was made clear. Distinguished cultural figures like Picasso were refused visas to attend. The meeting became a matter of bitter recrimination; the sessions were picketed,and the distortion of the whole enterprise in the press was unprecedented.

Thus a conference called by persons of the highest standing in science, literature and art, and conceived with the best motives, became as the New York Times said, one of “the most controversial meetings in recent New York history”; and a signal expression of the witch-hunting and calumny in this nation which drove free speech and the right to inquire and reason into almost total eclipse.

At the final meeting in Madison Square Garden I said in introducing the Chairman, Harlow Shapley:

“We know and the saner nations know that we are not traitors nor conspirators; and far from plotting force and violence it is precisely force and violence that we bitterly oppose. This conference was not called to defend communism nor socialism nor the American way of life. It was called to promote peace! It was called to say and say again that no matter how right or wrong differing systems of beliefs in religion, industry, or government may be, war is not the method by which their differences can successfully be settled for the good of mankind.”

The next month I was urged by O. John Rogge, Albert E. Kahn, and others to attend a world peace meeting in Paris. The American committee offered to pay a part of my expense, and I paid the rest. I went to what seems to me to have been the greatest demonstration for peace in modern times. For four days witnesses from nearly every country in the world set forth the horrors of war and the necessity of peace if civilization was to survive. On the concluding Sunday, 500,000 pilgrims from all parts of France, coming on foot, by automobiles, by train and plane, filed through the vast Buffalo Stadium crying, “Peace, no more war!” At this Conference I emphasized colonialism and said:

“Let us not be misled. The real cause of the differences which threaten world war is not the spread of socialism or even of the complete socialism which communism envisages. Socialism is spreading all over the world and even in the United States…Against this spread of socialism, one modern institution is working desperately and that is colonialism, and colonialism has been and is and ever will be one of the chief causes of war…Leading this new colonial imperialism comes my own native land, built by my father’s toil and blood, the United States. The United States is a great nation; rich by grace of God and prosperous by the hard work of its humblest citizens…Drunk with power we are leading the world to hell in a new colonialism with the same old human slavery which once ruined us; and to a Third World War which will ruin the world.”

On Monday, April 25th, during the last session of the Congress, a Peace Manifesto was adopted. This historic document whose preamble declared it was drawn up by representatives of the people of 72 countries, “men and women of every creed, philosophy, color, and type of civilization,” solemnly proclaimed that “the defense of Peace is henceforth the concern of all peoples.” In the name of the 600 million represented, the Congress sent out this message: “We are ready and resolved to win the battle for Peace, which means to win the battle for Life.”

The Congress adjourned and the delegates returned to their 72 countries.

In July 1949, I joined with Linus Pauling, John Clark, Uta Hagen and O. John Rogge to call an “American Continental Congress for World Peace” to be held in Mexico City in September.

Again in August 1949, 25 prominent Americans were asked to attend an all-Soviet peace conference in Moscow. For reasons which arose directly from the violent reception given the peace congress in March, I was the only one who accepted the invitation. I addressed the 1,000 persons present:

“I represent millions of citizens of the United States who are just as opposed to war as you are. But it is not easy for American citizens either to know the truth about the world or to express it. This is true despite the intelligence and wealth and energy of the United States. Perhaps I can best perform my duty to my country and to the cause of world peace by taking a short time to explain the historic reasons for the part which the United States is playing in the world today. I can do this the more appropriately because I represent that large group of 15 million Americans, one tenth of the nation, who in a sense explain America’s pressing problems…”

My trip to the Soviet Union made it impossible for me to get to the Congress in Mexico City, but I watched with interest other peace conferences: in Cuba in August; in Australia in April 1950; the delegations to the Parliaments of the world, projected by the Defenders of Peace in Paris in February 1950. I joined a group to welcome persons selected to come here, including the Dean of Canterbury, and the great painter, Picasso. They were refused visas. A Mid-Century Conference for Peace was called by the Committee for Peaceful Alternatives in May 1950, in which I was asked to conduct a panel; but a previous engagement kept me away. I was asked to attend the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Paris Defenders of Peace in Prague in August 1951, and accepted. This meeting was to call a Second World Congress and make a new plea for disarmament.

But before this meeting, we had succeeded in forming in the United States an organization to work for peace. This was the Peace Information Center. There were about 60 Americans who attended the World Congress of the Defenders of Peace in Paris in April 1950. We were all tremendously impressed and discussed many times the question as to what we could do when we returned to America. We did nothing for nearly a year, because in the state of hysteria and war-mongering which we found in the United States, it was not at all clear as to what could be done legally.

Finally I received this telegram from O. John Rogge:

“Strongly urge your participation meeting my house 400 East 52 Street at 8 o’clock Wednesday evening March 1st. Purpose is to discuss certain vital problems relating to current activities for promotion of world peace.”

I went to the meeting and found that the 30 or 40 persons attending had already in previous meetings been exploring methods of organizing for peace in the United States. The first idea seemed to have been a federation of the various peace movements in the United States already in existence. That had fallen through. Then a committee to welcome the prominent advocates of peace who proposed to visit the United States proved useless when they were refused visas. We appointed a committee to explore possibilities.

A number of the participants in this initial meeting went to Europe to attend a meeting of the Bureau of the Defenders of Peace in Stockholm, and also to visit Russia under the plan of approaching Parliaments in the interests of peace. Our committee adopted a plan which seemed to us all unusually apt and legal, and that was, as we decided at a later meeting in a private home, to form a Peace Information Center, the object of which should be simply to tell the people of the United States what other nations were doing and thinking about war.

Johannes Steele suggested that we publish what he called a “Peacegram” at intervals, and in that way we could collect information and send it over the United States. The proposal to organize was made by the chairman of the committee, Elizabeth Moos, and we proceeded to locate offices and start organized work. In July, Mrs. Moos, on account of ill health, resigned with regret after having put the organization on its feet.

Abbott Simon, a young veteran interested in work among youth, was her obvious successor and became our executive secretary from July to our dissolution. Kyrle Elkin was a young businessman, educated at Harvard, and engaged in small manufacturing. He had never been especially active in social work, but was attracted by our program, and in his quiet way helped us by accepting the duties of treasurer.

We all worked together smoothly and effectively. We issued the “Peacegrams,” and then reprinted and circulated the “Stockholm Appeal” to abolish the atom bomb. We distributed this over the nation, and collected in all 2,500,000 signatures. We printed and distributed other demands and arguments for peace, like the Red Cross Appeal, the statement of the Friends, and many others.

The half-billion persons in the world who signed the Stockholm Appeal and the billion who would have signed if given the chance, were moved not by the thought of defending the Soviet Union so much as by the desire to prevent modern culture from relapsing into primitive barbarism.

The first direct public attack on the Peace Information Center came in a broadside from the United States Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, released July 12 (New York Times, July 13, 1950):

“I am sure that the American people will not be fooled by the so-called ‘world peace appeal’ or ‘Stockholm resolution’ now being circulated in this country for signatures. It should be recognized for what it is – a propaganda trick in the spurious ‘peace offensive’ of the Soviet Union…”

I replied immediately on July 14, saying in a release to the press:

“The main burden of your opposition to this Appeal and to our efforts lies in the charge that we are part of a ‘spurious peace offensive’ of the Soviet Union. Is it our strategy that when the Soviet Union asks for peace, we insist on war? Must any proposals for averting atomic catastrophe be sanctified by Soviet opposition? Have we come to the tragic pass where, by declaration of our own Secretary of State, there is no possibility of mediating our differences with the Soviet Union? Does it not occur to you, Sir, that there are honest Americans who, regardless of their differences on other questions, hate and fear war and are determined to do something to avert it?…

“We have got to live in the world with Russia and China. If we worked together with the Soviet Union against the menace of Hitler, can we not work with them again at a time when only faith can save us from utter atomic disaster? Certainly hundreds of millions of colonial peoples in Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere, conscious of our support of Chiang Kai-shek, Bao Dai and the colonial system, and mindful of the oppressive discrimination against the Negro people in the United States, would feel that our intentions also must be accepted on faith.

“Today in this country it is becoming standard reaction to call anything ‘communist’ and therefore subversive and unpatriotic, which anybody for any reason dislikes. We feel strongly that this tactic has already gone too far; that it is not sufficient today to trace a proposal to a communist source in order to dismiss it with contempt.

“We are a group of Americans, who upon reading this Peace Appeal, regard it as a true, fair statement of what we ourselves and many countless other Americans believed. Regardless of our other beliefs and affiliations, we united in this organization for the one and only purpose of informing the American people on the issues of peace.”

The Peace Information Center continued its work. The evidence of the desire for peace came in from all parts of the United States, and especially from those regions where the newspapers were suppressing information. Surprising interest and support came to us especially from the West and South.

In August, I had a cablegram from Paris inviting me to attend as a guest the meeting of the Bureau of the World Congress of the Defenders of Peace in Prague. They were meeting for two main purposes: to broaden the Stockholm Appeal by asking for disarmament; and to arrange a Second World Peace Congress. I regarded this as important and applied for extension of my passport.

It took ten days of deliberation in Washington and two telephone calls before permission came. Even then it was carefully limited to 60 days in Czechoslovakia and “necessary lands” enroute, and “was not to be validated for additional countries without the express authorization of the Department of State.” I felt like a prisoner on parole.

When asked at Prague to speak, I said:

“For 50 years I have been in touch with social currents in the United States. Never before has organized reaction wielded the power it does today: by ownership of press and radio, by curtailment of free speech, by imprisonment of liberal thinkers and writers. It has become almost impossible today in my country even to hold a public rally for peace. This has been accomplished by inducing Americans to believe that America is in imminent danger of aggression from communism, socialism and liberalism, and that the peace movement cloaks this threat…

“Manifestly, to meet this hysteria, it is not so much a question of the concept of war under any circumstances, as the far deeper problem of getting the truth to the masses of the citizens of the United States who still in overwhelming majority hate murder, crippling destruction and insanity, as a means of progress. By personal contact, by honest appeal, by knowing the truth ourselves, we can yet win the peace in America. But it is going to take guts and the willingness to jeopardize jobs and respectability…”

After this meeting in Prague where the Bureau of the Defenders of Peace finally voted to broaden the “Stockholm Appeal” so as to ask for disarmament and condemn aggression and armed intervention, I started home; but on my way I received two messages in Paris, which led to a political campaign and a criminal indictment.

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Hugh MacDiarmid: A war to save civilization, you say?

December 4, 2011 2 comments

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

Hugh MacDiarmid

To Nearly Everybody In Europe Today

A war to save civilization, you say?
Then what have you to do with it, pray?
Some attempt to acquire it would show truer love
Than fighting for something you know nothing of.

*****

Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries (1935)

It is a God-damned lie to say that these
Saved, or knew, anything worth any man’s pride.
They were professional murderers and they took
Their blood money and their impious risks and died.
In spite of all their kind some elements of worth
With difficulty persist here and there on earth.

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Lu Hsün: Ballads among bushes of bayonets, hungry dove amid crumbling walls

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Lu Hsün/Lu Xun

For a forgotten memory (1931)
Translated by Jerome Ch’en and Michael Bullock

A habit now, to spend spring in this eternal night,
In exile, with wife, child and greying temples.
In dreams, I dimly see my mother’s tears,
On battlements, ever-changing, lords’ banners.
With sorrow, I watch friends become new ghosts;
In anger, I look for ballads among the bushes of bayonets.
Then I lower my eyes and find nowhere to write
Save, on my black robe, in bright moonlight.

*****

Poem (1933)
Translated by Jon Kowallis

Dashing thunder and flying flame
leave mortal men slain.
‘Mid crumbling walls and caved-in wells
a hungry dove remains.
By chance he meets a kindly heart
and leaves the fiery dwelling.
In old Nippon a lofty tomb
commemorates our starveling.
Were he to wake as though from dream,
the dove’s shade would carry pebbles,
and stand with comrades resolute –
‘gainst tide and flood as rebels.
We brothers will yet see the day
when stormy surges all abate.
On reuniting, with one smile,
we’ll wash away the hate.

Postscript by Lu Xun on this 21st of June 1933: Dr. Nishimura found a homeless dove after the fighting in Shanghai, which he then took back with him to Japan to raise. At first it got on well but later passed away, so a stupa was erected in which to bury the dove. Asked to supply a verse for the stupa, I scratched out this poem for my friend from afar.

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Attila József: War stirs its withering alarms, I shudder to see hatred win

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Attila József
March 1937
Translated by Edwin Morgan

Soft rain is drifting like a smoke
across the tender fuzz of wheat.
As soon as the first stork appears
winter shrivels in retreat.

Spring comes, tunnelling a path
mined with exploding spikes of green.
The hut, wide open to the sun,
breathes hope and wood-dust sharp and clean.

The papers say that mercenaries
are ravaging the face of Spain.
A brainless general in China
chases peasants from hill to plain.
The cloth we use to wipe our boots
comes laundered back in blood again.
All round, big words bemuse and smooth
the voiceless miseries in men.

My heart is happy as a child’s.
Flora loves me. But oh what arms
the beauty of love? For us, for all,
war stirs its withering alarms.
The bayonet contends in zeal
With the assaulting tank. Alone
I draw to us the force I need
against the fear I can’t disown.

Men – women – all have sold themselves.
A heart? They keep it close as sin.
Hearts torn by hate – I pity you,
I shudder to see hatred win.
A little life on earth I have,
yet here I watch all life unfold –
O Flora, in the blaze of love
nothing surrenders to the cold!

May our daughter be beautiful
and good, our son fearless, keen.
May they transmit some sparks beyond
star-clusters you and I have seen.
When this sun loses its great fire,
the children of our illumination
will launch towards infinity
their own galactic exploration.

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