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Anatole France: Wait till the warriors you make gods of swallow you all up

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

Anatole France: Selections on war

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Anatole France
From The Gods Are Thirsty (1912)
Translated by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson

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Glass in hand, the victories of the Republic were celebrated by all. Amongst the rest were several poets, as there always are in any gathering of people with nothing to do. The most accomplished composed odes on the triumphs of the Army of the Rhine, which they recited with much mouthing. They were uproariously applauded. Brotteaux was the only lukewarm admirer of the victors and the bards who sang their victories.

“Since Homer began it,” he observed one day, “it has always been a mania with poets, this extolling the powers of fighting-men. War is not an art, and luck alone decides the fate of battles. With two generals, both blockheads, face to face, one of them must inevitably be victorious. Wait till some day one of these warriors you make gods of swallows you all up like the stork in the fable who gobbles up the frogs. Ah! then he would be really and truly a God! For you can always tell the gods by their appetite.”

Brotteaux’s head had never been turned by the glamour of arms. He felt no triumph at the victories of the Republic, which he had foreseen. He did not like the new régime, which military success confirmed. He was a malcontent. Another would have been the same for less cause.

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