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Robert Graves: War should be a sport for men above forty-five only

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

Robert Graves: Selections on war

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Robert Graves
From Good-Bye to All That (1929)

ERGV

We were both wondering whether the War should be allowed to continue. It was said that, in the autumn of 1916, Asquith had been offered peace terms on the basis of status quo ante, which he was willing to consider; but that his colleagues’ opposition had brought about the fall of the Liberal Government and its supersession by the ‘Win-the-War’ Coalition Government of Lloyd George. Siegfried [Sassoon] vehemently asserted that the terms should have been accepted; I agreed. We could no longer see the War as one between trade-rivals: its continuance seemed merely a sacrifice of the idealistic younger generation to the stupidity and self-protective alarm of the elder. I made facetious note about this time:

War should be a sport for men above forty-five only, the Jesse’s, not the David’s. ‘Well, dear father, how proud I am of your serving your country as a very gallant gentleman prepared to make even the supreme sacrifice. I only wish I were your age: how willingly would I buckle on my armour and fight those unspeakable Philistines! As it is, of course, I can’t be spared; I have to stay behind at the War Office and administrate for you lucky old men. What sacrifices I have made!’ David would sigh, when the old boys had gone off with a draft to the front, singing Tipperary: ‘There’s father and my Uncle Salmon, and both my grandfathers, all on active service. I must put a card in the window about it.’

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