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Robert Graves: Military madness degenerating into savagery


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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Graves: Selections on war


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


England looked strange to us returned soldiers. We could not understand the war madness that ran everywhere, looking for a pseudo-military outlet. The civilians talked a foreign language; and it was newspaper language. I found serious talk with my parents all but impossible…

The training principles had been recently revised. Infantry Training, 1914, laid it down politely that the soldier’s ultimate aim was to put out of action or render ineffectively the armed forces of the enemy. The War Office no longer considered this statement direct enough for a war of attrition. Troops learned instead that they must HATE the Germans, and KILL as many of them as possible. In bayonet-practice, the men had to make horrible grimaces and utter blood-curdling yells as they charged. The instructors’ faces were set in a permanent ghastly grin. ‘Hurt him, now! In at the belly! Tear his guts out!’ they would scream, as the men charged the dummies. ‘Now that upper swing at his privates with the butt. Ruin his chances for life! No more little Fritzes!…Naaoh! Anyone would think that you loved the bloody swine, patting and stroking ’em like that. BITE HIM, I SAY! STICK YOUR TEETH IN HIM AND WORRY HIM! EAT HIS HEART OUT!’


[Siegfried Sassoon] wrote how mad it made him to think of the countless good men being slaughtered that summer, and all for nothing. The bloody politicians and ditto generals with their cursed incompetent blundering and callous ideas would go on until they tired of it or had got as much kudos as they wanted…

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 25, 2015 at 8:43 am

    My head _should_ be in World War I this morning: thank you, Robert Graves, for describing rules of engagement that inscribed hate.


  2. February 25, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Reblogged this on I Ain't Marchin' Anymore and commented:
    And here Robert Graves inscribes a very different set of rules of engagement, from World War I…


  3. ocurrain
    February 25, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Robert Graves father was an Irish poet. Robert Graves was one of the most influential writers in my life, not only based on “Goodbye to all That” but also his books of poetry and his odd and fascinating book: “The White Goddess”. Thanks for posting the excerpt. I hope more excerpts can be posted from his “Goodbye…” book


    • richardrozoff
      February 25, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Indeed Graves was among the great men of letters of the last century, and would be even without the Claudius novels.
      And you’re right about The White Goddess, the most important work on legends and mythopoeia since Frazer’s The Golden Bough.
      Graves used much of the material in The White Goddess in his account of the Argonautica: Hercules, My Shipmate.


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