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Samuel Lover: The trumpet and the sword

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

Samuel Lover: The demon of war casts his shadows before

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Samuel Lover
From He Would Be a Gentleman (1844)

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The time which fortune had thrown in our hero’s way was not the most favourable for travelling; the frequency of military posts, the scrupulous examination of passports, the suspicion with which the most trivial circumstance in connection with a traveller was regarded, rendered the wayfarer liable to many discomforts, and not unfrequently to danger; for sometimes straggling parties of soldiers roved up and down, who, taking advantage of the exigencies of the times, made the public cause but an excuse for private rapine, by vexatious and rude interruptions, which enabled them to raise pecuniary contributions from defenceless parties whose ill luck threw them into such unwelcome company, and whose only chance of permission to proceed on their journey was giving a bribe; the loss of their money being, in most cases, preferred to the loss of their liberty, more particularly in the hands of such unceremonious captors.

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The admiration her talents excited, made him desire to have the acquaintance of one who so often charmed him in public, and in the society of this gifted actress he found new charms; her conversation was an enjoyment he constantly courted, and she obtained sufficient influence over the soldier to urge him to the study of elegant literature; his mind, hitherto absorbed by authors who could only extend his knowledge in the art of war, was thrown open to the contemplation of those who move our hearts to the better purposes of peace…

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At last the tragic drama was brought to a conclusion on the fatal field of Culloden, and all that could now be done was to let friendly ships hover about the Scottish coast to pick up any stragglers who might escape the vengeance of the savage soldiery, stimulated to the most sanguinary and revolting excesses by the “butcher” who commanded them – the atrocious Duke of Cumberland, – whose memory is still execrated in the hills and valleys he drenched with blood – not the hot blood of battle, – but the cold blood shed in ravening vengeance afterwards. Not even the blood of men would satisfy: women and children were given up to carnage and to indignities still worse than death. Nor age, nor sex, nor rank, was regarded. Every excess that could shock humanity was in open practice every day; — a licentious soldiery, foreign and domestic, was let loose to do their worst — and not only to do it with impunity, but to win favour for their atrocities in the eyes of their merciless leader.

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“Remember the fable of the trumpeter, who, when taken prisoner, asked for mercy, because he did not strike with the sword, but only blew a harmless instrument; whereupon the conqueror replied that the trumpeter did more mischief than any armed man, as he, though he did not fight himself, inspired hundreds to fight; and there lies the mischief.”

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