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Sean O’Casey: Battles of war changed for battles of peace

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

Sean O’Casey: The dead of wars past clasp their colder arms around the newer dead

Sean O’Casey: The Prince of Peace transformed into the god of war

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Sean O’Casey
From Drums Under the Windows (1946)

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The bell branch of Ireland may chime again,
To charm away the merchant from his guile,
And turn the farmer’s memory from his cattle,
And hush to sleep the roaring ranks of battle,
And all grow friendly for a little while.

No; for ever. Battles of war changed for battles of peace. Labour in all its phases the supreme honour of life, broadening the smile on the world’s creased face daily.

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Beyond the veil of these posturing purseline figurines, and the crowd of roaring, adoring, sons of Guile, the leaden sky with its clouds and red splotches, looking like the savage face of an angry yahoovah, English shadows of men and women were bent and bruised wiring guns, making shells, hammering ships together, burying their dead in their minds by thousands, and taking their wounded to bloody beds in tens of thousands; while queues of the very old and very young waited grouseously for food from morn till midnight, sleeping then that they might be able to begin again at daybreak; too tired to feel fear of the faint purr of a Zeppelin sailing by overhead, their ears stirred soon by the hiss of a falling bomb, to be at once cracked with the concussion of its explosion, then stuffed with the cut-short squeal of a housemaid, on her knees washing a doorstep, as a lump of jagged metal knocked her frillied head to bits; then came the rumbling, cracking zoom as houses split asunder, their frightened walls lurching for a moment before they crashed face downwards, the uproar stabbed by the scream of a woman yelling out to Heaven, Oh, save my little one who’s been buried under it all!

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