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Ernest Poole: Apply for death certificates here. War’s house of death.

September 30, 2015 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Poole: The hatred rising in all men has already butchered millions and will butcher millions more!

Ernest Poole: War cuts off the past from the future

Ernest Poole: War was the fashion. War was a pageant, a thing of romance.

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Ernest Poole
From Blind (1920)

220px-Ernest_Poole

“But for every atrocity there are probably fifty such stories that start.”

“But even if most of them are lies,” my cousin answered passionately, “don’t you see the hideous harm they do? This boy, for example, he tells them – tells them everywhere he goes! And thousands of others do the same – in Germany, France and England, too! In every village, every hut, such hideous things are being told – and being told to children – making their small hands grow cold and icy as they feel that the world is full of monsters – fiends – called Cossacks, Frenchmen, Germans, Bodies – enemies – to be stamped under foot! That’s the hideous part of this war!” she breathed.

I noticed how tired and strained she was. I proposed that we go to a concert that night, and she shot a grateful look of relief.

“Oh, Larry dear, let’s go !” she exclaimed. We got a paper and looked up the evening’s list of entertainments. “Here it is – a symphony concert in Beethoven Hall.” We took a taxi and set out. It was still raining. As we passed along Unter den Linden, we heard the cry, “Ein Luffschiff!” And looking up we saw a dark phantom with spectral eyes of red and green drift by under the stars above. On a dark side street we stopped to make way for two or three hundred recruits, in citizens’ clothes with satchels and boxes, heavy boots strung over their shoulders. They made me think of the little crowd of volunteers in London. But Dorothy was not thinking of that. The street was empty except for a girl. Holding an umbrella over the baby in her arms, she hurried along beside one of the men. I caught a glimpse of her face as she passed, and she looked terribly alone. Then I felt Dorothy’s clutch on my arm, and it was as though she were saying sharply:

“That is why I won’t have a child !”

***

“It’s hard for you to realize,” she said to me after a little, “how such hatred can arise. You don’t know how it feels to keep hearing every day and every night of more friends and relatives killed! You have no idea of the strain of it all!”

And to give me an idea of that, she took me the next afternoon to a large building of red brick which had once been the War Academy. As we climbed the broad stone stairs inside, a stout middle-aged woman was coming down, supported by two others. She was sobbing; her face was a fiery red. On the floor above was a lofty chamber with lead colored columns at either end and pictures of Prussian heroes upon the walls and ceiling; and though this place was crowded, all was strangely hushed and still. Upon a placard on one wall was written in heavy letters, “Walk softly and speak low.” In the center of the hall was a semi-circular counter, behind which sat many elderly clerks, most of them in black frock suits – they looked like undertakers. And facing this counter in rows of chairs, several hundred men and women, tense and silent, motionless, as though at some gripping tragedy, sat watching a great red curtain, which was restless, never still. Every few moments it leaped apart, as a messenger came quickly through. Then a name would be called out, and some man or woman would jump up and go to the counter – would stand there rigid, listening. Here Germany learned of her dead.

Forty-five hundred hospitals reported to this place each week, pouring in the details which in scores of rooms men and girls by hundreds, writing and typewriting, copying, comparing, checking, classifying, with Prussian precision were building up into neat typewritten little tales, which on post cards every day were sent out by the thousands to German towns and villages.

As we left this clearing house of death, along a dim lit hallway we found a group of motionless women sitting on chairs in front of a door. Over it I read the sign, “Apply for death certificates here.” Out of doors, a huge bright moon hung just over the end of the street. And by its light, on the wall outside, I saw a long narrow band of white made up of newspaper pages, where in thousands of columns of solid type were the names of the wounded, the missing, the dead. And almost imperceptibly moving along this band of white were dark figures, men and women – slowly searching – page by page.

***

A little after midnight we went into a bomb-proof tinder the barn, where a couple of old mattresses had been spread for us on the floor; and I lay for hours listening to the rifles and machine guns that sounded like steel riveters on the high buildings of New York. What was it they were building here? Half waking and half sleeping, the images of what I had seen kept rising pell mell in my dreams, and confusedly I grappled for some meaning in it all. But things looked black to me that night. If war were hell and nothing else, one might have hoped that in sheer disgust men would learn their lesson and this struggle would be the last. But I saw little hope of this disgust – for I had seen what Max had called the flashes from the soul of war, its iron grip on the souls of men. Millions of them would forget the dreariness, the weariness, the icy mud, the stinking death, and in after years would remember only the glory and the thrills. Such men would not want disarmament.

“And who are you,” a great voice asked, “to talk to these men of my ugliness? What have you in your little life ever known that can call to men as I call, pulling them out of their creeds and greeds to give up their lives by the millions, to shake the entire civilized world? There are many shams, many idols of peace, that will come down before I am through. You will have to be sure of what you believe before you can stand against me – sure as you never were before. For things are going to crash, these days, and the world is going to be reborn.”

***

“Before the war,” he told me, “I was a man with one idea – to stop the waste of human life. But what a ruthless world it was. It was over there in your mines and mills that I learned to know the deadly work of the gases we are using now. Your countrymen are indignant now, but then they did not seem to care how many thousands were choked to death – and for me the world of peace became a dark jungle of complications. So war was like a dazzling flash, and its stark simplicity blinded me. Here almost in a moment was a world on a higher plane – men lifted out of their selfish lives. But now I am changed. In a year I have seen too much of its horror, the ruin and havoc in humble homes, the unscrupulous scheming in the high places. There is a deep falsity in it all. It has been not food but brandy. We must get back to a world of peace – in spite of its perplexities. We must find tolerance again, and as brothers all together we must work our problems out, slow and toilsome though it be. I put my hope in Science acting through a wider and more generous education upon all the ignorant masses of humanity, upon a new generation with these hatreds left behind.

“I do not believe that the war will end in any lasting dominance by the drill-masters in Berlin, or in Paris or in London. I believe it has let loose forces which will rise against those gentlemen and throw off their despotic rule. You talk against our gas attacks – but they are only a first step in developments more startling. Let the drill-masters plan as they please. We men of science, whom they despise, are going to kill the thing they love. We shall invent such instruments for the annihilation of life, that to the blind foolish people of all countries we shall demonstrate that war is no longer possible – and so this butchery will stop….”

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Lysias: Those who wage war imitate tyrants

September 29, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Lysias
From Subverting the Democracy
Translated by W. R. M. Lamb

In my opinion, gentlemen of the jury, those among our people remaining in the city who shared my views have clearly proved, both under oligarchy and under democracy, what manner of citizens they are. But the men who give us good cause to wonder what they would have done if they have been allowed to join the Thirty [tyrants] are the men who now, in a democracy, imitate those rulers; who have made a rapid advance from poverty to wealth, and who hold a number of offices without rendering an account of any; who instead of concord have created mutual suspicion, and who have declared war instead of peace…

***

Lysias
From Against Epicrates
Translated by W. R. M. Lamb

During the war, these men have advanced themselves from poverty to wealth at your expense, while you are in poverty because of them. Yet surely it is the duty of true leaders of the people not to take your property in the stress of your misfortune, but to give their own property to you…

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John Dos Passos: The miserable dullness of industrialized slaughter

September 28, 2015 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

John Dos Passos: Selections on war

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John Dos Passos
From Three Soldiers (1921)

4778

“Have you been in France long?” asked Andrews settling himself in one of the chairs and looking into the dancing flames of the log fire. “Will you smoke?” He handed Sheffield a crumpled cigarette.

“No, thanks, I only smoke special kinds. I have a weak heart. That’s why I was rejected from the army…Oh, but I think it was superb of you to join as a private; It was my dream to do that, to be one of the nameless marching throng.”

“I think it was damn foolish, not to say criminal,” said Andrews sullenly, still staring into the fire.

“You can’t mean that. Or do you mean that you think you had abilities which would have been worth more to your country in another position?…I have many friends who felt that.”

“No…I don’t think it’s right of a man to go back on himself…I don’t think butchering people ever does any good…I have acted as if I did think it did good…out of carelessness or cowardice, one or the other; that I think bad.”

***

He wondered how many buglers there were in the army. He could picture them all, in dirty little villages, in stone barracks, in towns, in great camps that served the country for miles with rows of black warehouses and narrow barrack buildings standing with their feet a little apart; giving their little brass bugles a preliminary tap before putting out their cheeks and blowing in them and stealing a million and a half (or was it two million or three million) lives, and throwing the warm sentient bodies into coarse automatons who must be kept busy, lest they grow restive, till killing time began again.

***

Andrews began to think of the men he had left behind. They were asleep at this time of night, in barns and barracks, or else standing on guard with cold damp feet, and cold hands which the icy rifle barrel burned when they tended it. He might go far away out of sound of the tramp of marching, away from the smell of overcrowded barracks where men slept in rows like cattle, but he would still be one of them. He would not see an officer pass him without an unconscious movement of servility, he would not hear a bugle without feeling sick with hatred. If he could only express these thwarted lives, the miserable dullness of industrialized slaughter, it might have been almost worth while – for him; for the others, it would never be worth while.

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Demosthenes: When war comes home, the fatal weaknesses of states are revealed

September 27, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Demosthenes
From Second Olynthiac
Translated by J.H. Vince

…Philip by all that might be deemed to constitute his greatness, by his wars and his campaigns, has only reduced his country beneath its natural level of insecurity. You must not imagine…that his subjects share his tastes. No: glory is his sole object and ambition…But his subjects have no share in the glory that results. They are perpetually buffeted and wearied and distressed by these expeditions north and south, never suffered to give their time to their business or their private affairs, never able to dispose of such produce as they raise, because the war has closed all the markets in their land…

For just as in our bodies, so long as man is in sound health, he is conscious of no pain, but if some malady assails him, every part is set a-working, by it rupture or sprain or any other local affection; even so it is with states and monarchies; as long as their wars are on foreign soil, few detect their weaknesses, but when the shock of battle is on their frontiers, it makes all their faults perfectly clear.

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Stephen Spender: Selections on war

September 26, 2015 Leave a comment
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Dio Cassius: Weeping and lamenting the fratricide of war

September 25, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Dio Cassius: When peace was announced the mountains resounded

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Dio Cassius
From Roman History
Translated by Earnest Cary

As they lay opposite each other the appearance of the camps bore, indeed, some semblance of war, but their arms were idle as in time of peace. As they considered the greatness of the danger and foresaw the obscurity and uncertainty of the issue, and still felt some regard for their common ancestry and their kinship, they continued to delay…Meanwhile they exchanged propositions looking toward friendship and appeared to some likely even to effect an empty reconciliation. The reason was that they were both reaching out after the supreme power and were influenced greatly by native ambition and greatly also by acquired rivalry, – since men can least endure to be outdone by their equals and intimates; hence they were not willing to make any concessions to each other, since each felt that he might win, nor could they feel confident, if they did reach some agreement, that they would not be always striving to gain the upper hand and would not fall to quarrelling again over the supreme issue. In temper they differed from each other to this extent, that Pompey desired to be second to no man and Caesar to be first of all…The deeds, however, through which they hoped to accomplish all that they wished, were perforce common to both alike. For it was impossible for any one successfully to gain these ends without fighting against his countrymen, leading foreigners against kindred, obtaining vast sums by unjust pillage, and killing unlawfully many of his dearest associates. Hence, even though they differed in their desires, yet in their acts, by which they hoped to realise those desires, they were alike…

As they both came from the same state and were talking about the same matters and called each other tyrants and themselves liberators from tyranny of the men they addressed, they had nothing different to say on either side, but stated that it would be the lot of one side to die, of the other to be saved, of the one side to be captives, of the other to enjoy the master’s lot, to possess everything or to be deprived of everything, to suffer or to inflict a most terrible fate. After addressing some such exhortations to the citizens and furthermore trying to inspire the subject and allied contingents with hopes of a better lot and fears of a worse, they hurled at each other kinsmen, sharers of the same tent, of the same table, of the same libations. Yet why should any one, then, lament the fate of the others involved, when those very leaders, who were all these things to each other, and had, moreover, shared many secret plans and many exploits of like character, who had once been joined by domestic ties and had loved the same child, one as a father, the other as grandfather, nevertheless fought? All the ties with which nature, by mingling their blood, had bound them together, they now, led by their insatiable lust of power, hastened to break, tear, and rend asunder. Because of them Rome was being compelled to fight both in her own defence and against herself, so that even if victorious she would be vanquished…

Such was the struggle in which they joined; yet they did not immediately come to close quarters. Sprung from the same country and from the same hearth, with almost identical weapons and similar formation, each side shrank from beginning the battle, and shrank from slaying any one. So there was great silence and dejection on both sides; no one went forward or moved at all, but with heads bowed they stood motionless, as if devoid of life. Caesar and Pompey, therefore, fearing that if they remained quiet any longer their animosity might become lessened or they might even become reconciled, hurriedly commanded the trumpeters to give the signal and the men to raise the war cry in unison. Both orders were obeyed, but the combatants were so far from being imbued with courage, that at the sound of the trumpeters’ call, uttering the same notes, and at their own shout, raised in the same language, they showed their sense of relationship and betrayed their kinship more than ever, and so fell to weeping and lamenting. But after a long time, when the allied troops began the battle, the rest also joined in, fairly beside themselves at what they were doing. Those who fought at long range were less sensible of the horrors, as they shot their arrows, hurled their javelins, discharged their slings without knowing whom they hit; but the heavy-armed troops and the cavalry had a very hard time of it, as they were close to each other and could even talk a little back and forth; at one and the same moment they would recognize those who confront them and would wound them, would call them by name and would slaughter them, would recall the towns they had come from and would despoil them. Such were the deeds both done and suffered by the Romans and by the others from Italy who were with them on the campaign, wherever they met each other. Many sent messages home through their very slayers…

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David Garnett: Criminal to welcome war

September 24, 2015 1 comment

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

David Garnett: War is the worst of the epidemic diseases which afflict mankind

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David Garnett
From Golden Echo (1953)

Feature-Chamberlain

“One evening, sitting round the fire, we suddenly became serious. Hugh Popham said that he was glad the war had come, and particularly glad we had come into it. I do not know what the others said, but everyone there was in agreement with him.

I remember my reply clearly. I said it was criminal to welcome war; that millions of men would die, millions who had no quarrel with each other and could know nothing of the quarrel in which they lost their lives and all the belligerent countries would suffer ruin, whether they won or lost.

I poured out my views on the futility of war, thinking of Tolstoy and War and Peace. I said we were fighting to preserve the Tsar’s Government in Russia, in an attempt to postpone an inevitable revolution. Suddenly I had said all that was in me and I heard Hugh Popham make some comment in a tone of nausea. But I believed that whatever the impression I produced, in the long run what I had said was true, that I was right and that Hugh and the others were wrong.

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Claudian: Hell’s numberless monsters plot war

September 23, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Claudian
From First Poem: Against Rufinus
Translated by Maurice Platnauer

A frugal life is best. Nature has given the opportunity of happiness to all, knew they but how to use it. Had we realized this we should now have been enjoying a simple life, no trumpets would be sounding, no whistling spear would speed, no ship be buffeted by the wind, no siege-engine overthrow battlements.

***

Dire Allecto once kindled with jealous wrath on seeing widespread peace among the cities of men. Straightway she summons the hideous council of the nether-world sisters to her foul palace gates. Hell’s numberless monsters are gathered together, Night’s children of ill-omened birth. Discord, mother of war, imperious Hunger, Age, near neighbour to Death; Disease, whose life is a burden to himself; Envy that brooks not another’s prosperity, woeful Sorrow with rent garments; Fear and foolhardy rashness with sightless eyes; Luxury, destroyer of wealth, to whose side ever clings unhappy Want with humble tread, and the long company of sleepless Cares, hanging round the foul neck of their mother Avarice. The iron seats are filled with all this rout and the grim chamber is thronged with the monstrous crowd. Allecto stood in their midst and called for silence, thrusting behind her back the snaky hair that swept her face and letting it play over her shoulders. Then with mad utterance she unlocked the anger deep hidden in her heart.

“Shall we allow the centuries to roll on in this even tenour, and man to live thus blessed? What novel kindliness has corrupted our characters? Where is our inbred fury? Of what use the lash with none to suffer beneath it?…Lo! a golden age begins; lo! the old breed of men returns. Peace and Godliness, Love and Honour hold high their heads throughout the world and sing a proud song of triumph over our conquered folk. Justice herself (oh the pity of it!), down-gliding through the limpid air, exults over me and, now that crime has been cut down to the roots, frees law from the dark prison wherein she lay oppressed. Shall we, expelled from every land, lie this long age in shameful torpor? Ere it be too late recognize a Fury’s duty: resume your wonted strength and decree a crime worthy of this august assembly. Fain would I shroud the stars in Stygian darkness, smirch the light of day with our breath, unbridle the ocean deeps, hurl rivers against their shattered banks, and break the bonds of the universe.”

So spake she with cruel roar and uproused every gaping serpent mouth as she shook her snaky locks and scattered their baneful poison…

Invidiae quondam stimulis incanduit atrox
Allecto, placidas late cum cerneret urbes.
protinus infernas ad limina taetra sorores
concilium deforme vocat. glomerantur in unum
innumerae pestes Erebi, quascumque sinistro
Nox genuit fetu: nutrix Discordia belli,
imperiosa Fames, leto vicina Senectus
impatiensque sui Morbus Livorque secundis
anxius et scisso maerens velamine Luctus
et Timor et caeco praeceps Audacia vultu
et Luxus populator opum, quem semper adhaerens
infelix humili gressu comitatur Egestas,
foedaque Avaritiae complexae pectora matris
insomnes longo veniunt examine Curae.
complentur vario ferrata sedilia coetu
torvaque collectis stipatur curia monstris.
Allecto stetit in mediis vulgusque tacere
iussit et obstantes in tergum reppulit angues
perque umeros errare dedit. tum corde sub imo
inclusam rabidis patefecit vocibus iram…

***

“Then the world shall be owned by all in common, no field marked off from another by any dividing boundary, no furrow cleft with bended ploughshare; for the husbandman shall rejoice in corn that springs untended. Oak groves shall drip with honey, streams of wine well up of every side, lakes of oil abound. No price shall be asked for fleeces dyed scarlet, but of themselves shall the flocks grow red to the astonishment of the shepherd, and in every sea the green seaweed with laugh with flashing jewels.”

***

Claudian
Panegyric on the Consulship of Fl. Manlius Theodorus
Translated by Maurice Platnauer

He is a savage who delights in punishment and seems to make the vengeance of the laws his own; when his heart is inflamed with the poison of wrath he is goaded by fury and rushes on knowing nothing of the cause and eager only to do hurt. But he whom reason, not anger, animates is a peer of the gods, he who, weighing the guilt, can with deliberation balance the punishment. Let others boast them of their bloody swords and wish to be feared for their ferocity, while they fill their treasuries with the goods of the condemned. Gently flows the Nile, yet it is more beneficent than all rivers for all that no sound reveals its power. More swiftly the broad Danube glides between its quiet banks. Huge Ganges flows down to its mouths with gently moving current. Let torrents roar horribly, threaten weary bridges, and sweep down forests in their foaming whirl; ’tis repose befits the greater; quiet authority accomplishes what violence cannot, and that mandate compels more which comes from a commanding calm.

***

Claudian
(From) On the Fourth Consulship of the Emperor Honorius
Translated by Maurice Platnauer

“Above all fail not in loving-kindness; for though we be surpassed in every virtue yet mercy alone makes us equal with the gods. Let thine actions be open and give no grounds for suspicion, be loyal to thy friends nor lend an ear to rumours. He who attends to such will quake at every idle whisper and know no moment’s peace. Neither watch nor guard nor yet hedge of spears can secure thee safety; only thy people’s love can do that. Love thou canst not extort; it is the gift of mutual faith and honest goodwill. Seest thou not how the fair frame of the very universe binds itself together by love, and how the elements, not united by violence, are for ever at harmony among themselves? Dost thou not mark how that Phoebus is content not to outstep the limits of his path, nor the sea those of his kingdom, and how the air, which in its eternal embrace encircles and upholds the world, presses not upon us with too heavy a weight nor yet yields to the burden which itself sustains? Whoso causes terror is himself more fearful; such doom befits tyrants. Let them be jealous of another’s fame, murder the brave, live hedged about with swords and fenced with poisons, dwelling in a citadel that is ever exposed to danger, and threaten to conceal their fears. Do thou, my son, be at once a citizen and a father, consider not thyself but all men, nor let thine own desires stir thee but thy people’s.

“If thou make any law or establish any custom for the general good, be the first to submit thyself thereto; then does a people show more regard for justice nor refuse submission when it has seen their author obedient to his own laws. The world shapes itself after its ruler’s pattern, nor can edicts sway men’s minds so much as their monarch’s life; the unstable crowd ever changes along with the prince.

“Nor is this all: show no scorn of thine inferiors nor seek to overstep the limits established for mankind. Pride joined thereto defaces the fairest character…”

From history thou mayest learn that no ill fortune can master worth; Punic savagery extends thy fame, Regulus, to eternity; the failure of Cato outdoes success. From history thou mayest learn the power of frugal poverty; Curius was a poor man when he conquered kings in battle; Fabricius was poor when he spurned the gold of Pyrrhus; Serranus, for all he was dictator, drove the muddy plough. In those days the lictors kept watch at a cottage door, the fasces were hung upon a gateway of wood; consuls helped to gather in the harvest, and for long years the fields were ploughed by husbandmen who wore the consular robe.”

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Publilius Syrus: Better plow than weapon

September 22, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Publilius Syrus
From Sententiae
Translated by J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff

Steel in the furrow is more useful than yellow copper
in battle.
(Utilius ferrum est in sulco quam orichalcum est in
proelio.)

Doubly destroyed is he who perishes by his own arms.
(Bis interimitur qui suis armis perit.)

The dutiful man reduced to misery is a reproach to
the good.
(Bonorum crimen est officiosus miser.)

When pity sees misery, there comes the comradeship
of tears.
(Contubernia sunt lacrimarum ubi misericors miserum
adspicit.)

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Joseph Conrad: Selections on war

September 21, 2015 Leave a comment
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Appian: War fueled by blood and gold, excuse for expenditure of one, expropriation of the other

September 20, 2015 2 comments

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Appian: Drawing the sword for mutual slaughter. The tears of fratricide.

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Appian
From The Civil Wars
Translated by Horace White

As soon as the triumvirs were by themselves they joined in making a list of those who were to be put to death. They put on the list those whom they suspected because of their power, and also their personal enemies, and they exchanged their own relatives and friends with each other for death, both then and later. For they made additions to the catalogue from time to time, in some cases on the ground of enmity, in others for a grudge merely, or because their victims were friends of their enemies or enemies of their friends, or on account of their wealth, for the triumvirs needed a great deal of money to carry on the war, since the revenue from Asia had been paid to Brutus and Cassius, who were still collecting it, and the kings and satraps were contributing. So the triumvirs were short of money because Europe, and especially Italy, was exhausted by wars and exactions; for which reason they levied very heavy contributions from the plebeians and finally even from women, and contemplated taxes on sales and rents. By now, too, some were proscribed because they had handsome villas or city residences. The number of senators who were sentenced to death and confiscation was about 300, and of the knights about 2000. There were brothers and uncles of the triumvirs in the list of the proscribed, and also some of the officers serving under them who had had some difficulty with the leaders, or with their fellow-officers.

***

Some died defending themselves against their slayers. Others made no resistance, considering the assailants not to blame. Some starved, or hanged, or drowned themselves, or flung themselves from their roofs into the fire. Some offered themselves to the murderers or sent for them when they delayed. Others concealed themselves and made abject entreaties, or tried to thrust aside the danger, or to buy themselves off. Some were killed by mistake, or by private malice, contrary to the intention of the triumvirs. It was evident that a corpse was not one of the proscribed if the head was still attached to it, for the heads of the proscribed were displayed on the rostra in the forum, where it was necessary to bring them in order to get the rewards. Equally conspicuous were the fidelity and courage of others – of wives, of children, of brothers, of slaves, who rescued the proscribed or planned for them in various ways, and died with them when they did not succeed in their designs. Some even killed themselves on the bodies of the slain.

***

While these events were taking place Lepidus enjoyed a triumph for his exploits in Spain, and an edict was displayed in the following terms: “May Fortune favour us. Let it be proclaimed to all men and women that they celebrate this day with sacrifices and feasting. Whoever shall fail to do shall be put on the list of the proscribed.” Lepidus led the triumphal procession to the Capitol, accompanied by all the citizens, who showed the external appearance of joy, but were sad at heart. The houses of the proscribed were looted, but there were not many buyers of their lands, since some were ashamed to add to the burden of the unfortunate. Others thought that such property would bring them bad luck, or that it would not be at all safe for them to be seen with gold and silver in their possession, or that, as they were not free from danger with their present holdings, it would be an additional risk to increase them. Only the boldest spirits came forward and purchased at the lowest prices, because they were the only buyers. Thus it came to pass that the triumvirs, who had hoped to realize a sufficient sum for their preparations for the war, were still short by 200,000,000 drachmas.

The triumvirs addressed the people on this subject and published an edict requiring 1400 of the richest women to make a valuation of their property, and to furnish for the service of the war such portion as triumvirs should require from each. It was provided further that if any should conceal their property or make a false valuation they should be fined, and that rewards should be given to informers, whether free persons or slaves…

“Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honours, the commands, the state-craft, for which you contend against each other with such harmful results? ‘Because this is a time of war,” do you say? When have there not been wars, and when have taxes ever been imposed on women, who are exempted by their sex among all mankind?”

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Dio Cassius
From Roman History
Translated by Earnest Cary

And while the people were still in this state of mind, those murders by proscription which Sulla had once indulged in were once more resorted to and the whole city was filled with corpses. Many were killed in their houses, many even in the streets and here and there in the fora and around the temples; the heads of the victims were once more set up on the rostra and their bodies either allowed to lie where they were, to be devoured by dogs and birds, or else cast into the river.

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Lucius Annaeus Florus
From Epitome of Roman History
Translated by E. S. Forster

What countless deaths took place in the forum, the circus and the innermost recesses of the temples! Mucius Scaevola, the priest of Vesta, clinging to the altar of the goddess, was almost buried in the flames which burnt upon it. Lamponius and Telesinus, the leaders of the Samnites, were laying waste Campania and Etruria with even more brutality than Pyrrhus or Hannibal, and were exacting vengeance on their own account under the pretence of helping their cause. But all the enemy’s forces were defeated, those under Marius at Sacriportus, those under Telesinus at the Colline Gate. However, the end of the fighting was not also the end of the killing; for even after peace was made, swords were drawn and punishment was inflicted upon those who had surrendered voluntarily. The slaughter of more than 70,000 men by Sulla at Sacriportus and the Colline Gate was a lesser crime, for it was what one expects in war. But he ordered 4,000 unarmed citizens who had been surrendered to be slain in the Villa Publica. Do not all these 4,000 slain in peace really outnumber those other 70,000? Who can compute the total of those whom anyone, who wished to do so, slew in various parts of the city? At last, when Fufidius advised that some men ought to be allowed to live in order that Sulla might have someone to whom to give orders, that vast proscription-list was put up, and from the flower of the equestrian order and the senate 2,000 men were chosen and condemned to death. It was an edict for which there was no precedent. It would be tedious after this to relate the insulting end of Carbo and Soranus, the deaths of Plaetorii and Venuleii; how Baebius was torn to pieces, not by the sword, but by men’s hands, like a wild beast; and how Marius, the brother of the general, after his eyes had been gouged out at the tomb of Catulus, was kept alive for some time after his hands and legs had been broken off, so that he might die limb by limb. One could endure the punishment of individuals, but the most renowned towns of Italy were put up to auction – Spoletium, Interamnium, Praeneste, Florentia. As for Sulmo, an allied and friendly city of long standing, Sulla, instead of storming or besieging it according to the rules of warfare, committed an act of base injustice in condemning the city and ordering its destruction, even as those who are condemned to death are ordered to be led to execution.

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Thomas Macaulay: The self-perpetuating role of the army

September 18, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Thomas Macaulay: Drive for transatlantic dominion leads to endless wars, empty treasuries

Thomas Macaulay: Loving war for its own sake

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Thomas Macaulay
From The Present Administration (1827)

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Then will come all those desperate and cruel expedients of which none but bad governments stand in need. The press is troublesome. There must be fresh laws against the press. Secret societies are formed. The Habeas Corpus act must be suspended. The people are distressed and tumultuous. They must be kept down by force. The army must be increased; and the taxes must be increased. Then the distress and tumult are increased: and then the army must be increased again! The country will be governed as a child is governed by an ill-tempered nurse, – first beaten till it cries, and then beaten because it cries!

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Ammianus Marcellinus: Empowering the military…with foreseeable results

September 17, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Ammianus Marcellinus: War’s landscape: discolored with the hue of dark blood

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Ammianus Marcellinus
From History
Translated by John C. Rolfe

I shall declare openly that Valentinian was the first of all emperors to increase the arrogance of the military, to the injury of the commonwealth, by raising their rank and power to excess; moreover (a thing equally to be deplored, both publicly and privately), he punished the peccadilloes of the common soldiers with unbending severity, while sparing those of higher rank; so that these assumed that they had complete licence for their sins, and were aroused to shameful and monstrous crimes. In consequence, they are so arrogant as to believe that the fortunes of all without distinction are dependent on their nod…

[A]lmost all the Halani are tall and handsome, their hair inclines to blond, by the ferocity of their glance they inspire dread, subdued though it is. They are light and active in the use of arms. In all respects they are somewhat like the Huns, but in their manner of life and their habits they are less savage. In their plundering and hunting expeditions they roam here and there as far as the Maeotic Sea and the Cimmerian Bosporus, and also to Armenia and Media. Just as quiet and peaceful men find pleasure in rest, so the Halani delight in danger and warfare. There the man is judged happy who has sacrificed his life in battle, while those who grow old and depart from the world by a natural death they assail with bitter reproaches, as degenerate and cowardly; and there is nothing in which they take more pride than in killing any man whatever: as glorious spoils of the slain they tear off their heads, then strip off their skins and hang them upon their war-horses as trappings. No temple or sacred place is to be seen in their country, not even a hut thatched with straw can be discerned anywhere, but after the manner of barbarians a naked sword is fixed in the ground and they reverently worship it as their god of war, the presiding deity of those lands over which they range…

For without distinction of age or sex all places were ablaze with slaughter and great fires, sucklings were torn from the very breasts of their mothers and slain, matrons and widows whose husbands had been killed before their eyes were carried off, boys of tender or adult age were dragged away over the dead bodies of their parents. Finally many aged men, crying that they had lived long enough after losing their possessions and their beautiful women, were led into exile with their arms pinioned behind their backs, and weeping over the glowing ashes of their ancestral homes.

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Octave Mirbeau: A sudden vision of Death, red Death standing on a chariot, drawn by rearing horses, which was sweeping down on us, brandishing his scythe

September 16, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Octave Mirbeau: Selections on war

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Octave Mirbeau
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich

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In front of the house a crowd was waiting. A long line of human beings, wan and worn out, some standing with fixed looks, others sitting on the ground, sad with stooped and pointed shoulders, their heads buried in their hands. Death had already laid its terrible hand upon these emaciated countenances, these scraggy frames, these members which hung loose, devoid of blood and marrow. And confronted with this heartbreaking sight, I forgot my own suffering, and my heart was touched with pity. Three months were sufficient to break down these robust bodies, inured to labor and fatigue!…Three months! And these young men who loved life, these children of the soil who grew up as dreamers in the freedom of the fields, trusting in the goodness of nature, these youths were done for!…To the marine who dies is given the sea as a burying place; he descends into eternal darkness to the rhythm of its murmuring waves. But these!…A few more days of grace perhaps, and then these tatterdemallions will suddenly tumble down into the mud of a ditch, their corpses delivered, up to the fangs of prowling dogs and to the beaks of nightbirds.

***

On the threshold I met a peasant woman who asked me:

“Is this the place where you can see the doctor.”

“Women now!” growled the adjutant. “What do you want now?”

“Beg pardon, excuse me, Doctor,” rejoined the peasant woman, who came up very timidly. “I came for my son who is a soldier.”

“Tell me now, old woman, am I here to keep track of your son, or what?”

With her hands crossed on the handle of her umbrella, timorous, she examined the place about her.

“It seems like he is very sick, my son is, very, very sick…And so I came to see if he was not around here, Doctor.”

“What’s your name?”

“My name is Riboulleau.”

“Riboulleau…Riboulleau!…That may be…look in that pile there.”

The attendant who was broiling his pudding turned his head.

“Riboulleau,” he said, “why he has been dead three days already…”

“What is that you are saying?” cried the peasant woman whose sunburned face suddenly became pallid. “Where did he die?… Why did he die, my little darling boy.”

The adjutant intervened, and rudely pushing the old woman toward the door, shouted:

“Go on, go on, no scenes around here! Well, he is dead—and that is all there is to it.”

“My little darling boy! My little darling boy!” wailed the old woman in a heart-breaking manner.

I walked away with a heavy heart and felt so discouraged that I was asking myself whether it was not better to put an end to it all at once by hanging myself on the branch of a tree or by blowing my brains out with the gun. While I was going to my tent, stumbling on the way, I was hardly paying any attention to the little soldier who, having stopped at the foot of a pine tree, had opened his abscess with his knife himself, and, pale, with sweat drops rolling all over his forehead, was bandaging his bleeding wound.

***

We looked at one another perplexed, with a sort of anguish in our hearts, which came as a result of our knowledge that the Prussians were very near, that war was going to begin for us in earnest the very next day, today perhaps. And I had a sudden vision of Death, red Death standing on a chariot, drawn by rearing horses, which was sweeping down on us, brandishing his scythe. As long as the actual fighting was only a remote possibility we wanted to be in it, first for reasons of patriotism, enthusiasm, then out of mere braggadocio, later because we were nervously exhausted and wearisome and saw in it a way out of our misery. Now when the opportunity offered itself, we were afraid; we shuddered at the mere mention of it. Instinctively my eyes turned toward the horizon, in the direction of Chartres. And the fields seemed to me to conceal a secret, unknown terror, a fearful uncertainty, which lent to things a new aspect of relentlessness. Over yonder, above the blue line of trees, I expected to see helmets spring up suddenly, bayonets flash, the thundering mouths of cannons spurt fire. A harvest field, all red under the sun, appeared to me like a pond of blood. Hedges strung themselves out into armies, joined ranks, crossed one another like regiments, bristling with arms and standards and going through various evolutions before the battle. The apple trees looked frightened like cavalry men thrown into disorder.

“Break the circle — march!” shouted the lieutenant.

Stupefied, with swinging arms, we were standing on one place for a long time, a prey to some vague misgiving, trying to pierce in thought this terrible line on the horizon, behind which was now being realized the mystery of our fate. In this disquieting silence, in this sinister immobility, only carts and herds were passing by, more numerous, more hurried and pressed than ever. A flock of ravens, which came from yonder like a black vanguard, spotted the skies, thickened, distended and, stringing itself out into a line, turned aside, floating above us like a funeral cloak, then disappeared among the oak trees.

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Prudentius: Cruel warfare angers God

September 15, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Prudentius
From A Reply to the Address of Symmachus
Book II

Translated by H.J. Thomson

Only concord knows God; it alone worships the beneficent Father aright in peace. The untroubled harmony of human union wins his favour for the world; by division it drives Him away, with cruel warfare it makes Him wroth; it satisfies Him with the offering of peace and holds Him fast with quietness and brotherly love. In all lands bounded by the western ocean and lightened by Aurora at her rosy dawning, the raging war-goddess was throwing all humanity into confusion and arming savage hands to wound each other.

sola Deum novit eoneordia, sola benignum
rite colit tranquilla Patrem: placidissimus ilium
foederis humani consensus prosperat orbi,
seditione fugat, saevis exasperat armis,
munere pacis alit, retinet pietate quieta.
omnibus in terris quas continet occidualis
oceanus roseoque Aurora inluminat ortu,
miscebat Bellona furens raortalia cuncta
armabatque feras in vulnera mutua dextras.

***

Come then, Almighty; here is a world in harmony; do Thou enter it. An earth receives Thee now, O Christ, which peace and Rome hold in a bond of union. These Thou dost command to be the heads and highest powers of the world. Rome without peace finds no favour with Thee…

en ades, Omnipotens, concordibus influe terris:
iam mundus te, Christe, capit, quem congrege nexu
pax et Roma tenent. capita haec et culmina rerum
esse iubes, nee Roma tibi sine pace probatur…

***

Now of right I am called venerable, the head of the world, when I shake my helmet with its red crests under a sprig of olive and veil my cruel sword-belt with a garland of greenery, worshipping God in arms but with no guilt of bloodshed.

nunc, nunc iusta meis reverentia conpetit annis,
nunc merito dicor venerabilis et caput orbis,
cum galeam sub fronde oleae cristasque rubentes
concutio viridi velans fera cingula serto
atque armata Deum sine crimine caedis adoro.

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Émile Zola: Prescription for a happy life in the midst of universal peace

September 14, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Émile Zola: Selections on war

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Émile Zola
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified

ZOLA_1902B

“It is necessary to give back; it is necessary to give back.”

It is necessary to give back, because death results from the wealth stolen from others. It is necessary to give back, because the only cure, the only certainty, and the only happiness lie in doing so. It is necessary to give back, from a spirit of justice, and still more from personal interest, as the happiness of each can reside only in the happiness of all. It is necessary to give back, in order to compass our own welfare, and to live a healthy and a happy life in the midst of universal peace. It is necessary to give back, since if all the possessors of public wealth should to-morrow give up all the riches that they are squandering for their solitary pleasures – the great domains, the great exploitations, the manufactories, etc. – we should at once have peace, love flourishing among men, and such an abundance of blessings that there would no longer be a single wretched person upon earth. It is necessary to give back; it is necessary to set an example if it is desired that other necessary rich persons may understand and feel whence proceed the evils that they suffer, and desire again to seek in active life, in daily labor, the bread that never nourishes better than when it has been earned. It is necessary to give back, while yet there is time, when there is still some nobility in making restitution to one’s comrades, in showing them that one has been deceived, and in resuming one’s place for the common effort, with the hope of the approaching hour of justice and peace. It is necessary to give back, and thus to die with a clear conscience and a heart rejoicing at a duty fulfilled, leaving behind the lesson of reparation and liberation, to the last of the race, in order that he may raise it again, that he may save it from error, and that he may continue it in strength, in joy, and in beauty.

“It is necessary to give back; it is necessary to give back.”

***

Ever since electricity had been employed the horrible racket kept up by the rolling-mills had ceased. They now worked softly, as if well oiled, with no noise but that of a little silvery sound as each rail dropped upon the pile of others that lay cooling. The machines were incessantly producing what would tend to peace, would cross old frontiers, and make neighboring nations one great people, until the whole globe should be furrowed by their tracks. There were great steel ships – no longer abominable ships of war, carrying devastation and death, but ships of solidarity and fraternity, exchanging the products of continents, and increasing tenfold the wealth of mankind, and to such a point that abundance was now reigning everywhere. There were bridges also facilitating communications, and girders and the metallic frame-work needed for public buildings, such as communal houses, libraries, museums, asylums, immense cooperative storehouses, elevators, and granaries able to contain grain enough to feed all nations. Finally, there were innumerable machines, which in all places and for all purposes were taking the place of the arms of men, whether tillers of the soil or toilers in the workshop. Luc rejoiced at seeing all this iron used for pacific purposes. He looked on it as the conquering metal, long used to make swords and other weapons for men of blood, then in later years it had made cannon and shells, but now he was employing it to build houses for fraternity, justice, and happiness, peace in these last times having been attained.

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Herodian: Accommodating the military, selling an empire

September 13, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Herodian
From History of the Roman Empire
Translated by Edward C. Echols

In a way of life so prosperous and well ordered, only the praetorians complained of their lot. Longing for a return to the violence and looting of the preceding tyranny and to their extravagant and dissolute pursuits, they plotted to remove Pertinax on the ground that he was a burden and a nuisance to them, and to choose an emperor who would restore to them their unbridled and uncontrolled power. And so, with no warning, the praetorians rushed headlong from their camp one day at noon, when they were off duty. Wild with unreasoning anger, they burst into the palace with spears raised and swords drawn…

But while he [Pertinax] was still talking, the bolder praetorians attacked and killed him. After they had committed this savage crime, alarmed by what they had done and wishing to anticipate the fury of the people, who would, they knew, be enraged by the murder, the praetorians rushed back to the camp. Shutting all the gates and blocking the entrances, they placed sentries in the towers and remained inside the walls to defend themselves if the mob should attack the camp…

When the praetorians saw that the people were quiet and that no one dared to avenge the murder of the emperor, they remained isolated inside the camp. Then, bringing forward to the walls the men with the loudest voices, they made proclamation that the empire was for sale, promising to hand it over to the man who offered the highest price, and promising to conduct the purchaser safely to the imperial palace under the protection of their arms. When they made this proclamation, the more august and respected senators, those who were nobly born and still wealthy, the scattered survivors of Commodus’ tyranny, did not go to the wall; they had no desire to use their wealth basely and shamefully to buy the empire. But the praetorians’ proposition was reported to a man named Julianus while he was giving a dinner in the late afternoon amid much drinking and carousing. This Julianus had already served a term as consul and was thought to be a very wealthy man; he was one of the Romans censured for an intemperate way of life. Then his wife and daughter and a mob of parasites persuaded him to leave his dining couch and hurry to the wall of the camp to find out what was going on. All the way to the camp they urged him to seize the prostrate empire; he had plenty of money and could outbid anyone who opposed him. And so, when they came to the wall, Julianus shouted up a promise to give the praetorians everything they wanted, assuring them that he had plenty of money, that his strongboxes were crammed with gold and silver…When he came up, Julianus promised to…restore to the praetorians all the powers they had possessed under that emperor and to give each soldier more gold than he asked for or expected to receive. Convinced by his promises and delighted with their expectations, the guard proclaimed Julianus emperor, and, in view of his family and his ancestry, thought it appropriate that he assume the name of Commodus. Then, raising their standards, to which pictures of Julianus had been attached, they prepared to escort the emperor to the imperial palace.After he had performed the usual imperial sacrifices in the camp, Julianus was led out under the protection of a contingent of the guard larger than normal. Because he had purchased the empire shamefully, disgracefully, and fraudulently, using force and opposing the wishes of the people, the new emperor rightly feared that the people would be hostile toward him. Therefore, under full arms and armor, the praetorians formed a phalanx so that, if necessary, they could fight. They placed their chosen emperor in the center of the formation, holding their spears and shields over their heads to protect the procession from any shower of stones hurled down from the houses. In this fashion they succeeded in conducting Julianus to the palace, as none of the people dared oppose them. No one, however, shouted the congratulations usually heard when emperors were accompanied by a formal escort; on the contrary, the people stood at a distance, shouting curses and reviling Julianus bitterly for using his wealth to purchase the empire.

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Ernest Poole: War was the fashion. War was a pageant, a thing of romance.

September 11, 2015 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Poole: Apply for death certificates here. War’s house of death.

Ernest Poole: The hatred rising in all men has already butchered millions and will butcher millions more!

Ernest Poole: War cuts off the past from the future

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Ernest Poole
From Blind (1920)

220px-Ernest_Poole

A small fortune had been spent on her dress, her health, her complexion, her “breeding,” her “simplicity.” She had “come out” the year before. But how different from the debutantes with whom I had danced ten years ago! For Louise like her mother was “in the war” and could talk or think of nothing else. Enthusiastic workers for various ultra-fashionable pro-Ally organizations, they had taken the war ardently into their small glittering world and there had made it glitter, too. War was the fashion. War was a pageant, a thing of romance, of titles, decorations, uniforms of many kinds and national costumes for bazaars. What had they to do with the poor dirty devils I had seen in the mud of the trenches, or gasping their lives away on rough cots? What did these women really know? They loved to hear of atrocities, if committed by “the Bodies”; but when in reaction against their talk I started in to tell them of the Galician peasant whose feet had been frozen and cut off, Aunt Fanny interrupted.

“I hope you are not planning to publish such stories, Larry,” she said. “They may do a great deal of harm – refuse sympathy for the German side. It’s perfectly senseless to attempt to make any distinction whatever between the German government and the German people,” she went on decisively. “It’s the German people – every single one of them – who are killing those poor boys in France!”

“For my part,” cried young Louise, “I’ll never speak to a German again! I wish they were all wiped off the earth – every man and woman and child!” I said I did not feel that way. “Why not?” Louise demanded. Then they tried to make me confirm the hideous things they knew to be true about the people in Germany. And when in my answers I refused fully to satisfy their demands, and in my obstinate mood that night I even went on to mention all the good points I could think of in the German nation, I could see them give me up. Obviously I was a “pro-German” – another disgrace to the family name.

***

“I was wrong in what I said before. War is sheer murder,” he declared. “And the very worst of it is its disguise, its camouflage – all the splendid elements that hide what it really is! You draw far away and you look back and you can see it is only blood – but when you are there, your very mind is blinded by the flashes – flashes from the souls of men – flashes from the soul of war! And yet it is false and it is wrong!”

***

The beds looked like so many gray ghosts. Out of them, with uncanny effect, the legs and arms that were in slings pointed up into the dark. The place was motionless and still, except for deep rough breathings and occasional moaning cries. From a bed back under the gallery came a monotonous pleading voice. “Schwester,” it kept saying. “Schwester, Schwester, Schwester.” Suddenly out of the shadows burst a savage beast-like scream. I saw the dim white figure of the nurse as she went to the bed. Then morphine and then silence. A lung-shot case began to cough blood. It was a long bubbling horrible cough, and he kept it up at intervals. From another corner presently came a sudden shout of “Charge!” Then came another: “Die Lazaret!” And in a moment the place was bedlam. I heard the most infernal shrieks. Men suddenly jumped up in bed crying, “Die Russlander !” Others yelled, “Hurrah! Hurrah!” This lasted for some minutes. By degrees they quieted down; but out of the silence came a sound that made me lean out of the box. On a bed directly under me lay a sleeper tensely whispering. Abruptly it stopped and in his dream he gave a quick delighted laugh. Again the whispering went on.

And listening there, I got startling hints of the vast and dazzling feverish universe of dreamland that was hovering every night over thirty million fighting men – not only dreams of horror but human, comic, intimate dreams, compounded of the memories, the inner thoughts, desires, passions, hopes and schemes of these tiny atoms caught into the storm. I thought of four thousand hospitals like this scattered over Germany, and of other hospitals in Austria, Russia, England and France, and of the men by millions who lay on their backs and silently stared at bare ceilings and at walls, at flags and wreaths and garlands, and at the huge red cross of Christ. And I wondered what they thought about war. What would they say to their wives at home and what would they teach to their children? Would they say, like that tall smiling boy who had run away from school, “War is very good for us” – or would they, like the silent man who had lain for ten weeks dying, shake their fists at the powers that be, and cry, “We are tired! Leave us alone!”

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Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Scorn rapine and violence and the profits accruing from war

September 10, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Dionysius of Halicarnassus
From The Roman Antiquities
Translated by Earnest Cary

And as the time dragged on in vain (for they were not injuring one another to any notable extent by sudden dashes of the light-armed troops or by skirmishes of the horse), the man who was looked upon as responsible for the war, Cluilius, being irked at lying idle, resolved to march out with his army and challenge the enemy to battle, and if they declined it, to attack their entrenchments. And having made his preparations for an engagement and all the plans necessary for an attack upon the enemy’s ramparts, in case that should prove necessary, when night came on he went to sleep in the general’s tent, attended by his usual guard; but about daybreak he was found dead, no signs appearing on his body either of wounds, strangling, poison, or any other violent death.

This unfortunate event appearing extraordinary to everybody, as one would naturally expect, and the cause of it being enquired into – for no preceding illness could be alleged – those who ascribed all human fortunes to divine providence said that this death had been due to the anger of the gods, because he had handled an unjust and unnecessary war between the mother-city and her colony. But others, who looked upon war as a profitable business and thought they had been deprived of great gains, attributed the event to human treachery and envy…

***

Marcius, after fulfilling all the customary requirements, entered upon the government in the second year of the thirty-fifth Olympiad…at the time when Damasias held the annual archonship at Athens. This king, finding that many of the religious ceremonies instituted by Numa Pompilius, his maternal grandfather, were being neglected, and seeing the greatest part of the Romans devoted to the pursuit of war and gain and no longer cultivating the land as aforetime, assembled the people and exhorted them to worship the gods once more as they had done in Numa’s reign…He then commended the system of government established by Numa for the Romans as excellent and wise and one which supplied every citizen with daily plenty from the most lawful employments; and he advised them to restore this system once more by applying themselves to agriculture and cattle-breeding and to those occupations that were free from all injustice, and to scorn rapine and violence and the profits accruing from war. By these and similar appeals he inspired in all a great desire both for peaceful tranquillity and for sober industry…

While instituting these administrative measures he hoped above all else to pass his whole life free from war and troubles, like his grandfather…

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Stephen Spender: Two Armies

September 9, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Stephen Spender: Selections on war

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Stephen Spender
Two Armies (1937)

Stephen_spender

Deep in the winter plain, two armies
Dig their machinery, to destroy each other.
Men freeze and hunger. No one is given leave
On either side, except the dead, and wounded.
These have their leave; while new battalions wait
On time at last to bring them violent peace.

All have become so nervous and so cold
That each man hates the cause and distant words
Which brought him here, more terribly than bullets.
Once a boy hummed a popular marching song,
Once a novice hand flapped the salute;
The voice was choked the lifted hand fell,
Shot through the wrist by those of his own side.

From their numb harvest all would flee, except
For discipline drilled once in an iron school
Which holds them at the point of a revolver.
Yet when they sleep, the images of home
Ride wishing horses of escape
Which herd the plain in a mass unspoken poem.

Finally, they cease to hate: for although hate
Bursts from the air and whips the earth like hail
Or pours it up in fountains to marvel at,
And although hundreds fell, who can connect
The inexhaustible anger of the guns
With the dumb patience of these tormented animals?

Clean silence drops at night when a little walk
Divides the sleeping armies, each
Huddled in linen woven by remote hands.
When the machines are stilled, a common suffering
Whitens the air with breath and makes both one
As though these enemies slept in each other’s arms.

Only the lucid friend to aerial raiders,
The brilliant pilot moon, stares down
Upon the plain she makes a shining bone
Cut by the shadow of many thousand bones.
Where amber clouds scatter on no-man’s-land
She regards death and time throw up
The furious words and minerals which kill life.

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Florus: Scattering the flames of war over the whole world

September 8, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Florus: World war, something worse than war

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Lucius Annaeus Florus
From Epitome of Roman History
Translated by E. S. Forster

As the fate of Corinth followed upon that of Carthage, so the fate of Numantia followed upon that of Corinth; and thereafter not a single place in the whole world was left unassailed by the arms of Rome. After the burning of these two famous cities, a single war was waged far and wide everywhere at once, and not merely against one nation after another; so that it seemed as if these two cities, as by the action of winds, had scattered the flames of war over the whole world.

***

Fighting continued in Spain over a period of nearly two hundred years, from the earliest of the Scipios down to the first Caesar Augustus, yet not continuously and without intermission, but at the call of circumstances; and the first hostilities were directed not against the Spanish but against the Carthaginians in Spain, from whom the contagion spread…

***

It is easier to create than to retain a province. Generals were, therefore, sent to deal with the inhabitants in detail, now to this region and now to that, who, with much toil and after sanguinary encounters, taught submission to savage races who had hitherto been free and were, therefore, impatient of the yoke. Cato, the well-known censor, broke the resistance of the Celtiberians, the flower of Spanish manhood, in several battles. Gracchus, the famous father of the Gracchi, punished the same race by the destruction of a hundred and fifty cities.

***

Numantia, however inferior in wealth to Carthage, Capua and Corinth, in respect of valour and distinction was the equal of any of them, and, if one judges it aright, was the greatest glory of Spain. This city, without any walls or fortifications and situated on only a slight eminence on the banks of a stream, with a garrison of 4,000 Celtiberians, held out alone against an army of 40,000 men for eleven years, and not only held out but repulsed its foes with considerable vigour on several occasions and drove them to make discreditable terms. Finally, when they found that the city was undefeated, they were forced to call in the general who had overthrown Carthage.

Scarcely ever, if the truth may be confessed, was the pretext for any war more unjust. The Numantines had harboured their allies and kinsmen the Segidians who had escaped from the hands of the Romans. The intercession which they made on their behalf produced no result. When they offered to withdraw from all participation in the war, they were ordered to lay down their arms as the price of a regular treaty. This demand was interpreted by the barbarians as equivalent to the cutting off of their hands; and so they immediately had recourse to arms under the leadership of the brave Megaravicus. They attacked Pompeius, but, when they might have utterly defeated him, they preferred to conclude a treaty. They next attacked Hostilius Mancinus; him too they reduced by inflicting continual losses upon him, so that no one could endure even to look in the eyes or hear the voice of a Numantine. Nevertheless, when they might have wreaked their fury in wholesale destruction, they preferred to make a treaty with him, being content to despoil his men of their arms. But the Roman people, as much incensed at the dishonour and shame of this Numantine treaty as they had been at that of the Caudine Forks, wiped out the disgrace of the disaster of the moment by surrendering Mancinus to the enemy, and then, under the leadership of Scipio, who had been trained for the destruction of cities by the burning of Carthage, at last their desire for vengeance burst into flames. At first he had a harder struggle in the camp than in the field, and more with our own soldiers than with the Numantines; for, worn out with continual, excessive and, for the most part, servile tasks, on the ground that they did not know how to fight they were ordered to carry more than the usual number of stakes, and because they refused to stain themselves with blood, they were bidden to befoul themselves with mud. In addition to this, the women and camp-followers and all the baggage except what was absolutely necessary were dispensed with. It is a true proverb which says that a general has the army which he deserves. The troops having been thus reduced to discipline, a battle was fought, and the sight of the Numantines in flight, which no one had even expected to see, was actually realized. They were willing to surrender if conditions were imposed to which men of spirit could submit. But since Scipio desired a complete and unqualified victory, they were first reduced to the necessity of rushing into the fray resolved to die, after they had first gorged themselves with, as it were, a funeral banquet of half-raw flesh and caelia,a name which they give to a local drink made from corn. Their intention was perceived by the general, and so, ready though they were to die, no opportunity was given them of fighting. When famine pressed hard upon them – for they were surrounded by a trench and breastwork and four camps – they begged the general to allow them to engage him, so that he might slay them like men, and, when their request was refused, they determined to make a sortie. This resulted in a battle in which very many of them were slain and, as hunger pressed them hard, they lived for a while on the dead bodies. Initially, they made up their minds to flee, but this was prevented by their wives, who cut the girths of their horses – a grievous wrong, but due to their affection. Despairing, therefore, of escape and in a revulsion of rage and fury, they, at last, under the leadership of Rhoecogenes, made an end of themselves, their families and their native city with the sword, with poison and with general conflagration.

***

Aquilius finally brought the Asiatic war to a close by the wicked expedient of poisoning the springs in order to procure the surrender of certain cities. This, though it hastened his victory, brought shame upon it, for he had disgraced the Roman arms, which had hitherto been unsullied, by the use of foul drugs in violation of the laws of heaven and the practice of our forefathers.

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William Black: Military glory, the most mean, the most cruel and contemptible thing under the sun!

September 7, 2015 Leave a comment

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

William Black: Better small farms, thriving and prosperous, than splendid ruins that tell of the fierceness of war

William Black: When Caesar’s legions turn on him

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William Black
From Sunrise (1881)

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“…And I am to consider America as my future home? Well, at all events, one will be able to breathe freely there. It is not a country weighed down with standing armies and conscriptions and fortifications. How could one live in a town like Coblentz, or Metz, or Brest? The poor wretches marching this way and marching that – you watch them from your hotel window – the young men and the middle-aged men – and you know that they would rather be away at their farms, or in their factories, or saw-pits, or engine-houses, working for their wives and children – ”

“Natalie,” said he, “you are only half a woman: you don’t care about military glory.”

“It is the most mean, the most cruel and contemptible thing under the sun!” she said, passionately. “What is the quality that makes a great hero – a great general – nowadays? Courage? Not a bit. It is callousness! – an absolute indifference to the slaughtering of human lives! You sit in your tent – you sit on horseback – miles away from the fighting; and if the poor wretches are being destroyed here or there in too great quantities, if they are ridden down by the horses and torn to pieces by the mitrailleuses, ‘Oh, clap on another thousand or two: the place must be taken at all risks.’ Yes, indeed; but not much risk to you! For if you fail – if all the thousands of men have been hurled against the stone and lead only to be thrown back crushed and murdered – why, you have fought with great courage – you, the great general, sitting in your saddle miles away; it is you who have shown extraordinary courage! – but numbers were against you: and if you win, you have shown still greater courage; and the audacity of the movement was so and so; and your dogged persistence was so and so; and you get another star for your breast; and all the world sings your praises. And who is to court-martial a great hero for reckless waste of human life? Who is to tell him that he is a cruel-hearted coward? Who is to take him to the fields he has saturated with blood, and compel him to count the corpses; or to take him to the homesteads he has ruined throughout the land, and ask the women and sons and the daughters what they think of this marvellous courage? Oh no; he is away back in the capital – there is a triumphal procession; all we want now is another war-tax – for the peasant must pay with his money as well as with his blood – and another levy of the young men to be taken and killed!”

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Plato: All wars arise for the sake of gaining money

September 6, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plato: Selections on war

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Plato

plato

From Phaedo
Translated by Harold North Fowler

Socrates
The body and its desires are the only causes of wars and factions and battles; for all wars arise for the sake of gaining money, and we are compelled to gain money for the sake of the body. We are slaves to its services.

From The Apology
Translated by Harold North Fowler

Socrates
And so the man propose the penalty of death. Well, then, what shall I propose as an alternative? Clearly that which I deserve, shall I not? And what do I deserve to suffer or to pay, because in my life I did not keep quiet, but neglecting what men most care for – money-making and property, and military offices, and public speaking, and the various offices and plots and parties that come up in this state – and thinking that I was really too honourable to engage in those activities and live, refrained from those things by which I should have been of no use to you or to myself, and devoted myself to conferring upon each citizen individually what I regard as the greatest benefit? For I tried to persuade each of you to care for himself and his own perfection in goodness and wisdom rather than for any of his belongings…

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Walter Scott: War’s cannibal priest, druid red from his human sacrifice

September 4, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Walter Scott
From Old Mortality (1816)

uewb_09_img0636

“We may safely hope, that the souls of the brave and sincere on either side have long looked down with surprise and pity upon the ill-appreciated motives which caused their mutual hatred and hostility, while in this valley of darkness, blood, and tears. Peace to their memory!”

***

The severity of his character, as well as the higher attributes of undaunted and enterprising valour which even his enemies were compelled to admit, lay concealed under an exterior which seemed adapted to the court or the saloon rather than to the field. The same gentleness and gaiety of expression which reigned in his features seemed to inspire his actions and gestures; and, on the whole, he was generally esteemed, at first sight, rather qualified to be the votary of pleasure than of ambition. But under this soft exterior was hidden a spirit unbounded in daring and in aspiring, yet cautious and prudent as that of Machiavel himself. Profound in politics, and embued, of course, with that disregard for individual rights which its intrigues usually generate, this leader was cool and collected in danger, fierce and ardent in pursuing success, careless of facing death himself, and ruthless in inflicting it upon others. Such are the characters formed in times of civil discord, when the highest qualities, perverted by party spirit, and inflamed by habitual opposition, are too often combined with vices and excesses which deprive them at once of their merit and of their lustre.

***

A long beard, as white as snow, hung down on his breast, and mingled with bushy, uncombed, grizzled hair, which hung in elf-locks around his wild and staring visage. The features seemed to be extenuated by penury and famine, until they hardly retained the likeness of a human aspect. The eyes, grey, wild, and wandering, evidently betokened a bewildered imagination. He held in his hand a rusty sword, clotted with blood, as were his long lean hands, which were garnished at the extremity with nails like eagle’s claws.

“In the name of Heaven! who is he?” said Morton, in a whisper to Poundtext, surprised, shocked, and even startled, at this ghastly apparition, which looked more like the resurrection of some cannibal priest, or druid red from his human sacrifice, than like an earthly mortal.

***

“What did I see? – Dead corpses and wounded horses, the rushing together of battle, and garments rolled in blood. – What heard I? – The voice that cried, Slay, slay – smite – slay utterly – let not your eye have pity! slay utterly, old and young, the maiden, the child, and the woman whose head is grey – Defile the house and fill the courts with the slain!”

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Calpurnius Siculus: The unholy War-Goddess shall yield. All wars shall be quelled in Tartarean durance.

September 3, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Calpurnius Siculus
From Eclogue I
Translated by J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff

“I, Faunus of celestial birth, guardian of hill and forest, foretell to the nations that these things shall come. Upon the sacred tree I please to carve the joyous lay in which destiny is revealed. Rejoice above all, ye denizens of the woods; rejoice, ye peoples who are mine! All the herd may stray and yet no care trouble its guardian: the shepherd may neglect to close the pens at night with wattles of ash-wood – yet no robber shall bring his crafty plot upon the fold, or loosing the halters drive the bullocks off. Amid untroubled peace, the Golden Age springs to a second birth; at last kindly Themis, throwing off the gathered dust of her mourning, returns to the earth; blissful ages attend the youthful prince who pleaded a successful case for the Iuli of the mother town (of Troy). While he, a very God, shall rule the nations, the unholy War-Goddess shall yield and have her vanquished hands bound behind her back, and, stripped of weapons, turn her furious teeth into her own entrails; upon herself shall she wage the civil wars which of late she spread o’er all the world: no battles like Philippi shall Rome lament henceforth: no triumph o’er her captive self shall she celebrate. All wars shall be quelled in Tartarean durance: they shall plunge the head in darkness, and dread the light. Fair peace shall come, fair not in visage alone – such as she often was when, though free from open war, and with distant foe subdued, she yet ‘mid the riot of arms spread national strife with secret steel. Clemency has commanded every vice that wears the disguise of peace to betake itself afar: she has broken every maddened sword-blade. No more shall the funereal procession of a fettered senate weary the headsman at his task; no more will crowded prison leave only a senator here and there for the unhappy Curia to count. Peace in her fullness shall come; knowing not the drawn sword, she shall renew once more the reign of Saturn in Latium, once more the reign of Numa who first taught the tasks of peace to armies that rejoiced in slaughter and still drew from Romulus’ camp their fiery spirit – Numa who first hushed the clash of arms and bade the patient sound ‘mid holy rites instead of war. No more shall the consul purchase the form of a shadowy dignity or, silenced, receive worthless fasces and meaningless judgement-seat. Nay, laws shall be restored; right will come in fullest force; a kinder god will renew the former tradition and look of the Forum and displace the age of oppression. Let all the peoples rejoice, whether they dwell furthest down in the low south or in the uplifted north, whether they face the east or west or burn beneath the central zone. Do ye mark how already for a twentieth time the night is agleam in an unclouded sky, displaying a comet radiant in tranquil light? and how brightly, with no presage of bloodshed, twinkles its undiminished lustre? Is it with any trace of blood-hued flame that, as is a comet’s way, it besprinkles either pole? does its torch flash with gory fire? But aforetime it was not such, when, at Caesar’s taking off, it pronounced upon luckless citizens the destined wars. Assuredly a very god shall take in his strong arms the burden of the massive Roman state so unshaken, that the world will pass to a new ruler without the crash of reverberating thunder, and that Rome will not regard the dead as deified in accord with merit ere the dawn of one reign can look back on the setting of the last.”

***

“qui iuga, qui silvas tueor, satus aethere Faunus,
haec populis ventura cano: iuvat arbore sacra
laeta patefactis incidere carmina fatis.
vos o praecipue nemorum gaudete coloni,
vos populi gaudete mei: licet omne vagetur
securo custode pecus nocturnaque pastor
claudere fraxinea nolit praesepia crate:
40 non tamen insidias praedator ovilibus ullas
afferet aut laxis abiget iumenta capistris.
aurea secura cum pace renascitur aetas
et redit ad terras tandem squalore situque
alma Themis posito iuvenemque beata sequuntur
saecula, maternis causam qui vicit Iulis.*
dum populos deus ipse reget, dabit impia victas
post tergum Bellona manus spoliataque telis
in sua vesanos torquebit viscera morsus
et, modo quae toto civilia distulit orbe,
secum bella geret: nullos iam Roma Philippos
deflebit, nullos ducet captiva triumphos;
omnia Tartareo subigentur carcere bella
immergentque caput tenebris lucemque timebunt.
candida pax aderit; nec solum candida vultu,
qualis saepe fuit quae libera Marte professo,
quae domito procul hoste tamen grassantibus armis
publica diffudit tacito discordia ferro:
omne procul vitium simulatae cedere pacis
iussit et insanos Clementia contudit enses.
60 nulla catenati feralis pompa senatus
carnificum lassabit opus, nec carcere pleno
infelix raros numerabit Curia patres.
plena quies aderit, quae stricti nescia ferri
altera Saturni referet Latialia regna,
altera regna Numae, qui primus ovantia caede
agmina, Romuleis et adhuc ardentia castris
pacis opus docuit iussitque silentibus armis
inter sacra tubas, non inter bella, sonare.
iam nec adumbrati faciem mercatus honoris
nec vacuos tacitus fasces et inane tribunal
accipiet consul; sed legibus omne reductis
ius aderit, moremque fori vultumque priorem
reddet et afflictum melior deus auferet aevum.
exultet quaecumque notum gens ima iacentem
erectumve colit boream, quaecumque vel ortu
vel patet occasu mediove sub aethere fervit.
cernitis ut puro nox iam vicesima caelo
fulgeat et placida radiantem luce cometem
proferat? ut liquidum niteat sine vulnere plenus?
80 numquid utrumque polum, sicut solet, igne cruento
spargit et ardenti scintillat sanguine lampas?
at quondam non talis erat, cum Caesare rapto
indixit miseris fatalia civibus arma.
scilicet ipse deus Romanae pondera molis
85 fortibus excipiet sic inconcussa lacertis,
ut neque translati sonitu fragor intonet orbis
nec prius ex meritis defunctos Roma penates
censeat, occasus nisi cum respexerit ortus.”

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Octave Mirbeau: All these wan faces, all these bodies already vanquished – toward what useless and bloody slaughters?

September 2, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Octave Mirbeau: Selections on war

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Octave Mirbeau
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich

Octave_Mirbeau_portrait

The time passed, the rain kept steadily drumming on the hollow mess plates and the general continued swearing at the station master who in turn went on avenging himself verbally on the telegraph, the click of which became more and more violent and erratic. From time to time trains came up over-crowded with troops. Soldiers of the reserve, light infantry units, bare-breasted, bare-headed, with loose cravats, some of them drunk and wearing their kepis wrong side up, deserted the wagons where they were parked, invaded the taverns and even relieved themselves in public impudently. From this swarm of human heads, from this stamping on the floor of the cars by multitudes there emanated oaths, sounds of the Marseillaise, obscene songs which mingled with shouts of the gangs of workmen, with the tinkling of bells, with the panting of machines…I recognized a little boy from Saint-Michel whose swollen eyelids oozed, who coughed and spat blood. I asked him where they were going. He did not know. Having left Mans, they were held up at Connerre for twelve hours without food because of congestion on the road, — too crowded to lie down and sleep. He hardly had strength enough to speak. He went into a tavern to rinse his eyes with warm water. I shook hands with him, and he said he sincerely hoped that in the first battle the Germans would make a prisoner of him…And the train pulled out, disappeared in the night, carrying all these wan faces, all these bodies already vanquished – toward what useless and bloody slaughters?

***

Forward! March!…

With bodies rendered rigid by immobility and with dizzy heads, we pushed and jostled one another and resumed our breathless journey in the rain, in the mud, through the night!… To the right and the left of us there were long stretches of fields swallowed up in the shadows from which rose the crowns of apple trees which appeared to be twisted in the skies. From time to time the barking of a dog was heard from afar…There were deep forests, sombre thickets which rose like walls on each side of the road. Then came villages asleep, where our steps resounded even more mournfully, or where at a window quickly opened and quickly closed again, there appeared the vague outline of a human white form…terrified…Then again fields and woods and villages…Not a single song, not a single word, only an immense silence, accentuated by the rhythm of the tramping feet. The leather straps of the knapsack cut into my flesh, the rifle felt like a red hot iron bar placed upon my shoulder. For a moment I thought myself harnessed to a huge wagon, loaded with broad stone and stuck in the mud and felt that the carters were breaking my legs with the lashes of whips. With my feet planted in the ground, my spine bent in two, with outstretched neck, strangled by the bit, my lungs emitting a rattling sound, I was pulling and pulling…Pretty soon I reached a state where I was no longer conscious of anything. I was marching in a state of torpor, like an automaton, as if in a trance…Strange hallucinations flitted before my eyes. I saw a glowing road receding into space, lined with palatial mansions and brilliant lights…Strange scarlet flowers swayed their corollæ in the air on the top of flexible stems, and a crowd of gay people were singing at tables laden with refreshments and delicious fruit…Women with fluttering gauze skirts were dancing on illumined lawns, to the music of numerous orchestras hidden in the grove strewn with falling leaves, adorned with jasmines, sprinkled with water.

“Halt!” commanded the sergeant.

I stopped, and in order not to sink down to the ground I had to hold on to the arm of a comrade. I awoke from my trance…Darkness was all around me. We had come to the entrance of a forest, near a small town where the general and most of the officers went to find quarters. Having pitched my tent, I occupied myself with rubbing my feet, the skin of which was peeling off, with a candle which I had hidden in my knapsack, and like an emaciated dog, stretched myself out on the wet ground and immediately fell asleep. During the night, fellow-soldiers who, exhausted with fatigue, had dropped out of the ranks on the road, kept on coming into camp. Of these, five men were never heard from. It was ever so at each difficult march. Some of the men, weak or sick, fell into the ditches and died there; others deserted…

The next morning reveille was sounded at dawn. The night had been extremely cold, it never stopped raining and we could not get any straw litter or hay to sleep on. It was very difficult for me to get out of the tent; for a while I was obliged to crawl on my knees on all fours, my legs refusing to carry me. My limbs were frozen stiff like bars of iron, I could not move my head on my paralyzed neck, and my eyes which felt as if they had been pricked by numerous tiny needles, kept shedding tears in ceaseless streams…At the same time I felt an acute, lancinating, unbearable pain in my back and shoulders. I noticed that my comrades fared no better. With drawn faces of ghostly pallor they were advancing, some limping piteously, others bent down and staggering over clumps of underbrush — all lame, mournful and covered with mud. I saw several men who, seized with the colic, writhed and twisted their mouths, holding their hands to their bellies. Some of them were shivering with fever, and their teeth chattered with cold. All around us one could hear dry coughs rending human breasts, groans, short and raucous breathing. A hare ventured out of its cover and fled wildly, with its ears flapping, but no one thought of pursuing the animal as we used sometimes to do. After the roll call, foodstuffs were distributed, as the commissary regained our regiment. We made some soup which we ate as greedily as half-starved dogs.

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Apollodorus: Why do you devote all your thought to injuring one another by making war?

September 1, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Apollodorus of Carystus
From The Table-Maker
Translated by Charles Burton Gulick

“O world of men! Why do ye give up the happy life, and devote all your thought to injuring one another by making war? Can it be that some boorish fate today presides over our lives – a fate which knows no culture at all, is completely ignorant of what is bad or what is good, and in some random way tosses us about as chance decrees? I think so indeed. For what fate, were she really a Greek, would prefer to see men thrashed by one another and lying prone as corpses, when they might be jolly, playful, just a bit tipsy, enjoying the sound of music as they should?…”

Quoted by Athenaeus in The Deipnosophists

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