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Montaigne: This furious monster war

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

Montaigne: Selections on war

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Michel de Montaigne
From Apology for Raymond Sebond
Translated by George B. Ives

As for war, which is the mightiest and most magnificent of human actions, I should like to know if we choose to make use of it as an argument in favour of any prerogative, or, on the contrary, as testifying to our weakness and imperfection; for, truly, in the ability to overcome and kill one another, to despoil and injure our own species, there is not much to make it desired by those beasts who have it not…

For those upheavals of war which astound us with their dreadfulness; that storm of sound and outcries, –

Then the glitter rises to the sky, and the whole earth around gleams with brass, and a noise is raised by the mighty trampling of men, and the mountains, struck by the shouting, reverberate the sound to the stars of heaven; –

that terrifying array of so many thousands of armed men; all the fury and ardour and courage – one could laugh in noting by what futile causes it is set in motion, and by what trivial causes suppressed.

[T]his furious monster with so many arms and so many heads is still man, feeble, unfortunate, and miserable. It is but an ant-hill stirred up and excited,

The black troop goes over the fields.

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