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Eugène Sue: War, murder by proxy

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

French writers on war and peace

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Eugène Sue
From The Mysteries of the People (1842-1843)
The Branding Iron
Translated by Daniel De Leon

“You seem to be in good spirits this morning, my dear children! What is the reason of your joy?”

“Grandmother, it is our brother Corbe, who made us laugh.”

“What did Corbe do that was so funny?”

“He plucked all the feathers off his white turtle dove – and she screeched so – she screeched -”

“And you laughed – you laughed – you little imps!”

“Yes, grandmother, but our little brother Merovee wept.”

“Did he laugh so hard that he cried?”

“Oh, no; I wept because the bird bled.”

“And I thereupon told Merovee: ‘You have no courage, if blood frightens you! And when we go to battle, will you weep there also at the sight of blood?'”

“And while Corbe was saying so to Merovee, I took a knife and cut the dove’s head off. Oh, I am not afraid of blood; not I; and when I am a big man I shall go to war, not so grandmother?”

“Ah, children! You know not what you are wishing. It is easy to amuse yourselves cutting off the heads of doves, without feeling obliged some day to go to war. To make war means to ride day and night, suffer hunger, heat and cold, to sleep under tents, and what is worst of all, run the risk of being wounded and killed, all of which causes great pain. Is it not far better, dear children, to promenade quietly in a cart or a litter, to lie down in a soft bed, eat dainties, have fun all day long, and please your whims? The blood of royal families is too precious a thing to expose it recklessly, my pretty little kinglets. You have your leudes to go to war and fight the enemy in battle, your servants to kill the people who may displease or offend you; your priests to order the people to obey you. So, you see, all you have to do is to amuse yourselves, to enjoy the delights of life, happy children that you are, having nothing to say but ‘I will.’ Do you understand these words well, my dear little ones?…”

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No, never yet was promised land better calculated to reward industry with abundance. Half way up the slope of the hill, the purple colored vines; above the vineyards, the agricultural fields, on which the stubble of rye and wheat left from the last harvest is here and there seen burning. The fertile acreage stretches up to the skirts of the forests that crown the surrounding eminences, within which the spacious valley is locked. Below the vineyards are meadowlands watered by the river. Numerous flocks of sheep and herds of horses browse and graze upon the succulent pasture. The bells of the bulls and wethers are heard tinkling their rural melody. Here and yonder carts drawn by oxen slowly roll over the ground where the stubble was burned the day before, or four-wheeled wagons slowly descend the slopes of the vineyards and wend their way towards the common wine-presses, which, together with the stables, the sheep-folds and the pig-sties, all alike common, are located in the neighborhood of the river. Several workshops also lie contiguous to the river; the wash and spinning houses, where the flax is prepared and the wool washed preparatorily to being transformed into warm clothing; there also are situated the tanneries, the forges, the mills equipped with enormous grind-stones. Peace, security, contentment and work are seen everywhere reflected in the valley. The sound of the beetles of the washerwomen and the curriers, the clang of the blacksmiths’ hammers, the joyful cries of the men and women engaged at the vintage, the rhythmic chant of the husbandmen keeping time to the even and slow gait of the draft-oxen, the rustic flute of the shepherds,- all these sounds, including the hum of the swarming bees, another set of indefatigable toilers, who are busily gathering the honey from the last autumnal flowers, – all these different sounds, from the furthest and vaguest to the nearest and loudest, mingle into one harmony that is at once sweet and imposing; it is the voice of labor and happiness rising heavenward as a continuous thanksgiving.

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“The swords, always the swords! Thus the best of things turn to evil through abuse and hot-headedness!”

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Rick,
    This article today does leave the lament of inconsistency on always preparing for wars, and never replenishment of-by-for ourselves. May nuclear-Weapons: both NSDU-238 and thermo-Nuclear bOMbS be cast into making Medicare-for-all, being HALT NSDU-238 is advised dictim, and CTBT advised, yet NPP’s not yet defended…

    thank you for your peace-measures, “R” Addison

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