Home > Uncategorized > Montaigne: It is enough to dip our pens in ink without dipping them in blood

Montaigne: It is enough to dip our pens in ink without dipping them in blood

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

French writers on war and peace

Montaigne: Selections on war

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Michel de Montaigne
Translated by George B. Ives

From Cowardice, the Mother of Cruelty

What is it that, in these days, makes our quarrels ever deadly; and that, whereas our fathers had some stages in revenge, we now begin with the extreme degree, and at the outset speak of nothing but killing? What is this, if it is not cowardice?

If we thought to be always masters of our foes by force, and to domineer over him at our pleasure, we should be very sorry that he should escape us, as he does by dying…

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From Of the Useful and the Honorable

[O]ne man said to the Mamertines that statutes had no force against armed men; another, to a tribune of the people, that the times of justice and of war were not the same; and a third, that the noise of arms prevented him from hearing the voice of laws…

This is a lesson suited to this time; we need not armour our heart: it is enough that our backs be armoured; it is enough to dip our pens in ink without dipping them in blood…Let us deprive of this pretext of rightness those who are by nature wicked and blood-thirsty and treacherous; let us turn our backs on this heinous and insane justice, and hold fast to more human copies.

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I would not put so high a price upon wisdom. I do not so much consider what a man does, as what it costs him not to do worse.

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