Home > Uncategorized > Alfred de Vigny: War is condemned of God and even of man who holds it in secret horror

Alfred de Vigny: War is condemned of God and even of man who holds it in secret horror


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

French writers on war and peace

Alfred de Vigny: Selections on war


Alfred de Vigny
From Servitude et grandeur militaires (1835)
Translated by Humphrey Hare

I had not at that time any comprehensive view of our Fatherland of France or of that other Fatherland of Europe which surrounds it; indeed, looking further, of the fatherland of humanity, the whole world, which happily becomes smaller each day, as the hand of civilization closes around it. I had not then thought how much happier the soldier would be at heart if he could feel that there were two men within him, the one obeying the other; if he knew that after the hard part he must play in war, he had the right to play another, more benevolent and no less glorious, in peace…

[I]t is too much for a single head to bear the heavy responsibility of so many murders; if there were as many to bear it as there are combatants, they would be none too many. Those who are responsible for executing the law of bloodshed should in justice at least properly understand it…I repeat once more, armies and wars will not endure for ever. Despite the words of the sophist, with whom I have argued elsewhere, it is quite untrue to suppose that there is anything sacred about war, even against a foreign enemy; nor is there any truth in the saying that the earth thirsts for blood. War is condemned of God and even of man who, though he makes it, holds it in secret horror; and the earth cries to heaven for no more than the fresh water of its rivers and the pure dew of its clouds.

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