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Henry Noel Brailsford: Who is the happy warrior?

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Noel Brailsford: Waiting for the horrors of a war that was coming

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Henry Noel Brailsford
From The Broom of the War God (1898)

“Ah! I have killed them. A sergeant and five men. I shot them with my own hand from behind a rock as they entered Domoko this morning. A sergeant and five men! And you?”

“We chased the Turks for two miles.”

Kala,” said Alexi, as he rolled himself in his rug.

“Nay, simple shepherd. It is not well,” thought Graham.“ Six Moslem mothers are desolate in Anatolia, and Varatasi has fallen, and all that true men loved is lost, and there is none to heed. And now there is joy in all the Chancelries, and the Philistines make merry.” And he envied Varatasi.

“Who is the happy warrior? who is be
That every man in arms would wish to be!”

And then as the grey dawn defined the outlines of the hills, blackened the great fortress and revealed the snows, he fell asleep and dreamed. And in his dream he was at rest. He lay on his back on the plain of Domoko, dead, and Varatasi was near him. A blaze of white light illumined the hillside. It shone till the blood danced as to the noise of a trumpet. And men in shimmering armour swept up towards him, with a song in their mighty throats and a purpose of victory in their tread.

“Hail, Saviour, Prince of Peace,
Thy Kingdom shall increase.”

They sang the brave words to that old crusader’s tune, with the clang of arms in its rhythms, the resistless ardour in the throbbing of its accents…

Wearily he rose, rubbing his eyes, for he was fain of victory and the magic wrought by courage.

He noticed Alexi peacefully resting. He looked more closely and saw the stain of blood on his sheepskin cloak. He had been shot in the side, and had died quietly as he slept.

And then he turned and went without a word to his thankless task. As he tramped the three miles in the grey light and the bitter cold along the mountain path, he thought of his dream, and found comfort. For there is a time to fight and a time to rest. He took up the great burden of peace and dishonour; he thought no more of the madness of the charge; he ceased to long for a death among the enemy. The time for fierce energy was past…For there is a time to fight and a time to rest, a time for resurrection and a time to acquiesce in death. He trudged long accepting the mortal prose of failure.

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