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John Dryden: All your care is to provide the horrid pomp of war

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

British writers on peace and war

John Dryden: In peace the thoughts of war he could remove

John Dryden and Horace: Happy is he who trumpets summon not to war

John Dryden and Lucretius: Venus and Mars: Lull the world in universal peace

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John Dryden
Excerpts

The cutthroat sword and the clamorous gown shall jar,
In sharing their ill-gotten spoils of war;
Chiefs shall be grudg’d the part which they pretend…

(The Medal)

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“War,” he sung, “is toil and trouble;
Honor, but an empty bubble;
Never ending, still beginning,
Fighting still, and still destroying…”

(Alexander’s Feast)

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Never content with what you had before,
But true to change, and Englishmen all o’er.
New honor calls you hence, and all your care
Is to provide the horrid pomp of war.
In plume and scarf, jack boots and Bilbo blade,
Your silver goes, that should support our trade.

(The Prophetess)

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How blest is he, who leads a country life,
Unvex’d with anxious cares, and void of strife!
Who, studying peace and shunning civil rage,
Enjoy’d his youth, and now enjoys his age…

Enough for Europe has our Albion fought:
Let us enjoy the peace our blood has bought.
When once the Persian King was put to Flight,
The weary Macedons refus’d to fight:
Themselves their own Mortality confess’d;
And left the son of Jove, to quarrel for the rest.

Ev’n Victors are by Victories undone;
Thus Hannibal, with foreign laurels won,
To Carthage was recall’d, too late to keep his own.
While sore of battle, while our wounds are green,
Why should we tempt the doubtful die again?
In wars renew’d, uncertain of success,
Sure of a share, as umpires of the peace.

Some overpoise of sway, by turns they share;
In peace the people, and the prince in war:
Consuls of mod’rate pow’r in calms were made;
When the Gauls came, one sole dictator sway’d.

Patriots, in peace, assert the people’s right,
With noble stubbornness resisting might:
No lawless mandates from the court receive,
Nor lend by force; but in a body give.

(To My Honor’d Kinsman, John Driden)

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“Beaumont, Fletcher, and Jonson (who were only capable of bringing us to that degree of perfection which we have), were just then leaving the world; as if in an age of so much horror, wit, and those milder studies of humanity, had no further business among us. But the Muses, who ever follow peace, went to plant in another country…”

(An Essay on Dramatic Poesy)

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