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Archive for September, 2016

Thomas Campbell: Maddening strife and blood-stain’d fields to come

September 30, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Campbell: Selections on peace and war

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Thomas Campbell

From To the Rainbow

As fresh in you horizon dark,
As young thy beauties seem,
As when the eagle from the ark
First sported in thy beam.
For, faithful to its sacred page.
Heaven still rebuilds thy span.
Nor lets the type grow pale with age
That first spoke peace to man.

***

From The Last Man

Go, let oblivion’s curtain fall
Upon the stage of men,
Nor with the rising beams recall
Life’s tragedy again.
Its piteous pageants bring not back.
Nor waken flesh, upon the rack
Of pain anew to writhe;
Stretch’d in disease’s shapes abhorr’d
Or mown in battle by the sword,
Like grass beneath the scythe.

***

From Gertrude of Wyoming

Dismal to her the forge of battle gleams
Portentous light! and music’s voice is dumb;
Save where the fife its shrill reveille screams,
Or midnight streets re-echo to the drum.
That speaks of maddening strife, and blood-stain’d fields
to come.

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Samuel Johnson: I to nobler themes aspire

September 29, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Johnson: War is heaviest of national evils, a calamity in which every species of misery is involved

Samuel Johnson: War is the extremity of evil

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Samuel Johnson
From Upon the Feast of St Simon and St Jude

Of Fields with dead bestrew’d around,
And Cities smoaking on the ground
Let vulgar Poets sing,
Let them prolong their turgid lays
With some victorious Heroe’s praise
Or weep some falling King.

While I to nobler themes aspire,
To nobler subjects tune my lyre…

***

From An Ode

When Pride, by guilt, to greatness climbs,
Or raging factions rush to war,
Here let me learn to shun the crimes
I can’t prevent, and will not share.

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James Thomson: Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war

September 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

James Thomson: Peace is the natural state of man; war his corruption, his disgrace

James Thomson: Philosophy’s plans of policy and peace

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James Thomson
From The Seasons

Let such as deem it glory to destroy
Rush into blood, the sack of cities seek;
Unpierced, exulting in the widow’s wail,
The virgin’s shriek, and infant’s trembling cry.
Let some, far distant from their native soil,
Urged or by want or harden’d avarice,
Find other lands beneath another sun.
Let this through cities work his eager way,
By legal outrage and establish’d guile,
The social sense extinct; and that ferment
Mad into tumult the seditious herd,
Or melt them down to slavery. Let these
Insnare the wretched in the toils of law,
Fomenting discord, and perplexing right,
An iron race! and those of fairer front.
But equal inhumanity, in courts,
Delusive pomp and dark cabals, delight;
Wreathe the deep bow, diffuse the lying smile.
And tread the weary labyrinth of state.
While he, from all the stormy passions free
That restless men involve, hears, and but hears,
At distance safe, the human tempest roar,
Wrapp’d close in conscious peace. The fall of kings,
The rage of nations, and the crush of states
Move not the man, who, from the world escaped,
In still retreats and flowery solitudes.

***

Not such the sons of Lapland: wisely they
Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war;
They ask no more than simple Nature gives.
They love their mountains, and enjoy their storms.
No false desires, no pride-created wants.
Disturb the peaceful current of their time.

***

These are not subjects for the peaceful Muse,
Nor will she stain with such her spotless song ;
Then most delighted, when she social sees
The whole mix’d animal-creation round
Alive and happy. ‘Tis not joy to her,
The falsely cheerful barbarous game of death.
This rage of pleasure, which the restless youth
Awakes, impatient, with the gleaming morn:
When beasts of prey retire, that all night long,
Urged by necessity, had ranged the dark,
As if their conscious ravage shunn’d the light,
Ashamed. Not so the steady tyrant Man,
Who with the thoughtless insolence of power
Inflamed, beyond the most infuriate wrath
Of the worst monster that e’er roam’d the waste,
For sport alone pursues the cruel chase.
Amid the beamings of the gentle days.

***

O Man! tyrannic lord! how long, how long
Shall prostrate Nature groan beneath your rage,
Awaiting renovation? when obliged.
Must you destroy?

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William Cowper: Never shall you hear the voice of war again

September 27, 2016 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From the Olney Hymns

“There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures without end shall flow;
For the Lord, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow;
Still in undisturb’d possession
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.”

***

He speaks – obedient to his call,
Our warm affections move:
Did he but shine alike on all,
Then all alike would love.

Then love to every heart would reign,
And war should cease to roar;
And cruel and bloodthirsty men
Would thirst for blood no more.

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Thomas Campbell: Shall War’s polluted banner ne’er be furl’d?

September 26, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Campbell: Selections on peace and war

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Thomas Campbell
From Pleasures of Hope

Primeval Hope, the Aonian Muses say.
When Man and Nature mourn’d their first decay;
When every form of death, and every woe,
Shot from malignant stars to earth below;
When Murder bared her arm, and rampant War
Yoked the red dragons of her iron car;
When Peace and Mercy, banish’d from the plain,
Sprung on the viewless winds to Heaven again;
All, all forsook the friendless, guilty mind,
But Hope, the charmer, linger’d still behind.

***

Where barbarous hordes on Scythian mountains roam,
Truth, Mercy, Freedom, yet shall find a home;
Where’er degraded Nature bleeds and pines,
From Guinea’s coast to Sibir’s dreary mines.
Truth shall pervade th’ unfathom’d darkness there.
And light the dreadful features of despair –
Hark! the stern captive spurns his heavy load,
And asks the image back that Heaven bestow’d!
Fierce in his eye the fire of valor burns.
And, as the slave departs, the man returns.

***

Man! can thy doom no brighter soul allow?
Still must thou live a blot on Nature’s brow?
Shall War’s polluted banner ne’er be furl’d?
Shall crimes and tyrants cease but with the world?
What! are thy triumphs, sacred Truth, belied?

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James Thomson: Philosophy’s plans of policy and peace

September 25, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

James Thomson: Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war

James Thomson: Peace is the natural state of man; war his corruption, his disgrace

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James Thomson
From The Seasons
Summer

The mineral kinds confess thy mighty power.
Effulgent, hence the veiny marble shines;
Hence Labour draws his tools ; hence burnish’d War
Gleams on the day; the nobler works of Peace
Hence bless mankind, and generous Commerce binds
The round of nations in a golden chain.

***

[T]he softening arts of Peace,
Whate’er the humanizing Muses teach;
The godlike wisdom of the temper’d breast;
Progressive truth, the patient force of thought;
Investigation calm, whose silent powers
Command the world; the light that leads to Heaven;
Kind equal rule, the government of laws,
And all-protecting Freedom, which alone
Sustains the name and dignity of man…

***
And blind amazement prone, the enlighten’d few,
Whose godlike minds Philosophy exalts…
Nothing, save rapine, indolence, and guile,
And woes on woes, a still-revolving train!
Whose horrid circle had made human life
Than non-existence worse: but, taught by thee,
Ours are the plans of policy and peace;
To live like brothers, and conjunctive all
Embellish life. While thus laborious crowds
Ply the tough oar, Philosophy directs
The ruling helm; or like the liberal breath
Of potent Heaven, invisible, the sail
Swells out, and bears the inferior world along.

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William Cowper: Universal soldiership has stabbed the heart of man

September 24, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From The Task

Sure there is need of social intercourse,
Benevolence and peace and mutual aid,
Between the nations, in a world that seems
To toll the death-bell to its own decease;
And by the voice of all its elements
To preach the general doom.

***

‘Tis universal soldiership has stabb’d
The heart of merit in the meaner class.
Arms through the vanity and brainless rage
Of those that bear them in whatever cause,
Seem most at variance with all moral good,
And incompatible with serious thought.
The clown, the child of nature, without guile,
Blest with an infant’s ignorance of all
But his own ſimple pleaſures, now and then
A wrestling match, a foot-race, or a fair,
Is ballotted, and trembles at the news.
Sheepish he doffs his hat, and mumbling swears
A Bible-oath to be whate’er they please,
To do he knows not what. The task perform’d,
That instant he becomes the sergeant’s care,
His pupil, and his torment, and his jest.
His awkward gait, his introverted toes,
Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks,
Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees,
Unapt to learn and formed of stubborn stuff,
He yet by slow degrees puts off himself,
Grows conscious of a change, and likes it well.
He stands erect, his slouch becomes a walk,
He steps right onward, martial in his air
His form and movement; is as smart above
As meal and larded locks can make him; wears
His hat or his plumed helmet with a grace,
And his three years of heroship expired,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
He hates the field in which no fife or drum
Attends him, drives his cattle to a march,
And sighs for the smart comrades he has left.
‘Twere well if his exterior change were all –
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost
His ignorance and harmless manners too.
To swear, to game, to drink, to show at home
By lewdness, idleness, and sabbath-breach,
The great proficiency he made abroad,
T’ astonish and to grieve his gazing friends,
To break some maiden’s and his mother’s heart,
To be a pest where he was useful once,
Are his sole aim, and all his glory now.

Incorporated, seem at once to Iose
Their nature, and disclaiming all regard
For mercy and the common rights of man,
Build factories with blood, conducting trade
At the sword’s point, and dying the white robe
Of innocent commercial justice red.
Hence too the field of glory, as the world
Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
With all the majesty of its thund’ring pomp,
Enchanting music and immortal wreaths,
Is but a school where thoughtlessness is taught…

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Thomas Carew: Lust for gold fills the world with tumult, blood, and war

September 23, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Carew: They’ll hang their arms upon the olive bough

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Thomas Carew
Selections

Is Troy more noble ’cause to ashes turned,
Than virgin cities that yet never burned?
Is fire, when it consumes
Temples, more fire, than when it melts perfumes?

***

Thus I enjoy my self, and taste the fruit
Of this blest Peace; whilst, toiled in the pursuit
Of bucks and stags, emblems of War, you strive
To keep the memory of our arms alive.

***

Plutus (Gold/Wealth)

If Virtue must inherit, she’s my slave;
I lead her captive in a golden chain
About the world; she takes her form and being
From my creation; and those barren seeds
That drop from Heaven, if I not cherish them
With my distilling dews and fotive heat,
They know no vegetation; but, exposed
To blasting winds of freezing Poverty.
Or not shoot forth at all, or budding wither.
Should I proclaim the daily sacrifice
Brought to my Temples by the toiling rout,
Not of the fat and gore of abject Beasts
But human sweat and blood pour’d on my Altars
I might provoke the envy of the gods.
Turn but your eyes, and mark the busy world,
Climbing steep Mountains for the sparkling stone.
Piercing the Centre for the shining Ore,
And th’ Ocean’s bosom to rake pearly sands :
Crossing the torrid and the frozen Zones,
‘Midst rocks and swallowing Gulfs, for gainful trade :
And through opposing swords, fire, murd’ring cannon,
Scaling the walled Town for precious spoils.

Witness Mount Ida, where the Martial Maid
And frowning Juno did to mortal eyes
Naked for gold their sacred bodies show!
Therefore for ever be from heaven banished:
But since with toil from undiscover’d Worlds
Thou art brought hither, where thou first did’st breathe
The thirst of Empire into Regal breasts,
And frightedst quiet Peace from her meek Throne,
Filling the World with tumult, blood, and war…

***

Ticke (Tyche/Fortune)

The revolutions of Empires, States,
Sceptres and Crowns, are but my game and sport,
Which as they hang on the events of War,
So these depend upon my turning wheel.
You warlike Squadrons, who, in battle join’d,
Dispute the Right of Kings, which I decide.
Present the model of that martial frame,
By which, when Crowns are staked, I rule the game!

***

 Mercury

[H]ave to that secure fix’d state advanced
Both you and them, to which the labouring world –
Wading through streams of blood – sweats to aspire.

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William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

September 18, 2016 Leave a comment
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William Cowper: In every heart are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war

September 16, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From The Task

Great princes have great playthings. Some have play’d
At hewing mountains into men, and some
At building human wonders mountain high.
Some have amused the dull sad years of life
(Life spent in indolence, and therefore sad)
With schemes of monumental fame; and sought
By pyramids and mausolean pomp,
Short-lived themselves, to immortalize their bones.
Some seek diversion in the tented field,
And make the sorrows of mankind their sport.
But war’s a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at. Nations would do well
To extort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief, and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their toy, the World.

When Babel was confounded, and the great
Confederacy of projectors wild and vain
Was split into diversity of tongues,
Then, as a shepherd separates his flock,
These to the upland, to the valley those,
God drave asunder, and assign’d their lot
To all the nations. Ample was the boon
He gave them, in its distribution fair
And equal; and he bade them dwell in peace.
Peace was awhile their care: they plough’d, and sow’d,
And reap’d their plenty without grudge or strife,
But violence can never longer sleep
Than human passions please. In every heart
Are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war;
Occasion needs but fan them, and they blaze.
Cain had already shed a brother’s blood;
The deluge wash’d it out; but left unquench’d
The seeds of murder in the breast of man.
Soon by a righteous judgment in the line
Of his descending progeny was found
The first artificer of death; the shrewd
Contriver, who first sweated at the forge,
And forced the blunt and yet unbloodied steel
To a keen edge, and made it bright for war.
Him, Tubal named, the Vulcan of old times,
The sword and falchion their inventor claim;
And the first smith was the first murderer’s son.
His art survived the waters; and ere long,
When man was multiplied and spread abroad
In tribes and clans, and had begun to call
These meadows and that range of hills his own,
The tasted sweets of property begat
Desire of more: and industry in some,
To improve and cultivate their just demesne,
Made others covet what they saw so fair.
Thus war began on earth; these fought for spoil,
And those in self-defence. Savage at first
The onset, and irregular. At length
One eminent above the rest for strength,
For stratagem, or courage, or for all,
Was chosen leader; him they served in war,
And him in peace, for sake of warlike deeds,
Reverenced no less. Who could with him compare?
Or who so worthy to control themselves,
As he, whose prowess had subdued their foes?
Thus war, affording field for the display
Of virtue, made one chief, whom times of peace,
Which have their exigencies too, and call
For skill in government, at length made king.
King was a name too proud for man to wear
With modesty and meekness; and the crown,
So dazzling in their eyes who set it on,
Was sure to intoxicate the brows it bound.

***

He deems a thousand, or ten thousand lives,
Spent in the purchase of renown for him,
An easy reckoning; and they think the same.
Thus kings were first invented, and thus kings
Were burnish’d into heroes, and became
The arbiters of this terraqueous swamp…

***

Should be a despot absolute, and boast
Himself the only freeman of his land?
Should, when he pleases, and on whom he will,
Wage war, with any or with no pretence
Of provocation given, or wrong sustain’d,
And force the beggarly last doit, by means
That his own humour dictates, from the clutch
Of poverty, that thus he may procure
His thousands, weary of penurious life,
A splendid opportunity to die?

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Robert Herrick: The Olive Branch

September 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Herrick: The olive branch, the arch of peace

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Robert Herrick

The Rainbow

Look how the rainbow doth appear
But in one only hemisphere;
So likewise after our decease
No more is seen the arch of peace.
That cov’nant’s here, the under-bow,
That nothing shoots but war and woe.

***

Hope Heartens

None goes to warfare but with this intent –
The gains must dead the fears of detriment.

***

The Hand and Tongue

Two parts of us successively command:
The tongue in peace; but then in war the hand.

***

The Olive Branch

Sadly I walk’d within the field,
To see what comfort it would yield;
And as I went my private way
An olive branch before me lay,
And seeing it I made a stay,
And took it up and view’d it; then
Kissing the omen, said Amen;
Be, be it so, and let this be
A divination unto me;
That in short time my woes shall cease
And Love shall crown my end with peace.

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William Cowper: O place me in some heaven-protected isle where no crested warrior dips his plume in blood

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From Heroism

Ye monarchs, whom the lure of honour draws,
Who write in blood the merits of your cause,
Who strike the blow, then plead your own defence,
Glory your aim, but justice your pretence;
Behold in Aetna’s emblematic fires
The mischiefs your ambitious pride inspires!

Fast by the stream that bounds your just domain,
And tells you where you have a right to reign,
A nation dwells, not envious of your throne,
Studious of peace, their neighbour’s and their own.
Ill-fated race! how deeply must they rue
Their only crime, vicinity to you!
The trumpet sounds, your legions swarm abroad,
Through the ripe harvest lies their destined road;
At every step beneath their feet they tread
The life of multitudes, a nation’s bread!
Earth seems a garden in its loveliest dress
Before them, and behind a wilderness.
Famine, and Pestilence, her firstborn son,
Attend to finish what the sword begun;
And echoing praises, such as fiends might earn,
And folly pays, resound at your return.
A calm succeeds – but Plenty, with her train
Of heartfelt joys, succeeds not soon again:
And years of pining indigence must show
What scourges are the gods that rule below.

Yet man, laborious man, by slow degrees
(Such is his thirst of opulence and ease),
Plies all the sinews of industrious toil,
Gleans up the refuse of the general spoil,
Rebuilds the towers that smoked upon the plain,
And the sun gilds the shining spires again.
Increasing commerce and reviving art
Renew the quarrel on the conqueror’s part;
And the sad lesson must be learn’d once more,
That wealth within is ruin at the door.
What are ye, monarchs, laurell’d heroes, say,
But Aetnas of the suffering world ye sway?
Sweet Nature, stripp’d of her embroider’d robe,
Deplores the wasted regions of her globe;
And stands a witness at Truth’s awful bar,
To prove you there destroyers as ye are.
O place me in some heaven-protected isle,
Where Peace, and Equity, and Freedom smile;
Where no volcano pours his fiery flood,
No crested warrior dips his plume in blood;
Where Power secures what Industry has won:
Where to succeed is not to be undone…

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William Shenstone: Ah, hapless realms! that war’s oppression feel

September 12, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shenstone: Let the gull’d fool the toils of war pursue

William Shenstone: War, where bleed the many to enrich the few

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William Shenstone
From Elegy XIV

Tell not of realms by ruthless war dismay’d;
Ah, hapless realms! that war’s oppression feel;
In vain may Austria boast her Noric blade,
If Austria bleed beneath her boasted steel.

****

From Elegy XV

‘Twas there, in happier times, this virtuous race,
Of milder merit, fix’d their calm retreat:
War’s deadly crimson had forsook the place,
And freedom fondly loved the chosen seat.

No wild ambition fired their tranquil breast,
To swell with empty sounds a spotless name;
If fostering skies, the sun, the shower, were blest,
Their bounty spread; their fieds’ extent the same.

Those fields, profuse of raiment, food, and fire,
They scorn’d to lessen, careless to extend;
Bade Luxury to lavish courts aspire,
And Avarice to city breasts descend.

For these the sounds that chase unholy strife!
Solve Envy’s charm, Ambition’s wretch release!
Raise him to spurn the radiant ills of life,
To pity pomp, to be content with peace.

****

From The Ruined Abbey, Or, The Affects Of Superstition

At length fair Peace, with olive crown’d, regains
Her lawful throne, and to the sacred haunts
Of wood or fount the frighted Muse returns.

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William Cowper: Peace, both the duty and the prize

September 11, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From Charity

The reign of genuine Charity commence.
Though scorn repay her sympathetic tears,
She still is kind, and still she perseveres…
But still a soul thus touch’d can never cease,
Whoever threatens war, to speak of peace.

Guns, halberts, swords, and pistols, great and small,
In starry forms disposed upon the wall:
We wonder, as we gazing stand below,
That brass and steel should make so fine a show;
But, though we praise the exact designer’s skill,
Account them implements of mischief still.

***

From The Nighingale and the Glow-Worm

That brother should not war with brother,
And worry and devour each other,
But sing and shine by sweet consent,
Till life’s poor transient night is spent,
Respecting in each other’s case
The gifts of nature and of grace.

Those Christians best deserve the name,
Who studiously make peace their aim;
Peace, both the duty and the prize
Of him that creeps and him that flies.

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William Shenstone: War, where bleed the many to enrich the few

September 10, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shenstone: Ah, hapless realms! that war’s oppression feel.

William Shenstone: Let the gull’d fool the toils of war pursue

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William Shenstone
From The Judgement of Hercules

‘Let the gull’d fool the toils of war pursue,
Where bleed the many to enrich the few.
Where Chance from Courage claims the boasted prize;
Where, though she give, your country oft denies.’

***

‘Sleep’s downy god, averse to war’s alarms,
Shall o’er thy head diffuse his softest charms,
Ere anxious thought thy dear repose assail,
Or care, my most destructive foe, prevail.’

***

‘Such be my cares to bind the oppressive hand,
And crush the fetters of an injured land;
To see the monster’s noxious life resign’d,
And tyrants quell’d, the monsters of mankind!’

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Thomas Campion: Raving war wastes our empty fields

September 9, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Campion: Then bloody swords and armour should not be

Thomas Campion: Upright man needs neither towers nor armour

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Thomas Campion

Raving war, begot
In the thirsty sands
Of the Libyan isles,
Wastes our empty fields;
What the greedy rage
Of fell wintry storms
Could not turn to spoil,
Fierce Bellona now
Has laid desolate,
Void of fruit, or hope.
Th’ eager thrifty hind,
Whose rude toil revived
Our sky-blasted earth,
Himself is but earth,
Left a scorn to fate
Through seditious arms:
And that soil, alive
Which he duly nursed,
Which him duly fed,
Dead his body feeds:
Yet not all the glebe
His tough hands manured
Now one turf affords
His poor funeral.
Thus still needy lives,
Thus still needy dies
Th’ unknown multitude.

 

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William Cowper: They trust in navies and armies

September 7, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From Expostulation

War lays a burden on the reeling state,
And peace does nothing to relieve the weight;
Successive loads succeeding broils impose,
And sighing millions prophecy the close.

***

From Table Talk

I grant that, men continuing what they are,
Fierce, avaricious, proud, there must be war…

But let eternal infamy pursue
The wretch to nought but his ambition true,
Who, for the sake of filling with one blast
The post-horns of all Europe, lays her waste.
Think yourself station’d on a towering rock,
To see a people scatter’d like a flock,
Some royal mastiff panting at their heels,
With all the savage thirst a tiger feels;
Then view him self-proclaim’d in a gazette
Chief monster that has plagued the nations yet.
The globe and sceptre in such hands misplaced,
Those ensigns of dominion how disgraced!
The glass, that bids man mark the fleeting hour,
And Death’s own scythe, would better speak his power;
Then grace the bony phantom in their stead
With the king’s shoulder-knot and gay cockade;
Clothe the twin brethren in each other’s dress,
The same their occupation and success.

***

Down to the gulf from which is no return.
They trust in navies, and their navies fail –
God’s curse can cast away ten thousand sail!
They trust in armies, and their courage dies;
In wisdom, wealth, in fortune, and in lies.

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Henry Wotton: Pastorale. No wars are seen.

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Henry Wottin
From A Description of the Country’s Recreations

Peace and a secure mind,
Which all men seek, we only find.

Abusèd mortals! did you know
Where joy, heart’s ease, and comforts grow,
You ’d scorn proud towers
And seek them in these bowers,
Where winds, sometimes, our woods perhaps may shake,
But blustering care could never tempest make;
Nor murmurs e’er come nigh us,
Saving of fountains that glide by us.

Here’s no fantastic mask or dance,
But of our kids that frisk and prance;
Nor wars are seen,
Unless upon the green
Two harmless lambs are butting one the other,
Which done, both bleating run, each to his mother,
And wounds are never found,
Save what the ploughshare gives the ground.

Blest silent groves, O, may you be,
Forever, mirth’s best nursery!
May pure contents
Forever pitch their tents
Upon these downs, these meads, these rocks, these mountains!
And peace still slumber by these purling fountains…

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Thomas Fuller: When all the world might smile in perfect peace

September 5, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Fuller: As though there were not enough men-murdering engines

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Thomas Fuller
From David‘s Hainous Sinne

Oh! that I might but live to see the day
(Day that I more desire then hope to see)
When all these bloody discords done away
Our princes in like manner might agree.
When all the world might smile in perfect peace
And these long-lasting broyls at length might cease
Broyles which alas doe dayly more increase.

The Netherlands with endlesse warrs are tost
Like in successe to their unconstant tide
Losing their gettings, gaining what they lost.
Denmarke both sword and Baltick seas divide:
More blood than juice of grape nigh Rhine is shed
And Brunswicke land will not be comforted
But cryes my duke alas I my duke is dead.

The warrs in France now layd aside not ended
Are onely skimmed over with a scarre
Yea haughty Alps that to the clouds ascended
Are over-climbed with a bloody warre:
And Maroes birth-place Mantua is more
Made famous nor for Mars and battel sore
Than for his muse it famed was before.

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Henry Vaughan: What thunders shall those men arraign who cannot count those they have slain?

September 4, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Vaughan: Let us ‘midst noise and war of peace and mirth discuss

Henry Vaughan: The Men of War

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Henry Vaughan
From Abel’s Blood

Sad, purple well! Whose bubbling eye
Did first against a murd’rer cry;
Whose streams, still vocal, still complain
Of bloody Cain:
And now at evening are as red
As in the morning when first shed.
If single thou
— Though single voices are but low, —
Couldst such a shrill and long cry rear
As speaks still in thy Maker’s ear,
What thunders shall those men arraign
Who cannot count those they have slain,
Who bathe not in a shallow flood,
But in a deep, wide sea of blood?
A sea, whose loud waves cannot sleep,
But deep still calleth upon deep:
Whose urgent sound, like unto that
Of many waters, beateth at
The everlasting doors above…

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Samuel Butler: Valor in modern warfare

September 3, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Butler: Religion of war

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Samuel Butler
From Hudibras

And therefore I, with reason, chose
This stratagem t’ amuse our foes;
To make an honourable retreat,
And wave a total sure defeat;
For those that fly may fight again,
Which he can never do that’s slain.
Hence timely running’s no mean part
Of conduct in the martial art;
By which some glorious feats atchieve,
As citizens by breaking thrive;
And cannons conquer armies, while
They seem to draw off and recoil;
Is held the gallantest course, and bravest
To great exploits, as well as safest;
That spares th’ expence of time and pains,
And dangerous beating out of brains;
And in the end prevails as certain
As those that never trust to fortune;
But make their fear do execution
Beyond the stoutest resolution;
As earthquakes kill without a blow,
And, only trembling, overthrow,
If th’ ancients crown’d their bravest men
That only sav’d a citizen,
What victory could e’er be won,
If ev’ry one would save but one
Or fight endanger’d to be lost,
Where all resolve to save the most?
By this means, when a battle’s won,
The war’s as far from being done;
For those that save themselves, and fly,
Go halves, at least, i’ th’ victory;
And sometimes, when the loss is small,
And danger great, they challenge all;
Print new additions to their feats,
And emendations in Gazettes;
And when, for furious haste to run,
They durst not stay to fire a gun,
Have done’t with bonfires, and at home
Made squibs and crackers overcome;
To set the rabble on a flame,
And keep their governors from blame;
Disperse the news the pulpit tells,
Confirm’d with fire-works and with bells;
And though reduc’d to that extream,
They have been forc’d to sing Te Deum;
Yet, with religious blasphemy,
By flattering Heaven with a lie
And for their beating giving thanks,
Th’ have rais’d recruits, and fill’d their banks;
For those who run from th’ enemy,
Engage them equally to fly;
And when the fight becomes a chace,
Those win the day that win the race
And that which would not pass in fights,
Has done the feat with easy flights;
Recover’d many a desp’rate campaign
With Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champaign;
Restor’d the fainting high and mighty
With brandy-wine and aqua-vitae;
And made ’em stoutly overcome
With bachrach, hoccamore, and mum;
Whom the uncontroul’d decrees of fate
To victory necessitate;
With which, although they run or burn
They unavoidably return:
Or else their sultan populaces
Still strangle all their routed Bassas.

Quoth HUDIBRAS, I understand
What fights thou mean’st at sea and land,
And who those were that run away,
And yet gave out th’ had won the day;
Although the rabble sous’d them for’t,
O’er head and ears in mud and dirt.
‘Tis true, our modern way of war
Is grown more politick by far,
But not so resolute, and bold,
Nor ty’d to honour, as the old.
For now they laugh at giving battle,
Unless it be to herds of cattle;
Or fighting convoys of provision,
The whole design o’ the expedition:
And not with downright blows to rout
The enemy, but eat them out:
As fighting, in all beasts of prey,
And eating, are perform’d one way,
To give defiance to their teeth
And fight their stubborn guts to death;
And those atchieve the high’st renown,
That bring the others’ stomachs down,
There’s now no fear of wounds, nor maiming;
All dangers are reduc’d to famine;
And feats of arms, to plot, design,
Surprize, and stratagem, and mine;
But have no need nor use of courage,
Unless it be for glory or forage:
For if they fight, ’tis but by chance,
When one side vent’ring to advance,
And come uncivilly too near,
Are charg’d unmercifully i’ th’ rear;
And forc’d with terrible resistance,
To keep hereafter at a distance;
To pick out ground to incamp upon,
Where store of largest rivers run,
That serve, instead of peaceful barriers,
To part th’ engagements of their warriors;
Where both from side to side may skip,
And only encounter at bo-peep:
For men are found the stouter-hearted,
The certainer th’ are to be parted,
And therefore post themselves in bogs,
As th’ ancient mice attack’d the frogs,
And made their mortal enemy,
The water-rat, their strict ally.
For ’tis not now, who’s stout and bold,
But who bears hunger best, and cold;
And he’s approv’d the most deserving,
Who longest can hold out at starving;
And he that routs most pigs and cows,
The formidablest man of prowess.
So th’ emperor CALIGULA,
That triumph’d o’er the British Sea,
Took crabs and oysters prisoners,
Lobsters, ‘stead of cuirasiers,
Engag’d his legions in fierce bustles
With periwinkles, prawns, and muscles;
And led his troops with furious gallops, 365
To charge whole regiments of scallops
Not like their ancient way of war,
To wait on his triumphal carr
But when he went to dine or sup
More bravely eat his captives up;
And left all war, by his example,
Reduc’d to vict’ling of a camp well.

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Andrew Marvell: War all this doth overgrow

September 2, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Andrew Marvell: When roses only arms might bear

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Andrew Marvell
From Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax

Unhappy! shall we never more
That sweet Militia restore,
When Gardens only had their Towrs,
And all the Garrisons were Flowrs,
When Roses only Arms might bear,
And Men did rosie Garlands wear?
Tulips, in several Colours barr’d,
Were then the Switzers of our Guard.

The Gardiner had the Souldiers place,
And his more gentle Forts did trace.
The Nursery of all things green
Was then the only Magazeen.
The Winter Quarters were the Stoves,
Where he the tender Plants removes.
But War all this doth overgrow:
We Ord’nance Plant and Powder sow.

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Thomas Hardy: The Man He Killed

September 1, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Hardy: All-Earth-gladdening Law of Peace, war’s apology wholly stultified

Thomas Hardy: As war-waste classed

Thomas Hardy: Channel Firing

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Thomas Hardy
The Man He Killed

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

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