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Robert Browning: Peace rises within them ever more and more

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Browning: They sent a million fighters forth South and North

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Robert Browning

From Paracelsus

For men begin to pass their nature’s bound,
And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant
Their proper joys and griefs; they grow too great
For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade
Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace
Rises within them ever more and more.
Such men are even now upon the earth,
Serene amid the half-formed creatures round
Who should be saved by them and joined with them.

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From Strafford: A Tragedy

I! I! that was never spoken with
Till it was entered on! That loathe the war!
That say it is the maddest, wickedest …
Do you know, sir, I think within my heart,
That you would say I did advise the war…

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From Sordello

As you then were, as half yourself, desist!
The warrior-part of you may, an it list,
Finding real falchions difficult to poise,
Fling them afar and taste the cream of joys
By wielding such in fancy…

But all is changed the moment you descry
Mankind as half yourself, – then, fancy’s trade
Ends once and always: how may half evade
The other half? men are found half of you.
Out of a thousand helps, just one or two
Can be accomplished presently…

See if, for that, your other half will stop
Should the new sympathies allow you.
A tear, begin a smile! The rabble’s woes,
Ludicrous in their patience as they chose
To sit about their town and quietly
Be slaughtered, – the poor reckless soldiery,
With their ignoble rhymes on Richard, how
‘Polt-foot,’ sang they, ‘was in a pitfall now,’
Cheering each other from the engine-mounts…

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Air, flame, earth, wave at conflict! Then, needs must
Emerge some Calm embodied, these refer
The brawl to – yellow-bearded Jupiter?
No! Saturn; some existence like a pact
And protest against Chaos, some first fact
I’ the faint of time.

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