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Archive for May, 2017

George Meredith: Bellona’s mad halloo

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

British writers on peace and war

George Meredith: The Olive Branch

George Meredith: On the Danger of War

George Meredith: War wife, as good as widowed

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George Meredith
Progress

In Progress you have little faith, say you:
Men will maintain dear interests, wreak base hates,
By force, and gentle women choose their mates
Most amorously from the gilded fighting crew:
The human heart Bellona’s mad halloo
Will ever fire to dicing with the Fates.
‘Now at this time,’ says History, ‘those two States
Stood ready their past wrestling to renew.
They sharpened arms and showed them, like the brutes
Whose haunches quiver. But a yellow blight
Fell on their waxing harvests. They deferred
The bloody settlement of their disputes
Till God should bless them better.’ They did right.
And naming Progress, both shall have the word.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley: The unholy song of war

May 29, 2017 2 comments

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

British writers on peace and war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
From Queen Mab

‘Palmyra’s ruined palaces!
Behold where grandeur frowned!
Behold where pleasure smiled!
What now remains? – the memory
Of senselessness and shame.
What is immortal there?
Nothing – it stands to tell
A melancholy tale, to give
An awful warning; soon
Oblivion will steal silently
The remnant of its fame.
Monarchs and conquerors there
Proud o’er prostrate millions trod –
The earthquakes of the human race;
Like them, forgotten when the ruin
That marks their shock is past…’

***

There an inhuman and uncultured race
Howled hideous praises to their Demon-God;
They rushed to war, tore from the mother’s womb
The unborn child – old age and infancy
Promiscuous perished; their victorious arms
Left not a soul to breathe. Oh! they were fiends!
But what was he who taught them that the God
Of Nature and benevolence had given
A special sanction to the trade of blood?

***

‘O dear and blessèd Peace,
Why dost thou shroud thy vestal purity
In penury and dungeons? Wherefore lurkest
With danger, death, and solitude; yet shun’st
The palace I have built thee? Sacred Peace!
Oh, visit me but once, – but pitying shed
One drop of balm upon my withered soul!’

‘Spirit! ten thousand years
Have scarcely passed away,
Since in the waste, where now the savage drinks
His enemy’s blood, and, aping Europe’s sons,
Wakes the unholy song of war…’

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Robert Browning: Selections on peace and war

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Robert Browning: Peace, in whom depths of wealth lie

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Browning: Selections on peace and war

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Robert Browning
From Aristophanes’ Apology

Peace, you advocate,
And war would fain abolish from the land…
‘Peace’ the theme?
‘Peace, in whom depths of wealth lie, – of the blest
Immortals beauteousest, -‘

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What imbecile has dared to formulate
“Love war, hate peace, become a litigant!” –
And so preach on, reversing rule of right
Because he quarrels, combats, goes to law?

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Robert Browning: The devil’s doctrine, the paraded shame of war

May 18, 2017 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Browning: Selections on peace and war

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Robert Browning
From Saviour of Society

Still, so the dry-rot had been nursed into
Blood, bones and marrow, that, from worst to best,
All, – clearest brains and soundest hearts, save here, –
All had this lie acceptable for law
Plain as the sun at noonday – “War is best.
Peace is worst; peace we only tolerate
As needful preparation for new war:
War may be for whatever end we will –
Peace only as the proper help thereto.
Such is the law of right and wrong for us
Hohenstiel-Schwangau: for the other world,
As naturally, quite another law.
Are we content? The world is satisfied.
Discontent? Then the world must give us leave
Strike right and left to exercise our arm
Torpid of late through overmuch repose,
And show its strength is still superlative
At somebody ‘s expense in life or limb:
Which done, – let peace succeed and last a year!’
Such devil’s-doctrine was so judged God’s law…

****

Understand! – war for war’s sake, war for the sake
O’ the good war gets you as war’s sole excuse,
Is damnable and damned shall be. You want
Glory? Why so do I, and so does God.
Where is it found, – in this paraded shame, –
One particle of glory? Once you warred
For liberty against the world, and won:
There was the glory. Now, you fain would war
Because the neighbour prospers overmuch, –
Because there has been silence half-an-hour.

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Joseph Cottle: Know you their crimes on whom you warfare wage?

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Cottle: Selections on war

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Joseph Cottle
From War, A Fragment

Is man on man for ever doom’d to prey?
Shall he for ever passively obey
The voice which Discord thunders from afar?
Exulting wield the infuriate scourge of war?
Shall never Reason whisper in the ear
Of him who lights the torch, or hurls the spear,
“Know you their crimes on whom you warfare wage?
“For whom you feel resentment’s deadly rage?
“Has never the obtruding thought arose,
“What is the cause, for which I flay my foes?
“Have they deceiv’d their friends? from justice swerv’d?
“Betray’d their country? and their fates deserv’d?
“Or have they not, mid clashing interest’s cry,
“Ventur’d their lives, like me. unknowing why?”

****

If such the ills of war, by Heaven abhorr’d!
What are your crimes, ye Guardians of the sword,
At whose decision countless scabbards fly,
And murders fill the earth, and groans the sky?
What are your crimes, if, sway’d by wealth or power,
Ye loose your “war-dogs” in ambition’s hour?
Contented view your subjects bleed and groan,
To add some bauble to a burthen’d throne ?
Or, that when Death ten thousand eyes has chain’d,
Courtiers may shout some glorious feather gain’d?
Sins so stupendous, here but seldom find.
That signal wrath of heaven which waits behind;
Too foul such terpitude for moral woe!
Too huge such crimes for cognizance below!

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Mother’s Day

May 14, 2017 1 comment

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Joseph Cottle: Selections on war

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Philip Massinger: Mustn’t change ploughshares into swords

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

British writers on peace and war

Philip Massinger: Famine, blood, and death, Bellona’s pages

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Philip Massinger
From The Maid of Honour

Let other monarchs
Contend to be made glorious by proud war,
And, with the blood of their poor subjects, purchase
Increase of empire, and augment their cares
In keeping that which was by wrongs extorted,
Gilding unjust invasions with the trim
Of glorious conquests; we, that would be known
The father of our people, in our study
And vigilance for their safety, must not change
Their ploughshares into swords, and force them from
The secure shade of their own vines, to be
Scorch’d with the flames of war; or, for our sport,
Expose their lives to ruin.

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Joseph Cottle: Torn from their cots to wield the murderer’s blade

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Cottle: Selections on war

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Joseph Cottle
From War, A Fragment

What countless pangs to such have owed their birth!
What blood and murder stain’d the smiling earth!
To grant these Tyrants unexplor’d domain,
How many a fruitful clime has desert lain!
To please these monsters in their lordly pride,
How many an eye hath wept, and bosom sigh’d!
Shepherds, unskill’d in war’s infernal trade,
Torn from their cots to wield the murderer’s blade;
Peasants, with hearts revolting at the fight,
Compell’d to sack the town, and dare the fight;
Till War’s malignant deeds, and wizard spell
Transform them, saints of light, to fiends of hell.

****

Yet let him know, and those who wars admire,
Whose music charms them, or whose garbs inspire,
On the red plain, where putrid thousands lie,
Each leaves a friend to heave the pitying sigh,
With grief as poignant, as the pangs that wait
The proud funereal honors of the great.
Each carcase by the carrion worms carest,
Felt as we feel, ere slept his throbbing breast;
A rapid survey cast on friends afar;
And, whilst Destruction roll’d his scithed car,
Curst, in his pangs, the murderers of mankind.
And dropt the tear for those he left behind.

 

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Joseph Cottle: Warn mankind to shun the hostile spear

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Cottle: Selections on war

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Joseph Cottle
From War, A Fragment

“I see the wolves, that once like lambs did bleat,
“I see the serpents coiling at my feet,
“Whose soft persuasive words, and fatal craft,
“Led me from home to drink this bitter draught:
“Mark you the cause that laid me bleeding here,
“And warn mankind to shun the hostile spear;
“Rais’d but to please some haughty Lordling’s pride,
“Made but to pierce the harmless Peasant’s side.”

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That time shall also come, nor slowly creep.
When Justice, starting from her couch of sleep,
Shall seize her long-neglected sword of fate,
And call to vengeance earth’s devouring Great;
Terror shall then the Conqueror’s brow o’ercast.
The war-delighting Monarch stand aghast;
Dismay corrode the darting Despot’s breast,
When doom’d to meet the Ghosts his chains oppress’d.

****

Scourgers of earth, and Heralds of dismay,
Pests of mankind, and whirlwinds of their day;
From whose example blushing History rakes
Her nest of Scorpions, and her brood of Snakes;
Who, plac’d on thrones like these, like these have hurl’d
War’s wafting firebrands o’er a suff’ring world.

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Alfred Austin: The White Pall of Peace

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

British writers on peace and war

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Alfred Austin
The White Pall of Peace

Over the peaceful veldt,
Silently, snowflakes fall!
Silently, slow, unfelt.
Cover the Past with a pall!

Brave brother Boers, let us hie
To your and our brothers dead;
Over the spot where they lie
Tears, yours and ours, be shed!

Underneath turf, cross, and stone
Combat and discord be husht!
Blest be the heroes unknown,
Blest be their deeds and dust.

Now that the war-clamours cease,
And silently snowflakes fall,
Give we the kiss of Peace,
And one Flag be the Flag of us all!

****

Forgiveness

Now bury with the dead years conflicts dead
And with fresh days let all begin anew.
Why longer amid shrivelled leaf-drifts tread,
When buds are swelling, flower-sheaths peeping through?
Seen through the vista of the vanished years.
How trivial seem the struggle and the crown,
How vain past feuds, when reconciling tears
Course down the channel worn by vanished frown.
How few mean half the bitterness they speak!
Words more than feelings keep us still apart,
And, in the heat of passion or of pique.
The tongue is far more cruel than the heart.
Since love alone makes it worth while to live,
Let all be now forgiven, and forgive.

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Joseph Cottle: War’s noxious breath fills earth with discord, dread, and death

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Cottle: Selections on war

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Joseph Cottle
From War, A Fragment

“Say, bleeding Youth, what urg’d thee thus to stray
“Far from thy kindred and thy coast away
“To dare the fight with indignation blind,
“To lift the spear against thy fellow kind?
“Know’st thou the cause for which the crimson tide
“Deserts thine heart, and oozes from thy side?
“Perchance some statesman’s pique, some shrine profan’d,
“A flag insulted, or a skiff detain’d;
“These blow the blasts of war – whose noxious breath
“Fills the wide earth with discord, dread, and death.
“Speak; gently speak, that some may mark thy grave,
“And flee from blood, the nurture tyrants crave.”

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William Morris: No man knew the sight of blood

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

British writers on peace and war

William Morris: Protecting the strong from the weak, selling each other weapons to kill their own countrymen

William Morris: War abroad but no peace at home

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William Morris
From The Life and Death of Jason

Alas! for Saturn’s days of gold,
Before the mountain men were bold
To dig up iron from the earth
Wherewith to slaughter health and mirth,
And bury hope far underground.
When all things needful did abound
In every land; nor must men toil,
Nor wear their lives in strife to foil
Each other’s hands, for all was good,
And no man knew the sight of blood.

 

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Joseph Cottle: Plant the seeds of universal peace

May 1, 2017 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Cottle: Selections on war

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Joseph Cottle
From John the Baptist

Of whom I speak, soon shall you see him near.
No flaming God to rouze his creature’s fear,
No potent Chief victorious arms to guide,
Born to controul and nurs’d in royal pride ;
But in the promis’d seed, with aspect mild,
Your eyes shall greet the spirit of a child,
‘Tis not to grasp the laurels of the great
Your Saviour comes, to blaze in regal state,
Kingdoms invade, and conquest’s curses shower,
Nations to scourge or fruitful climes devour;

Peasants unwrong’d inspire with ardour dread.
To rob some distant peasants of their bread;
But to condemn ambition’s ruthless sway,
To tell mankind no more on man to prey,
To teach humility, bid discord cease,
And plant the seeds of universal peace.

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