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John Galsworthy: The war brought in ugliness


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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war


John Galsworthy
From Swan Song

“It’s all very well,” he answered, “but our Indian friends didn’t live for four years in the trenches, or the fear thereof, for the sake of their faith. If they had, they couldn’t possibly have the feeling that it matters as much as they think it does. They might want to, but their feelers would be blunted. That’s what the war really did to us in Europe who were in the war.”

“That doesn’t make ‘faith’ any less interesting,” said Fleur, drily.

“Well, my dear, the prophets abuse us for being at loose ends, but can you have faith in a life force so darned extravagant that it makes mincemeat of you by the millions?”


He had come again to the Artillery Memorial; and for the second time he moved around it. No! A bit of a blot – it seemed to him, now – so literal and heavy! Would that great white thing help Consols to rise? Some thing with wings might, after all, have been preferable. Some encouragement to people to take shares or go into domestic service; help, in fact, to make life liveable, instead of reminding them all the time that they had already once been blown to perdition and might again be. Those Artillery fellows – he had read somewhere – loved their guns, and wanted to be reminded of them. But did anybody else love their guns, or want reminder? Not those Artillery fellows would look at this every day outside St. George’s Hospital, but Tom, Dick, Harry, Peter, Gladys, Joan and Marjorie. ‘Mistake!’ thought Soames; ‘and a pretty heavy one…’


To drive on and on, perhaps, was the thing for her. Perhaps, for all the world, now. To get away from something that couldn’t be got away from – ever since the war – driving on! When you couldn’t have what you wanted, and yet couldn’t let go; and drove, on and on, to dull the aching. Resignation – like painting – was a lost art; or so it seemed to Soames, as they passed the graveyard where he expected to be buried someday.


“In my belief,” he went on, desperately, “there’ll be none of this modern painting in ten years’ time – they can’t go on for ever juggling in the air. They’ll be sick of experiments by then, unless we have another war.”

“It wasn’t the war.”

“How d’you mean – not the war? The war brought in ugliness, and put everyone into a hurry. You don’t remember before the war.”

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