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Romain Rolland: The equivocating sages of Armed Peace

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

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

Noise of a heavy brigade marching with a ponderous beat; breathless bugles. At the head of the procession – all of them loaded with knapsacks and arms – is a stout man, tightly strapped into his uniform; plumed helmet of an Offenbach soldier, enormous knapsack, saber and rifle – sweating, puffing, mopping his face.

ALTAÏR
What harness to wear when one has to climb a steep hill without shade in the middle of the day! You’re mad, my friends! Throw away your shells…Are they convicts condemned to hard labor? Who is that fat black beetle, pot-bellied and whiskered, who, like Agamemnon, marches, rolls along at their head?

The fat man stumbles.

POLICHINELLO
It’s Peace advancing – advancing backwards.

ALTAÏR
Peace!

POLICHINELLO
O, well, of course – Armed Peace.

***

LILULI

Why do you move? You have a sound pair of legs at any rate. March a little, let me see. Swing your arms, lift your legs…What a fine soldier!

POLICHINELLO
Yes, I should be good at running away.

LILULI
That’s something. In these days, my friend, one can only run from under one fire into another. So I undertake you will always be a hero. Don’t worry.

POLICHINELLO
I don’t worry at all. A hero on a bier…I prefer beer in my gullet.

LILULI
But you’ll get it, in addition to everything else. Cool beer, good cheer, glory, obituary…”0 glorious dead, I envy you!”…by one of the great gentlemen of our Academies, whose greatness keeps him, poor man! on the hither shore…

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ONE OF THE RECRUITING SERGEANTS at the foot of the tree, nose in air.

Come, sir, come. They’re only waiting for you. Everybody has enlisted. Come now, we’re shutting up shop. Look at these uniforms! This helmet would suit you nicely. It’s a bargain. Would you like some gold lace?

FIRST RECRUITING SERGEANT
That isn’t done. Kindly understand, sir, that a single man, if he isn’t a soldier, has no right to defend himself. It’s criminal.

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POLICHINELLO
Never! Laughter is a weapon against Illusion.

LILULI
You’re mistaken, my good friend. You work for me. You think yourself clever because you “don’t believe in it.” “You don’t believe in it,” you laugh; but you do as the rest do. Laugh away, my boy, laugh! Your laughter helps the men I enlist to march.

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