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Romain Rolland: Oh, fair diplomats, you rid us of irksome 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

THE FAT MEN among themselves.
Lord! Do you hear what these beggars are saying? No more frontiers, it’s scandalous…Look at them passing round the loving-cup, drinking out of the same jug and lapping out of the same dish…Ugh, ugh! The ideal of these swine would be to impose on every man of them one trough, one hovel, one dung-hill. These sharers are dangerous. I want each man to have his own; give me mine – and the others can have what’s left. Good God! Good God! Better and better! And see, they’re dancing now, hugging one another…It’s scandalous!…If they were all united it would be a calamity…The pee-pul wouldn’t want to work any more. Zounds, god’s blood, then we should have to sweat and work! No more rich, no more poor, no more states, no more nations. It would be, it would be sheer topsy-turvydom!…If we let them do as they liked, why, there would be no more war; why, there’d be no more God. It’s enough to make one tear one’s hair…no more anything, no more property! Every one would only think of being happy. It’s scandalous!…What an insolent pretension! To want to eliminate evil from this earth! Then what would be left for honest folk to rest their heads on? Not a stone…God created evil, pestilence, patriotism, wealth and war. He knew very well why! The earth needs manuring. Evil, that is the manure. There must be enrichment. There most be common people. There must be beggars. And there must be poverty for plow and hatred for goad,so that they may drive their furrow…Gee, haw! get along! These oxen must be made to go.

But you, gentlemen of the Diplomatic Corps, you prickers of oxen, what the devil are you doing with the goad? We had charged you with the task of watching over our safety, of maintaining the order and injustice consecrated by the past, the abuses, the traditions and the disunion of nations…And that’s the way you conduct the pee-pul for us! Oho, gentlemen, that isn’t good…straight into one another’s arms! Is it for this noble result…ha, ha!…that you’ve been paid, gilded and braided before, behind, from top to toe, covered with honor and stars! Now, then, gentlemen of the Diplomatic Corps!

THE DIPLOMATS
It’s a game. Leave us to act with our partners, the gentlemen of the Service on the other side.

THE FAT MEN
Are you in agreement, then?

THE DIPLOMATS
According to the rules, one must be: we have our game. Diplomacy is a game of chess. The roles demand that, to win, one must lose pawns. The pawns are there [pointing to the peoples]; we have only to put them on the chess-board.

CHORUS
O fair Diplomacy, thou angel sent from heaven to temper the wearisomeness of life, to rid us of irksome peace, of happiness and love, which are things all too vulgar; thou dost undo the work of nature (for nature is good for beasts); thou makest enemies of those who are united; and those who cannot bear with one another thou knittest together. None so well as thou knows the art of finding in a hayloft the solitary needle. If it be not there, thou puttest it there: thus Joseph slipping a cup into Benjamin’s wallet. We owe it to thy conjuring tricks in the manner of Robert Houdin that, on rising each morning we never know what thou wilt have done with us by evening. Through thee we are acquainted with war and its delights – ravished wife, ravaged fields, my skin punctured (ow! ow!), but then I puncture other people’s – the exquisite joys of envy (how sweet it is to get the jaundice through coveting one’s neighbor’s goods! We shall take him and destroy him; taking is very good; destroying is better; destroying is a feast for the gods.)…With thy wondrous fingers thou knowest how to tangle the thread as thou windest it, to make knots in the skein. Clever must be he who shall undo them! No one has the right to nose out the secrets of the green table. Thou playest with us, our money, our goods, our skins, our souls and our children, and none may penetrate thy game…It’s stunning!…And when, afterwards, I am beaten, pounded, fleeced and thoroughly contented, thou presentest me with a lovely treaty, covered with signed initials, and the bill, to be paid cash down. And we pay, and we say: “Thank you, thank you! Till next time.” When one’s the oyster, one must be swallowed, mustn’t one? And I am, and I shall be. It makes me gape with pleasure and pride…O lovely Diplomacy, what would life be without thee. A wine without dregs. A pleasure without envy. A summer day without rain…A most insipid contentment.

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