Home > Uncategorized > Romain Rolland: Civilized warfare allows victims choice of how to be slaughtered

Romain Rolland: Civilized warfare allows victims choice of how to be slaughtered


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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war


Romain Rolland
From Liluli
Translator unknown

THE WORKMEN coming back from either side with the planks of the bridge which they proceed to lay down; singing.

THE DIPLOMATS lifting up their hands in horror.
A bridge?…A bridge!…They’re making a bridge!…a bridge!

By what right? In whose name? Did you ask for authorization?

Strong enough? Our bridge. You could go across, three men, four women and five geese abreast.

Men! It isn’t a question of men. The question with a proper bridge is, in primis: that cannons can pass over it!

Cannons? Why? To shoot partridges, or wild boars, or what?

THE DIPLOMATS peremptorily.
No reason. Just to try.

THE FAT MEN with authority.
It’s always done.

Back! No one may cross a bridge before the inauguration.

Will it take long?

It will take as long as is proper.

THE THIN MEN resignedly.
O, well, everything must end by coming to an end.

POLONIUS mounts the rostrum.
Dear fellow citizens, brothers of both banks, of this bank and the other and of yet a third (I don’t know if there is one; but it doesn’t matter…) All men are but a single body. Men and women…[A guffaw.] In all modesty, all honor, I speak. I come here to give my blessing to this future union. The future is not tomorrow. By no means, no, understand me well. That is what makes it so charming, so unexacting, so little troublesome. A good subject for toasts and after-dinner speeches. I know all about it. I am a delegate of the Peace Congress…[He introduces himself.] Polonius, Modeste-Napoleon. Napoleon is my Christian name. Modeste was added so as not to frighten people; I am a simple, kindly man. You see my ribbons, my decorations. [He shows them.]

There’s the order of Kamchatka now, with the Kattegat; here is the Karatschi and the Gaurisanka. [He turns round and shows his back.] I have more there. [He turns back again, satisfied.] I speak in all honor, all modesty. It commits one to nothing. Well, then, my friends, my brothers – my brothers of to-morrow, or rather of the day after to-morrow – I have come to pay my tribute to this bridge, this bridge, this prodigious bridge, this bridge so long and pompous…

Abridge, abridge! . . .

This bridge of love and alliance which stretches through the air like a rainbow in the firmament. Touching symbol of the great day that is to come (it will come! it will come!…but don’t let us be in any hurry!) when States shall disarm, when the walls shall crumble, the walls of those prisons – those nations – when peoples shall fall into one another’s arms, when the ravening wolf and the gentle lamb shall crop the grass of the meadow side by side , casting sweet eyes at one another, when the workers shall have a long snooze every mornings when the rich shall share their beds and their cellars with the workmen, when arms, armies and treaties shall be put away in the museum, and to the museum the concession-mongers, governors and contractors – when hens shall have teeth…The day will come, will come, indeed it will! But we haven’t got there yet. Advance must come step by step. We make no rash pretensions that we’re going to deprive you, before the hour has struck, of war, poverty, business and land sharks. The birch is a necessary evil for children. Young folks must pass. Let us pass it by, scratching ourselves in the process.

THE ASS, rolling on the ground.

The point, then, my good friends, in these happy days in which we lire is to choose, like the rabbit, with what sauce you wish your giblets stewed. Do you prefer being slaughtered above ground, under ground, in the air or in the water? (For my part, I don’t like water; good wine is more in my line.) Do you long to get in the belly a round bullet or a painted one, brown or plated, shrapnel, shell-splinter, crump or bomb, or rather the good cold steel, which is clean and pleasant? Which would you like best, to be disemboweled, broiled, punctured, squashed, boiled, roasted, or – the last fashion – electrocuted? We will deny you nothing. We only draw the line, for your own good, at the barbarous, the common – at submarines and stinking gases; in a word, badly-bred death and uncivilized war. But you’ll lose nothing by that. We police war. Let us polish it, gentlemen, and re-polish it! What should we be without war? It is through war that peace has its price. And it is by means of war that we are building up in saecula per pocula the Society of Nations. For everything hangs together; follow me carefully. Without nations, there could be no Society of Nations. And no nation, no war! No war, no nation! Well, then, all is very well and will h% much better. Count on us! Give us a free hand. We know so well how to mix black and white, right and might, peace and war, concocting war-like peaces and peace-bringing wars; we shall embellish nature for you so skillfully that yon won’t be able to recognize her at all.

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