Home > Uncategorized > Romain Rolland: A little idealism to make the war booty more delectable

Romain Rolland: A little idealism to make the war booty more delectable

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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
…Money needs no bridge. Mercury has always had wings on his heels. [To the workmen, pointing to the people on the other bank.] Look, gentlemen, look over there; it’s appalling. They’re armed to the teeth. Cannons and catapults, muzzles pointing, ready to spit, their powder dry and their cord oiled. Halherds, muskets, a forest of surging arms. My flesh creeps, creeps at the sight. Prepare! It’s against us.

THE WORKMEN
No it isn’t, old fool. They’re playing. We’re doing just the same.

THE FAT MEN
They’re doing much more. Count, count! Ah! the brigands! They have seventy-one rifles, while we have only threescore and ten.

THE WORKMEN
But we have twenty-seven catapults against their twenty-six.

THE FAT MEN
Silence! Stop him!…The wretch! He is betraying the secrets of the defense.

THE WORKMEN
Defense against whom? We’re all good comrades.

THE FAT MEN
O, impious, impious! Abject creatures, can you be so far degraded that you don’t know how to hate your enemies?

THE WORKMEN
Faith, no! I neither love nor hate you.

THE FAT MEN
Men without a country! Can’t yon read? It is written: “Your enemies are the robbers who don’t belong here.”

THE WORKMEN
And what about the robbers here?

THE FAT MEN
The game is preserved here. I have a license to shoot.

THE WORKMEN
I don’t see the difference if I’m fleeced here or there.

THE FAT MEN
There’s a very great difference.

THE WORKMEN
Yes, certainly for you.

THE FAT MEN
Would you rather be fleeced here and there also? Listen a bit: isn’t it better that we should rob you in a friendly way, all in the family, leaving you for decency’s sake the breeches to your back? Rather than to see them adorning an alien’s behind? Understand, my lad: that you should be plucked, that is good, very good, and we have no fault to find; it’s the law of nature, the Law. But the law doesn’t demand that a goose should be plucked twice. Why the devil do you want to be? Upon my word I speak as your good friend; I am standing up for your rights…

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THE CROWD OF GALLIP0ULET
It is God! God has come! God is among us! God is for us! God is ours!

The crowd has fallen into line and Master-God is seen advancing, wearing Gallipoulet uniform, epaulettes, gold braid and all, over his white robe – which makes him look like a sapper. Behind him, carried on a throne in the midst of the Dervishes and the Very-Fat, is Truth. She almost disappears under the heavy, stiff, gold-embroidered chasuble that hides her arms; her head droops under the weight of a massive tiara; a bright metallic veil covers her nose, mouth and chin as though she were an Arab woman: her eyes alone are free. With every appearance of veneration, the Very-Fat uphold the train of her long Byzantine mantle and the gold and silver cords attached to it. She is closely escorted by a bodyguard, bussolanti, journalists and diplomats, who allow no one to come near, and keep off the gapers.

MASTER-GOD
Yes, my friends, I am yours, wholly at your service, myself, my relations, my servants and my lady [He bows his head.] – the lady Truth, your queen and servant. Since one is your God, it is our duty to obey you. And, God’s truth, I love you; one is very comfortable staying in your house; the food is good; therefore your cause could not be bad. You laugh at me sometimes, I admit; but I can laugh too, and I can appreciate the worth of a good joke. Laugh away, my sons; you’ll pay for it later all the more; in the end you’re as meek as sheep. I love you, we love one another, we’re as thick as thieves. Therefore, since the time has come to take, let us take. But first a little idealism! The booty will seem the more valuable for that. Attention, please; for I am beginning…Your possessions, my friends, are sacred; so will other people’s be when they become yours, for you have Truth on your side (you can see her: she’s veiled so as not to spoil her complexion); and along with her you have Right, Mighty Liberty, Authority, Money and the Virtues (who, prudent girls, never marry a beggar). Capital and the Ideal, the Spirit that flies, hands that filch – in a word, the monopoly of Civilization. Everything about you is holy, holy, and you are holy little saints yourselves. Consequently anyone who attacks you is accursed and you may suppress him: ’tis an act of piety. Now it is obvious that you are being attacked: Truth has the proofs in a sealed envelope: but we mayn’t show them you: it’s a secret. Besides, it would really be undignified to discuss them: you are in the right; you have all the trumps in your hand; so you ought to be attacked. And attacked you are. Attack away, then; you will only be doing so to defend yourselves. What say I, yourselves alone? You will be defending Justice, the Virtues and myself, by God! whom you represent – I am not being modest – far better than We could ever do. On then, courage, kill, kill! For that is war. It is quite true that in my books it is written: “Thou shalt not kill. Love thy neighbor.” But the enemy is not your neighbor. And defending oneself isn’t killing. It’s only a matter of coming to a proper understanding of the question. My servants are here to set your hearts at rest. Cheerily, cheerily! my sons, come on; let’s fight!

ONE OF THE THIN MEN
But, my Lord, here’s Truth. Why does Truth not speak?

MASTER-GOD
She’s afraid of the air, my dear child. Her throat is delicate and she has toothache. But if you care to ask one of these gentlemen carrying her, the journalists of the escort, they know her from top to toe; they have viewed her between a pair of sheets.

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