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Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray: What is called the grand art of war


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

French writers on war and peace


Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray
From Chevalier de Faublas
Translated by G.C.

I learned the French language, which was already spread throughout Europe. I read with delight some famous works, eternal monuments of genius, and wondered how, in an idiom so unfavourable for poetry, so many great poets had been able to distinguish themselves, and so many great writers had, with justice, obtained immortality. I applied myself seriously to the study of geometry; I adopted, moreover, that noble trade which makes a hero at the expense of a hundred thousand victims, and which men, less humane than valiant, have called the grand art of war.


Of all the rights which the death of your father transmits to you, the most valuable, without doubt, is that of assisting at the states, where you will go as a representative; it is there that your father should revive in you; it is there that you must prove a courage much more difficult than that of braving death in the field of battle. The valour of a soldier is but a common virtue; but those are not ordinary men who preserve a tranquil firmness on the most trying occasions; and by displaying a penetrating activity, discover the projects of the powerful who cabal, frustrate secret intrigues, and set at defiance the most daring factions; who, always firm, incorruptible and just, never give their votes but to those they deem the most worthy of them; who study nothing so much as the welfare of their country; whom neither gold nor promises can seduce, entreaties, bend, or menaces intimidate…May God, the protector of my country, spare it from evil war!


French and English, cease at last, cease forever those blood discords, the fury of which has too often extended itself over both hemispheres! Let the empires of the universe be no longer divided, but by the force of your example, and the ascendancy of your genius, instead of terrifying and enslaving mankind, dispute the glory of enlightening their ignorance, and of breaking their chains.

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