Home > Uncategorized > Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: The war-god Mars sat over all Europe

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: The war-god Mars sat over all Europe

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

German writers on peace and war

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Soldiers and peasants

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Study and let war alone

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
From Simplicius Simplicissimus

I turned again to the trees whereof the whole land was full and saw how they swayed and smote against each other: and the fellows tumbled off them in batches. Now a crack; now a fall. One moment quick, the next dead. In a moment one lost an arm, another a leg, the third his head. And as I looked methought all trees I saw were but one tree, at whose top sat the war-god Mars, and which covered with its branches all Europe. It seemed to me this tree could have overshadowed the whole world: but because it was blown about by envy and hate, by suspicion and unfairness, by pride and haughtiness and avarice, and other such fair virtues, as by bitter north winds, therefore it seemed thin and transparent: for which reason one had writ on its trunk these rhymes:

“The holmoak by the wind beset and brought to ruin,
Breaks its own branches down and proves its own undoing.
By civil war within and brothers’ deadly feud
Alls topsy-turvy turned and misery hath ensued.”

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I did hear and see sins done in God’s name, which are much to be grieved for. Such wickedness was specially practised by the soldiers, when they would say, “Now in God’s name let us forth on a foray,” viz., to plunder, kidnap, shoot down, cut down, assault, capture and burn, and all the rest of their horrible works and practices. Just as the usurers ever invoke God with their hypocritical “In God’s name”: and therewithal let their devilish avarice loose to flay and to strip honest folk.

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