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Edwin Arnold Brenholtz: If war is sane, make me insane


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

American writers on peace and against war

Edward Arnold Brenholtz: Selections on peace and war


Edwin Arnold Brenholtz

Whence cometh Love but from the source?
‘Twixt fount and ocean no divorce,
Here or through all eternity.

Thine act betrays thy hidden thought;
Without the thought no deed is wrought,
Hath been, yea, cannot ever be.

Vain, then, are all our cries of Peace
While each sun sees the vast increase
Of Greed and Hate and Lust;

And armaments piled mountain high, –
From them be sure sweet Peace must fly.
Oh, hasten! grind them into dust;

And make the man of blood abhor’d;
Now be the God of Peace adored,
And Love shall have his way; –

Aye, come with a resistless rush,
And Peace, too, in the tranquil hush
Which follows Love’s kind sway!


The Widow’s Curse

Oh! what’s your woe, my laddie?
And why these tears, my lass?
Come! come! let’s go to daddy,
And woe and tears will pass.”

My words stirred tear-streams yet unshed
(Oh, how those children cried!)
The tears they shed for one just dead
Seemed blood-tinged; they replied, ” Our father’s slain
On Afric plain;
From tears can we refrain?”

Then came the mother garbed in black,
And wiped those tears away;
Then turned on me in fierce attack,
“Art thou in devil’s pay”
(For I had said that wars must be,
That heroes use the sword),
“To think on what has thus cursed me,
And thus deny thy Lord?
If War be sane,
Make me insane,
And I will count it gain.”

Then turned she to the setting sun
And cried: “Sun, ne’er forget
My curse invoked on ev’ry one
Who made me thus regret!
Curse priest and king!
May they know sting
Of losing cherished thing!”

“Nay, nay!” I cried. “Curse not, curse not!”
She heeded not my call:
“Sun, look upon my lonely lot
And send the same to all
Who for ambition, profit, pride,
Brought that cursed war to pass –
From king on throne to Coster’s bride
Who orphaned lad and lass,
Whoe’er they be,
Where’er they flee,
For War has widowed me!”

“Have they no children who would mourn
If thy curse came about?”
“Too late!” she cried,
“I am forlorn,
And thousands, without doubt,
Have joined my curse. The sun, behold!
Has passed from sight and shines
Unceasing on this kingdom old:
I curse this land’s designs
And those that plann’d?
0 blood-stained band
Consigned to Fury’s hand!”

The twilight deepened; still I stayed
And questioned: “Why ask Sun
To see thy curses promptly paid;
Why not ‘Whose will is done?’
Why not rely
On One on High
Who heeds the widow’s sigh?”

“Shall I beseech the One they preach
Approves of War’s cursed game?
(The Christ of whom the Scriptures teach
Is surely not that same.)
Nay, nay! their God loves power, pelf,
And cares not for my woe;
He is concentered in himself?
From such God I must go:
I call on Sun
To see undone
Each truly guilty one.”

She took the children by the hand
And passed within the door;
In memory still her curses stand
Though saw I her no more.
And pond’ring o’er Ambition’s wrecks
Strewn ever in our sight,
I whisper low,
“Whom War bedecks
On him will curse alight.
Has earth a plain
Where man’s not slain
To win some warrior gain?”

O War with sword, and War in mart,
That curse is yours alike:
Starvation plays as deadly part
As sword can ever strike.
Here lie the dead;
Your hands are red
With brother’s blood just shed.

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