Home > Uncategorized > Joseph Fawcett: Civilized war! The cool carnage of the cultured world.

Joseph Fawcett: Civilized war! The cool carnage of the cultured world.


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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: Selections against war


Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

Afflicted Wisdom weeps that forms erect,
Which might be men, should be no more than brutes;
But, being what they are, she marvels not
That furious thus each other they devour.
The scene she gazes with a wild amaze,
O’er which she shivers agued and aghast,
Doubting her sense! incredulous she lives!
Is the cool carnage of the cultur’d world!

In the cold cabinet serenely plann’d!
And with calm skill, and blood that boils not, wreak’d!
War’s rul’d, methodic, mathematic fields,
Where fate in geometric figures frowns,
Curiously stern! a low’ring diagram!
Where sober warriors, in square array,
With science kill, with ceremony slay,
Thunder with apathy, and thin mankind
With looks compos’d, in rows compact arrang’d!
A tranquil tragedy! where battle trick’d,
Bedecks destruction, and makes ruin gay!
In spruce paterre where tulip terrors stand,
A scene of splendid horror! while o’er all
The field’s dire slaughter “peaceful thought” presides!
Wit, radiant spirit! wheels the cunning war,
Instructs horrific Mars which way to rush,
And shows the dev’lish engines where to belch
Their fiery bolts! – This is the dreadful scene,
Acted on literate Europe’s lucid stage;
Where man is known for what he is, for more
Than meets the eye, a mine of inward wealth,
That asks but to be dug and into day
Drawn out, a splendid treasure to display
Of golden joys, and sterling happiness!
Where moral glories strike Conception’s eye;
Where peaceful laurels court Ambition’s hand;
Where Reason’s, Virtue’s victories, invite
Th’ aspiring breast; and thousand varied joys
Make life delightful and its calms endear!
This is the scene, the gallop of the blood
Whose horror stops, and bids the current creep!
This PLACID sweep of human life away,
In human life where so much worth is seen!
These chess-board battles, where unpassion’d men,
Like things of wood, by them that thoughtful play,
Are mov’d about, the puppets of the game!
These sober whirlwinds of the polish’d world,
That not from fierce emotion take their rage,
Blown by cold Interest; by calm Art bestrid;
On whoſe broad wings, director of their way,
Afflicting image! form’d in other scenes,
And fairer far, to soar, ah, much mis-spher’d!
Bright GENIUS rides the Angel of the Storm.

Civiliz’d war! – How strangely pair’d appear
These words in pensive Rumination’s ear!
Civiliz’d war! – Say, did the mouth of man,
Fantastic marrier of words, before,
Two so unmatch’d, so much each other’s hate,
With force tyrannic, ere together yoke?
Civiliz’d war! – THANKS, gentle Europe! thanks,
For having dress’d the hideous monster out,
And hid his nature in so soft a name,
That weak, hysterical Humanity
Might hear with leſs of horror, he is loose.
Hail monster clipt! shorn of his shaggy mane,
His horrid front with flow’rs and ribbands prank’d,
Smooth, playful monster! Mixing with the roar
Of forest-rage the city’s polish’d smile!
That with a mild and Christian calmness kills,
That with more method tears his mangled prey,
And, as the copious draught of blood he swills,
Disclaims the thirst the while! Thanks, thousand-fold
Ye gay adorners of the tragic scene!
Thanks, in the name of all the friends of man,
That ye have thus their shuddering appeas’d;
And, piteous of their tender texture, giv’n
Their spirits, apt to startle, calm to flow,
Forth from its scabbard when your wiſdom calls
The slumb’ring sword, and bids its sabbath close!
Thanks, in the name of all the tremulous tribe,
Too sensitive, the grateful Muse accords you;
That ye have beautified the frowns of war
And given his grimness graces, have found out
Politer slaughter, and genteely learn’d
To lay more elegantly waste the world,
That ye have murder humaniz’d, discover’d
Mischief’s most handsome modes, and taught mankind
With form and fairest order to destroy!
Of all, whose hearts your battles have bereav’d,
The blessing comes upon you! Robb’d by wars
So gently wag’d, of them beneath whose shade
Of shelt’ring power their shielded weakness sat,
With looks of peace and love, pale widows sing,
In grateful songs, the tender spoilers sing!
The fatherless their filial sorrows wipe,
Forget their woes and join the just acclaim!
E’en the lorn virgin, in the slain’s long list:
Whose eye fell fearful on her lover’s name,
O’er whose wan cheek, where beauty’s roses grew,
Grief spreads its green, prophetic of her grave,
Some sickly smiles of gratitude shall wear,
And hush some sighs, to swell the grateful song!
All, all the mourners that ye make shall bless
Your mildly, amiably murderous deeds!
For much it soothes the sorrows of their soul,
For much it balms the bruises of their breast,
That they, in whom the battle’s fury reach’d
Their rent affections, fell in polish’d fields;
By softer hands, than whom the hatchet hacks
In barb’rous battle; that a smoother death
From finer points and glossier arms they took;
And if they perish’d, perish’d by the sword,
Heart-healing thought! of fair Civility!
Opprest with indignation, be the Muse
Forgiv’n, if she forget to sacred grief
The rev’rence due, and to her serious theme;
Seeking, in laughter, from her load of pain
Some little ease; for she hath long time lain
Beneath the suffocating weight, as thus
The civil actor in this savage scene,
Europe’s refin’d barbarian hath declaim’d.
“How horrible the unrelenting rage
And the coarse rudeness of unmanner’d Mars!
How smooth a front our comelier battle wears!
Lo! in our milder field the lovely form
Of Mercy sits by Valour’s side, and oft
Hangs on his hand and holds its fury down.” 
It is this mildness, to the moral eye
So far from soft’ning the hard crime of war,
That proves the sanguinary practice guilt,
And stamps the carnage murder. – Say, what priest,
Sent to prepare a dungeon’d wretch to die
For having ta’en his brother’s breath away,
Would not infer, remorse had made him mad,
To hear the villain seek his vice to wash
With words like these? “Far fouler criminals
The woods than me contain. The wolf is worse;
How furiously he lacerates the flock!
With what a rage the panther rends his prey!
Mark the fierce leopard tear his mangled meal!
I with much mercy murder’d whom I slew!
With one, but one, one well-directed wound
I gave him end; or with a drug disguis’d,
To drowsy death that woo’d his soul away,
I lull’d, without or pain or fear, his sense
In bland oblivion. – No; ye shall not thus,
Sons of Civility! ye shall not thus
Your darkness cloak! This varnish of your vice
Is evidence against you: your excuse
Accuses you, and by your boast ye prove
Your blame. – That after blood ye do not pant,
Shows, horrible your guilt in shedding it.
No moral turpitude the tiger’s tooth,
Though stain’d with homicide, contracts. – By man
The maniac’s blood is spar’d, the blood of man
Whose rage hath shed. And the wild man of war,
Whose dormant unexcited intellect
Beholds in human nature but an arm,
To brute-ambition’s spur alone awake,
Who wields his witless brawn in cleaving sculls
Vacant of mind as is his own, whose heart
Hydropic burns for blood, and lion-like
Who hungers for his foe, although his deeds
Are dire, no moral indignation lights
In gentle Wisdom’s breast. The very rage
And hard unmelting rigour of his field,
His grappling battle, greediness of blood ,
His fiend-like yell, his hatchet and his club,
His scalping wrath, carnivorous victory,
That eats in ecstasy the hostile flesh,
That drinks hot blood, with boundless vengeance drunk,
And all th’ excesses of his frantic war,
While horror they excite, extinguish blame:
The more we shudder, we the more forgive.
The frightful butchery of his battle tells,
However hideous, it is honest havoc;
That, thus to act, he thinks, is to be man.
His barb’rous ethics know no moral worth
Save military might. To his rude view
Victory is virtue. Piously he tells
His triumphs as his titles to the sky.
His talents are his arrows and his axe,
Sole means of earning heav’n. In chopping down
Another foe, a fresh degree, he deems,
His hand hath added to his bliss above.
He heaps the slain, that he may hunt in heav’n
With sport immortal; or for scaly game
Search with divine success celestial streams,
In slaughter placing thus his excellence,
With wild, unsated rage he lays. – But , where
Fair Mercy mixes in the fight, ’tis proof
Reason is in the field; Reason, that reads
The error of the scene, and just to judge
Its impious acts; rebukes the busy sword.

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