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Christopher Morley: Humanity’s most beautiful gift, Peace


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

American writers on peace and against war

Christopher Morley: No enthusiasm for hymns of hate


Christopher Morley
From Christmas Cards (1919)

When will artists and printers design us some Christmas cards that will be honest and appropriate to the time we live in? Never was the Day of Peace and Good Will so full of meaning as this year; and never did the little cards, charming as they were, seem so formal, so merely pretty, so devoid of imagination, so inadequate to the festival.


From Old Thoughts for Christmas

Just for a few hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the stupid, harsh mechanism of the world runs down and we permit ourselves to live according to untrammeled common sense, the unconquerable efficiency of good will. We grant ourselves the complete and selfish pleasure of loving others better than ourselves. How odd it seems, how unnaturally happy we are! We feel there must be some mistake, and rather yearn for the familiar frictions and distresses. Just for a few hours we “purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.” We know then that hatred is a form of illness; that suspicion and pride are only fear; that the rascally acts of others are perhaps, in the queer webwork of human relations, due to some calousness of our own.

And now humanity has its most beautiful and most appropriate Christmas gift – Peace. The Magi of Versailles and Washington having unwound for us the tissue paper and red ribbon (or red tape) from this greatest of all gifts, let us in days to come measure up to what has been born through such anguish and horror. If war is illness and peace is health, let us remember also that health is not merely a blessing to be received intact once and for all. It is not a substance but a condition, to be maintained only by sound régime, self-discipline and simplicity. Let the Wise Men not be too wise; let them remember those other Wise Men who, after their long journey and their sage surmisings, found only a Child.

Then we can see that all our careful wisdom and shrewdness were folly and stupidity; and we can understand the meaning of that Great Surprise – that where we planned wealth we found ourselves poor; that where we thought to be impoverished we were enriched. The world is built upon a lovely plan if we take time to study the blue-prints of the heart.


From Walt Whitman Miniatures

[On meeting with the shade of Whitman thirty years after his death.]

“Your centennial comes on May 31,” I said, “I hope you won’t be annoyed if Philadelphia doesn’t pay much attention to it. You know how things are around here.”

“My dear boy,” he said, “I am patient. The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferred till his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it. I have sung the songs of the Great Idea and that is reward in itself. I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised riches, I have given alms to every one that asked, stood up for the stupid and crazy, devoted my income and labor to others, hated tyrants, argued not concerning God, had patience and indulgence toward the people, taken off my hat to nothing known or unknown, gone freely with powerful uneducated persons and I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things – “

“All aboard!” cried the man at the gate of the ferry house.

He waved his hand with a benign patriarchal gesture and was gone.

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