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Richard Le Gallienne: Poetry and war

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

British writers on peace and war

American writers on peace and against war

Richard Le Gallienne: Selections on war

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Richard Le Gallienne
From The Poet in the City

Yes! if you want to realise Tennyson’s picture of ‘one poor poet’s scroll’ ruling the world, take your poet’s scroll down to Fenchurch Street and try it there. Ah, what a powerless little ‘private interest’ seems poetry there, poetry ‘whose action is no stronger than a flower.’ In days of peace it ventures even into the morning papers; but, let only a rumour of war be heard, and it vanishes like a dream on doomsday morning.

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From The Fallacy of a Nation

And when I say wise men I do not, indeed, mean merely the literary men or the artists, but all those somebodies with some real force of character, people with brains and hearts, fighters and lovers, saints and thinkers, and the patient, industrious workers. Such, if you consider, are really no integral part of the nation among which they are cast. They have no part in what are grandiloquently called national interests – war, politics, and horse-racing to wit. A change of Government leaves them as unmoved as an election for the board of guardians.

What more would a foreign invasion mean than that we should pay our taxes to French, Russian, or German officials, instead of to English ones?

The reader will perhaps forgive the hackneyed references to Sir Thomas Browne peacefully writing his Religio Medici amid all the commotions of the Civil War, and to Gautier calmly correcting the proofs of his new poems during the siege of Paris. The milkman goes his rounds amid the crash of empires. It is not his business to fight. His business is to distribute his milk – as much after half-past seven as may be inconvenient. Similarly, the business of the thinker is with his thought, the poet with his poetry. It is the business of politicians to make national quarrels, and the business of the soldier to fight them. But as for the poet – let him correct his proofs, or beware the printer.

As a matter of fact, so-called national interests are merely certain private interests on a large scale, the private interests of financiers, ambitious politicians, soldiers, and great merchants. Broadly speaking, there are no rival nations – there are rival markets; and it is its Board of Trade and its Stock Exchange rather than its Houses of Parliament that virtually govern a country. Thus one seaport goes down and another comes up, industries forsake one country to bless another, the military and naval strengths of nations fluctuate this way and that; and to those whom these changes affect they are undoubtedly important matters – the great capitalist, the soldier, and the politician; but to the quiet man at home with his wife, his children, his books, and his flowers, to the artist busied with brave translunary matters, to the saint with his eyes filled with ‘the white radiance of eternity,’ to the shepherd on the hillside, the milkmaid in love, or the angler at his sport – what are these pompous commotions, these busy, bustling mimicries of reality? England will be just as good to live in though men some day call her France. Let the big busybodies divide her amongst them as they like, so that they leave one alone with one’s fair share of the sky and the grass, and an occasional, not too vociferous, nightingale.

A ‘public opinion’ on any matter except football, prize-fighting, and perhaps cricket, is merely ridiculous – by whatever brutal physical powers it may be enforced – ridiculous as a town council’s opinion upon art; and a nation is merely a big fool with an army.

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From The Greatness of Man

After all its talk, science has done little more than correct the misprints of religion. Essentially, the old spiritualistic and poetic theories of life are seen, not merely weakly to satisfy the cravings of man’s nature, but to be mostly in harmony with certain strange and moving facts in his constitution, which the materialists unscientifically ignore.

It was important, and has been helpful, to insist that man is an animal, but it is still more important to insist that he is a spirit as well. He is, so to say, an animal by accident, a spirit by birthright: and, however homely his duties may occasionally seem, his life is bathed in the light of a sacred transfiguring significance, its smallest acts flash with divine meanings, its highest moments are rich with ‘the pathos of eternity,’ and its humblest duties mighty with the responsibilities of a god.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. alfred abdalla
    April 17, 2021 at 7:03 am

    Everything you believe and say is correct – this is a Divine way of thinking/ However, the only solution is a Divine Will one as shown in these blogs: comeintoeternalfiat.blogspot.com and talkluisadivinewill.blog.spot.com

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