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Joseph Fawcett: Law prosecutes single murder, ignores mass murder


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

If but some few life-drops
Blush on the ground, for him, whose impious hand
The scanty purple sprinkled, a keen search
Commences straight; but, if a sea be spilt,
But if a deluge spread its spacious stain,
And fields be flooded from the veins of man,
O’er the red plain no solemn coroner
His inquisition holds. If but one corse,
With murder’s mark upon it, meet the eye
Of pale Discovery in the lonely path,
Justice begins the chace; when high are heap’d
Mountains of slain, the great, the full-grown guilt,
Safe in its size, too large for laws to lash,
Trembles before no bar. – Panting and pale,
A single culprit, hark! the hounds of Law
Hunt in full cry: but where’s the custody,
On culpable communities can shoot
The bulky bolt? for culprit empires where
The huge colossal constable, to whom
Such criminals will crouch? Where stands the court,
Of ample area, like the arch of heaven,
Within whose walls wide-swelling, plaintiff states
Offending states may sue, and nations wait
Their sentence; meek submitted to the mouth
Of so sublime a bench? Till this can be,
How poor the boast of Law! She wants an eye
More keen, to catch whom, caught, her arm can scourge;
And in her hand there needs a Michael-sword
Of vaster size her bigger foes to fell,
Smite Mountain-mischief, – Evil’s mightier fiend,
Satanic in his stature and his strength.

From lawless force, look round the world and see,
Defence how feeble legal force affords!
Assault and self-reliance for relief
Compose the scene of man. ‘Tis warfare all!

And is this civil life, where civil lands
So scant a sum of savage violence
Can whip within them, while, without them, all
Towards each other the barbarian play?
Where Fraud her sightings adds to those of Force,
And wars the city and the field infest?
Oh! when that voice, which dead confusion heard,
Shall human chaos hear? Oh! when shall cease,
Obedient to its call, this noise confus’d
Of various battle? this continuous din,
In war, of clashing steel; in peace, miscall’d,
Than a sweet name no more, of clashing aims?
Of selfish interests in eternal tilt
Contending? this extended tournament,
(Making all human life its boundless list,
And through all time prolong’d) of private views
To private views oppos’d; irregular
Against each other rushing; keeping up,
From age to age, one everlasting cloud
And clatter of encounter; to the friend
Of human kind presenting, as he sits
From the hot combat pensively apart,
A picture all confus’d of counter paths,
Each other crossing with collision loud!
A wildly shifting, ever-waving scene!
A sea of sinking and ascending heads,
Where all is undulation, rise and fall!
This, mounted high with płume and spear, that down,
Unhors’d amid the trampling, bruis’d and broke,
Biting with bankrupt-agony the ground;
While shouts and groans, in air tumultuous mix’d,
With harsh discordant noise distract the ear.
How long shall it be thus? – Say, Reason, say,
When shall thy long minority expire?
When shall thy dilatory kingdom come?
Haste, royal infant, to thy manhood spring!
Almighty, when mature, to rule mankind.
Weak are the outward checks, thy bridle’s place
Within the secret bosom, that supply.
Thine is the majesty; the victory thine,
For thee reserv’d, o’er all the wrongs of life.
The pigmy violence the private scene
That vexes, and that hides his head minute
From human justice, it is thine to end;
And thine, the tall and Titan-crimes that lift
Their heads to heaven and laugh at laws: to thee
All might belongs: haste, reach thy ripen’d years!
Mount thine immortal throne, and sway the world!

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