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Marguerite Steen: The wreckage of the wars

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Marguerite Steen: The sheer destructiveness of war made him angry

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Marguerite Steen
From The Sun Is My Undoing

Along the waterfront, seeking the sunny patches, the bits of masonry that screened them from the wind, were the cripples, the one-legged, the one-eyed population whose minds (when these were capable of withdrawal from their empty stomachs) went ravelling over the eternal question: whether life were a thing to be glad of, or whether death were better than the lot a grateful nation prepares for its heroes. Clustered together in their misery, like heaps of human dung, the wreckage of the wars had caused the wharves to be avoided by decently clad individuals, whose appearance was signal for an instant outbreak of solicitation: Pity the blind, pity the lame, pity the starving. Half-naked children with wild eyes and little, claw-like hands ran about, begging from strangers, or lent their weakness to the support of some father or elder brother more helpless than themselves. Good-hearted people strove to spare a farthing; but there were others, pushing their shabby finery in and out of the quayside taverns, smart coats hanging like rags on deflated bodies, and an intimate acquaintance with hell in eyes that the prudent avoided.

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