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Stephen Leacock: War-Time Christmas

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

Stephen Leacock: In the Good Time After the War

Stephen Leacock: Merry Christmas.

Stephen Leacock: The war mania of middle age and embonpoint

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Stephen Leacock
From War-Time Christmas 1941

Think back, as all people even in middle life can do, to what the world was like while world-war was just a dream….To realize this alteration, come back with me in recollection, to church together – to an evening service, on Christmas Eve….Quiet and dim the church seems, the lights low – and from the altar comes the voice, half reading, half intoned, and from the dimness of the body of the church the murmur of the responses….Give peace in our time, O Lord….Peace! why, it was always peace! What did we know then of world war, of world brutality, of the concentration camp and the mass-slaughter of the innocent….

From plague and famine….The voice is intoning the Litany now, the prayer for deliverance…from plague, pestilence and famine, from battle and murder and from sudden death…and the murmured response through the church….Good Lord, deliver us….The words are old, far older than the rubric of the church that uses them, handed down from prayer to prayer, since the days of the Barbarian Conquests of Europe, when they first went up as a cry of distress, a supplication….But can the ear not catch, in this new hour, the full meaning that was here – the cry of anguish that first inspired the prayers…to show thy mercy upon all prisoners and captives….In this too is now an infinity of meaning, of sympathy, of suffering…and as the service draws to its close…while there is time…intones the voice from the half-darkness, while there is time….What? What is that he’s saying – while there is time? Does it mean it may be too late?

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From War-Time Christmas: Santa Claus

So, first I’ll tell Santa Claus that I don’t want any new presents, only just to have back some of the old ones that are broken – well, yes, perhaps I broke them myself. Give me back, will you, that pretty little framed certificate called Belief in Humanity; you remember – you gave them to ever so many of us as children to hang up beside our beds. Later on I took mine out to look what was on the back of it, and I couldn’t get it back in the frame and lost it.

Here, listen, this is what I want, Santa Claus, and here I’m speaking for of us, all of us, millions and millions. Bring us back the World We Had, and didn’t value at its worth – the Universal Peace, the Good Will Toward Men – all that we had and couldn’t use and broke and threw away.

Give us that. This time we’ll really try.

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