Home > Uncategorized > George Preedy: One gigantic symbol of war, a cloudy impersonal cohort of Mars

George Preedy: One gigantic symbol of war, a cloudy impersonal cohort of Mars

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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

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George Preedy (Marjorie Bowen)
From Bagatelle and Some Other Diversions
A Tune for a Trumpet

Some months before, the Imperialist forces had passed through Karolsfeld and one wing of the Castle was now merely a wall, half-consumed by fire, and those rooms yet habitable in the other portion had been pillaged and defiled; here and there on a wall hung some decorations, some rent tapestries and splintered wood smashed by wanton blows from pike or musketoon, and in the room where the sick man lay was a scant arrangement of broken furniture, a torn tapestry across the unglazed window, and a poor lamp burning rank oil standing on a cracked and broken marble table.

The wounded man lay on an old mattress and some rank straw which had come from the stables; his cuirass and gorget, rusted with dried blood and flung beside the rude bed, dully reflected the coarse lamplight; his wound was festering and his tainted blood ran thickly….

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The pastor and the woman looking round in silence, endeavoured to distinguish one man from another in the group that this red light disclosed, but all these warriors were hot, flushed and bitter, in armour, cloaked and plumed; all spoke and moved as if with one volition, so that it seemed to the pastor that he did not see many men but one gigantic symbol of war, a cloudy impersonal cohort of Mars.

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“Ah, young Erlangen,” replied Wallenstein softly, “you have come to a fearful pass. I recall Karolsfeld when it held a hundred serving-men in the kitchen and fifty horses in the stables.”

Graf Sylvain did not answer, but the pastor said:

“And now there are but rats and owls, sire, and such is war.”

***

Wallenstein, like one in heavy thought, had ridden ahead of all, immediately before the standard of the black eagles of the Empire. At one time, as they passed through the beautiful woods of early autumn he had seen a bird in a wild cherry tree among the yet green fruit, and, taking his carbine from his saddle, had fired at it, watching to see it fall; he who was glutted with the slaughter of war had turned in his saddle to see the little bird lying in the sweet grass; he had seemed more like a man tormented than one who has satisfied his lust.

***

“It is a terrible thing, Prince, to have so much power. You spend your life among maimed and dying men, wounded limbs, ambulances, doctors, massacres…You march through towns in mourning, you tramp across the country bleeding to death….”

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