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Byron: The age of beauty will succeed the sport of war

January 22, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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From The Siege of Corinth

Deep in the tide of their warm blood lying,
Scorched with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain,
Than the perishing dead who are past all pain.
There is something of pride in the perilous hour,
Whate’er be the shape in which Death may lower;
For Fame is there to say who bleeds,
And Honour’s eye on daring deeds!
But when all is past, it is humbling to tread
O’er the weltering field of the tombless dead,
And see worms of the earth, and fowls of the air,
Beasts of the forest, all gathering there;
All regarding man as their prey,
All rejoicing in his decay.

***

From The Prophecy of Dante

Amidst the clash of swords, and clang of helms,
The age which I anticipate, no less
Shall be the Age of Beauty, and while whelms
Calamity the nations with distress,
The genius of my country shall arise,
A Cedar towering o’er the Wilderness,
Lovely in all its branches to all eyes,
Fragrant as fair, and recognized afar,
Wafting its native incense through the skies.

Sovereigns shall pause amidst their sport of war
Wean’d for an hour from blood, to turn and gaze
On canvas or on stone; and they who mar
All beauty upon earth, compell’d to praise,
Shall feel the power of that which they destroy…

***

From Parisina

But never tear his cheek descended,
And never smile his brow unbended;
And o’er that fair broad brow were wrought
The intersected lines of thought;
Those furrows which the burning share
Of Sorrow ploughs untimely there;
Scars of the lacerating mind
Which the Soul’s war doth leave behind,
He was past all mirth or woe:
Nothing more remained below
But sleepless nights and heavy days,
A mind all dead to scorn or praise,
A heart which shunned itself – and yet
That would not yield – nor could forget,
Which when it least appeared to melt,
Intently thought – intensely felt:
The deepest ice which ever froze
Can only o’er the surface close –
The living stream lies quick below,
And flows – and cannot cease to flow.
Still was his sealed-up bosom haunted
By thoughts which Nature hath implanted;
Too deeply rooted thence to vanish,
Howe’er our stifled tears we banish;
When, struggling as they rise to start,
We check those waters of the heart,
They are not dried – those tears unshed
But flow back to the fountain head,
And resting in their spring more pure,
For ever in its depth endure,
Unseen, unwept, but uncongealed,
And cherished most where least revealed.
With inward starts of feeling left,
To throb o’er those of life bereft,
Without the power to fill again
The desart gap which made his pain;
Without the hope to meet them where
United souls shall gladness share…

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William Lisle Bowles: When her war-song Victory doth sing, Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing

January 20, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Lisle Bowles: The dread name of the hideous war-fiend shall perish

William Lisle Bowles: The Fiend of War, sated with slaughter

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William Lisle Bowles
From Hope, An Allegorical Sketch

By the shade of cities old,
By many a river stained with gore,
By the sword of Sesac bold,
Who smote the nations from the shore
Of ancient Nile to India’s farthest plain,
By Fame’s proud pillars, and by Valour’s shield
By mighty chiefs in glorious battle slain,
Assert thy sway; amid the bloody field
Pursue thy march, and to the heights sublime
Of Honour’s glittering cliffs, a mighty conqueror climb!
Then said I, in my heart: Man, thou dost rear
Thine eye to heaven, and vaunt thy lofty worth;
The ensign of dominion thou dost bear
O’er nature’s works; but thou dost oft go forth,
Urged by proud hopes to ravage and destroy,
Thou dost build up a name by cruel deeds;
Whilst to the peaceful scenes of love and joy,
Sorrow, and crime, and solitude, succeeds.
Hence, when her war-song Victory doth sing,
Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing.
But see, as one awakened from a trance,
With hollow and dim eyes and stony stare,
Captivity with faltering step advance!

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Thomas Warton: Not seek in fields of blood his warrior bays

January 18, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Thomas Warton
From On the Birth of the Prince of Wales

And O, young Prince, be thine his moral praise;
Nor seek in fields of blood his warrior bays.
War has its charms terrific. Far and wide
When stands th’ embattled host in banner’d pride;
0’er the vext plain when the shrill clangors run.
And the long phalanx flashes in the sun;
When now no dangers of the deathful day
Mar the bright scene, nor break the firm array;
Full oft, too rashly glows with fond delight
The youthful breast, and asks the future fight;
Nor knows that Horror’s form, a spectre wan.
Stalks, yet unseen, along the gleamy van.

May no such rage be thine: no dazzling ray
Of specious fame thy steadfast feet betray.
Be thine domestic glory’s radiant calm,
Be thine the sceptre wreath’d with many a palm:
Be thine the throne with peaceful emblems hung,
The silver lyre to milder conquest strung!

Instead of glorious feats achiev’d in arms,
Bid rising arts display their mimic charms!

***

Sees Civil Prowess mightier acts achieve,
Sees meek Humanity distress relieve;
Adopts the Worth that bids the conflict cease.
And claims its honours from the Chiefs of Peace.

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Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and war

January 17, 2017 Leave a comment
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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: War is a murderous fiend, by fiends adored

January 16, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selections on peace and war

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Christmas Carol

The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable shed,
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A mother’s song the Virgin-Mother sung.

They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng,
Around them shone, suspending night,
While sweeter than a mother’s song
Blest angels heralded the Saviour’s birth,
Glory to God on high! and peace on earth.

She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she prest;
And while she cried, “The Babe is mine!”
The milk rushed faster to her breast.
Joy rose within her, like a summer’s morn.
Peace, peace on earth! the Prince of Peace is born.

“Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
Oh, why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet music’s loudest note, the poet’s story, –
Did’st thou ne’er love to hear of fame and glory?

“And is not war a youthful king,
A stately hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring,
Him, earth’s majestic monarchs hail
Their friend, their playmate; and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden’s love-confessing sigh.”

“Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state.
I am a woman poor and mean,
And therefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the aged father tears his child!

“A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow’s toil had won,
Plunders God’s world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.

“Then wisely is my soul elate
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I’m poor and of a low estate,
The mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer’s morn.
Peace, peace on earth! the Prince of Peace is born.”

Strange prophecy! If all the screams
Of all the men who since have died
To realise war’s kingly dreams,
Had risen at once in one vast tide,
The choral song of that blest multitude
Had been o’erpowered and lost amid the uproar rude.

***

From Ode to Tranquillity

The feeling heart, the searching soul,
To thee I dedicate the whole!
And while within myself I trace
The greatness of some future race,
Aloof with hermit-eye I scan
The present works of present man –
A wild and dream-like trade of blood and guile,
Too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile!

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Byron: War feeds the vultures, wolves and worms

January 15, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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Byron

From The Vision of Judgment

There was a handsome board – at least for heaven;
And yet they had even then enough to do.
So many conquerors’ cars were daily driven,
So many kingdoms fitted up anew;
Each day too slew its thousands six or seven,
Till at the crowning carnage, Waterloo,
They threw their pens down in divine disgust –
The page was so besmear’d with blood and dust.

***

From The Bride of Abydos

Mark! where his carnage and his conquests cease!
He makes a solitude, and calls it – peace!
I, like the rest, must use my skill or strength,
But ask no land beyond my sabre’s length;
Power sways but by division, her resource
The blest alternative of fraud or force!

***

From Lara

…some watchword for the fight
Must vindicate the wrong, and warp the right;
Religion – freedom – vengeance – what you will,
A word’s enough to raise mankind to kill;
Some factious phrase by cunning caught and spread,
That guilt may reign, and wolves and worms be fed!

What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,
The feast of vultures, and the waste of life?
The varying fortune of each separate field,
The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield?
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall?

And they that smote for freedom or for sway,
Deem’d few were slain, while more remain’d to slay.
It was too late to check the wasting brand,
And Desolation reap’d the famish’d land;
The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread,
And Carnage smiled upon her daily bread.

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William Lisle Bowles: The Fiend of War, sated with slaughter

January 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Lisle Bowles: The dread name of the hideous war-fiend shall perish

William Lisle Bowles: When her war-song Victory doth sing, Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing

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William Lisle Bowles
From Monody, Written at Matlock

Thou dost in solitude thy course pursue,
As thou hadst bid life’s busy scenes farewell,
Yet making still such music as might cheer
The weary passenger that journeys near.
Such are the songs of Peace in Virtue’s shade;
Unheard of Folly, or the vacant train
That pipe and dance upon the noontide plain,
Till in the dust together they are laid!
But not unheard of Him, who sits sublime
Above the clouds of this tempestuous clime,
Its stir and strife; to whom more grateful rise
The humble incense, and the still small voice
Of those that on their pensive way rejoice,
Than shouts of thousands echoing to the skies;
Than songs of conquest pealing round the car
Of hard Ambition, or the Fiend of War,
Sated with slaughter.

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Thomas Middleton: Blood-quaffing Mars, who wash’d himself in gore

January 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and war

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Thomas Middleton
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased

Cain could see, but folly struck him blind,
To kill his brother in a raging mind.

O too unhappy stroke to end two lives!
Unhappy actor in death’s tragedy,
Murdering a brother whose name murder gives,
Whose slaying action slaughters butchery:
A weeping part had earth in that same play,
For she did weep herself to death that day.

***

Blood-quaffing Mars, which wash’d himself in gore,
Reign’d in her foes’ thirst slaughter-drinking hearts;
Their heads the bloody store-house of blood’s store.
Their minds made bloody streams disburs’d in parts
What was it else but butchery and hate,
To prize young infants’ blood at murder’s rate ?

But let them surfeit on their bloody cup.
Carousing to their own destruction’s health,
We drink the silver-streamed water up,
Which unexpected flow’d from wisdom’s wealth;
Declaring, by the thirst of our dry souls.
How all our foes did swim in murder’s bowls.

***

Butchers unnatural, worse by their trade.
Whose house the bloody shambles of decay.
More than a slaughter-house which butchers made,
More than an Eschip, seely bodies prey:
Thorough whose hearts a bloody shambles runs;
They do not butcher beasts, but their own sons.

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The demon War and its attendants, maniac Suicide and giant Murder

January 10, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selections on peace and war

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From The Destiny of Nations

A vast plain
Stretched opposite, where ever and anon
The plough-man following sad his meagre team
Turned up fresh sculls unstartled, and the bones
Of fierce hate-breathing combatants, who there
All mingled lay beneath the common earth,
Death’s gloomy reconcilement! O’er the fields
Stept a fair Form, repairing all she might,
Her temples olive-wreathed; and where she trod,
Fresh flowerets rose, and many a foodful herb.
But wan her cheek, her footsteps insecure,
And anxious pleasure beamed in her faint eye,
As she had newly left a couch of pain,
Pale convalescent! (Yet some time to rule
With power exclusive o’er the willing world,
That blest prophetic mandate then fulfilled —
Peace be on Earth!) A happy while, but brief,
She seemed to wander with assiduous feet,
And healed the recent harm of chill and blight,
And nursed each plant that fair and virtuous grew.

But soon a deep precursive sound moaned hollow:
Black rose the clouds, and now (as in a dream)
Their reddening shapes, transformed to warrior-hosts,
Coursed o’er the sky, and battled in mid-air.
Nor did not the large blood-drops fall from heaven
Portentous! while aloft were seen to float,
Like hideous features looming on the mist,
Wan stains of ominous light! Resigned, yet sad,
The fair Form bowed her olive-crowned brow,
Then o’er the plain with oft reverted eye
Fled till a place of tombs she reached, and there
Within a ruined sepulchre obscure
Found hiding-place.

The delegated Maid
Gazed through her tears, then in sad tones exclaimed —
‘Thou mild-eyed Form! wherefore, ah! wherefore fled?
The power of Justice like a name all light,
Shone from thy brow; but all they, who unblamed
Dwelt in thy dwellings, call thee Happiness.
Ah! why, uninjured and unprofited,
Should multitudes against their brethren rush?
Why sow they guilt, still reaping misery?
Lenient of care, thy songs, O Peace! are sweet,
As after showers the perfumed gale of eve,
That flings the cool drops on a feverous cheek;
And gay thy grassy altar piled with fruits.
But boasts the shrine of demon War one charm,
Save that with many an orgie strange and foul,
Dancing around with interwoven arms,
The maniac Suicide and giant Murder
Exult in their fierce union! I am sad,
And know not why the simple peasants crowd
Beneath the Chieftains’ standard!’ Thus the Maid.

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William Lisle Bowles: The dread name of the hideous war-fiend shall perish

January 9, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Lisle Bowles: The Fiend of War, sated with slaughter

William Lisle Bowles: When her war-song Victory doth sing, Destruction flaps aloft her iron-hurtling wing

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William Lisle Bowles
From Mr. Howard’s Account of Lazarettos

I view those deeds, and think how vain
The triumphs of weak man, the feeble strain
That Flattery brings to Conquest’s crimson car,
Amid the bannered host, and the proud tents of war!
From realm to realm the hideous War-fiend hies
Wide o’er the wasted earth; before him flies
Affright, on pinions fleeter than the wind;
Whilst Death and Desolation fast behind
The havoc of his echoing march pursue:
Meantime his steps are bathed in the warm dew
Of bloodshed, and of tears; – but his dread name
Shall perish – the loud clarion of his fame
One day shall cease, and, wrapt in hideous gloom,
Forgetfulness bestride his shapeless tomb!

 

***
From The Grave of Howard

Relentless Time, that steals with silent tread,
Shall tear away the trophies of the dead.
Fame, on the pyramid’s aspiring top,
With sighs shall her recording trumpet drop;
The feeble characters of Glory’s hand
Shall perish, like the tracks upon the sand;
But not with these expire the sacred flame
Of Virtue, or the good man’s honoured name.

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Thomas Middleton: All made to make a peace, and not a war

January 8, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and ware

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Thomas Middleton
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased

A rule, not tyranny, a reign, not blood,
An empire, not a slaughter-house of lives,
A crown, not cruelty in fury’s mood,
A sceptre which restores, and not deprives;
All made to make a peace, and not a war.
By wisdom, concord’s queen and discord’s bar.

The coldest word oft cools the hottest threat.
The tyrant’s menaces the calms of peace;
Two colds augmenteth one, two heats one heat,
And makes both too extreme when both increase:
My peaceful reign shall conquer tyrants’ force,
Not arms, but words, not battle, but remorse.

Yet mighty shall I be, though war in peace,
Strong, though ability hath left his clime.
And good, because my wars and battles cease,
Or, at the least, lie smother’d in their prime…

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selections on peace and war

January 7, 2017 Leave a comment
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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: And war still violates the unfinished works of peace

January 6, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selections on peace and war

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From The Destiny of Nations

‘When luxury and lust’s exhausted stores
No more can rouse the appetites of kings;
When the low flattery of their reptile lords
Falls flat and heavy on the accustomed ear;
When eunuchs sing, and fools buffoonery make,
And dancers writhe their harlot-limbs in vain;
Then War and all its dread vicissitudes
Pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts;
Its hopes, its fears, its victories, its defeats,
Insipid royalty’s keen condiment!
Therefore uninjured and unprofited,
(Victims at once and executioners)
The congregated husbandmen lay waste
The vineyard and the harvest. As along
The Bothnic coast, or southward of the Line,
Though hushed the winds and cloudless the high noon,
Yet if Leviathan, weary of ease,
In sports unwieldy toss his island-bulk,
Ocean behind him billows, and before
A storm of waves breaks foamy on the strand.
And hence, for times and seasons bloody and dark,
Short Peace shall skin the wounds of causeless War,
And War, his strained sinews knit anew,
Still violate the unfinished works of Peace.
But yonder look! for more demands thy view!’
He said: and straightway from the opposite Isle
A vapour sailed, as when a cloud, exhaled
From Egypt’s fields that steam hot pestilence,
Travels the sky for many a trackless league,
Till o’er some death-doomed land, distant in vain,
It broods incumbent. Forthwith from the plain,
Facing the Isle, a brighter cloud arose,
And steered its course which way the vapour went.

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Thomas Middleton: O thrice-peaceful souls, whom neither threats nor strife nor wars controls!

January 5, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and war

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Thomas Middleton
From The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased

Thrice-happy habitation of delight,
Thrice-happy step of immortality,
Thrice-happy souls to gain such heavenly sight
Springing from heaven’s perpetuity!
O peaceful place! but O thrice-peaceful souls,
Whom neither threats nor strife nor wars controls!

***

Knowledge and wisdom known in wisest things
Is reason’s mate, discretion’s sentinel;
More than a trine of joys from virtues springs,
More than one union, yet in union dwell:
One for to guide the spring, summer the other;
One harvest’s nurse, the other winter’s mother.

Four mounts and four high mounters, all four one,
One holy union, one begotten life.
One manifold affection, yet alone,
All one in peace’s rest, all none in strife;
Sure, Stable, without care, having all power,
Not hurtful, doing good, as one all four.

This peaceful army of four-knitted souls
Is marching unto peace’s endless war.
Their weapons are discretion’s written rolls,
Their quarrel love, and amity their jar:
Wisdom director is, captain and guide;
All other take their places side by side.

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: From all sides rush the thirsty brood of War!

January 4, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selections on peace and war

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From Religious Musings

Mistrust and Enmity have burst the bands
Of social peace: and listening Treachery lurks
With pious fraud to snare a brother’s life;
And childless widows o’er the groaning land
Wail numberless and orphans weep for bread!
Thee to defend, dear Saviour of Mankind!
Thee, Lamb of God! Thee, blameless Prince of Peace!
From all sides rush the thirsty brood of War! –

***

O ye to Glory’s field
Forced or ensnared, who, as ye gasp in death,
Bleed with new wounds beneath the vulture’s beak!
O thou poor widow, who in dreams dost view
Thy husband’s mangled corse, and from short doze
Start’st with a shriek; or in thy half-thatched cot
Waked by the wintry night-storm, wet and cold
Cow’rst o’er thy screaming baby!

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Thomas Middleton: The soldier’s fate

January 3, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and warmaker

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Thomas Middleton
From Father Hubburd’s Tales

Thy colour wasted, thy blood lost,
Thy limbs broke with the violent rape
Of hot impatient cannons, which desire
To ravish lives, spending their lust in fire.

O what a ruthful sight it is to see.
Though in a soldier of the mean’st degree,
That right member perish’d
Which the  body cherish’d!
That limb dissever’d, burnt, and gone.
Which the best part was borne upon:
And then, the greatest ruth of all,
Returning home in torn estate,
Where he should rise, there most to fall,
Trod down with’envy, bruis’d with hate;
Yet, wretch, let this thy comfort be,
That greater worms have far’d like thee.

So here thou left’st, bloodless and wan.
Thy journeys thorough man and man;
These two cross’d shapes, so much opprest,
Did fray thy weakness from the rest.

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Byron: The time is past when swords subdued

January 2, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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Byron
From Elegy on Newstead Abbey

Hark how the hall, resounding to the strain,
Shakes with the martial music’s novel din!
The heralds of a warrior’s haughty reign,
High crested banners wave thy walls within.

Of changing sentinels the distant hum,
The mirth of feasts, the clang of burnished arms,
The braying trumpet and the hoarser drum,
Unite in concert with increased alarms.

***

Hush’d is the harp, unstrung the warlike lyre,
The minstrel’s palsied hand reclines in death;
No more he strikes the quivering chords with fire,
Or sings the glories of the martial wreath.

At length the sated murderers, gorged with prey,
Retire: the clamour of the fight is o’er;
Silence again resumes her awful sway,
And sable Horror guards the massy door.

Here Desolation holds her dreary court:
What satellites declare her dismal reign!
Shrieking their dirge, ill-omen’d birds resort,
To flit their vigils in the hoary fane.

***

From Ode From the French

With a fierce and lavish hand
Scattering nations’ wealth like sand;
Pouring nations’ blood like water,
In imperial seas of slaughter!

But the heart and the mind,
And the voice of mankind,
Shall arise in communion –
And who shall resist that proud union?
The time is past when swords subdued­ –
Man may die – the soul’s renew’d:
Even in this low world of care
Freedom ne’er shall want an heir;
Millions breathe but to inherit
Her for ever bounding spirit…

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Joseph Cottle: If on the slaughter’d field some mind humane…

January 1, 2017 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Joseph Cottle
From War, A Fragment

Oh! Charity, fair daughter of the skies,
How many a hateful form before Thee flies, lo
On whose dark brow, and grinning smile, and yell,
Thou might’st, if justice reign’d, for ever dwell!
Yet thou haft mark’d their faults, whilst pity sigh’d,
And to disturb thy peace, their little powers defy’d.

But whilst of happiness we feebly tell,
And praise her worth, and paint her halcyon cell;
Declare of joys that round their parent twine,
And speak of shores where suns perpetual shine;
How many pence-bought engines wield the spear,
Whose slavish breasts this fun must never cheer!
How many myriads of the human race,
On carnage bent, the name of man disgrace.
Some lazy tyrant’s hireling tool obey,
And rush like blood-hounds on their unknown prey.

If on the slaughter’d field some mind humane,
Should stop to sooth a gasping Soldier’s pain;
Enquire the cause that urg’d him to engage
In war’s fell clangor, and infernal rage;
“I know no cause,” his trembling tongue replies,
And with a hollow groan distends his frame, and dies.

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Morning song

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

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Byron: War returns on its perpetrator

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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Byron
From The Curse of Minerva

“The bannered pomp of war, the glittering files,
O’er whose gay trappings stern Bellona smiles;
The brazen trump, the spirit-stirring drum,
That bid the foe defiance ere they come;
The hero bounding at his country’s call,
The glorious death that consecrates his fall,
Swell the young heart with visionary charms,
And bid it antedate the joys of arms.
But know, a lesson you may yet have taught,
With death alone are laurels cheaply bought:
Not in the conflict Havoc seeks delight,
His day of mercy is the day of fight.
But when the field is fought, the battle won,
Though drenched with gore, his woes are but begun:
His deeper deeds as yet ye know by name;
The slaughtered peasant and the ravished dame,
The rifled mansion and the foe-reaped field,
Ill suit with souls at home, untaught to yield.
Say, with what eye along the distant down
Would flying burghers mark the blazing town?
How view the column of ascending flames
Shake his red shadow o’er the startled Thames?
Nay, frown not, Albion! for the torch was thine
That lit such pyres from Tagus to the Rhine:
Now should they burst on thy devoted coast,
Go, ask thy bosom who deserves them most.
The law of Heaven and Earth is life for life,
And she who raised, in vain regrets, the strife.”

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Morning song

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

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Thomas Middleton: The Peacemaker

December 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Middleton: Selections on peace and war

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Thomas Middleton
From The Peacemaker

Peace and Contention lie here on Earth, as trading factors for life and death. Who desires not to have traffic with life? who (weary of life) but would die to live?

Peace is the passage from life to life, come then to the factory of Peace, thou that desirest lo have life: behold the substitute of Peace on earth, displaying the flag of Peace, Beati pacifici.

***

Were blows more bountiful to thee? Did blood yield thee benefit? War afford thee wealth? Didst thou make that thine own by violence, which was another’s by right? It may be, the hand-maid was fruitful, and the mistress barren; but Sarah has now brought forth, and in her seed are the blessings come.

***

The trading merchant finds it, who daily ploughs the sea, and as daily reaps the harvest of his labours. What wants England that the world can enrich her with? Tyre sends in her purples; India her spices; Afric her gold; Muscovy her costly skins of beasts; all her neighbour countries their best traffic, and all purchased by friendly commerce, not (as before) by savage cruelty.

The fearless trades and handicraft men sing away their labours all day (having no noise drowned with either noise of drum or cannon) and sleep with peace at night.

The frolic countryman opens the fruitful earth, and crops his plenty from her fertile   bosom; nay, even his toiling beasts are trapped with bells, who taste (in their labours) the harmony of peace with their awful governors.

***

Peace – stay and abide with her, and thou shalt never know her enemies, God’s enemies, and thine own enemies: let them that seek Peace, find Peace, enjoy Peace, and have their souls laid up in Eternal Peace.

***

And where there is no Peace, all other benefits have a cessation. It is the only health of thy soul; and that once lost, thy soul sickens immediately, even to death, and can no more taste or relish a joy after than a sick man’s palate his nutriment.

***

When was war sent as a blessing, or peace as a punishment?

***

Behold the Father, the God of Peace; the Son, the Lamb of Peace; the blessed Spirit, the Dove of Peace; the angels, servants, and ministers to this power of Peace; infinities and all rejoicing at one soul’s entrance into Peace.

Behold the new Jerusalem, Kirjath-salem, the City of Peace ; that which was militant and troubled in the wilderness (the Church) behold it there triumphant in ever blessed Peace, that Peace which as it is unintelligible, so is it most unutterable.

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Mark Akenside: Statesmanship versus war

December 27, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Mark Akenside: The hidden plan whence every treaty, every war began

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Mark Akenside

From Ode: To the Honourable Charles Townshend

Let vulgar bards, with undiscerning praise,
More glittering trophies raise:
But wisest Heaven what deeds may chiefly move
To favour and to love?
What, save wide blessings, or averted harms?

Nor to the embattled field
Shall these achievements of the peaceful gown,
The green immortal crown
Of valour, or the songs of conquest, yield.

***

From Ode: To the Right Reverend Benjamin, Lord Bishop of Winchester

For not a conqueror’s sword,
Nor the strong powers to civil founders known,
Were his; but truth by faithful search explored,
And social sense, like seed, in genial plenty sown.
Wherever it took root, the soul (restored
To freedom) freedom too for others sought.
***

From: Ode: To the Country Gentlemen of England

For, oh! may neither Fear nor stronger Love…
Thee, last of many wretched nations, move,
With mighty armies station’d round the throne
To trust thy safety. Then, farewell the claims
Of Freedom! Her proud records to the flames
Then bear, an offering at Ambition’s shrine…

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Mark Akenside: The hidden plan whence every treaty, every war began

December 25, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Mark Akenside: Statesmanship versus war

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Mark Akenside

From Ode to Curio

In sight, old Time, imperious judge, awaits:
Above revenge, or fear, or pity, just,
He urgeth onward to those guilty gates
The great, the sage, the happy, and august.
And still he asks them of the hidden plan
Whence every treaty, every war began,
Evolves their secrets and their guilt proclaims:
And still his hands despoil them on the road
Of each vain wreath by lying bards bestow’d,
And crush their trophies huge, and raze their sculptured names.

***

From The Pleasures of the Imagination

In all the dewy landscapes of the Spring,
In the bright eye of Hesper, or the morn,
In Nature’s fairest forms, is aught so fair
As virtuous friendship? as the candid blush
Of him who strives with fortune to be just?
The graceful tear that streams for others’ woes?
Or the mild majesty of private life,
Where Peace with ever blooming olive crowns
The gate; where Honour’s liberal hands effuse
Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings
Of Innocence and Love protect the scene?

***

When shall the laurel and the vocal string
Resume their honours? When shall we behold
The tuneful tongue, the Promethéan band
Aspire to ancient praise? Alas! how faint,
How slow the dawn of Beauty and of Truth
Breaks the reluctant shades of Gothic night
Which yet involves the nations! Long they groan’d
Beneath the furies of rapacious force;
Oft as the gloomy north, with iron swarms
Tempestuous pouring from her frozen caves,
Blasted the Italian shore, and swept the works
Of Liberty and Wisdom down the gulf
Of all-devouring night.

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Byron: Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet

December 24, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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Byron
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

But thou, exulting and abounding river!
Making thy waves a blessing as they flow
Through banks whose beauty would endure for ever,
Could man but leave thy bright creation so,
Nor its fair promise from the surface mow
With the sharp scythe of conflict…

A thousand battles have assailed thy banks,
But these and half their fame have passed away,
And Slaughter heaped on high his weltering ranks:
Their very graves are gone, and what are they?
Thy tide washed down the blood of yesterday,
And all was stainless, and on thy clear stream
Glassed with its dancing light the sunny ray;
But o’er the blackened memory’s blighting dream
Thy waves would vainly roll, all sweeping as they seem.

***

Like to a forest felled by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reeled unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet.

****

What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms – on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.

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Algernon Charles Swinburne : A gospel of war and damnation for the bestial by birth

December 23, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Algernon Charles Swinburne
From A Word for the Country

‘Gaze forward through clouds that environ;
It shall be as it was in the past.
Not with dreams, but with blood and with iron,
Shall a nation be moulded to last.’
So teach they, so preach they,
Who dream themselves the dream
That hallows the gallows
And bids the scaffold stream.

‘With a hero at head, and a nation
Well gagged and well drilled and well cowed,
And a gospel of war and damnation,
Has not empire a right to be proud?
Fools prattle and tattle
Of freedom, reason, right,
The beauty of duty,
The loveliness of light.

‘But we know, we believe it, we see it,
Force only has power upon earth.’
So be it! and ever so be it
For souls that are bestial by birth!

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Byron: Selections on war

December 22, 2016 Leave a comment
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Byron: Blasted below the hot breath of war

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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Byron
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Not so the rustic: with his trembling mate
He lurks, nor casts his heavy eye afar,
Lest he should view his vineyard desolate,
Blasted below the dun hot breath of war.

***

Ah, monarchs! could ye taste the mirth ye mar,
Not in the toils of Glory would ye fret;
The hoarse dull drum would sleep, and Man be happy yet.

***

‘Twas on a Grecian autumn’s gentle eve,
Childe Harold hailed Leucadia’s cape afar;
A spot he longed to see, nor cared to leave:
Oft did he mark the scenes of vanished war,
Actium, Lepanto, fatal Trafalgar:
Mark them unmoved, for he would not delight
(Born beneath some remote inglorious star)
In themes of bloody fray, or gallant fight,
But loathed the bravo’s trade, and laughed at martial wight.

***

In yonder rippling bay, their naval host
Did many a Roman chief and Asian king
To doubtful conflict, certain slaughter, bring
Look where the second Caesar’s trophies rose,
Now, like the hands that reared them, withering;
Imperial anarchs, doubling human woes!
God! was thy globe ordained for such to win and lose?

***

Blood follows blood, and through their mortal span,
In bloodier acts conclude those who with blood began.

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Oscar Wilde: Who would dare to praise the barren pride of warring nations?

December 20, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Oscar Wilde: Antidote to war

Oscar Wilde: Crimson seas of war, Great Game in Central and South Asia

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Oscar Wilde
From Ravenna

Thou hast not followed that immortal Star
Which leads the people forth to deeds of war.
Weary of life, thou liest in silent sleep,
As one who marks the lengthening shadows creep,
Careless of all the hurrying hours that run…

Yet wake not from thy slumbers, – rest thee well,
Amidst thy fields of amber asphodel,
Thy lily-sprinkled meadows, – rest thee there,
To mock all human greatness: who would dare
To vent the paltry sorrows of his life
Before thy ruins, or to praise the strife
Of kings’ ambition, and the barren pride
Of warring nations!

***

For as the olive-garland of the race,
Which lights with joy each eager runner’s face,
As the red cross which saveth men in war,
As a flame-bearded beacon seen from far
By mariners upon a storm-tossed sea, –
Such was his love for Greece and Liberty!

Byron, thy crowns are ever fresh and green:
Red leaves of rose from Sapphic Mitylene
Shall bind thy brows; the myrtle blooms for thee,
In hidden glades by lonely Castaly;
The laurels wait thy coming: all are thine,
And round thy head one perfect wreath will twine.

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Byron: The grave shall bear the chiefest prize away

December 19, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Byron: Selections on war

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Byron
From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

By Heaven! it is a splendid sight to see
(For one who hath no friend, no brother there)
Their rival scarfs of mixed embroidery,
Their various arms that glitter in the air!
What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,
And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey!
All join the chase, but few the triumph share:
The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can cumber their array.

The foe, the victim, and the fond ally
That fights for all, but ever fights in vain,
Are met – as if at home they could not die –
To feed the crow on Talavera’s plain,
And fertilise the field that each pretends to gain.

There shall they rot – Ambition’s honoured fools!

Enough of Battle’s minions! let them play
Their game of lives, and barter breath for fame:
Fame that will scarce reanimate their clay,
Though thousands fall to deck some single name.

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Robert Browning: Far and wide the victims of our warfare strew the plain

December 18, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Browning: Peace rises within them ever more and more

Robert Browning: They sent a million fighters forth South and North

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Robert Browning
From Jochanan Hakkadosh

“Say there’s a tyrant by whose death we earn
Freedom, and justify a war to wage:
Good! – were we only able to discern

“Exactly how to reach and catch and cage
Him only and no innocent beside!
Whereas the folk whereon war wreaks its rage

” – How shared they his ill-doing? Far and wide
The victims of our warfare strew the plain,
Ten thousand dead, whereof not one but died

“In faith that vassals owed their suzerain
Life: therefore each paid tribute, – honest soul, –
To that same Right and Good ourselves are fain

“To call exclusively our end…”

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William Wordsworth: Prophetic harps were singing, “War shall cease”

December 16, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war

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William Wordsworth
From The Excursion

Glory – beyond all glory ever seen,
Confusion infinite of heaven and earth,
Dazzling the soul. Meanwhile, prophetic harps
In every grove were ringing, ‘War shall cease;
‘Did ye not hear that conquest is abjured?
‘Bring garlands, bring forth choicest flowers, to deck
‘The tree of Liberty.’

***

Knowledge, methinks, in these disordered times,
Should be allowed a privilege to have
Her anchorites, like piety of old;
Men, who, from faction sacred, and unstained
By war, might, if so minded, turn aside
Uncensured, and subsist, a scattered few
Living to God and nature, and content
With that communion…

***

Truth every day exemplified, no less
In the grey cottage by the murmuring stream
Than in fantastic conqueror’s roving camp,
Or ‘mid the factious senate, unappalled
Whoe’er may sink, or rise – to sink again,
As merciless proscription ebbs and flows.

***

Our life is turned
Out of her course, wherever man is made
An offering, or a sacrifice, a tool
Or implement, a passive thing employed
As a brute mean, without acknowledgment
Of common right or interest in the end;
Used or abused, as selfishness may prompt.

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Walter Savage Landor: Some stopped revenge athirst for slaughter

December 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Walter Savage Landor

From On the Conflgration of the Po

Where once was fire, and men to men were true.
Fierce ones and faithless now approach the waste,
Who look transversely with an evil eye,
And scowl and threaten, and uplift the sword,
And, if they lower it, ’tis but to grasp more
And more of amber left on either bank. Apollo hates the land he once so loved,
Nor swan is seen nor nightingale is heard
Nigh the dead river and affrighted vale…

From To the River Avon

Avon! why runnest thou away so fast?
Rest thee before that Chancel where repose
The bones of him whose spirit moves the world.
I have beheld thy birthplace, I have seen
Thy tiny ripples where they play amid
The golden cups and ever-waving blades.
I have seen mighty rivers, I have seen
Padus, recovered from his fiery wound,
And Tiber, prouder than them all to bear
Upon his tawny bosom men who crusht
The world they trod on, heeding not the cries
Of culprit kings and nations many-tongued.
What are to me these rivers, once adorn’d
With crowns they would not wear but swept away?
Worthier art thou of worship, and I bend
My knees upon thy bank, and call thy name,
And hear, or think I hear, thy voice reply.

****

From Gebir

‘Some stopped revenge athirst for slaughter, some
Sowed the slow olive for a race unborn.
These had no wishes, therefore none are crowned;
But theirs are tufted banks, theirs umbrage, theirs
Enough of sunshine to enjoy the shade,
And breeze enough to lull them to repose.’

Oft the grave judge alarms religious wealth
And rouses anger under gentle words.
Woe to the wiser few who dare to cry
‘People! these men are not your enemies,
Inquire their errand, and resist when wronged.’

Through palaces and porches evil eyes
Light upon e’en the wretched, who have fled
The house of bondage or the house of birth;
Suspicions, murmurs, treacheries, taunts, retorts,
Attend the brighter banners that invade;
And the first horn of hunter, pale with want,
Sounds to the chase, the second to the war.

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James Hogg: Few such monsters can mankind endure: The fields are heaped with dead and dying.

December 12, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

James Hogg: Millions have bled that sycophants may rule

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James Hogg
From The Russiadde

Others employ the immortal mind
To wrest and vex the human kind…

Another loves to rob and plunder;
O’er fields of death to guide the thunder;
And still his fev’rish mind is brewing
How to arise on others’ ruin.
The nation’s groan, for pity crying,
The fields are heaped with dead and dying!
No qualm of conscience! no disgust!
For power and rule is all his lust.
But thanks to Him who rules on high,
And lightens nature with his eye,
That few such monsters, very few
On earth these ravages renew.
Two such within an age, are sure
As much as mankind can endure,
And God in mercy oft sends fewer.

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Robert Southey: Selections on peace and war

December 11, 2016 Leave a comment
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William Wordsworth: All merit centered in the sword; battle’s hecatombs

December 9, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war

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William Wordsworth
From various poems

No shadowy forms entice the soul aside,
Secure she walks, Philosophy her guide.
Britain, who long her warriors had adored,
And deemed all merit centred in the sword;
Britain, who thought to stain the field was fame,
Now honoured Edward’s less than Bacon’s name.
Her sons no more in listed fields advance
To ride the ring, or toss the beamy lance;
No longer steel their indurated hearts
To the mild influence of the finer arts…

***

Tho’ now, where erst the grey-clad peasant stray’d,
To break the quiet of the village shade
Gleam war’s discordant habits thro’ the trees,
And the red banner mock the sullen breeze;
Tho’ now no more thy maids their voices suit
To the low-warbled breath of twilight lute,
And heard, the pausing village hum between,
No solemn songstress lull the fading green,
Scared by the fife, and rumbling drum’s alarms,
And the short thunder, and the flash of arms…

***

That man will have a trophy, humble Spade!
A trophy nobler than a conqueror’s sword.

***

The Heavens are thronged with martyrs that have risen
From out thy noisome prison;
The penal caverns groan
With tens of thousands rent from off the tree
Of hopeful life, – by battle’s whirlwind blown
Into the deserts of Eternity.
Unpitied havoc! Victims unlamented!
But not on high, where madness is resented,
And murder causes some sad tears to flow,
Though, from the widely-sweeping blow,
The choirs of Angels spread, triumphantly augmented.

***

The rivers stained so oft with human gore,
Are conscious; – may the like return no more!
May Discord – for a Seraph’s care
Shall be attended with a bolder prayer –
May she, who once disturbed the seats of bliss
These mortal spheres above,
Be chained for ever to the black abyss.
And thou, O rescued Earth, by peace and love,
And merciful desires, thy sanctity approve!’

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James Hogg: Millions have bled that sycophants may rule

December 8, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

James Hogg: Few such monsters can mankind endure: The fields are heaped with dead and dying.

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James Hogg
From The Guerrilla

O, Heaven! can life-blood only that abate?
Did’st thou the human frame for slaughter thus create?

Millions have bled that sycophants may rule.
Have fallen to dust and left no trace behind;
And yet we say that Heaven is merciful.
And loves and cares for all the human kind;
And we will spread our hands, and mouthe the wind,
With fulsome thanks for all its tenderness.
Ah me! that man, preposterously blind,
Should feel, hear, see, reflect, yet not the less
Hope in his hopeless state of abject nothingness!

Poor worm! to death, doubt, and despondence born,
How blest art thou entrusting Providence!
Oh, thou hast nought to dread, though all forlorn!
Thou hast a guardian, a sure defence!
There rest, environed in Omnipotence,
In safety rest Alas! and woe is me.
That tyrant should, on any vague pretence,
Drunkard, or madman, do away with thee,
Thou thing of high regard! – of immortality!

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Leigh Hunt: The devilish drouth of the cannon’s ever-gaping mouth

December 7, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Leigh Hunt: Captain Sword and Captain Pen

Leigh Hunt: Some Remarks On War And Military Statesmen

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Leigh Hunt
From Power and Gentleness

I’ve thought, at gentle and ungentle hour.
Of many an act and giant shape of power…
And then of all the fierce and bitter fruit
Of the proud planting of a tyrannous foot,-
Of bruised rights, and flourishing bad men,
And virtue wasting heavenwards from a den;
Brute force, and fury; and the devilish drouth
Of the fool cannon’s ever-gaping mouth;
And the bride-widowing sword; and the harsh bray
The sneering trumpet sends across the fray;
And all which lights the people-thinning star
That selfishness invokes, – the horsed war.
Panting along with many a bloody mane. –
I’ve thought of all this pride, and all this pain,
And all the insolent plenitudes of power,
And I declare, by this most quiet hour,
Which holds in different tasks by the fire-light
Me and my friends here, this delightful night.
That Power itself has not one half the might
Of Gentleness. ‘Tis want to all true wealth;
The uneasy madman’s force, to the wise health;
Blind downward beating, to the eyes that see;
Noise to persuasion, doubt to certainty;
The consciousness of strength in enemies,
Who must be strain’d upon, or else they rise;
The battle to the moon, who all the while.
High out of hearing, passes with her smile;
The tempest, trampling in his scanty run,
To the whole globe, that basks about the sun;
Or as all shrieks and clangs, with which a sphere.
Undone and fired, could rake the midnight ear,
Compared with that vast dumbness nature keeps
Throughout her starry deeps,
Most old, and mild, and awful, and unbroken.
Which tells a tale of peace beyond whate’er was spoken.

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Edward Young: Selections on peace and war

December 5, 2016 Leave a comment
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Robert Southey: Wade to glory through a sea of blood

December 4, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Southey: Selections on peace and war

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Robert Southey
To Fame

On the high summit of yon rocky hill,
Proud Fame! thy temple stands, and see around
What thronging thousands press; and hark! the sound
That fires ambition: ’tis thy clarion shrill.
Amid thy path the deadly thorn is strew’d,
And oft intwin’d around the wreath they claim;
And many spurn at justice’ sacred name,
And “wade to glory through a sea of blood.”
Be mine to leave thy path, thy motley crowd,
And, while to hear their names proclaim’d aloud
Upon the brazen trump, the throng rejoice,
I’ll court fair virtue in her humbler sphere,
More pleas’d in calm reflection’s hour to hear
The approving whispers of her still small voice.

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Edward Young: Such a peace that follows war

December 2, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Edward Young: Selections on peace and war

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From : An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne

Nor is it peace alone, but such a peace,
As more than bids the rage of battle cease.
Death may determine war, and rest succeed,
‘Cause nought survives on which our rage may feed:
In faithful friends we lose our glorious foes,
And strifes of love exalt our sweet repose.

***

From conflicts pass’d each other’s worth we find,
And thence in stricter friendship now are join’d;
Each wound receiv’d, now pleads the cause of love,
And former injuries endearments prove.

***

Thus generous hatred in affection ends,
And war, which rais’d the foes, completes the friends.
A thousand happy consequences flow
(The dazzling prospect makes my bosom glow);
Commerce shall lift her swelling sails, and roll
Her wealthy fleets secure from pole to pole…

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Abraham Cowley: Like the peace, but think it comes too late

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Abraham Cowley: Only peace breeds scarcity in Hell

Abraham Cowley: To give peace and then the rules of peace

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Abraham Cowley

This happy concord in no blood is writ,
None can grudge Heaven full thanks for it:
No mothers here lament their children’s fate.
And like the peace, but think it comes too late.
No widows hear the jocund bells.
And take them for their husbands’ knells:
No drop of blood is spilt, which might be said
To mark our joyful holiday with red.

***

The armour now may be hung up to sight.
And only in their halls the children fright.
The gain of civil wars will not allow
Bay to the conqueror’s brow:
At such a game what fool would venture in.
Where one must lose, yet neither side can win?

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Edward Young: End of war the herald of wisdom and poetry

November 29, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Edward Young: Selections on peace and war

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Edward Young
From An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne

Now war is weary, and retir’d to rest;
The meagre famine, and the spotted pest,
Deputed in her stead, may blast the day,
And sweep the relics of the sword away.
When peaceful Numa fill’d the Roman throne,
Jove in the fulness of his glory shone;
Wise Solomon, a stranger to the sword,
Was born to raise a temple to the Lord.

***

Of greater things than peace or war inquire;
Fully content, and unconcern’d, to know
What farther passes in the world below.
The bravest of mankind shall now have leave
To die but once, nor piece-meal seek the grave:
On gain or pleasure bent, we shall not meet
Sad melancholy numbers in each street
(Owners of bones dispers’d on Flandria’s plain,
Or wasting in the bottom of the main);
To turn us back from joy, in tender fear,
Lest it an insult of their woes appear,
And make us grudge ourselves that wealth, their blood
Perhaps preserv’d, who starve, or beg for food.
Devotion shall run pure, and disengage
From that strange fate of mixing peace with rage.
On heaven without a sin we now may call,
And guiltless to our Maker prostrate fall;
Be Christians while we pray, nor in one breath
Ask mercy for ourselves, for others death.

***

Much we shall triumph in our battles past,
And yet consent those battles prove our last;
Lest, while in arms for brighter fame we strive,
We lose the means to keep that fame alive.
In silent groves the birds delight to sing,
Or near the margin of a secret spring:
Now all is calm, sweet music shall improve,
Nor kindle rage, but be the nurse of love.

***

The thunder of the battle ceas’d to roar,
Ere Greece her godlike poets taught to soar;
Rome’s dreadful foe, great Hannibal, was dead,
And all her warlike neighbours round her bled;
For Janus shut, her Iö Pæans rung,
Before an Ovid or a Virgil sung.

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Edward Young: No more the rising harvest whets the sword, now peace, though long repuls’d, arrives at last

November 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Edward Young: Selections on peace and war

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Edward Young

From On the Late Queen’s Death, And His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne

Heroes returning from the field we crown,
And deify the haughty victor’s frown.
His splendid wealth too rashly we admire,
Catch the disease, and burn with equal fire:
Wisely to spend, is the great art of gain;
And one reliev’d transcends a million slain.
When time shall ask, where once Ramillia lay,
Or Danube flow’d that swept whole troops away,
One drop of water, that refresh’d the dry,
Shall rise a fountain of eternal joy.

***

From An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne

Long has the western world reclin’d her head,
Pour’d forth her sorrow, and bewail’d her dead;
Fell discord through her borders fiercely rang’d,
And shook her nations, and her monarchs chang’d;
By land and sea, its utmost rage employ’d;
Nor heaven repair’d so fast as men destroy’d.
In vain kind summers plentuous fields bestow’d,
In vain the vintage liberally flow’d;
Alarms from loaden boards all pleasures chas’d,
And robb’d the rich Burgundian grape of taste;
The smiles of Nature could no blessing bring,
The fruitful autumn, or the flowery spring;
Time was distinguish’d by the sword and spear,
Not by the various aspects of the year;
The trumpet’s sound proclaim’d a milder sky,
And bloodshed told us when the sun was nigh.

Now peace, though long repuls’d, arrives at last,
And bids us smile on all our labours past;
Bids every nation cease her wonted moan,
And every monarch call his crown his own:
To valour gentler virtues now succeed;
No longer is the great man born to bleed;

No more the rising harvest whets the sword,
No longer waves uncertain of its lord;
Who cast the seed, the golden sheaf shall claim,
Nor chance of battle change the master’s name.
Each stream unstain’d with blood more smoothly flows;
The brighter sun a fuller day bestows…

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Edward Young: Reason’s a bloodless conqueror, more glorious than the sword

November 27, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Edward Young: Selections on peace and war

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Edward Young

From Resignation

Nor…be surpris’d to hear
That laurels may be due
Not more to heroes of the field,
(Proud boasters!) than to you…

Beneath a banner nobler far
Than ever was unfurl’d
In fields of blood; a banner bright!
High wav’d o’er all the world.
It, like a streaming meteor, casts
A universal light…

The billows stain’d by slaughter’d foes
Inferior praise afford;
Reason’s a bloodless conqueror,
More glorious than the sword.

***

From The Last Day

A life well spent, not the victorious sword,
Awards the crown, and styles the greater lord.
Nor monuments alone, and burial-earth,
Labours with man to this his second birth;
But where gay palaces in pomp arise,
And gilded theatres invade the skies,
Nations shall wake, whose unrespected bones
Support the pride of their luxurious sons.
The most magnificent and costly dome
Is but an upper chamber to the tomb.

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William Wordsworth: If men with men in peace abide, all other strength the weakest may withstand

November 16, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war

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William Wordsworth

From Journey Renewed

And now, if men with men in peace abide,
All other strength the weakest may withstand,
All worse assaults may safely be defied.

***

From The River Duddon

But here no cannon thunders to the gale;
Upon the wave no haughty pendants cast
A crimson splendour: lowly is the mast
That rises here, and humbly spread, the sail;
While, less disturbed than in the narrow Vale
Through which with strange vicissitudes he passed,
The Wanderer seeks that receptacle vast
Where all his unambitious functions fail
And may thy Poet, cloud-born Stream! be free –
The sweets of earth contentedly resigned,
And each tumultuous working left behind
At seemly distance – to advance like Thee;
Prepared, in peace of heart, in calm of mind
And soul, to mingle with Eternity!

***

From 1810

Overweening Statesmen have full long relied
On fleets and armies, and external wealth:
But from within proceeds a Nation’s health…

***

From Guilt and Sorrow
Or Incidents Upon Salisbury Plain

“Bad is the world, and hard is the world’s law
Even for the man who wears the warmest fleece;
Much need have ye that time more closely draw
The bond of nature, all unkindness cease,
And that among so few there still be peace:
Else can ye hope but with such numerous foes
Your pains shall ever with your years increase?”

***

From On the Power of Sound

The trumpet (we, intoxicate with pride,
Arm at its blast for deadly wars)
To archangelic lips applied,
The grave shall open, quench the stars.

***

From Peter Bell

Away we go – and what care we
For treasons, tumults, and for wars?
We are as calm in our delight
As is the crescent-moon so bright
Among the scattered stars.

The Crab, the Scorpion, and the Bull –
We pry among them all; have shot
High o’er the red-haired race of Mars,
Covered from top to toe with scars;
Such company I like it not!

***

Hart-Leap Well
Part Second

The moving accident is not my trade;
To freeze the blood I have no ready arts:
‘Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,
To pipe a simple song for thinking hearts.

As I from Hawes to Richmond did repair,
It chanced that I saw standing in a dell
Three aspens at three corners of a square;
And one, not four yards distant, near a well.

What this imported I could ill divine:
And, pulling now the rein my horse to stop,
I saw three pillars standing in a line, –
The last stone-pillar on a dark hill-top.

The trees were grey, with neither arms nor head;
Half wasted the square mound of tawny green;
So that you just might say, as then I said,
“Here in old time the hand of man hath been.”

I looked upon the hill both far and near,
More doleful place did never eye survey;
It seemed as if the spring-time came not here,
And Nature here were willing to decay.

I stood in various thoughts and fancies lost,
When one, who was in shepherd’s garb attired,
Came up the hollow: – him did I accost,
And what this place might be I then inquired.

The Shepherd stopped, and that same story told
Which in my former rhyme I have rehearsed.
“A jolly place,” said he, “in times of old!
But something ails it now: the spot is curst.

“You see these lifeless stumps of aspen wood –
Some say that they are beeches, others elms –
These were the bower; and here a mansion stood,
The finest palace of a hundred realms!

“The arbour does its own condition tell;
You see the stones, the fountain, and the stream;
But as to the great Lodge! you might as well
Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.

“There’s neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,
Will wet his lips within that cup of stone;
And oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,
This water doth send forth a dolorous groan.

“Some say that here a murder has been done,
And blood cries out for blood: but, for my part,
I’ve guessed, when I’ve been sitting in the sun,
That it was all for that unhappy Hart.

“What thoughts must through the creature’s brain have past!
Even from the topmost stone, upon the steep,
Are but three bounds – and look, Sir, at this last –
O Master! it has been a cruel leap.

“For thirteen hours he ran a desperate race;
And in my simple mind we cannot tell
What cause the Hart might have to love this place,
And come and make his deathbed near the well.

“Here on the grass perhaps asleep he sank,
Lulled by the fountain in the summer-tide;
This water was perhaps the first he drank
When he had wandered from his mother’s side.

“In April here beneath the flowering thorn
He heard the birds their morning carols sing;
And he, perhaps, for aught we know, was born
Not half a furlong from that self-same spring.

“Now, here is neither grass nor pleasant shade;
The sun on drearier hollow never shone;
So will it be, as I have often said,
Till trees, and stones, and fountain, all are gone.”

“Grey-headed Shepherd, thou hast spoken well;
Small difference lies between thy creed and mine:
This Beast not unobserved by Nature fell;
His death was mourned by sympathy divine.

“The Being, that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves,
Maintains a deep and reverential care
For the unoffending creatures whom he loves.

“The pleasure-house is dust: – behind, before,
This is no common waste, no common gloom;
But Nature, in due course of time, once more
Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.

“She leaves these objects to a slow decay,
That what we are, and have been, may be known;
But at the coming of the milder day,
These monuments shall all be overgrown.

“One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals;
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.”

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Robert Browning: Peace rises within them ever more and more

November 14, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Browning: Far and wide the victims of our warfare strew the plain

Robert Browning: They sent a million fighters forth South and North

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Robert Browning

From Paracelsus

For men begin to pass their nature’s bound,
And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant
Their proper joys and griefs; they grow too great
For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade
Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace
Rises within them ever more and more.
Such men are even now upon the earth,
Serene amid the half-formed creatures round
Who should be saved by them and joined with them.

***

From Strafford: A Tragedy

I! I! that was never spoken with
Till it was entered on! That loathe the war!
That say it is the maddest, wickedest …
Do you know, sir, I think within my heart,
That you would say I did advise the war…

***

From Sordello

As you then were, as half yourself, desist!
The warrior-part of you may, an it list,
Finding real falchions difficult to poise,
Fling them afar and taste the cream of joys
By wielding such in fancy…

But all is changed the moment you descry
Mankind as half yourself, – then, fancy’s trade
Ends once and always: how may half evade
The other half? men are found half of you.
Out of a thousand helps, just one or two
Can be accomplished presently…

See if, for that, your other half will stop
Should the new sympathies allow you.
A tear, begin a smile! The rabble’s woes,
Ludicrous in their patience as they chose
To sit about their town and quietly
Be slaughtered, – the poor reckless soldiery,
With their ignoble rhymes on Richard, how
‘Polt-foot,’ sang they, ‘was in a pitfall now,’
Cheering each other from the engine-mounts…

***

Air, flame, earth, wave at conflict! Then, needs must
Emerge some Calm embodied, these refer
The brawl to – yellow-bearded Jupiter?
No! Saturn; some existence like a pact
And protest against Chaos, some first fact
I’ the faint of time.

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William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war

November 13, 2016 Leave a comment
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William Wordsworth: Spreading peaceful ensigns over war’s favourite playground

November 7, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war

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William Wordsworth

From 1810

Overweening Statesmen have full long relied
On fleets and armies, and external wealth:
But from within proceeds a Nation’s health…

From Ode

Wide-wasted regions – cities wrapt in flame –
Who sees, may lift a streaming eye
To Heaven; – who never saw, may heave a sigh;
But the foundation of our nature shakes,
And with an infinite pain the spirit aches,
When desolated countries, towns on fire,
Are but the avowed attire
Of warfare waged with desperate mind
Against the life of virtue in mankind;
Assaulting without ruth
The citadels of truth;
While the fair gardens of civility,
By ignorance defaced,
By violence laid waste,
Perish without reprieve for flower or tree!

Between Namur and Liege

What lovelier home could gentle Fancy choose?
Is this the stream, whose cities, heights, and plains,
War’s favourite playground, are with crimson stains
Familiar, as the Morn with pearly dews?
The Morn, that now, along the silver MEUSE,
Spreading her peaceful ensigns, calls the swains
To tend their silent boats and ringing wains,
Or strip the bough whose mellow fruit bestrews
The ripening corn beneath it. As mine eyes
Turn from the fortified and threatening hill,
How sweet the prospect of yon watery glade,
With its grey rocks clustering in pensive shade –
That, shaped like old monastic turrets, rise
From the smooth meadow-ground, serene and still!

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William Wordsworth: Earth’s groaning field, where ruthless mortals wage incessant wars

November 6, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war

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William Wordsworth
Composed by the Side of Grassmere Lake

Clouds, lingering yet, extend in solid bars
Through the grey west; and lo! these waters, steeled
By breezeless air to smoothest polish, yield
A vivid repetition of the stars;
Jove, Venus, and the ruddy crest of Mars
Amid his fellows beauteously revealed
At happy distance from earth’s groaning field,
Where ruthless mortals wage incessant wars.
Is it a mirror? – or the nether Sphere
Opening to view the abyss in which she feeds 10
Her own calm fires? – But list! a voice is near;
Great Pan himself low-whispering through the reeds,
“Be thankful, thou; for, if unholy deeds
Ravage the world, tranquillity is here!”

***

Go back to antique ages, if thine eyes
The genuine mien and character would trace
Of the rash Spirit that still holds her place,
Prompting the world’s audacious vanities!
Go back, and see the Tower of Babel rise;
The pyramid extend its monstrous base,
For some Aspirant of our short-lived race,
Anxious an aery name to immortalize.
There, too, ere wiles and politic dispute
Gave specious colouring to aim and act,
See the first mighty Hunter leave the brute
To chase mankind, with men in armies packed
For his field-pastime high and absolute,
While, to dislodge his game, cities are sacked!

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