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Florence Earle Coates: The New Mars

February 24, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Florence Earle Coates: War

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Florence Earle Coates
The New Mars

I war against the folly that is War,
⁠The sacrifice that pity hath not stayed,
The Great Delusion men have perished for,
⁠The lie that hath the souls of men betrayed:
I war for justice and for human right,
Against the lawless tyranny of Might.

A monstrous cult has held the world too long:
⁠The worship of a Moloch that hath slain
Remorselessly the young, the brave, the strong, –
⁠Indifferent to the unmeasured pain,
The accumulated horror and despair,
That stricken Earth no longer wills to bear.

My goal is peace, – not peace at any price,
⁠While yet ensanguined jaws of Evil yawn
Hungry and pitiless: Nay, peace were vice
⁠Until the cruel dragon-teeth be drawn,
And the wronged victims of Oppression be
Delivered from its hateful rule, and free!

When comes that hour, resentment laid aside,
⁠Into a ploughshare will I beat my sword;
The weaker Nations’ strength shall be my pride,
⁠Their gladness my exceeding great reward;
And not in vain shall be the tears now shed,
Nor vain the service of the gallant dead.

****

I war against the folly which is War,
⁠The futile sacrifice that naught hath stayed,
The Great Delusion men have perished for,
⁠The lie that hath the souls of men betrayed;
For faith I war, humanity, and trust;
For peace on earth – a lasting peace, and just!

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Alexander Serafimovich: Down with war!

February 23, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Alexander Serafimovich
From The Iron Flood
Translator unidentified

Could it be Easter? No, the people were not celebrating a church feast. This was a human feast, the first of its kind in the long ages. The first since the creation of the world.

Down with war!

Cossacks embraced one another. They embraced aliens. There were no longer either Cossacks or aliens – all were citizens. There were no longer “kulaks” or “devil’s offal.” All were citizens.

Down with war!

In February the tzar had been overthrown. Then, in October, in far-off Russia, something else had happened. What it was nobody could tell exactly, but it was something which had gone deep into every heart.

Down with war!

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Shrapnel again. Thousands of deaths, blood, agony. Again his machine-guns had done their grim work and rows of human bodies had been cut down like grass. For he’d had a wonderfully true eye. For whose sake, in those days of superhuman strength, with death perpetually beside him, for whose sake had this knee-deep blood been shed? Was it for the tsar, the fatherland, the orthodox faith? Perhaps he asked himself those questions, but he never found a definite answer.

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They had seen all at once that which for ages they had been unable to see, but nevertheless had been keenly aware of – the generals, officers, judges, chiefs, the big army of officials, and the intolerable, ruinous military service. Each Cossack had had to equip his sons for military service at his own expense; after buying a horse, saddle, rifle and equipment for three or four sons, he was ruined. Things were otherwise for the peasants. They had gone to the wars empty-handed and had been given all they needed, equipped from head to foot. The mass of Cossacks had grown steadily poorer, dividing into layers, the well-to-do Cossacks rising to the top, gaining in strength and influence, the others gradually going under.

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The German commandant, quartered on the battleship, observing the movement of crowds in this foreign town which he still held under control of the kaiser’s guns, resented it as a sign of disorder and issued a command that these unknown people, these carts, soldiers, women, and children, this great crowd hurrying past the town, must halt immediately, must deliver all their arms, forage, food supplies, and await his further instructions….

The German commandant waited in vain for them to stop.

Then, breaking the blue stillness, came a boom from the battleship, roaring and breaking against the mountains, in the precipices and ravines, as if huge rocks were hurtling down. Echo sent the crash back into the far distance of the tranquil blue.

Over the gliding human snake mysteriously and unobtrusively appeared a white puff, followed by a heavy crash; the white puff, gently floating sideways, began to melt.

A sorrel gelding reared and thumped heavily to the ground, breaking both the shafts of the cart he was hitched to. A score of people rushed to him, seized his mane, tail, legs. ears, forelock and dragged him from the high-road into the ditch where they dumped the cart after him….

Another huge, blinding tongue flashed on the battleship, once more a crash shook the town, rolled among the mountains, and echoed back from behind the smooth sea; again a snowy white puff appeared in the sparkling blue sky and several people fell moaning. In a cart an infant, greedily sucking the breast of a young woman with black eyebrows and rings in her ears, suddenly became limp, his little hands fell away from the breast, his lips opened and let go of the nipple.

The mother gave a savage animal cry. People rushed to her but she pushed them away fiercely and obstinately squeezed her nipple from which the milk was dripping in warm white drops, into the baby’s tiny mouth. The little face, with upturned eyes which had lost the sparkle of life, was already turning yellow.

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Richard Le Gallienne: The Rainbow

February 22, 2021 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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Richard Le Gallienne
The Rainbow

‘These things are real,’ said one, and bade me gaze
On black and mighty shapes of iron and stone,
On murder, on madness, on lust, on towns ablaze,
And on a thing made all of rattling bone:
‘What,’ said he, ‘will you bring to match with these?’
‘Yea! War is real,’ I said, ‘and real is Death,
A little while – mortal realities;
But Love and Hope draw an immortal breath.’

Think you the storm that wrecks a summer day,
With funeral blackness and with leaping fire
And boiling roar of rain, more real than they
That, when the warring heavens begin to tire,
With tender fingers on the tumult paint;
Spanning the huddled wrack from base to cope
With soft effulgence, like some haloed saint, –
The rainbow bridge eternal that is Hope.

Deem her no phantom born of desperate dreams:
Ere man yet was, ’twas hope that wrought him man;
The blind earth, climbing skyward by her gleams,
Hoped – and the beauty of the world began.
Prophetic of all loveliness to be,
Though God Himself seem from His station hurled,
Still shall the blackest hell look up and see
Hope’s rainbow on the summits of the world.

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Nathan Haskell Dole: The Vision of Peace

February 21, 2021 Leave a comment


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

American writers on peace and against war

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Nathan Haskell Dole
From Onward
A Vision of Peace
Symphonic Pictures in Nine Movements

The Vision of Peace

O, beautiful Vision of Peace,
Beam bright in the eyes of Man!
The host of the meek shall increase,
The Prophets are leading the van.

Have courage: we see the Morn!
Never fear, tho’ the Now be dark!
Out of Night the Day is born;
The Fire shall live from the spark.
It may take a thousand years
Ere the Era of Peace hold sway.
Look back and the Progress cheers
And a thousand years are a day!
The World grows – yet not by chance;
It follows some marvellous plan;
Tho’ slow to our wish the advance,
God rules the training of Man.

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We gain contentment from a calm survey
Of vanisht epochs, great, tho’ less than ours;
But Hope still promises a better day
When Peace shall reign among the rival Powers.

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From the fire grew Civilization;
The metals were worked into tools –
Into weapons for nation ‘gainst nation.
Into gyves for knaves and for fools.

To the men that lived in those ages,
The ages of Iron and Brass –
To even the Priests and the Sages –
How slow seemed abuses to pass.

But still there was Gain; we detect it
From the vantage of distance and time;
Wars and barbarous creeds may have checkt it;
But the Race was beginning to climb.

The Potter and Sculptor and Painter
Evolved new forms for their Art;
Crude colours grew softer and fainter,
And Poesy rose from the heart.

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The dynasties of Hyksos Kings
Grew haughty with their harvestings.
The few by power and wealth were cherisht;
The wretched millions, toiling, perisht.
Where now is that swart Pharaoh
Whose hieroglyphics, row on row,
Relate his titles and his name.
The realms he conquered and their fame?

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Prophet Vision sees a better day
In the future, maybe far away,
Yet the promise of it certain:
Might I only lift the curtain!

Wars of every stripe shall surely cease;
There shall dawn the happy reign of Peace,
Guaranteed by Arbitration,
Reverenced by every Nation.

All the Millions’ waste in needless war
(Foolish trifles men have battled for!)
Spent in costly armoured-cruisers
(Brutal Hates their only users!)
Spent in cruel, polisht, rifled guns,
Wasting smokeless powder, tons and tons,
Spent in forts and standing armies
(Slow men are to learn where harm is!),
Shall be utilized for human good
When the Law of Love is understood.

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Bertha von Suttner: Selections on peace and war

February 20, 2021 Leave a comment
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Sergei Sartakov: I fervently wish for universal peace

February 19, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Sergei Sartakov
From The Philosophers’ Stone
Translated by Fainna Glagoleva

From the preface

Of the many letters I received from readers after the Russian edition of The Philosophers’ Stone appeared, I would like especially to reply to two remarks that crop up time and again.

The first is that Victor and Timofei must meet again under different circumstance and come to an understanding.

The second is that the author must not leave his characters in midstream, as it were, especially since the events of the last chapter take place on the eve of the Second World War.

I always respect the views of my readers, and that is why I wish to explain my choice of an ending.

This is no problem as concerns Victor and Timofei meeting again. Those who wish for this are people for peace, not enmity. I am on their side, for I fervently wish for universal peace and well-being, for the happiness of one and all….I see a bright way of hope for the future, when each of the world’s citizens will be worthy of this proud name; when wars, violence, oppression and exploitation of some by others will vanish into the past, as have human sacrifices, the tortures of the Inquisition and the slave trade….

Man’s road on earth is not cut short by death. His work continues. His thoughts go on living. Besides, it would be most depressing to hear funeral bells tolling each time we turned the last page of a book. I am exaggerating a bit here, but is it not better to take leave of the main character at the point in his life when we know for certain that he will never disappoint our hopes and expectations?

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Victor spoke of the good life they had had in Omsk, where his father had been a lawyer. He had latter been called up, but had been a defense lawyer in the army, too. He had never been in the army before this, because he loved his people and did not want them to be at war….

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“All I lost was money, Colonel. And not all my money at that. But it was such an interesting game, Colonel.”

“I’ve seen men shoot themselves after such interesting games, Captain.”

Captain Stašek rubbed his temple, then cocked an eyebrow jauntily. “I could never really understand them. Cards excite me. They make me feel alive. Why should I kill myself? True, I lost. But I’d never give it another thought, Colonel. Actually, though, I don’t think one should play for money. And certainly not carry a gun while playing. Firearms rarely make one smile. They’re too dangerous.”

Colonel Hrudka shook his head with good-natured condescension. He carefully removed a piece of lint from Stasek’s sleeve.

“Would you mind telling me why you chose the army as a career then, Captain?”

“I really didn’t do the deciding, Colonel,” Stašek replied with a smile. “Besides, I always liked army bands and the spit and polish of parade uniforms. I had no idea that we’d soon be at war.”

“From which I can conclude that you were only too pleased to be taken prisoner.”

“Less pleased than I am now, when I’ve been released and am on my way home.”

“But you’ve killed men in action.”

“No, never, Colonel!” Stašek interrupted jovially. “Just imagine; not a single one. My conscience is clear. Naturally, I fired a gun but I never killed anyone. I was lucky.”

“You’re a very kind-hearted fellow, Stašek,” the colonel murmured as he flicked the ash off his cigarette. “Kind and, I’d say, lucky. You might have been forced to kill, you know. And if you didn’t, you might have been court-martialled for refusing. One can’t always fire off the mark. War is war. True, it’s all in the past now, and here we are, standing around in our undershirts.”

“I’ll do the same in the future, if I have to, Colonel. Fire off the mark, I mean.”

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Carl Sandburg: And They Obey

February 18, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Carl Sandburg
Fight

Red drips from my chin where I have been eating.
Not all the blood, nowhere near all, is wiped off my mouth.

Clots of red mess my hair
And the tiger, the buffalo, know how.

I was a killer.
Yes, I am a killer.

I come from killing.
I go to more.
I drive red joy ahead of me from killing.
Red gluts and red hungers run in the smears and juices of my inside bones:
The child cries for a suck mother and I cry for war.

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And They Obey

Smash down the cities.
Knock the walls to pieces.
Break the factories and cathedrals, warehouses and homes
Into loose piles of stone and lumber and black burnt wood:
You are the soldiers and we command you.

Build up the cities.
Set up the walls again.
Put together once more the factories and cathedrals, warehouses and homes
Into buildings for life and labor:
You are workmen and citizens all: We command you.

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Salvage

Guns on the battle lines have pounded now a year between Brussels and Paris.
And, William Morris, when I read your old chapter on the great arches and naves and little whimsical corners of the Churches of Northern France – Brr-rr!
I’m glad you’re a dead man, William Morris, I’m glad you’re down in the damp and mouldy, only a memory instead of a living man – I’m glad you’re gone.
You never lied to us, William Morris, you loved the shape of those stones piled and carved for you to dream over and wonder because workmen got joy of life into them,
Workmen in aprons singing while they hammered, and praying, and putting their songs and prayers into the walls and roofs, the bastions and cornerstones and gargoyles – all their children and kisses of women and wheat and roses growing.
I say, William Morris, I’m glad you’re gone, I’m glad you’re a dead man.
Guns on the battle lines have pounded a year now between Brussels and Paris.

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Edwin Markham: Peace

February 17, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Edwin Markham: Peace Over Africa

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Edwin Markham
Peace

O brother, lift a cry, a long world-cry
Sounding from sky to sky –
The cry of one great word,
Peace, peace, the world-will clamoring to be heard –
A cry to break the ancient battle-ban,
To end it in the sacred name of Man!

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Ida Whipple Benham: War’s weeding

February 16, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Ida Whipple Benham: The Friend of Peace

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Ida Whipple Benham
Weeding

Death went weeding, weeding,
His sickle over his shoulder;
The weak, the old, the over-bold,
Grew weaker, wanner, colder.
He weeded them out of the garden,
The frail folk racked with pain,
The sick, and the old, and the over-bold, –
And let the strong remain.

Now Death goes weeding, weeding, –
The sword the tool he uses!
He gathers the fair, the debonair,
The young, – and the old refuses.
He gathers out of the garden
The young and the strong and the gay,
He flings them far to the ditch of war, –
And the others he bids “Stay!”

So here in the ravaged garden
And out in the cornfield yonder,
The weak remain – lonely, in pain, –
And work, and brood, and ponder
How Death digs out of the garden
The strong, and the brave, and the gay,
The flower of the years, – with blood and tears, –
And flings them as weeds away.

****

A Warning

Thou pastor of the flock who, crook in hand,
Leadest the younglings through the vernal land,
Take heed! take heed and hear!
The wolf is near!

In clothing of soft wool, with meek, shrewd look,
He came – small wonder if the lambs mistook
The stranger, for he seemed
The thing they dreamed.

Into the fold he leaps! his eyes are bright,
His eager mouth half open, fangs in sight?
Wilt thou not turn about
And drive him out?

Dost hesitate? and art thou, too, deceived?
Haste, ere too great thy loss to be retrieved!
Ah woe, and woe the day!
Thou bid’st him stay!

Thou foolish shepherd, nay, it cannot be?
Two shepherds for one flock, the wolf and thee!
For what, then, hath he stayed
The Boys’ Brigade.

 

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Vasily Shukshin: How many lives destroyed

February 15, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Vasily Shukshin
From A Matchmaking
Translated by Robert Daglish

It was on May 9th. Victory Day. As usual on that day the whole village gathered at the cemetery, in memory of those who had been killed in the war. Someone from the village Soviet stood on a stool with a list and read out the names:

Grebtsov, Nikolai Mitrofanovich. Gulyayev, Ilya Vasilyevich. Glukhov, Vasily Yemelyanovich, Glukhov, Stepan Yemelyanovich, Glukhov, Pavel Yemelyanovich….

Those three were Yemelyan Glukhov’s sons. Always, when his sons’ names were read out, the old man felt the cruel fingers of grief clutching at his throat and found it hard to breathe….He would stare at the ground without weeping, and yet see nothing. He would go on standing there and the man from the Soviet would go on reading name after name….

People wept quietly at the cemetery. Into the corners of shawls, into their hands, sighing under their breath, as if afraid to disturb and insult the silence that belonged to these solemn minutes. When the old man felt a little relief he would look around. And always he would think the same thing, “How many lives destroyed.”

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Christopher Morley: Humanity’s most beautiful gift, Peace

February 14, 2021 Leave a comment


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

American writers on peace and against war

Christopher Morley: No enthusiasm for hymns of hate

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Christopher Morley
From Christmas Cards (1919)

When will artists and printers design us some Christmas cards that will be honest and appropriate to the time we live in? Never was the Day of Peace and Good Will so full of meaning as this year; and never did the little cards, charming as they were, seem so formal, so merely pretty, so devoid of imagination, so inadequate to the festival.

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From Old Thoughts for Christmas

Just for a few hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the stupid, harsh mechanism of the world runs down and we permit ourselves to live according to untrammeled common sense, the unconquerable efficiency of good will. We grant ourselves the complete and selfish pleasure of loving others better than ourselves. How odd it seems, how unnaturally happy we are! We feel there must be some mistake, and rather yearn for the familiar frictions and distresses. Just for a few hours we “purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.” We know then that hatred is a form of illness; that suspicion and pride are only fear; that the rascally acts of others are perhaps, in the queer webwork of human relations, due to some calousness of our own.


And now humanity has its most beautiful and most appropriate Christmas gift – Peace. The Magi of Versailles and Washington having unwound for us the tissue paper and red ribbon (or red tape) from this greatest of all gifts, let us in days to come measure up to what has been born through such anguish and horror. If war is illness and peace is health, let us remember also that health is not merely a blessing to be received intact once and for all. It is not a substance but a condition, to be maintained only by sound régime, self-discipline and simplicity. Let the Wise Men not be too wise; let them remember those other Wise Men who, after their long journey and their sage surmisings, found only a Child.


Then we can see that all our careful wisdom and shrewdness were folly and stupidity; and we can understand the meaning of that Great Surprise – that where we planned wealth we found ourselves poor; that where we thought to be impoverished we were enriched. The world is built upon a lovely plan if we take time to study the blue-prints of the heart.

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From Walt Whitman Miniatures

[On meeting with the shade of Whitman thirty years after his death.]

“Your centennial comes on May 31,” I said, “I hope you won’t be annoyed if Philadelphia doesn’t pay much attention to it. You know how things are around here.”

“My dear boy,” he said, “I am patient. The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferred till his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it. I have sung the songs of the Great Idea and that is reward in itself. I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised riches, I have given alms to every one that asked, stood up for the stupid and crazy, devoted my income and labor to others, hated tyrants, argued not concerning God, had patience and indulgence toward the people, taken off my hat to nothing known or unknown, gone freely with powerful uneducated persons and I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things – “

“All aboard!” cried the man at the gate of the ferry house.

He waved his hand with a benign patriarchal gesture and was gone.

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G. K. Chesterton: War’s regressive tendency

February 13, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

G.K. Chesterton: In modern war defeat is complete defeat

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G. K. Chesterton
From All Things Considered

I do not, as I have said, underrate the evils that really do arise from militarism and the military ethic. It tends to give people wooden faces and sometimes wooden heads. It tends moreover (both through its specialisation and through its constant obedience) to a certain loss of real independence and strength of character. This has almost always been found when people made the mistake of turning the soldier into a statesman, under the mistaken impression that he was a strong man.

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From What I Saw in America

The last war brought back body-armour; the next war may bring back bows and arrows.

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Which has most to do with shekels to-day, the priests or the politicians? Can we say in any special sense nowadays that clergymen, as such, make poison out of the blood of martyrs? Can we say it in anything like the real sense, in which we do say that yellow journalists make a poison out of the blood of soldiers?

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The men may be provincials, but they are certainly citizens; they consult on a common basis. And I repeat that in this, after all, they do achieve what many prophets and righteous men have died to achieve. This plain village, fairly prosperous, fairly equal, untaxed by tyrants and untroubled by wars, is after all the place which reformers have regarded as their aim; whenever reformers have used their wits sufficiently to have any aim. The march to Utopia, the march to the Earthly Paradise, the march to the New Jerusalem, has been very largely the march to Main Street.

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[There] is a danger of individuality being lost. This, indeed, is not peculiar to America; it is common to the whole industrial world, and to everything which substitutes the impersonal atmosphere of the State for the personal atmosphere of the home. But it is emphasized in America by the curious contradiction that Americans do in theory value and even venerate the individual. But individualism is still the foe of individuality. Where men are trying to compete with each other they are trying to copy each other.

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From All Things Considered

It is obvious that there is a great deal of difference between being international and being cosmopolitan. All good men are international. Nearly all bad men are cosmopolitan. If we are to be international we must be national. And it is largely because those who call themselves the friends of peace have not dwelt sufficiently on this distinction that they do not impress the bulk of any of the nations to which they belong. International peace means a peace between nations, not a peace after the destruction of nations, like the Buddhist peace after the destruction of personality. The golden age of the good European is like the heaven of the Christian: it is a place where people will love each other; not like the heaven of the Hindu, a place where they will be each other. And in the case of national character this can be seen in a curious way. It will generally be found, I think, that the more a man really appreciates and admires the soul of another people the less he will attempt to imitate it; he will be conscious that there is something in it too deep and too unmanageable to imitate.

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Vladimir Soloukhin: Shadow of this beautiful world being incinerated

February 12, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Vladimir Soloukhin
From Autumn Leaves
Translated by Margaret Wettlin

If a hundred years ago a poet could give himself up wholly to a contemplation of the beauty of the world, a modern poet in contemplating this beauty is aware of a shadow hovering over it. Too keenly does he sense the danger of this beautiful world being reduced to dust and ashes.

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Science is capable of annihilating Mt. Everest or even the moon, but it is incapable of changing the human heart. This is the mission of Art.

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Science with its formulas, tables, computations and deductions, organizes the rational side of man’s nature.

Art organizes the emotional side, for if science is the memory of man’s sense, art is the memory of man’s sensibility.

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Soon we will know how to make synthetic everything: synthetic rubber, synthetic bread, meat, fruit, cabbage. Out of coal and oil. But in time the supplies of coal and oil will be exhausted. Even if we learned to make bread out of granite, the granite would eventually come to an end.

What I am driving at is, that we are thereby exhausting the earth’s resources in the absolute sense, without replacing or replenishing them. Whereas when we grow wheat, grapes, trees, cotton and flax, we neither expend nor exhaust the earth, rather do we enrich it from year to year, for in practicing husbandry the sun’s energy is transformed into organic matter.

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Katrina Trask: “Wars shall cease. Peace shall knit the world together in a bond of common Brotherhood.”

February 11, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Katrina Trask
From In the Vanguard

ELSA
Suddenly I was awakened by a call – I thought it was your voice, calling Elsa, Elsa. I was frightened – O so frightened – I jumped up and ran to the window – it was dark; there were clouds in the sky – I knelt at the window, looking out into the night; and then, again I heard the voice – and I knew it was not yours: it was deep and terrible; it sounded like a bell tolling across measureless waters – but every word was clear, distinct. “Woe, woe,” cried the voice; “woe unto those who break the bonds of Brotherhood; woe unto those who lay waste the pleasant places of the earth; woe unto those who fan the powers of enmity and hate; woe unto those who have called false things true, cruel things brave, and barbarous things of good report.” Philip, I was so frightened!

Then, all was still. And as I knelt there, it was just as you said in your letter – it was as though a window opened in my mind – I seemed to see rivers of blood, hideous masses of horror, to hear the piteous cries of women and children and the moans and curses of those who died in the lust of battle. I remembered how I had thought only of the gorgeous surface show that covered the ghastly reality; at last, I saw the truth. I knew – I understood – and I was ashamed. I shuddered as I knelt there – I thought I could not bear it.

Her voice breaks – she is quiet for a moment

Suddenly, the clouds lifted, the morning star rose clear and beautiful, the dawn broke, and the rosy light came over the hills. Then, another voice – melodious, musical – spoke these words – “Fear not! Behold, a new order is dawning upon the earth. Wars shall cease. Peace shall knit the world together in a bond of common Brotherhood.”

****
THE BOYS
Singing.
Get your gun, get your gun,
And shoot them every one.
Let them fly, let them die,
Let them perish as they run.
Get your gun, get your gun,
O go and get your gun!

MR. GREART
Indignantly.
That is the way our boys’ morals are stunted and blunted. It is abominable! Unspeakable! War is Hell. Even our generals admit that – but they think that when war is over, the Hell is ended. They forget that the miasma of Hell spreads over the country and taints the little children, affecting them for life. How long, O Lord – how long will it take men to see that two and two make four?

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Dana Burnett: Selections on war

February 10, 2021 Leave a comment
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Vadim Kozhevnikov: “We seized power from women and there’s been war ever since”

February 9, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Vadim Kozhevnikov
From It Rained All Week
Translated by Olive Stevens

“Women are the best people in the world. The very best,” Bukhov would say reverently. “If there is anything bad in them, then they’ve got it from us men. We think a lot of ourselves, and they suffer from this. After all, there were times when there was a matriarchy and they were the bosses. I should imagine these were the days, the best. Would women ever have allowed war if they were in power? Never! They wouldn’t want their husbands and sons killed. They’re not fools! They’d have squabbled amongst themselves, that’s all. I’m convinced that we seized power from women in those days out of sheer arrogance, and there’s been war ever since.”

====

Bukhov was firmly convinced that his son should become an Air Force pilot.

“But everyone’s against war now,” said his wife.

“So what?” reasoned Bukhov. “I’m against it myself. And he’ll be against it too; and if he becomes a pilot, he’ll have even more cause to be against it.”

===

You’ve got the wrong idea of modern youth. We all realize how proud mankind should be of the achievements of science in our time….”

“You leave mankind alone,” interrupted Bukhov crossly. “I know about your mankind. Hardly out of the Second World War, and already making a grab for the atom bomb like an idiot, so that it can burn him to a frizzle….”

Categories: Uncategorized

Hermann Hagedorn: Leave God out of the game!

February 8, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Hermann Hagedorn
From Makers of Madness
A Play in One Act and Three Scenes

PRIME MINISTER

Your Majesty, I have served you for fifteen years and I served your exalted father for twenty. You are right. This war may be avoided. In two days this war-cloud could be so utterly dissipated that men would laugh here and in the great Republic that for a day they had talked so hotly of war. Dissipated. For a year, for two years. For always? No. The war must come sooner or later. It is a matter, in the first place, of prestige, of national honor. But, more emphatically, it is a question of mathematics, birth-rate, death-rate, revenue, taxes, industries, imports, exports.

[Crossing to left.

There is a map of the world, your Majesty. This stretch of land there we need as a safety-valve. If we get that we are safe. If we fail to get it we explode. Not at once. But sooner or later. Our army and navy have never been in better shape. These two gentlemen can give your Majesty their word for that. But you can take mine, too. The enemy’s army is politically rotten, and enfeebled by sentimental peace propaganda. Their defenses are inadequate and their navy likewise. Those things will change. Strike today – and they never raise their heads again. Wait – and it is you who may be crushed.

KING

[Sharply.

That is a theory. Not a fact. Ten years may change the aspect of things entirely, particularly if we use those ten years in preparations not for war but for peace, honest at home and abroad, just, open, civil, to our neighbors.

====

KING

You have thought of our national honor, our prestige, our commercial growth, our dynastic life. Have you given no thought at all to the men you send to death to purchase these?

PRIME MINISTER

A man has no higher privilege than to die for his country. I beg your Majesty – the paper?

KING

[Tearing the paper once across.

And the women?

PRIME MINISTER

[Grimly.

We’ll find them new husbands, your Majesty. The paper, if you please.

KING

[Tearing the paper into shreds.

I forbid this war!

PRIME MINISTER

[With controlled anger.

My God, your Majesty! You are letting a sentiment master you. There are worse things than war. There are possibilities in peace infinitely worse than any war, or there would be no war. War may kill a million bodies, but a wicked peace can snuff out unnumbered souls!

KING

I will take my chances with peace.

====

KING

[To CHIEF OF STAFF.

But you always detested war. You called yourself my Minister not of War, but of Peace.

MINISTER OF WAR

[Rigidly.

When the honor of our country is at stake –

KING

[Impatiently.

But nobody is attacking our honor!

PRIME MINISTER

[Bluntly.

The case is as I said. We need this war, and we must have it.

KING

[Torn by his conflicting desires.

I cannot let you resign. There is no one else I can trust as I trust you three. But not war, not war!

PRIME MINISTER

I am a lover of peace, but the time has come when we must have war.

CHIEF OF STAFF

It is our sacred duty, your Majesty, to draw our swords for light and justice when God calls!

CHIEF OF STAFF

And God has always been with us. God will be with us now!

KING

[White and tense.

You are three strong men against me. I want peace, but I am helpless without you three. For I am an anachronism. Not nature but human force, fighting against nature, keeps me on my throne. If you must have war, have it. But I tell you this: God has no part in it. Leave God out of the game!

[He sinks into the chair by the desk.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ernest Crosby: War and Hell

February 7, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Crosby: They know not love that love not peace

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Ernest Crosby
From War and Hell

V
Here is “great rejoicing at the nation’s capital.” So says the morning’s paper.
The enemy’s fleet has been annihilated.
Mothers are delighted because other mothers have lost sons just like their own;
Wives and daughters smile at the thought of new made widows and orphans;
Strong men are full of glee because other strong men are either slain or doomed to rot alive in torments;
Small boys are delirious with pride and joy as they fancy themselves thrusting swords into soft flesh, and burning and laying waste such homes as they themselves inhabit;
Another capital is cast down with mourning and humiliation just in proportion as ours is raised up, and that is the very spice of our triumph.
How could we exult without having a fellow man to exult over?
Yesterday it was the thrill of grappling with him and hating him;
To-day we grind our heel into his face and despise him.
This is life – this is patriotism – this is rapture –
But we – what are we, men or devils? and our Christian capital – what is it but an outpost of hell?

VI
Who are you at Washington who presume to declare me the enemy of anybody or to declare any nation my enemy?
However great you may be, I altogether deny your authority to sow enmity and hatred in my soul.
I refuse to accept your ready-made enemies, and, if I did accept them, I should feel bound to love them, and, loving them, would you have me caress them with bombshells and bayonets? When I want enemies, I reserve the right to manufacture them for myself.
If I am ever scoundrel enough to wish to kill, I will do my own killing on my own account and not hide myself behind your license.
Before God your commissions and warrants and enlistment rolls, relieving men of conscience and independence and manhood, are not worth the paper they are written on.
Away with all your superstitions of a statecraft worse than priestcraft.
Hypnotize fools and cowards if you will, but for my part, I choose to be a man.

O shade of Cervantes: Come back and draw for us another Don Quixote.
Prick this bubble of militarism as you pricked that other bubble of knight-errantry.
The world yearns for your reappearing.
Come and depict the hero!

X
But, you say, there have been good wars.
Never, never, never!
As I look back at our “good” war – at the indelible bloody splash upon our history – the four years’ revel of hatred – the crowded shambles of foiled Secession –
I see that it was all a pitiable error.
That which we fought for, the Union of haters by force, was a wrong, misleading cause: the worship of bigness, the measure of greatness by latitude and longitude.
A single town true enough to abhor slaughter as well as slavery would have been better worth dying for than all that tempestuous domain.
The incidental good – the freedom of the slaves, illusive, unsubstantial freedom at best, freedom by law but not from the heart – does it really quite balance the scales?
From the seed then sown grew up imperialism and militarism and capitalism and a whole forest of stout, deep-rooted ills in whose shadow we lead an unhealthy, stunted life to-day.

Categories: Uncategorized

Maya Ganina: Peace and homeland

February 6, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Women writers on peace and war

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Maya Ganina
From The Road to Nirvana
Translated by Olga Shartse

In time there will be no weapons, no armies, no wars and no boundaries. I suppose mankind will eventually arrive at this. But still, even when the maps of the world have been painted a uniform colour and the boundaries have been erased, the concept of Mother country will remain, and everyone will treasure that particular bit of the earth’s surface without which it is difficult to breathe, and without which you are an orphan in the world. I love travelling about the world, I love walking, riding and flying. I am interested in all the world, I can poke my finger at the globe with my eyes closed and gladly go to any spot and live there. Until…Until homesickness rises like a lump in my throat, until I begin to feel that I am dangling weightless in this foreign air, in the sounds of this foreign speech, alone among strangers however well-wishing. For all my wanderlust I am nothing without Russia, without her gentle sky, without her plains and her thin woods that gleam with a modest golden glow in autumn, as modest as the glowing face of a flaxen-haired little Russian girl. I am nothing without Russia, just like every one of us.

Categories: Uncategorized

Walter Scott: Fighting

February 5, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Walter Scott: War’s cannibal priest, druid red from his human sacrifice

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Walter Scott
From Waverley

‘For mere fighting,’ answered Flora,’ I believe all men (that is, who deserve the name) are pretty much alike; there is generally more courage required to run away. They have besides, when confronted with each other, a certain instinct for strife, as we see in other male animals, such as dogs, bulls, and so forth….’

====

“And on a more general view, Colonel, to confess the truth, though it may lower me in your opinion, I am heartly tired of the trade of war, and am, as Fletcher’s Humorous Lieutenant says, “even as weary of this fighting – ‘”

‘Fighting! pooh, what have you seen but a skirmish or two? Ah! if you saw war on the grand scale – sixty or a hundred thousand men in the field on each side!’

‘I am not at all curious, Colonel. “Enough,” says our homely proverb, “is as good as a feast.” The plumed troops and the big war used to enchant me in poetry, but the night marches, vigils, couches under the wintry sky, and such accompaniments of the glorious trade, are not at all to my taste in practice….’

Categories: Uncategorized

Bertha von Suttner: Vengeance! War breeds more war.

February 4, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

Bertha von Suttner: Selections on peace and war

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Bertha von Suttner
From Lay Down Your Arms
The Autobiography of Martha von Tilling

Translated by T. Holmes

Vengeance! and always repeated vengeance! Every war must leave one side defeated, and if this side can only find satisfaction in the next war, a war which must naturally produce another defeated side craving satisfaction, when is it to stop? How can justice be attained, when can old injustice be atoned, if fresh injustice is always to be employed as the means of atonement? It would never suggest itself to any reasonable man to wash out ink spots with ink and oil stains with oil, it is only blood which has always to be washed out with new blood!

===

What is most astonishing, according to my way of looking at it, is, that men should bring each other into such a state – that men who have seen such a sight should not sink on their knees and swear a passionate oath to make war on war – that if they are princes they do not fling the sword away – or if they are not in any position of power, they do not from that moment devote their whole action in speech or writing, in thought, teaching or business to this one end – Lay down your arms.

===

“Mahomet’s paradise was assured to every Mussulman who had killed a Christian,” replied Bresser. “Believe me, my dear Frau Simon, all those deities who have been represented as leaders of wars, and whose assistance and blessing the priests and commanders promise as the wages of murder, all of them are as deaf to blasphemies as to prayers. Look up there; that star of the first magnitude, with reddish light, it is only seen twinkling or rather shining, for it does not twinkle, over our heads every second year, that is the planet Mars, the star dedicated to the God of War, that god who was so feared and reverenced in old times that he had by far more temples than the Goddess of Love. Of old on the field of Marathon, in the narrow pass of Thermopylæ, that star shed a bloody light on the battles of men, and to him rose up the curses of the fallen who accused him of their misfortune, while he indifferent and peaceful, then as now, was circling round the sun. Hostile stars? there are no such things. Man has no enemy except man, but he is savage enough. And no other friend either,” added Bresser….

===

What is most astonishing, according to my way of looking at it, is, that men should bring each other into such a state – that men who have seen such a sight should not sink on their knees and swear a passionate oath to make war on war – that if they are princes they do not fling the sword away – or if they are not in any position of power, they do not from that moment devote their whole action in speech or writing, in thought, teaching or business to this one end – Lay down your arms.

===

“Believe me, my dear Frau Simon, all those deities who have been represented as leaders of wars, and whose assistance and blessing the priests and commanders promise as the wages of murder, all of them are as deaf to blasphemies as to prayers. Look up there; that star of the first magnitude, with reddish light, it is only seen twinkling or rather shining, for it does not twinkle, over our heads every second year, that is the planet Mars, the star dedicated to the God of War, that god who was so feared and reverenced in old times that he had by far more temples than the Goddess of Love. Of old on the field of Marathon, in the narrow pass of Thermopylæ, that star shed a bloody light on the battles of men, and to him rose up the curses of the fallen who accused him of their misfortune, while he indifferent and peaceful, then as now, was circling round the sun. Hostile stars? there are no such things. Man has no enemy except man, but he is savage enough. And no other friend either,” added Bresser….

====

The more progenitors one can point out in one’s family who have lost their lives in battles, whether won or lost, the prouder is the descendant of it, the more value may he set on his name, the less value on his life. In order to show oneself worthy of one’s slain ancestors, one must have a lively joy of one’s own in slaying, active and passive.

===

The very name of the opposing nation gathers round it in war time a whole host of hateful implied meanings. It is not merely the distinctive name of a nation hostile for the moment, but it becomes the synonym for “enemy,” and comprises in itself all the repugnance which that word expresses.

====

“Rather say that our present stage of civilisation does not suit the savagery which has come down to us from old times. As long as this savagery, that is, so long as the spirit of war is not cast out, our much-valued ‘humanity’ cannot be looked on as reasonable….”

Categories: Uncategorized

Joseph Fawcett: Civilized war! The cool carnage of the cultured world.

February 3, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

Afflicted Wisdom weeps that forms erect,
Which might be men, should be no more than brutes;
But, being what they are, she marvels not
That furious thus each other they devour.
The scene she gazes with a wild amaze,
O’er which she shivers agued and aghast,
Doubting her sense! incredulous she lives!
Is the cool carnage of the cultur’d world!

In the cold cabinet serenely plann’d!
And with calm skill, and blood that boils not, wreak’d!
War’s rul’d, methodic, mathematic fields,
Where fate in geometric figures frowns,
Curiously stern! a low’ring diagram!
Where sober warriors, in square array,
With science kill, with ceremony slay,
Thunder with apathy, and thin mankind
With looks compos’d, in rows compact arrang’d!
A tranquil tragedy! where battle trick’d,
Bedecks destruction, and makes ruin gay!
In spruce paterre where tulip terrors stand,
A scene of splendid horror! while o’er all
The field’s dire slaughter “peaceful thought” presides!
Wit, radiant spirit! wheels the cunning war,
Instructs horrific Mars which way to rush,
And shows the dev’lish engines where to belch
Their fiery bolts! – This is the dreadful scene,
Acted on literate Europe’s lucid stage;
Where man is known for what he is, for more
Than meets the eye, a mine of inward wealth,
That asks but to be dug and into day
Drawn out, a splendid treasure to display
Of golden joys, and sterling happiness!
Where moral glories strike Conception’s eye;
Where peaceful laurels court Ambition’s hand;
Where Reason’s, Virtue’s victories, invite
Th’ aspiring breast; and thousand varied joys
Make life delightful and its calms endear!
This is the scene, the gallop of the blood
Whose horror stops, and bids the current creep!
This PLACID sweep of human life away,
In human life where so much worth is seen!
These chess-board battles, where unpassion’d men,
Like things of wood, by them that thoughtful play,
Are mov’d about, the puppets of the game!
These sober whirlwinds of the polish’d world,
That not from fierce emotion take their rage,
Blown by cold Interest; by calm Art bestrid;
On whoſe broad wings, director of their way,
Afflicting image! form’d in other scenes,
And fairer far, to soar, ah, much mis-spher’d!
Bright GENIUS rides the Angel of the Storm.

Civiliz’d war! – How strangely pair’d appear
These words in pensive Rumination’s ear!
Civiliz’d war! – Say, did the mouth of man,
Fantastic marrier of words, before,
Two so unmatch’d, so much each other’s hate,
With force tyrannic, ere together yoke?
Civiliz’d war! – THANKS, gentle Europe! thanks,
For having dress’d the hideous monster out,
And hid his nature in so soft a name,
That weak, hysterical Humanity
Might hear with leſs of horror, he is loose.
Hail monster clipt! shorn of his shaggy mane,
His horrid front with flow’rs and ribbands prank’d,
Smooth, playful monster! Mixing with the roar
Of forest-rage the city’s polish’d smile!
That with a mild and Christian calmness kills,
That with more method tears his mangled prey,
And, as the copious draught of blood he swills,
Disclaims the thirst the while! Thanks, thousand-fold
Ye gay adorners of the tragic scene!
Thanks, in the name of all the friends of man,
That ye have thus their shuddering appeas’d;
And, piteous of their tender texture, giv’n
Their spirits, apt to startle, calm to flow,
Forth from its scabbard when your wiſdom calls
The slumb’ring sword, and bids its sabbath close!
Thanks, in the name of all the tremulous tribe,
Too sensitive, the grateful Muse accords you;
That ye have beautified the frowns of war
And given his grimness graces, have found out
Politer slaughter, and genteely learn’d
To lay more elegantly waste the world,
That ye have murder humaniz’d, discover’d
Mischief’s most handsome modes, and taught mankind
With form and fairest order to destroy!
Of all, whose hearts your battles have bereav’d,
The blessing comes upon you! Robb’d by wars
So gently wag’d, of them beneath whose shade
Of shelt’ring power their shielded weakness sat,
With looks of peace and love, pale widows sing,
In grateful songs, the tender spoilers sing!
The fatherless their filial sorrows wipe,
Forget their woes and join the just acclaim!
E’en the lorn virgin, in the slain’s long list:
Whose eye fell fearful on her lover’s name,
O’er whose wan cheek, where beauty’s roses grew,
Grief spreads its green, prophetic of her grave,
Some sickly smiles of gratitude shall wear,
And hush some sighs, to swell the grateful song!
All, all the mourners that ye make shall bless
Your mildly, amiably murderous deeds!
For much it soothes the sorrows of their soul,
For much it balms the bruises of their breast,
That they, in whom the battle’s fury reach’d
Their rent affections, fell in polish’d fields;
By softer hands, than whom the hatchet hacks
In barb’rous battle; that a smoother death
From finer points and glossier arms they took;
And if they perish’d, perish’d by the sword,
Heart-healing thought! of fair Civility!
Opprest with indignation, be the Muse
Forgiv’n, if she forget to sacred grief
The rev’rence due, and to her serious theme;
Seeking, in laughter, from her load of pain
Some little ease; for she hath long time lain
Beneath the suffocating weight, as thus
The civil actor in this savage scene,
Europe’s refin’d barbarian hath declaim’d.
“How horrible the unrelenting rage
And the coarse rudeness of unmanner’d Mars!
How smooth a front our comelier battle wears!
Lo! in our milder field the lovely form
Of Mercy sits by Valour’s side, and oft
Hangs on his hand and holds its fury down.” 
It is this mildness, to the moral eye
So far from soft’ning the hard crime of war,
That proves the sanguinary practice guilt,
And stamps the carnage murder. – Say, what priest,
Sent to prepare a dungeon’d wretch to die
For having ta’en his brother’s breath away,
Would not infer, remorse had made him mad,
To hear the villain seek his vice to wash
With words like these? “Far fouler criminals
The woods than me contain. The wolf is worse;
How furiously he lacerates the flock!
With what a rage the panther rends his prey!
Mark the fierce leopard tear his mangled meal!
I with much mercy murder’d whom I slew!
With one, but one, one well-directed wound
I gave him end; or with a drug disguis’d,
To drowsy death that woo’d his soul away,
I lull’d, without or pain or fear, his sense
In bland oblivion. – No; ye shall not thus,
Sons of Civility! ye shall not thus
Your darkness cloak! This varnish of your vice
Is evidence against you: your excuse
Accuses you, and by your boast ye prove
Your blame. – That after blood ye do not pant,
Shows, horrible your guilt in shedding it.
No moral turpitude the tiger’s tooth,
Though stain’d with homicide, contracts. – By man
The maniac’s blood is spar’d, the blood of man
Whose rage hath shed. And the wild man of war,
Whose dormant unexcited intellect
Beholds in human nature but an arm,
To brute-ambition’s spur alone awake,
Who wields his witless brawn in cleaving sculls
Vacant of mind as is his own, whose heart
Hydropic burns for blood, and lion-like
Who hungers for his foe, although his deeds
Are dire, no moral indignation lights
In gentle Wisdom’s breast. The very rage
And hard unmelting rigour of his field,
His grappling battle, greediness of blood ,
His fiend-like yell, his hatchet and his club,
His scalping wrath, carnivorous victory,
That eats in ecstasy the hostile flesh,
That drinks hot blood, with boundless vengeance drunk,
And all th’ excesses of his frantic war,
While horror they excite, extinguish blame:
The more we shudder, we the more forgive.
The frightful butchery of his battle tells,
However hideous, it is honest havoc;
That, thus to act, he thinks, is to be man.
His barb’rous ethics know no moral worth
Save military might. To his rude view
Victory is virtue. Piously he tells
His triumphs as his titles to the sky.
His talents are his arrows and his axe,
Sole means of earning heav’n. In chopping down
Another foe, a fresh degree, he deems,
His hand hath added to his bliss above.
He heaps the slain, that he may hunt in heav’n
With sport immortal; or for scaly game
Search with divine success celestial streams,
In slaughter placing thus his excellence,
With wild, unsated rage he lays. – But , where
Fair Mercy mixes in the fight, ’tis proof
Reason is in the field; Reason, that reads
The error of the scene, and just to judge
Its impious acts; rebukes the busy sword.



Categories: Uncategorized

Edwin Arnold Brenholtz: If war is sane, make me insane

February 2, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Edwin Arnold Brenholtz
Whence?

Whence cometh Love but from the source?
‘Twixt fount and ocean no divorce,
Here or through all eternity.

Thine act betrays thy hidden thought;
Without the thought no deed is wrought,
Hath been, yea, cannot ever be.

Vain, then, are all our cries of Peace
While each sun sees the vast increase
Of Greed and Hate and Lust;

And armaments piled mountain high, –
From them be sure sweet Peace must fly.
Oh, hasten! grind them into dust;

And make the man of blood abhor’d;
Now be the God of Peace adored,
And Love shall have his way; –

Aye, come with a resistless rush,
And Peace, too, in the tranquil hush
Which follows Love’s kind sway!

****

The Widow’s Curse

Oh! what’s your woe, my laddie?
And why these tears, my lass?
Come! come! let’s go to daddy,
And woe and tears will pass.”

My words stirred tear-streams yet unshed
(Oh, how those children cried!)
The tears they shed for one just dead
Seemed blood-tinged; they replied, ” Our father’s slain
On Afric plain;
From tears can we refrain?”

Then came the mother garbed in black,
And wiped those tears away;
Then turned on me in fierce attack,
“Art thou in devil’s pay”
(For I had said that wars must be,
That heroes use the sword),
“To think on what has thus cursed me,
And thus deny thy Lord?
If War be sane,
Make me insane,
And I will count it gain.”

Then turned she to the setting sun
And cried: “Sun, ne’er forget
My curse invoked on ev’ry one
Who made me thus regret!
Curse priest and king!
May they know sting
Of losing cherished thing!”

“Nay, nay!” I cried. “Curse not, curse not!”
She heeded not my call:
“Sun, look upon my lonely lot
And send the same to all
Who for ambition, profit, pride,
Brought that cursed war to pass –
From king on throne to Coster’s bride
Who orphaned lad and lass,
Whoe’er they be,
Where’er they flee,
For War has widowed me!”

“Have they no children who would mourn
If thy curse came about?”
“Too late!” she cried,
“I am forlorn,
And thousands, without doubt,
Have joined my curse. The sun, behold!
Has passed from sight and shines
Unceasing on this kingdom old:
I curse this land’s designs
And those that plann’d?
0 blood-stained band
Consigned to Fury’s hand!”

The twilight deepened; still I stayed
And questioned: “Why ask Sun
To see thy curses promptly paid;
Why not ‘Whose will is done?’
Why not rely
On One on High
Who heeds the widow’s sigh?”

“Shall I beseech the One they preach
Approves of War’s cursed game?
(The Christ of whom the Scriptures teach
Is surely not that same.)
Nay, nay! their God loves power, pelf,
And cares not for my woe;
He is concentered in himself?
From such God I must go:
I call on Sun
To see undone
Each truly guilty one.”

She took the children by the hand
And passed within the door;
In memory still her curses stand
Though saw I her no more.
And pond’ring o’er Ambition’s wrecks
Strewn ever in our sight,
I whisper low,
“Whom War bedecks
On him will curse alight.
Has earth a plain
Where man’s not slain
To win some warrior gain?”

O War with sword, and War in mart,
That curse is yours alike:
Starvation plays as deadly part
As sword can ever strike.
Here lie the dead;
Your hands are red
With brother’s blood just shed.

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Evgeny Bogat: In a world of napalm and burning villages, love is triumph over non-existence

February 1, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Evgeny Bogat
From Eternal Man
Translated by Christine Bushnell

[After quoting Alexander Blok about “the hope of arising the world cyclone, which will bring a warm wind and the fresh smell of orange groves to countries covered with snow.”]

The world in which we live today is in the grip of this “cyclone.” The air is thick with the smell of burning villages, giant, sweaty cities, the stench of napalm, but for those of us who have not lost our moral bearings, there is also “the fresh smell of orange groves.”

The “fibres of humanity,” interweaving form a strong bough. And this “bough of humanity,” absorbing the best of human experience from ages past (experience both of the great and the unknown), imbued with the pangs of conscience of today’s humanity, will become more resilient and vital.

In all ages, love, despite its most delicate intimacy, has depended on the moral state of the world. This is true, of course, of our time, too. There is in love the same “polarization of god” that is the general mark of the twentieth century.

In the capitalist world where the secrets of sex have lost their last covers,where the corporeal and spiritual, moral foundations of man have been sundered with cruel utilitarianism, in a world where they are ready to tear from woman not only her clothes but also to flay the skin from her bones if that will rouse even a little the rotting sexuality of the consumer and pry away his money, the “bough of humanity” is growing despite everything. Something unknown to people of past ages has entered love, has been revealed in love: a new spirituality and new tenderness, a new sadness and new compassion. True love is a triumph over non-existence. To say “I love you” is the same as saying “you will never die.”

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Alone with the lantern, I thought late into the evening of the spirituality of craftsmanship. At exhibitions of ancient weaponry – in the Hermitage they are splendid – one does not feel this exaltation despite the fantastic craftsmanship of the armourers. Standing at the expansive, gala show cases, where, like many-figured sculpture, pistols lie delicately on yellow, dull velvet, one understands: one can neither aesthetically justify not exalt murder. The craftsmanship of armourers is without soul.

Soullessness need not necessarily be attendant on the birth of artistically valuable weapons of murder. Moreover, it is less dangerous there, because it is obvious.

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People can be divided into two types: those who feel themselves the creditors of humanity and those who feel themselves humanity’s permanent debtors. The creditors are unhappy: the awareness that everything – children, parents, comrades, the people – owe them something poisons their lives and destroys them. Debtors experience a different, exalted, enviable torment: a feeling of debt outstanding against life, the present, and humanity.

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Amy Lowell: Misericordia

January 31, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Amy Lowell: A pattern called a war. Christ! What are patterns for?

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Amy Lowell
Misericordia

He earned his bread by making wooden soldiers,
With beautiful golden instruments,
Riding dapple-grey horses.
But when he heard the fanfare of trumpets
And the long rattle of drums
As the army marched out of the city,
He took all his soldiers
And burned them in the grate;
And that night he fashioned a ballet-dancer
Out of tinted tissue-paper,
And the next day he started to carve a Pietà
On the steel hilt
Of a cavalry sword.

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Konstantin Paustovsky: Cervantes slain in war

January 30, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Konstantin Paustovsky
From Canes Venatici
Translated by Kathleen Cook

The shutters rattled in the wind. Merot’s anguished thoughts became more confused until he eventually dozed off.

He had a strange dream. He was getting into a dusty grey car to drive to the south of Spain. A tall thin old man with a shaking grey goatee beard got in beside him. There was a strange clanking sound from the old man’s shabby creased suit and Merot suddenly noticed with alarm that his companion was wearing rusty old armour beneath his jacket.

“We’ll drive there and back,” said the old man, his armour grinding in the small car, “and you will see everything. But try not to weep.”

They raced along the narrow road through the mountains and each time they came to a pass vast expanses spread out below like the sea, some brown and parched by the sun, or dark with the foliage of lemon trees, others burnished with ripe corn, or blue with the haze over the forests. And with each new valley the old man in armour stood up, flung out his arms with a mighty ring and hailed it solemnly with the word:

“Spain.”

They raced past towns where there was so much sun that it overflowed from the tiled roofs and the walls of the house and crept into the far corners of the cellars where Merot and the old man sat drinking wine and eating cheese that smelled of cloves.

They raced past ancient cathedrals that seemed to be covered with the grey dust of the heat, past rivers where patient bulls were lazily drinking the clear water, past schools with children singing, past palaces where the paintings of the great masters were gleaming in the shadows behind linen drapes, past orchards and fields where each clod of earth was weighed in the hand and crumbled by the firm palm of the peaceful peasants, past parks and factories humming like bees with the wheels of the hot machines, past the whole country rushing forward to hail them in the wind, laughter, songs, greetings and many other sounds of happy toil.

In a small deserted town they sped past a statue of a tall old man with a grey beard. Merot recognized this bronze figure as his companion and managed to read the inscription on the statue which said: “Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.”

“So you are Cervantes?” he shouted to the old man, who took off his hat and replied vaguely:

“Yes, I once lived in this town.”

Then they turned back and began to speed past the same towns, lying in ruins, full of the heavy stench of dead bodies, past the schools where dead children with pitiful open mouths lay by the doors, past women crazed with grief running along the roads with unseeing, staring eyes, past people who had been tied to door handles and shot, past orchards gutted by fire, past signs scrolled in soot on the white garden walls: “Death to all who talk of freedom and justice! Death to all who are not with us!,” past palaces turned into heaps of charred rubbish.

An infantry detachment stopped the car. The soldiers wore heavy boots like buckets and had red faces with ginger mustaches. The officer in charge was fair-haired with pointed ears and a dry pate.

“Who are you?” he shouted.

The old man in armour got up, his eyes dark with anger and his hands trembling.

“Curs!” he shouted. “Hired assassins covered with a bloody coat. Begone from my country! I am Cervantes, the son and poet of Spain. I am a soldier and an honest man.”

The old man stretched out his arms to halt the soldiers.

“Fire!” shouted the officer, his voice shrill with anger. The soldiers fired and Merot heard the bullets hitting the old man’s rusty armour. The old man fell face down in the dust and stroked the gravel of the road with his thin, warm arms as he lay dying.

“Spain!” he said fervently and a few precious tears fell onto the baking ground.

Another spray of bullets hit his armour, more quietly this time.

Merot woke up….

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Mary Barber: The officer’s widow

January 29, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Irish writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Mary Barber
On seeing an Officer’s Widow distracted who had been driven to Despair, by a long and fruitless Sollicitation for the Arrears of her Pension

O wretch! hath Madness cur’d thy dire Despair?
Yes – All thy Sorrows now are light as Air:
No more you mourn your once lov’d Husband’s Fate,
Who bravely perish’d for a thankless State.
For rolling Years thy Piety prevail’d;
At length, quite sunk – thy Hope, thy Patience fail’d:
Distracted now you tread on Life’s last Stage,
Nor feel the Weight of Poverty and Age:
How blest in this, compar’d with those, whose Lot
Dooms them to Miseries, by you forgot!

Now, wild as Winds, you from your Off-spring fly,
Or fright them from you with distracted Eye;
Rove thro’ the Streets; or sing, devoid of Care,
With ratter’d Garments, and dishevell’d Hair;
By hooting Boys to higher Phrenzy fir’d,
At length you sink, by cruel Treatment tir’d,
Sink into Sleep, an Emblem of the Dead,
A Stone thy Pillow, the cold Earth thy Bed.

O tell it not; let none the Story hear,
Lest Britain’s Martial Sons should learn to fear:
And when they next the hostile Wall attack,
Feel the Heart fail, the lifted Arm grow slack;
And pausing cry – Tho’ Death we scorn to dread,
Our Orphan Off-spring, must they pine for Bread?
See their lov’d Mothers into Prisons thrown;
And, unreliev’d, in iron Bondage groan?

BRITAIN, for this impending Ruin dread;
Their Woes call loud for Vengeance on thy Head:
Nor wonder, if Disasters wait your Fleets;
Nor wonder at Complainings in your Streets:
Be timely wise; arrest th’ uplifted Hand,
Ere Pestilence or Famine sweep the Land.

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George MacDonald: War-cry of every opinion. Battle of the dead.

January 28, 2021 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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George MacDonald
From Lilith

The moon at length approached the forest, and came slowly into it: with her first gleam the noises increased to a deafening uproar, and I began to see dim shapes about me. As she ascended and grew brighter, the noises became yet louder, and the shapes clearer. A furious battle was raging around me. Wild cries and roars of rage, shock of onset, struggle prolonged, all mingled with words articulate, surged in my ears. Curses and credos, snarls and sneers, laughter and mockery, sacred names and howls of hate, came huddling in chaotic interpenetration. Skeletons and phantoms fought in maddest confusion. Swords swept through the phantoms: they only shivered. Maces crashed on the skeletons, shattering them hideously: not one fell or ceased to fight, so long as a single joint held two bones together. Bones of men and horses lay scattered and heaped; grinding and crunching them under foot fought the skeletons. Everywhere charged the bone-gaunt white steeds; everywhere on foot or on wind-blown misty battle-horses, raged and ravened and raved the indestructible spectres; weapons and hoofs clashed and crushed; while skeleton jaws and phantom-throats swelled the deafening tumult with the war-cry of every opinion, bad or good, that had bred strife, injustice, cruelty in any world. The holiest words went with the most hating blow. Lie-distorted truths flew hurtling in the wind of javelins and bones. Every moment some one would turn against his comrades, and fight more wildly than before, THE TRUTH! THE TRUTH! still his cry. One I noted who wheeled ever in a circle, and smote on all sides. Wearied out, a pair would sit for a minute side by side, then rise and renew the fierce combat. None stooped to comfort the fallen, or stepped wide to spare him.

The moon shone till the sun rose, and all the night long I had glimpses of a woman moving at her will above the strife-tormented multitude, now on this front now on that, one outstretched arm urging the fight, the other pressed against her side. “Ye are men: slay one another!” she shouted. I saw her dead eyes and her dark spot, and recalled what I had seen the night before.

Such was the battle of the dead, which I saw and heard as I lay under the tree.

Just before sunrise, a breeze went through the forest, and a voice cried, “Let the dead bury their dead!” At the word the contending thousands dropped noiseless, and when the sun looked in, he saw never a bone, but here and there a withered branch.

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Raymond Kresensky: When patriotism is pushing propaganda for war

January 27, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Raymond Kresensky
Patriotism

It’s all you need to do
Is take off your hat when the flag goes by –
Just take off your hat when the flag goes by.
If it’s a stiff hat lay it gracefully across your chest
And look earnest, and look sincere.

It’s all you need to do
Is to wave your handkerchief and shout
When a general of the army passes by.
And it’s all you need to do is put out a flag.
It’s all you need to do
Is take off your hat when the flag goes by.

And fly a flag. Hurrah! Hurrah!
That’s patriotism.
And see that everyone else, yes, everyone else
Does just what you do
Or else he’s not patriotic.

If you don’t vote, no one cares.
If you’ve never read the Constitution, no one cares.
If you bootleg, no one cares.
If you deprive others of that so-called life and liberty
Nobody cares at all.
All you need to do is take off your hat when the flag goes by.

Push your propaganda for war
When you’re a manufacturer of dynamite and poison gas,
Corned beef and paper shoes.
Forget the soldiers of other wars
And steal their pensions. Forget them.

But for the sake of your country
Take off your hat when the flag goes by,
Take off your hat when the flag goes by.
That’s patriotism.

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Josephine Turck Baker: To the Mothers of the Martyred Dead upon the Field of Battle

January 26, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Josephine Turck Baker
The Cross
To the Mothers of the Martyred Dead upon the Field of Battle

My flesh cries out for its own flesh!
My blood demands its own heart’s blood!
The thunderous roar of cannon is the answer to my call.
Give me back my flesh and blood!
To bring forth, I did pass through dark Gethsemane,
And hear with Him the tortures of the Cross;
And to what end? to add one more unto
The martyred dead upon the field of battle.
His dear face, covered with my kisses,
Upturned in marble coldness, blood-stained,
The death-dew gathering on his brow.
His sweet voice, lingering fondly “Farewell, Mother!” forever stilled.
His loving arms entwined around me,
Mangled, torn with shot and shell.
Again I pass through dark Gethsemane,
And share with thee the tortures of the Cross.

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Laura Helena Brower: Heritage. The blighted fruit of war.

January 25, 2021 4 comments

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Laura Helena Brower
Heritage

I see the gallows – O my son! My child!
That has been built for you. Not with these eyes,
These wretched, human eyes, so dimmed and worn
With tears unceasing since I learned your fate,
Your crime, your guilt, your plea, your punishment;
But with the clear, sad vision of a soul
Remorse-wrung for the sin that mothered yours.
O God! If they could know, could understand,
Those twelve men stern and silent, who condemned,
The judge whose icy voice pronounced your doom,
The careless, jeering crowd that thronged the court, –
O God! If they could know that mine, mine, mine,
The mother’s sin, sinned ere your birth, has brought
You, it and it alone, to this dread place,
The gallows’ foot!

For you were born – nay more, –
Conceived when all the world was torn with war
And mad with hate that slaked its blood-thirst
In a brother’s blood. And you were fatherless
From birth. The kind, wise voice, the strong firm hand,
The father’s hand that would have led you up,
From the road on which your feet have strayed,
That voice was stilled, that hand laid cold in death.
Too well the deadly shrapnel’s work was done.
And, helpless child, what could you do but drink
The poison of the hate that orphaned you,
And the worse poison of the hate within my breast
Alike for those whose work this was, and those
Who, weeping, came to tell me he was dead?
Ours, then, the guilt, – not yours, but his and mine –
That we had bidden you, you sinless child,
To come to birth in such unhallow’d hour.
How dare we loved when all around was envy, greed
For power that mocked the rights of weaker men,
And bitter loathing finding vent in war?
How dare we love when love’s sweet fruit must be
Heart-cankered?

You, guilty? No! No more than when
They laid you first upon my widowed breast,
And heard, unheeding, all the curses wild
I heaped on those who made you fatherless.

Not guilty, judge and jury, though condemned,
Not guilty, but the blighted fruit of war!

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Alexander Grin: How a little girl stopped a world war

January 24, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Alexander Grin
An Army Order
Translated by Nicholas Luker

The great European War of 1914-1917 was stopped between Fittibrune and Wissenburg by a female resident of the latter, the girl Jeanne Carol, aged nine years and three months. True, the war was not stopped completely, for no more than an hour perhaps and only in one place, – but what does that matter? What matters is the event itself.

At about five o’clock in the afternoon on the dusty road which skirts a forest showing in places signs of extensive tree-felling, two creatures appeared. One of them, slightly the larger, protested and howled loudly, wiping his tear-swollen eyes with blood-stained hands, whilst the other, slightly the smaller, persistently led the first in the direction of a village whose roofs showed in the distance. Keeping a grip on her brother’s shirt, the little girl tugged it sharply each time the boy, remembering his masculine independence, struggled to break loose, shouting:

“Go to hell, Jeanne! It’s none of your business. I won’t go!”

But nevertheless, go he did, and quite quickly too, resisting more out of habit than seriously. He was eleven. His masculine dignity, the source of his contempt for “girls,” had been upset and destroyed by a blow of a fist to his nose. He had started a fight and withdrawn in ignominy. Jeanne was cross, but she felt sorry for him too; the whole episode had taken place before her very eyes.

“Please don’t howl,” she said, “we must hurry; they’re probably already worried about us at home, and it’s all thanks to you. What a good job I was there. They’d have torn you to shreds.”

“Boo-hoo…” howled Jean, “I’ll tear them to shreds myself; just wait till I see them again, I’ll show them. Boo-hoo. Anybody can win when there’s two of you. No, just you try one against one, you’ll soon see. I’ll rub them in the dirt.”

“But you shouldn’t have teased them.”

“I didn’t tease them.”

“You’re lying. You threw stones at them and shouted ‘The Fittibrune goblin goes head first into the porridge! Chew his head, lick the floor, and don’t ask for anymore.’ Don’t you know the people of Fittibrune get mad when you say that?”

“Oh what a fool you are, what a fool!” cried Jean. “Anyway, what do you know about our affairs? You’re just a girl. And what about them? Don’t they sing: ‘In Wissenburg in pine trees mice are dreaming of some cheese…’?”

“Well, they do sing that, but they weren’t singing it just now; it was you that was teasing them.”

“It makes no difference; they’re all cheats.”

This decisive argument cheered Jean up and silenced the girl for a moment. As they argued, both had grown heated and come to a halt.

Behind them stood the forest; in front of them, a little below the road, lay a spacious clearing dotted with bushes and tree-stumps amongst the stacks of timber which covered much of the open space. Piled in dense lines of square stacks, this timber made it impossible to see anything further than twenty paces away.

For three days now there had been fighting in the neighbourhood; sometimes smoke on the horizon indicated a distant village on fire. From beyond the horizon came the continuous sound of heavy gunfire; and then it seemed as if a barely audible jolt came rolling up to one’s feet and stopped.

“One of these days you’ll catch it hot with that tongue of yours,” said the girl.” “What’s the matter? Is your nose running? Not with cream, of course.”

“It’s blood,” said Jean, examining his stained fingers. “It’s nothing. We men must get used to fighting. And you’ll sit sewing and weeping.”

“Anyone can see you’ve been fighting. Your eye’s got all swollen.”

“I don’t care a bit. You’ve got to put up with everything. And when I grow up and become a soldier, they’ll say: ‘Sure thing, Jean Carroll will be a general!'”

“They’ll say that about you?

“And why not? See how much wood there is over there? There’s just as many soldiers in the world and more besides. They can all be generals and win an enemy standard. But you don’t belong with us.”

Jeanne was lost in thought. Mechanically holding the boy by the sleeve, she was looking at the stacks of wood spread out over the clearing and imagining they were all barefoot Jeans with bloody noses. In her little soul there lived the courage of her illustrious namesake, but it was a courage directed towards instruction and conciliation. Her eyes flashed.

“And I’d face up to you!” she cried. “I’d tick you off all right! Look here, Jean, if all these logs became soldiers and shouted at me, I’d say to them: ‘Go home, soldiers. I issue an order to all the army: fighting is bad. They’ve killed a chicken at our house today, and that’s how they’ll kill all of you too. And they’ll shoot you. Oh, oh! Be off with you, be off. Disperse. They’ll be a lot of crying when they’ve beaten you. We’ll be going away soon too; all the fathers in the village are saying it’s impossible to live here any longer. Why don’t you stay at home? What have you come for? Just change your minds about fighting. Let me never so much as set eyes on you again. Or you’ll be tired and late for dinner.”

She uttered this tirade in an inspired, angry, ringing voice, but the next moment leapt down from the tree-stump on which she had stood for the sake of impressiveness and hid behind Jean who managed only to cry “Oh!” Above the piles of logs there suddenly appeared hundreds of peaked caps, and a whole detachment of French soldiers emerged from their hiding-place where they had been lying in ambush waiting for a German squadron out on patrol. Laughing, the men flocked toward the little girl.

Destiny was pleased to provide a second act to this episode. Jeanne was still sitting on the shoulder of a strapping infantryman who, spinning around like a top, was calling everyone to come and look at this “fiend of anti-militarism, as dangerous as a snake,” – when a troop of cavalry came tearing through the forest and wheeled into the clearing.

Their surprise, crowned by the sight of the little girl held aloft like a banner, produced the instantaneous effect of a blank cartridge being fired. The situation was bizarre and ludicrous. The dragoons’ rifle-bolts clicked but the muzzles were lowered; a Frenchman began to wave a handkerchief above his head.

“On your way, on your way, boches!” cried the French ambush. “We’re having a lunch break and reading the Berliner Tagesblatt.”

And little by little they struck up conversation. The affair ended happily, as such instances of unforeseen confusion usually do, and there was no skirmish. The children were led out on to the road and told to go home. Jean was angry.

“You fool, you messed it all up,” he said. “Those dragoons would have got it hot.”

“Oh go on, go on,” said the girl gloomily.

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James B. Dollard: The Battle-Line

January 23, 2021 Leave a comment

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

James B. Dollard
The Battle-Line

Athwart that land of bloss’ming vine
Stretches the awful battle-line;
A lark hangs singing in the sky,
With sullen shrapnel bursting nigh!
Along the poplar-bordered road
The peasant trudges with his load,
While horsemen and artillery
Rush to red fields that are to be!
The plains for tillage furrowed well
Are now replowed with shot and shell!
The ditches, swollen by the rain,
Show bloated faces of the slain.

The hedge-rows sweet with leaf and flower
Now mask the cannon’s murderous power!
Small birds by household cares opprest
Beg truce and time to build their nest.
The sun sinks down – oh, blest release!
And the spent world cries out for peace,
In vain! In vain! Tho’ mild stars shine,
War wakes the thundering battle-line.

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Yuri Trifonov: Our world – the world of peace!

January 22, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Yuri Trifonov
From Students
Translated by Ivy Litvinova and Margaret Wettlin

“Surely there couldn’t be war again?” said Raya under her breath. “When you remember all that….”

“Oh, I don’t want another war!’’ Raya said and laughed at the childlike spontaneity of her own words. “We’ve only just begun to settle down again, and life is improving and getting more interesting every year…and there are so many good things to come….There are, aren’t there? And to think of war…again….’’

Raya shook her head and moved involuntarily nearer to Lagodenko, who clumsily placed his heavy arm round her neck and grunted, frowning:

“Don’t worry, Carrots. Everything’ll be all right.”

And everyone looked gravely and thoughtfully at Lagodenko and Raya, and for some reason fell silent. For a few moments everything was still in the room.

Then Galya Mamonova drew a profound sigh, hunching up her shoulders as if she were cold.

“Don’t let’s talk about war!” she exclaimed.

“D’you know what’s just come into my head?” said Max vivaciously. “It’s well known that we Russians are a peace-loving people. And it came into my head that there’s evidence of that in our very language. Look – in our language we have one word for both peace and the world. I don’t suppose that’s true of any other language. German, French and English all have two words, one for each separate meaning. That’s remarkable, isn’t it?”

“It is,” said Spartak, rising and pacing rapidly up and down the room, and pushing chairs out of his way. “But what exciting times we are living in! When you look at the history of mankind it seems as if never before was there such an interesting, stupendous time – doesn’t it? The old world is collapsing, giving at the seams, and the new world is being born before our very eyes! Our world – the world of peace!” Striding back to the table he cried:

“A toast! To all those fighting for peace in China, Greece, Spain, America – in the whole world!…”

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W. H. Anderson: Our Brother’s Keeper

January 21, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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W. H. Anderson
Our Brother’s Keeper

The patient world through all its cycled years
Has borne its human burden, murmuring not –
A selfish horde, almost by God forgot –
A theme to flood the Universe with tears!
From that far distance where there first appears
A ray to pierce the conglomerate blot
Spewed from Creation’s maw, the common lot
Of man, the creature, changes not nor veers:
A current rushing on from naught to naught,
Turgid and turbulent, ‘twixt narrow banks
Of grasping greed and centered self-endeavor;
Each drop impregnate with the single thought
Of striving till all others it outranks,
Blind in its petty Now to vast Forever!

II
This is the picture painted; this the view
Of cynic solons in our hall of State,
Venting their venomed envy in debate,
Cruel and heartless as a pirate’s crew,
Shackling the many for the selfish few,
Clasping the hasp upon the book of Fate,
Seeking the elder Cain to emulate –
“Are we our brothers’ keepers?” Nay, not you!
But the great world is. War has fixed its fangs
Just once too often in the human breast,
And roused the nations to their sole surcease.
Nor shall we fail to heed our brothers’ pangs.
The serried legions of this glorious West
Shall head the vanguard of the hosts of Peace!

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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Slaughter’s way. No laurel wreath can wake the silent dead.

January 20, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Nathaniel Hawthorne on war: Drinking out of skulls till the Millennium

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Nathaniel Hawthorne
Forms of Heroes

Ye Forms of Heroes slumb’ring here,
Beneath these tombstones cold and drear,
On which the moss of age has slept,
Since one fond heart has o’er you wept,
Oh tell me, if a Mortal’s prayer,
Can ever wake your spirits, where
They sleep the dark dread sleep of death.
Tell me if now the laurel wreath,
Which Glory twin’d around your head,
Can wake amid the silent dead,
One glance of that proud martial blaze
Which led your feet in slaughter’s ways.

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Ernest Hartsock: Let Mars and all his mangled mourners pass

January 19, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Ernest Hartsock
Gotterdammerung

A god is dying, O bewildered ones,
A greybeard god, whose zealous warriors
Have cowed the dismal world with bellowing guns
Until the sky like some vast conch-shell roars.
A god is perishing from glut of praise
From hypocrites whose tawny talons gleam
With secret gold which Judas-bright betrays
Sad barter of their high birthright of dream.

Let trumpets burn with turbulence of morn!
While Jericho cracks down its house of glass.
A god is dying and a man is born;
Let Mars and all his mangled mourners pass.
Here raise the sepulcher of creeds and kings
Where peace, the Phoenix, lifts his golden wings.

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Margaret Stineback: The Unknown Soldier

January 18, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Margaret Stineback
The Unknown Soldier

His dreams have all grown lovely with the years
The bullet-ache within his breast has flown
As have the horrors; the dried, scarlet smears
Upon a comrade’s sleeve, the anguished groan
Of some young prisoner; the rat-a-tat
Of busy, calculating guns; the sound
Of bursting shell, of shouting; and the spat
Of wet French earth when shot ploughed through the ground.

The din has passed away. Now flowers spill
Their quiet petals like a fresh caress.
There is dim relaxation in the thrill
Of cool, rich soil, in the forgetfulness
It fosters. He is like a sleeping boy
Whose brow is damp, with tired brown curls that cling.
He has that same exhaustion, that same joy,
That pure oblivion of everything.

This is the Unknown Soldier. His dear grave
Is hallowed. So we, very grateful, say:
“He signifies the bravest of the brave:
He is above the common run of clay.”
Yet, what is bravery – if it must show
Its potency in carnage? Oh, they tread
The truest road of bravery who go
Along the path of Peace – God’s path – instead!

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D. A. Wilson: Who Won the War?

January 17, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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D. A. Wilson
Who Won the War?

Who won the war?
“I” mutters Foch.
“For I hammered the Boche,
I won the war, I won the war!”

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
“We” said the Yanks,
“With machine guns and tanks,
We won the war, we won the war!”

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
Silent the dead,
By them naught is said,
They won the war, they won the war!

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
Nothing was won,
Yet the world was undone,
Damned is the war, damned is the war!

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

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James Norman Hall: Broken, bleeding bodies with all their beauty gone

January 16, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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James Norman Hall
In Flanders

Could you have seen them marching
Ten thousand men in line
You would have said that war must be
Adventurous and fine.
You would have felt your pulses beat
Fast to the tread of marching feet.

Could you have seen them marching
Under the June blue skies
With all the glory of their youth
Shining in their eyes,
You would have bade them all God speed
To battle at their country’s need.

But had you seen them creeping back
In the grey, grey dawn,
The broken, bleeding bodies
With all their beauty gone,
Oh! never could you cheer again
To see ten thousand fighting men.

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Hermann Hagedorn: How to engineer a war

January 15, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Hermann Hagedorn: Slaughter! And voices, begging shrill the merciful grace of death.

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Hermann Hagedorn
From Makers of Madness
A Play in One Act and Three Scenes

PRIME MINISTER

[Rising, with the message in his hand.

Gentlemen, I have seen fit to abbreviate the King’s message. I have not altered a word nor added a word. I have merely omitted all that did not seem to me pertinent or useful. The message reads as follows: “The King sent for the Ambassador of the Republic this afternoon and outlined a plan that would satisfy the royal government. The Ambassador regretted that he was unable to consider any compromise. The King replied that then he could have nothing more to say in the matter.”

MINISTER Of WAR

There’s ginger, by Heaven! The other was a dove-peep to a parley. This is a trumpet call of defiance.

CHIEF OF STAFF

[With quiet delight.

The Republic will never swallow that.

PRIME MINISTER

They are not supposed to. They will declare war, and then be the aggressors.

MINISTER Of WAR

[Exultantly.

Our God of old lives yet and will not let us perish in disgrace!

CHIEF OF STAFF

[Looking about.

My helmet. Damn it! Where is my helmet? I am going to dig at the plans once more. If God lets me lead the armies in such a fight, the devil can come when I’m through and fetch away the old carcass.

PRIME MINISTER

[To MINISTER Of WAR.

Where’s your Secretary?

MINISTER Of WAR

[Crossing to door.

Secretary, here!

[Secretary enters.

PRIME MINISTER

[Handing him the paper.

To the telegraph-operator with this. It is to be sent to every news bureau in the city and to all our embassies abroad.

MINISTER Of WAR

Tomorrow, the mobilization!

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Théodore Jean: The God of War

January 14, 2021 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Théodore Jean
The God of War
Translated by Ernest Crosby

O be it! Our globe is but a hell
Of torments, crimes, and sins abhorred,
Where Force by dint of fire and sword
Subdues his victims all too well….

O god whom patriots adore,
I scorn thee; for in thee I see
The symbol of barbarity.
Therefore I hate thee, god of war!

As mothers curse thee, so curse I –
Mothers whose sons were racked with pain,
Whose mutilated bodies slain
Are heaped in vain beneath the sky.

With pick and hammer let us rise
And break this idol-shape of stone,
Breathing forth slaughter from his throne
Hid in the inmost shrine of lies.

Down with the temple which above
Sets up a blood-bespattered rag
And let us with a world-wide flag
Find freedom in the work of love.

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Marion Doyle: Mars and Kings have silenced all their singing

January 13, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Marion Doyle
Spendidly Dead
(After reading “For Poets Slain in War”)

“Splendidly dead,” who dares such maudlin singing!
Seeger, Kilmer, Pearse, Brooke, and Péguy
Men who would today be gladly bringing
Daring gifts of song to tired humanity,
Sacrificed to Power’s lust for power,
Masked beneath the lie: “For Home and Honor.”
“Splendidly dead”- the pride of manhood’s flower
Crucified upon the cross of horror?

Face the truth: what need now to dissemble?
Mars and Kings have silenced all their singing;
They are dust and yet we start and tremble
At the white dove’s perilous slow winging….

Never I hear of their “splendid dying”
But I hear the voice of lost song crying.

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Xenophon: Selections on war and peace

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment
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Jean Blewett: Above the din of martial clamor, a crying in the dark

January 11, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

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Jean Blewett
Soldiers All

They’re praying for the soldier lads in grim old London town;
Last night I went, myself, and heard a bishop in his gown
Confiding to the Lord of Hosts his views of this affair.
“We do petition Thee,” he said, “to have a watchful care
Of all the stalwart men and strong who at their country’s call
Went sailing off to Africa to fight, perchance to fall!”
“Amen!” a thousand voices cried. I whispered low: “Dear Lord,
A host is praying for the men, I want to say a word
For those who stay at home and wait – the mothers and the wives.
Keep close to them and help them bear their cheerless, empty lives!”

The Bishop prayed: “Our cause is good, our quarrel right and just;
The God of battles is our God, and in His arm we trust.”
He never got that prayer of his in any printed book,
It came straight from the heart of him, his deep voice, how it shook!
And something glistened in his eye and down his flushed cheek ran.
I like a Bishop best of all when he is just a man.

“Amen!” they cried out louder still, but I bent low my head;
“Dear Christ, be kind to hearts that break for loved ones dying – dead;
Keep close to women folk who wait beset with anxious fears,
The wan-faced watchers whose dim eyes are filled with bitter tears!
I know, dear Christ, how hard it is,” I whispered as I kneeled,
“For long ago my bonnie boy fell on the battlefield.
Find comfort for the broken hearts of those weighed down to-day
With love and longing for the ones in danger far away.”

“They will not shrink,” the Bishop prayed, “nor fear a soldier’s grave;
Nay, each man will acquit himself like Briton true and brave.
God of battles, march with them, keep guard by day and night,
And arm them with a trust in Thee when they go up to fight!”

“Amen!” a sound of muffled sobs. The deep voice trembled some,
But I, with hot tears on my face, prayed hard for those at home:
“Keep watch and ward of all that wait in fever of unrest,
Who said good-bye and let them go, the ones they loved the best!
O comfort, Christ! Above the din of martial clamor, hark!
The saddest sound in all God’s world – a crying in the dark.”

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Peace

Unbroken peace, I ween, is sweeter far
Than reconciliation. Love’s red scar,
Though salved with kiss of penitence, and tears,
Remains, full oft, unhealed through all the years.

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Verner von Heidenstam: The cloth versus khaki

January 10, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Scandinavian writers on peace and war

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

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Verner von Heidenstam
From The Charles Men
Translated by Charles Wharton Stork

“Johannes,” said Kerstin Bure to her sixteen-year-old foster-son, with a hardness in her voice that he had never heard before, “you are meant to keep devoutly to your books and some day wear a pastor’s surplice as my sainted father did, but not to lose your blood in worldly feuds. Stick your tinder-box and clasp-knife in your jacket and tie your leather coat at your belt! Go then out into the woods and keep yourself well hid there until we have peace in the land! Before that I do not wish to see you again. Remember that! You hear now how the men shout in the church square, but mayhap their mouths will soon be stopped with black earth.”

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The king said: “Assuredly you are a wise man. Should you also have courage to stand where bullets are whistling?”

Num Eddaula lowered his turban, and reflectively stroked the white beard which reached to his
waist. “I belong to the Truth-tellers’ Brotherhood and may not attribute to myself any virtue. But do you that are a hero answer me this: If your first teacher said to you, ‘Do not kill, do not kill even on a heap of embers the ugliest and fiercest of animals’ – if the noble pashas around you and all men should say every morning, ‘Do not kill, for that is a sin. Stay at home in your kingdom and watch over the harvests, although you win no fame therewith’ – should you have courage for that? Have you courage in misfortune to humble yourself and admit yourself conquered and to forgive your enemies and tormentors?”

The king knitted his brows: “Should not a good soldier rather show himself staunch?”

“You that hate lying and never wished that others should pretend you to be more perfect than
you are, high is your forehead and noble, large are your eyes, but you have an evil line at your tightly pressed mouth. People think that it smiles, but it does not smile. It is something quite other that the lips indicate. They tempt God. They say that your will is His. You gathered your people, and they were smitten. When God has smitten a people. He rolls a heavy boulder upon the grave and ordains quietness. He desires to see once more yellow fields and playing children. But you continue the strife, and against Him. The testifiers of truth – all the steadfast ones who in prosperity are humble, in misfortune are proud – these have roused themselves from their thoughts to see you; and now they turn away. It may be that your land has brought forth many great men and kings, but could any of them from the beginning stand forth better fitted for a warrior of light than you? You feared oblivion. A star was to have been kindled on your grave to burn for thousands of years. But fate was against you, because God willed to smite you and your people. Fulfill, then, your hero’s task! Put away vain reputation, as you have despised the wine-cup and women. Do it humbly or do it proudly, whichever you can. Go forth and set yourself in the place of the conquered and the destitute. Go forth and set yourself, like Job, upon a heap of ashes. You can control your countenance; control yourself likewise. You are capable of more than you perform. That is what God never forgives in a hero. Never did He raise on His right hand a more transparent pure jewel than you, and never did He in His wrath fling His own handiwork so deep in the darkness – and therefore I love you, because you are human. Of all the men I have met, none have I loved as you, no one. Beware, beware! for there are others, too, that love you and are far more dangerous than your worst enemies and traducers.”

====

Early next morning Num Eddaula was executed before the tent of the sultan. The confident certainty of oblivion spread its tranquillity over his last hour. The servant buried his body apart between two cypresses. When the grave was shovelled in again, he strewed over it grains of maize for the doves, which gathered in hundreds from grove and tree. Soon bushes with white flowers sprang up from the earth. Tired soldiers and herdsmen found there a shady spot and often lay down to rest awhile on the grass. It was a sacred place. There slept a forgotten man.

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Robert Montgomery: War

January 9, 2021 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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Robert Montgomery
War

The smoke, the thunder, and the din of War!
Loud as an ocean leaping into life
I hear the storm of battle swell. Advance;
And listen to the cloud-ascending peals
Of Cannon, from whose lips a lightning glares!
Hark! how the bugle-echoes beat the air,
And how the deep-roll’d drums their wrath resound,
While on the throbbing Earth the Sun looks down
Like a dread war-fiend, with a fierce delight.
Death! here thou art and here the flashing swords
Shall reap thy harvest, and devoted souls
By thousands rush into the hands of God!

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Frances Brown: An avenger mightier than war

January 8, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Irish writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Frances Brown
From The Burning of the Tower of London

In war you have shatter’d both sceptre and spear –
But flee for a greater than Britain is here.
Thou stronghold of glory, though wide was thy fame,
And minstrel and story have hallow’d thy name,
Yet in thee were found the dark stains of the past –
And see, an avenger hath entered at last!
Long, long hast thou boasted the treasures of war
Thy victors had gather’d from nations afar;
The realm of the North gave her iron-bound toil,
And the lands of the sunrise their gold-cover’d spoil;
But the trophies of ages are perishing now,
In the wrath of a Spoiler yet mightier than thou.
Who spares not the ransom’d from Ocean’s deep ire –
For strong to destroy is the angel of fire.

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Elihu Burritt: Dismantled Arsenals. Death, sin and Satan weep over the grave of their renowned confederate, War.

January 7, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Elihu Burritt
Dismantled Arsenals

We love to contemplate the ruins of those black-looking war-factories that were wont to pour forth a stream that gladdened the fellest spirit that ever breathed on this green world. There they stand in haggard desolation, like things built before the sun was made, and unable to bear its light; or like a bloated, ragged drunkard before a mirror with a thousand angel faces in it. Still and cold is now that terrible, mysterious enginery that turned the best things nature ever made for man into lava-streams of hot poison, that burnt his heart up with fierce inhuman passions. And those coiled, copper-coloured worms are dead – the greedy metallic snakes that devoured whole fields of yellow grain a day, the bread for which a thousand widows prayed, and plied their lean fingers at the midnight hour. They are dead! and when they died, their fiery malignant ghosts, I trow, were expelled the fellowship of better spirits in the bottomless pit, that could not brook their alcoholic breath. They are dead, the skulking reptiles! that, half-buried in the earth, poured invisible their rivulets of blighting ruin into the fountains of human happiness and life; that stung to death, in the sunniest walks of youth, hopes that took hold of heaven, of earth, of the love and joy of a thousand hearts. They are dead! and the stream is dry that fed the veins of War with hot vitality. And, next, that monstrous Gorgon will die. Depend upon it; War never had in its devil’s heart any other blood than rum. Nay, its heart itself is but a vast distillery, keeping its huge veins and arteries full of that fiery fluid. The vat of fermenting grain and cane juice is the stomach of War, and the stillworm its viscera. These are the nutritive and digestive organs of the great red dragon : and for this, – like other dragons killed in olden times – it must be mortal; for rum is mortal, and all its fiery fountains will dry up, while the earth is full of springs of water, pure and sweet as that which the sinless Adam drank out of the hand of God. Will war die ? War that claimed the immortality of Death and Sin? Yes; and Death, and Sin, and Satan, will live to weep over the grave of their renowned confederate. And such a funeral! methinks I see it now. The earth, sea, and sky, are vibrating with joyous emotion, and there is gladness in the heart of every living thing. The dust of fourteen thousand million of human beings butchered in the battle-field, stirs into life and form: and up springing from their coral graves and caverns fathomless in the sea, myriads of human skeletons leap upon the land and clap their bony hands in triumph, and around the globe runs the exulting gibber of “the sheeted dead,” that the great Destroyer has fallen. And yonder, methinks, there rolls a sea, full fifty fathoms deep – a dark, dead, salt sea of tears, fed by the outlets of a hundred thousand millions of human eyes that wept at War’s doings. And now a wailing wind, a monsoon of widows’ and orphans’ sighs moves over the briny deep, and lifts its bitter waves in sympathy with the world’s jubilee. And Labour, wan, dejected Labour, at whose veins the monster fed, runs up and down the green hills exulting to see the curse removed. And red-handed Slavery, the eldest thing of the leprous beast, lets go from her palsied hands the bonded millions she held with iron grasp, to throw their fetters into the grave of war, and shout for joy with all the sons of God that man is free. And all beings that live and love the face of man, the face of nature – that love to look up into the pure, peaceful sky, and on the peaceful sea, and fields and flocks, – that love to commune with the silent harmonies of the great creation, and listen to the music of unreasoning things, – all these fill the heavens with one jubilate! that the great CANNIBAL is dead – the great MAN-EATER, that, whetting its appetite on the flesh of Abel, ate up a large portion of the human race, and enslaved the rest to cater to the appetites of its wolfish maw.

Categories: Uncategorized

Mary McDermott Santley: The serene light of peace to all mankind

January 6, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Mary McDermott Santley
The Bow of Peace

I
Ah, it was glorious, my heart, that day,
When all the winds were let loose on the hill,
And clouds the great sky-dome hastened to fill,
To stand up wrathful, as in vengeful fray;
Then, quick, serenely lighted with a ray
Of sheen about their edges, in a frill,
Bright, from the central sun on God’s own hill;
For majestic power ruled in love that day.
Oh, in smoky-silver curtains, how the rain
Swayed with the wind and cracked its sheets of wet!
Its fury spent, the furrowed cheek of the hill
It kissed; and we knew, heart and I, again,
When the wondrous bow in the clouds was set,
That peace enfolded us, and all things, still.

II
Peace wraps the hill in mantle of soft light.
‘Tis kin to fragrance; ’tis like unto rest
Granted after turmoil in the long quest
Of an anguished soul for heavenly light,
When darkness flees and comes a radiance bright
Of all God’s signs most beautiful and best,
From distant east the bow spans to the west,
And all the world’s encompassed by His might.
Benignly mirrored in the ordered rays
From violet through the prism to the red.
‘Tis precious promise from unchanging Mind,
Witness of Love’s unforgetting tender ways.
“My Peace I give you,” the great Master said.
The serene light of peace – to all mankind.

III
“Oh, wondrous day, when tempests all had fled
And over earth at first pale sunlight lay,
Quiet forerunner of a brighter ray.
And royal purple curtains wide were spread,
Then veiled by mists of soft and shad’wy red.
High circling over all, a shining way,
A bow of solvent gems of every ray
Of light and color from Love’s hand had sped!
And this not all, for on that day my shroud.
Leather-darkness, fell heavy at my feet.
At first, all seemed, to me, but softly bright;
Then quick there was nor heaviness nor cloud.
For Christ had spoken in His accents sweet
And flashed the brightness of His coming – Light!

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