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Paul Valèry: War, science, art and Leibnitz, who dreamed of universal peace

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

French writers on war and peace

Paul Valéry on global conflicts, Europe governed by American commission

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Paul Valèry
From The Intellectual Crisis
Translated by Malcom Cowley

A great deal of science was doubtless required to kill so many men, destroy so much property, annihilate so many cities in so short a time; but moral qualities were equally required. Knowledge and Duty: must we suspect you also?

***

Inventors were feverishly searching their imagination and the annals of former wars, in hope of finding a way to remove barbed wire, baffle the submarines, or paralyze the flight of aeroplanes; the soul, meanwhile, was invoking all its known incantations – gravely considering any prophecy, however bizarre; seeking for auguries, refuge, consolations through the whole gamut of memories, anterior acts and ancestral attitudes. All these are the known products of anxiety; they are the disordered enterprises of the brain which flees from reality to a nightmare and from nightmare to the real, maddened like a rat in a trap.

***

The facts, however, are plain and merciless: There are thousands of young writers and young artists who have been killed. There are the lost illusion of a European culture and the demonstrated inability of knowledge to save anything whatsoever; there is science, touched mortally in its ethical ambitions and as if dishonoured by the cruelty of its applications…

Today, on an immense platform which might be that of Elsinore, but runs instead from Basle to Cologne, touching the sands of Nieuport, the marshes of the Somme, the granites of Alsace, and the chalky plateaus of Champagne – The European Hamlet stares at millions of ghosts.

***

If he takes a skull in his hands, the skull is illustrious. – “Whose was it?” – That was Leonardo. He invented the flying man, but the flying man has hardly fulfilled the purpose of the inventor; we know that the flying man mounted on his great swan (il grande uccello sopra del dosso del suo magno cecero) has other uses in our days than to go fetch snow from the mountain-tops and sprinkle it over city streets in the heat of summer…And this other skull is that of Leibnitz, who dreamed of universal peace…

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Clinton Scollard: Mars’ mad and holocaustal rite

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
In The Night

Sometimes grim horror grips me in the night
When I am fain of sleep, when I am fain
Of surcease from the thought of woe and pain
Where fields once fair are stricken with the blight
And whelm of battle; then across my sight
Pale phantoms march, a melancholy train,
The unhouselled ghosts of the unnumbered slain
That mark Mars’ mad and holocaustal rite.

What will the end be? Can no puissant power,
Man’s dream and hope from some dim elder day,
With hand compassionate, exorcize the spell?
Or have we fallen on that awful hour
When hosts satanic, in their dire array.
Menace the world from out the yawn of hell?

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Katharine Lee Bates: Mother

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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

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Katharine Lee Bates
Mother

“Mother! Mother!” he called as he fell
In the horror there
Of a bursting shell
That strewed red flesh on the air.

Far away over sea and land:
The knitting dropt
From an old white hand,
And a heart for an instant stopt.

But it was Death, dark mother and wise,
All-tenderest,
Who kissed his eyes
And gathered him to her breast.

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Clinton Scollard: The Night Sowers

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
The Night Sowers
(France)

Lo, these are they that toil by night
With mattock and with spade,
‘Neath the faint flickering lanthom light,
In meadow and in glade!
Row upon long and crowded row,
How gruesome is the seed they sow!

Back on the fair and furrowed lands
The earth and sod they toss,
And some, with reverential hands.
Place here and there a cross,
A simple rough-hewn cross as though
To sanctify the seed they sow.

Oh, may some flower of love arise
Above the bruised sod,
Some flower of love to greet the eyes,
The grieving eyes of God !
Some flower of love whereon shall fall
The dews of peace perennial!

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Georg Ebers: Each one must bring a victim to the war

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

German writers on peace and war

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Georg Ebers
From Uarda
A Romance Of Ancient Egypt
Translated by Clara Bell

Here men were lamenting and casting dust upon their heads, there women were rending their clothes, shrieking loudly, and crying as they waved their veils “oh, my husband! oh, my father! oh, my brother!”

Parents who had received the news of the death of their son fell on each other’s neck weeping; old men plucked out their grey hair and beard; young women beat their forehead and breast, or implored the scribes who read out the lists to let them see for themselves the name of the beloved one who was for ever torn from them.

***

“Can you read?” he asked her; “up there on the architrave is the name of Rameses, with all his titles. Dispenser of life, he is called. Aye indeed; he can create widows; for he has all the husbands killed.”

Before the astonished woman could reply, he stood by a man sunk in woe, and pulling his robe, said “Finer fellows than your son have never been seen in Thebes. Let your youngest starve, or beat him to a cripple, else he also will be dragged off to Syria; for Rameses needs much good Egyptian meat for the Syrian vultures.”

***

He had listened with affable condescension to the complaint of a landed proprietor, whose cattle had been driven off for the king’s army, and had promised that his case should be enquired into. The plundered man was leaving full of hope; but when the scribe who sat at the feet of the Regent enquired to whom the investigation of this encroachment of the troops should be entrusted, Ani said: “Each one must bring a victim to the war; it must remain among the things that are done, and cannot be undone.”

The Nomarch [Chief of a Nome or district.] of Suan, in the southern part of the country, asked for funds for a necessary, new embankment. The Regent listened to his eager representation with benevolence, nay with expressions of sympathy; but assured him that the war absorbed all the funds of the state, that the chests were empty…

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Luise Mühlbach: Battle-field writes names of its heroes in blood

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

German writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Luise Mühlbach
From Frederick the Great and His Court
Translator not identified

“The gleaming phantom known as of fame appears before me every day. I know it is folly, but folly from which a man frees himself with difficulty when once possessed by her. Do not speak to me of dangers, cares, wear, and tear; what are they all in comparison with fame? It is so mad a passion that I cannot comprehend why it does not turn everyone’s head.”

“Your Majesty, for thousands this passion has not only turned their heads, but cost their heads,” said Jordan, sadly. “The battle-field is, of course, the golden book of the heroes, but their names are written in it in blood.”

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Katharine Lee Bates: The doomful, mad torpedo, the colossal slaughter-guns

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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

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Katharine Bates
The Cry

Multitudionous the cry beating on the smoke-veiled sky.
Since the first war-wrath burst on immortal Belgium,
– Roar of cannon, shriek of shells, toll of earthward-crashing bells,
Thunder of the bomb exploding, careless where its tortures come.
Under all, the dreadful moan of the battlefield, far-strown
With those cleft bodies left like a wreck of broken spars.

Oh, the Raphaels, Davids lost in that welter!
Oh, life’s cost,
As a giant tread had crushed into dark a sky of stars!
And for every dying throb of those millions, women sob;
East or west, a mother’s breast is the same to cherish sons;
From the Ganges, Danube, Rhone, sorrow wails her antiphone
To the doomful, mad torpedo, the colossal slaughter-guns.

There’s no silence left on earth for the dream that brings to birth
Beauty, grace, no fair space on this crimsoned, tattered chart,
Not one walled and cloistered spot where on every air come not
Groanings of a hurt creation, troubling all the job of art.

But a hope has gone abroad, a hope that crowns the sword;
Faces shine with divine courage for a gain high-priced.
Peace shall be the prize of strife, death shall yet deliver life,
That this cry may nevermore beat upon the heart of Christ.

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Joseph Victor von Scheffel: The Muses heal what Mars has wrought

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

German writers on peace and war

Joseph Victor von Scheffel: The wood of peace

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Joseph Victor von Scheffel
From The Trumpeter
Translated by Jessie Beck and Louise Lorimer

“Bitter war has on our country
Many bitter wounds inflicted,
And within our German borders
Rudeness has all too long flourished.
It is good, then, to repose us
In the Muses’ peaceful grottoes.
These revive, refresh, ennoble,
While they tame our savage spirits.
What upon the walls is painted
Tells me of no common effort.
What my ears have been regaled with
Causes me to think most highly
Of the men who have performed it.
Memories rose up before me
Of my young days, long forgotten,
When, in Rome, I loved to listen
To Cavalieri’s ‘Daphne,’
And, in soft, Arcadian longings
To expand my melting spirit.
Lay your offerings, good my masters,
Ever on Dame Music’s altar.
Let your notes ring fair together,
Hold aloof from brawls politic.
Would that such harmonious spirit
Over all the land would settle!”

***

Many a one among us younger,
Later-born of human children,
Sees in dreams some peaceful islet
Where full gladly he would nestle,
And in calm would lave his spirit,
Calm of forests, peace of Sabbaths.
Many a one sets out with longing,
But if ever, as he wanders,
He draws near that vision country,
Straight it vanishes before him,
As recedes the wondrous mirrored
Image of the Fay Morgana.

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Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Joseph Victor von Scheffel: The wood of peace

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

German writers on peace and war

Joseph Victor von Scheffel: The Muses heal what Mars has wrought

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Joseph Victor von Scheffel
The Trumpeter
Translated by Mrs. Francis Brünnow and by Jessie Beck and Louise Lorimer

You who live in smoky cities,
And are separated wholly
From the simple life of nature,
Shrug your shoulders! for my muse will
Joyfully now sing the praises
Of a pastor in the country.
Simple is his life, and narrow:
Where the village ends, end also
All his labours and endeavours.
While men slaughtered one another,
In the bloody Thirty Years’ War,
For God’s honour, the calm grandeur
Of the Schwarzwald’s solemn pine-woods
Breathed its peace into his soul.

But, whenever ‘mongst his people
Could some discord be adjusted –
When the spiteful neighbours quarrelled;
When the demon of dissension
Marriage marred and children’s duty;
When the daily load of sorrow
Heavily weighed down some poor man,
And the needy longing soul looked
Eagerly for consolation –
With the olive-branch for token,
To his flock the old man hastened;
From the depths of his heart’s treasure
Gave to each advice and comfort.
And if, in a distant village,
Someone lay upon a sick-bed,
With grim Death hard battle waging,
Then – at midnight – at each hour,
When a knock came at his hall-door –
E’en if snow the pathway covered –
Undismayed he went to comfort
And bestow the sacred blessing.

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Katharine Lee Bates: Carnage! Bayonet, bomb and shell! Merry reading for hell!

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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

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Katharine Lee Bates
The Morning Paper

Carnage!
Humanity disgraced!
Time’s dearest toil effaced!
Poison gases and flame
Putting Nero to shame!
Bayonet, bomb and shell!
Merry reading for hell!
The wickedness! the waste!

Courage!
To gain their fiery goal,
Some crumbling, blood-soaked knoll,
How fearlessly they fling
Their flesh to suffering,
Offer their ardent breath
To gasping, shuddering death!
O miracle of soul!

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E. Merrill Root: Drill, like sheep with wolves’ fangs, meek to kill

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

American writers on peace and against war

E. Merrill Root: Military drill. Murder’s witless marionettes.

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E. Merrill Root
R.O.T.C.

The sons of the Republic drill
Like sheep with wolves’ fangs, meek to kill.

See Whitman’s countrymen learn culture –
Apprentice-butchers of the vulture! –
Learn “the dear love of comrades” jagging
Their bayonets thru the dummy’s bagging!
(Since human bowels are too dear –
Or obvious – to use in mere
Practice.) Incipient A. B’s
Take slaughter-courses toward degrees:
Knowledge of Plato is a trifle
To making bull’s-eyes with a rifle;
Training to slit a human belly
Can supplement a course in Shelley.

Uniforms turn each various soul
Alike as lumps of sorted coal.
Unanimous feet tick-tock, tick-tock…
Each Robot is a well-worn clock:
Each one will tick, and turn, and strike
Whatever hour the Times may like…

Important bantams, slick in spurs,
Give orders like real officers;
Meekly the dumb herd to and fro –
Automata of empires – go;
And pretty co-eds clap to see
The new Goose-step Fraternity!

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Clinton Scollard: The Watcher by the Tower

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
The Watcher by the Tower

Upon a far land’s borders,
At dawn and sunset hour,
There stands a silent Watcher,
The Watcher by the Tower!

The moments glide like ripples
Upon a summer rill;
Unchallenging, unchanging,
He keeps his vigil still.

The serried lines of armies
Sweep on, a mighty span;
They do not see the Watcher,
And yet he marks each man.

The blaring of the bugle.
The daring of the flute.
He knows upon what morrow
Their music will be mute.

The streaming of the guidons,
The gleaming of the guns.
Within his hand he holds them
As God His flaming suns.

Who is the grisly warder
With this supernal power?
Death is the silent Watcher,
The Watcher by the Tower.

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Charles Mackay: War in all men’s eyes shall be a monster of iniquity

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

British writers on peace and war

Charles Mackay: Awake the song of peace!

Charles Mackay: Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall

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Charles Mackay
There’s a Good Time Coming

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
We may not live to see the day,
But earth shall glisten in the ray
Of the good time coming.
Cannon balls may aid the truth,
But thought’s a weapon stronger;
We’ll win our battle by its aid; –
Wait a little longer.

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
The pen shall supersede the sword,
And Right, not Might, shall be the lord,
In the good time coming.
Worth, not Birth, shall rule mankind,
And be acknowledg’d stronger;
The proper impulse has been given; –
Wait a little longer.

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
War in all men’s eyes shall be
A monster of iniquity,
In the good time coming.
Nations shall not quarrel then,
To prove which is the stronger;
Nor slaughter men for glory’s sake; –
Wait a little longer.

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
Hateful rivalries of creed
Shall not make their martyrs bleed
In the good time coming.
Religion shall be shorn of pride,
And flourish all the stronger;
And Charity shall trim her lamp; –
Wait a little longer.

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
And a poor man’s family
Shall not be his misery
In the good time coming.
Every child shall be a help,
To make his right arm stronger;
The happier he, the more he has; –
Wait a little longer.

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
Little children shall not toil,
Under, or above, the soil,
In the good time coming;
But shall play in healthful fields
Till limbs and mind grow stronger;
And every one shall read and write; –
Wait a little longer.

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
The people shall be temperate,
And shall love instead of hate,
In the good time coming.
They shall use, and not abuse,
And make all virtue stronger.
The reformation has begun; –
Wait a little longer.

There’s a good time coming, boys,
A good time coming:
Let us aid it all we can,
Every woman, every man,
The good time coming.
Smallest helps, if rightly given,
Make the impulse stronger;
‘T will be strong enough one day; –
Wait a little longer.

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Katharine Lee Bates: When the Millennium Comes

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Katharine Lee Bates
When the Millennium Comes

When the Millennium comes
Only the kings will fight,
While the princes beat the drums,
And the queens in aprons white,
Arnica bottle in hand,
Watch their Majesties throw,
With a gesture vague and grand,
Their crowns at the dodging foe,
Poor old obsolete crowns
That Time hangs up in a row.

When the Millennium comes
And the proud steel navies meet,
While the furious boiler hums,
And the vengeful pistons beat,
The sailors will stay on shore
And cheer with a polyglot shout
The self-fed cannon that roar
Till metal has fought it out,
But the warm, glad bodies of boys
Are not for the waves to flout.

When the Millennium comes,
Love, the mother of life,
Will have worked out all the sums
Of our dim industrial strife,
And every man shall be lord
Of his deed and his dream, and the lore
Of war shall be abhorred
As a dragon-tale of yore,
Myth of the Iron Age,
A monster earth breeds no more.

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Clinton Scollard: The Carnival of war

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
The Carnival

Oh, the autumn-tide is the carnival tide,
And what shall the carnival wear?
Shall it be the blue of the haze-hung skies
That is blent with gold and with topaz dyes?
Shall it be the pied soft green that lies
On the meadow slope and the mountain side,
Shimmering far and fair?

Nay, none of these for the carnival tide.
For red is the carnival wear!
And never a redder carnival shone
Than now where the San and the Aisne flow on
In the red of the eve, in the red of the dawn.
And the war-fires rule and the thunders ride
Under the autumn air !

Of what avail is this carnival tide,
This blood-red carnival wear.
These carnival lines that rock and reel
And eddy and sally and meet and wheel
And break like a surge on a shore of steel?
Aye, what, when the doom-led men have died,
Does the King of the carnival care?

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Katharine Lee Bates: Marching Feet

February 29, 2020 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

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Katharine Lee Bates
Marching Feet

These August nights, hushed but for drowsy peep
Of fledglings, tremble with a strange vibration,
A sound too far for hearing, sullen, dire,
Shaking the earth.
Even within the swaying veils of sleep
We are haunted by a horror, a mistrust,
A muffled perturbation,
Vaguely aware
Of prodigies in birth,
Of brooding thunders unbelievable,
Fierce forces that conspire
Against mankind.
We start awake;
The purple glooms, all sweet
With dewy fragrance, bear
Our eyelids down, but still we feel the beat,
Dull, doomful, irretrievable,
Of Europe’s marching feet,
Enchanted, blind,
By wizard music led
Over crushed blossoms, through the mocking dust,
To baths of blood and fire.
Beyond the seas, in these hushed hills we dread
That hollow, rhythmic tread
Of nation against nation,
That ancient, bitter thrust
Of war against a world that might be fair
As any golden star that rides the air.
We cannot rest for marching feet that must
Harvest and home forsake,
Inexorably called to take
The road of desolation,
Trampling on hearts that break.

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Clinton Scollard: Prayer: bid this reign of hate and horror end!

February 27, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
Prayer in the Time of Conflict

O thou Invisible Power,
Name some anointed hour
When strife shall cease and peace again shall flower!

Thy sun and stars behold
Miseries manifold,
Terror and anguish that may not be told;

Lands severed by the sword,
Blood as red wine outpoured
Before Thy temples, hallowed and adored.

And hark! – upon the air
The burden of despair!
Mothers and children – fold them in Thy care!

Omnipotent, befriend!
Shelter, protect, forefend.
And bid this reign of hate and horror end!

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Jean Paul Richter: The arch of peace

February 26, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Jean Paul Richter: The fathers of war

Jean Paul Richter: The Goddess of Peace

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Jean Paul Richter
From The Titan
Translated by Charles T. Brooks

“How will it be with us all,” said Linda, “when we meet again, and seek again the lovely soil?” Just then they espied a high-arched rainbow; that stood half on the island and half on the waves, which seemed to fling it out as a gay, arching water-column upon the shore. “We are going,” said Julienne, delighted, “to pass under the arch of peace.” At this word the rain and the wreath of colours disappeared, and the sun shone behind them.

***

“So,” said Albano to himself, as they passed through the long corso to the Tenth Ward, “thou art veritably in the camp of the god of war; here, where he grasped the hilt of the monstrous war-sword, and with the point made the three wounds in three quarters of the world.”

***

The Princess answered, that twelve thousand prisoners built this theatre, and a great many more had bled in it. “O, we too have building prisoners,” said he, “but for fortifications; and blood, too, still flows…”

***

“One learns to estimate military courage very moderately, when one sees that the Roman Legions, precisely when they were mercenary, bad, slavish, and half-freedmen, namely, under the Triumvirate, fought more courageously than ever. The citizens fought and died to the very last man for that insignificant incendiary, Cataline, and only slaves were made prisoners.”

***

[He] threw his iron body into the jaws of death, who could not immediately destroy it, – and intoxicated himself with the sorrow of a savage over his murdered life and hopes in the funeral bowl of debauchery; a league which sensuality and despair have often struck with each other on earth, on theatres of war, and in great cities.

***

Suddenly the flutes in the dell began, which the pious father caused to play at his evening devotions. Like tones of music on the battle-field, they called down murder…

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George Sterling: War past, present, future

February 25, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

George Sterling: To the War-Lords

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George Sterling
War

The Past

In that abyss what monsters greet the sight!
Then were the fertile leisures of the sage,
And stony Art saw then her Golden Age;
But nation upon nation in that night,

With flame to blast and savage steel to smite,
Fell fiendlike, drunken with the battle-rage,
And Time’s red arm upholds a bloody page
Before the revelation of the light.

The dreadful heritage is on us yet:
Rapine and tears and torment and despair –
The murder-stains wherewith our hands are wet.
Still round us rise the dungeons of the Past,
The crypt abominable whence we fare
Slowly, ah! slowly to the light at last.

The Present

They will not pause for counsel. Deadly wings
Take now the skies, and the horizons slay
With hands invisible, and warships sway
To billows broken by their thunderings.

So wrought the lands where now the desert flings
A pall of sand on columns that decay;
And whose the realm none knows unto this day,
Nor knows the Wrath that smote its cruel kings.

Is this the wholesome blue, the heavens of night
Whose eastern star the wise men had for guide?
Found they the Prince of Peace below its light?
That orb hath set. Swift from its holy place
With level wings the pampered vultures slide,
As morning glimmers on a dead man’s face.

The Future

Be beautiful, O morning’s feet of gold,
Upon the mountains of that time to be!
Be swift, O dayspring that shall set us free
From all the blinding tyrannies of old!

Thine are the years by seer and bard foretold,
And thine the judgment driven as a sea
On man’s high-treason to humanity.
Thine is the sun their armies shall behold.

O ranks that serve the future and the Right,
How fair your conquests and how high your wars,
When, bathed in that deliverance of light,
Your swords are lifted against pain and wrong,
And, ere man’s House be builded toward the stars,
Ye lay its deep foundations with a song!

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Jean Paul Richter: The fathers of war

February 19, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Jean Paul Richter: The arch of peace

Jean Paul Richter: The Goddess of Peace

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Jean Paul Richter
From The Titan (1800-1803)
Translated by Charles T. Brooks

Only those hard stormers of heaven and earth before whose triumphal chariots there starts up beforehand a wagon-rampart full of wounds and corpses, – that is, the fathers of war, which, in the long course of history, ministers have oftener been than princes, – only these can calmly kindle all the volcanoes of earth, and let all their lava-torrents stream down, merely that they may have fair prospects. They manure Elysian fields into a battle-field, in order therein to raise a redder rose-bush for a mistress.

***

Schoppe read aloud…two extensive battles, wherein, as by an earthquake, lands instead of houses were buried, and whose wounds and years only the evil genius of the earth could be willing to know; thereupon he read, – after the death-marches of whole generations, and the rending open of the craters of humanity, – with uninterrupted seriousness, the notices, under the head of Intelligence, where one solitary individual mounts upon an unknown little grave…

***

[It must] pain Immortals when they behold us under the violent tempests of life arrayed against each other on the battle-field of enmity, under double blows, and so mortally smitten at once by remote destiny and by that nearer hand which should bind up our wounds!

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William Herbert Carruth: When the Cannon Booms

February 18, 2020 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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William Herbert Carruth
When the Cannon Booms

When the cannon booms,
When the war-drums rattle fiercely
And the feet of men in khaki hammer time out on the pave,
It is easy to be brave;
It is easy to believe that God is angry with the other Man, our brother,
And has left the sword of Gideon in our wayward human hand,
When the cannon booms.

When the cannon booms,
When the primal love of fighting stirs the tiger in our blood,
And the fascinating smell
Of the sulphur-fumes of hell
Rouses memories of the pit from which our human nature rose,

It is easy to forget
God was not found in the earthquake, in the strong wind or the fire;
It is easy to forget how at last the prophet heard Him
As a still, small voice,
When the cannon booms.

When the cannon booms,
When the war-lords strut and swagger
And the battle-ships are plowing for the bitter crop of death,
While the shouting rends the ear,
Echoing from the empyrean,
It is difficult to hear
Through the din the Galilean
With his calm voice preaching peace on earth to men;
‘Twill be easier to claim,
If we will, the Christian name,
To become as little children and be men of gentle will,
When the cannon booms – the cannon booms – no more.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Witter Bynner: War

February 17, 2020 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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Witter Bynner
War

Fools, fools, fools,
Your blood is hot to-day.
It cools
When you are clay.
It joins the very clod
Wherein you look at God,
Wherein at last you see
The living God
The loving God,
Which was your enemy.

Categories: Uncategorized

Clinton Scollard: The Vale of Shadows

February 16, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
The Vale of Shadows

There is a vale in the Flemish land,
A vale once fair to see,
Where under the sweep of the sky’s wide arch,
Though winter freeze or summer parch,
The stately poplars march and march,
Remembering Lombardy.

Here are men of the Saxon eyes,
Men of the Saxon heart,
Men of the fens and men of the Peak,
Men of the Kentish meadows sleek,
Men of the Cornwall cove and creek,
Men of the Dove and Dart.

Here are men of the kilted clans
From the heathery slopes that lie
Where the mists hang gray and the mists hang white,
And the deep lochs brood ‘neath the craggy height,
And the curlews scream in the moonless night
Over the hills of the Skye.

Here are men of the Celtic breed,
Lads of the smile and tear,
From where the loops of the Shannon flow,
And the crosses gleam in the even-glow,
And the halls of Tara now are low,
And Donegal cliffs are sheer.

And never a word does one man speak,
Each in his narrow bed,
For this is the Vale of Long Release,
This is the Vale of the Lasting Peace,
Where wars, and the rumors of wars, shall cease,
The valley of the dead.

No more are they than the scattered scud,
No more than broken reeds,
No more than shards or shattered glass,
Than dust blown down the winds that pass,
Than trampled wefts of pampas-grass
When the wild herd stampedes.

In the dusk of death they laid them down
With naught of murmuring,
And laughter rings through the House of Mirth
To hear the vaunt of the high of birth,
For what are all the kings of earth
Before the one great King!

And what shall these proud war-lords say
At foot of His mighty throne?
For there shall dawn a reckoning day,
Or soon or late, come as it may,
When those who gave the sign to slay
Shall meet His face alone.

What, think ye, will their penance be
Who have wrought this monstrous crime?
What shall whiten their blood-red hands
Of the stains of riven and ravished lands?
How shall they answer God’s stern commands
At the last assize of Time?

For though we worship no vengeance-god
Of madness and of ire,
No Presence grim, with a heart of stone,
Shall they not somehow yet atone?
Shall they not reap as they have sown
Of fury and of fire?

There is a vale in the Flemish land
Where the lengthening shadows spread
When day, with crimson sandals shod,
Goes home athwart the mounds of sod
That cry in silence up to God
From the valley of the dead!

Categories: Uncategorized

Rossiter Johnson: Where swell the songs thou shouldst have sung by peaceful rivers yet to flow?

February 15, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Rossiter Johnson: Infinitely better to learn how to avert war

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Rossiter Johnson
A Soldier Poet

Where swell the songs thou shouldst have sung
By peaceful rivers yet to flow?
Where bloom the smiles thy ready tongue
Would call to lips that loved thee so?
On what far shore of being tossed,
Dost thou resume the genial stave,
And strike again the lyre we lost
By Rappahannock’s troubled wave?

If that new world hath hill and stream,
And breezy bank, and quiet dell,
If forests murmur, waters gleam,
And wayside flowers their story tell,
Thy hand ere this has plucked the reed
That wavered by the wooded shore;
Its prisoned soul thy fingers freed,
To float melodious evermore.

So seems it to my musing mood,
So runs it in my surer thought,
That much of beauty, more of good,
For thee the rounded years have wrought;
That life will live, however blown
Like vapor on the summer air;
That power perpetuates its own;
That silence here is music there.

Categories: Uncategorized

D. A. Wilson: Who Won the War?

February 14, 2020 Leave a comment

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

D. A. Wilson
Who Won the War?

Who won the war?
“I,” muttered 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,” say 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.

Categories: Uncategorized

William Shakespeare: Contumelious, beastly, mad-brained war

February 13, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Timon of Athens

Follow thy drum;
With man’s blood paint the ground, gules, gules:
Religious canons, civil laws are cruel;
Then what should war be?

But if he sack fair Athens,
And take our goodly agèd men by th’beards,
Giving our holy virgins to the stain
Of contumelious, beastly, mad-brained war.

ALCIBIADES
…Dead
Is noble Timon: of whose memory
Hereafter more. Bring me into your city,
And I will use the olive with my sword,
Make war breed peace, make peace stint war, make each
Prescribe to other as each other’s leech.
Let our drums strike.

****
From The Tempest

GONZALO
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavor.
Treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine,
Would I not have.
But nature should bring forth
Of its own kind all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.

Categories: Uncategorized

George Sterling: To the War-Lords

February 12, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

George Sterling: War past, present, future

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George Sterling
To the War-Lords

Be yours the doom Isaiah’s voice foretold,
Lifted on Babylon, O ye whose hands
Cast the sword’s shadow upon weaker lands,
And for whose pride a million hearths grow cold!
Ye reap but with the cannon, and do hold
Your plowing to the murder-god’s commands;
And at your altars Desolation stands,
And in your hearts is conquest, as of old.

The legions perish and the warships drown;
The fish and vulture batten on the slain;
And it is ye whose word hath shaken down
The dykes that hold the chartless sea of pain.
Your prayers deceive not men, nor shall a crown
Hide on the brow the murder-mark of Cain.

II

Now glut yourselves with conflict, nor refrain,
But let your famished provinces be fed
From bursting granaries of steel and lead!
Decree the sowing of that deadly grain
Where the great war-horse, maddened with his pain,
Stamps on the mangled living and the dead,
And from the entreated heavens overhead
Falls from a brother’s hand a fiery rain.

Lift not your voices to the gentle Christ:
Your god is of the shambles! Let the moan
Of nations be your psalter, and their youth
To Moloch and to Bel be sacrificed!
A world to which ye proffered lies alone
Learns now from Death the horror of your truth.

III

How have you fed your people upon lies,
And cried “Peace! peace!” and knew it would not be!
For now the iron dragons take the sea.
And in the new-found fortress of the skies,
Alert and fierce a deadly eagle flies.
Ten thousand cannon echo your decree,
To whose profound refrain ye bend the knee
And lift unto the Lord of Love your eyes.

This is Hell’s work: why raise your hands to Him,
And those hands mailed, and holding up the sword?
There stands another altar, stained with red,
At whose basalt the infernal seraphim
Uplift to Satan, your conspirant lord,
The blood of nations, at your mandate shed.

Categories: Uncategorized

Josephine Preston Peabody: Harvest Moon

February 11, 2020 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 Preston Peabody
Harvest Moon

Over the twilight field,
Over the glimmering field
And bleeding furrows, with their sodden yield
Of sheaves that still did writhe,
After the scythe;
The teeming field, and darkly overstrewn
With all the garnered fullness of that noon –
Two looked upon each other.
One was a Woman, men had called their mother:
And one the Harvest Moon.

And one the Harvest Moon
Who stood, who gazed
On those unquiet gleanings, where they bled;
Till the lone Woman said:

“But we were crazed…
We should laugh now together, I and you;
We two.
You, for your ever dreaming it was worth
A star’s while to look on, and light the earth;
And I, for ever telling to my mind
Glory it was and gladness, to give birth
To human kind.
I gave the breath, – and thought it not amiss,
I gave the breath to men,
For men to slay again;
Lording it over anguish, all to give
My life, that men might live,
For this.

“You will be laughing now, remembering
We called you once Dead World, and barren thing.
Yes, so we called you then,
You, far more wise
Than to give life to men.”

Over the field that there
Gave back the skies
A scattered upward stare
From sightless eyes,
The furrowed field that lay
Striving awhile, through many a bleeding dune
Of throbbing clay, – but dumb and quiet soon,
She looked; and went her way,
The Harvest Moon.

Categories: Uncategorized

William Norman Ewer: Five Souls

February 10, 2020 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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William Norman Ewer
Five Souls

First Soul

I was a peasant of the Polish plain;
I left my plough because the message ran:-
Russia, in danger, needed every man
To save her from the Teuton; and was slain.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Second Soul

I was a Tyrolese, a mountaineer;
I gladly left my mountain home to fight
Against the brutal treacherous Muscovite;
And died in Poland on a Cossack spear.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Third Soul

I worked in Lyons at my weaver’s loom,
When suddenly the Prussian despot hurled
His felon blow at France and at the world;
Then I went forth to Belgium and my doom.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Fourth Soul

I owned a vineyard by the wooded Main,
Until the Fatherland, begirt by foes
Lusting her downfall, called me, and I rose
Swift to the call – and died in far Lorraine.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Fifth Soul

I worked in a great shipyard by the Clyde;
There came a sudden word of wars declared,
Of Belgium, peaceful, helpless, unprepared,
Asking our aid: I joined the ranks, and died.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Categories: Uncategorized

James Beattie: Ode to Peace

February 9, 2020 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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James Beattie
Ode To Peace

I. 1.
Peace, heaven-descended maid! whose powerful voice
From ancient darkness call’d the morn;
And hush’d of jarring elements the noise,
When Chaos, from his old dominion torn,
With all his bellowing throng,
Far, far was hurl’d the void abyss along;
And all the bright angelic choir,
Striking, through all their ranks, the eternal lyre,
Pour’d, in loud symphony, the impetuous strain;
And every fiery orb and planet sung,
And wide, through Night’s dark solitary reign,
Rebounding long and deep, the lays triumphant rung!

I. 2.
Oh, whither art thou fled, Saturnian Age!
Roll round again, majestic years!
To break the sceptre of tyrannic rage;
From Woe’s wan cheek to wipe the bitter tears;
Ye years, again roll round!
Hark! from afar what desolating sound,
While echoes load the sighing gales,
With dire presage the throbbing heart assails!
Murder, deep-roused, with all the whirl wind’s haste,
And roar of tempest, from her cavern springs,
Her tangled serpents girds around her waist,
Smiles ghastly fierce, and shakes her gore-distilling wings.

I. 3.
The shouts, redoubling, rise
In thunder to the skies;
The nymphs disordered, dart along,
Sweet powers of solitude and song,
Stunn’d with the horrors of discordant sound;
And all is listening, trembling round.
Torrents, far heard amid the waste of night,
That oft have led the wanderer right,
Are silent at the noise.
The mighty Ocean’s more majestic voice,
Drown’d in superior din, is heard no more;
The surge in silence seems to sweep the foamy shore.

II. 1.
The bloody banner, streaming in the air,
Seen on yon sky-mix’d mountain’s brow,
The mingling multitudes, the madding car,
Driven in confusion to the plain below,
War’s dreadful Lord proclaim.
Bursts out, by frequent fits, the expansive flame;
Snatch’d in tempestuous eddies, flies
The surging smoke o’er all the darken’d skies;
The cheerful face of heaven no more is seen;
The bloom of morning of morning fades to deadly pale;
The bat flies transient o’er the dusky green,
And Night’s foul birds along the sullen twilight sail.

II. 2.
Involved in fire-streak’d gloom, the car comes on,
The rushing steeds grim Terror guides,
His forehead writhed to a relentless frown,
Aloft the angry Power of Battles rides.
Grasped in his mighty hand
A mace tremendous desolates the land;
The tower rolls headlong down the steep,
The mountain shrinks before its wasteful sweep,
Chill horror the dissolving limbs invades,
Smit by the blasting lightning of his eyes;
A deeper gloom invests the howling shades;
Stripp’d is the shatter’d grove, and every verdure dies.

II. 3.
How startled Phrenzy stares,
Bristling her ragged hairs!
Revenge the gory fragment gnaws;
See, with her griping vulture claws
Imprinted deep, she rends the mangled wound!
Hate whirls her torch sulphureous round.
The shrieks of agony, and clang of arms,
Re-echo to the hoarse alarms,
Her trump terrific blows.
Disparting from behind, the clouds disclose,
Of kingly gesture, a gigantic form,
That with his scourge sublime rules the careering storm.

III. 1.
Ambition, outside fair! within as foul
As fiends of fiercest heart below,
Who rides the hurricanes of fire, that roll
Their thundering vortex o’er the realms of wo,
Yon naked waste survey;
Where late was heard the flute’s mellifluous lay;
Where late the rosy-bosom’d hours,
In loose array, danced lightly o’er the flowers;
Where late the shepherd told his tender tale;
And, waken’d by the murmuring breeze of morn,
The voice of cheerful Labour fill’d the dale;
And dove-eyed Plenty smiled, and waved her liberal horn.

III. 2.
Yon ruins, sable from the wasting flame,
But mark the once resplendent dome;
The frequent corse obstructs the sullen stream
And ghosts glare horrid from the sylvan gloom.
How sadly silent all!
Save where, outstretch’d beneath yon hanging wall
Pale Famine moans with feeble breath,
And Anguish yells, and grinds his bloody teeth.
Though vain the muse, and every melting lay
To touch thy heart, unconscious of remorse!
Know, monster, know, thy hour is on the way;
I see, I see the years begin their mighty course.

III. 3.
What scenes of glory rise
Before my dazzled eyes!
Young zephyrs wave their wanton wings
And melody celestial rings.
All blooming on the lawn the nymphs advance,
And touch the lute, and range the dance:
And the blithe shepherds, on the mountain’s side,
Array’d in all their rural pride,
Exalt the festive note,
Inviting Echo from her inmost grot –
But ah! the landscape glows with fainter light;
It darkens, swims and flies for ever from my sight.

IV. 1.
Illusions vain! Can sacred Peace reside
Where sordid gold the breast alarms,
Where Cruelty inflames the eye of Pride,
And Grandeur wantons in soft Pleasure’s arms!
Ambition, these are thine!
These from the soul erase the form divine;
And quench the animating fire,
That warms the bosom with sublime desire.
Thence the relentless heart forgets to feel,
And Hatred triumphs on the o’erwhelming brow,
And midnight Rancour grasps the cruel steel;
Blaze the blue flames of death, and sound the shrieks of wo.

IV. 2.
From Albion fled, thy once beloved retreat,
What regions brighten in thy smile,
Creative Peace! and underneath thy feet
See sudden flowers adorn the rugged soil?
In bleak Siberia blows,
Waked by the genial breath, the balmy rose?
Waved over by the magic wand,
Does life inform fell Lybia’s burning sand?
O does some isle thy parting flight detain,
Where roves the Indian through primaeval shades
Haunts the pure pleasures of the sylvan reign,
And, led by Reason’s light, the path of Nature treads?

IV. 3.
On Cuba’s utmost steep,
Far leaning o’er the deep,
The Goddess’ pensive form was seen;
Her robe, of Nature’s varied green,
Waved on the gale; grief dimm’d her radiant eyes;
Her bosom heaved with boding sighs;
She eyed the main, where, gaining on the view,
Emerging from the ethereal blue,
‘Midst the dread of pomp of war,
Blazed the Iberian streamer from afar.
She saw; and, on refulgent pinions borne
Slow wing’d her way sublime, and mingled with the morn.

Categories: Uncategorized

Isabella Valancy Crawford: Peace

February 8, 2020 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

Isabella Valancy Crawford: The Forging of the Sword

Isabella Valancy Crawford: War

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Isabella Valancy Crawford
Peace

Peace stands within the city wall;
Most like a god she towers tall,
And bugle-like she cries to all.

In place of sounds of nether hell,
In place of serpent hiss of shell,
Sounds sweet her powerful “All’s well!”

Is she a willow by a stream?
The spirit of a dreamer’s dream?
The pale moon’s meek and phantom beam?

The mere desire of panting soul?
Water, not wine, within the bowl?
Rides she, a ghost, upon the roll

Of spectral seas? Nay, see her rise,
Strong flesh against the flushing skies,
Large calm within her watchful eyes.

The olive darkling o’er her face,
Like one of Caryæ’s sculptured race,
Her arms uphold the nation’s place.

Like ivory beams, her strong white feet
Span over all the busy street;
Beneath their arch the merchants meet.

Her eyes are terrible and pure
As the stern, steadfast cynosure;
Before them bow and bend the poor.

Their thrilling pæans rise to her;
She mothers all the healthy stir
That beats the air with bruit and birr.

Below her feet War’s banners furl,
The bounteous palms about her curl,
Above her head her strong doves whirl.

Her vesture, with giant lilies bound,
Falls like a slant of snow, and round
It whitens all the quiet ground.

Its cloven fringes are of gold;
By her vast calm made brave and bold,
Babes by their summer lightnings hold.

A helmet binds her lofty crest;
Strong scales of steel flash on her vest,
A strong shield on her ample breast.

Armed, armed she stands, from head to heel;
Afar strange navies meet and reel;
Far sounds the furious clash of steel.

Around her sounds the reaper’s song,
Below her moves the busy throng;
So stands she – terrible and strong.

Ardent and awfully, afar
Blazes the blood-red wand’ring star
That rolls before the feet of war;

But wheels not nigh her sentried gate,
Her sinewed battlements that wait
Panting to guard her lofty state.

Her song is mild, but thro’ it still
The blast of bugles, stern and shrill
The calms about her pierce and thrill.

Armed, armed her head, her foot, her breast,
A spear defends her white dove’s nest;
As Peace is strong so is she blest.

Categories: Uncategorized

William Shakespeare: Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace

February 7, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Richard II

For that our kingdom’s earth should not be soil’d
With that dear blood which it hath fostered;
And for our eyes do hate the dire aspect
Of civil wounds plough’d up with neighbours’ sword;
And for we think the eagle-winged pride
Of sky-aspiring and ambitious thoughts,
With rival-hating envy, set on you
To wake our peace, which in our country’s cradle
Draws the sweet infant breath of gentle sleep;
Which so roused up with boisterous untuned drums,
With harsh resounding trumpets’ dreadful bray,
And grating shock of wrathful iron arms,
Might from our quiet confines fright fair peace
And make us wade even in our kindred’s blood…

****

From Richard III

England hath long been mad, and scarr’d herself;
The brother blindly shed the brother’s blood,
The father rashly slaughter’d his own son,
The son, compell’d, been butcher to the sire…

Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!
Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord,
That would reduce these bloody days again,
And make poor England weep in streams of blood!
Let them not live to taste this land’s increase
That would with treason wound this fair land’s peace!
Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God say amen!

Categories: Uncategorized

Maurice Hewlett: O, this war, what a glorious game!

February 6, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Maurice Hewlett: In the Trenches

Maurice Hewlett: Who prayeth peace?

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Maurice Hewlett
A Song for Two Voices

O mother, mother, isn’t it fun,
The soldiers marching past in the sun?
Child, child, what are you saying?
Come to church. We should be praying.

Look, mother, at their bright spears!
The leaves are falling like women’s tears.
You are not looking at what I see.
Nay, but I look at what must be.

Hark to the pipes! See the flag flying!
I hear the sound of a girl crying.
How many hundreds before they are done!
How many mothers wanting a son!

Here rides the general, pacing slow!
Well he may, if he knows what I know!
O, this war, what a glorious game!
Sin and shame, sin and shame.

Categories: Uncategorized

Carl John Bostelmann: Hate, still thy drums! War, make thy trumpets mute!

February 5, 2020 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 John Bostelmann
The Call to Arms

Drums of doom are marching to the battle.
The bugle calls of death are crying, crying.
Come, Youth, the gods of hate demand your chattel!
Men, many men are needed for the dying!

The martial music of the regiments
Blare their insistent summons. From a hill
Bold banners float above ten thousand tents
Where multitudes are learning to kill.

Hate, still thy drums! War, make thy trumpets mute!
Earth, stay vain sacrifice of singing sons
Gone forth to massacre! Love, give salute!
God! Save young laughter from the lust of guns!

Categories: Uncategorized

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Study and let war alone

February 4, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Soldiers and peasants

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: The war-god Mars sat over all Europe

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
From Simplicius Simplicissimus

Our provost kept pretty far behind the line of battle with his helpers and his prisoners, yet were we so close to our brigade that we could tell each man by his clothing from behind; and when a Swedish squadron attacked ours we were in danger of our lives as much as the fighters, for in a moment the air was so full of singing bullets that it seemed a volley had been fired in our honour. At that the timid ducked their heads, as they would have crept into themselves: but they that had courage and had been present at such sport before let the balls pass over their heads quite unconcerned. In the fighting itself every man sought to prevent his own death with the cutting down of the nearest that encountered him: and the terrible noise of the guns, the rattle of the harness, the crash of the pikes, and the cries both of the wounded and the attackers made up, together with the trumpets, drums and fifes, a horrible music. There could one see nought but thick smoke and dust, which seemed as it would conceal the fearful sight of the wounded and dead…The earth, whose custom it is to cover the dead was there itself covered with them, and those variously distinguished: for here lay heads that had lost their natural owners, and there bodies that lacked their heads: some had their bowels hanging out in most ghastly and pitiful fashion, and others had their heads cleft and their brains scattered: there one could see how lifeless bodies were deprived of their blood while the living were covered with the blood of others; here lay arms shot off, on which the fingers still moved, as if they would yet be fighting; and elsewhere rascals were in full flight that had shed no drop of blood: there lay severed legs, which though delivered from the burden of the body, yet were far heavier than they had been before: there could one see crippled soldiers begging for death, and on the contrary others beseeching quarter and the sparing of their lives. In a word, ’twas naught but a miserable and pitiful sight…

My faithful and fatherly advice would be, ye should employ your youth and your means, which ye now do waste in such purposeless wise, to study, that some day ye may be helpful to God and man and yourself; and let war alone, in which, as I do hear, ye have so great a delight; and before ye get a shrewd knock and find the truth of that saying, ‘Young soldiers make old beggars.'”

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Jessie Pope: Black, solemn peace is brooding low; peace, still unbroken

February 3, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Jessie Pope
The Silent Camp

(The writer at her most reflective – RR)

In heaven, a pale uncertain star,
Through sullen vapour peeps,
On earth, extended wide and far,
In all the symmetry of war,
A weary army sleeps.

The heavy-hearted pall of night
Obliterates the lines,
Save where a dying camp-fire’s light
Leaps up and flares, a moment bright,
Then once again declines.

Black, solemn peace is brooding low,
Peace, still unbroken, when
There comes a sound, an ebb and flow –
The steady breathing, deep and slow,
Of half-a-million men.

The pregnant dawn is drawing nigh,
The dawn of power or pain;
But now, beneath the mournful sky,
In sleep’s maternal arms they lie
Like children once again.

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William Shakespeare: Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields, bruise her flowerets

February 2, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry IV, Part 1

So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children’s blood;
Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flowerets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery
Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way and be no more opposed
Against acquaintance, kindred and allies:
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
No more shall cut his master.

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Struthers Burt: To a Friend Wanting War

February 1, 2020 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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Struthers Burt
To a Friend Wanting War

I trust that when the bugles blow,
And the little drums beat, the little drums beat,
You’ll hear no single sound of them,
Nor any sound of marching feet;
The pulsing drums and the bugles shrill
Stir a heart against its will.

There should not be a flag for you,
When the little drums beat, the little drums beat,
But you should find a murdered man
With his blood all black about his feet;
And though you’d never heard his name,
They’d hold you screaming out with shame.

There would not be another sound,
No little drum’s beat, no little drum’s beat,
Till silence like a rising hell
Had cut your voice at your feet,
Leaving you dumb eternally
To think on death’s monotony.

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Berthold Auerbach: Practicing for mutual manslaughter

January 31, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

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Berthold Auerbach
From On the Heights
Translated by Simon Adler Stern

“What do we really do in the world? The trees would grow without us, the animals in the field, and in the air, and in the water would live without us. Everything has of itself something to do in the world; man alone must make himself something to do. And so we paint, and we build, and plough, and study, and practice for mutual manslaughter, and the only difference between man and beast is that men bury their dead.”

***

“You cannot imagine what it is for a favorite and a respected officer to venture upon philosophy – how opposed it is to the military service, appearing unsuitable to your superiors and laughable to your comrades.”

***

Men destroy and kill each other, but they don’t eat each other, that alone distinguishes them from beasts. And one thing besides – yes, one thing besides! that is it! Man alone can kill himself.

***

Man alone sends forth the fatal bullet, and produces an effect where only his eye can reach.

***

Frau Gunther looked at her husband with a beaming expression. “I find that Bronnen has converted you from your aversion to the military profession,” she said, softly.

“In no wise,” replied Gunther, “only Bronnen has not been affected by it. He unites with resolute courage and easy acknowledgement of the power of others a profound and serious mind…”

***

Miscellaneous excerpts

They are not all gods who allow themselves to be worshipped.

***

“Most people are the changelings of themselves; they were changed in the cradle of education.”

***

He sat down by Irma, and pointing to the works of Spinoza and Shakespeare, which always lay on his work-table, he said, –

“To these two men the whole world is open. They lived centuries ago, and I have them on my quiet mountains always with me. I shall pass away, and leave no trace of my thoughts behind me; but I have lived the enduring life with the highest minds. The tree, the beast, they only live for themselves, and only for the space of time allotted to them. We receive with our life the mind of centuries; and he who in truth becomes a human being is the whole humanity in himself. So you, too, go on living with your father, and with all that is genuine and beautiful in the history of the human race.”

***

“You have wrestled honorably with yourself and the highest ideas.”

***

“I know every art wishes now to isolate itself and be independent, and not to be subject to others. A drama without music is a repast without wine. When men see a great drama without having passed beforehand through the initiatory undulations of music, they appear to me as if unconsecrated, unpurified; music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life, and says to each one, ‘Thou art now no longer in thine office, or in the barracks, or in thy workshop.’…”

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E. Merrill Root: Military drill. Murder’s witless marionettes.

January 30, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

E. Merrill Root: Drill, like sheep with wolves’ fangs, meek to kill

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E. Merrill Root
Military Drill

While the clouds float calm and free
Over mountain forests, see
Murder in its infancy! –
There they drill and drill again
Into soldiers – who were men.
In the antique Roman way,
Hypnotized toward murder, they
For – and by – whom Jesus died
Learn technique of homicide.

See the human clock-work wheel –
Not conscious men, but cogs of steel.
Theirs a cog-wheel cruelty:
They see, and know not what they see.
Trim, metallic, like cold wasps –
Or a wheel that never rasps –
Mechanism grown pedantic –
Through their homicidal antic
Without reason, without will,
Theirs but to do…and kill.

Every soul becomes a fraction
Of a schooled mob’s reflex action –
Move these living bayonets,
Murder’s witless marionettes.

Like vast scissor-blades of snow,
Snip-snap, snip-snap, see them go
Through their trim maneuvers’ mesh –
A Cubist painting come to flesh!
Legs of a whole rank flip and flirt
As though they wore a single skirt.

So trim and fine! Why think of war?
The hypnotists discreetly pour
For each soldier’s infancy
The milk of human cruelty!

Few see, upon their spotless white,
Gouts of blood burn ghastly bright!

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William Shakespeare: Take heed how you awake our sleeping sword of war

January 29, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry V

For God doth know how many now in health
Shall drop their blood in approbation
Of what your reverence shall incite us to.
Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,
How you awake our sleeping sword of war:
We charge you, in the name of God, take heed;
For never two such kingdoms did contend
Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops
Are every one a woe, a sore complaint
‘Gainst him whose wrong gives edge unto the swords
That make such waste in brief mortality.

****

Therefore in fierce tempest is he coming,
In thunder and in earthquake like a Jove,
That, if requiring fail, he will compel,
And bids you, in the bowels of the Lord,
Deliver up the crown and to take mercy
On the poor souls for whom this hungry war
Opens his vasty jaws, and on your head
Turning the widows’ tears, the orphans’ cries,
The dead men’s blood, the pining maidens’ groans,
For husbands, fathers, and betrothèd lovers,
That shall be swallowed in this controversy.
This is his claim, his threat’ning, and my message –

****

PISTOL
The plain-song is most just: for humours do abound:
Knocks go and come; God’s vassals drop and die;
And sword and shield,
In bloody field,
Doth win immortal fame.
BOY
Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.

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Katharine Lee Bates: Fodder for Cannon

January 28, 2020 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

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Katharine Lee Bates
Fodder for Cannon

Bodies glad, erect,
Beautiful with youth,
Life’s elect,
Nature’s truth,
Marching host on host,
Those bright, unblemished ones,
Manhood’s boast,
Feed them to the guns.

Hearts and brains that teem
With blessing for the race,
Thought and dream,
Vision, grace,
Oh, love’s best and most,
Bridegrooms, brothers, sons,
Host on host
Feed them to the guns.

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Lillian Rozell Messenger: Seeking a new world of peace

January 27, 2020 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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Lillian Rozell Messenger
Columbus
Or “Was It Morning?” (1893)

Since man first left his Eden vales, his step
Hath wander’d to the West, his morning land.
The East but holds his life’s embalmed past,
The West, the glory of his dream-ideal.
Soon trackless waves come tumbling out of space,

Like oceans fresh from Chaos, on before
The vessels three; when raged the deep and all
Mad demons of the winds howl’d forth in glee,
Columbus sent his prayer across the storm
On wings of faith, and touch’d the realm of Peace –
Deep call’d to deep, alluring him still on.

***

“Now doth there pass before my prophet soul,
Some vision swift, prefigured as a dream,
Soft glowing on the rose-gray mists of sleep.
Of this New World’s fair future! blest of peace,
Blest of all nations’ praise – of Liberty,
Whose flag shall take the azure dome and stars;
Whose mighty mountains, streams and forests grand
Shall move to Freedom’s hymn, and ope new gates
To larger life, to highest truth for men?”
Saw he the mighty ships? Heard he the roar
Of vasty cities, labor’s thunders loud;
As Toil and Art wore garments radiant
In Time’s fresh loom for this fair virgin world
That, like a star, should light the voyageur
From stormy Wrong to God’s wide seas of Peace?

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William Shakespeare: Naked, poor, mangled peace, dear nurse of arts, plenties, joyful births

January 26, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry V

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at such a place;’ some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

****

What rub or what impediment there is
Why that the naked, poor, and mangled peace,
Dear nurse of arts, plenties, and joyful births,
Should not in this best garden of the world,
Our fertile France, put up her lovely visage?
Alas, she hath from France too long been chased,
And all her husbandry doth lie on heaps,
Corrupting in its own fertility.
Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,
Unprunèd, dies. Her hedges, even-pleached,
Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair,
Put forth disorder’d twigs…

Even so our houses and ourselves and children
Have lost, or do not learn for want of time,
The sciences that should become our country;
But grow like savages,–as soldiers will
That nothing do but meditate on blood,–
To swearing and stern looks, diffused attire
And every thing that seems unnatural.
Which to reduce into our former favour
You are assembled: and my speech entreats
That I may know the let, why gentle Peace
Should not expel these inconveniences
And bless us with her former qualities.

***

What is it then to me if impious war,
Arrayed in flames like to the prince of fiends,
Do with his smirched complexion all fell feats
Enlinked to waste and desolation?
What is ’t to me, when you yourselves are cause,
If your pure maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation?
What rein can hold licentious wickedness
When down the hill he holds his fierce career?
We may as bootless spend our vain command
Upon th’ enragèd soldiers in their spoil
As send precepts to the Leviathan
To come ashore.

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Clinton Scollard: Can mankind win to heights of peace and perfect amity?

January 25, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
Can It Be?

Down my mind’s corridors
Go murmuring the memories of old wars;
By day and night they haunt me, anguished cries
From fields whence only the lark’s song should rise,
Or the blithe reaper’s shout amidst the grain.
And now there comes a grimmer, greater pain
Voicing its suffering. O God, what gain
In all this woe of nations? Can it be
Through the dark valley that mankind shall win
From lust of power and jealousy and sin
To heights of peace and perfect amity?

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: The war-god Mars sat over all Europe

January 24, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Soldiers and peasants

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Study and let war alone

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
From Simplicius Simplicissimus

I turned again to the trees whereof the whole land was full and saw how they swayed and smote against each other: and the fellows tumbled off them in batches. Now a crack; now a fall. One moment quick, the next dead. In a moment one lost an arm, another a leg, the third his head. And as I looked methought all trees I saw were but one tree, at whose top sat the war-god Mars, and which covered with its branches all Europe. It seemed to me this tree could have overshadowed the whole world: but because it was blown about by envy and hate, by suspicion and unfairness, by pride and haughtiness and avarice, and other such fair virtues, as by bitter north winds, therefore it seemed thin and transparent: for which reason one had writ on its trunk these rhymes:

“The holmoak by the wind beset and brought to ruin,
Breaks its own branches down and proves its own undoing.
By civil war within and brothers’ deadly feud
Alls topsy-turvy turned and misery hath ensued.”

****

I did hear and see sins done in God’s name, which are much to be grieved for. Such wickedness was specially practised by the soldiers, when they would say, “Now in God’s name let us forth on a foray,” viz., to plunder, kidnap, shoot down, cut down, assault, capture and burn, and all the rest of their horrible works and practices. Just as the usurers ever invoke God with their hypocritical “In God’s name”: and therewithal let their devilish avarice loose to flay and to strip honest folk.

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Francis Saltus Saltus: The wind favors poets over conquerors

January 23, 2020 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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Francis Saltus Saltus
Graves

The sad night-wind, sighing o’er sea and strand,
Haunts the cold marble where Napoleon sleeps;
O’er Charlemagne’s grave, far in the northern land,
A vigil through the centuries it keeps.
O’er Grecian kings its plaintive music sweeps;
Proud Philip’s tomb is by its dark wings fanned,
And round old Pharaohs, deep in desert sand,
Where the grim Sphinx leers to the stars, it creeps.
Yet weary it is of this chill, spectral gloom,
For mouldering grandeur it can have no care,
Rich mausoleums in their granite doom
It fain would leave, to wander on elsewhere,
To cool the violets upon Gautier’s tomb,
And lull the long grass over Baudelaire.

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William Shakespeare: War’s exactions

January 22, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry VIII

In her days every man shall eat in safety,
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours:
God shall be truly known…

****

QUEEN KATHERINE
I am solicited, not by a few,
And those of true condition, that your subjects
Are in great grievance: there have been commissions
Sent down among ’em, which hath flaw’d the heart
Of all their loyalties: wherein, although,
My good lord cardinal, they vent reproaches
Most bitterly on you, as putter on
Of these exactions, yet the king our master –
Whose honour heaven shield from soil! – even he escapes not
Language unmannerly, yea, such which breaks
The sides of loyalty, and almost appears
In loud rebellion.

DUKE OF NORFOLK
Not almost appears,
It doth appear; for, upon these taxations,
The clothiers all, not able to maintain
The many to them longing, have put off
The spinsters, carders, fullers, weavers, who,
Unfit for other life, compell’d by hunger
And lack of other means, in desperate manner
Daring the event to the teeth, are all in uproar,
And danger serves among then!

HENRY VIII
Taxation!
Wherein? and what taxation? My lord cardinal,
You that are blamed for it alike with us,
Know you of this taxation?

CARDINAL WOLSEY
Please you, sir,
I know but of a single part, in aught
Pertains to the state; and front but in that file
Where others tell steps with me.

QUEEN KATHERINE
No, my lord,
You know no more than others; but you frame
Things that are known alike; which are not wholesome
To those which would not know them, and yet must
Perforce be their acquaintance. These exactions,
Whereof my sovereign would have note, they are
Most pestilent to the bearing; and, to bear ’em,
The back is sacrifice to the load. They say
They are devised by you; or else you suffer
Too hard an exclamation.

HENRY VIII
Still exaction!
The nature of it? in what kind, let’s know,
Is this exaction?

QUEEN KATHERINE
Queen Katharine. I am much too venturous
In tempting of your patience; but am bolden’d
Under your promised pardon. The subjects’ grief
Comes through commissions, which compel from each
The sixth part of his substance, to be levied
Without delay; and the pretence for this
Is named, your wars in France: this makes bold mouths:
Tongues spit their duties out, and cold hearts freeze
Allegiance in them; their curses now
Live where their prayers did: and it’s come to pass,
This tractable obedience is a slave
To each incensed will. I would your highness
Would give it quick consideration, for
There is no primer business.

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