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William Cowper: Universal soldiership has stabbed the heart of man

September 24, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From The Task

Sure there is need of social intercourse,
Benevolence and peace and mutual aid,
Between the nations, in a world that seems
To toll the death-bell to its own decease;
And by the voice of all its elements
To preach the general doom.

***

‘Tis universal soldiership has stabb’d
The heart of merit in the meaner class.
Arms through the vanity and brainless rage
Of those that bear them in whatever cause,
Seem most at variance with all moral good,
And incompatible with serious thought.
The clown, the child of nature, without guile,
Blest with an infant’s ignorance of all
But his own ſimple pleaſures, now and then
A wrestling match, a foot-race, or a fair,
Is ballotted, and trembles at the news.
Sheepish he doffs his hat, and mumbling swears
A Bible-oath to be whate’er they please,
To do he knows not what. The task perform’d,
That instant he becomes the sergeant’s care,
His pupil, and his torment, and his jest.
His awkward gait, his introverted toes,
Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks,
Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees,
Unapt to learn and formed of stubborn stuff,
He yet by slow degrees puts off himself,
Grows conscious of a change, and likes it well.
He stands erect, his slouch becomes a walk,
He steps right onward, martial in his air
His form and movement; is as smart above
As meal and larded locks can make him; wears
His hat or his plumed helmet with a grace,
And his three years of heroship expired,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
He hates the field in which no fife or drum
Attends him, drives his cattle to a march,
And sighs for the smart comrades he has left.
‘Twere well if his exterior change were all –
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost
His ignorance and harmless manners too.
To swear, to game, to drink, to show at home
By lewdness, idleness, and sabbath-breach,
The great proficiency he made abroad,
T’ astonish and to grieve his gazing friends,
To break some maiden’s and his mother’s heart,
To be a pest where he was useful once,
Are his sole aim, and all his glory now.

Incorporated, seem at once to Iose
Their nature, and disclaiming all regard
For mercy and the common rights of man,
Build factories with blood, conducting trade
At the sword’s point, and dying the white robe
Of innocent commercial justice red.
Hence too the field of glory, as the world
Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
With all the majesty of its thund’ring pomp,
Enchanting music and immortal wreaths,
Is but a school where thoughtlessness is taught…

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Thomas Carew: Lust for gold fills the world with tumult, blood, and war

September 23, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Carew: They’ll hang their arms upon the olive bough

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Thomas Carew
Selections

Is Troy more noble ’cause to ashes turned,
Than virgin cities that yet never burned?
Is fire, when it consumes
Temples, more fire, than when it melts perfumes?

***

Thus I enjoy my self, and taste the fruit
Of this blest Peace; whilst, toiled in the pursuit
Of bucks and stags, emblems of War, you strive
To keep the memory of our arms alive.

***

Plutus (Gold/Wealth)

If Virtue must inherit, she’s my slave;
I lead her captive in a golden chain
About the world; she takes her form and being
From my creation; and those barren seeds
That drop from Heaven, if I not cherish them
With my distilling dews and fotive heat,
They know no vegetation; but, exposed
To blasting winds of freezing Poverty.
Or not shoot forth at all, or budding wither.
Should I proclaim the daily sacrifice
Brought to my Temples by the toiling rout,
Not of the fat and gore of abject Beasts
But human sweat and blood pour’d on my Altars
I might provoke the envy of the gods.
Turn but your eyes, and mark the busy world,
Climbing steep Mountains for the sparkling stone.
Piercing the Centre for the shining Ore,
And th’ Ocean’s bosom to rake pearly sands :
Crossing the torrid and the frozen Zones,
‘Midst rocks and swallowing Gulfs, for gainful trade :
And through opposing swords, fire, murd’ring cannon,
Scaling the walled Town for precious spoils.

Witness Mount Ida, where the Martial Maid
And frowning Juno did to mortal eyes
Naked for gold their sacred bodies show!
Therefore for ever be from heaven banished:
But since with toil from undiscover’d Worlds
Thou art brought hither, where thou first did’st breathe
The thirst of Empire into Regal breasts,
And frightedst quiet Peace from her meek Throne,
Filling the World with tumult, blood, and war…

***

Ticke (Tyche/Fortune)

The revolutions of Empires, States,
Sceptres and Crowns, are but my game and sport,
Which as they hang on the events of War,
So these depend upon my turning wheel.
You warlike Squadrons, who, in battle join’d,
Dispute the Right of Kings, which I decide.
Present the model of that martial frame,
By which, when Crowns are staked, I rule the game!

***

 Mercury

[H]ave to that secure fix’d state advanced
Both you and them, to which the labouring world –
Wading through streams of blood – sweats to aspire.

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William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

September 18, 2016 Leave a comment
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William Cowper: In every heart are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war

September 16, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From The Task

Great princes have great playthings. Some have play’d
At hewing mountains into men, and some
At building human wonders mountain high.
Some have amused the dull sad years of life
(Life spent in indolence, and therefore sad)
With schemes of monumental fame; and sought
By pyramids and mausolean pomp,
Short-lived themselves, to immortalize their bones.
Some seek diversion in the tented field,
And make the sorrows of mankind their sport.
But war’s a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at. Nations would do well
To extort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief, and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their toy, the World.

When Babel was confounded, and the great
Confederacy of projectors wild and vain
Was split into diversity of tongues,
Then, as a shepherd separates his flock,
These to the upland, to the valley those,
God drave asunder, and assign’d their lot
To all the nations. Ample was the boon
He gave them, in its distribution fair
And equal; and he bade them dwell in peace.
Peace was awhile their care: they plough’d, and sow’d,
And reap’d their plenty without grudge or strife,
But violence can never longer sleep
Than human passions please. In every heart
Are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war;
Occasion needs but fan them, and they blaze.
Cain had already shed a brother’s blood;
The deluge wash’d it out; but left unquench’d
The seeds of murder in the breast of man.
Soon by a righteous judgment in the line
Of his descending progeny was found
The first artificer of death; the shrewd
Contriver, who first sweated at the forge,
And forced the blunt and yet unbloodied steel
To a keen edge, and made it bright for war.
Him, Tubal named, the Vulcan of old times,
The sword and falchion their inventor claim;
And the first smith was the first murderer’s son.
His art survived the waters; and ere long,
When man was multiplied and spread abroad
In tribes and clans, and had begun to call
These meadows and that range of hills his own,
The tasted sweets of property begat
Desire of more: and industry in some,
To improve and cultivate their just demesne,
Made others covet what they saw so fair.
Thus war began on earth; these fought for spoil,
And those in self-defence. Savage at first
The onset, and irregular. At length
One eminent above the rest for strength,
For stratagem, or courage, or for all,
Was chosen leader; him they served in war,
And him in peace, for sake of warlike deeds,
Reverenced no less. Who could with him compare?
Or who so worthy to control themselves,
As he, whose prowess had subdued their foes?
Thus war, affording field for the display
Of virtue, made one chief, whom times of peace,
Which have their exigencies too, and call
For skill in government, at length made king.
King was a name too proud for man to wear
With modesty and meekness; and the crown,
So dazzling in their eyes who set it on,
Was sure to intoxicate the brows it bound.

***

He deems a thousand, or ten thousand lives,
Spent in the purchase of renown for him,
An easy reckoning; and they think the same.
Thus kings were first invented, and thus kings
Were burnish’d into heroes, and became
The arbiters of this terraqueous swamp…

***

Should be a despot absolute, and boast
Himself the only freeman of his land?
Should, when he pleases, and on whom he will,
Wage war, with any or with no pretence
Of provocation given, or wrong sustain’d,
And force the beggarly last doit, by means
That his own humour dictates, from the clutch
Of poverty, that thus he may procure
His thousands, weary of penurious life,
A splendid opportunity to die?

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Robert Herrick: The Olive Branch

September 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Herrick: The olive branch, the arch of peace

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Robert Herrick

The Rainbow

Look how the rainbow doth appear
But in one only hemisphere;
So likewise after our decease
No more is seen the arch of peace.
That cov’nant’s here, the under-bow,
That nothing shoots but war and woe.

***

Hope Heartens

None goes to warfare but with this intent –
The gains must dead the fears of detriment.

***

The Hand and Tongue

Two parts of us successively command:
The tongue in peace; but then in war the hand.

***

The Olive Branch

Sadly I walk’d within the field,
To see what comfort it would yield;
And as I went my private way
An olive branch before me lay,
And seeing it I made a stay,[Pg 89]
And took it up and view’d it; then
Kissing the omen, said Amen;
Be, be it so, and let this be
A divination unto me;
That in short time my woes shall cease
And Love shall crown my end with peace.

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William Cowper: O place me in some heaven-protected isle where no crested warrior dips his plume in blood

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

 

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From Heroism

Ye monarchs, whom the lure of honour draws,
Who write in blood the merits of your cause,
Who strike the blow, then plead your own defence,
Glory your aim, but justice your pretence;
Behold in Aetna’s emblematic fires
The mischiefs your ambitious pride inspires!

Fast by the stream that bounds your just domain,
And tells you where you have a right to reign,
A nation dwells, not envious of your throne,
Studious of peace, their neighbour’s and their own.
Ill-fated race! how deeply must they rue
Their only crime, vicinity to you!
The trumpet sounds, your legions swarm abroad,
Through the ripe harvest lies their destined road;
At every step beneath their feet they tread
The life of multitudes, a nation’s bread!
Earth seems a garden in its loveliest dress
Before them, and behind a wilderness.
Famine, and Pestilence, her firstborn son,
Attend to finish what the sword begun;
And echoing praises, such as fiends might earn,
And folly pays, resound at your return.
A calm succeeds – but Plenty, with her train
Of heartfelt joys, succeeds not soon again:
And years of pining indigence must show
What scourges are the gods that rule below.

Yet man, laborious man, by slow degrees
(Such is his thirst of opulence and ease),
Plies all the sinews of industrious toil,
Gleans up the refuse of the general spoil,
Rebuilds the towers that smoked upon the plain,
And the sun gilds the shining spires again.
Increasing commerce and reviving art
Renew the quarrel on the conqueror’s part;
And the sad lesson must be learn’d once more,
That wealth within is ruin at the door.
What are ye, monarchs, laurell’d heroes, say,
But Aetnas of the suffering world ye sway?
Sweet Nature, stripp’d of her embroider’d robe,
Deplores the wasted regions of her globe;
And stands a witness at Truth’s awful bar,
To prove you there destroyers as ye are.
O place me in some heaven-protected isle,
Where Peace, and Equity, and Freedom smile;
Where no volcano pours his fiery flood,
No crested warrior dips his plume in blood;
Where Power secures what Industry has won:
Where to succeed is not to be undone…

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William Shenstone: Ah, hapless realms! that war’s oppression feel.

September 12, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shenstone: Let the gull’d fool the toils of war pursue

William Shenstone: War, where bleed the many to enrich the few

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William Shenstone
From Elegy XIV

Tell not of realms by ruthless war dismay’d;
Ah, hapless realms! that war’s oppression feel;
In vain may Austria boast her Noric blade,
If Austria bleed beneath her boasted steel.

****

From Elegy XV

‘Twas there, in happier times, this virtuous race,
Of milder merit, fix’d their calm retreat:
War’s deadly crimson had forsook the place,
And freedom fondly loved the chosen seat.

No wild ambition fired their tranquil breast,
To swell with empty sounds a spotless name;
If fostering skies, the sun, the shower, were blest,
Their bounty spread; their fieds’ extent the same.

Those fields, profuse of raiment, food, and fire,
They scorn’d to lessen, careless to extend;
Bade Luxury to lavish courts aspire,
And Avarice to city breasts descend.

For these the sounds that chase unholy strife!
Solve Envy’s charm, Ambition’s wretch release!
Raise him to spurn the radiant ills of life,
To pity pomp, to be content with peace.

****

From The Ruined Abbey, Or, The Affects Of Superstition

At length fair Peace, with olive crown’d, regains
Her lawful throne, and to the sacred haunts
Of wood or fount the frighted Muse returns.

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William Cowper: Peace, both the duty and the prize

September 11, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

 

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

William Cowper
From Charity

The reign of genuine Charity commence.
Though scorn repay her sympathetic tears,
She still is kind, and still she perseveres…
But still a soul thus touch’d can never cease,
Whoever threatens war, to speak of peace.

Guns, halberts, swords, and pistols, great and small,
In starry forms disposed upon the wall:
We wonder, as we gazing stand below,
That brass and steel should make so fine a show;
But, though we praise the exact designer’s skill,
Account them implements of mischief still.

***

From The Nighingale and the Glow-Worm

That brother should not war with brother,
And worry and devour each other,
But sing and shine by sweet consent,
Till life’s poor transient night is spent,
Respecting in each other’s case
The gifts of nature and of grace.

Those Christians best deserve the name,
Who studiously make peace their aim;
Peace, both the duty and the prize
Of him that creeps and him that flies.

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William Shenstone: War, where bleed the many to enrich the few

September 10, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shenstone: Ah, hapless realms! that war’s oppression feel.

William Shenstone: Let the gull’d fool the toils of war pursue

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William Shenstone
From The Judgement of Hercules

‘Let the gull’d fool the toils of war pursue,
Where bleed the many to enrich the few.
Where Chance from Courage claims the boasted prize;
Where, though she give, your country oft denies.’

***

‘Sleep’s downy god, averse to war’s alarms,
Shall o’er thy head diffuse his softest charms,
Ere anxious thought thy dear repose assail,
Or care, my most destructive foe, prevail.’

***

‘Such be my cares to bind the oppressive hand,
And crush the fetters of an injured land;
To see the monster’s noxious life resign’d,
And tyrants quell’d, the monsters of mankind!’

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Thomas Campion: Raving war wastes our empty fields

September 9, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Campion: Then bloody swords and armour should not be

Thomas Campion: Upright man needs neither towers nor armour

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Thomas Campion

Raving war, begot
In the thirsty sands
Of the Libyan isles,
Wastes our empty fields;
What the greedy rage
Of fell wintry storms
Could not turn to spoil,
Fierce Bellona now
Has laid desolate,
Void of fruit, or hope.
Th’ eager thrifty hind,
Whose rude toil revived
Our sky-blasted earth,
Himself is but earth,
Left a scorn to fate
Through seditious arms:
And that soil, alive
Which he duly nursed,
Which him duly fed,
Dead his body feeds:
Yet not all the glebe
His tough hands manured
Now one turf affords
His poor funeral.
Thus still needy lives,
Thus still needy dies
Th’ unknown multitude.

 

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William Cowper: They trust in navies and armies

September 7, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Cowper: Selections on peace and war

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William Cowper
From Expostulation

War lays a burden on the reeling state,
And peace does nothing to relieve the weight;
Successive loads succeeding broils impose,
And sighing millions prophecy the close.

***

From Table Talk

I grant that, men continuing what they are,
Fierce, avaricious, proud, there must be war…

But let eternal infamy pursue
The wretch to nought but his ambition true,
Who, for the sake of filling with one blast
The post-horns of all Europe, lays her waste.
Think yourself station’d on a towering rock,
To see a people scatter’d like a flock,
Some royal mastiff panting at their heels,
With all the savage thirst a tiger feels;
Then view him self-proclaim’d in a gazette
Chief monster that has plagued the nations yet.
The globe and sceptre in such hands misplaced,
Those ensigns of dominion how disgraced!
The glass, that bids man mark the fleeting hour,
And Death’s own scythe, would better speak his power;
Then grace the bony phantom in their stead
With the king’s shoulder-knot and gay cockade;
Clothe the twin brethren in each other’s dress,
The same their occupation and success.

***

Down to the gulf from which is no return.
They trust in navies, and their navies fail –
God’s curse can cast away ten thousand sail!
They trust in armies, and their courage dies;
In wisdom, wealth, in fortune, and in lies.

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Henry Wotton: Pastorale. No wars are seen.

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Henry Wottin
From A Description of the Country’s Recreations

Peace and a secure mind,
Which all men seek, we only find.

Abusèd mortals! did you know
Where joy, heart’s ease, and comforts grow,
You ’d scorn proud towers
And seek them in these bowers,
Where winds, sometimes, our woods perhaps may shake,
But blustering care could never tempest make;
Nor murmurs e’er come nigh us,
Saving of fountains that glide by us.

Here’s no fantastic mask or dance,
But of our kids that frisk and prance;
Nor wars are seen,
Unless upon the green
Two harmless lambs are butting one the other,
Which done, both bleating run, each to his mother,
And wounds are never found,
Save what the ploughshare gives the ground.

Blest silent groves, O, may you be,
Forever, mirth’s best nursery!
May pure contents
Forever pitch their tents
Upon these downs, these meads, these rocks, these mountains!
And peace still slumber by these purling fountains…

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Thomas Fuller: When all the world might smile in perfect peace

September 5, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Fuller: As though there were not enough men-murdering engines

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Thomas Fuller
From David‘s Hainous Sinne

Oh! that I might but live to see the day
(Day that I more desire then hope to see)
When all these bloody discords done away
Our princes in like manner might agree.
When all the world might smile in perfect peace
And these long-lasting broyls at length might cease
Broyles which alas doe dayly more increase.

The Netherlands with endlesse warrs are tost
Like in successe to their unconstant tide
Losing their gettings, gaining what they lost.
Denmarke both sword and Baltick seas divide:
More blood than juice of grape nigh Rhine is shed
And Brunswicke land will not be comforted
But cryes my duke alas I my duke is dead.

The warrs in France now layd aside not ended
Are onely skimmed over with a scarre
Yea haughty Alps that to the clouds ascended
Are over-climbed with a bloody warre:
And Maroes birth-place Mantua is more
Made famous nor for Mars and battel sore
Than for his muse it famed was before.

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Henry Vaughan: What thunders shall those men arraign who cannot count those they have slain?

September 4, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Vaughan: Let us ‘midst noise and war of peace and mirth discuss

Henry Vaughan: The Men of War

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Henry Vaughan
From Abel’s Blood

Sad, purple well! Whose bubbling eye
Did first against a murd’rer cry;
Whose streams, still vocal, still complain
Of bloody Cain:
And now at evening are as red
As in the morning when first shed.
If single thou
— Though single voices are but low, —
Couldst such a shrill and long cry rear
As speaks still in thy Maker’s ear,
What thunders shall those men arraign
Who cannot count those they have slain,
Who bathe not in a shallow flood,
But in a deep, wide sea of blood?
A sea, whose loud waves cannot sleep,
But deep still calleth upon deep:
Whose urgent sound, like unto that
Of many waters, beateth at
The everlasting doors above…

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Samuel Butler: Valor in modern warfare

September 3, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Butler: Religion of war

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Samuel Butler
From Hudibras

And therefore I, with reason, chose
This stratagem t’ amuse our foes;
To make an honourable retreat,
And wave a total sure defeat;
For those that fly may fight again,
Which he can never do that’s slain.
Hence timely running’s no mean part
Of conduct in the martial art;
By which some glorious feats atchieve,
As citizens by breaking thrive;
And cannons conquer armies, while
They seem to draw off and recoil;
Is held the gallantest course, and bravest
To great exploits, as well as safest;
That spares th’ expence of time and pains,
And dangerous beating out of brains;
And in the end prevails as certain
As those that never trust to fortune;
But make their fear do execution
Beyond the stoutest resolution;
As earthquakes kill without a blow,
And, only trembling, overthrow,
If th’ ancients crown’d their bravest men
That only sav’d a citizen,
What victory could e’er be won,
If ev’ry one would save but one
Or fight endanger’d to be lost,
Where all resolve to save the most?
By this means, when a battle’s won,
The war’s as far from being done;
For those that save themselves, and fly,
Go halves, at least, i’ th’ victory;
And sometimes, when the loss is small,
And danger great, they challenge all;
Print new additions to their feats,
And emendations in Gazettes;
And when, for furious haste to run,
They durst not stay to fire a gun,
Have done’t with bonfires, and at home
Made squibs and crackers overcome;
To set the rabble on a flame,
And keep their governors from blame;
Disperse the news the pulpit tells,
Confirm’d with fire-works and with bells;
And though reduc’d to that extream,
They have been forc’d to sing Te Deum;
Yet, with religious blasphemy,
By flattering Heaven with a lie
And for their beating giving thanks,
Th’ have rais’d recruits, and fill’d their banks;
For those who run from th’ enemy,
Engage them equally to fly;
And when the fight becomes a chace,
Those win the day that win the race
And that which would not pass in fights,
Has done the feat with easy flights;
Recover’d many a desp’rate campaign
With Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champaign;
Restor’d the fainting high and mighty
With brandy-wine and aqua-vitae;
And made ’em stoutly overcome
With bachrach, hoccamore, and mum;
Whom the uncontroul’d decrees of fate
To victory necessitate;
With which, although they run or burn
They unavoidably return:
Or else their sultan populaces
Still strangle all their routed Bassas.

Quoth HUDIBRAS, I understand
What fights thou mean’st at sea and land,
And who those were that run away,
And yet gave out th’ had won the day;
Although the rabble sous’d them for’t,
O’er head and ears in mud and dirt.
‘Tis true, our modern way of war
Is grown more politick by far,
But not so resolute, and bold,
Nor ty’d to honour, as the old.
For now they laugh at giving battle,
Unless it be to herds of cattle;
Or fighting convoys of provision,
The whole design o’ the expedition:
And not with downright blows to rout
The enemy, but eat them out:
As fighting, in all beasts of prey,
And eating, are perform’d one way,
To give defiance to their teeth
And fight their stubborn guts to death;
And those atchieve the high’st renown,
That bring the others’ stomachs down,
There’s now no fear of wounds, nor maiming;
All dangers are reduc’d to famine;
And feats of arms, to plot, design,
Surprize, and stratagem, and mine;
But have no need nor use of courage,
Unless it be for glory or forage:
For if they fight, ’tis but by chance,
When one side vent’ring to advance,
And come uncivilly too near,
Are charg’d unmercifully i’ th’ rear;
And forc’d with terrible resistance,
To keep hereafter at a distance;
To pick out ground to incamp upon,
Where store of largest rivers run,
That serve, instead of peaceful barriers,
To part th’ engagements of their warriors;
Where both from side to side may skip,
And only encounter at bo-peep:
For men are found the stouter-hearted,
The certainer th’ are to be parted,
And therefore post themselves in bogs,
As th’ ancient mice attack’d the frogs,
And made their mortal enemy,
The water-rat, their strict ally.
For ’tis not now, who’s stout and bold,
But who bears hunger best, and cold;
And he’s approv’d the most deserving,
Who longest can hold out at starving;
And he that routs most pigs and cows,
The formidablest man of prowess.
So th’ emperor CALIGULA,
That triumph’d o’er the British Sea,
Took crabs and oysters prisoners,
Lobsters, ‘stead of cuirasiers,
Engag’d his legions in fierce bustles
With periwinkles, prawns, and muscles;
And led his troops with furious gallops, 365
To charge whole regiments of scallops
Not like their ancient way of war,
To wait on his triumphal carr
But when he went to dine or sup
More bravely eat his captives up;
And left all war, by his example,
Reduc’d to vict’ling of a camp well.

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Andrew Marvell: War all this doth overgrow

September 2, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Andrew Marvell: When roses only arms might bear

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Andrew Marvell
From Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax

Unhappy! shall we never more
That sweet Militia restore,
When Gardens only had their Towrs,
And all the Garrisons were Flowrs,
When Roses only Arms might bear,
And Men did rosie Garlands wear?
Tulips, in several Colours barr’d,
Were then the Switzers of our Guard.

The Gardiner had the Souldiers place,
And his more gentle Forts did trace.
The Nursery of all things green
Was then the only Magazeen.
The Winter Quarters were the Stoves,
Where he the tender Plants removes.
But War all this doth overgrow:
We Ord’nance Plant and Powder sow.

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Thomas Hardy: The Man He Killed

September 1, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Hardy: All-Earth-gladdening Law of Peace, war’s apology wholly stultified

Thomas Hardy: Channel Firing

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Thomas Hardy
The Man He Killed

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

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Thomas Campion: Upright man needs neither towers nor armour

August 31, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Campion: Raving war wastes our empty fields

Thomas Campion: Then bloody swords and armour should not be

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Thomas Campion
Excerpt

The man of life upright,
Whose guiltless heart is free,
From all dishonest deeds
Or thought of vanity.

The man whose silent days
In harmless joys are spent,
Whom hopes cannot delude
Nor sorrow discontent:

That man needs neither towers
Nor armour for defence,
Nor secret vaults to fly
From thunder’s violence…

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Michael Drayton: All your banks with peace preserved be

August 30, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Michael Drayton
From Eclogue III

O! See what troupes of nymphs have been sporting on the strands
And they’ve been blessed nymphs of peace, with olives in their hands.

And water you the blessed root of the green olive tree,
With whose sweet shadow all your banks with peace preserved be…
That fame may be your fruit, the boughs preserved by peace,
And let the mournful cypress die, now storms and tempest cease.

***

O! see what troups of Nimphs been sporting on the strands
And they been blessed Nimphs of peace, with Oliues in their hands.

And water thou the blessed roote of that greene Oliue tree,
With whose sweete shadow, al thy bancks with peace preserued be,

That fame may be thy fruit, the boughes preseru’d by peace,
And let the mournful Cipres die, now stormes and tempest cease.

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Matthew Prior: A new golden age free from fierce Bellona’s rage

August 29, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Matthew Prior
Excerpts

Closing the volume of the finish’d age,
(Though noble, ’twas an iron page)
A more delightful leaf expand,
Free from alarms, and fierce Bellona’s rage
Bid the great months begin their joyful round,
By Flora some, and some by Ceres crown’d.
Teach the glad hours to scatter as they fly,
Soft quiet, gentle love, and endless joy:
Lead forth the years for peace and plenty fam’d,
From Saturn’s rule, and better metal nam’d.

***

No long-er shall their wretched zeal adore
Ideas of destructive power,
Spirits that hurt, and godheads that devour
New incense they shall bring, new altars raise…

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John Wilmot: With war I’ve not to do

August 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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John Wilmot

The gods, by right of nature, must possess
An ever lasting age of perfect peace;
Far off removed from us and our affairs;
Neither approached by dangers, or by cares…

***

Vulcan contrive me such a cup
As Nestor used of old,

Engrave no battle on his cheek;
With war I’ve not to do;
I’m none of those who took Maastricht,
Nor Yarmouth leaguer knew.

***

From A Satyr against Reason and Mankind

Which is the basest creature, man or beast?
Birds feed on birds, beasts on each other prey,
But savage man alone does man betray.

For hunger or for love they fight and tear,
Whilst wretched man is still in arms for fear.
For fear he arms, and is of arms afraid,
From fear, to fear successively betrayed;
Base fear, the source whence his best passions came:
His boasted honor, and his dear-bought fame;
The lust of power, to which he’s such a slave,
And for the which alone he dares be brave…

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John Oldham: The cup and the sword

August 27, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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John Oldham
From An Ode of Anacreon, Paraphrased: The Cup

Make me a bowl, a mighty bowl,
Large, as my capacious soul…
Yet draw no shapes of armour there,
No cask, nor shield, nor sword, nor spear,
Nor wars of Thebes, nor wars of Troy ,
Nor any other martial joy:
For what do I vain armour prize,
Who mind not such rough exercise,
But gentler sieges, softer wars,
Fights, that cause no wounds, or scars?
I’ll have no battles on my plate,
Lest sight of them should brawls create,
Lest that provoke to quarrels too,
Which wine it self enough can do.

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Henry Vaughan: The Men of War

August 26, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Henry Vaughan: Let us ‘midst noise and war of peace and mirth discuss

Henry Vaughan: What thunders shall those men arraign who cannot count those they have slain?

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Henry Vaughan
The Men of War

If any have an ear
Saith holy John, then let him hear .
He that into captivity
Leads others, shall a captive be.
Who with the sword doth others kill,
A sword shall his blood likewise spill.
Here is the patience of the saints,
And the true faith, which never faints.

Were not thy word (dear Lord!) my light,
How would I run to endless night,
And persecuting thee and thine,
Enact for saints my self and mine.
But now enlighten’d thus by thee,
I dare not think such villainy;
Nor for a temporal self-end
Successful wickedness commend.
For in this bright, instructing verse
Thy saints are not the conquerors;
But patient, meek, and overcome
Like thee, when set at naught and dumb.
Armies thou hast in Heaven, which fight,
And follow thee all clothed in white,
But here on earth (though thou hast need)
Thou wouldst no legions, but wouldst bleed.
The sword wherewith thou dost command
Is in thy mouth, not in thy hand,
And all thy saints do overcome
By thy blood, and their martyrdom.
But seeing soldiers long ago
Did spit on thee, and smote thee too;
Crowned thee with thorns, and bow’d the knee,
But in contempt, as still we see,
I’ll marvel not at ought they do,
Because they used my Savior so;
Since of my Lord they had their will,
The servant must not take it ill.

Dear Jesus give me patience here,
And faith to see my crown as near
And almost reach’d, because ’tis sure
If I hold fast and slight the lure .
Give me humility and peace,
Contented thoughts, innoxious ease,
A sweet, revengeless, quiet mind,
And to my greatest haters kind.
Give me, my God! a heart as mild
And plain, as when I was a child;
That when thy throne is set, and all
These conquerors before it fall,
I may be found (preserved by thee)
Amongst that chosen company,
Who by no blood (here) overcame
But the blood of the blessed Lamb.

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Edmund Waller: Less pleasure take brave minds in battles won

August 25, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Edmund Waller
From A Panegyric

Less pleasure take brave minds in battles won,
Than in restoring such as are undone;
Tigers have courage, and the rugged bear,
But man alone can, whom he conquers, spare.

To pardon willing, and to punish loath,
You strike with one hand, but you heal with both;
Lifting up all that prostrate lie, you grieve
You cannot make the dead again to live.

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Abraham Cowley: Only peace breeds scarcity in Hell

August 24, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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Abraham Cowley
From Civil War

‘Tis only peace breeds scarcity in Hell.

Their rage and furious avarice shall appear,
Boundless as Marius’ sword and Sulla’s spear,
If in their misty souls there chance to shine
The smallest peaceful glimpse of light divine,
Raise up new fogs and thicken clouds apace,
Till all our night of Hell confuse the place.

Pluck from their hearts each mild and sober thought,
Till war and public woe with joy be bought
Ev’n by the covetous; till cowards fight,
And all men crowd to ruin with delight.

***

From Upon Dr. Harvey

These useful secrets to his pen we owe,
And thousands more ’twas ready to bestow;
Of which a barbarous war’s unlearned rage
Has robbed the ruined age…
O cursèd war! Who can forgive thee this?
Houses and towns may rise again,
And ten times easier it is
To rebuild Paul’s than any work of his.

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Robert Greene: Then the stormy threats of wars shall cease

August 20, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Robert Greene
From The Honorable Historie of Frier Bacon and Frier Bongay
Modern rendering by RR

Roger Bacon:

I find by deep prescience of my art,
Which once I tempered in my secret cell,
That here where Brutus built his New Troy
From forth the royal garden of a king
So rich and fair a bud shall flourish out
Whose brightness shall outshine proud Phœbus’ flower,
And overshadow Albion with her leaves.
Till then Mars shall be master of the field,
But then the stormy threats of wars shall cease —
The horse shall stamp as careless of the pike,
Drums shall be turned to timbrels of delight;
With wealthy favours plenty shall enrich
The strand that gladdened wandering Brutus to see,
And peace from heaven shall shelter in those leaves
That gorgeously beautify this matchless flower.

***

I find by deep prescience of mine art,
Which once I temper’d in my secret cell,
That here where Brute did build his Troynovant,
From forth the royal garden of a king
Shall flourish out so rich and fair a bud,
Whose brightness shall deface proud Phœbus’ flower,
And over-shadow Albion with her leaves.
Till then Mars shall be master of the field,
But then the stormy threats of wars shall cease –
The horse shall stamp as careless of the pike,
Drums shall be turn’d to timbrels of delight;
With wealthy favours plenty shall enrich
The strand that gladded wandering Brute to see,
And peace from heaven shall harbour in those leaves
That gorgeous beautify this matchless flower.

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Edmund Spenser: Wars can nought but sorrows yield

August 16, 2016 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Edmund Spenser: The first to attack the world with sword and fire

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Edmund Spenser
From The Faerie Queene

The longer life, I wote the greater sin,
The greater sin, the greater punishment;
All those great battels which thou boasts to win,
Through strife, and bloodshed, and avengement,
Now prais’d, hereafter dear thou shalt repent:
For, life must life, and blood must blood repay.
Is not enough thy evil life forespent?

***

Thence-forth the suit of earthly conquest shun,
And wash thy hands from guilt of bloody field:
For, blood can nought but sin, and wars but sorrows yield.

***

What need of arms, where peace doth ay remain
(Said he) and battles none are to be fought?

***
Soon as thy dreadful trump begins to sound,
The God of war with his fierce equipage
Thou dost awake, sleep never he so sound,
And feared nations dost with Horror stern astound.

***

From Mutabilitie

And drad Bellona, that hath doth sound on hie
Warres and allarums unto Nations wide,
That make both heaven and earth to tremble at her pride…

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Thomas Wyatt: Children of the gun

August 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Wyatt: Wax fat on innocent blood: I cannot leave the state to Caesar

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Thomas Wyatt
Description of a Gun

Vulcan begat me: Minerva me taught:
Nature, my mother: Craft nourish’d me year by year:
Three bodies are my food: my strength is in naught:
Anger, wrath, waste, and noise are my children dear.
Guess, friend, what I am: and how I am wraught:
Monster of sea, or of land, or of elsewhere.
Know me, and use me: and I may thee defend:
And if I be thine enemy, I may thy life end.

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Edmund Spenser: The first to attack the world with sword and fire

August 13, 2016 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Edmund Spenser: Wars can nought but sorrows yield

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Edmund Spenser
From The Faerie Queene

The cruel steel so greedily doth bite
In tender flesh, that streams of blood down flow,
With which the arms that earst so bright did show,
Into a pure vermillion now are dy’d.
Great ruth in all the gazers hearts did grow,
Seeing the gored wounds to gape so wipe,
That victory they dare not wish to either side.

***

Where in a dungeon deep huge numbers lay,
Of caytive wretched thralls, that wailed night and day.
…great Nimrod was,
That first the world with sword and fire warrayd;
And after him, old Ninus far did pass
In princely pomp, of all the world obey’d…
All these together in one heap were thrown,
Like carcases of beasts in butcher’s stall.
And in another corner wide were strown
The antique ruins of the Romans fall:
Great Romulus the grandsire of them all,
Proud Tarquin, and too lordly Lentulus,
Stout Scipio, and stubborn Hannibal,
Ambitious Sylla, and stern Marius,
High Caesar, great Pompey, and fierce Antonius
A dunghill of dead carcases he spy’d,
The dreadful spectacle of that sad house of Pride.

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Thomas Nashe: Swords may not fight with fate

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

British writers on peace and war

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Thomas Nashe
From A Litany In Time Of Plague

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds open her gate.
“Come, come!” the bells do cry.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

***

From The Unfortunate Traveller
Modern rendering by RR

Overseas with my implements I got me, where hearing the king of France and the Swiss were together by the ears, I made towards them as fast as I could, thinking to thrust myself into that faction that was the strongest. It was my good luck or my ill, I know not which, to come to the fighting of the battle where I saw an awful spectacle of bloodshed on both sides, here the unwieldy Swiss wallowing in their gore, like an ox in his dung, there the sprightly French sprawling and turning on the stained grass, like a roach [carp] newly taken out of the stream. All the ground was strewn with battle axes, as the carpenters’ yard with chips. The plain appeared like a quagmire, overspread as it was with trampled dead bodies. In one place you might behold a heap of dead murdered men overwhelmed by a falling steed instead of a tombstone, in another place a bundle of bodies fettered together in their own bowels, and as the tyrant Roman emperors  used to tie condemned living caitiffs face-to-face to dead corpses, so were the half-living here mixed with squeezed carcasses long putrefied. Any man might give arms that was an actor in that battle, for there were more arms and legs scattered in the field that day than will be gathered up until doomsday. The French king himself in this conflict was much distressed, the brains of his own men sprinkled in his face.

***

Ouer sea with my implements I got me, where hearing the king of France and the Swizers were together by the ears, I made towards them as fast as I could, thinking to thrust my selfe into that faction that was strongest It was my good lucke or my ill, I know not which, to come iust to ye fighting of the battel, where I sawe a wonderfull spectacle of bloud shed on both sides, here the vnwildie swizers wallowing in their gore, like an oxe in his doung, there the sprightly French sprawling and turning on the stayned grasse, like a roach newe taken out of the streame, all the ground was strewed as thicke with battle axes, as the carpenters yard with chips. The plaine appeared like a quagmire, ouerspread as it was with trampled dead bodies. In one place might you beholde a heape of dead murthered men ouerwhelmed with a falling steed, in stead of a tombe stone, in another place a bundle of bodies fettered together in theyr owne bowels, and as the tyrant Romane Empereurs vsed to tie condemned liuing caitifes face to face to dead corses, so were the halfe liuing here mixt with squeazed carcases long putrifide. Anie man might giue armes that was an actor in that battell, for there were more armes and legs scattered in the field that daie, than will be gathered vp till dooms daie, the French king himselfe in this conflict was much distressed, the braines of his owne men sprinkled in his face…

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Richard Crashaw: In Hell’s palaces

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

British writers on peace and war

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Richard Crashaw
From Sospetto d’Herode

Mongst all the Palaces in Hells …

There has the purple Vengeance a proud seat,
Whose ever-brandisht Sword is sheath’d in blood.
About her Hate, Wrath, Warre, and slaughter sweat;
Bathing their hot limbs in life’s pretious flood.
There rude impetuous Rage do’s storme, and fret:
And there, as Master of this murd’ring brood,
Swinging a huge Sith stands impartiall Death,
With endlesse businesse almost out of Breath.

For Hangings and for Curtaines, all along
The walls, (abominable ornaments!)
Are tooles of wrath, Anvills of Torments hung;
Fell Executioners of foule intents,
Nailes, hammers, hatchets sharpe, and halters strong,
Swords, Speares, with all the fatall Instruments
Of sin, and Death, twice dipt in the dire staines
Of Brothers mutuall blood, and Fathers braines.

***

What busy motions, what wild Engines stand
On tiptoe in their giddy Braynes? th’ have fire
Already in their Bosomes; and their hand
Already reaches at a sword: They hire
Poysons to speed thee; yet through all the Land
What one comes to reveale what they conspire?
Goe now, make much of these; wage still their wars
And bring home on thy Brest more thanklesse scarrs.

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Fulke Greville: The shames of peace are the pride of war

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

British writers on peace and war

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Fulke Greville
From A Treatise of Warres
Modern rendering by RR

Peace is the harvest of man’s rich creation,
Where wit and pain have scope to sow and reap
The mind, by arts to work her elevation…

If peace be such, what must we think of war,
But horror from above, below confusion,
Where the unhappy only happy are,
As making mischief ever her conclusion;
Scourges of God, figures of hell to come,
Of vanity, a vain, infamous tomb.

Where neither throne nor crown have reverence,
Sentence, nor wit nor sergeant be in fashion;
All terror scorned, of guiltiness no sense;
A discipline whereof the rule is passion;
And as men’s vices beasts’ chief virtues are,
So be the shames of peace the pride of war.

***

Peace is the haruest of Mans rich creation,
Where Wit and Paine haue scope to sow, and reape
The minde, by Arts, to worke her eleuation…

If Peace be such, what must we thinke of Warre,
But Horrour from aboue, below Confusion,
Where the vnhappy onely happy are,
As making mischiefe euer her conclusion ;
Scourges of God, figures of hell to come,
Of vanity, a vaine, infamous tombe.
Where neither Throne, nor Crowne haue reuerence,
Sentence, nor Writ, nor Sergeant be in fashion ;
All terror scorn’d, of guiltinesse no sense ;
A Discipline whereof the rule is Passion :
And as mens vices, beasts chiefe vertues are,
So be the shames of Peace, the Pride of Warre.

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Christopher Smart: Rejoice with the dove. Pray that all guns be nailed up.

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

British writers on peace and war

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Christopher Smart
From Jubilate Agno

For I bless the PRINCE of PEACE and pray that all the guns may be nail’d up, save such are for the rejoicing days.

For I meditate the peace of Europe amongst family bickerings and domestic jars.

For he that walked upon the sea, hath prepared the floods with the Gospel of peace.

Let Maaseiah bless with the Drone, who with the appearance of a Bee is neither a soldier nor an artist, neither a swordsman nor smith.

Let Elias which is the innocency of the Lord rejoice with the Dove.

Let Jael rejoice with the Plover, who whistles for his live, and foils the marksmen and their guns.

Let Zurishaddai with the Polish Cock rejoice – The Lord restore peace to Europe.

Let Chesed rejoice with Strepsiceros, whose weapons are the ornaments of his peace.

Let Ibhar rejoice with the Pochard – a child born in prosperity is the chiefest blessing of peace.

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Samuel Butler: Religion of war

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Butler: Valor in modern warfare

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Samuel Butler
From Hudibras (1663)

Great on the bench, great in the saddle,
That could as well bind o’er, as swaddle;
Mighty he was at both of these,
And styl’d of war, as well as peace.
(So some rats, of amphibious nature,
Are either for the land or water).

The diff’rence was so small, his brain
Outweigh’d his rage but half a grain;
Which made some take him for a tool
That knaves do work with, call’d a fool…

For his Religion, it was fit
To match his learning and his wit;
‘Twas Presbyterian true blue;
For he was of that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and desolation,
A godly thorough reformation…

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John Donne: The horror and ghastliness of war

July 31, 2016 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Donne: War and misery are one thing

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John Donne
From Sermon preached at Whitehall, April 20, 1620

From the first temporall blessing of peace, we may consider the lovelinesse, the amiablenesse of that, if we looke upon the horror and gastlinesse of warr: either in Effigie, in that picture of warre, which is drawn in every leafe of our own Chronicles, in the blood of so many Princes, and noble families, or if we looke upon warre it self, at that distance at which it cannot hurt us…In all Cities, disorderly and facinorous men, covet to draw themselves into the skirts and suburbs of those Cities, that so they may be the nearer the spoyle, which they make upon passengers. In all Kingdomes that border upon other Kingdomes, and in Islands which have no other border but the Sea, particular men, who by dwelling in those skirts and borders, may make their profit of spoile, delight in hostility, and have an adversenesse and detestation of peace: but it is not so within: they who till the earth, and breed up cattell, and imploy their industry upon Gods creatures, according to Gods ordinance, feele the benefit and apprehend the sweetnesse, and pray for the continuance of peace.

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Philip Massinger: Famine, blood, and death, Bellona’s pages

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

British writers on peace and war

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Philip Massinger
From The Picture (1630)

…I have observed,
When horrid Mars, the touch of whose rough hand
With palsies shakes a kingdom, hath put on
His dreadful helmet, and with terror fills
The place where he, like an unwelcome guest,
Resolves to revel, how the lords of her, like
The tradesman, merchant, and litigious pleader,
And such like scarabs bred in the dung of peace,
In hope of their protection, humbly offer
Their daughters to their beds, heirs to their service,
And wash with tears their sweat, their dust, their scars:
But when those clouds of war, that menaced
A bloody deluge to the affrighted state,
Are, by their breath, dispersed, and overblown,
And famine, blood, and death, Bellona’s pages,
[Are] Whipt from the quiet continent to Thrace…

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Thomas Fuller: As though there were not enough men-murdering engines

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Fuller: When all the world might smile in perfect peace

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Thomas Fuller
From David’s Hainous Sinne

Were there not used in the days of yore
Enough men-murdering engines? But our age
Witty in wickedness must make them more,
By new found plotts mens malice to inrage:
So that fire-spitting canons to the cost
Of Christian blood all valour have ingrost,
Whose finding makes that many a life is lost.

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Appian: Drawing the sword for mutual slaughter. The tears of fratricide.

July 26, 2016 1 comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Appian: War fueled by blood and gold, excuse for expenditure of one, expropriation of the other

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Appian
From The Civil Wars
Translated by Horace White

When all was in readiness on both sides they waited for some time in profound silence, hesitating, looking steadfastly at each other, each expecting the other to begin the battle. They were stricken with sorrow for the great host, for never before had such large Roman armies confronted the same danger together. They had pity for the valor of these men (the elite of both parties), especially because they saw Romans embattled against Romans. As the danger came nearer, the ambition that had inflamed and blinded them was extinguished, and gave place to fear. Reason purged the mad passion for glory, estimated the peril, and exposed the cause of the war, showing how two men contending with each other for supremacy had put themselves in a position where the one who should be vanquished could no longer hold even the humblest place, and how so great a number of the nobility were incurring the same risk on their account. The leaders reflected also that they, who had lately been friends and relatives by marriage, and had coöperated with each other in many ways to gain rank and power, had now drawn the sword for mutual slaughter and were leading to the same impiety those serving under them, men of the same city, of the same tribe, blood relations, and in some cases brothers against brothers. Even these circumstances were not wanting in this battle; because many unexpected things must happen when thousands of the same nation come together in the clash of arms. Reflecting on these things each of them was seized with unavailing repentance, and since this day was to decide for each whether he should be the highest or the lowest of the human race, they hesitated to begin the fight. It is said that both of them shed tears.

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Thomas Wyatt: Wax fat on innocent blood: I cannot leave the state to Caesar

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Wyatt: Children of the gun

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Thomas Wyatt
From Mine Own John Poynz

I cannot speak and look like a saint,
Use willes for wit, and make deceit a pleasure,
And call craft counsel, for profit still to paint.
I cannot wrest the law to fill the coffer
With innocent blood to feed myself fat,
And do most hurt where most help I offer.
I am not he that can allow the state
Of him Caesar, and damn Cato to die,
That with his death did scape out of the gate
From Caesar’s hands (if Livy do not lie)
And would not live where liberty was lost;
So did his heart the common weal apply.

***

And he that dieth for hunger of the gold
Call him Alexander…

Say he is rude that cannot lie and feign;
The lecher a lover; and tyranny
To be the right of a prince’s reign.
I cannot, I; no, no, it will not be!

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Matthew Arnold: Tolstoy’s commandments of peace

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

British writers on peace and war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Matthew Arnold
From Count Leo Tolstoi

He extracts this central doctrine, or rule of Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount, and presents it in a body of commandments – Christ’s commandments; the pith, he says, of the New Testament as the Decalogue is the pith of the Old. These all-important commandments of Christ are ‘commandments of peace,’ and five in number. The first commandment is: ‘Live in peace with all men…’

If these five commandments were generally observed, says Count Tolstoi, all men would become brothers. Certainly the actual society in which we live would be changed and dissolved. Armies and wars would be renounced.

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John Dryden and Lucretius: Venus and Mars: Lull the world in universal peace

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

British writers on peace and war

John Dryden: All your care is to provide the horrid pomp of war

John Dryden: In peace the thoughts of war he could remove

John Dryden and Horace: Happy is he who trumpets summon not to war

Lucretius: Lull to a timely rest the savage works of war

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Lucretius
From On the Nature of Things
Translated by John Dryden

Delight of humankind, and Gods above,
Parent of Rome; propitious Queen of Love,
Whose vital pow’r, Air, Earth, and Sea supplies,
And breeds what e’r is born beneath the rolling skies:
For every kind, by thy prolific might,
Springs, and beholds the regions of the light.
Thee, Goddess, thee the clouds and tempests fear,
And at thy pleasing presence disappear:
For thee the land in fragrant flow’rs is dress’d;
For thee the Ocean smiles, and smooths her wavy breast;
And heav’n it self with more serene and purer light is blest.
For when the rising Spring adorns the Mead,
And a new Scene of Nature stands display’d,
When teeming buds, and cheerful greens appear,
And Western gales unlock the lazy year:
The joyous Birds thy welcome first express;
Whose native Songs thy genial fire confess;
Then salvage Beasts bound o’re their slighted food,
Strook with thy darts, and tempt the raging flood.
All Nature is thy Gift; Earth, Air, and Sea:
Of all that breaths, the various progeny,
Stung with delight, is goaded on by thee.
O’re barren Mountains, o’re the flowery Plain,
The leafy Forest, and the liquid Main
Extends thy uncontroll’d and boundless reign.
Through all the living Regions dost thou move,
And scatter’st, where thou goest, the kindly seeds of Love:
Since then the race of every living thing
Obeys thy pow’r; since nothing new can spring
Without thy warmth, without thy influence bear,
Or beautiful, or lovesome can appear;
Be thou my aid; My tuneful Song inspire,
And kindle with thy own productive fire;
While all thy Province, Nature, I survey,
And sing to Memmius an immortal lay
Of heav’n, and Earth, and every where thy wondrous power display:
To Memmius, under thy sweet influence born,
Whom thou with all thy gifts and graces dost adorn.
The rather then assist my Muse and me,
Infusing Verses worthy him and thee.
Meantime on Land and Sea let barb’rous discord cease,
And lull the list’ning world in universal peace
To thee Mankind their soft repose must owe;
For thou alone that blessing canst bestow;
Because the brutal business of the war
Is manag’d by thy dreadful Servant’s care;
Who oft retires from fighting fields, to prove
The pleasing pains of thy eternal Love:
And panting on thy breast supinely lies,
While with thy heavenly form he feeds his famish’d eyes;
Sucks in with open lips thy balmy breath,
By turns restor’d to life, and plung’d in pleasing death.
There while thy curling limbs about him move,
Involv’d and fetter’d in the links of Love,
When wishing all, he nothing can deny,
Thy Charms in that auspicious moment try;
With winning eloquence our peace implore,
And quiet to the weary World restore.

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George Herbert: Make war to cease

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

British writers on peace and war

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George Herbert
L’Envoy

King of glorie, King of peace,
With the one make warre to cease;
With the other blesse thy sheep,
Thee to love, in thee to sleep.
Let not Sinne devoure thy fold,
Bragging that thy bloud is cold;
That thy death is also dead,
While his conquests dayly spread;
That thy flesh hath lost his food,
And thy Crosse is common wood.
Choke him, let him say no more,
But reserve his breath in store,
Till thy conquest and his fall
Make his sighs to use it all;
And then bargain with the winde
To discharge what is behind.

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Soame Jenyns: The soldier’s scarlet glowing from afar shows his bloody occupation’s war

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

British writers on peace and war

Soame Jenyns: One good-natured act more praises gain than armies overthrown, and thousands slain

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Soame Jenyns
Selections

The soldier’s scarlet glowing from afar,
Shews that his bloody occupation’s war.

***

No more applause would on ambition wait,
And laying waste the world be counted great,
But one good-natured act more praises gain
Than armies overthrown, and thousands slain;
No more would brutal rage disturb our peace,
But envy, hatred, war, and discord cease…

***

Observe the quick migrations Learning makes,
How harass’d nations trembling she forsakes,
And haste away to build her downy nest
In happier climates, with peace and plenty blest.
***

Sometimes some famed historian’s pen
Recalls past ages past agen,
Where all I see, thro’ every page,
Is but how men, with senseless rage,
Each other rob, destroy and burn,
To serve a priest’s or a statesman’s turn;
Tho’ loaded with a diff’rent aim,
Yet always asses much the same…

***

Each, form’d for all, promotes thro’ private care
The public good, and justly tastes its share.
All understand their great Creator;s will,
Strive to me happy, and in that fulfill;
Mankind excepted, lord of all beside,
But only slave to folly, vice, and pride;
‘Tis he that deaf to this command alone,
Delights in others woe, and courts his own;
Racks and destroys with tort’ring steel and flame,
For lux’ry brutes, and man himself for fame;
Set Superstition high on Virtues’ throne,
Then thinks his Maker’s temper like his own;
Hence are his altars stained with reeking gore,
As if he could atone for crimes by more…

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John Dryden and Horace: Happy is he who trumpets summon not to war

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

John Dryden: All your care is to provide the horrid pomp of war

John Dryden: In peace the thoughts of war he could remove

John Dryden and Lucretius: Venus and Mars: Lull the world in universal peace

Horace: Let there be a limit to warfare

Horace: Transcending war

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Horace
From the Second Epode
Translated by John Dryden

How happy in his low degree,
How rich in humble Poverty, is he,
Who leads a quiet country life!
Discharg’d of business, void of strife,
And from the gripeing Scrivener free.
(Thus, e’re the Seeds of Vice were sown,
Liv’d Men in better Ages born,
Who Plow’d, with Oxen of their own,
Their small paternal field of Corn.)
Nor Trumpets summon him to War
Nor drums disturb his morning Sleep,

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Thomas Day: Wages abhorred war with humankind

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

British writers on peace and war

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Thomas Day
From The Desolation of America (1777)

I see, I see, swift bursting through the shade,
The cruel soldier, and the reeking blade.
And there the bloody cross of Britain waves,
Pointing to deeds of death an host of slaves.
To them unheard the wretched tell their pain,
And every human sorrow sues in vain:
Their hardened bosoms never knew to melt;
Each woe unpitied, and each pang unfelt. –
See! where they rush, and with a savage joy,
Unsheathe the sword, impatient to destroy.
Fierce as the tiger, bursting from the wood,
With famished jaws, insatiable of blood!

***

Lo! Britain bended to the servile yoke,
Her fire extinguished, and her spirit broke,
Beneath the pressure of [a tyrant’s] sway,
Herself at once the spoiler and the prey,
Detest[s] the virtues she can boast no more
And envies every right to every shore!
At once to nature and to pity blind,
Wages abhorrèd war with humankind.
And wheresoe’er her ocean rolls his wave,
Provokes an enemy, or meets a slave.

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William Davenant : War, the sport of kings, increases the number of dead

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

British writers on peace and war

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William Davenant
The Soldier Going to the Field

Preserve thy sighs, unthrifty girl!
To purify the air;
Thy tears to thread, instead of pearl,
On bracelets of thy hair.

The trumpet makes the echo hoarse,
And wakes the louder drum,
Expense of grief gains no remorse,
When sorrow should be dumb.

For I must go where lazy peace
Will hide her drowsy head;
And, for the sport of kings, increase
The number of the dead.

But first I’ll chide thy cruel theft:
Can I in war delight,
Who, being of my heart bereft
Can have no heart to fight?

Thou knowest the sacred laws of old,
Ordained a thief should pay,
To quit him of his theft, sevenfold
What he had stolen away.

Thy payment shall but double be;
O then with speed resign
My own seducèd heart to me,
Accompanied with thine.

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Thomas Carew: They’ll hang their arms upon the olive bough

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Carew: Lust for gold fills the world with tumult, blood, and war

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Thomas Carew
From In answer to an Elegiacall Letter upon the death of the King of Sweden from Aurelan Townsend, inviting me to write on that subject

And (since ’twas but his Church-yard) let him have
For his owne ashes now no narrower Grave
Than the whol German Continents vast womb,
Whilst all her Cities doe but make his Tomb.

But let us that in myrtle bowers sit
Vnder secure shades use the benefit
Of peace and plenty…

But these are subjects proper to our clyme.
Torueyes, Masques, Theaters better become
Our Halcyon dayes; what though the German Drum
Bellow for freedome and revenge? the noyse
Concernes not us, nor should divert our joyes;
Nor ought the thunder of their Carabins
Drown the sweet Ayres of our tun’d Violins;

Beleeve me friend, if their prevailing powers
Gain them a calm security like ours,
They’l hang their Armes upon the Olive bough.
And dance, and revell then, as we doe now…

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Geoffrey Chaucer: The city to the soldier’s rage resigned; successless wars and poverty behind

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

British writers on peace and war

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Geoffrey Chaucer
From Palamon and Arcite
Rendered by John Dryden

But in the dome of mighty Mars the red
With different figures all the sides were spread;
This temple, less in form, with equal grace,
Was imitative of the first in Thrace;
For that cold region was the loved abode
And sovereign mansion of the warrior god.
The landscape was a forest wide and bare,
Where neither beast nor human kind repair,
The fowl that scent afar the borders fly,
And shun the bitter blast, and wheel about the sky.
A cake of scurf lies baking on the ground,
And prickly stubs, instead of trees, are found;
Or woods with knots and knares deformed and old,
Headless the most, and hideous to behold;
A rattling tempest through the branches went,
That stripped them bare, and one sole way they bent.
Heaven froze above severe, the clouds congeal,
And through the crystal vault appeared the standing hail.
Such was the face without: a mountain stood
Threatening from high, and overlooked the wood:
Beneath the lowering brow, and on a bent,
The temple stood of Mars armipotent;
The frame of burnished steel, that cast a glare
From far, and seemed to thaw the freezing air.
A straight long entry to the temple led,
Blind with high walls, and horror over head;
Thence issued such a blast, and hollow roar,
As threatened from the hinge to heave the door;
In through that door a northern light there shone;
‘Twas all it had, for windows there were none.
The gate was adamant; eternal frame,
Which, hewed by Mars himself, from Indian quarries came,
The labour of a God; and all along
Tough iron plates were clenched to make it strong.
A tun about was every pillar there;
A polished mirror shone not half so clear.
There saw I how the secret felon wrought,
And treason labouring in the traitor’s thought,
And midwife Time the ripened plot to murder brought.
There the red Anger dared the pallid Fear;
Next stood Hypocrisy, with holy leer,
Soft, smiling, and demurely looking down,
But hid the dagger underneath the gown;
The assassinating wife, the household fiend;
And far the blackest there, the traitor-friend.
On the other side there stood Destruction bare,
Unpunished Rapine, and a waste of war;
Contest with sharpened knives in cloisters drawn,
And all with blood bespread the holy lawn.
Loud menaces were heard, and foul disgrace,
And bawling infamy, in language base;
Till sense was lost in sound, and silence fled the place.
The slayer of himself yet saw I there,
The gore congealed was clotted in his hair;
With eyes half closed and gaping mouth he lay,
And grim as when he breathed his sullen soul away.
In midst of all the dome, Misfortune sate,
And gloomy Discontent, and fell Debate,
And Madness laughing in his ireful mood;
And armed Complaint on theft; and cries of blood.
There was the murdered corps, in covert laid,
And violent death in thousand shapes displayed:
The city to the soldier’s rage resigned;
Successless wars, and poverty behind:
Ships burnt in fight, or forced on rocky shores,
And the rash hunter strangled by the boars:
The new-born babe by nurses overlaid;
And the cook caught within the raging fire he made.
All ills of Mars’ his nature, flame and steel;
The gasping charioteer beneath the wheel
Of his own car; the ruined house that falls
And intercepts her lord betwixt the walls:
The whole division that to Mars pertains,
All trades of death that deal in steel for gains
Were there: the butcher, armourer, and smith,
Who forges sharpened fauchions, or the scythe.
The scarlet conquest on a tower was placed,
With shouts and soldiers’ acclamations graced:
A pointed sword hung threatening o’er his head,
Sustained but by a slender twine of thread.
There saw I Mars his ides, the Capitol,
The seer in vain foretelling Caesar’s fall;
The last Triumvirs, and the wars they move,
And Antony, who lost the world for love.
These, and a thousand more, the fane adorn;
Their fates were painted ere the men were born,
All copied from the heavens, and ruling force
Of the red star, in his revolving course.
The form of Mars high on a chariot stood,
All sheathed in arms, and gruffly looked the god;
Two geomantic figures were displayed
Above his head, a warrior and a maid,
One when direct, and one when retrograde.

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

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

British writers on peace and war

Abraham Cowley: Only peace breeds scarcity in Hell

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Abraham Cowley
From Davideis (1656)

Oft Strangers’ Iron Scepters bruis’d the Land
(Such still are those born by a Conquering Hand)
Oft pity’ing God did well-form’d Spirits raise,
Fit for the toilsome business of their days,
To free the groaning Nation, and to give
Peace first, and then the Rules in Peace to live.
But they whose stamp of Power did chiefly
In Characters too fine for most men’s Eye,
Graces and Gifts Divine; not painted bright
With state to awe dull minds, and force t’affright,
Were ill obey’d whil’st Living, and at death,
Their Rules and Pattern vanisht with their breath.
The hungry Rich all near them did devour,
Their Judge was Appetite, and their Law was Power.
Not want it self could Luxury restrain,
For what that empti’d, Rapine fill’d again.
Robbery the Field, Oppression sackt the Town;
What the Swords Reaping spar’d, was glean’d by th’Gown.
At Courts, and Seats of Justice to complain,
Was to be robb’d more vexingly again.
Nor was their Lust less active or less bold,
Amidst this rougher search of Blood and Gold.

Alarmed all by one fair stranger’s Eyes,
As to a sudden War the Town does rise
Shaking and pale, half dead e’re they begin
The strange and wanton Trag’edy of their sin,
All their wild Lusts they force her to sustain,
Till by shame, sorrow, weariness, and pain,
She midst their loath’d, and cruel kindness dies;
Of monstrous Lust th’ innocent Sacrifice.
This did (’tis true) a Civil War create
(The frequent curse of our loose-govern’d State)…

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John Dryden: All your care is to provide the horrid pomp of war

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

British writers on peace and war

John Dryden: In peace the thoughts of war he could remove

John Dryden and Horace: Happy is he who trumpets summon not to war

John Dryden and Lucretius: Venus and Mars: Lull the world in universal peace

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John Dryden
Excerpts

The cutthroat sword and the clamorous gown shall jar,
In sharing their ill-gotten spoils of war;
Chiefs shall be grudg’d the part which they pretend…

(The Medal)

***

“War,” he sung, “is toil and trouble;
Honor, but an empty bubble;
Never ending, still beginning,
Fighting still, and still destroying…”

(Alexander’s Feast)

***

Never content with what you had before,
But true to change, and Englishmen all o’er.
New honor calls you hence, and all your care
Is to provide the horrid pomp of war.
In plume and scarf, jack boots and Bilbo blade,
Your silver goes, that should support our trade.

(The Prophetess)

***

How blest is he, who leads a country life,
Unvex’d with anxious cares, and void of strife!
Who, studying peace and shunning civil rage,
Enjoy’d his youth, and now enjoys his age…

Enough for Europe has our Albion fought:
Let us enjoy the peace our blood has bought.
When once the Persian King was put to Flight,
The weary Macedons refus’d to fight:
Themselves their own Mortality confess’d;
And left the son of Jove, to quarrel for the rest.

Ev’n Victors are by Victories undone;
Thus Hannibal, with foreign laurels won,
To Carthage was recall’d, too late to keep his own.
While sore of battle, while our wounds are green,
Why should we tempt the doubtful die again?
In wars renew’d, uncertain of success,
Sure of a share, as umpires of the peace.

Some overpoise of sway, by turns they share;
In peace the people, and the prince in war:
Consuls of mod’rate pow’r in calms were made;
When the Gauls came, one sole dictator sway’d.

Patriots, in peace, assert the people’s right,
With noble stubbornness resisting might:
No lawless mandates from the court receive,
Nor lend by force; but in a body give.

(To My Honor’d Kinsman, John Driden)

***
“Beaumont, Fletcher, and Jonson (who were only capable of bringing us to that degree of perfection which we have), were just then leaving the world; as if in an age of so much horror, wit, and those milder studies of humanity, had no further business among us. But the Muses, who ever follow peace, went to plant in another country…”

(An Essay on Dramatic Poesy)

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