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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: They say they are of Christ and do the works of Cain

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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

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Selections from the Peace Sonnets

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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs
From Peace Sonnets

XXIII
I said in haste, “O for the famine or
“The pestilence, to make us think on God!”
I knew not what I said, nor how his rod
Would smite the nations with this awful war!
If we have need of signs, what look we for
More than this bubbling blood, by blind hate sod,
Dishonored and cast out on every clod,
Which should be of Christ’s life inheritor?

O be thou wiser, my Beloved: know
They live by Him in whom his spirit dwells
Of faith and love! They triumph who dare show
The godlike deeds thereof! But Satan quells
Their valor, and they perish in defeat
Who doubt with doubt and hate with hatred meet!

XXIV
How shall we pray for them, O God, who say
They are of Christ, and do the works of Cain,
Who mind no more that they are men, nor chain
Within their bosoms the wild beasts of prey,
But let them forth to ravish and to slay,
Putting their trust in Satan and his train?
Yet are we of their kindred and their strain
For their peace and our own, we can but pray!

Yet not for peace alone, but righteousness
And truth, wherein are peace that shall endure,
And love, which is alone the perfect cure
Of all their ills and ours, the potent law
Of Heaven’s Kingdom, that must surely draw
The nations to its sway, ere Thou canst bless.

XXVI
I see through this most sacrilegious feast
Of lust and blood, a hand come on the wall
Of modern palaces and write the fall
Of kings; for from the greatest to the least,
They have been weighed in balances and ceased
From honor, having been found wanting, all,
Bringing the world again to brutish brawl:
Therefore shall they be cast out as the beast,

Until they know that God is more than they;
And these their kingdoms God shall take away
From them and give to Him who rules by right
Divine of love, and by its perfect might;
Who leads his subjects into peace, not strife,
And suffers death, Himself, to give them life.

XXVIII
The earth is God’s, the continents and seas,
The islands and the inland streams and lakes,
Each gloomy fern and golden fin that shakes
In water, each glad wing that beats the breeze
Of air, all ores and gems that melt and freeze
In hidden ducts of mountains; for He makes
Them all, and all the seeds of life, and wakes
Anew each year the beasts and grass and trees.

And ye, O Nations, do but hold in trust
A little while this wealth of his for all
His children, and should in one council call
On Him for strength to minister such stores
In honor; but ye slay the heirs and thrust
Them forth, to seize the inheritance for yours!

XXIX
Above the noise of battle and the cry
Of wounded and of dying, the vast groans
Of wasted provinces, the gathered moans
Of widows and of orphans, through the sky
I hear a Voice of lamentation high
As Heaven, a Voice of love and tears whose tones
Bewailed of old the city’s doomed stones,
That would not own her King when He was nigh.

How oft would I have gathered you, O States,
O Races, in my saving Kingdom’s fold,
But ye would not! – But still without the gates
Slew Me, nor knew your day of visitation,
Desiring this day, whereof I foretold
That it should bring such wrath and desolation!

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George Bernard Shaw: Religion as antidote to war

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

British writers on peace and war

George Bernard Shaw: Selections on war

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George Bernard Shaw
From a speech in Covent Garden, London, 1921

Are you going to tolerate secular education which for the last fifty years has meant the grossest materialism – are you going to allow what is called Neo-Darwinism to be taught to your children in schools at a time when their minds are being formed? There must be a state religion as a cultural institution. You will never have a Socialist state until you take education in hand, and education must have a religious basis.

All our vital and fundamental laws are religious at root, religion being the foundation of the essential duties. If you have people legislating without any religious foundation, you will get the sort of thing we have had from 1914 to 1920. When irreligious men control affairs the danger of war is greatly increased, especially now that the implements of war are so cheap. That is why Ireland is such a fearful danger to the British Empire. The only remedy for war is conscience, and you won’t have conscience until you have religion carefully taught and inculcated.

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Thomas Curtis Clark: Apparitions

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

American writers on peace and against war

Thomas Curtis Clark: Bugle Song of Peace

Thomas Curtis Clark: Who made war?

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Thomas Curtis Clark
Apparitions

Who goes there, in the night,
Across the storm-swept plain?
We are the ghosts of a valiant war –
A million murdered men!

Who goes there at the dawn,
Across the sun-swept plain?
We are the hosts of those who swear:
It shall not be again!

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George Meredith: Nations at war are wild beasts

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

British writers on peace and war

George Meredith: Selections on peace and war

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George Meredith
From The Adventures of Harry Richmond

“Dearest, you have nations fighting: a war is only an exaggerated form of duelling.”

“Nations at war are wild beasts,’ she replied. “The passions of these hordes of men are not an example for a living soul. Our souls grow up to the light: we must keep eye on the light, and look no lower. Nations appear to me to have no worse than a soiled mirror of themselves in mobs. They are still uncivilized: they still bear a resemblance to the old monsters of the mud. Do you not see their claws and fangs, Harry? Do you find an apology in their acts for intemperate conduct? Men who fight duels appear in my sight no nobler than the first desperate creatures spelling the cruel A B C of the passions.”

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Fighting, I said, resembled butting, – a performance proper to creatures that grow horns instead of brains…not to allude to a multitude of telling remarks; and the question “Is man a fighting animal?” my answer being that he is not born with spurs on his heels or horns to his head and that those who insisted on fighting should be examined by competent anatomists, “ologists” of some sort, to decide whether they have the excrescences, and proclaim them…touching on these lighter parts of my theme with extreme delicacy.

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Hermann Hagedorn: The fourth estate turning the thoughts of our children to war

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

American writers on peace and against war

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

POLLEN

[He picks up one of the papers off the floor.

I see you have been honoring me by reading them. Don’t my papers tell you that there’s going to be war?

CONROY

No one pretends, Pollen, that your papers are wonders of undecorated truth.

POLLEN

Well, this time, trust them. What if they do lie about facts occasionally? I am not interested in facts. Facts are always misleading. But I know something about psychology –

CONROY

And you’re sure?

GROSVENOR

How can you be sure?

POLLEN

[Standing at the window.

Because the people are smelling blood. That’s why. And now they won’t let up till they’re satisfied. I’ve watched the war-feeling growing for a year. I tried ’em out on headlines and editorials, first little mild fellows to set them thinking. Then, when their thoughts were set toward trouble, well, we increased the percentage of oxygen.

[Thoughtfully.

It’s been extremely interesting. The psychology of crowds is one of the most satisfying subjects I have ever studied. Say, fifteen, twenty millions, that individually hate you, but as a crowd, a body of readers, unconsciously, perhaps, even against their will, do exactly what you say. We’re going to have war, because the people have now got to a state in which they believe that nothing short of war will save them from utter ruin. They want war. I know it. The circulation of my papers has mounted by the hundred thousand daily. And it isn’t only because the people want the news. They want the excitement. It’s the gambling instinct in them. They’ve seen the ball rolling, and they can’t keep out of the game. The very bigness of the thing lures them on; the bigger the issue, the bigger the fascination. The millions of men and the billions of dollars – that lures them. And the awfulness – the dead, the wounded, the horrors, that lures them like nothing else. There was one thing missing until tonight.

GROSVENOR

[Fascinated.

What was that?

POLLEN

Fear. They were too cocksure. But I gave them fear in the eight o’clock extra. There was a rumor that the rest of Europe would take part.

GROSVENOR

[With a malicious glance.

That looks well for your business, Conroy.

CONROY

I’m not complaining.

POLLEN

We’re playing the thing up in the late editions all over the country. It’ll give the people a queer catch in the throat. They’ll see the possibility of a fierce struggle, even of defeat. There’ll be a wonderful wave of patriotism. You watch. The people’ll rise right up. In twenty-four hours there won’t be a man in the country that’ll be able to tell black from white. All they’ll see will be red.

[Pointing out of the window.

Look at the people out there, standing round. They can’t stay indoors. They’re waiting for the extras. They won’t believe ’em when they read ’em, but they can’t resist the excitement. Well, the bonfire’s ready. Nothing lacking now except the match.

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POLLEN

[Laughing softly.

There you go.

[He presses a bell-button on the wall, bends over the writing-desk and writes a line which he encloses in an envelope.

You’re easy. And there are a hundred million like you. When it comes to war, reason goes to sleep. You both of you knew perfectly well that I had absolutely no later news than you, but you let yourself be hypnotized like children. I can do anything I want with you.

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POLLEN

I merely advise you. It isn’t always considered patriotic when the people want war, for a Senator to want peace too hard. I shall strive to point that out to twenty million people or so tomorrow morning. Make your will, Senator. The avalanche is coming. You’ll be the loneliest voice that ever came out of the wilderness. I prophesy your swift demise.

HARRADAN

This is wartime. Most of us are ready to die, if necessary. Only some of us would rather die in the service of peace than in the service of war. You’re a very powerful man, Mr. Pollen. I don’t doubt at all that you can kill me if you put your mind on it. You have poisoned the whole nation. You are at liberty to kill me outright, but I won’t let you slow-poison me.

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CONROY

[Bluntly.

And why shouldn’t we be down here? I’m in a legitimate business. Guns. And I’m looking after my interests. I’m not declaring war. But if there is a war I don’t see any reason why I should get left in the scramble.

HARRADAN

War! God, do you know what the word means? I’ve been in two wars. I’ve seen and heard and – smelt battlefields. And I’ve seen women and children waiting at home – and waiting.

POLLEN

I’ll give you a thousand dollars, Senator, for a thousand-word article on the horrors of war. You can’t make it strong enough.

MAYNARD

[Laughing.

That’s one on you, Senator.

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HARRADAN

…You and your kind are stirring up the millions to dream of war, to shout about defending our national honor – What honor is there in murder? – stirring their blood with the fifes and drums of your rhetoric! Through your newspapers, you are turning the thoughts of our children to war, our children who should be to us the symbol of a nobler, purer future rising out of the sordid wreckage of the present – you make them drunk with your cant about national glory – glory! – until their innocent faces glow feverishly up to you, hungry for battle. You will not rest until you hear the terrible savage cry from their lips – War, war! You shall not hear it if I can prevent it! I am going to the Senate now. In fifteen minutes your names shall be a byword and a hissing among the nations. The best you can do is to take your vile guns and turn them on yourselves!

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[The stage grows light again. In the foreground, a black group of trees may be dimly discerned; beyond are indistinct hills and the last glow of a bloody sunset. Smoke and dust blacken the scene. Even before the cloud breaks to reveal the valley for a moment, the low roar is suddenly broken by the rattle of musketry, followed by the booming of artillery and the drumming sound of the machine guns. A trumpet sounds the charge. The dust cloud breaks. A thickly crowded mass of men is vaguely seen through the twilight charging with cries and curses. The rear ranks press over the fallen, waver, shout and fall back. The rattle of musketry continues. The men return to the charge, are repulsed once more with awful slaughter and again return. The dust cloud passes over the scene. It is night now. The wounded are tossing on the field, shrieking. Ghouls prowl about. A flock of buzzards flies across the moon. In the distance is heard a shout of victory, then the national anthem once more, played by a trumpeter. A thousand voices seem to rise out of the ground, moaning, drowning out the music. Then a woman’s voice, clear and distinct.

VOICE

How long, O Lord? How long?

[Cries and wailings answer the cry. Silence. Again the bugle, drowned out by cries, cries, cries.

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Evgeny Bogat: Rembrandt’s girl

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

Russian writers on war

Evgeny Bogat: Hiroshima and Socrates

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

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Evgeny Bogat
From Eternal Man
Translated by Christine Bushnell

The subject of “Night Watch” is famous: the Banning Cock Company is setting out on a march – one person is beating a drum, another is loading a musket, another is raising a flag. The atmosphere of the painting is permeated with military pride, and there is rather a dramatic touch in the depiction of happy people whose powder is already damp. It is one of Rembrandt’s most charming physical canvases and recently restoration work has wonderfully brought the figures to life. For long decades the painting hung in the Amsterdam infantry guild, where damp peat burned in the fireplace. It became darker from the smoke, as if true to its mysterious name: “Night Watch.” But a number of questions also arose. Recently, under the soot and later layers of paint the restorers discovered sunny Rembrandt tones. Thus the old name was curious, but there was another riddle – the girl in the crowd of armed people. What was she doing there, and why is she in that particular place on the canvas? It is the brightest and most radiant spot of the canvas, and a number of investigators interpreted her (before the restoration) as a ray of light contrasting with the somber tones. They were convinced Rembrandt was using the girl to light up the dark night. But it is night no longer, and the girl is still there. She has become even more of a riddle. Why did the artist depict her among those people, people who do not see her? The majority of the figures in the painting are shielded by one another and this brings forth the ire of some of the soldiers who are very close together pushing one another, practically standing on top of one another. But the girl is out in the open. Had this not been a group of burghers parading in full military dress, but a real battle in a moment of real danger, the girl would be an extremely easy target. Her defenselessness amidst gunpowder in this theatrical picture is shocking. But the world is not a riddle for me, she arouses my fear for her safety, alarm over a world in which beating a drum is more important than protecting a child….

In the girl standing out in the open I see Anne Frank, the girls from Auschwitz, from Hiroshima. I wish at least one of the figures of “Night Watch” would shield her with his own body, but they are all too busy with themselves. And their clothes, weapons, and bearing all express militarism.

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[In an imaginary dialogue with Rembrandt]

We spent long hours talking about man and he told me things of infinite importance that have played a tremendous role in my understanding of the world. He helped me to better understand the people around me and these people helped me, in turn, to more fully understand his canvases. He said that most of his contemporaries could not realize their potential in verse, music, love and good deeds. He said that man, in his inner depths, is incomparable richer than he appears on the surface. With each epoch we must become more and more conscious of this difference and as mankind develops the difference will become less and less tragic. He told me about women who died without ever falling in love, or who fell in love but never came to know the fullness of life. He talked about poets who never wrote a line, and even about artists who did not leave one canvas behind. He spoke of people who did not create a hundredth of what they were capable of, of people who did not carry through what they were born to do. He helped me sense the very essence of man, to keenly perceive his unfulfilled promise. And I better understand the golden twilight of his paintings and their sorrow, He told me about burned manuscripts, ruined canvases, broken hearts, and unfulfilled promises.

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There are many entirely similar men and women, but there are no children exactly alike. It would seem that differences among persons and differences in character should become more apparent as people grow older. But this is not the case. The differences sadly fade away, leaving only the memory of the wonderfully unique world of childhood. Where has the child gone? Can it really be that a despondent, untalented person who goes around with an ordinary expression on his face and stereotyped phrases – can it be that once he was a child? At times, one may think, the child has really departed, he quietly slipped away at daybreak so that he would not have to turn into this person. He is living somewhere else – drawing, making models, delighting in the world, loving dogs and sunshine. Is there, perhaps, somewhere, a fantastic land of boys and girls who run away to remain themselves? In this land of the eternal child there is no boy-Socrates, no boy-Tolstoy, for they did not need to run away, they live within eternal man. And perhaps in the future the population of this fantastic land will cease to grow, and not a single boy or girl will be added in the next 1,000 years, because man will, in the future, be able to keep the child within himself. The child will have no need to run away. And then the words “untalented person” will seems as absurd as “untalented child” seems today.

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Vincent Godfrey Burns: Hell à la mode

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

American writers on peace and against war

Vincent Godfrey Burns: An Ex-Serviceman Makes a Vow

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Vincent Godfrey Burns
Hell à la mode

Zero hour!
Advance!
The military Power
Decrees….
Out from their trenches, mud-holes, trees,
The doughboys, trembling in a trance,
Knee-deep in mud
And blood,
Through dark like pitch
Pierced by stabs of flame,
Teeth-clenched and faces tense,
Move forward with that haunting sense
Of a horrible fear too wild to tame,
Fear like some mad shrieking witch
Driving them stumbling, staggering, stubbornly on –
On through the chaos and horrors of a million hells –
On through the shower of a million shells –
On, on through the dark and the mud and the thunder,
Thunder like one brazen wall of noise.
On, on, heels crunching out the brains of boys
As rank after rank goes under!
For before the hurtlings of that red-hot steel
Lines break like paper, bodies sway and reel,
Nothing can live on that bullet-swept plain,
Even tank or trench or tree is vain
To stand up against that iron rain,
(Rain for a crop grim Death will reap
When the scythe of War leaves its bloody heap….)
Like trees struck by lightning human bodies fall;
And the killing continues as cruel as fate
Until nothing is left on the field at all,
Nothing – but mud and blood and wire,
And in the slough of that awful mire,
Fragments of sons that were slaughtered and slain,
And cries of their anguish in the hellish gloom,
Cries that sound like the Day of Doom,
Cries of beings gone mad with pain,
Cries of suffering and terrible hate,
Cries of a host’s last gasping breath,
And over it all, at last, at last,
When the fearful fury of the battle is past,
The silence of wreckage and ruin and death!

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Edward Arnold Brenholtz: Selections on peace and war

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Clement Wood: Seedtime and harvest

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clement Wood: Victory – Without Peace

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Clement Wood
Seedtime

Not too deep we plant the grain,
So that it can rise again
To re-green the naked field,
Minting all its golden yield.

But these slaughtered men should sleep
Planted deep, planted deep.
They have had their share of pain,
And they would not rise again.

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Harvest

Out of the blood-washed trenches,
Leaving their bodies there,
The souls of the dead young soldiers
Float up the friendless air.

They do not seek the masters
Who herded them to this fate.
With hearts all hot for vengeance, –
They are too dead to hate.

But each one finds the maiden
He trembled for in life –
She who was yet his sweetheart.
She who was his young wife.

And she feels on her hungry bosom
The ghost of a dead caress.
As the soul of her lover scatters
Into gray nothingness.

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Dana Burnet: The Glory of War

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

American writers on peace and against war

Dana Burnett: Selections on war

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Dana Burnet
The Glory of War

Hoof-beat and trumpet blast,
And banners in the dawn!
And what of the grain in the fallow field
When the husbandman has gone?

Sword song and battle roar,
And the great grim fighting-line!
And what of the woman in the door
And the blown grape on the vine?

Drum-beat and draped flag
And he beneath his shield
And what of the woman weeping low,
And the dead grain in the field?

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The Survivor

Have ye heard the thunder down the wind?
Have ye seen the smoke against the sky?
Nay, for my love goes from my arms
To march and die!

Have ye seen the scarlet battle flags,
The distant lightnings of the sword?
Nay, for my house hath lost its king,
My heart its lord.

Have ye heard the splendid lifting song
The wind-blown paean of the strife?
Nay, for they sing of Death – and I
Am chained to life!

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Ernest Crosby: Woman and War


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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Crosby: Selections against war, for peace

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Ernest Crosby
Woman and War

I saw a lamb gnashing its untried teeth,
Rending the fleece
Of its own brother, piece by piece.
Until beneath
Blood trickled red upon the heath,
And stained the mouth of that perverted lamb
That mouth not made to frighten,
But rather to whiten
With the innocent milk of its dam.

I heard a bobolink in June
Forget its limpid tune,
And choose the shriek and angry talk
Of a carrion hawk;
And I saw it swooping, mad, relentless, down,
Where in a tuft of long couch-grass
Lay an unprotected nest,
Hidden from those who pass,
But spied from above as a spot of brown
By the bird on its ruthless quest.

“Oh God,” I cried, “what ails the universe?
What hell-born curse
Has stirred these gentle hearts to strike?
What anti-natural taint
Makes devil and saint
In hate and cruelty alike?

God did not answer; yet He was not dumb.
He only said:
“The worst is still to come.”
And then I seemed to see
With eyes of dread
A sight most monstrous and unwarranted.
For there appeared to me,
Sadder than aught that I beheld before –
Oh, blasphemy!
A woman urging men to war
(Ah, that such a thing should be!) –
A pure-browed maiden urging men to war!

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The Epitaph

Above his grave they raised a stone
That towered toward the sky,
And on it they carved in shadows deep
These words that held mine eye:

“Here lies a patriot soldier bold,
Who at his country’s call
With joy laid down his youthful life;
Sweet is it thus to fall.”

That night by the ghostly moonlit stone
We saw an angel stand,
And he wiped that labored legend out
With a sweep of his silver hand.

Then with a finger that seemed to glow
Like a flame that was pale and blue
He traced a single white-hot word
That scorched us through and through.

“Angel of Truth,” we cried, aghast
(How did we know his name?),
“What means upon our hero’s tomb
This word of burning shame?

“Was he a ‘traitor’ who fought so well
Against his nation’s foe –
A “traitor,” who gave his life’s red blood
When his country bade it flow?

“He was a traitor,” like a bell
Of silver Truth replied:
“Traitor to more than country’s call
Or patriot’s loyal pride –

“Traitor to freedom when he sought
To subjugate the free –
Traitor to love when, steeped in hate,
He crossed the distant sea –

“Traitor to conscience when he stilled
Its cry of pain within –
Nay, traitor to his country too
For helping her to sin.”

Back toward the stars the angel rose,
And when he disappeared
We chiseled out that shameful word,
Tho deep the stone was seared,

And once again we carved the lines
Which told our hero’s deed.
So deep and clear the words appear
That he who runs may read.

And there they stay until this day
To publish his renown,
For, tho we feared the angel’s wrath,
He never again came down.

Yet, when I read those deep-cut lines,
Between them and behind
I see aflame another name
That burns into my mind.

Traitor to freedom, truth and love,
Traitor to good and right

What patriot boast can save his soul
Who falls in such a fight?

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Alexander Grin: A hellish nightmare, or rather a horrible reality

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

Russian writers on war

Alexander Grin: How a little girl stopped a world war

Alexander Grin: How two leaders ended war

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Alexander Grin
From The Poisoned Island
Translated by Barry Scherr

According to the tale told by Captain Tart, who had come to Akhuan Skap from New Zealand, and his statement to local authorities, corroborated by witnesses in his ship’s crew, the entire population on the little island of Farfont in the South Pacific agreed to and carried out a mass suicide pact – with the exception of two children, three and seven years old, who were left in the care of the ship Viola, commanded by Captain Tart.

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“It was very hard for us,” said Skorrey, “to believe the words of Captain Brahms, who announced that Europe had been through a terrible war, while we, suspecting nothing, heard only the lapping of the waves and the rustling of the blossoming branches. However, Brahms showed us a newspaper which, though old, nonetheless convincingly said the very same thing.

“All night the captain and his comrades talked with us and initiated us – excited, shaken, and spellbound – into the very depths of the events. We found out that hundreds of millions of people had been involved in the war. We found out that many cities and entire countries had been destroyed. We found out that people fly in flocks on winged machines and drop bombs from above onto ships, houses, and forests. We found out that by means of a special asphyxiating wind the lungs of tens of thousands of soldiers are burned, and much else, and also that no one knew whether such a war would recur again.

“In the morning the captain and his crew set out for their ship to repair the damage while we continued to discuss what we had heard. Not one of us even thought of working that day. Each appraised the situation in his own way. Several averred that Brahms had not told the entire truth and that the war was probably continuing. Others asserted that a propitious time for pirates had arisen and that in all probability we would soon have to repel an attack. In general, we were suspicious and depressed. Each person was obsessed with presentiments and spewed out his conjectures regarding events in Europe we could only dimly imagine.

“Somebody – I don’t remember who – said that very possibly in a year or two we would remain the only inhabitants on the earth, since the belligerents would undoubtedly destroy one another with their monstrous inventions….”

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“‘Look, look!'” shouted my sister just then, and, following the direction of her frightful glance, we saw that the entire sky was covered by rapidly darting, mysterious ships with a strange rigging of a type never before seen; it was reminiscent of a sailing vessel and in the air beneath it had appeared to be a reflection. A whistling and roar were audible from there, as were thuds and the prolonged ringing of bells; soon everything was covered by the smoke of firing, which resounded in our ears like a death sentence. Women fainted, ran into their houses, or sobbed. We men stood as if bound and lacked strength to move from the spot. Finally the last sterns of the monsters disappeared beyond the cliffs, and when we had again gathered together we could fearfully and woefully admit to each other our common despair. Nobody could explain what was happening. That night only the children slept.

“A month and two weeks passed accompanied with the same uninterrupted oppressive, ruthless, and threatening phenomena; finally we became half-crazed and thoroughly pathetic. We were afraid to go far from home lest we be left alone; work was abandoned; disturbing and oppressive dreams haunted those who had thrown themselves into bed to find rest; the children, who were frightened more than the others by the storm which had destroyed our quiet life, cried, as did their mothers, who had grown thin from the continuous fear; and we men, resolving to shake off the power of the warring forces, would make the rounds of the island together in order to convince ourselves that we were its sole masters, and every time that we became convinced of it would fall prey to still more acute despair. A dull, rumbling thunder resounded above our heads day and night; something like distant explosions cut people short in mid-conversation, and groans and howling – now quiet and plaintive, now loud, full of anger and pain – filled the air. At night a powerful cannonade could be heard in the west as if an endless battle were going on there: people who had come out to look at the sea saw dark masses of vessels of unknown nationality pursuing one another. We no longer knew any peace. What was happening to us? What surrounded us? We were tired of asking each other questions. Finally, one night when we had assembled in his home, my second cousin Allen Skorrey told us that he did not see any way out of our helpless situation except death: ‘We can neither stay awake nor sleep. We have fallen under the power of a hellish nightmare, or rather of a horrible reality, which has become totally elusive through methods unknown to us; cut off from the whole world, knowing nothing, innocent, losing our reason, we will soon go mad and fill the air with savage howls. Why? That we cannot know. I promise that we will die voluntarily.'”

====

In conclusion the author describes the island’s beautiful vegetation, its mild climate, and the unique enchantment of its unpretentious and harmless desolation; he ends his article with this note:

“These were the happiest people on the entire earth, who were killed by the echo of long-silenced salvos that are unparalleled in history.”

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Bertha von Suttner: Armaments, without fighting each other the nations would all come to ruin in making preparations for war

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

Women writers on peace and war

Bertha von Suttner: Selections on peace and war

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

Translated by T. Holmes

True, the war was over. That is, it had been proclaimed that peace was concluded. A word is sufficient to unchain the horrors, and thence one is apt to think that a word will also suffice to remove them again, but no spell has in reality that power. Hostilities may be suspended, and yet hostility may persist. The seed of future war is sown, and the fruit of the war just ended spreads still further, in wretchedness, savagery, and plagues. Yes, no falsehood and no “not thinking of it” was any good now, the cholera was raging through the country.

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“…The heartless egotism, which is capable of rejoicing over material gains that proceed out of the ruin of others – this impulse which every individual, even if he is base enough to feel it, still takes all possible care to hide – is proudly and openly confessed by nations and dynasties. ‘Thousands have perished in untold sufferings; but we have thereby increased in territory and in power: so let there be praises and thanks to Heaven for the successful war!’”

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“I have,” he said, “renounced the trade of war, and that I have done from convictions gained in actual war. I will now work for these convictions. I enter the service of the peace army. A very small army indeed, it is true, and one whose combatants have no other shield or sword than the sentiment of justice and the love of humanity. Still, everything which has ultimately become great has started from small or invisible beginnings.”

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“Well, the meaning of that is, that if we had had more material, the material which our enemy had would not have served him. Ergo – if the Landwehr were introduced everywhere it would not benefit anybody. The war game would be played with more pieces, but the game nevertheless depends still on the luck and the ability of the players. I will suppose that all the European powers have introduced the obligation of universal defence; the proportion of forces in that case remains exactly the same, the only difference would be that, in order to come to a decision, instead of hundreds of thousands, millions would have to be slaughtered.”

“But do you think it just and fair that a part only of the population should sacrifice themselves in order to protect the dearest possessions of the others, and that these others, chiefly because they are rich, should be entitled to stop quietly at home? No, no; that will cease with this new law. Then there will be no more buying-off – every one will have to take his part. And it is especially the educated – the students – those who have some learning, who will contribute the elements of intelligence and therefore of victory.”

“The other side has the same elements ready to hand, and so the advantages to be gained from educated petty officers neutralise each other. On the other hand, what remains (and equally to both sides) is the loss of material of priceless mental worth, of which the country is deprived by the fact that the most educated, those who might have promoted its civilisation by means of inventions, works of art, or scientific inquiry, are set up in rank and file to be marks for the enemy’s shot – ”

“There would be something to say for that, if it fell less heavily on individuals on that account. But that would not be the case; the blood tax would not be divided by that measure, but increased. I hope the project may not be carried out. There is no seeing whither it may lead. One state would then try to outvie the other in strength of army, till at last there would no longer be any armies, but only armed nations. More people would be constantly drawn into the service; the length of service would be constantly increased; the incidence of war taxes and the costs of armaments constantly greater; – so that without fighting each other the nations would all come to ruin in making preparations for war!”

“But, dear Tilling, you look too far.”

“One can never look too far. Everything a man undertakes he ought to think out to its remotest consequence – at least as far as his mind reaches. We were likening war just now to a game at chess. Politics also is of the same nature, your excellency, and those are only very feeble players who look no further forward than a single move, and are quite pleased with themselves if they have got into a position in which they can threaten a pawn. I want to develop the thought of defensive forces constantly increasing and the universal extension of liability to military service still more widely, till we reach the extremest verge, i.e., where the mass becomes excessive. What then, if after the greatest numbers and the furthest limits of age are reached, one nation should take it into its head to recruit regiments of women too? The others must imitate it. Or battalions of boys? The others must imitate it. And in the armaments – in the means of destruction – where can the limit be? Oh this savage, blind leap into the pit!”

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Katrina Trask: Selections on war and peace

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George Shepard Burleigh: Martial Heroism

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

American writers on peace and against war

George Shepard Burleigh: When shall the crystal fount of Peace wash out the hideous stain of blood?

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George Shepard Burleigh
Martial Heroism

An eye, bloodshot and still, with angry glare
Threats Heaven – encaverned in the shaggy side
of brows that slope back to the steeps of pride;
His hard cheek scorns alike the lightning-glare
And Mercy’s sunshine, poured availless there;
Clenched teeth, and rigid lips, and nostrils wide,
As of a war-horse, and the pitiless gride
Of his armed heel on bosoms red and bare,
Betray the spirit of that iron frame,
Whose hand is welded to the steel it lifts.
Blood gurgles down the steep tracks of his fame,
From human clay, piled high in livid drifts.
Rash men adore him, and his image fold
In reverent arms, and crown with purple and gold .

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Ernest Crosby: Selections against war, for peace

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Margaret Widdemer: Men have to wage world-wars, children are left to die

April 30, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Margaret Widdemer: After War

Margaret Widdemer: A Mother to the War-Makers

Margaret Widdemer: War-March

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Margaret Widdemer
A Poor Child

The little dreamer is dead
Who would have woven for Man
Thread upon golden thread,
Span upon silver span,
Into the dark degrees
Of the great world-tapestries.

For God had given him dreams
That would have builded earth
To a place of heaven-schemes,
Of pity and peace and mirth
But the little dreamer is dead,
And the dreams of his childish head.

There were not under the stars
Riches enough for him;
Men have to wage world-wars,
Pile the great towers that dim
Beauty of sea and sky
The children are left to die.

In this our merciful day
Saints may not live to climb
Their crosses and who shall say
In what short pulse of time
With none to pity or hark
Christ-children die in the dark?

****

Uplift

Must I always sing at the walls to hearten the men who fight
In causes changeful as wind and as brief as a summer night;

Must I always praise the wisdom of Man who is blind, blind-led,
Of kings who are kings for a day and are dead when the day is dead;

Of right that is wrong to-morrow, of truths that were last year’s lies,
Of little strifes and upbuildings that die when a nation dies?

For Rome is withered, and Hellas; but leaves in the wind bow still
As they bowed for my brother’s dreaming who sang by some dead god’s hill,

And all Assyria’s captains are dead with the dead they made,
Dust of the gyve and anklet with dust of the casque and blade,

But wonderful dreams blow still in the swirl of gray smoke new-gone
As they blew from a fire at twilight for my brother in Ascalon;

And all of the mighty walls men have reared to sweep down again
Are thwarted shadows of visions some poet spun far from men.

I am tired of praising the deeds that are brief as a breath may be,
That change with the mocking turn of a day or a century:

I will go and spin useless dreams that shall last until men are hurled
Out into the space of the Timeless with ash of a burning world!

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James George Frazer: Saturn’s reign of peace

April 29, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

James George Frazer: Purifying the defilement of war

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James George Frazer
From The Golden Bough

This famous festival [the Saturnalia] fell in December, the last month of the Roman year, and was popularly supposed to commemorate the merry reign of Saturn, the god of sowing and of husbandry, who lived on earth long ago as a righteous and beneficent king of Italy, drew the rude and scattered dwellers on the mountains together, taught them to till the ground, gave them laws, and ruled in peace. His reign was the fabled Golden Age: the earth brought forth abundantly: no sound of war or discord troubled the happy world: no baleful love of lucre worked like poison in the blood of the industrious and contented peasantry. Slavery and private property were alike unknown: all men had all things in common. At last the good god, the kindly king, vanished suddenly; but his memory was cherished to distant ages, shrines were reared in his honour, and many hills and high places in Italy bore his name.

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Sergei Sartakov: No to eternal war

April 28, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Sergei Sartakov: I fervently wish for universal peace

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Sergei Sartakov
From The Philosophers’ Stone
Translated by Fainna Glagoleva

“I don’t think mankind will set out on a course of eternal warfare, because I believe in the inherent wisdom of man….The day will come when commanders and commissars will no longer be needed in the infantry, the artillery or the cavalry. They’ll be needed in other walks of life and will become leaders in industry, science and art.”

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“I still regret not having learned the language or more about the country and the meaning of everything that was happening there when I was in Russia. True, I crossed Russia bearing arms, but I never killed a single Russian, Václav!”

“Never kill anyone when you grow up, Václav!” Blažena echoed.

She was mortally frightened by the very sight of a gun. The first thing she had done after marrying Stašek was to demand that they get rid of everything that was in the least way connected with his former life as an officer. She had every reason to feel as she did, for her two elder brothers, brave soldiers of Emperor Franz Joseph, had both been killed in Galicia.

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The priest’s face softened….

“A great nation is rising from the ruins and destruction which the colonel saw when he was in Russia. He was awed and frightened by it. What does a new and rising Russia hold in store for mankind? The colonel thinks it will bring on a new war, or a second wave of revolutions in Europe. That, in his estimation, also means war. I didn’t argue with him. His profession demands that he thinks in terms of war and warfare. My calling, however, demands that I think in terms of peace….”

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General Hrudka, a serious-minded and business-like man, did not always agree with him, nor did he approve of Václav’s desire to devote himself entirely to scholarly research, something so far removed from everyday life. Yet, a general could not think otherwise. Being in the service of the god of war, his mind could not rise above the trajectory of an artillery shell or the lofty flight of the newest bomber.

General Hrudka never spoke of anything except the inevitability of war. He had been figuring out the period within which the second world war was bound to start, determining the countries that would definitely be drawn into the conflict and their war potential. He was positive that, all things accounted for, the next war would not by-pass his beloved Czechoslovakia….

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Why were innocent people in other countries being mown down by rounds of ruthless machine-gun fire? Whose way were they in?

No sooner would one war cease than another was begun in some other part of the world. War to war! How much more blood would have to be shed…?


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Joseph Fawcett: The contemptible wagers of civilized war

April 27, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

Man
Was made to cherish, not to butcher man.
The sordid senator, who sells his breath
To wake the coals of war, she [Reason] doth proclaim,
Nor can his ear th’ accus’d patrician seal,
Accomplice in the murder of mankind.
When in the peaceful camp, while battle breathes ,
Their shouting the recumbent captains cease,
Oft to the letter’d leader of his band,
As, ruminating, silent he reclines,
She whispers audible “What dost thou here?
Is this a fair and honest scene around thee,
That shrinks not from the beam of piercing Truth?
Is this thy post of duty? Wert thou made
To be the saviour or the foe of life?”

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…’tis you alone,
Sons of Refinement, sons of Science, you!
Convicted stand of murder’s cruel crime.
And all the mild humanities that mix
With the rough horror of the hostile scene;
During each pause of intermittent Mars,
The courteous intercourse betwixt you chiefs,
Fair, interlucory civilities,
That deck and soften war’s stern rigid state;
But serve its iron ugliness to point.
Each streak of beauteous white that breaks its dark
Shows but in blacker night its ebon shade….

A madd’ning war of venom, stings and teeth;
Into whose dragon broil, and high-wrought rage,
(Prodigious discord!) all her out-sent soul
Alecto breath’d! oh, better far my fight
Could such complete, consistent scene sustain,
Than this strange mixture of our motley strife.
Urbanity, and battle! manners bland,
And murders bloody! thorns that deeply pierce,
And beautifully flower! soft courtly camps,
That kill, and smile, and smile, and kill again!

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Civiliz’d war! in every varied view,
Ill suits thee, fiend accurs’d! so fair a name.
Though in the field a smoother form thou wear
Than thy wild sister-hag of craggier shape,
A feller fury thou! for on thee wait
Severer sufferings; and a wider scene
With varied woes thy vaster mischief fills.
Ah, ’tis in cultur’d life, and chiefly there,
War is the scourge we call it; there alone
In thickest show’r of heaviest lashes felt,
It deeply lacerates and long furrows makes
On, bleeding Happiness! thy mangled frame.
What if the field of savage slaughter show
With blood a more obliterated green,
A redder plain and direr forms of death?
Its rage the savage soldier feels, nor fears:
Nurs’d in no silken lap, his lion-nerves,
Strings strong as steel, stiff and untrembling, know
To laugh at torment and to sing in death.
War is his sport; in ecstasy of soul
He whoops and hails the hour that bids him face
Its frowning front, its horrid dangers dare,
And hew in pieces whom his heart abhors.
Not with this prompt, exulting leap to arms
Europe’s cold hireling with her call complies:
Forth to the field, unused to suffer pain,
And long time lapp’d in soft and drowsy ease,
Fearful and loth he moves: the arms of Peace
He leaves reluctant, and reluctant lifts
The hostile spear: nor by hot malice spurr’d
‘Gainst whom he’s sent to slay, nor flaming love
Of whom he goes to serve, with sluggish step,
Heavy and homeward hanging, he obeys
His crested master’s bidding to depart.

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Till then (whate’er the gay-cloath’d coward prate,
Whose crest tremendous scares the sons of Peace)
In him who fights for pay, not love of fight,
Nor of the cause which his sold arm sustains,
Contemplative Compassion views a wretch,
When first he enters the dread, fateful field,
A cold, recoiling wretch, that, pale, regrets
He e’er forsook the safe domestic scene.
In fancy slain by every slaught’rous sound,
Lifeless he hears the loud disploded deaths,
And ‘mid the thunder dies a thousand times.

Ah cruel lusts! wherever ye have lain,
Lodg’d in whatever bosoms, founts of wars,
That myriads thus have mercilessly sent
From life’s smooth walks and humanized scenes
To freeze with horror amid forms they hate;
To wear white faces in the field of death,
Without a cause to kindle scorn of life;
Dire ills to work, where ill to none they wish;
Hurt whom they hate not, whom they know not crush,
And act the fiend by fury uninspir’d!

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Edna St. Vincent Millay: Lament

April 26, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Conscientious Objector

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Edna St. Vincent Millay
Lament

Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I’ll make you little jackets;
I’ll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There’ll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

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Thomas Hardy: War’s annals will fade into night

April 25, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Hardy: Selections on war

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Thomas Hardy
In the Time of “The Breaking of Nations”

I
Only a man harrowing clods be
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

II
Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.

III
Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War’s annals will fade into night
Ere their story die.

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Martha Shepard Lippincott: Shame will fall upon us for barbarous deeds of war

April 24, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Martha Shepard Lippincott: Nations now for mammon fight

Martha Shepard Lippincott: Peace on Earth

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Martha Shepard Lippincott
Wronging Filipinos

When will it end, this bloodshed,
That fills our hearts with woe?
When we shall see it ending
We cannot seem to know.
And oft, when peace seems dawning,
Hostilities break out;
We from their native country,
Find rebels hard to rout.

And why should we be trying?
The country is not ours,
We only try to take it
By military powers.
Why should we try to kill them?
Poor Filipino men,
Their patriotism surely
Should prove their rights again.

They love the land God gave them,
And for it bravely fight;
And in the name of justice,
Have we to it a right?
Would we like them to come here
And take our homes from us ?
I well know, if they tried it,
We’d make a dreadful fuss.

Is it the golden rule, then,
That we are teaching them?
And is our way of ruling
Like such a priceless gem
That we should force on others
The yoke they would resist?
I fear we’ll find out later
Christ’s lesson has been missed.

And shame will fall upon us,
For barbarous deeds of war,
And we mistaken honor
Will soon have to deplore.

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Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Numa’s arbiters of peace

April 23, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Scorn rapine and violence and the profits accruing from war

Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Women’s plea for peace

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Dionysius of Halicarnassus
From Roman Antiquities
Translated by Earnest Cary

The seventh division of his sacred institutions was devoted to the college of the fetiales; these may be called in Greek eirênodikai or “arbiters of peace.” They are chosen men, from the best families, and exercise their holy office for life; King Numa was also the first who instituted this holy magistracy among the Romans….It is their duty to take care that the Romans do not enter upon an unjust war against any city in alliance with them, and if others begin the violation of treaties against them, to go as ambassadors and first make formal demand for justice, and then, if the others refuse to comply with their demands, to sanction war.

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For this man, considering that a State which was to love justice and to continue in the practice of moderation ought to abound in all things necessary to the support of life, divided the whole country into what are called pagi or “districts,” and over each of these districts he appointed an official whose duty it was to inspect and visit the lands lying in his own jurisdiction. These men, going their rounds frequently, made a record of the lands that were well and ill cultivated and laid it before the king, who repaid the diligence of the careful husbandmen with commendations and favours, and by reprimanding and fining the slothful encouraged them to cultivate their lands with greater attention. Accordingly, the people, being freed from wars and exempt from any attendance on the affairs of the State, and at the same time being disgraced and punished for idleness and sloth, all became husbandmen and looked upon the riches which the earth yields and which of all others are the most just as more enjoyable than the precarious influence of a military life. And by the same means Numa came to be beloved of his subjects, the example of his neighbours, and the theme of posterity. It was owing to these measures that neither civil dissension broke the harmony of the State nor foreign war interrupted the observance of his most excellent and admirable institutions. For their neighbours were so far from looking upon the peaceful tranquillity of the Romans as an opportunity for attacking them, that, if at any time they were at war with one another, they chose the Romans for mediators and wished to settle their enmities under the arbitration of Numa. This man, therefore, I should take no shame in placing among the foremost of those who have been celebrated for their felicity in life.

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Konstantin Paustovsky: All conquerors are mad

April 22, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Konstantin Paustovsky: Cervantes slain in war

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Konstantin Paustovsky
From Ilyinsky Waters
Translated by Kathleen Cook

Through the small round window I saw the yellow outline of an island looking like a thistle appear in the fathomless blue depths. It was Corsica. Later I learned that seen from above islands take on fantastic shapes just like cumulus clouds. These shapes are the product of our imagination, of course.

The jagged coast of Corsica lashed by the centuries and baked by the intense heats, its castles protecting the island like spiky thorns, patches of bright red shrubs, a torrent of deep blue Mediterranean light bursting through the invisible weir of the heavens and cascading in all its might onto the island – all this could not distract my thoughts from a small damp hollow on Ilyinsky Waters smelling like hemlock with a solitary thistle that grew up to your head – impregnable, bristling with prickles, its sharp couters and visor.

On the western shore of the island was a small town resembling a handful of carelessly scattered dice. It emerged from the wing of the plane like a honeycomb. This was Napoleon’s birthplace, Ajaccio.

“All conquerors are mad,” said my neighbour, a fat, jovial Italian in sun-glasses, glancing down at Ajaccio. “How on earth a person who was born and grew up in such beauty could become a mass murderer is completely beyond me!”

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Ovid: Pray for perpetual peace and a peace-loving leader

April 21, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Ovid: Selections on war and peace

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Ovid
From Fasti
Translated by James G. Frazer

Ceres was the first who invited man to better sustenance and exchanged acorns for more useful food. She forced bulls to yield their necks to the yoke; then for the first time did the upturned soil behold the sun. Copper was now held in esteem; iron ore still lay concealed; ah, would that it had been hidden for ever! Ceres delights in peace; and you, ye husbandmen, pray for perpetual peace and for a pacific prince.

prima Ceres homine ad meliora alimenta vocato
mutavit glandes utiliore cibo.
ilia iugo tauros coUum praebere coegit:
tunc primum soles eruta vidit humus.
aes erat in pretio, chalybeia massa latebat:
eheu! perpetuo debuit ilia tegi.
pace Ceres laeta est; et vos orate, coloni,
perpetuam pacem pacificumque ducem.

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O spare, I pray, and take thy scabby hands from off the harvest! Harm not the tilth; ’tis enough that thou hast the power to harm. Grip not the tender crops, but rather grip the hard iron. Forestall the destroyer. Better that thou shouldst gnaw at swords and baneful weapons There is no need of them: the world is at peace. Now let the rustic gear, the rakes, and the hard hoe, and the curved share be burnished bright; but let rust defile the arms, and when one essays to draw the sword from the scabbard, let him feel it stick from long disuse.

parce, precor, scabrasque manus a messibus aufer
neve noce cultis: posse nocere sat est.
nee teneras segetes, sed durum amplectere ferrum.
quodque potest alios perdere, perde prior.
utilius gladios et tela nocentia carpes:
nil opus est illis, otia mundus agit.
sarcula nunc durusque bidens et vomer aduncus,
ruris opes, niteant; inquinet arma situs,
conatusque aliquis vagina ducere ferrum
adstrictum longa sentiat esse mora.

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Nathan Haskell Dole: Here are War’s pomp and circumstance

April 20, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Nathan Haskell Dole: Thanks offering of the God of Waste and Destruction

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Nathan Haskell Dole
From Peace and Progress: Two Symphonic Poems

Harpy-faced Passions of War – Rapine, Destruction, and Slaughter,
Cruelty, Hatred, Despair – spread your wings and depart!
White-robed Angel of Peace – God’s Star-crowned merciful Daughter,
Come and dwell in the Earth; throne thyself in its Heart!

Clear the seas of the Cruisers! Let the Battleships perish!
Turn the Forts into Parks! Melt the great Guns into Bells!
Spirit of Love and of Joyance fulfil the Hopes that men cherish.
Bring them the Golden Age such as the prophet foretells!

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The Festival of Peace

Why is the vast Cathedral crowded with jubilant throngs?
Why are the Streets hung with Banners, resounding with shouts and with songs?
Tidings have come that the War is ended, that Peace has been signed.
Hence the shouts of Joy and the Banners that wave in the Wind.

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All War is at an end,
All cruel Passions cease.
The former Foe shall be a Friend,
The Earth shall smile with Peace.

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The Sunlight flashes on the steel
Of polisht rifles that conceal
The baleful purpose of their beauty.
The silken Banners flaunt the air;
The shrill heart-stirring Trumpets blare.
On, in bright billows, on they pass!
Oh, the brave spectacle! But, alas!
When the dark web of War is spun
Mayhap from all that host not one
Unscathed will reach his home again.
The “Now” will scarce compensate then!
The memory of the great parade
Like midnight visions soon will fade.
How many will fill nameless graves!
How many roll ‘neath mocking waves!
Those Banners, now so proudly borne,
Will droop begrimed, blood-stained, and torn!
The glorious, soul-enthralling strain
Will end in dirges for the slain:
Here are War’s pomp and circumstance
That cheat the superficial glance.

====

The insolent monitors
With turrets impregnable,
The solid steel battleships,
The brine-cleaving cruisers
With their dread, bristling cannon,
Combine and concentrate: –
They silence the earthworks,
They dash by the fortresses;
And then on the City
The huge floating batteries
Pour death and destruction!

The works on which peaceable,
Industrious Artisans
Had lavisht their labors : –
The intricate carvings
Of wood and of marble,
The pride of the City –
The columns and arches,
The picturesque towers,
The statued memorials
Of Heroes departed,
Of Scholars and Poets,
The Schools and the Colleges,
The world-famed Museums
Where the Art of past ages
Is kept for men’s marvel,
All crumble to powder!

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Julia Ward Howe: The Development of the Peace Ideal

April 19, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Julia Ward Howe: Mother’s Day Proclamation 1870

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Julia Ward Howe
The Development of the Peace Ideal

The theme allotted me for my ten minutes speech to day was the Development of the Peace Ideal. To treat this ever so briefly I must revert to matters in the past which make evident the progress already made in this direction. I might go back to that Latin author, Tacitus, if I mistake not, who tells of an Advocate of Peace who, when once the legions of Rome were drawn up in battle array, confronted the ranks, and endeavored to dissuade the soldiers from the shedding of human blood. The historian avers that this apostle met with a rough response and would have been roughly handled if he had not ceased his untimely exhortation (nisi intempestivam sapientiam relinquisset).

I remember in my early youth to have seen at a friend’s house in New York a modest elderly man who was point ed out to me as being all that was left of the American Peace Society. Into the history of this Society I did not then inquire. If I had done so, I should have found that Judge William Jay, son of John Jay, had given it the assistance of his name. I was in Boston in 1845 when Charles Sumner delivered his celebrated oration on “The True Grandeur of Nations.” This plea for peace principles was at the time regarded as a Quixotic and mal-apropos utterance and although admired by some was derided by many. I, myself, first thought seriously of these matters in the year 1870, when my sympathies turned strongly towards France betrayed by her government into an insensate war, from which she came forth mutilated and humbled. The cruel waste of human life thus brought on by the ambition of rulers affected me as even our own Civil War had not. Seeking in my mind a counteracting force which might avail to protect society from such wanton acts of devastation, I bethought me of the sacred right vested in the women of civilized communities to keep the bond of Peace and to protect the lives bought by their bitter pain, and fashioned by their endless labor. Impelled by this thought, I made a sudden and considerable effort to arouse my sex all the world over to some sense of their responsibilities in this regard. I endeavored to institute a combined action among the mothers of men to promote in every possible way the just and peaceable settlement of all questions which are likely to arise between nations. Alas! the time for this has not yet come. Organized action among women scarcely existed.

Even so sincere a philanthropist as my husband would quote to me this saying: “Slaughter is God’s daughter.”

My cry came back to me with but the faintest echo. Nearly thirty years have passed since then, and during that time some of the prophecies foreboding the termination of war have approached fulfillment. One of these was that the methods and implements of warfare would become so deadly that men would no longer encounter them. Not quite in this wise, but on economic grounds, the burthens of war have ceased to commend themselves either to rulers or to nations. The unproductive legions, eating up the earnings of the community perpetually mustered and drilled in view of a result from which every government shrinks are now felt to be superfluous. They must be maintained at high cost, in the enjoyment of every condition essential to bodily well-being while their wages and cost of keep are wrung from the peas ants’ wage, the widows’ pittance, the merchants’ gain. When they are not in active service they bring with them the threat of bankruptcy. When they take the field, all the powers of destruction are let loose, to prey upon commerce, civil government and the sacred immunities of family life.

The shadow moves forward on the dial of history, and now one, foremost among the rulers of the civilized world, cries out that the burthen of armed Peace is becoming in tolerable. To the sovereigns, his fellows, he says ; “Let us, with one accord, lift it from our shoulders.” These brave words, from a crowned autocrat, have astonished the world. We women who meet here to-day are gathered together to utter our response: “Yes,” we answer, “the burthen of these huge armaments is intolerable – we have long felt it to be such.”

We women do not stand to-day as we did thirty years ago. A new revelation has come to us, the gospel, not of our weakness, but of our strength. We have found each other out. We have learned the power that lies in union, and we feel ourselves able to confront the Angels of Desolation, and to turn them back from their direful work. The more excellent way has appeared to us trodden by martyrs of old, by missionaries of our own time, illuminated by the torch-light of ancient prophecies, glorified by the star-light of Christian hope. In one hand we grasp the roll of Isaiah – in the other, the silver shield of Paul. The one has foretold the days in which nations shall cease to learn the art of warfare and shall convert their weapons into tools of agriculture. The other sets before us the figure of that most excellent spirit of Charity, and bids us overcome evil with good, and violence with justice.

As the political horizon widens before us, revealing features unknown before, how fortunate is it that human intelligence widens also, and that the agencies which promote the well being of society constantly display new resources and unfold new benefactions.

A great word spoken among men is a great gift from God. Even if, like my feeble cry of thirty years since, it should remain without an answer, I hold the Czar’s Peace Manifesto to be one of the foremost gifts of the present century, fit to rank with the feats of Garibaldi and the sacrifice of John Brown.

The greater accord of human intelligence, of which I spoke just now, points the way to an agreement hitherto unknown between the different domains of Christendom. Here, philosophy and religion stand side by side. Kant, the greatest modern philosopher, arrived before his death at the conclusion that universal peace was as possible as it must ever be desirable. And in the various sects which constitute the great world-church the cruel hatred of barbaric times has given place to a recognition of brother hood which will grow clearer with every coming year.

Ours be it, as women, lovers of peace and guardians of the home, to cherish the sacred flame of goodwill which should consume the thorns that afflict society. The moment of these beautiful enthusiasms passes, but each one is bound to leave its record in the consciousness of mankind. Each one carries our race a step forward in its true progress.

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Mary L. Cummins: The Women Who Wait

April 18, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Mary L. Cummins: The News of War

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Mary L. Cummins
The Women Who Wait

Think of the women who wait,
Through days that eat out the heart with their sorrow,
Through nights which are but a dread of the morrow;
E’en sleep brief freedom from fear may not borrow:
God pity the women who wait!

Think of the women who wait;
Wait for the dread words, “Killed,” “Missing,” or “Wounded”;
Wait – with fierce hope, which they know is unfounded;
Wait – till the death knell of joy has been sounded:
Oh, pray for the women who wait!

Think of the women who wait,
Far from the horror and clamor of battle,
Far from the noise of the cannon’s fierce rattle,
Dreaming of dear ones, who, herded like cattle,
Dream, too, of loved women who wait.

Think of the women who wait:
Dear Lord, at whose holy and wonderful birth
Angels sang forth in their gladness and mirth
“Goodwill unto men,” and sweet “Peace on the earth,”
Remember the women who wait.

Oh, faint-hearted women who wait,
Rise up in the spirit and might of your Lord,
Shake off this dread curse, this heart-piercing sword:
“An end to all war,” be our motto and word,
Release for the women who wait!

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Evgeny Bogat: Hiroshima and Socrates

April 17, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Evgeny Bogat: Rembrandt’s girl

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

Nazim Hikmet: The Little Girl

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Evgeny Bogat
From Eternal Man
Translated by Christine Bushnell

On the morning of the sixth of August nineteen hundred and forty-five, the thick clouds of Hiroshima opened in one spot, and an American pilot, Claude Eatherly, saw trees, gardens….He gave the order to begin.

Blinding lightning struck over the town, then a sea of black, impenetrable pitch raged, and when all was again quiet, there were neither trees, nor gardens, nor children. But even after many years, women in Hiroshima were giving birth to babies that were like spiders and bats. Atomic paganism celebrated a victory. And former major Eatherly lay in a military hospital for the mentally ill.

The story of Claude Eatherly is the myth of the twentieth century.

Wounded unto death by the immensity of the evil that he had automatically (an animated screw in the military machine) unleashed upon the world, Eatherly, his conscience tormented to nightmares and insanity, was becoming a human personality. He sternly judged himself and those who had sent him to Hiroshima. In an ancient myth, a young woman, to avoid rape, prays to the gods: take away my form! Eatherly prayed: “Return my form to me! I was born a man. Return it.”

A Japanese general, one of the first to arrive in tormented Hiroshima, saw a woman with a terrible burned face and body split apart, and next to her, in the dust, a live but unborn infant. This is like a nightmare, like one of Eatherly’s nightmares, when he thrashed in his bed: “Children, children!”

I have seen two portraits of Eatherly. In one, he is a young and smiling major who reminds one of a “fascinating” superman from an American war movie, though the features of the face seem a little shallow for a movie star; in the second, his features have become improbably enlarged, as if seen through a magnifying glass. This is in all likelihood because there is no longer a trace of the careless smile with its fleeting wrinkles.

The absolute immobility in this face is shattering. It is both dead and alive (it died or was resurrected this very moment). It is like a mask.

In fact, it is not the second, tragic face that is the mask, but the first – the thoughtlessly smiling one. It is a mask because it reflects not the world of this particular man, but of the spirit of the American army as the war was waning, a war that is closed out with minimal losses and maximum confidence in its own might. The second is not a mask, but a face impressed at the tragic moment of birth. It is stiff with pain, because birth is pain.

Eatherly dared to break the mask, and for this, the American military put him in an asylum, having declared him insane….Eatherly’s self-consciousness was born in the most monstrous torments, like the child that lay next to the disfigured woman on the hellish earth of Hiroshima. And this makes one think that the self-consciousness of the individual should be born before and not after – in the second, not the fifth act of a tragedy, when it is too late to make good the damage.

In the hospital Eatherly read and reread Plato‘s Dialogues. The Socratic idea that evil is done through ignorance was to him, evidently, not to be understood abstractly – it had for him the power of an original discovery, because it was his personal truth, he had reached it himself.

Yes, he was a slave of ignorance: from ignorance of the weapon (they had only been told obscurely that it was “wonder-working”) to ignorance of himself, of that innermost spiritual nucleus of the individual, which was wounded unto death by the consciousness of boundless evil.

What did he discuss with Socrates in the dead quiet of the ward for the “dangerously insane”? That the conscience is not the invention of philosophers, but no less a reality than “the first principles of the world,” fire and water? Or, perhaps, about immortality? Because, if after two and a half thousand years Claude Eatherly, immured by generals in an insane asylum, having come to hate the atom bomb, dreaming about the redemption of his sin, felt a need to commune with Socrates, then immortality, too, is no invention; it is also real, and Socrates, who in a biting polemic persuaded those who loved him of this – before his cup of hemlock – did not deceive them in the name of false comfort.

Out of the structure of the spiritless civilization of the contemporary West has emerged the “Eatherly phenomenon,” which is of moral value for all mankind. Something elemental is expressed in it: the structure of the ethical consciousness of mankind in a transitional age. Within this phenomenon live Socrates and the girl who in a thousand years may be born sick because the genes of one of her distant ancestors were struck by blinding lightning.

The Austrian philosopher Günther Anders wrote of Eatherly: “His is the attempt to keep conscience alive in the Age of the Apparatus.” If we are to believe the American press, computers selected targets for the bombardment in Vietnam. The traditional understanding of the reliability of the machine has changed: not the least role is apparently played by the fact that it is reliably conscience-free.

The value of the “Eatherly phenomenon” is that, in the “Age of the Apparatus” his nightmares put to the world the vast question of the relation between moral and creative forces in man and in humanity. The atomic storms that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed the might of the blinding non-imagination of evil. It has become clear that creative forces not ethically balanced are infinitely destructive.

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Richard Le Gallienne: Poetry and war

April 16, 2021 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

American writers on peace and against war

Richard Le Gallienne: Selections on war

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Richard Le Gallienne
From The Poet in the City

Yes! if you want to realise Tennyson’s picture of ‘one poor poet’s scroll’ ruling the world, take your poet’s scroll down to Fenchurch Street and try it there. Ah, what a powerless little ‘private interest’ seems poetry there, poetry ‘whose action is no stronger than a flower.’ In days of peace it ventures even into the morning papers; but, let only a rumour of war be heard, and it vanishes like a dream on doomsday morning.

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From The Fallacy of a Nation

And when I say wise men I do not, indeed, mean merely the literary men or the artists, but all those somebodies with some real force of character, people with brains and hearts, fighters and lovers, saints and thinkers, and the patient, industrious workers. Such, if you consider, are really no integral part of the nation among which they are cast. They have no part in what are grandiloquently called national interests – war, politics, and horse-racing to wit. A change of Government leaves them as unmoved as an election for the board of guardians.

What more would a foreign invasion mean than that we should pay our taxes to French, Russian, or German officials, instead of to English ones?

The reader will perhaps forgive the hackneyed references to Sir Thomas Browne peacefully writing his Religio Medici amid all the commotions of the Civil War, and to Gautier calmly correcting the proofs of his new poems during the siege of Paris. The milkman goes his rounds amid the crash of empires. It is not his business to fight. His business is to distribute his milk – as much after half-past seven as may be inconvenient. Similarly, the business of the thinker is with his thought, the poet with his poetry. It is the business of politicians to make national quarrels, and the business of the soldier to fight them. But as for the poet – let him correct his proofs, or beware the printer.

As a matter of fact, so-called national interests are merely certain private interests on a large scale, the private interests of financiers, ambitious politicians, soldiers, and great merchants. Broadly speaking, there are no rival nations – there are rival markets; and it is its Board of Trade and its Stock Exchange rather than its Houses of Parliament that virtually govern a country. Thus one seaport goes down and another comes up, industries forsake one country to bless another, the military and naval strengths of nations fluctuate this way and that; and to those whom these changes affect they are undoubtedly important matters – the great capitalist, the soldier, and the politician; but to the quiet man at home with his wife, his children, his books, and his flowers, to the artist busied with brave translunary matters, to the saint with his eyes filled with ‘the white radiance of eternity,’ to the shepherd on the hillside, the milkmaid in love, or the angler at his sport – what are these pompous commotions, these busy, bustling mimicries of reality? England will be just as good to live in though men some day call her France. Let the big busybodies divide her amongst them as they like, so that they leave one alone with one’s fair share of the sky and the grass, and an occasional, not too vociferous, nightingale.

A ‘public opinion’ on any matter except football, prize-fighting, and perhaps cricket, is merely ridiculous – by whatever brutal physical powers it may be enforced – ridiculous as a town council’s opinion upon art; and a nation is merely a big fool with an army.

****

From The Greatness of Man

After all its talk, science has done little more than correct the misprints of religion. Essentially, the old spiritualistic and poetic theories of life are seen, not merely weakly to satisfy the cravings of man’s nature, but to be mostly in harmony with certain strange and moving facts in his constitution, which the materialists unscientifically ignore.

It was important, and has been helpful, to insist that man is an animal, but it is still more important to insist that he is a spirit as well. He is, so to say, an animal by accident, a spirit by birthright: and, however homely his duties may occasionally seem, his life is bathed in the light of a sacred transfiguring significance, its smallest acts flash with divine meanings, its highest moments are rich with ‘the pathos of eternity,’ and its humblest duties mighty with the responsibilities of a god.

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William Deans Howells: Everyday sacrifices.”I don’t want to see any more men killed in my time.”

April 15, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

William Dean Howells: Selections on war

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William Dean Howells
From The Rise of Silas Lapham

“Then your theory is that it’s the occasion that is wanting,” said Bromfield Corey. “But why shouldn’t civil service reform, and the resumption of specie payment, and a tariff for revenue only, inspire heroes? They are all good causes.”

“It’s the occasion that’s wanting,” said James Bellingham, ignoring the persiflage. “And I’m very glad of it.”

“So am I,” said Lapham, with a depth of feeling that expressed itself in spite of the haze in which his brain seemed to float. There was a great deal of the talk that he could not follow; it was too quick for him; but here was something he was clear of. “I don’t want to see any more men killed in my time.” Something serious, something sombre must lurk behind these words, and they waited for Lapham to say more; but the haze closed round him again, and he remained silent, drinking Apollinaris.

“We non-combatants were notoriously reluctant to give up fighting,” said Mr. Sewell, the minister; “but I incline to think Colonel Lapham and Mr. Bellingham may be right. I dare say we shall have the heroism again if we have the occasion. Till it comes, we must content ourselves with the every-day generosities and sacrifices. They make up in quantity what they lack in quality, perhaps.” “They’re not so picturesque,” said Bromfield Corey. “You can paint a man dying for his country, but you can’t express on canvas a man fulfilling the duties of a good citizen.”

“Perhaps the novelists will get at him by and by,” suggested Charles Bellingham. “If I were one of these fellows, I shouldn’t propose to myself anything short of that.”

“What? the commonplace?” asked his cousin.

“Commonplace? The commonplace is just that light, impalpable, aerial essence which they’ve never got into their confounded books yet. The novelist who could interpret the common feelings of commonplace people would have the answer to ‘the riddle of the painful earth’ on his tongue.”

===

He took his cigar out of his mouth, and pulled his chair a little toward the table, on which he placed his ponderous fore-arms. “I want to tell you about a fellow I had in my own company when we first went out. We were all privates to begin with; after a while they elected me captain – I’d had the tavern stand, and most of ’em knew me. But Jim Millon never got to be anything more than corporal; corporal when he was killed.” The others arrested themselves in various attitudes of attention, and remained listening to Lapham with an interest that profoundly flattered him. Now, at last, he felt that he was holding up his end of the rope. “I can’t say he went into the thing from the highest motives, altogether; our motives are always pretty badly mixed, and when there’s such a hurrah-boys as there was then, you can’t tell which is which. I suppose Jim Millon’s wife was enough to account for his going, herself. She was a pretty bad assortment,” said Lapham, lowering his voice and glancing round at the door to make sure that it was shut, “and she used to lead Jim one kind of life. Well, sir,” continued Lapham, synthetising his auditors in that form of address, “that fellow used to save every cent of his pay and send it to that woman. Used to get me to do it for him. I tried to stop him. ‘Why, Jim,’ said I, ‘you know what she’ll do with it.’ ‘That’s so, Cap,’ says he, ‘but I don’t know what she’ll do without it.’ And it did keep her straight – straight as a string – as long as Jim lasted. Seemed as if there was something mysterious about it. They had a little girl, – about as old as my oldest girl, – and Jim used to talk to me about her. Guess he done it as much for her as for the mother; and he said to me before the last action we went into, ‘I should like to turn tail and run, Cap. I ain’t comin’ out o’ this one. But I don’t suppose it would do.’ ‘Well, not for you, Jim,’ said I. ‘I want to live,’ he says; and he bust out crying right there in my tent. ‘I want to live for poor Molly and Zerrilla’ – that’s what they called the little one; I dunno where they got the name. ‘I ain’t ever had half a chance; and now she’s doing better, and I believe we should get along after this.’ He set there cryin’ like a baby. But he wa’n’t no baby when he went into action. I hated to look at him after it was over, not so much because he’d got a ball that was meant for me by a sharpshooter – he saw the devil takin’ aim, and he jumped to warn me – as because he didn’t look like Jim; he looked like – fun; all desperate and savage. I guess he died hard.”

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox: Women and War

April 14, 2021 2 comments

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Ellen Wheeler Wilcox: The Paean of Peace

Ella Wheeler Wilcox: A Plea To Peace

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Women and War

We women teach our little sons how wrong
And how ignoble blows are; school and church
Support our precepts, and inoculate
The growing minds with thoughts of love and peace.
“Let dogs delight to bark and bite,” we say;
But human beings with immortal souls
Must rise above the methods of the brute,
And walk with reason and with self-control.

And then? dear God! you men, you wise, strong men,
Our self-announced superiors in brain,
Our peers in judgment, you go forth to war!
You leap at one another, mutilate
And starve and kill your fellowmen, and ask
The world’s applause for such heroic deeds.
You boast and strut; and if no song is sung,
No laudatory epic writ in blood,
Telling how many widows you have made,
Why then, perforce, you say our bards are dead
And inspiration sleeps to wake no more.

And we, the women, we whose lives you are?
What can we do but sit in silent homes,
And wait and suffer? Not for us the blare
Of trumpets and the bugles’ call to arms?
For us no waving banners, no supreme
Triumphant hour of conquest. Ours the slow
Dread torture of uncertainty, each day
The bootless battle with the same despair,
And when at last your victories reach our ears,
There reaches with them, to our pitying hearts,
The thought of countless homes made desolate,
And other women weeping for their dead.

O men, wise men, superior beings, say,
Is there no substitute for war in this
Great age and era! If you answer “No,”
Then let us rear our children to be wolves,
And teach them from the cradle how to kill.

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Alexander Grin: How two leaders ended war

April 13, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

Alexander Grin: A hellish nightmare, or rather a horrible reality

Alexander Grin: How a little girl stopped a world war

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Alexander Grin
The Chiefs’ Single Combat
Translated by Nicholas Luker

In the dense jungles of Northern India, near Lake Izamet, was a village of hunters. And near Lake Kinobay was another village of hunters. The people of the two villages had long quarrelled with each other, and hardly a month passed without some hunter being killed on one side or the other. But it was impossible to catch the murderers.

One day all the fish and water in Lake Izamet were found to be poisoned, and the people of Izamet informed the hunters of Kinobay that they were coming to fight them to the death so as to end their exhausting feud once and for all. Immediately this became known, the people of the two villages formed up into groups and went off into the forest, both hoping to catch the enemy unawares and have done with him.

A week passed, and then the scouts of Izamet tracked down the warriors of Kinobay who were encamped in a small valley. The Izametans decided to attack the Kinobayans immediately and began to make ready.

The chief of the Izametans was young Singh, a noble and fearless man. He had his own plan of war. Leaving his own men unnoticed, he made his way to the Kinobayans and reached the tent of Iret, the leader of Izamet’s enemies.

At the sight of Singh, Iret seized his knife. Singh said with a smile:

“I do not wish to kill you. Listen: in less than two hours you and I with equal forces and equal bravery will fling ourselves on each other. It is clear what will happen: no one will be left alive and our wives and children will die of starvation. Propose to your warriors what I will propose to mine: instead of a general battle let you and I fight – man to man. Whichever chief wins – that side wins. Do you agree?”

“You are right,” said Iret after a moment’s thought. “Here is my hand.”

They parted. The warriors of both sides agreed gladly to their leaders’ proposal, and, after concluding a truce they surrounded in a tightly-packed ring the luxuriant meadow where the combat was to take place.

At a sign Iret and Singh hurled themselves at each other, brandishing their knives. Steel rang against steel, their leaps and thrusts became increasingly violent and menacing, and seizing his moment, Singh pierced the left side of Iret’s chest and inflicted a mortal wound. Iret was still on his feet and fighting, but would soon fall to the ground. Singh whispered to him:

“Iret, strike me in the heart while you can. The death of one chief will arouse hatred for the vanquished side and the slaughter will be renewed….We must both die; our death will destroy the people’s hostility.”

And with his knife Iret struck Singh in his exposed heart; smiling at each other for the last time, both fell dead….

By Lake Kinobay and Lake Izamet there are no longer two villages; there is just one and it is called the village of the Two Victors. So Singh and Iret reconciled their warring peoples.

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Carl Sandburg: The grass grows over Austerlitz and Waterloo

April 12, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Carl Sandburg
Smoke

I sit in a chair and read the newspapers.
Millions of men go to war, acres of them are buried, guns and ships broken, cities burned, villages sent up in smoke, and children where cows are killed off amid hoarse barbecues vanish like finger-rings of smoke in a north wind.
I sit in a chair and read the newspapers.

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The Grass

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work –
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

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A Million Young Workmen

A million young workmen straight and strong lay stiff on the grass and roads,
And the million are now under soil and their rottening flesh will in the years feed roots of blood-red roses.
Yes, this million of young workmen slaughtered one another and never saw their red hands.
And oh, it would have been a great job of killing and a new and beautiful thing under the sun if the million knew why they hacked and tore each other to death. The kings are grinning, the kaiser and the czar – they are alive riding in leather-seated motor cars, and they have their women and roses for ease, and they eat fresh-poached eggs for breakfast, new butter on toast, sitting in tall water-tight houses reading the news of war.
I dreamed a million ghosts of the young workmen rose in their shirts all soaked in crimson…and yelled:
God damn the grinning kings, God damn the kaiser and the czar.

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Sara Teasdale: Dusk in War Time

April 11, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Sara Teasdale: Spring in War-Time

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Sara Teasdale
Dusk in War Time

A half-hour more and you will lean
To gather me close in the old sweet way
But oh, to the woman over the sea
Who will come at the close of day?

A half-hour more and I will hear
The key in the latch and the strong, quick tread
But oh, the woman over the sea
Waiting at dusk for one who is dead!

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Ernest Crosby: Peace has outgrown all that, for Peace is a man

April 10, 2021 Leave a comment


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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Crosby: Selections against war, for peace

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Ernest Crosby
From War and Hell

XIII
What do they accomplish who take the sword? Now and then they cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest;
Quite as often they lose their own.
While they who say, “Put up thy sword into its place,” tho’ they die, yet succeed sometimes in changing the heart of the world.

XIV
What is true peace but conscious strength?
What is war but conscious weakness seeking to give proof of its strength?
Peace is a god, not a goddess, a man not a woman –
A brawny, bearded man of might, with nothing but the kindly look in his eyes to distinguish him from the vulgar giant.
He can afford to smile at War, the headstrong boy, rushing, red-faced, blundering, blustering, with impetuous arms, hither and thither.
Peace has outgrown all that, for Peace is a man.

XVI
I am a great inventor, did you but know it.
I have new weapons and explosives and devices to substitute for your obsolete tactics and tools. Mine are the battle-ships of righteousness and integrity –
The armor-plates of a quiet conscience and self-respect –
The impregnable conning-tower of divine manhood –
The Long Toms of persuasion –
The machine guns of influence and example –
The dum-dum bullets of pity and remorse –
The impervious cordon of sympathy –
The concentration camps of brotherhood –
The submarine craft of forgiveness –
The torpedo-boat-destroyer of love –
And behind them all the dynamite of truth!
I do not patent my inventions.
Take them. They are free to all the world.

XVII
I am a soldier too, and I have the battle of battles on my hands.
You little warriors who, while fighting each other,
are yet at heart agreed, and see the same false life with the same distorted eyes,
I have to make war upon all of you combined, and I set my courage against your courage.
It is fine not to flinch under fire.
It is also fine to tell an unwelcome truth to a mob and to call you the mad lot of murderers that you are.
It is war between us to the knife, and I will not tell you how well I love you until you are shamed into unconditional surrender.
Then I will show you my commission, and you will see that it is signed by a Commander-in-Chief who may wait long for victory, but never waits in vain.

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Mikhail Artsybashev: Don’t talk to me about the beauty of war. No, no, your war is ugly.

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

Russian writers on war

Mikhail Artsybashev: A mother’s simple prescription against war

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Mikhail Artsybashev
From War
Translated by Thomas Seltzer

OLGA. There was a letter from Vladimir yesterday, but nothing from Volodya for a whole week. He used to write every day. Then the letters suddenly stopped. Asya is beginning to worry fearfully, and I am terribly worried too. Something might happen, God forbid. It doesn’t take long to catch cold. Piotr Ivanovich reads the papers every day, but I am afraid to. When I look at a newspaper and see all the killed and wounded and lost – lost with no trace of them left behind – I feel as if I had been knocked in the head with a club.

====

PRINCE. I have a piece of sad news. Dane’s body arrived at the station today.

At this remark all raise their heads. Olga Petrovna wipes her eyes with her handkerchief. Piotr Ivanovich frowns and buries his face in the newspaper. There is silence.

NINA. Poor Dane! An end to all his music now. You remember how he had set his heart on going to Petrograd to study, and how he had made all his plans for giving up the army and following his great ambition?

PRINCE. Fate decreed differently, it seems.

SEMYONOV. [with heat]. What Fate? A monstrous insane outrage, not Fate!

PRINCE. Yes – of course.

Silence.

OLGA. You remember, Asya, how he came back and wanted to take a last look at his violin? “If I get killed,” he said, “the violin won’t play by itself.” [Sobbing.] God! God! What is happening in the world!

SEMYONOV. A lot of stupidity and wickedness is happening.

Silence.

NINA. We knew a week ago that Dane had been killed. But what does it mean – “Killed?” It’s so hard to grasp the significance of it. Only now I seem to realize what it implies when I know that he has been brought here, that somewhere at the station there is a car and that in a coffin Dane is lying – that he is lying there and doesn’t know we are talking about him. It’s so heart-rending! How terrible war is!

PRINCE. Yes, it is terrible. And yet there is a great deal of tragic beauty in it. I don’t know how it is, but I feel drawn to the war myself; something pulls me to it.

SEMYONOV [in an undertone]. It seems to be a very mild form of attraction.

ASYA [reprovingly]. Senya!

PRINCE [who has not caught Semyonov’s remark]. What’s that, Semyon Nikolayevich?

SEMYONOV. Nothing, nothing.

PRINCE. What is life here? It is not even a game; it is just a long-drawn-out agony. We don’t live here; we just exist. All our interests, our little troubles and preoccupations, are so trivial, so insignificant. Our actions are commonplace. But there, face to face with death, the everyday shell drops off, and man becomes that which he ought always to be – the tragic bearer of heroic ideas.

SEMYONOV [to himself]. He’s going it hard.

Asya shakes her head at him reproachfully.

PRINCE [contemplatively]. It may seem strange, perhaps, but I honestly envy those who are in the thick of it. There is movement, fight, real life out there.

NINA. You say you envy them, but my heart bleeds for them. Hungry, cold, always facing death and pain and misery; what sort of life can it be! It is one continuous agony, not life. How many killed, how many maimed, how many widows and orphans, how much wretchedness and suffering! And all this on account of one man’s whim. What an injustice! What an atrocity! No, my whole being revolts against this butchery.

Silence.

====

ASYA. Say goodby now, children, and come.

Sonya and Kolya walk up to each one in turn, Sonya making a pretty courtesy, and Kolya awkwardly scraping his feet. Olga Petrovna kisses them. Then Asya takes them into the anteroom, puts on their hats and coats, and they go out, followed by Semyonov.

OLGA. Poor children. They are orphans now – and with no means of support, either. His salary was all they had to live on. She’ll get a pension. But it’s not like having a father.

PRINCE. Why does Aleksandra Ivanovna look after them?

OLGA. Out of pity. She has a good heart, that’s why. The mother is still crazy with grief. She does
nothing but cry the whole day long. If Asya hadn’t looked out for the children, they would have had to go to bed without supper, I suppose. No, Prince, don’t talk to me about the beauty of war. Maybe I don’t understand, but I cannot see anything beautiful in it. No, no, your war is ugly.

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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: War is the mailèd hand of criminal states

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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

Jessie Wiseman Gibbs: Selections from the Peace Sonnets

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Jessie Wiseman Gibbs
From Peace Sonnets

XLIX
Hark how each king and emperor declares
That God is on his side – how all appeal
To God to help them murder, waste and steal!
But none appeals to Christ, of whom God swears,
“He is my Son; hear Him!” and not one dares
Assert that Christ is on his side, to feel
The filthy passions of his fiendish zeal;
And Christ’s pure name is not in all their prayers.

The god they cry to, he is of their own
Imaginations, yea, a god outgrown,
And impotent to help as wood or stone;
But as for the eternal God Christ came
To show, they know Him not, and to their shame
They take upon their lips his awful name!

L
This last colossal crime of Christendom
Is fruit of her apostasy and sin
Of unbelief, for Satan enters in
When Christ goes out: there is no vacuum
In spirit, more than flesh, but evils come
On heels of our denials and begin
To work a vast destructive woe wherein
We cry again for faith’s palladium.

Thou art not guiltless of this great transgression,
My Country! O God give thee to discern
The meaning of this time, to humble thee,
To own thy sin, with all thy heart to turn
To Christ, ere thou be forced to make confession
Of Him at mouth of Hell’s artillery!

LI
War is revelation: in an hour
That men know not, seeds of selfishness,
Fear, suspicion, envy, they caress
In their bosoms, grown to unknown power,
Burst before the world in bloody flower,
All whose dripping petals reconfess
That old revelation alterless,
“Hate is murder,” spoke by Truth’s Avower.

War is judgment: from the ripened grain
It doth pluck the tares at last for burning;
And above it God, the Judge, is turning
To destruction bloody men and vain;
And its sentence is as old as breath
On this blood-soaked planet: “Sin is death!”

LII
War is the mailèd hand of criminal states
That strike the helpless down and bind the free
And build an arrogant supremacy
Of selfish force; but the just land that waits
For righteousness and loves God’s law, and hates
Iniquity, builds up his courts, and she
Shall not be put to shame therein, but He
Will send his angels forth to guard her gates.

And she shall prosper and shall have a new
Supremacy of service, and the word
Of God shall go forth from her mouth to all
The lands and not return again unheard,
But they shall come from east and west to view
Her great salvation and to own Christ’s thrall.

LIII
What one war settles may another war
Unsettle, and what has been won by force
May so be lost again, and in the course
Of dealing death do nations die; therefore
War settles naught, but God is Governor
Who made all men one flesh, not to divorce
Them from each other, and their last resource
Is love, and Christ alone is Conqueror.

But that is settled which is settled right,
And they are free from fear who trust the might
Of the Almighty, and they that deal in love,
Though they may agonize in blood and tears,
Shall never die, but all his power shall prove
And live and reign with Christ a thousand years.

LIV
I take the slur of “peace at any price”
And wear it unashamed with Him, who, when
He was reviled, reviled not again,
But prayed for brutish men who cast their dice
Upon his blood-stained garments, whose foul cries
Mocked his great gift of life their narrow ken
Perceived not, rendering up his soul for men
To God, a free, obedient sacrifice.

I count Him strong, who rendered good for ill,
Love for despite; I count He overcame
The world, and proved the glory of God’s will,
The invincibility of faith, the claim
Of love to love; I reckon He indeed
Was free, and by his spirit men are freed.

LVI
How vainly have we cried “Peace! Peace!” where no
Peace was! How vainly shall the nations patch
A partial, unenforcèd peace, and snatch
A little respite ere the whole world flow
Together in unutterable woe
Of self -destruction; if all men attach
Them not to Heaven’s Kingdom, to o’ermatch
All principalities and powers below!

Know, O my Country, this democracy
Thou boastest in, is but a half-way house
Between the City of Destruction and
The Holy City; and thou canst not stand
Therein, but must go back in infamy,
Or forward and the Lamb of God espouse!

LVII
The sword has pierced my bosom and its pain
Consumes me so that outward sights grow dim,
But inwardly my soul has sight of Him
Who came from God unweaponed and was slain,
In whose great death is all our life made plain.
O all God’s lightning-girded cherubim
Could but have brought us to destruction grim
He saved us; through his death we life attain!

Therefore hath God exalted Him on high.
And thou, my Country, that hast dared to love
Humanity and peace, so must thou die
To self and sin and look to God above
To bring his Kingdom through thee and to raise
Thee up therein immortal to his praise.

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William Faulkner: It’s simple nameless war which decimates our ranks

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

American writers on peace and against war

William Faulkner: There is only the question: When will I be blown up?

Thomas Mann: William Faulkner’s love for man, protest against militarism and war

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William Faulkner
From A Fable (1954)

2636168

[Posted with fair use understanding and with the sole intent of acquainting those not already familiar with the matter William Faulkner’s view of war. Despite the complex and often challenging narrative style and structure, all who can afford to are encouraged to purchase the novel from which the excerpts are taken.]

It – the war – would hang on a while yet, of course; it would take the Americans, the innocent newcomers, another year probably to discover that you cannot really whip Germans: you can only exhaust them. It might even last another ten years or even twenty, by which time France and Britain would have vanished as military and even political integers and the war would have become a matter of a handful of Americans who didn’t even have ships to go back home in, battling with limbs from shattered trees and the rafters from ruined houses and the stones from fences of weed-choked fields and the broken bayonets and stocks of rotted guns and rusted fragments wrenched from crashed aeroplanes and burned tanks, against the skeletons of German companies stiffened by a few Frenchmen and Britons tough enough like himself to endure still, to endure as he would always, immune to nationality, to exhaustion, even to victory – by which time he hoped he himself would be dead.

***

[He] would not even be paid for risking his life and what remained of his reputation, until he corrected that: thinking how war and drink are the two things that man is never too poor to buy. His wife and children may be shoeless; someone will always buy him drink or weapons, thinking More than that. The last person a man planning to set up in the wine trade would approach for a loan would be a rival wine-dealer. A nation preparing for war can borrow from the very nation it aims to destroy.

***

He said: ‘So it’s not we who conquer each other, because we are not even fighting each other. It’s simple nameless war which decimates our ranks. All of us: captains and colonels, British and American and German and us, shoulder to shoulder, our backs to the long invincible wall of our invincible tradition, giving and asking….Asking? not even accepting quarter -‘

‘Bah,’ the corps commander said again. ‘It is man who is our enemy: the vast seething moiling spiritless mass of him. Once to each period of his inglorious history, one of us appears with the stature of a giant, suddenly and without warning in the middle of a nation as a dairymaid enters a buttery, and with his sword for paddle he heaps and pounds and stiffens the malleable mass and even holds it cohered and purposeful for a time. But never for always, not even for very long: sometimes before he can even turn his back, it has relinquished, discohered, faster and faster flowing and seeking back its back to its own base anonymity…”

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Joseph Fawcett: The deep scarlet shame of unceasing war

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

Mankind, wild race! say, are your moons to blame,
Thro’ all your races that this rage hath run?
That this demoniac, worse than dog-star’ madness
‘Mong all your nations, in each age hath foam’d?
E’en elemental strife more lasting love,
Than ye have shown, of soothing Peace displays!
Proportion’d to the periods of their wrath,
For more protracted intervals your seas
Abstain from tempest; – your less angry skies
With greater length of season are serene;
In your wild forests the loud bestial rage
Suspends its roaring longer, than have paus’d
Your death-denouncing trumpets; than your arms
Have ceas’d their odious din! and the calm world,
Beneath the lovely olive’s placid shade,
In sweet repose from loud alarms hath lain.
And, lull’d in amiable quiet, known
A space of partial innocence and gold;
A sickly gleam of languid amity,
Whose wat’ry shine foretels returning clouds.
Who that stands still, and fixes on the fact
His thoughtful eye, and doth not feel his sense
Swim round with wonder and his soul lie hush’d
In the dead stillness of astonishment?
That this amazing maniac rage hath been,
Not of some single race th’ eccentric crime,
For following ones to rise and wonder at,
By some peculiar and uncommon cause
From this wild start from Nature’s orbit flung
Struck by some stranger star’s erratic wrath
With strange distraction; – no brief flighty fit; –
From men’s accustom’d line a single leap;
Transient distortion of their standing state;
From their staid usage one wild shoot aside;
By strong distemper’s paroxysm inspir’d,
Some all-infecting fever’s fierce excess,
When at its hottest and brain-burning height;
But a fix’d phrenzy; – of their dreadful way
The steady tenour; the deep scarlet shame
On Reason’s redden’d cheek bidding burn on
Thro’ rolling ages, an establish’d blush!
Protracted tragedy! as long as deep!
Whose unspent horror thro’ all time hath spun
The harrowing tale! O’er history’s lengthening course
The vein of persevering fury runs;
And he that reads its pages, rightly calls them
Records of Carnage, Chronicles of Blood!

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Leonid Zhukhovitsky: May the book prove more powerful than the bomb

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

Russian writers on war

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Leonid Zhukhovitsky
From Astride a Dolphin
Translated by Katharine Judelson

Two girls, all sun tan and leg walked past us; they were like all film stars rolled into one, so up-to-the-minute that they well may have been used for a poster depicting our sinful century, complete with a sputnik, a skyscraper, a coil of barbed wire, an ampule of penicillin, a hydrogen bomb and a book; the latter I hope will, in the end, prove more powerful than the bomb.

====

I nodded, realizing what he was trying to say. Then I asked what it was that had made him go into that particular department. He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s interesting work, blood diseases are something with a real future at the moment.”

“Because of radiation?”

“Basically, yes.”

“Does the same go for Kovacs’ disease?”

“It hasn’t been established for certain, but among radiation victims incidence figures are considerably higher – tests have been made in Hiroshima.”

What’s all that got to do with Yuri? I wanted to ask. When could he have possibly….The question would have been too foolish for a journalist and I refrained from asking it. Who knows at what moment Yuri would have taken that fatal sip of water or run across the street delighting in the warm rain?

What’s all that got to do with Yuri, he never worked with uranium?

What’s all that got to do with Yuri: but whom could I ask and from whom could I demand an answer?

From Enrico Fermi, that small Italian with the prominent forehead – a loyal friend, keen mountaineer and brilliant physicist who used up countless days and months of his short life to make the bomb before his fat-faced compatriot Benito Mussolini?

From that lean young American, Claude Etherley – the born flyer, who executed the President’s personal mission and dropped the experimental bomb directly on Hiroshima and whose remaining years were one endless cry – a desperate cry rebounding from platforms, the pages of newspapers, the windows of a lunatic asylum, where he was put away on pretext of state security, a cry to remind us all that once a fuse is lit it cannot be put out and that patriotism does not justify betrayal of mankind?

From President Truman who gave the order for the bombs to be dropped on two Japanese towns, so as to see what would happen, so as to put the fear of God into his allies – from President Truman, now an octogenarian dodderer, who more likely than not would die a natural death from decrepit old age and then be buried in some state cemetery to the accompaniment of a gun salute?

Thinking about Truman’s funeral reminded me of Kennedy’s – the coffin covered with an enormous flag, a white horse led along behind the coffin by an officer in uniform. The horse had not known it was a funeral, for him it had been just another pageant with marching soldiers, crowds and music…he had been leading the officer a dance, prancing so elegantly….

I thought to myself that that was how they would bury Truman, his coffin would be covered with the same flag and started cursing bitterly to myself. Surely history would not forgive him the lives of a hundred thousand Japanese swallowed up in that holocaust in the same way that it had forgiven the Caesars and the Napoleons all the death and bereavement they had brought on mankind?

====

…in the twentieth century old people have to get used to burying the young ones.

After all is said and done the depth of people’s misery cannot be measured by its causes.

Free love soon degenerates then into loveless freedom.

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Dana Burnet: Ammunition. The Dead.

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

American writers on peace and against war

Dana Burnett: Selections on war

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Dana Burnet
Ammunition

How do ye load your guns withal,
Ye little Lords of waste and war?
With shotted steel and lightnings chained,
And the pent thunders’ roar?

Or do ye, as I sometimes think,
To quell the foeman’s onward flood,
Ram home a charge of human life
And spit it forth in flesh and blood?

Oh, is it steel or is it bone,
Or iron price or human toll?
Is yonder noise the crash of guns
Or is it cry of mortal soul?

How do ye load your guns withal,
Ye little Lords of brief command?
What drips upon the cannon’s mouth,
What stains the scarlet of your hand?

Are those the faces of the dead
That stare from out the battle pall?
How do ye feed those smoking mouths?
How do ye load your guns withal?

Think not, ye Princes of a Day,
To cloak the thunders with a lie.
There never was a war of steel,
There is no battle save men die.

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The Dead

The dead they sleep so deep,
The dead they lie so still,
I wonder that another man
May look on them and kill.

The dead they lie so pale,
The dead they stare so deep,
I wonder that an Emperor
May look on them and sleep.

Their hands are empty cups,
No dream is in their hearts.
Their eyes are like deserted rooms
From which the guest departs.

Ah, living men are fair,
Clean-limbed and straight and strong!
But dead men lie like broken lutes
Whose dying slays a song.

Oh, will there come a time
Beneath some shining king
When we shall arm for living’s sake,
And turn from murdering?

The dead they lie so pale,
So empty of all breath –
I wonder that a living world
Can make a means of Death.

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Richard Le Gallienne: Selections on war

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Fanny Bixby Spencer: Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

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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

Fanny Bixby Spencer: The shame of the cannonade

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Fanny Bixby Spencer
Warrior Mothers

You wait as I for the fatal word
From the bare steel line where the death-ghoul lures.
Your pulse bounds up by the same thought stirred;
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

For you and I in our thoughts are brave
While pride beguiles and loud boast assures;
But blank fear skulks by the sky-topped grave.
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

Oh, the blood-laugh rings on the wind tonight
As blind time revels and rage endures.
You’re knitting too by the pale lamp light.
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

Your soul hates me as my soul hates you,
For wrath-lit passion all else obscures,
And out hearts death-griped fight the grim fight through
Will your son kill mine or will mine kill yours?

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Ivan Shamyakin: As a physicist, she feared for the fate of mankind

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

Russian writers on war

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Ivan Shamyakin
From Snowtime
Translated by Olga Shartse

“You’re an idealist, Dad,” she scoffed. “You’d like all scientific discoveries to be used for improving man.”

“And society.”

“That’s even more idealistic. Hiroshima did not bring people closer together, on the contrary it divided them even more definitely into hostile camps. So much for a great discovery!”

“That’s not true, Lada,” her mother protested hotly. It did bring people closer together. All good people, I mean.”

====

Lada herself did not know the meaning of fear. She was not afraid of anything. She was a free person. No, she also had a lurking fear which she usually made fun of and only sometimes treated seriously – she feared for the fate of mankind, having too clear an idea, as a physicist, about the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

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Thomas Curtis Clark: Who made war?

March 30, 2021 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Thomas Curtis Clark: Apparitions

Thomas Curtis Clark: Bugle Song of Peace

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Thomas Curtis Clark
Hell’s Dream

A proud king dreamed in his gilded chair;
He dreamed – and sighed, for the lands were fair!
A king said “Yea!” It was but a breath!
And a million men marched toward the gates of death.

A million wives gasped as their husbands sped;
A million babes starved as their fathers bled.
A king sought gain in the north and south –
And a million men marched toward the cannon’s mouth.

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A Question

God, who made the shining stars,
The circling planets, the fair, green earth,
With friendly seasons – jubilant spring,
Bountiful summer, winter that puts tired life to rest;
God, who made morning songs and sweet night-crooning;
God of the forests and silver rivers,
Gardens and orchards green and golden,
God of harmony, God of beauty,
Who made war?

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Olive Schreiner: I have never met a human creature who hates war as I hate it

March 29, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

Olive Schreiner: Give me back my dead!

Olive Schreiner: The bestiality and insanity of war

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Olive Schreiner
From a letter to Emily Hobhouse
October, 1914

Oh Emily the worst of war is not the death on the battlefields; it is the meanness, the cowardice, the hatred it awakens. Where is the free England of our dreams, in which every British subject, whether Dutch, English, French or German in extraction, had an equal right and freedom.

Letter to Adela Smith
June 18, 1915

It is the thought of all these beautiful young lives cut down before they have even tasted of the cup of life that wrings my heart so. I have never met a human creature who hates war as I hate it. I can only fix my eyes on that far off time over thousands of years, when humanity will realise that all men are brothers; that it is finer to bring one noble human being into the world and rear it well for the broadest human ends, than to kill ten thousand. It’s because of [what] men like Paul Methuen and my nephew Oliver do and might mean so much to the world that I feel the risk of losing them so much, and I can’t bear to think they’re killing anyone.

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Joseph Fawcett: War and music. Perversion most perverse! Misapplication monstrous!

March 28, 2021 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Fawcett: War Elegy

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Joseph Fawcett
From The Art of War

But where will profanation stay – E’en thee,
O heavenly Harmony! their press hath seig’d
With impious gripe! Reluctant, struggling maid,
Sprung from the silent sphere! with wild affright,
Thou find’st thee fallen on a frantic orb.
Outrageous wrest! perversion most perverse!
Misapplication monstrous! Horror, say,
When bristles most thine hair; when, wild with woe ,
In anguish Madness laughs, or, on his way,
And at his work accurst, when Murder sings?
Hark! the sweet art, to sooth the savage fram’d,
On savage errand sent! to indurate
Humanity, misled to iron scenes,
Who to unmartial softness, else might melt;
Tune her to stone, and give her strength to stab!
To send its blood back to Fear’s bleaching cheek,
Unwarm’d by virtue’s into valour’s heat,
And to a wild and drunken daring drive her:
By sound’s mechanic spur! to reconcile
The death devoted victim to the knife!
Cheering ambition’s sacrifice to bleed,
Unchearful else; with luring notes entic’d
Recoiling to comply! How have they join’d
Most heterogeneous and unmixing things!
Making according sounds accompany
Wild Discord’s wildest scene! where mad mankind,
That in the city ‘gainst each other strike
In endless strife, with roughest jostle jar!

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Daniil Granin: A scientist’s lament

March 27, 2021 Leave a comment

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

Russian writers on war

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Daniil Granin
From Into the Storm
Translated by Robert Daglish

Krylov asked Duras what he had been doing lately. Duras suddenly threw up his hands and shook his fists over his head.

“It is all senseless. Can’t you see? The world has gone wrong. At any moment someone may press a button and it will all be over in a few minutes. All our science, all our academies and colleges. Everything will be erased from the earth. All the leopards, the children’s nurseries, the picture galleries, the missionaries, everything.”

“Yes, and all the symposiums, too. We, along with our grandchildren and our great grandchildren, will all become neutrons and electrons and whizz about according to Heisenberg’s laws, and Heisenberg himself will whizz about with us.” His eyes blazed with a macabre gaiety and he reached forward as if to press a button. “The world is full of madmen and one of them will find his way to it. And then all the wise men of politics and all their predictions will be reduced to dust! The Madeleine – to dust! The whole history of mankind will end at this button, the final, culminating point of history.

“It is more than a law! It is God! It is the modern religion. We all walk beneath the sign of the button. We must go down on our knees and pray to it. It should replace the crucifixes in the cathedrals. Yes, there is no other God but Button. What can you offer instead? The button reduces everything to absurdity – lies and achievements, courage, even cynicism itself. How can you take life so calmly? Can’t you see that the world is out of joint?…Sooner or later we must all pass away, but there has always been the future, something to work and suffer for. Now there is nothing. The future has been stolen….”

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Mankind was thoughtlessly chopping down the forests, causing soil erosion, creating barren deserts of rock and sand, and no one considered the disastrous consequences of the violence that was being perpetrated on nature merely because the consequences were not felt by the offenders but by their descendants.

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“The specialist tries to get to know more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. And the philosopher finds out less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.”

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“When I was at school I thought that if everyone had read Don Quixote, Chekhov and Tolstoi they’d never be able to hurt one another any more.”

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