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Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

August 15, 2017 Leave a comment
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Helen Maria Williams: Heaven-born peace

August 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Helen Maria Williams
From Ode To Peace

She comes, benign enchantress, heav’n born PEACE!
With mercy beaming in her radiant eye;
She bids the horrid din of battle cease,
And at her glance the savage passions die.
‘Tis Nature’s festival, let earth rejoice,
And pour to Liberty exulting songs,
In distant regions, with according voice,
Let Man the vict’ry bless, its prize to Man belongs.

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Horace Smith: Manufactured to machines for killing human creatures

August 13, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

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Horace Smith
From Projects and Companies

Better our superflux to waste
On peaceful schemes, howe’er misplaced.
Than war and its abuses…

***

From Third Poetical Epistle

Another class there was, in trappings gay,
Fine colours – laces – feathers – ribbons – wreaths,
Who let themselves for hire, to kill and slay,
For which they carried earring knives in sheaths;
Of shoulder-knots, and liveried array,
Prouder than any popinjay that breathes;
And what was strange, the women seemed to love
These men-destroyers other men above.

***

From Charade (Barrack)

My Third is fashion’d to enfold
Strange implements of war. – Behold
Those frames with human features;
By time and artificial means
They’re manufactured to machines
For killing human creatures.
Obedient moves – east, west, north, south,
Up to the breach, or cannon’s mouth:
Each automatic figure, –
‘Gainst friend or foe, whate’er the cause.
With equal nonchalance he draws
His death dispensing-trigger.
Enslaved alike in frame and mind.
Life’s object for its means resign’d,
What gains th’unlucky varlet?
Dying, he sleeps on honours couch,
And living, flaunts with empty pouch.
In outward gold and scarlet.
Never were muscles, bones, and will.
By such self-sacrificing skill,
Made neuter, passive, active.
Machine! thou’rt mechanism’s pride.
But never was its art applied
To purpose less attractive!

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André Maurois: The killing machine started up with pitiless smoothness

August 12, 2017 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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André Maurois
From The Family Circle
Translated by Hamish Miles

The killing machine started up with pitiless smoothness. Just as the aprons of the cards slowly and steadily bore the flocks of wool to the hard-pointed rollers that gripped and tore them, so did courage and fear draw this peaceable town into war and carry out the smooth sifting of death. In one single day all the young men vanished. The red-eyed women came back alone to silent houses. The the older men appeared in uniform…

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Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

August 11, 2017 Leave a comment
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Remy de Gourmont: If they wage war, in what state must the world be?

August 10, 2017 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Remy de Gourmont: Getting drunk at the dirty cask of militarism

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Remy de Gourmont
From Mr. Antiphilos, Satyr
Translated by John Howard

The great gods no longer descending to an earth soiled by war, ownership, gold and those human laws which so badly translate the gentle divine laws, we remain the sole immortals that a herdsman can chance upon at the fall of day, as he walks along the path…They say the golden age will return. Let us hope so.

***

She faithfully returns, as she has promised, bringing on each trip a quantity of golden money with the most diverse effigies: I would never have supposed that the world contained so many tyrants. If they wage war, as was customary in the old days, in what state must the world be…?

***

Love is serious. When one has deep sensibility, love can cause tears; laughter, never. It is only among mortals that love is accompanied with laughter. The gods never laugh, except at the silliness of mankind.

***

Like nature, the gods exist only at the instant you speak and think of them, and as soon as your attention is distracted from divine things, they fall again into the dim, pantheistic immensity where their lives glide by, mute, deep and plant-like.

***

We are all,children of destiny and our immortal life is but a succession of mortal lives badly joined to each other by the confused mortar of recollection.

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Lewis Morris: Red war, the dungeon, and the stake

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris

From The Youth of Thought

Fulfilled with thoughts, more fair and dear
Than all the lighter joys of yore,
Immeasurable hopes brought near,
And Heaven laid open more and more.

But not with love and peace alone
Time came, which older joys could take;
But with fierce brand and hopeless groan,
Red war, the dungeon, and the stake…

***

From Tantalus

The glitter of the gems, the precious webs
Plundered from every clime by cruel wars
That strewed the sands with corpses…

And only cared for power; content to shed
Rivers of innocent blood, if only thus
I might appease my thirst. Until I grew
A monster gloating over blood and pain.

***

From A Cynic’s Day-Dream

If fate should grant me such a home,
So sweet the tranquil days would come,
I should not need, I trust, to sink
My weariness in lust or drink.
Scant pleasure should I think to gain
From endless scenes of death and pain;
‘Twould little profit me to slay
A thousand innocents a day;
I should not much delight to tear
With wolfish dogs the shrieking hare;
With horse and hound to track to death
A helpless wretch that gasps for breath;
To make the fair bird check its wing,
And drop, a dying, shapeless thing;
To leave the joy of all the wood
A mangled heap of fur and blood,
Or else escaping, but in vain,
To pine, a shattered wretch, in pain;
Teeming, perhaps, or doomed to see
Its young brood starve in misery;
With neither risk nor labour, still
To live for nothing but to kill –
I dare not! If perplexed I am
Between the tiger and the lamb;
If fate ordain that these shall give
Their poor brief lives that I may live:
Whate’er the law that bids them die,
Others shall butcher them, not I,
Not such my work. Surely the Lord,
Who made the devils by a word,
Not men, but those who’d wield them well
Gave these sad tortures of his Hell.

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George Meredith: All your gains from War resign

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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 Il y a cent ans

What figures will be shown the century hence?
What lands intact?  We do but know that Power
From piety divorced, though seen immense,
Shall sink on envy of the humblest flower.

Our cry for cradled Peace, while men are still
The three-parts brute which smothers the divine,
Heaven answers: Guard it with forethoughtful will,
Or buy it; all your gains from War resign.

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Homer: Caging the terrible Lord of War

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Homer: The great gods are never pleased with violent deeds

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Homer
From The Illiad
Translated by George Meredith

Dedicated to the Council at the Hague, 1899

These two combining strength and craft had snared,
Enmeshed, bound fast with thongs, discreetly caged
The blood-shedder, the terrible Lord of War;
Destroyer, ravager, superb in plumes;
The barren furrower of anointed fields;
The scarlet heel in towns, foul smoke to sky,
Her hated enemy, too long her scourge:
Great Ares.  And they gagged his trumpet mouth
When they had seized on his implacable spear,
Hugged him to reedy helplessness despite
His godlike fury startled from amaze.
For he had eyed them nearing him in play,
The giant cubs, who gambolled and who snarled,
Unheeding his fell presence, by the mount
Ossa, beside a brushwood cavern; there
On Earth’s original fisticuffs they called
For ease of sharp dispute: whereat the God,
Approving, deemed that sometime trained to arms,
Good servitors of Ares they would be,
And ply the pointed spear to dominate
Their rebel restless fellows, villain brood
Vowed to defy Immortals.  So it chanced
Amusedly he watched them, and as one
The lusty twain were on him and they had him.
Breath to us, Powers of air, for laughter loud!
Cock of Olympus he, superb in plumes!
Bound like a wheaten sheaf by those two babes!
Because they knew our Mother Gaea loathed him,
Knew him the famine, pestilence and waste;
A desolating fire to blind the sight
With splendour built of fruitful things in ashes;
The gory chariot-wheel on cries for justice;
Her deepest planted and her liveliest voice,
Heard from the babe as from the broken crone.
Behold him in his vessel of bronze encased,
And tumbled down the cave.

***

Among the wheat-blades proud of stalk; beneath
Young vine-leaves pushing timid fingers forth,
Confidently to cling.  And when brown corn
Swayed armied ranks with softened cricket song,
With gold necks bent for any zephyr’s kiss;
When vine-roots daily down a rubble soil
Drank fire of heaven athirst to swell the grape;
When swelled the grape, and in it held a ray,
Rich issue of the embrace of heaven and earth;
The very eye of passion drowsed by excess,
And yet a burning lion for the spring;
Then in that time of general cherishment,
Sweet breathing balm and flutes by cool wood-side,
He the harsh rouser of ire being absent, caged,
Then did good Gaea’s children gratefully
Lift hymns to Gods they judged, but praised for peace,
Delightful Peace, that answers Reason’s call
Harmoniously and images her Law;
Reflects, and though short-lived as then, revives,
In memories made present on the brain
By natural yearnings, all the happy scenes;
The picture of an earth allied to heaven;
Between them the known smile behind black masks;
Rightly their various moods interpreted;
And frolic because toilful children borne
With larger comprehension of Earth’s aim
At loftier, clearer, sweeter, by their aid.

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George Meredith: Selections on peace and war

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Xenophon: Guile without guilt. Peace and joy reigned everywhere.

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Xenophon: Begin wars as tardily, end them as speedily as possible

Xenophon: Socrates’ war sophistry; civil crimes are martial virtues

Xenophon: War as obsession, warfare as mistress

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Xenophon
From Cyropaedia
Translated by Walter Miller

“Well, Cyrus, I used to think that you surpassed all other men in that you were the greatest general; and now, I swear by the gods, you seem actually to excel even more in kindness than in generalship.”

“Aye, by God,” answered Cyrus; “and what is more, I assure you that I take much more pleasure in showing forth my deeds of kindness than ever I did in my deeds of generalship.”

“How so?” asked Gobryas.

“Because,” said he, “in the one field, one must necessarily do harm to men; in the other, only good.”

***

At day-break he took his stand with his army between the two and summoned the leaders of the two factions. And when they saw one another they were indignant, for they both thought they had been duped. Adusius, however, addressed them as follows:

“Gentlemen, I gave you my oath that I would without treachery enter your walls for the advantage of those who admitted me. If, therefore, I destroy either party of you, I think that I have come in to the injury of the Carians; whereas, if I can secure peace for you and security for all to till the fields, I think I am here for your advantage. Now, therefore, from this day you must live together like friends, till your lands without fear of one another, and intermarry your children one party with the other; and if any one in defiance of these regulations attempts to make trouble, Cyrus, and we with him, will be that man’s enemies.”

After that, the gates of the city were opened, the streets filled up with people passing to and fro, and the farms with labourers; they celebrated their festivals together, and peace and joy reigned everywhere.

***

“Next to the gods, however, show respect also to all the race of men as they continue in perpetual succession; for the gods, do not hide you away in darkness, but your works must ever live on in the sight of all men; and if they are pure and untainted with unrighteousness, they will make your power manifest among all mankind. But if you conceive any unrighteous schemes against each other, you will forfeit in the eyes of all men your right to be trusted. For no one would be able any longer to trust you – not even if he very much desired to do so – if he saw either of you wronging that one who has the first claim to the other’s love.”

 

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Music

In progress

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George Meredith: War’s rivers of blood no crown for future generations

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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 Empty Purse

Ask what crown
Comes of our tides of the blood at war,
For men to bequeath generations down!

***

When our Earth we have seen, and have linked
With the home of the Spirit to whom we unfold,
Imprisoned humanity open will throw
Its fortress gates, and the rivers of gold
For the congregate friendliness flow.

***

Nor History written in blood or in foam,
For vendetta of Parties in cursing accursed.

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From To the Comic Spirit

These, that would have men still of men be foes,
Eternal fox to prowl and pike to feed;
Would keep our life the whirly pool
Of turbid stuff dishonouring History…

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From Napoléon

Up withered avenues of waste-blood war,
To the pitiless red mounts of fire afume,
As ’twere the world’s arteries opened!  Woe the race!

***

Poured streams of Europe’s veins the flood
Full Rhine or Danube rolls off morning-tide
Through shadowed reaches into crimson-dyed:
And Rhine and Danube knew her gush of blood
Down the plucked roots the deepest in her breast.

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Philosophy is Life’s one match for Fate.

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Polybius: Peace is a blessing for which we all pray to the gods

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Polybius: The bestialization of man by war

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Polybius
From The Histories
Translated by W.R. Paton

Peace is a blessing for which we all pray to the gods; we submit to every suffering from the desire to attain it, and it is the only one of the so‑called good things in life to which no man refuses this title. If then there be any people which, while able by right and with all honour to obtain from the Greeks perpetual and undisputed peace, neglect this object or esteem any other of greater importance, everyone would surely agree that they are much in the wrong. Perhaps indeed they might plead that such a manner of life exposes them to the attack of neighbours bent on war and regardless of treaties. But this is a thing not likely to happen often and claiming if it does occur the aid of all the Greeks; while to secure themselves against any local and temporary damage, amidst a plentiful supply of wealth, such as will probably be theirs if they enjoy constant peace, they will be in no want of foreign mercenary soldiers to protect them at the place and time required. But now simply from fear of rare and improbable perils they expose their country and their properties to constant war and devastation.

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Lewis Morris: When the cannons roar and the trumpets blare no longer

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris
From The New Order

There shall come a time when brotherhood shines stronger
Than the narrow bounds which now distract the world;
When the cannons roar and the trumpets blare no longer,
And the ironclad rusts, and battle flags are furled…

 

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Lewis Morris: Who will free us from the dreadful past of war and hatred?

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris
From The Living Past

O faithful souls that watch and yearn,
Expectant of the coming light,
With kindling hearts and eyes that burn
With hope to see the rule of right;

The time of peace and of good will,
When the thick clouds of wrong and pain
Roll up as from a shining hill
And never more descend again…

Though war and hatred come to cease
And sorrow be no more, nor sin,
And in their stead an endless peace
Its fair unbroken reign begin, –

What comfort have ye? What shall blot
The memories of bitter years…?

For that which has been, still must live,
And ‘neath the shallow Present last,
Oh who will sweet oblivion give,
Who free us from the dreadful Past?

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Lewis Morris: The world rang with the fierce shouts of war and cries of pain

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

 

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Lewis Morris
From The Wanderer

The strong bold sway that held mankind in thrall,
Soldier and jurist marching side by side,
Till came the sure slow blight, when all the world
Grew sick, and swooned, and died;

Again the long dark night, when Learning dozed
Safe in her cloister, and the world without
Rang with fierce shouts of war and cries of pain,
Base triumph, baser rout…

And how, when worthier souls bore rule, to hold
Faction more dear than Truth, or stoop to cheat,
With cozening words and shallow flatteries
The Solons of the street?

Or, failing this, to wear a hireling sword –
Ready, whate’er the cause, to kill and slay…

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Pausanias: Woe to man

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Pausanias: Peace cradling Wealth in her arms

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Pausanias
From Description of Greece
Translated by J.G. Frazer

When Lichas arrived the Spartans were seeking the bones of Orestes in accordance with an oracle. Now Lichas inferred that they were buried in a smithy, the reason for this inference being this. Everything that he saw in the smithy he compared with the oracle from Delphi, likening to the winds the bellows, for that they too sent forth a violent blast, the hammer to the “stroke,” the anvil to the “counterstroke” to it, while the iron is naturally a “woe to man,” because already men were using iron in warfare. In the time of those called heroes the god would have called bronze a woe to man.

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Xenophon: Begin wars as tardily, end them as speedily as possible

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Xenophon: Guile without guilt. Peace and joy reigned everywhere.

Xenophon: Socrates’ war sophistry; civil crimes are martial virtues

Xenophon: War as obsession, warfare as mistress

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Xenophon
From Hellenica
Translated by Carleton L. Brownson

“The right course, indeed, would have been for us not to take up arms against one another in the beginning…But if it is indeed ordered of the gods that wars should come among men, then we ought to begin war as tardily as we can, and, when it has come, to bring it to an end as speedily as possible.”

***

“Moreover, we all know that wars are forever breaking out and being concluded, and that we – if not now, still at some future time – shall desire peace again. Why, then, should we wait for the time when we shall have become exhausted by a multitude of ills, and not rather conclude peace as quickly as possible before anything irremediable happens?

“Again, I for my part do not commend those men who, when they have become competitors in the games and have already been victorious many times and enjoy fame, are so fond of contest that they do not stop until they are defeated and so end their athletic training; nor on the other hand do I commend those dicers who, if they win one success, throw for double stakes, for I see that the majority of such people become utterly impoverished.

“We, then, seeing these things, ought never to engage in a contest of such a sort that we shall either win all or lose all, but ought rather to become friends of one another while we are still strong and successful. For thus we through you, and you through us, could play even a greater part in Greece than in times gone by.”

***

When these things had taken place, the opposite of what all men believed would happen was brought to pass. For since well-nigh all the people of Greece had come together and formed themselves in opposing lines, there was no one who did not suppose that if a battle were fought, those who proved victorious would be the rulers and those who were defeated would be their subjects; but the deity so ordered it that both parties set up a trophy as though victorious and neither tried to hinder those who set them up, that both gave back the dead under a truce as though victorious, and both received back their dead under a truce as though defeated, and that while each party claimed to be victorious, neither was found to be any better off, as regards either additional territory, or city, or sway, than before the battle took place; but there was even more confusion and disorder in Greece after the battle than before.

 

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Thomas Love Peacock: Selections on war and peace

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Gerald Massey: Sweet peace comes treading down war’s cruel spears

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

British writers on peace and war

Gerald Massey: Curst, curst be war, the World’s most fatal glory!

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Gerald Massey

From The Old Flag

Statesmen have drawn back meek and mute,
Or pardon begged from bullying foes,
Whene’er a Military boot
Was stampt upon retreating toes.

***

From Love’s Fairy-Ring

Away, you Lords of Murderdom;
Away, O Hate, and Strife,
Hence revellers, reeling drunken from
Your feast of human life.

***

From Hugh Miller’s Grave

He was a Hero true as ever stept
In the Forlorn Hope of a warring world;
And from opposing circumstance his palm
Drew loftier stature, and a lustier strength.

***

From Lady Laura

He had wept his pain in a fiery rain, and a calm came o’er his tears,
As a vision of sweet peace comes treading down
War’s cruel spears.

***

From England and Louis Bonaparte

Alas, poor Italy!
The Storm of War
From its fire-mountain throne sweeps burning down,
Its purple lava-mantle trails behind,
Embracing all and blasting all its folds,
A sea of soldiery breaks over her;
Her fair face darkens in the shadow of Swords;
Destruction drives his ploughshare thro’ her soil…

 

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Thomas Love Peacock: I’ll make my verses rattle with the din of war and battle

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Love Peacock: Selections on war and peace

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Thomas Love Peacock
From Stanzas Written at Sea

O blest, trebly blest, is the peasant’s condition!
From courts and from cities reclining afar,
He hears not the summons of senseless ambition,
The tempests of ocean, and the tumults of war.
Round the standard of battle though thousands may rally
When the trumpet of glory is pealing aloud,
He dwells in the shade of his own native valley,
And turns the same earth as his forefathers ploughed.

In realms far remote while the merchant is toiling,
In search of that wealth he might never enjoy;
The land of his foes while the soldier is spoiling,
When honour commands him to rise and destroy;
Through mountainous billows, with whirlwinds contending,
While the mariner bounds over the wide-raging seas,
Still peace, o’er the peasant her mantle extending,
Brings health and content in the sigh of the breeze.

***

From Quintetto

Mr. Killthedead: I’ll make my verses rattle with the din of war and battle,
For war doth increase sa-la-ry, ry, ry…

***

From The Massacre of the Britons

The sacred ground, where chiefs of yore
The everlasting fire adored,
The solemn pledge of safety bore,
And breathed not of the treacherous sword.

***

From Florence and Blanchefor

The nightingale prevailed at length,
Her pleading had such charms;
So eloquence can conquer strength,
And arts can conquer arms.

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Thomas Love Peacock: Frenzied war’s ensanguined reign

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Love Peacock: Selections on war and peace

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Thomas Love Peacock
From The Genius of the Thames

There peace her vestal lamps displays,
Undimmed by mad ambition’s blaze,
And shuns, in the sequestered glen,
The storms that shake the haunts of men,
Where mean intrigue, and sordid gain,
And frenzied war’s ensanguined reign,
And narrow cares, and wrathful strife,
Dry up the sweetest springs of life.

Oh! might my steps that darkly roam,
Attain at last thy mountain home,
And rest, from earthly trammels free,
With peace, and liberty, and thee!
Around while faction’s tempest sweeps,
Like whirlwinds o’er the wintry deep,
And, down the headlong vortex torn,
The vain, misjudging crowd is borne;
‘Twere sweet to mark, re-echoing far,
The rage of the eternal war,
That dimly heard, at distance swelling,
Endears, but not disturbs, thy dwelling.

***

Where are the states of ancient fame?
Athens, and Sparta’s victor-name,
And all that propped, in war and peace,
The arms, and nobler arts, of Greece?
All-grasping Rome, that proudly hurled
Her mandates o’er the prostrate world,
Long heard mankind her chains deplore,
And fell, as Carthage fell before.

 

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Pindar: Shall war spread unbounded ruin round?

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Pindar: The arts versus war

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Pindar
From On the Eclipse of the Sun
Translated by Thomas Love Peacock

On thy darken’d course attending,
Dost thou signs of sorrow bring?
Shall the summer’s rains descending,
Blast the promise of the spring?

Or shall war, in evil season,
Spread unbounded ruin round?
Or the baleful hand of Treason
Our domestic joys confound?

 

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Thomas Love Peacock: Ne’er thy sweet echoes swell again with war’s demoniac yell!

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Love Peacock: Selections on war and peace

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Thomas Love Peacock
From The Genius of the Thames

Ah! whither are they flown,
Those days of peace and love
So sweetly sung by bards of elder time?
When in the startling grove
The battle-blast was blown,
And misery came, and cruelty and crime,
Far from the desolated hills,
Polluted meads, and blood-stained rills,
Their guardian genii flew;
And through the woodlands, waste and wild,
Where erst perennial summer smiled,
Infuriate passions prowled, and wintry whirlwinds blew.

***

Ah! what avails, that heaven has rolled
A silver stream o’er sands of gold,
And decked the plane, and reared the grove,
Fit dwelling for primeval love;
If man defiles the beauteous scene
And stain with blood the smiling green;
If man’s worst passions there arise,
To counteract the favoring skies;
If rapine there, and murder reign
And human tigers prowl for gain,
And tyrants foul and trembling slaves,
Pollute their shores, and curse their waves?

Far other charms than these possess,
Oh Thames, thy verdant margin bless:
Where peace, with freedom, hand-in-hand,
Walks forth along the sparkling strand,
And cheerful toil and glowing health…

***

O’er states and empires, near and far,
While rolls the fiery surge of war,
The country’s wealth and power increase,
Thy vales and cities smile in peace…

***

Oh! ne’er may thy sweet echoes swell
Again with war’s demoniac yell!

 

 

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Dio Cassius: When peace was announced the mountains resounded

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Dio Cassius: Weeping and lamenting the fratricide of war

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Dio Cassius
From Roman History
Translated by Earnest Cary

After drafting these compacts and reducing them to writing they deposited the documents with the Vestal Virgins, and then exchanged pledges and embraced one another. Upon this a great and mighty shout arose from the mainland and from the ships at the same moment. For many soldiers and many civilians who were present suddenly cried out all together, being terribly tired of the war and strongly desirous of peace, so that even the mountains resounded; and thereupon great panic and alarm came upon them, and many died of no other cause, while many others perished by being trampled under foot or suffocated.

Those who were in the small boats did not wait to reach the land itself, but jumped out into the sea, and those on land rushed out into the water. Meanwhile they embraced one another while swimming and threw their arms around one another’s necks as they dived, making a spectacle of varied sights and sounds. Some knew that their relatives and associates were living, and seeing them now present, gave way to unrestrained joy. Others, supposing that those dear to them had already died, saw them now unexpectedly and for a long time were at a loss what to do, and were rendered speechless, at once distrusting the sight they saw and praying that it might be true, and they would not accept the recognition as true until they had called their names and had heard their voices in answer; then, indeed, they rejoiced as if their friends had been brought back to life again, but as they must yield perforce to a flood of joy, they could not refrain from tears.

Again, some who were unaware that their dearest ones had perished and thought they were alive and present, went about seeking for them and asking every one they met regarding them. As long as they could learn nothing definite they were like madmen and were reduced to despair, both hoping to find them and fearing that they were dead, unable either to give up hope in view of their longing or to give up to grief in view of their hope. But when at last they learned the truth, they would tear their hair and rend their garments, calling upon the lost by name as if their voices could reach them and giving way to grief as if their friends had just then died and were lying there before their eyes. And even if any had no such cause themselves for joy or grief, they were at least affected by the experiences of the rest; for they either rejoiced with him that was glad or grieved with him that mourned, and so, even if they were free from an experience of their own, yet they could not remain indifferent on account of their comradeship with the rest. Accordingly they became neither sated with joy nor ashamed of grief, because they were all affected in the same way, and they spent the entire day as well as the greater part of the night in these demonstrations.

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Horace Smith: Weapon gathering dust

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

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Horace Smith
From On an Ancient Lance, Hanging in an Armoury

Once in the breezy coppice didst thou dance,
And nightingales amid thy foliage sang;
Form’d by man’s cruel art into a lance,
Oft hast thou pierced, (the while the welkin rang
With trump and drum, shoutings and battle clang,)
Some foeman’s heart. Pride, pomp, and circumstance,
Have left thee, now, and thou dost silent hang,
From age to age, in deep and dusty trance.

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Thomas Love Peacock: The god of battle, the last deep groan of agony

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

British writers on peace and war 

Thomas Love Peacock: Selections on war and peace

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Thomas Love Peacock
From Palmyra

How oft, in scenes like these, the pensive sage
Has mourn’d the hand of FATE, severely just,
WAR’s wasteful course, and DEATH’s unsparing rage,
And dark OBLIVION, frowning in the dust!
Has marked the tombs, that kings o’erthrown declare,
Just wept their fall, and sunk to join them there!

***

See! the mighty God of Battle
Spreads abroad his crimson train!
Discord’s myriad voices rattle
O’er the terror-shaken plain.
Banners stream, and helmets glare,
Show’ring arrows hiss in air;
Echoing through the darken’d skies,
Wildly-mingling murmurs rise,
The clash of splendor-beaming steel,
The buckler ringing hollowly,
The cymbal’s silver-sounding peal,
The last deep groan of agony…

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Petronius: Dreams of war

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Petronius
Dreams
Translated by Thomas Love Peacock

Dreams, which, beneath the hov’ring shades of night,
Sport with the ever-restless minds of men,
Descend not from the gods. Each busy brain
Creates its own. For when the chains of sleep
Have bound the weary, and the lighten’d mind
Unshackled plays, the actions of the light
Become renew’d in darkness. Then the chief,
Who shakes the world with war, who joys alone
In blazing cities, and in wasted plains,
O’erthrown battalions sees, and dying kings,
And fields o’verflow’d with blood.

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Horace Smith: The hero-butchers of the sword

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

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Horace Smith
From The Poet Among the Trees

The hero-butchers of the sword,
In Rome and Greece, and many a far land,
Like Bravos, murder’d for reward,
The settled price – a laurel-garland.

On bust or coin we mark the wreath,
Forgetful of its bloody story,
How many myriads writhed in death,
That one might bear this type of glory.

Cæsar first wore the badge, ’tis said,
‘Cause his bald sconce had nothing on it,
Knocking some millions on the head,
To get his own a leafy bonnet.

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Gerald Massey: Curst, curst be war, the World’s most fatal glory!

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

British writers on peace and war

Gerald Massey: Sweet peace comes treading down war’s cruel spears

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Gerald Massey
From Eighteen Hundred and Forty-Eight

Curst, curst be war, the World’s most fatal glory!
Ye wakening nations, burst its guilty thrall!
Time waits with out-stretcht hand to shroud the gory
Grim glaive of strife behind Oblivion’s pall.
The Tyrant laughs at swords, the cannon’s rattle
Thunders no terror on his murderous soul.
Thought, Mind, must conquer Might, and in this battle
The Warrior’s cuirass, or the Sophist’s stole,
Shall blunt no lance of light, no onset backward roll.

Old Poets tell us of a golden age,
When earth was guiltless…

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Horace Smith: The trade of man-butchery. The soldier and the sailor.

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

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Horace Smith
From The Recantation

A Soldier? – What! a bravo paid

To make man-butchery a trade –

A Jack-a-dandy varlet,

Who sells his liberty, – perchance

His very soul’s inheritance –

For feathers, lace, and scarlet!

 

A Sailor? – worse! he’s doomed to trace

With treadmill drudgery the space

From foremast to the mizen;

A slave to the tyrannic main,

Till some kind bullet comes to brain

The brainless in his prison –

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Christina Rossetti: They reap a red crop from the field. O Man, put up thy sword.

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

British writers on peace and war

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Christina Rossetti
“Thy Brother’s Blood Crieth”

All her corn-fields rippled in the sunshine,
All her lovely vines, sweets-laden, bowed;
Yet some weeks to harvest and to vintage:
When, as one man’s hand, a cloud
Rose and spread, and, blackening, burst asunder
In rain and fire and thunder.

Is there nought to reap in the day of harvest?
Hath the vine in her day no fruit to yield?
Yea, men tread the press, but not for sweetness,
And they reap a red crop from the field.
Build barns, ye reapers, garner all aright,
Though your souls be called to-night.

A cry of tears goes up from blackened homesteads,
A cry of blood goes up from reeking earth:
Tears and blood have a cry that pierces Heaven
Through all its Hallelujah swells of mirth;
God hears their cry, and though He tarry, yet
He doth not forget.

Mournful Mother, prone in dust weeping,
Who shall comfort thee for those who are not?
As thou didst, men do to thee; and heap the measure,
And heat the furnace sevenfold hot:
As thou once, now these to thee – who pitieth thee
From sea to sea?

O thou King, terrible in strength, and building
Thy strong future on thy past!
Though he drink the last, the King of Sheshach,
Yet he shall drink at the last.
Art thou greater than great Babylon,
Which lies overthrown?

Take heed, ye unwise among the people;
O ye fools, when will ye understand? –
He that planted the ear shall He not hear,
Nor He smite who formed the hand?
“Vengeance is Mine, is Mine,” thus saith the Lord: –
O Man, put up thy sword.

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Horace Smith: When War’s ensanguined banner shall be furl’d

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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Smith: Selections on peace and war

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Horace Smith
Hope’s Yearnings

How sweet it is, when wearied with the jars
Of wrangling sects, each sour’d with bigot leaven,
To let the Spirit burst its prison bars
And soar into the deep repose of Heaven!

How sweet it is, when sick with strife and noise
Of the fell brood that owes to faction birth,
To turn to Nature’s tranquillizing joys,
And taste the soothing harmonies of Earth!

But tho’ the lovely Earth, and Sea, and Air,
Be rich in joys that form a sumless sum,
Fill’d with Nepenthes that can banish care,
And wrap the senses in Elysium,

‘Tis sweeter still from these delights to turn
Back to our kind – to watch the course of Man,
And for that blessed consummation yearn,
When Nature shall complete her noble plan; –

When hate, oppression, vice, and crime, shall cease,
When War’s ensanguined banner shall be furl’d,
And to our moral system shall extend
The perfectness of the material world –

Sweetest of all, when ’tis our happy fate
To drop some tribute, trifling tho’ it prove,
On the thrice-hallow’d altar dedicate
To Man’s improvement, truth, and social love.

Faith in our race’s destined elevation,
And its incessant progress to the goal,
Tends, by exciting hope and emulation,
To realise th’ aspirings of the soul.

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Lewis Morris: Put off the curse of war

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

British writers on peace and war

Lewis Morris: Selections on war and peace

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Lewis Morris
From Whither?

Tread down, oh man, beneath thy feet, the brute,
Not that the sinless, innocent brute which still
Goes on its way unashamed, undoubting, mute,
Obedient to the pre-ordainèd will.

But that which deep within your nature lurks
Unseen, nay scarce suspected, tooth and claw
Red with the stain of age-old time and works
Beneath the dull unpitying primal law.

Put off the curse of war, the shame of strife;
Make thou the hates, the miseries to cease…

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Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selections on war and peace

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning: War’s human harvest

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

British writers on peace and war

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Exalt the name of Peace and leave those rusty wars that eat the soul

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning
From The Cry of the Human

The battle hurtles on the plains,
Earth feels new scythes upon her;
We reap our brothers for the wains,
And call the harvest – honour.
Draw face to face, front line to line,
Our image all inherit:
Then kill, curse on, by that same sign,
Clay, clay, – and spirit, spirit.
Be pitiful, O God!

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Alfred Lord Tennyson: I would the old God of war himself were dead

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

British writers on peace and war

Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selections on war and peace

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Alfred Lord Tennyson
From The Princess

‘I would the old God of war himself were dead,
Forgotten, rusting on his iron hills,
Rotting on some wild shore with ribs of wreck,
Or like an old-world mammoth bulk’d in ice,
Not to be molten out.’

***

From In Memoriam A.H.H.

Sweet after showers, ambrosial air,
That rollest from the gorgeous gloom
Of evening over brake and bloom
And meadow, slowly breathing bare

The round of space, and rapt below
Thro’ all the dewy-tassell’d wood,
And shadowing down the horned flood
In ripples, fan my brows and blow

The fever from my cheek, and sigh
The full new life that feeds thy breath
Throughout my frame, till Doubt and Death,
Ill brethren, let the fancy fly

From belt to belt of crimson seas
On leagues of odour streaming far,
To where in yonder orient star
A hundred spirits whisper `Peace.’

***

And I myself, who sat apart
And watch’d them, wax’d in every limb;
I felt the thews of Anakim,
The pulses of a Titan’s heart;

As one would sing the death of war,
And one would chant the history
Of that great race, which is to be,
And one the shaping of a star…

***

From Ode Sung at the Opening of the International Exhibition

O ye, the wise who think, the wise who reign,
From growing commerce loose her latest chain,
And let the fair white-winged peacemaker fly
To happy havens under all the sky,
And mix the seasons and the golden hours,
Till each man finds his own in all men’s good,
And all men work in noble brotherhood,
Breaking their mailed fleets and armed towers,
And ruling by obeying Nature’s powers,
And gathering all the fruits of peace and crown’d with all her flowers.

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Shall Peace be still a sunk stream long unmet?

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

British writers on peace and war

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti
From The One Hope

When vain desire at last and vain regret
Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
And teach the unforgetful to forget?
Shall Peace be still a sunk stream long unmet, –
Or may the soul at once in a green plain
Stoop through the spray of some sweet life-fountain
And cull the dew-drenched flowering amulet?

Ah! when the wan soul in that golden air
Between the scriptured petals softly blown
Peers breathless for the gift of grace unknown, –
Ah! let none other alien spell soe’er
But only the one Hope’s one name be there,-
Not less nor more, but even that word alone.

***

From The Cloud Confines

What of the heart of hate
That beats in thy breast, O Time?
Red strife from the furthest prime,
And anguish of fierce debate;
War that shatters her slain,
And peace that grinds them as grain,
And eyes fix’d ever in vain
On the pitiless eyes of Fate.
Still we say as we go,
“Strange to think by the way,
Whatever there is to know,
That shall we know one day.”

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Alfred Lord Tennyson: When shall universal peace lie like light across the land?

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

British writers on peace and war

Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selections on war and peace

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Alfred Lord Tennyson
From The Golden Year

“When wealth no more shall rest in mounded heaps,
But smit with freer light shall slowly melt
In many streams to fatten lower lands,
And light shall spread, and man be liker man
Thro’ all the season of the golden year.

“Fly happy happy sails and bear the Press;
Fly happy with the mission of the Cross;
Knit land to land, and blowing havenward
With silks, and fruits, and spices, clear of toll,
Enrich the markets of the golden year.

“But we grow old! Ah! when shall all men’s good
Be each man’s rule, and universal Peace
Lie like a shaft of light across the land,
And like a lane of beams athwart the sea,
Thro’ all the circle of the golden year?”

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Alfred Lord Tennyson: The brazen bridge of war

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

British writers on peace and war

Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selections on war and peace

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Alfred Lord Tennyson

From Love Though thy Land, with Love for Brought

O, yet, if Nature’s evil star
Drive men in manhood, as in youth,
To follow flying steps of Truth
Across the brazen bridge of war –

If New and Old, disastrous feud,
Must ever shock, like armed foes,
And this be true, till Time shall close
That Principles are rain’d in blood;

Not yet the wise of heart would cease
To hold his hope thro’ shame and guilt,
But with his hand against the hilt,
Would pace the troubled land, like Peace…

***

From Audley Court

“Oh! who would fight and march and countermarch,
Be shot for sixpence in a battle-field,
And shovell’d up into some bloody trench
Where no one knows? but let me live my life.”

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John Milton: What can war but endless war still breed?

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Milton: Men levy cruel wars, wasting the earth, each other to destroy

Milton: Without ambition, war, or violence

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John Milton
From Sonnet 15

For what can war but endless war still breed?
      Till Truth and Right from Violence be freed,
And Public Faith clear’d from the shameful brand
      Of Public Fraud. In vain doth Valour bleed
      While Avarice and Rapine share the land.
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Percy Bysshe Shelley: The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths

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

British writers on peace and war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
From The Witch of Atlas

The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths, and
Walked out of quarters in somnambulism;
Round the red anvils you might see them stand
Like Cyclopses in Vulcan’s sooty abysm,
Beating their swords to ploughshares…

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Jean Ingelow: Methought the men of war were even as gods

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British writers on peace and war

Jean Ingelow: And the dove said, “Give us peace!”

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Jean Ingelow
From A Parson’s Letter to a Young Poet

“Methought the men of war were even as gods
The old men of the ages. Now mine eyes
Retrieve the truth from ruined city walls
That buried it; from carved and curious homes
Full of rich garments and all goodly spoil,
Where having burned, battered, and wasted them,
They flung it. Give us, give us better gods
Than these that drink with blood upon their hands,
For I repent me that I worshipped them.
O that there might be yet a going up!
O to forget — and to begin again!”

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George Meredith: War wife, as good as widowed

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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 Earth and a Wedded Woman

Ah, what is Marriage, says each pouting maid,
When she who wedded with the soldier hides
At home as good as widowed in the shade,
A lighthouse to the girls that would be brides:
Nor dares to give a lad an ogle, nor
To dream of dancing, but must hang and moan,
Her husband in the war,
And she to lie alone.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley: War with its million horrors shall live but in the memory of time

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

British writers on peace and war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
From Queen Mab

‘The child,
Ere he can lisp his mother’s sacred name,
Swells with the unnatural pride of crime, and lifts
His baby-sword even in a hero’s mood.
This infant arm becomes the bloodiest scourge
Of devastated earth; whilst specious names,
Learnt in soft childhood’s unsuspecting hour,
Serve as the sophisms with which manhood dims
Bright reason’s ray and sanctifies the sword
Upraised to shed a brother’s innocent blood.’

***

‘Success has sanctioned to a credulous world
The ruin, the disgrace, the woe of war.’

***

‘War with its million horrors, and fierce hell,
Shall live but in the memory of time,
Who, like a penitent libertine, shall start,
Look back, and shudder at his younger years.’

***

‘Even the minutest molecule of light,
That in an April sunbeam’s fleeting glow
Fulfils its destined though invisible work,
The universal Spirit guides; nor less
When merciless ambition, or mad zeal,
Has led two hosts of dupes to battle-field,
That, blind, they there may dig each other’s graves
And call the sad work glory, does it rule
All passions…’

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George Meredith: Bellona’s mad halloo

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

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George Meredith: Selections on peace and war

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George Meredith
Progress

In Progress you have little faith, say you:
Men will maintain dear interests, wreak base hates,
By force, and gentle women choose their mates
Most amorously from the gilded fighting crew:
The human heart Bellona’s mad halloo
Will ever fire to dicing with the Fates.
‘Now at this time,’ says History, ‘those two States
Stood ready their past wrestling to renew.
They sharpened arms and showed them, like the brutes
Whose haunches quiver. But a yellow blight
Fell on their waxing harvests. They deferred
The bloody settlement of their disputes
Till God should bless them better.’ They did right.
And naming Progress, both shall have the word.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley: The unholy song of war

May 29, 2017 2 comments

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

British writers on peace and war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Selections on war

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
From Queen Mab

‘Palmyra’s ruined palaces!
Behold where grandeur frowned!
Behold where pleasure smiled!
What now remains? – the memory
Of senselessness and shame.
What is immortal there?
Nothing – it stands to tell
A melancholy tale, to give
An awful warning; soon
Oblivion will steal silently
The remnant of its fame.
Monarchs and conquerors there
Proud o’er prostrate millions trod –
The earthquakes of the human race;
Like them, forgotten when the ruin
That marks their shock is past…’

***

There an inhuman and uncultured race
Howled hideous praises to their Demon-God;
They rushed to war, tore from the mother’s womb
The unborn child – old age and infancy
Promiscuous perished; their victorious arms
Left not a soul to breathe. Oh! they were fiends!
But what was he who taught them that the God
Of Nature and benevolence had given
A special sanction to the trade of blood?

***

‘O dear and blessèd Peace,
Why dost thou shroud thy vestal purity
In penury and dungeons? Wherefore lurkest
With danger, death, and solitude; yet shun’st
The palace I have built thee? Sacred Peace!
Oh, visit me but once, – but pitying shed
One drop of balm upon my withered soul!’

‘Spirit! ten thousand years
Have scarcely passed away,
Since in the waste, where now the savage drinks
His enemy’s blood, and, aping Europe’s sons,
Wakes the unholy song of war…’

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Robert Browning: Selections on peace and war

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