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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

January 19, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

 

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

 

Mary Robinson: Dread-destructive power of war

Mary Robinson: Impetuous War, the lord of slaughter

Mary Robinson: The soldier sheds, for gold, a brother’s blood

Mary Robinson: Spread once more the fostering rays of Peace

Mary Robinson: The wise shall bid, too late, the sacred olive rise

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Categories: Uncategorized

Vernon Lee: Satan’s rules of war

January 18, 2018 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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Vernon Lee (Violet Paget)
From The Ballet of the Nations

For, whereas the Ballet had begun with the tender radiance of an August sunset above half-harvested fields, where the reaping machines hummed peacefully among the corn-stooks and the ploughs cut into the stubble, the progress of the performance had seen the deep summer starlit vault lit up by the flare of distant blazing farms, and its blue flamelit smoke and poisonous vapours, rising and sinking, coming forward and receding like a stifling fog, but ever growing denser and more blinding, and swaying obedient to Death’s baton no less than did the bleeding Nations of his Corps-de-Ballet. In and out of that lurid chasm they moved, by twos or threes, now lost to view in the billows of darkness, now issuing thence towards the Ballet-Master’s desk; or suddenly revealed, clasped in terrific embrace, by the meteor-curve of a shell or the leaping flame of an exploding munition-magazine, while overhead fluttered and whirred great wings which showered down bomb-lightnings. Backwards and forwards moved the Dancers in that changing play of light and darkness, and undergoing uncertain and fearful changes of aspect.

Since, you should know, that Nations, contrary to the opinion of Politicians, are immortal. Just as the Gods of Valhalla could slash each other to ribbons after breakfast and resurrect for dinner, so every Nation can dance Death’s Dance however much bled and maimed, dance upon stumps, or trail itself along, a living jelly of blood and trampled flesh, providing only it has its Head fairly unhurt. And that Head, which each ceased being prostrate on the ground) is very properly helmetted, and rarely gets so much as a scratch, so that it can continue to catch the Ballet-Master’s eye, and order the Nation’s body to put forth fresh limbs, and, even when that is impossible, keep its stump dancing ever new figures in obedience or disobedience to what are called the Rules of War. This being the case, Death kept up the dance regardless of the state of the Dancers, and also of the state of the Stage, which was such that, what between blood and entrails and heaps of devastated properties, it was barely possible to move even a few yards.

Yet dance they did, lopping each others’ limbs and blinding one another with spirts of blood and pellets of human flesh. And as they appeared and disappeared in the moving wreaths of fiery smoke, they lost more and more of their original shape, becoming, in that fitful light, terrible uncertain forms, armless, legless, recognisable for human only by their irreproachable-looking heads which they carried stiff and high even while crawling and staggering along, lying in wait, and leaping and rearing and butting as do fighting animals; until they became, with those decorous, well-groomed faces, mere unspeakable hybrids between man and beast, those who had come on to the stage so erect and beautiful. For the Ballet of the Nations, when Satan gets it up regardless of expense, is an unsurpassed spectacle of transformations, such as must be witnessed to be believed in.

Thus on they danced their stranger and stranger antics. And, as they appeared by turns in that chaos of flame and darkness, each of those Dancing Nations kept invoking Satan, crying out to him, “Help me, my own dear Lord.” But they called him by Another Name.

And Satan, that creative Connoisseur, rejoiced in his work and saw that it was very good.

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Mary Robinson: Impetuous War, the lord of slaughter

January 17, 2018 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

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From Lines to the Rev. J. Whitehouse

Next, o’er the wondering throng impetuous War,
The lord of slaughter, roll’d his brazen car!
A flaming brand the red-eyed monster held,
And waved it high in air, and madly yell’d!
While Horror bathed in agonizing dew,
Before his rattling wheels distracted flew;
Down his gaunt breast fast stream’d the scalding tear,
And now he groan’d aloud, now shrunk with fear;
His humid front was crown’d with bristling hair,
His glance was frenzy, and his voice, despair!

***

Though Envy’s eye, or Hate’s remorseless rage,
May strive to dim the philosophic page;
Though War’s hot breath may blast the wreath of Fame;
Immortal Time shall consecrate thy name.

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William Watson: Dream of perfect peace

January 16, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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William Watson
From Peace and War

So, betwixt peace and war man’s life is cast;
Yet hath he dreamed of perfect peace at last
Shepherding all the nations ev’n as sheep.

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Mary Robinson: The soldier sheds, for gold, a brother’s blood

January 14, 2018 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

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From The Foster-Child

Then Fancy led him to the battle’s rage,
Where flush’d ambition rear’d its sanguine crest,
Where men with men, like tigers, fierce engage.
The brother’s sword against the brother’s breast…

And then he raised his eyes to Heaven, and bless’d;
For blood had never stain’d his trembling hand,
But holy Innocence, by Pity drest,
Spurning the pride of insolent command…

“The soldier sheds, for gold, a brother’s blood;
The sons of Rapine revel wild in joys;
For gold the sailor ploughs the billowy flood;
The statesman barters for Ambition’s toys…”

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Mary Robinson: Spread once more the fostering rays of Peace

January 11, 2018 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

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From Ode to the 19th of January 1794

No more,Reflection, sorrowing maid,
O’er Reason cast thy awful veil;
Where Mirth, in careless garb array’d,
And smiles, and thoughtless jests prevail.
For shouldst thou trace, with pensive mien,
The fatal agonizing scene
Where legions wade through human gore,
And death shoots swift from shore to shore!
The splendid glare of revelry would fade,
And all its phantoms sink in sorrow’s whelming shade.

For Fancy might, perchance, descry
The wo which Pleasure’s tribe ne’er saw,
The bleeding breast, the phrenzied eye,
That chill the soul with fearful awe.
Fancy might paint the embattled plain,
The shrieking wife, the breathless swain,
The blazing cot, the houseless child,
Driven on Misfortune’s rugged wild!
And Truth might whisper to the pondering mind,
“Such is the chequered lot of half the human kind!”

***

Come, soft-eyed Hope! in spotless vest,
Come, and our brows with olive deck!
Bathe with thy balm the human breast,
And rear new charms on Nature’s wreck;
Bid drooping Commerce thrive again;
Spread rapture o’er the rustic plain;
Wash with the spring from Mercy’s eye
The blood that bids the laurel die!
And spread once more around this favoured isle
The fostering rays of Peace, and bid fair Freedom smile!

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From Lines to the Rev. J. Whitehouse

In this dread era! when the Muse’s train
Shrink from the horrors of th’ embattled plain;
When all that Grecian elegance could boast,
‘Midst the loud thunders of the scene, is lost!
As one vast flame, with force electric hurl’d,
Grasps the roused legions of th’ enlightened world;
The bard, neglected, droops upon his lyre,
And all the thrills of poesy expire! –
Save where the melting melody of verse
Steals in slow murmurs round the soldier’s hearse,
While o’er the rugged sod that shields his clay
Soft pity chants the consecrated lay!
For, ah! no more can Fancy’s livelier art
Light the dim eye or animate the heart
Can all the tones that harmony e’er knew
The sigh suppress, the gushing tear subdue!
No charm she owns the bleeding breast to bind,
The breast that palpitates for human kind.
Thus did Reflection o’er each wounded sense
Pour the strong tide, of Reason’s eloquence!
As, ‘midst the scene of desolating wo,
She mark’d, aghast! the purple torrent’s flow!
Man against man opposed, with furious rage,
To blur with kindred gore life’s little stage;
While high above the thickening legions stood
Dark-brew’d Revenge! bathed in a nation’s blood.

Categories: Uncategorized

Mary Robinson: Dread-destructive power of war

January 10, 2018 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

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Ode to Vanity

Thy light hand plumes the warrior’s brow,
Decks e’en fierce War with tinsel show,
E’en in the tented fields thy banners flow,
To thee illustrious chieftains bow;
‘Tis thy capricious influence forms
All that mad ambition warms;
The laurel wreath, though steep’d in blood,
Placed by thy fickle hand, appears
Radiant as the sunny spheres,
When morn’s proud beams roll in a golden flood.

Ah, Vanity! avert thine eye;
Check thy fell exulting joy;
With burning drops thy flush’d cheek lave,
Nor gloat upon the carnaged brave;
For what can trophied wreaths supply,
To drown the desolating cry,
That, o’er th’empurpled fields afar,
Proclaims the dread-destructive power of war?

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From Ode to Humanity

O blest Humanity! ’tis thine
To shed consoling balm divine
Wide o’er the groaning race beneath ;
And when fell Slaughter lifts her wreath,
Let the laurel bough appear,
Gemm’d with Pity’s holy tear;
Let it moisten every bud,
Glowing, hot with human blood!
And when no crimson tint remains,
When no foul blush its lustre stains…

Mark, oh ! mark the tented plains
Where exulting Discord reigns;
Flush’ d with rage, her panting breast,
Her eye with ruthless lightnings stored,
She lifts her never-failing sword,
With wreathes of withering laurel drest.

By her side, in proud array,
Ambition stalks, with restless soul;
Maddening Vengeance leads the way;
Her giant crest disdains control;
Triumphantly she waves her iron hand,
While her red pinions sweep the desolated land!
See, beneath her murderous wing,
Howling famine seems to cling!
Feeding on the putrid breeze,
Her wither’d heart begins to freeze!
With sullen eye she scowls around,
O’er the barren hostile ground;

Where once the golden harvest waved;
Where the clustering vineyard rose,
By many a lucid streamlet laved;
Now the purple torrent flows!

***

Haste, Humanity! prepare
Chains to quell the fiend Despair;
Round pale Vengeance swiftly twine;
Discord bind in spells divine!
Now where Famine droops her head,
Reason’s balmy banquet spread;
And where the blood-stain’d laurel dies,
Oh! let the olive bloom, the favourite of the skies!

Categories: Uncategorized

Helen Maria Williams: Now burns the savage soul of war

January 9, 2018 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

Helen Maria Williams: Heaven-born peace

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Helen Maria Williams
From An Ode on the Peace

Now burns the savage soul of war,
While terror flashes from his eyes,
Lo! waving o’er his fiery car
Aloft his bloody banner flies:
The battle wakes – with awful sound
He thunders o’er the echoing ground,
He grasps his reeking blade, while streams of blood
Tinge the vast plain, and swell the purple flood.

***

And lo! a radiant stream of light
Defending, gilds the murky cloud,
Where Desolation’s gloomy night
Retiring, folds her sable shroud;
It flashes o’er the bright’ning deep,
It softens Britain’s frowning steep –
‘Tis mild benignant Peace, enchanting form!
That gilds the black abyss, that lulls the storm.

So thro’ the dark, impending sky,
Where clouds, and fallen vapours roll’d,
Their curling wreaths dissolving fly
As the faint hues of light unfold –
The air with spreading azure streams,
The sun now darts his orient beams –
And now the mountains glow – the woods are bright –
While nature hails the season of delight.

Mild Peace! from Albion’s fairest bowers
Pure spirit! cull with snowy hands,
The buds that drink the morning showers,
And bind the realms in flow’ry bands:
Thy smiles the angry passions chase,
Thy glance is pleasure’s native grace;
Around thy form th’ exulting virtues move,
And thy soft call awakes the strain of love.

Bless, all ye powers! the patriot name
That courts fair Peace, thy gentle stay;
Ah! gild with glory’s light, his fame,
And glad his life with pleasure’s ray!
While, like th’ affrighted dove, thy form
Still shrinks, and fears some latent storm,
His cares shall sooth thy panting soul to rest,
And spread thy vernal couch on Albion’s breast.

***

No more the sanguine wreath shall twine
On the lost hero’s early tomb,
But hung around thy simple shrine
Fair Peace! shall milder glories bloom.
Lo! commerce lifts her drooping head
Triumphal, Thames! from thy deep bed;
And bears to Albion, on her sail sublime,
The riches Nature gives each happier clime.

***

Yet hide the sabre’s hideous glare
Whose edge is bath’d in streams of blood,
The lance that quivers high in air,
And falling drinks a purple flood;
For Britain! fear shall seize thy foes,
While freedom in thy senate glows,
While peace shall smile upon thy cultur’d plain,
With grace and beauty her attendant train.

***

Enlight’ning Peace! for thine the hours
That wisdom decks in moral grace,
And thine invention’s fairy powers,
The charm improv’d of nature’s face;
Propitious come! in silence laid
Beneath thy olive’s grateful shade,
Pour the mild bliss that sooths the tuneful mind,
And in thy zone the hostile spirit bind.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Mary Robinson: The wise shall bid, too late, the sacred olive rise

January 8, 2018 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

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Monody

When the dark demons of destructive ire
No more shall see devoted hosts expire;
When, o’er the desolated clime, the wise
Shall bid, too late, the sacred olive rise –
Then Justice shall the dreary spot illume
Where Pity lingers on the martyr’s tomb…

Trims the day hearth, and, as the faggots blaze,
Chants the old ditty of his grandsire’s days;
While his fond mate the homely meal prepares,
Smiles on his board and dissipates his cares.
No more, amidst the simple village throng,
He joins the sportive dance, the merry song;
Now, torn from those, he quits his native wood,
Braves the dread front of war, and pants for blood!
Now, to his reap-hook and his pastoral reed,
The crimson’d pike and glittering sword succeed !
His russet garb, now changed for trappings vain;
His rushy pillow, for the tented plain.

***

From Solitude

The wreath of fame, imbued with human gore;
And, worst of all – O agonizing thought!
The paltry boast of treasure, wrung, alas,
From the torn bosom of the hapless slave,
The wretched offspring of a fiercer sun!
For these, he wields the desolating sword;
Quits the dear mansion of domestic peace;
The loved companions of his native home;
The social comforts, .and the calm delights,
That thronging round the blazing hearth, beguile
The tardy winter’s night: for these he dares
The poisonous vapours of infected climes.
The torrid ray, or the pernicious blasts
Of petrifying Lapland’s cheerless skies!
For these he wanders for, o’er unknown seas,
To tame the tribes barbarian, or explore
The sad variety of human woes.
Oh! blind, misguided, and mistaken man!
To leave the garden of luxurious sweets,
And wander ‘midst a desert, fraught with thorns.

****

From The Progress of Melancholy

While horror, maddening, conjures up an host
Of spectres gaunt; of chiefs, whose mould’ring bones
Have slept beneath the green-sod where they fell,
Till village legends scarcely say – they died!
Now from their prison-graves again they start,
Hurling the airy javelin on the foe;
And now they rush, in mighty legions, on;
Now from the lengthening columns fiercely brave;
And now the broken ranks disorder’d fly,
Pale as the silvery beam that marks their course;
And now the breathless heaps bestrew the plain,
While on their mangled limbs the batter’d shield
Gleams horrible; as through the indented steel
The life-stream gushes from the recent wound!
The groan of death fills up the dreadful pause;
Sad, and more sad, it echoes o’er the scene,
Till, oft repeated, the deep murmur dies!
The cherish’d poison, now more potent grown,
Riots o’er all the faculties at will;
Strong in conceit, with fascination fraught,
Painfully pleasing. As the fever burns
The consciousness of misery recedes;
Till, fill’d with horror, Reason’s barrier fails,
And Frenzy triumphs o’er the infected brain!

Categories: Uncategorized

William J. Locke: Following war

January 6, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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William J. Locke
From The Lengthened Shadow

There was a laxity in the moral code, all the more dangerous for being disavowed in practice, but proclaimed with disconcerting
freedom as a philosophical theory. She disdained the speciousness…

Ardently seeking to touch rock-bottom, Suzanne found nothing but hard materialism, a negation of sentiment, save that of self-maintenance at the present standard of physical comfort. It was as though the volcanic eruptions of the war had hardened into unbreakable lava beneath which their souls were infinitely and damnably buried.

***

Of course the flower of French youth, her contemporaries, lay dead, over a million; but there were millions of survivors in France who ought to be found, like colours in a sunset, in every social sphere…

“The old France, my dear Suzanne, to which you belong and to which I wish with all my heart Fate had ordained me to belong,” said Moordius, replying to some such question, “is mourning its children, nursing its wounds, making the most of its impoverished resources, keeping, in the darkness of its cave, its claw upon such spoils as it has seized and glaring at other hungry nations who might threaten to rob her…”

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Charlotte Dacre: Peace

January 5, 2018 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

Charlotte Dacre: War

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Charlotte Dacre
Peace

Return, sweet Peace, and shed thy glories round,
And spread thy fair wings o’er a troubled isle;
No more let carnage stain the fruitful ground,
And blood the works of Heaven’s hand defile.

Shall Discord drive thee, mild-ey’d nymph, away?
And Faction strike thee with its ruthless hand?
Shall Havoc mock thee on the crimson’d way,
Confusion reign, and Ruin grinning stand?

Shall Famine point its all-consuming sword?
And Misery reach the sunny cottage door?
Shall naught remain to deck the frugal board,
Or bless the humble offspring of the poor?

Must the sad widow weep her loss in vain?
The little orphan vainly ask for bread?
Yet still shall strife and sanction’d murder reign,
And scalding tears be still unheeded shed?

Categories: Uncategorized

Felicia Hemans: War and Peace

January 4, 2018 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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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

‘High the peaceful streamers wave!
‘Lo!’ they sing, ‘we come to save!
‘Come to smile on ev’ry shore,
‘Truth and Eden to restore!
‘Come, the balm of joy to bring,
‘Borne on softest gales of spring!
‘Rapture! swell the choral voice,
‘Favor’d earth! rejoice, rejoice!

‘Now the work of death is o’er,
‘Sleep, thou sword! to wake no more!
‘Never more Ambition’s hand
‘Shall wave thee o’er a trembling land!

‘Never more, in hopeless anguish,
‘Caus’d by thee, shall virtue languish!
‘Rapture! swell the choral voice,
‘Favor’d earth, rejoice, rejoice!

‘Cease to flow, thou purple flood,
‘Cease to fall, ye tears of blood!
‘Swell no more the clarion’s breath,
‘Wake no more the song of death!
‘Rise, ye hymns of concord, rise,
‘Incense, worthy of the skies!
‘Wake the Pæan, tune the voice,
‘Favor’d earth, rejoice, rejoice!

‘Nature, smile! thy vivid grace,
‘Now no more shall war deface;
‘Airs of spring, oh! sweetly breathe,
‘Summer! twine thy fairest wreath!
‘Not the warrior’s bier to spread,
‘Not to crown the victor’s head;

‘But with flowers of every hue,
‘Love and mercy’s path to strew!
‘Swell to heaven the choral voice,
‘Favor’d earth! rejoice, rejoice!

‘Sleep, Ambition! rage, expire!
‘Vengeance! fold thy wing of fire!
‘Close thy dark and lurid eye,
‘Bid thy torch, forsaken, die!
‘Furl thy banner, waving proud,
‘Dreadful as the thunder-cloud!
‘Shall destruction blast the plain?
‘Shall the falchion rage again?
‘Shall the sword thy bands dissever?
‘Never, sweet Affection! never!
‘As the halcyon o’er the ocean,
‘Lulls the billow’s wild commotion,
‘So we bid dissension cease.
‘Bloom, O Amaranth of peace!’

***

Let peace on earth resound from heav’n once more,
And angel-harps th’ exulting anthems pour;
While faith, and truth, and holy wisdom bind,
One hallow’d zone – to circle all mankind!

Categories: Uncategorized

Charlotte Dacre: War

January 3, 2018 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

Charlotte Dacre: Peace

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Charlotte Dacre
War

See bloody Discord lift her envious head,
And shake the hissing serpents from her hair:
Then o’er the earth see wild Confusion spread,
And hast’ning evils beckon to Despair.

Who now with cheerfulness shall smiling toil,
And happy view the children of his care?
Say, who with industry shall dress the soil,
For whom the wife her frugal store prepare?

Must the delight which deck’d the honest brow,
The tender father sad and silent droop?
The smile contented, and the healthful glow,
Alike be banish’d from the guiltless group?

Wild with despair, the mournful father flies
To gain or death or glory in the field,
Distracted fights, to still his children’s cries,
And nobly bleeds, the bitter bread to yield.

The widow’s tears must wet the harden’d ground,
The scanty crust in tears his offspring steep;
Yet ceaseless still, no end those tears have found;
For Father, Husband, Friend, they have to weep.

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Isabella Banks: Absolve our souls from blood shed in our country’s cause

December 30, 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

Isabella Banks: The bugle of war, the bugle of peace

Isabella Banks: “Glory, glory, glory!” As if murder were not sin!

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

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Isabella Banks

From The Minstrel’s Meed

A minstrel lifted his voice on high:
Full in the ears of the gathering throng,
A pean of war and victory,
Like the blast of a trumpet, rolled along;
And fierce and fast did the pulses beat,
To the time and tune of that martial strain,
Of every man in the crowded street;
But a woman wept, she thought of the slain.

***

From Thanksgiving at Sea

“Now, let us bend in prayer.”
Well disciplined, they kneel
As though one heart throbbed there
Within those frames of steel:
“O Ruler of the flood,
Of nations, kings, and laws,
Absolve our souls from blood
Shed in our country’s cause.”

***

From The Creaking Door

Not even the maiden’s dainty nest
Sacred from their unhallowed quest.
And, wherever they go, there is clamour and clang,
And doors are opened and shut with a bang,
And riot is master, where peace was lord,
Riot that comes where the law is the sword.

***

From The Owl’s Flight

All sights and sounds that filled the air
Were of havoc, slaughter, and despair
The clash of weapons, the shriek of pain,
The victors’ shout o’er the ghastly slain,
As tongues of flame licked up the gore
That ran in streams on each oaken floor.

 

 

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Isabella Banks: The bugle of war, the bugle of peace

December 29, 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

Isabella Banks: Absolve our souls from blood shed in our country’s cause

Isabella Banks: “Glory, glory, glory!” As if murder were not sin!

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

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Isabella Banks
The Bugle Call

Hark! ’tis the bugle, the bugle of War!
Banners are flying, and sabres unsheath;
Rifles and bayonets gleam from afar;
Cannon drive lumbering over the heath;
Bustle and stir from the east to the west;
Marching of troops from the north to the south;
Spectacled grandams, and babes at the breast,
Press for the last time the warrior’s mouth;
Wives from mute husbands are torn with a wrench;
Men steel their hearts ‘mid the clangour of arms;
Spades turn from tillage to dig and entrench,
And beauty to glory surrenders its charms,
At the blast of the bugle, the bugle of War!

Hark! ’tis the bugle, the bugle of War!
Sabres are clashing, and banners are rent;
Rifles are cracking and blazing afar;
Skies to the cannon their thunders have lent.
There’s neighing of chargers and trampling of hoofs,
As they beat on the limbs and the faces of men;
There’s shrieking of women, and flaming of roofs,
And crashing of trees that will ne’er rise again.
The God-given harvest beat down and accurst,
Trod with the vintage of blood into mire;
Pillage, and slaughter, and crime of the worst,
Riot and rampant – all passions afire –
At the bray of the bugle, the bugle of War!

Hark! ’tis the bugle, the bugle of Peace!
Sounds o’er the battle-field over the slain,
Hushes the strife, bids artillery cease,
Thrills through the dying stretched out on the plain.
Hark! how the call rings o’er valley and hill! ”
Light bivouac fires weary warriors, rest! ”
Up, tender-eyed Pity, to save, not to kill;
Go forth on thy errand, the blessing and blest!
Softly, white snow wreathes a shroud for the dead,
A mantle to hide the red deed War has done;
Stern foemen shake hands where their fellows have bled,
And mercy can breathe now the battle is done
In the note of the bugle, the bugle of Peace!

Categories: Uncategorized

Harriet King: Life is Peace

December 28, 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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Harriet King

From A Canticle of Pentecost

Spirit of Peace art Thou, for Thou art Life,
And Life is Peace, – eternal, changeless, one:
Death is division, change, and war; – the strife
Of force with force: – Thy reign hath not begun.

***

But still Death wars on Life, Death is not slain,
Still are we subject to the body of death:
O Spirit, O sweet Spirit, may Thy reign
Come quickly, – long, too long it tarrieth.

***

The empire of the Spirit lost to them,
Exiles in Babylon, flesh-bound in their fall.
Dimly remembering their Jerusalem,
Their city of Peace, the Mother of us all.

***

O Dove, that bearing still the olive leaf,
Returnest ever to Thy ark below.
Asking but harbourage,- what can be our grief
Possessing Thee, but lest we let Thee go ?

====

From Execution of Felice Orsini

Not a conqueror’s State entry,
With his armies marching back
Under triumphal arches,
A glittering scarlet track,
When the wide streets glare in sunshine,
And the bells ring out all day.
And the people shout together.
Knowing not what they say: –
Only a winter’s morning,
Crowds standing silent by,
A prison and a scaffold,
And a man brought out to die.

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Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

December 27, 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

Isabella Banks: Absolve our souls from blood shed in our country’s cause

Isabella Banks: The bugle of war, the bugle of peace

Isabella Banks: “Glory, glory, glory!” As if murder were not sin!

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Isabella Banks
A Christmas Carol

Ring the bells out! far and wide
Send the echoes o’er the tide,
Telling to remotest earth
Death is vanquished, Hope has birth.

Ring the bells out! let them peal
Christ is born our wounds to heal;
Christ is born, the Prince of Peace;
Lay down weapons, war should cease.

Ring the bells out! let them sound
Wheresoever guilt is found,
Where are mourners by a grave;”
Christ is born the lost to save.”

Ring the bells out ! let them bear
Christ’s glad message through the air,
Every angry thought to still –
“Peace on earth, to man good-will.”

Ring the bells out ! let them chase
Darkness from the saddest face;
Life eternal Light is born
With our Christ this joyous morn.

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Isabella Banks: “Glory, glory, glory!” As if murder were not sin!

December 26, 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

Isabella Banks: Absolve our souls from blood shed in our country’s cause

Isabella Banks: The bugle of war, the bugle of peace

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

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Isabella Banks (Mrs. G. Linnaeus Banks)
From The Mystery of Life’s Battle

I hear neighing, I hear braying from the trumpet’s clamorous throat;
See the warriors’ dread arraying, hear the cannon’s thund’rous note;
See the flashing, hear the clashing of the swords that meet and smite;
Hear the crimson torrent splashing through the darkness and the light.

I hear moaning, I hear groaning, I hear hoof-beats on the plain
Chargers trampling (no one owning) on the living and the slain.
I hear wailing unavailing o’er the dying and the dead,
See the widow’s cold lips paling as she lifts a gory head.

I see traces on all faces of a battle lost and won;
Ask, “Whom victory disgraces? What the gain when all is done?”
I hear “Glory, glory, glory!” for an answer ‘mid the din,
That old and worn-out story as if murder were not sin!

And I ponder, as I wander o’er the battle-field of Life,
On all the good we squander in its everlasting strife;
All the sadness and the madness of the universal creed,
That, for one man’s gain or gladness, it is needful many bleed.

 

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Caroline Clive: The bloody words of ruffian war

December 25, 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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Caroline Clive

From Beaten to Death

Worse than if battle laid their treasure low,
For they court death who give their sons to war!

***

The First Morning of 1860

One evening ‘mid the summer flown
Has stamped my memory more than any;
It pass’d us by among the many,
And yet it stands there, all alone.

We sate without our open’d room,
While fell the eve’s transparent shade;
The out-door world, all warmth and bloom,
To us a summer parlour made.

The garden’s cultivated grace,
The luxury of neatness round,
The careless amplitude of space,
The fountain with perpetual sound,

Told of a state through many years
Serenely safe in doing well;
And while we sate, there struck our ears
The summons of the evening bell.

It call’d to food, it call’d to rest,
The many whom the rich man’s dome
Had gathered in its ample breast,
To them and him alike a home.

That very hour, was thund’ring o’er
A neighbouring land the tramp of War
Which stalk’d along the lovely shore,
Its shapes to blast, its sounds to mar.

The pang my bosom rudely beat.
What if that fate our own had been?
What if or victory or defeat
Had wrapp’d us in its woe and sin?

What if it still our fate should be?
And the safe hours, enjoy’d like this.
Amid our home-scenes safe and free
Should be the passing year of bliss?

The new one on the lectern lies,
Its leaves the turning hand await;
Those fresh unopened leaves comprise
Th’ unread, but written words of Fate.

O God! what are they? if they be
The bloody words of ruffian war,
Grant us success! – but rather far
Avert the scourge of victory!

Too dear the price! Ah! human forms
Of guardian husbands, precious sons
Once children, hid from smallest harms
Of mind and body, cherished ones!

Shall ye stand up, the gallant mark
Of the brute shot and iron rod.
And man’s frame, exquisite in work,
Be treated like earth’s common clod?

Shall England’s polish’d glory, pure
In freedom, wisdom, high estate,
Her open Bible, and her poor
Becoming one with rich and great, –

Shall these high things be but the aim
Of envious men in rough affray,
To try against the noble frame
Their brutal skill to rob and slay?

Forbid it, Thou, who to the strong
And wise hast might and counsel lent;
And lead’st them danger’s path along,
Audacious, firm, and confident.

Forbid it. Thou, who to the weak
Permittest to be strong in prayer;
From Whom we wives and mothers seek
Peace to endow the new-born year.

***

From The Grave

I saw whole cities, that in flood or fire
Or famine or the plague, gave up their breath;
Whole armies whom a day beheld expire,
By thousands swept into the arms of Death.

***

All that have died, the earth’s whole race, repose
Where Death collects his treasures, heap on heap;
O’er each one’s busy day the night shades close
Its actors, sufferers, schools, kings, armies – sleep.

====

From I Watched the Skies

And there the conqueror, who on earth had fought
To make himself a name, stood nameless by;
One spot of earth had been the prize he sought,
Whose whole self now had faded from the sky;
And round through that existence infinite.
He, restless, turn’d his ever-wand’ring sight,
Gazing through worlds which shone with countless flame.
For that within whose orb he left his fame;
But none that Fame remembered, and he grew
A vacant wand’rer, past remembrance riven;
Save when some giber of the demon crew
Mock’d at the homage he on earth had given.

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John Galsworthy: Rivers of blood and tears. When would killing go out of fashion?

December 24, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From Soames and the Flag

Twelve o’clock! [November 11, 1918] They’d have finished praying now and got to the sermon. He pitied that parson – preaching about the Philistines, he shouldn’t wonder! There were the jawbones of asses about, plenty, but not a Samson among the lot of them. The gorse – it was early – looked pretty blooming round him – when the gorse was out of bloom, kissing was out of fashion. He wondered idly what had to go out of bloom before killing was out of fashion. There was a hawk! He stood and watched it hover and swoop sideways, and the red glint of it, till again it rested hovering on the air; then slowly in the pale sunlight he wended his way down towards the river.

***

The clamour of bells and rejoicing penetrated the closed room, but Soames sat with his head sunk on his chest, still quivering all over. It was as if age-long repression of his feelings were taking revenge in this long, relaxed, quivering immobility. Out there, they would be dancing and shouting; laughing and drinking; praying and weeping. And Soames sat and quivered.

He got up at last and going to the sideboard, helped himself to a glass of his dead father’s old brown sherry. Then taking his overcoat and umbrella, he went out – he didn’t know why, or whither on earth.

He walked through quiet streets towards Piccadilly. When he passed people they smiled at him, and he didn’t like it – having to smile back. Some seemed to toss remarks at the air as they passed – talking to themselves, or to God, or what not. Every now and then somebody ran. He reached Piccadilly, and didn’t like it either – full of lorries and omnibuses crowded with people all cheering and behaving like fools. He crossed it, as quickly as possible, and went down through the Green Park, past the crowds in front of Buckingham Palace. He walked on to the Abbey and the Houses of Parliament – crowds there – crowds everywhere! He skirted them and kept on along the Embankment – he didn’t know why and he didn’t know where. From Blackfriars he moved up Citywards and reached Ludgate Hill. And suddenly he knew where he was going – St. Paul’s! There stood the dome, curved massive against the grey November sky, huge above the stir of flags and traffic, silent in the din of cheering and of bells. He walked up the steps and went in. He hadn’t been since the war began, and his visit now had no connection with God. He went because it was big and old and empty, and English, and because it reminded him. He walked up the aisle and stood looking at the roof of the dome. Christopher Wren! Good old English name! Good old quiet English stones and bones! No more sudden death, no more bombs, no more drowning ships, no more poor young devils taken from home and killed! Peace! He stood with his hands folded on the handle of his umbrella and his left knee flexed as if standing at ease; on his restrained pale face upturned was a look wistful and sardonic. Rivers of blood and tears! Why? A gleam of colour caught his eye. Flags! They couldn’t do without them even here! The Flag! Terrible thing – sublime and terrible – the Flag!

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Eleanor Farjeon: Now that you too join the vanishing armies

December 23, 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

Eleanor Farjeon: Peace Poem

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Eleanor Farjeon
Now That You Too

That you too must shortly go the way
Which in these bloodshot years uncounted men
Have gone in vanishing armies day by day,
And in their numbers will not come again:
I must not strain the moments of our meeting
Striving each look, each accent, not to miss,
Or question of our parting and our greeting,
Is this the last of all? is this – or this?

Last sight of all it may be with these eyes,
Last touch, last hearing, since eyes, hands, and ears,
Even serving love, are our mortalities,
And cling to what they own in mortal fears: –
But oh, let end what will, I hold you fast
By immortal love, which has no first or last.

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John Galsworthy: Would they never tire of making mincemeat of the world?

December 22, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From On Forsyte ‘Change

Scattered, scuttling images of war came flying across the screen of his consciousness like so many wild geese over the sand, over the sea, out of the darkness into the darkness of a layman’s mind; a layman who had thought in terms of peace all his days, and his days many. What a thing to happen to one at sixty!…

***

George, just a year younger than himself, had, it appeared, gone in for recruiting down in Hampshire; while spending the week-ends in town “to enjoy the air-raids,” as he put it…

“You’re thin as a lathe,” he said: “What are you doing – breeding for the country?”

Soames drew up the corner of his lip.

“That’s not funny,” he said tartly. “What are you doing?”

“Getting chaps killed. You’d better take to it, too. The blighters want driving, now.”

“Thank you,” said Soames; “not in my line.”

George grinned.

“Too squeamish?”

“If you like.”

“What’s your general game, then?”

“Minding my own business,” said Soames.

“Making the wills, eh?”

Soames put his cup down, and took his hat up. He had never disliked George more than at that moment.

“Don’t get your shirt out,” said George; “somebody must make the wills. You might make mine, by the way – equal shares to Roger, Eustace and Francie. Executors yourself and Eustace. Come and do an air-raid with me one night. Did you see St. John Hayman’s boy was killed? They say the Huns are preparing a big push for the spring.”

Soames shrugged.

“Good-bye,” he said; “I’ll send you a draft of your will.”

“Pitch it short,” said George, “and have me roasted. No bones by request.”

Soames nodded, and went out.

A big push! Would they never tire of making mincemeat of the world?…

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Charles Hamilton Sorley: When you see millions of the mouthless dead

December 21, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Charles Hamilton Sorley: The blind fight the blind

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Charles Hamilton Sorley
When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, “They are dead.” Then add thereto,
“Yet many a better one has died before.”
Then, scanning all the o’ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

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Alice Meynell: The true slayers are those who sire soldiers

December 20, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Alice Meynell
Parentage

“When Augustus Caesar legislated against the unmarried
citizens of Rome, he declared them to be, in some sort, slayers
of the people.”

Ah! no, not these!
These, who were childless, are not they who gave
So many dead unto the journeying wave,
The helpless nurslings of the cradling seas;
Not they who doomed by infallible decrees
Unnumbered man to the innumerable grave.

But those who slay
Are fathers. Theirs are armies. Death is theirs –
The death of innocences and despairs;
The dying of the golden and the grey.
The sentence, when these speak it, has no Nay.
And she who slays is she who bears, who bears.

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M. B. Smedley: Where is the ministry of peace?

December 19, 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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Menella Bute Smedley
From Cyril: Four Scenes From a Life

I hear and tremble. Wars on every side!
Contention seems the Church’s atmosphere;
What chance of growth in such tempestuous seas?
Where is the ministry of peace? What hope
Is broad enough to build on?

***

These shall cease from us, while the Ages keep
The silence and the splendour which they fed
Light, calm, beneficent, resistless Light.

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Thomas Pringle: Resistless swept the ranks of war, the murder-glutted scythe of death

December 18, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Pringle: After the slaughter, the feast

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From The Autumnal Excursion

Far to the westward stretching blue,
That frontier ridge, which erst defied
The invader’s march, or quelled his pride;
The bloody field, for many an age,
Of rival nations’ wasteful rage;
In later times a refuge given
To outlaws in the cause of Heaven.

***

From A Dream of Fairyland

Pale History unfolds her page –
Down from man’s primeval age,
Through the lapse of distant times,
Round the wide globe’s many climes.
Blotted with ten thousand crimes.
Still I view, where’er I scan,
Man himself a wolf to man;
Thirsting for his brother’s blood,
From Abel’s murder to the Flood –
From Nimrod’s huntings to the cry
That rent the horror-stricken sky,
When, yesterday, Napoleon’s car
Resistless swept the ranks of war,
And trampled Europe cowered beneath
The murder-glutted scythe of death.

***

From Verses on the Restoration of Despotism in Spain, in 1823

‘Tis the old tale! perfidious wars,
And forts and fields for tyrants gain’d;
And kings, and emperors, and czars,
Colleagued to hold mankind enchain’d.

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Thomas Hardy: The battle-god is god no more

December 17, 2017 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
The Sick God

I

In days when men had joy of war,
A God of Battles sped each mortal jar;
The peoples pledged him heart and hand,
From Israel’s land to isles afar.

II

His crimson form, with clang and chime,
Flashed on each murk and murderous meeting-time,
And kings invoked, for rape and raid,
His fearsome aid in rune and rhyme.

III

On bruise and blood-hole, scar and seam,
On blade and bolt, he flung his fulgid beam:
His haloes rayed the very gore,
And corpses wore his glory-gleam.

IV

Often an early King or Queen,
And storied hero onward, knew his sheen;
’Twas glimpsed by Wolfe, by Ney anon,
And Nelson on his blue demesne.

V

But new light spread. That god’s gold nimb
And blazon have waned dimmer and more dim;
Even his flushed form begins to fade,
Till but a shade is left of him.

VI

That modern meditation broke
His spell, that penmen’s pleadings dealt a stroke,
Say some; and some that crimes too dire
Did much to mire his crimson cloak.

VII

Yea, seeds of crescive sympathy
Were sown by those more excellent than he,
Long known, though long contemned till then –
The gods of men in amity.

VIII

Souls have grown seers, and thought out-brings
The mournful many-sidedness of things
With foes as friends, enfeebling ires
And fury-fires by gaingivings!

IX

He scarce impassions champions now;
They do and dare, but tensely – pale of brow;
And would they fain uplift the arm
Of that faint form they know not how.

X

Yet wars arise, though zest grows cold;
Wherefore, at whiles, as ’twere in ancient mould
He looms, bepatched with paint and lath;
But never hath he seemed the old!

XI

Let men rejoice, let men deplore.
The lurid Deity of heretofore
Succumbs to one of saner nod;
The Battle-god is god no more.

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Richard Furness: Selections on war

December 16, 2017 Leave a comment
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Vera Mary Brittain: August, 1914

December 15, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Vera Mary Brittain
August, 1914

God said, “Men have forgotten Me:
The souls that sleep shall wake again,
And blinded eyes must learn to see.”

So since redemption comes through pain
He smote the earth with chastening rod,
And brought destruction’s lurid reign;

But where His desolation trod
The people in their agony
Despairing cried, “There is no God.”

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Charles Hamilton Sorley: The blind fight the blind

December 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Charles Hamilton Sorley: When you see millions of the mouthless dead

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Charles Hamilton Sorley
To Germany

You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.
When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But until peace, the storm
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.
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Adela Florence Nicolson: Doubtless feasted the jackal and the kite

December 13, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Adela Florence Nicolson (Laurence Hope)
From Yasmini

“Doubtless, upon that western shore
With ripe fruit falling to the ground,
There dwells the Peace he hungered for,
The lovely Peace we never found.

“Then there came one with eager eyes
And keen sword, ready for the fray.
He missed the storms of Northern skies,
The reckless raid and skirmish gay!

“He rose from dreams of war’s alarms,
To make his daggers keen and bright,
Desiring, in my very arms,
The fiercer rapture of the fight!

“He left me soon; too soon, and sought
The stronger, earlier love again.
News reached me from the Cabul Court,
Afterwards nothing; doubtless slain.

“Doubtless his brilliant, haggard eyes,
Long since took leave of life and light,
And those lithe limbs I used to prize
Feasted the jackal and the kite.”

****

From Song of the Colours

Scarlet

Colour of War and Rage, of Pomp and Show,
Banners that flash, red flags that flaunt and glow,
Colour of Carnage, Glory, also Shame,
Raiment of women women may not name.

Strong am I, over strong, to eyes that tire,
In the hot hue of Rapine, Riot, Flame.
Death and Despair are black, War and Desire,
The two red cards in Life’s unequal game.

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Sarah Williams: Groaning for him they slew

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Sarah Williams

From “Honorably Discharged”

Many a field has been foughten
More for the fight’s own sake,
Than for the vict’ry gained, or a flag unstained.
Or for a cause at stake.

And I have seen, in the battle,
Men who were staunch and true,
Yet who turned aside when the foeman died,
Groaning for him they slew.

And, as I sit here and ponder.
Living the whole again,
I have sometimes thought.
Which is dearest bought
Victor’s or vanquished’s pain?

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From Snowdon to Vesuvius

But these men
They use not even this, their power of love;
And, after all these centuries of light,
Have still no rule of right for questions vext.
Save springing at each other’s throats like dogs.
Nay, I have known them meaner than the dogs.
Snarling and snarling, daring not to fight –
Whole nations, in their puny arrogance.
Vomiting evil words across the seas.
Until the air grew sulphurous with spite,
And cannon came to clear it.

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John Galsworthy: The war brought in ugliness

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From Swan Song

“It’s all very well,” he answered, “but our Indian friends didn’t live for four years in the trenches, or the fear thereof, for the sake of their faith. If they had, they couldn’t possibly have the feeling that it matters as much as they think it does. They might want to, but their feelers would be blunted. That’s what the war really did to us in Europe who were in the war.”

“That doesn’t make ‘faith’ any less interesting,” said Fleur, drily.

“Well, my dear, the prophets abuse us for being at loose ends, but can you have faith in a life force so darned extravagant that it makes mincemeat of you by the millions?”

****

He had come again to the Artillery Memorial; and for the second time he moved around it. No! A bit of a blot – it seemed to him, now – so literal and heavy! Would that great white thing help Consols to rise? Some thing with wings might, after all, have been preferable. Some encouragement to people to take shares or go into domestic service; help, in fact, to make life liveable, instead of reminding them all the time that they had already once been blown to perdition and might again be. Those Artillery fellows – he had read somewhere – loved their guns, and wanted to be reminded of them. But did anybody else love their guns, or want reminder? Not those Artillery fellows would look at this every day outside St. George’s Hospital, but Tom, Dick, Harry, Peter, Gladys, Joan and Marjorie. ‘Mistake!’ thought Soames; ‘and a pretty heavy one…’

***

To drive on and on, perhaps, was the thing for her. Perhaps, for all the world, now. To get away from something that couldn’t be got away from – ever since the war – driving on! When you couldn’t have what you wanted, and yet couldn’t let go; and drove, on and on, to dull the aching. Resignation – like painting – was a lost art; or so it seemed to Soames, as they passed the graveyard where he expected to be buried someday.

***

“In my belief,” he went on, desperately, “there’ll be none of this modern painting in ten years’ time – they can’t go on for ever juggling in the air. They’ll be sick of experiments by then, unless we have another war.”

“It wasn’t the war.”

“How d’you mean – not the war? The war brought in ugliness, and put everyone into a hurry. You don’t remember before the war.”

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Margaret L. Woods: The forgotten slain

December 10, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Margaret L. Woods
From The Lost Comrades

Far are they scattered, either lonely lying,
Or on the hard hillside among the ranks of slain;
Long on his fever-bed one has lain a-dying,
One rose up and fell with a bullet in his brain.
Patiently they’re sleeping,
And there’s no more weeping
All weeping ends when weeping is in vain.
Soon are their gravestones worn with sun and rain,
And soon are they forgotten, the young, young faces.

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Richard Furness: Whatever monster rose to mar the happiness of earth by war

December 9, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Richard Furness: Selections on war

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Richard Furness
From Midas

Midas, a Phrygian king of old,
Could by a touch turn aught to gold;
Did I possess such power, and could
Turn this or that to what I would,
Whatever monster rose to mar
The happiness of earth by war,
To stain with blood his reckless path,
To please his pride, or glut his wrath,
To raise on human woe his tyrant throne –
I’d turn that hated monster into stone.

***

Peace! thou are beautiful and blest.
War! thou art horrible. The breast
That fosters not one wish of ill,
That makes the weal of man its will;
That sees itself in every face.
Makes brethren all the human race…

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George Chapman: Peace with all her heavenly seed

December 8, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

George Chapman: Men’s want of peace, which was from want of love

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George Chapman
From The Tears of Peace

So making peace with God, doth differ far
From clerics that go with God and man to war.

***

Hate, War, and Massacre; uncrowned
Toil; And Sickness, t’ all the rest the base and
foil, Crept after; and his deadly weight, trod down
Wealth, Beauty, and the glory of a Crown.

***

Peace made us enter here secure of all;
Where, in a cave that through a rock did eat,
The monster Murther held his impious seat:
A heap of panting harts supported him,
On which he sat gnawing a reeking limb
Of some man newly murther’d.
As he ate, His grave-digg’d brows, like stormy eaves did sweat;
Which, like incensed fens, with mists did smoke;
His hide was rugged as an aged oak
With heathy leprosies; that still he fed
With hot, raw limbs, of men late murthered.
His face was like a meteor, flashing blood;
His head all bristled, like a thorny wood;
His neck cast wrinkles, like a sea enraged;
And in his vast arms was the world engaged
Bathing his hands in every cruel deed…

***

How her divine Oration did move
For th’ unredeemed loss of Human Love;
Object man’s future state to reason’s eye;
The soul’s infusion, immortality;
And prove her forms firm, that are here impress’d,
How her admired strains wrought on every breast;
And made the woods cast their immanity
Up to the air; that did to cities fly
In fuel for them; and, in clouds of smoke,
Ever hang over them; cannot be spoke;
Nor how to Human Love, to Earth now given,
A lightning stoop’d and ravish’d him to heaven,
And with him Peace with all her heavenly seed:
Whose outward Rapture made me inward bleed;
Nor can I therefore my intention keep,
Since Tears want words and words want tears to weep.

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Thomas Hardy: How long must your wroth reasonings trade on lives like these?

December 7, 2017 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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Departure
(Southampton Docks: October, 1899)

While the far farewell music thins and fails,
And the broad bottoms rip the bearing brine –
All smalling slowly to the gray sea line –
And each significant red smoke-shaft pales,
Keen sense of severance everywhere prevails,
Which shapes the late long tramp of mounting men
To seeming words that ask and ask again:
“How long, O striving Teutons, Slavs, and Gaels
Must your wroth reasonings trade on lives like these,
That are as puppets in a playing hand? –
When shall the saner softer polities
Whereof we dream, have play in each proud land,
And patriotism, grown Godlike, scorn to stand
Bondslave to realms, but circle earth and seas?”
As if they knew not that they weep the while.

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John Pierpont: Not on the Battle-Field

December 6, 2017 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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John Pierpont
Not on the Battle-Field

“To fall on the battle-field fighting for my dear country,—that would not be hard.” – The Neighbors

O no, no, – let me lie
Not on a field of battle when I die!
Let not the iron tread
Of the mad war-horse crush my helmèd head;
Nor let the reeking knife,
That I have drawn against a brother’s life,
Be in my hand when Death
Thunders along, and tramples me beneath
His heavy squadron’s heels,
Or gory felloes of his cannon’s wheels.

From such a dying bed,
Though o’er it float the stripes of white and red,
And the bald eagle brings
The clustered stars upon his wide-spread wings
To sparkle in my sight,
O, never let my spirit take her flight!

I know that beauty’s eye
Is all the brighter where gay pennants fly,
And brazen helmets dance,
And sunshine flashes on the lifted lance;
I know that bards have sung,
And people shouted till the welkin rung,
In honor of the brave
Who on the battle-field have found a grave;
I know that o’er their bones
How grateful hands piled monumental stones.
Some of those piles I’ve seen:
The one at Lexington upon the green
Where the first blood was shed,
And to my country’s independence led;
And others, on our shore,
The “Battle Monument” at Baltimore,
And that on Bunker’s Hill.
Ay, and abroad, a few more famous still;
Thy “tomb,” Themistocles,
That looks out yet upon the Grecian seas,
And which the waters kiss
That issue from the gulf of Salamis.
And thine, too, have I seen,
Thy mound of earth, Patroclus, robed in green,
That, like a natural knoll,
Sheep climb and nibble over as they stroll,
Watched by some turbaned boy,
Upon the margin of the plain of Troy.
Such honors grace the bed,
I know, whereon the warrior lays his head,
And hears, as life ebbs out,
The conquered flying, and the conqueror’s shout;
But as his eye grows dim,
What is a column or a mound to him?
What, to the parting soul,
The mellow note of bugles? What the roll
Of drums? No, let me die
Where the blue heaven bends o’er me lovingly,
And the soft summer air,
As it goes by me, stirs my thin white hair,
And from my forehead dries
The death-damp as it gathers, and the skies
Seem waiting to receive
My soul to their clear depths! Or let me leave
The world when round my bed
Wife, children, weeping friends are gatherèd,
And the calm voice of prayer
And holy hymning shall my soul prepare
To go and be at rest
With kindred spirits,- spirits who have blessed
The human brotherhood
By labors, cares, and counsels for their good.

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Thomas Pringle: After the slaughter, the feast

December 5, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Pringle: Resistless swept the ranks of war, the murder-glutted scythe of death

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Thomas Pringle
From African Sketches

For England hath spoken in her tyrannous mood,
And the edict is writing in African blood!

And the tiger-wolf laughs in his bone-strewed brake,
As he calls on his mate and her cubs to awake;
And the panther and leopard come leaping along;
All hymning to Hecate a festival song:
For the tumult is over, the slaughter hath ceased –
And the vulture hath bidden them all to the feast!

***

From Paraphrase of the Twenty-Third Psalm

And when amid the stumbling mountains
Through frowardness I blindly stray,
Or wander near forbidden fountains
Where the Destroyer lurks for prey,
My wayward feet again he guideth
To paths where holy Peace resideth.

***

From The Emigrants

Upon the upland height a mouldering Tower,
By time and outrage marked with many a scar,
Told of past days of feudal pomp and power
When its proud chieftains ruled the dales afar.
But that was long gone by: and waste and war,
And civil strife more ruthless still than they,
Had quenched the lustre of Glen-Lynden’s star –
Which glimmered now, with dim declining ray,
O’er this secluded spot, – sole remnant of their sway.

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James Allen: A Prayer for Peace

December 4, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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James Allen
A Prayer for Peace

Great God, Almighty Power: Now send Thy Peace
To all the warring nations on this earth:
Let gentle thoughts spring up; pity have birth;
And Love, the mighty healer, have increase;
From anger and unworthy thoughts release
Men’s minds. Grant Thou, Our Father God, true rest
From sanguinary strife: Let there be zest
For all Thy holy works: Make wars to cease;
And brotherhood rise up with newer lease
Of power: Thy gracious spirit rule us all:
Let no ill thought on this terrestrial ball
Find an abiding place; and evil cease:
Thy great compassion show. Each one now guide
To that great peace which doth with Thee abide.

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Thomas Dekker: Lands ravaged by soldiers and war

December 3, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Thomas Dekker
From The Seven Deadly Sinnes of London

Antwerp (the eldest daughter of Brabant) hath falne in her pride, the Citties of rich Burgundy in theyr greatnes. Those seuenteene Dutch Virgins of Belgia, (that had Kingdomes to theyr dowries, and were worthy to be courted by Nations) are now no more Virgins : the Souldier hath deflowred them, and robd them of theyr Mayden honor: Warre hath still vse of their noble bodyes, and discouereth theyr nakednes like prostituted Strumpets. Famine hath dryed vp the fresh bloud in theyr cheekes, whilst the Pestilence digd vp theyr Fields, and turned them into Graues. Neither haue these punishments bin layd vpon them onely; for bloud hath bin also drawne of their very next neighbours. France lyes yet panting vnder the blowes which her owne Children haue giuen her.

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Edith Matilda Thomas: Air war: They are not humans.

December 2, 2017 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Edith Matilda Thomas: The Altar of Moloch

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Edith Matilda Thomas
The Dragons of the Air

There is a circle of malignant hell
Not given to the Florentine to know.
It is not hidden in the earth below,
But far aloft its fateful legions dwell.

They are not human, though from earth they rise –
They are of him, the Prince who rules the Air
The quiver of his torments on they bear –
The cities cower and fend them from the skies!

The azure and the grey of heaven they snatch
To be their banner; masked in cloud they sail,
The levin-bolts they break in murderous hail,
Up flames the palace roof, the cottage thatch.

They are not humans, they renounce their kind,
They join them with the arch-antagonist…
O world that kindly yet remains – resist!
Find means the dragons of the air to bind.

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Grenville Mellen: Slaughter rides screaming on the vengeful ball

December 1, 2017 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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Grenville Mellen
“The lonely bugle grieves”

The trump hath blown,
And now upon that reeking hill
Slaughter rides screaming on the vengeful ball;
While with terrific signal shrill,
The vultures from their bloody eyries flown,            5
Hang o’er them like a pall.
Now deeper roll the maddening drums,
And the mingling host like ocean heaves;
While from the midst a horrid wailing comes,
And high above the fight the lonely bugle grieves!

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Richard Furness: Who wasted earth with sword and flame and murdered millions for a name

November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Richard Furness: Selections on war

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Richard Furness

From Lines Written in Sight of the Rectory, Eyam

Let warrior bards the trumpet blow,
Peace reigns in these domains,
And waves her olive sceptre o’er
The lulls, the vales, and plains.

****

Peace! here no sons of glory lie,
With epitaphs of blood;
No titled madmen slumber here,
Detested by the good.
No! these were not the sons of fame,
Who wasted earth with sword and flame,
And murdered millions for a name,
To perish in the bud.

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From The Siren’s Song

Cease those soft notes! be war our strain.
Hark, hostile navies thunder,
Red slaughter strews the main,
Our tones modulate to a hideous yell
To the groans of the dying, and laughter of hell:
‘Tis glorious, they cry,
In hot battle to die.
To slaughter each other, astonishing thing!
And be buried in ocean for madman and king.

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Charles Tennant: Nor shall they learn war

November 29, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Charles Tennant
From The State of Man

The end of war and bloodshed for a time;
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And from Jerusalem the word of God,
Which, by the remnant sav’d on that great day,
Shall o’er the earth’s remotest parts be spread,
Then shall the Lord among the nations judge,
And many people he shall then rebuke:
And into plough-shares they shall beat their swords,
And into pruning hooks shall turn their spears:
Nation against nation shall not lift up
The sword, nor shall they learn war.

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Augusta Theodosia Drane: It needs must be that gentle Peace prevail!

November 28, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Augusta Theodosia Drane
From Imitations of Ancient English Poetry
The First Book of the Court of Sapience

“His kingdom is not one of strife and war,
His rule is all tranquillity and rest,
Because of which, his chosen titles are
The Prince of Peace, Father of Pity Blest,
Of mercy Lord and King he stands confest;
Wherefore no more shall angry words avail,
It needs must be that gentle Peace prevail!

“The chiefest praise of this fair realm and nation
Is that it smiles, a paradise of peace…”

***

“O sovereign Dominations, mighty lords,
Virtues and Powers and Principalities,
Bright ranks who stand around with gleaming awords
And all the throngs of angel hierarchies!
Your spouse, sweet Peace, is exiled; let your eyes
Weep crystal tears, for she is gone, and all
Your bright array of orders nine must fall…”

***

“O cruel Mars, thy blood ray I see,
Now may it freely shine, and all the ire
Of mighty Jove rain down in darts of fire.”

***

“Go then and fight, our forth your wind and rain,
Henceforth unbridled let your courses be,
For gentle Peace is gone who did refrain
And hold you all in sweet tranquillity.
Farewell, he fields of heaven! mine own country,
Father, farewell! They realms shall ne’er increase!”
And with that word evanished gentle Peace!

***

“For Peace is fled, and Mercy fainting lies
Forlorn and sad, who as a queen did reign:
All dreary be these fair empyreal skies
Till Peace return and Mercy rule again:
O Sapience, give thy counsel, for I fain
Mercy and Truth once more would reconcile,
And o’er the kingdom see Peace gently smile.”

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George Chapman: Men’s want of peace, which was from want of love

November 27, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

George Chapman: Peace with all her heavenly seed

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George Chapman
From The Tears of Peace

He moves all kings in this vast universe
To cast chaste nets on th’ impious lust of Mars;
See all and imitate his goodness still
That, having clear’d so well war’s outward ill,
He, god-like, still employs his firm desires
To cast learned ink upon those inward fires,
That kindle worse war in the minds of men,
Like to incense the outward war again…

***

That he was Angel to me, Star, and Fate;
Advancing colours of good hope to me;
And told me my retired age should see
Heaven’s blessing in a free and harmless life,
Conduct me, thro’ earth’s peace-pretending strife,
To that true Peace, whose search I still intend,
And to the calm shore of a loved end.
But now, as I cast round my ravish’d eye,
To see if this free soul had company,
Or that, alone, he lovingly pursued
The hidden places of my solitude;
He rent a cloud down with his burning hand
That at his back hung, ‘twixt me and a land
Never inhabited, and said: “Now, behold
What main defect it is that doth enfold
The world, in ominous flatteries of a Peace
So full of worse than war; whose stern increase
Devours her issue.” With which words, I view’d
A lady, like a deity indued,
But weeping like a woman, and made way
Out of one thicket, that saw never day,
Towards another; bearing underneath
Her arm, a coffin, for some prize of death;
And after her, in funeral form, did go
The wood’s four-footed beasts, by two and two:
A male and female match’d, of every kind;
And after them, with like instinct inclined.
The airy nation felt her sorrow’s stings;
Fell on the earth, kept rank, and hung their wings.
Which sight I much did pity and admire,
And long’d to know the dame that could inspire
Those bestials with such humane ‘form and ruth;
And how I now should know the hidden truth
(As Homer promised) of that main defect
That makes men all their inward peace reject
For name of outward; then he took my hand;
Led to her, and would make myself demand
(Though he could have resolved me) what she was,
And from what cause those strange effects had pass?
For whom she bore that coffin, and so mourn ‘d?
To all which, with all mildness, she, return ‘d
Answer, that she was Peace, sent down from heaven
With charge from th’ Almighty Deity given
T’ attend on men, who now had banish ‘d her
From their societies, and made her err
In that wild desert; only human love,
Banish ‘d in like sort, did a long time prove
That life with her; but now, alas, was dead,
And lay in that wood to be buried;
For whom she bore that coffin and did mourn;
And that those beasts were so much humane born,
That they in nature felt a love to peace;
For which they follow’d her, when when did cease.
This went so near her heart, it left her tongue;
And, silent, she gave time to note whence sprung
Men’s want of peace, which was from want of love;
And I observed now, what that peace did prove
That men made shift with and did so much please.
For now, the sun declining to the seas,
Made long misshapen shadows; and true Peace
(Here walking in his beams) cast such increase
Of shadow from her, that I saw it glide
Through cities, courts, and countries; and descried
How, in her shadow only, men there lived,
While she walk’d here i’th’ sun; and all that thrived
Hid in that shade their thrift; nought but her shade
Was bulwark ‘gainst all war that might invade
Their countries or their consciences; since Love
(That should give Peace, her substance) now they drove
Into the deserts; where he suffer’d Fate,
And whose sad funerals beasts must celebrate.
With whom I freely wish’d I had been nursed,
Because they follow nature, at their worst,
And at their best, did teach her. As we went
I felt a scruple, which I durst not vent,
No, not to Peace herself, whom it concern’d,
For fear to wrong her; so well I have learn’d
To shun injustice, even to doves or flies;
But to the Devil, or the Destinies,
Where I am just, and know I honour Truth,
I’ll speak my thoughts, in scorn of what ensueth.
Yet, not resolved in th’ other, there did shine
A beam of Homer’s freer soul in mine,
That made me see, I might propose my doubt;
Which was: if this were true Peace I found out.

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Laurence Sterne: Follow Peace

November 26, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Laurence Sterne
From Follow Peace

The prophet Isaiah styles Our Saviour the Prince of Peace, long before he came into the world; and to answer the title, he chose to enter into it when all nations were at peace with each other; which was in the days of Augustus, – when the temple of Janus was shut, and all the alarms of war were hushed and silenced throughout the world. At his birth, the host of heaven descended, and proclaimed peace on earth, as the best state and temper the world could be in to receive and welcome the Author of it.

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Thomas Hardy: Selections on war

November 25, 2017 Leave a comment
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Maurice Baring: The greater fools are you who seek the wars

November 24, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Maurice Baring: Unalterable horror, misery, pain and suffering which is caused by modern war

Maurice Baring: The Wounded

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Maurice Baring
From Proserpine

The Soldier

A fig for miracles! I love a lass,
I love a fight; – a fig for foolish dreams!

The Merchant

The greater fools are you who seek the wars.
Endure the hardships of the rough champaign.
And sweat and labour, buffetted and starved.
And win but festering wounds and grisly scars
For all reward, or else untimely die,
So that an idle king may loll at case
And dwell secure in rooted indolence.

***

The Soldier

We soldiers fight for glory, not for gold.
We fight because we love the clash of steel.
The shock, the charge, the bristling line of battle!
Not all the wealth of Asia buys these things.

The Merchant

Such things are sought and won by fools alone.

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