John Dos Passos: Meat for guns. Shot for saying the war was wrong.

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

American writers on peace and against war

John Dos Passos: Selection on war

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John Dos Passos
From Three Soldiers (1921)

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Fuselli looked about him. He was sitting in one of the lowest of three tiers of bunks roughly built of new pine boards. Electric lights placed here and there gave a faint reddish tone to the gloom, except at the ladders, where high-power lamps made a white glare. The place was full of tramping of feet and the sound of packs being thrown on bunks as endless files of soldiers poured in down every ladder. Somewhere down the alley an officer with a shrill voice was shouting to his men: “Speed it up there; speed it up there.” Fuselli sat on his bunk looking at the terrifying confusion all about, feeling bewildered and humiliated. For how many days would they be in that dark pit? He suddenly felt angry. They had no right to treat a feller like that. He was a man, not a bale of hay to be bundled about as anybody liked.

“An’ if we’re torpedoed a fat chance we’ll have down here,” he said aloud.

“They got sentries posted to keep us from goin up on deck,” said someone.

“God damn them. They treat you like you was a steer being taken over for meat.”

“Well, you’re not a damn sight more. Meat for the guns.”

***

“He always did talk queer.”

“I always thought,” said Fuselli, “he’d get into trouble talking the way he did.”

“How’d he talk?” asked Daniels.

“Oh, he said that war was wrong and all that goddamed pro-German stuff.”

“D’ye know what they did out at the front?” said Daniels. “In the second division they made two fellers dig their own graves and then shot ’em for sayin’ the war was wrong.”

“Hell, they did?”

“You’re goddam right, they did. I tell you, fellers, it don’t do to monkey with the buzz-saw in this army.”

***

Fuselli noticed, at the other end of the row of bunks, a group of men who all seemed to be looking at the same thing. Rolling down his sleeves, with his tunic hitched over one arm, he walked down to see what was the matter. Through the patter of the rain, he heard a thin voice say:

“It ain’t no use, sergeant, I’m sick. I ain’t a’ goin’ to get up.”

“The kid’s crazy,” someone beside Fuselli said, turning away.

“You get up this minute,” roared the sergeant. He was a big man with black hair who looked like a lumberman. He stood over the bunk. In the bunk at the end of a bundle of blankets was the chalk-white face of Stockton. The boy’s teeth were clenched, and his eyes were round and protruding, it seemed from terror.

“You get out o’ bed this minute,” roared the sergeant again.

The boy; was silent; his white cheeks quivered.

“What the hell’s the matter with him?”

“Why don’t you yank him out yourself, Sarge?”

“You get out of bed this minute,” shouted the sergeant again, paying no attention.

The men gathered about walked away. Fuselli watched fascinated from a little distance.

“All right, then, I’ll get the lieutenant. This is a court-martial offence. Here, Morton and Morrison, you’re guards over this man.”

The boy lay still in his blankets. He closed his eyes. By the way the blanket rose and fell over his chest, they could see that he was breathing heavily.

“Say, Stockton, why don’t you get up, you fool?”‘ said Fuselli. “You can’t buck the whole army.”

The boy didn’t answer.

Fuselli walked away.

“He’s crazy,” he muttered.

The lieutenant was a stoutish red-faced man who came in puffing followed by the tall sergeant. He stopped and shook the water off his Campaign hat. The rain kept up its deafening patter on the roof.

“Look here, are you sick? If you are, report sick call at once,” said the lieutenant in an elaborately kind voice.

The boy looked at him dully and did not answer.

“You should get up and stand at attention when an officer speaks to you.

“I ain’t goin’ to get up,” came the thin voice.

The officer’s red face became crimson.

“Sergeant, what’s the matter with the man?” he asked in a furious tone.

“I can’t do anything with him, lieutenant. I think he’s gone crazy.”

“Rubbish…Mere insubordination…You’re under arrest, d’ye hear?” he shouted towards the bed.

There was no answer. The rain pattered hard on the roof.

“Have him brought down to the guardhouse, by force if necessary,” snapped the lieutenant. He strode towards the door. “And sergeant, start drawing up court-martial papers at once.” The door slammed behind him.

“Now you’ve got to get him up,” said the sergeant to the two guards.

Fuselli walked away.

“Ain’t some people damn fools?” he said to a man at the other end of the barracks. He stood looking out of the window at the bright sheets of the rain.

“Well, get him up,” shouted the sergeant.

The boy lay with his eyes closed, his chalk-white face half-hidden by the blankets; he was very still.

“Well, will you get up and go to the guardhouse, or have we to carry you there?” shouted the sergeant.

The guards laid hold of him gingerly and pulled him up to a sitting posture.

“All right, yank him out of bed.”

The frail form in khaki shirt and whitish drawers was held up for a moment between the two men. Then it fell a limp heap on the floor.

“Say, Sarge, he’s fainted.”

“The hell he has…Say, Morrison, ask one of the orderlies to come up from the Infirmary.”

“He ain’t fainted…The kid’s dead,” said the other man.

“Give me a hand.”

The sergeant helped lift the body on the bed again. “Well, I’ll be goddamned,” said the sergeant.

The eyes had opened. They covered the head with a blanket.

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Sidney Lanier: The wind blew all the vanes in the country in one way – toward war

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

American writers on peace and against war

Sidney Lanier: Selections on war

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Sidney Lanier
From Tiger-Lilies (1867)

Portrait of Sidney Lanier

An afflatus of war was breathed upon us. Like a great wind, it drew on and blew upon men, women, and children. Its sound mingled with the solemnity of the church-organs and arose with the earnest words of preachers praying for guidance in the matter. It sighed in the half-breathed words of sweethearts conditioning impatient lovers with war-services. It thundered splendidly in the impassioned appeals of orators to the people. It whistled through the streets, it stole in to the firesides, it clinked glasses in bar-rooms, it lifted the gray hairs of our wise men in conventions, it thrilled through the lectures in college halls, it rustled the thumbed book-leaves of the school-rooms.

This wind blew upon all the vanes of all the churches of the country, and turned them one way – toward war. It blew, and shook out, as if by magic, a flag whose device was unknown to soldier or sailor before, but whose every flap and flutter made the blood bound in our veins.

Who could have resisted the fair anticipations which the new war-idea brought? It arrayed the sanctity of a righteous cause in the brilliant trappings of military display; pleasing, so, the devout and the flippant which in various proportions are mixed elements in all men. It challenged the patriotism of the sober citizen, while it inflamed the dream of the statesman, ambitious for his country or for himself. It offered test to all allegiances and loyalties; of church, of state; of private loves, of public devotion; of personal consanguinity; of social ties. To obscurity it held out eminence; to poverty, wealth; to greed, a gorged maw; to speculation, legalized gambling; to patriotism, a country; to statesmanship, a government; to virtue, purity; and to love, what all love most desires – a field wherein to assert itself by action.

***

In a battle, as far as concerns the individual combatants, the laws and observances of civilization are abandoned, and primitive barbarism is king pro tem. To kill as many as possible; – this, at the actual shock of arms, is the whole duty of man. If indeed there be generals of genius managing the thing behind the lines, it is not less barbarism, but only more powerful barbarism; it is genius manœuvring the interests of brute strength; it is Apollo tending swine.

When the battle is over, to emerge from this temporary barbarism is difficult and requires a little time. Kind Heaven! To see a beautiful woman, to hear her soft tones of voice, to say pleasant things to her, seems so strange, just after you have uttered those strange, hoarse cries that men do utter, not knowing why, in battle; – just after you have killed a man, and perhaps felt the sickening warmth of his blood, and turned away from the terrible odor that rises like a curse from the wound…

***

He fell asleep, and dreamed that he saw big wars standing up in ranks, like men, and fighting with thunders and wild-fires. On the flanks hovered airy pestilences skirmishing, and anon loud worldcalamities exploded, jarring all space. Which dissolved; and he was walking upon an immeasurable plain where lay old dead universes, like skulls whitening on a deserted battle-field…

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Richard Aldington: It was a war of missiles, murderous and soul-shaking explosives, like living in the graveyard of the world

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

Richard Aldington: Selections on war

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Richard Aldington
From Death of a Hero (1929)

NPG x10306; (Edward Godfree) Richard Aldington by Howard Coster

He found that the real soldiers, the front-line troops, had had no more delusions about the War than he had. They hadn’t his feelings of protest and agony over it all, they hadn’t tried to think it out. They went on with the business, hating it, because they had been told it had to be done and believed what they had been told. They wanted the War to end, they wanted to get away from it, and they had no feeling of hatred for their enemies on the other side of No Man’s Land. In fact, they were almost sympathetic to them. They also were soldiers, men segregated from the world in this immense barbaric tumult. The fighting was so impersonal as a rule that it seemed rather a conflict with dreadful hostile forces of Nature than with other men. You did not see the men who fired the ceaseless hail of shells on you, nor the machine-gunners who swept away twenty men to death in one zip of their murderous bullets, nor the hands which projected trench-mortars that shook the earth with awful detonations, nor even the invisible sniper who picked you off mysteriously with the sudden impersonal “ping!” of his bullet. Even in the perpetual trench raids, you only caught a glimpse of a few differently-shaped helmets a couple of traverses away; and either their bombs got you, or yours got them. Actual hand-to-hand fighting occurred, but it was comparatively rare. It was a war of missiles, murderous and soul-shaking explosives, not a war of hand-weapons.

***

But what were they really against? who were their real enemies? He saw the answer with a flood of bitterness and clarity. Their enemies – the enemies of German and English alike – were the fools who sent them to kill each other instead of help each other. Their enemies were the sneaks and the unscrupulous; the false ideals, the unintelligent ideas imposed on them, the humbug, the hypocrisy, the stupidity…Maybe he was all wrong, maybe it was “right” for men to be begotten only to murder each other in huge, senseless combats. He wondered if he were not getting a little insane through this persistent brooding over the murders, by striving so desperately and earnestly to find out why it had happened, by agonising over it all, by trying to think how it could be prevented from occurring again. After all, did it matter so much? Yes, did it matter? What were a few million human animals more or less? Why agonise about it? The most he could do was die. Well, die, then. But O God! O God! is that all? To be born against your will, to feel that life might in its passing be so lovely and so divine, and yet to have nothing but opposition and betrayal and hatred and death forced on you! To be born for the slaughter like a calf or a pig! To be violently cast back into nothing – for what? My God! for what? Is there nothing but despair and death? Is life vain, beauty vain, love vain, hope vain? “The war to end all wars!” Is anyone so asinine as to believe that? A war to breed wars, rather…

***

The company were billeted in the ruins of a village behind the reserve trenches, over a mile from the front line. The landscape was flat, almost treeless except for a few shell-blasted stumps, and covered with snow frozen hard. Every building in sight had been smashed, in many cases almost level with the ground. It was a mining country with great queer hills of slag and strange pit-head machinery in steel, reduced by shell-fire to huge masses of twisting rusting metal. They were in a salient, with the half-destroyed, evacuated town of M- in the elbow-crook on the extreme right. The village churchyard was filled with graves of French soldiers; there were graves inside any of the houses which had no cellars, and graves flourished over the bare landscape. In all directions were crosses, little wooden crosses, in ones and twos and threes, emerging blackly from the frozen snow. Some were already askew; one just outside the ruined village had been snapped short by a shell-burst. The dead men’s caps, mouldering and falling to pieces, were hooked on to the tops of the crosses – the German grey round cap, the French blue-and-red kepi, the English khaki. There were also two large British cemeteries in sight – rectangular plantations of wooden crosses. It was like living in the graveyard of the world – dead trees, dead houses, dead mines, dead villages, dead men…

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Memorial Day: 1,200 anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

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Émile Zola: Selections on war

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Alexander Kuprin: The whole science of war exists only because humanity will not, or cannot, or dare not, say, ‘I won’t.’

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

Russian writers on war

Alexander Kuprin: Selections on war

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Alexander Kuprin
From The Duel (1905)
Translator not identified

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Romashov sat down by the table, put his elbows on it, and leaned his head on his hands. It was hard work for him to keep in check these wild thoughts which raced through his mind.

“H’m! – my friend Romashov, what a lot you have forgotten – your fatherland, the ashes of your sire, the altar of honour, the warrior’s oath and discipline. Who shall preserve the land of your sires when the foe rushes over its boundaries? Ah! when I am dead there will be no more fatherland, no enemy, no honour. They will disappear at the same time as my consciousness. But if all this be buried and brought to naught – country, enemies, honour, and all the other big words – what has all this to do with my Ego? I am more important than all these phrases about duty, honour, love, etc. Assume that I am a soldier and my Ego suddenly says, ‘I won’t fight,’ and not only my own Ego, but millions of other Egos that constitute the whole of the army, the whole of Russia, the entire world; all these say, ‘We won’t!’ Then it will be all over so far as war is concerned, and never again will any one have to hear such absurdities as ‘Open order,’ ‘Shoulder arms,’ and all the rest of that nonsense.

“Well, well, well. It must be so some day,” shouted an exultant voice in Romashov. “All that talk about ‘warlike deeds,’ ‘discipline,’ ‘honour of the uniform,’ ‘respect for superiors,’ and, first and last, the whole science of war exists only because humanity will not, or cannot, or dare not, say, ‘I won’t.’”

“What do you suppose all this cunningly reared edifice that is called the profession of arms really is? Nothing, humbug, a house hanging in midair, which will tumble down directly mankind pronounces three short words: ‘I will not.’ My Ego will never say, ‘I will not eat,’ ‘I will not breathe,’ ‘I will not see,’ But if any one proposes to my Ego that it shall die, it infallibly replies: ‘I will not.’ What, then, is war with all its hecatombs of dead and the science of war, which teaches us the best methods of murdering? Why, a universal madness, an illusion. But wait. Perhaps I am mistaken. No, I cannot be mistaken, for this ‘I will not’ is so simple, so natural, that everybody must, in the end, say it. Let us, however, examine the matter more closely. Let us suppose that this thought is pronounced this very moment by all Russians, Germans, Englishmen, and Japanese. Ah, well, what would be the consequence? Why, that war would cease for ever, and the officers and soldiers would go, every man, to his home. And what would happen after that? I know: Shulgovich would answer; Shulgovich would immediately get querulous and say: ‘Now we are done for; they can attack us now whenever they please, take away our hearths and homes, trample down our fields, and carry off our wives and sisters.’ And what about rioters, socialists, revolutionaries? But when the whole of mankind without exception has shouted: ‘We will no longer tolerate bloodshed,’ who will then dare to assail us? No one! All enemies would be reconciled, submit to each other, forgive everything, and justly divide among themselves the abundance of the earth. Gracious God, when shall this dream be fulfilled?”

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Alfred Noyes: Selections on war

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Sidney Lanier: Dialogue on the war-flower

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

American writers on peace and against war

Sidney Lanier: Selections on war

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Sidney Lanier
From Tiger-Lilies (1867)

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This was the blood-red flower of war, which grows amid thunders; a flower whose freshening dews are blood and hot tears, whose shadow chills a land, whose odors strangle a people, whose giant petals droop downward, and whose roots are in hell.

***

It is a spreading plant, like the banyan, and continues to insert new branch-roots into the ground, so as sometimes to overspread a whole continent. Its black-shadowed jungles afford fine cover for such wild beasts as frauds and corruptions and thefts to make their lair in; from which, often, these issue with ravening teeth and prey upon the very folk that have planted and tended and raised their flowery homes!

Now, from time to time, there have appeared certain individuals (wishing, it may be, to disseminate and make profit upon other descriptions of plants) who have protested against the use of this war-flower.

Its users, many of whom are surely excellent men, contend that they grow it to protect themselves from oppressive hailstorms, which destroy their houses and crops.

But some say the plant itself is worse than any hailstorm; that its shades are damp and its odors unhealthy, and that it spreads so rapidly as to kill out and uproot all corn and wheat and cotton crops. Which the plant-users admit; but rejoin that it is cowardly to allow hailstorms to fall with impunity, and that manhood demands a struggle against them of some sort.

But the others reply, fortitude is more manly than bravery, for noble and long endurance wins the shining love of God; whereas brilliant bravery is momentary, is easy to the enthusiastic, and only dazzles the admiration of the weak-eyed since it is as often shown on one side as the other.

But then, lastly, the good war-flower cultivators say, our preachers recommend the use of this plant, and help us mightily to raise it in resistance to the hailstorms.

And reply, lastly, the interested other-flower men, that the preachers should preach Christ; that Christ was worse hailed upon than anybody, before or since; that he always refused to protect himself, though fully able to do it, by any war-banyan; and that he did, upon all occasions, not only discourage the resort to this measure, but did inveigh against it more earnestly than any thing else, as the highest and heaviest crime against Love — the Father of Adam, Christ, and all of us.

Friends and horticulturists, cry these men, stickling for the last word, if war was ever right, then Christ was always wrong; and war-flowers and the vine of Christ grow different ways, insomuch that no man may grow with both!

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Ellen Glasgow: His vision of the future only an endless warfare and a wasted land

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ellen Glasgow: Selections on war

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Ellen Glasgow
From The Battle Ground (1902)

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Dan, fevered, pallid, leaning heavily upon Big Abel, passed unnoticed amid a throng which was, for the most part, worse off than himself. Men with old wounds breaking out afresh, or new ones staining red the cloths they wore, pushed wildly by him, making, as all made, for the country roads that led from war to peace. It was as if the hospitals of the world had disgorged themselves in the sunshine on the bright September fields.

Once, as Dan moved slowly on, he came upon a soldier, with a bandage at his throat sitting motionless upon a rock beside a clump of thistles, and moved by the expression of supreme terror on the man’s face, he stopped and laid a hand upon his shoulder.

“What’s the trouble, friend – given up?” he asked, and then drew back quickly for the man was dead. After this they went on more rapidly, flying from the horrors along the road as from the screaming shells and the dread of capture.

***

Gradually the stars went out above the dim woods, and the dawn whitened along the eastern sky. With the first light Dan went to the open door and drew a deep breath of the refreshing air. A new day was coming, but he met it with dulled eyes and a crippled will. The tragedy of life seemed to overhang the pleasant prospect upon which he looked, and, as he stood there, he saw in his vision of the future only an endless warfare and a wasted land.

***

Farther away three hoarse voices, the remnant of a once famous glee club, were singing in the endeavour to scare off sleep: –

“Rally round the flag, boys, rally once again!”

And suddenly he was fighting in the tangles of the wilderness, crouching behind a charred oak stump, while he loaded and fired at the little puffs of smoke that rose from the undergrowth beyond. He saw the low marshland, the stunted oaks and pines, and the heavy creepers that were pushed aside and trampled underfoot, and at his feet he saw a company officer with a bullet hole through his forehead and a covering of pine needles upon his face. About him the small twigs fell, as if a storm swept the forest, and as he dodged, like a sharpshooter from tree to tree, he saw a rush of flame and smoke in the distance where the woods were burning. Above the noise of the battle, he heard the shrieks of the wounded men in the track of the fire; and once he met a Union and a Confederate soldier, each shot through the leg, drawing each other back from the approaching flames. Then, as he passed on, tearing at the cartridges with his teeth, he came upon a sergeant in Union clothes, sitting against a pine stump with his cocked rifle in his hand, and his eyes on the wind-blown smoke. A moment before the man may have gone down at his shot, he knew – and yet, as he looked, an instinct stronger than the instinct to kill was alive within him, and he rushed on, dragging his enemy with him from the terrible woods. “I hope you are not much hurt,” he said, as he placed him on the ground and ran back to where the line was charging. “One life has been paid for,” he thought, as he rushed on to kill – and fell face downward on the wheel-ruts of the old road.

“Rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,” sang the three hoarse voices, straining against the wind.

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Siegfried Sassoon: The foul beast of war that bludgeons life

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

Siegfried Sassoon: Selections on war

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Siegfried Sassoon
The Dream

I

Moonlight and dew-drenched blossom, and the scent
Of summer gardens; these can bring you all
Those dreams that in the starlit silence fall:
Sweet songs are full of odours.
While I went
Last night in drizzling dusk along a lane,
I passed a squalid farm; from byre and midden
Came the rank smell that brought me once again
A dream of war that in the past was hidden.

II

Up a disconsolate straggling village street
I saw the tired troops trudge: I heard their feet.
The cheery Q.M.S. was there to meet
And guide our Company in…
I watched them stumble
Into some crazy hovel, too beat to grumble;
Saw them file inward, slipping from their backs
Rifles, equipment, packs.
On filthy straw they sit in the gloom, each face
Bowed to patched, sodden boots they must unlace,
While the wind chills their sweat through chinks and cracks.

III

I’m looking at their blistered feet; young Jones
Stares up at me, mud-splashed and white and jaded;
Out of his eyes the morning light has faded.
Old soldiers with three winters in their bones
Puff their damp Woodbines, whistle, stretch their toes:
They can still grin at me, for each of ’em knows
That I’m as tired as they are…
Can they guess
The secret burden that is always mine? —
Pride in their courage; pity for their distress;
And burning bitterness
That I must take them to the accursèd Line.

IV

I cannot hear their voices, but I see
Dim candles in the barn: they gulp their tea,
And soon they’ll sleep like logs. Ten miles away
The battle winks and thuds in blundering strife.
And I must lead them nearer, day by day,
To the foul beast of war that bludgeons life.

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Aldous Huxley: How are we to get rid of war when we celebrate militarists?

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

Aldous Huxley: Selections on war

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Aldous Huxley

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From Writers and Readers

Consult a library catalogue and you will find that more books have been written on the career of Napoleon than on any other single subject. This fact casts a strange and rather terrifying light on the mentality of modern European writers and readers. How are we to get rid of war, so long as people find their keenest bovaristic satisfaction in the story of the world’s most spectacular militarist?

From Justifications

There are plenty of pious churchmen who consider that God approves of men killing their fellows in war, but who would be horrified at the suggestion that fornication and adultery can ever be anything but detestable in His eyes.

From The Olive Tree

I like them [trees] all, but especially the olive. For what it symbolizes, first of all – peace with its leaves and joy with its olive oil. True, the crown of olive was originally worn by Roman conquerors at ovation; the peace it proclaimed was the peace of victory, the peace which is too often only the tranquillity of exhaustion or complete annihilation. Rome and its customs have passed, and we remember of the olive tree only the fact that it stood for peace, not the circumstances in which it did so.

Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age. (Shakespeare)

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Émile Zola: Haunted by military matters

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

Émile Zola: Selections on war

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Émile Zola
From Truth (1902)
Translated by Ernest A. Vizetelly

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Doloir, who had been for several years in the employment of Darras, the mayor and building contractor, was a fairly good workman – one who occasionally drank a drop too much…But above everything else three years of barrack life had left an ineffaceable mark on Doloir. He had quitted the army in a transport of delight at his deliverance, freely cursing the disgusting and hateful calling in which one ceased to be a man. But ever since that time he had been continually living his three years’ service afresh; not a day passed but some recollection of it came to him. With his hand spoilt as it were by the rifle he had carried, he had found his trowel heavy, and returned to work in a spiritless fashion, like one who was no longer accustomed to toil, but whose will was broken and whose body had become used to long spells of idleness, such as those which intervened between the hours of military exercise. To become once again the excellent workman that he had been previously was quite impossible.

Besides, he was haunted by military matters, to which he was always referring apropos of any subject that presented itself.

***

At that time considerations of patriotism influenced the whole of our education system in France. The country asked us merely for soldiers, the army was like a temple, a sanctuary, that army which had remained waiting with arms grounded for thirty years, and which had devoured thousands of millions of francs! And thus we have been turned into a warrior France instead of becoming a France of progress, truth, justice, and peace, such as alone could have helped us to save the world…

The highest role and the noblest in a nascent democracy is that of the poor and scorned elementary schoolmaster, appointed to teach the humble, to train them to be happy citizens, the builders of the future City of Justice and Peace. Marc felt it was so, and he suddenly realised the exact sense of his mission, his apostleship of Truth, that fervent passion to acquire Truth, certain and positive, then cry it aloud and teach it to all, which had ever possessed him.

***

There was no possibility of real amelioration, liberation, and happiness otherwise than by truth – that is, by knowledge of the conditions in which mankind exists and progresses. All the craving for knowledge as a means for rapid attainment to health and peace bore within itself its method of free expansion, science ceasing to be a dead letter, and becoming a source of life, an excitant of temperament and character…

And yes, so long as the passion for knowledge merely for its own sake should become keener and keener in a social system which was all falsehood and injustice, it would only add to existing ruins. It was necessary that science should tend towards justice, and bring to the future city of fraternity a moral system of liberty and peace.

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Alfred Neumann: This is how it happens in history. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers.

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

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war

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Alfred Neumann
From The Mirror of Fools (1933)
Translated by Trevor and Phyllis Brewitt

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“This is how it happens in history,” said he musingly, and as if to himself. “Here is little Liegnitz, suddently becoming the open wound or the sore place on the great body of the Empire, or, rather, a blunderbuss that goes off of its own accord and precipitates the great disaster. The Emperor intervenes, and eighteen princes of the Empire engage against him and thus become rebels against His Holy Roman Majesty; the Poles are not slow to come forward, and of a sudden the world is split asunder into two parties, Lutherans and Catholics. The Spaniard joins the fray, and the Swede enters the field against him; the Frenchman preys upon the West and the Turk upon the East. The Bavarian sinks his teeth into the Frank, the Branderburger into the Saxon, and the Landgrave of Hesse into the Bishop of Mainz; and so it goes on. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers, the peasant arises once more and strikes the nobleman dead, the starving burgher devours rats; the red death is there, white death follows in the winter, and then comes the black death, the black plague, dysentery. The years pile up the deaths, and the deaths the years; war, rebellion, hunger, pestilence, calamity upon calamity, war, rebellion, hunger, pestilence, layer upon layer…”

***

To the war…War is destruction. The business of sword, lance, and bullet is to hit. If their aim is bad or indifferent, they hit a greater or smaller part of of one’s body, causing nothing more than pain. If their aim is good, they kill. Then there is no more jesting, no more laughter, but blood, suffering, and death. Schweinichen was afraid of the life that might end thus. Was the end of the fool’s journey a bitter, cutting, stabbing, conclusive death? There were stories enough that began with laughter and ended with a rattle in the throat…

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Alfred Noyes: And the cost of war, they reckoned it In little disks of gold

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

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war

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Alfred Noyes
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)

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We must not think. We must not tell
The truth for which men die.

To watch the mouth of a harlot foam
For the blood of Baptist John
Is a fine thing while the fiddles play;
For blood and lust are the mode to-day,
And lust and blood were the mode of Rome,
And we go where Rome has gone.

***

But that fate deftly swings the net
And blood is best unseen.

God shields our eyes from too much light,
Clothes the fine brain with clay;
He wraps mankind in swaddling bands
Till the trumpet ring across all lands.

***

“The time is come to stand upright,
And flood the world with day.”
Not yet, O God, not yet the gleam
When all the world shall wake!
Grey and immense comes up the dawn
And yet the blinds are not withdrawn,
And, in the dusk, one hideous dream
Forbids the day to break!

Around a shining table sat
Five men in black tail-coats:
And, what their sin was, none could say;
For each was honest, after his way,
(Tho’ there are sheep, and armament
firms,
With all that this “connotes.”)

One was the friend of a merchant prince,
One was the foe of a priest,
One had a brother whose heart was set
On a gold star and an epaulette,
And – where the rotten carcass lies,
The vultures flock to feast.

But – each was honest after his way,
Lukewarm in faith, and old;
And blood, to them, was only a word,
And the point of a phrase their only sword,
And the cost of war, they reckoned it
In little disks of gold.

***

Play up, then, fiddles! Play, bassoon!
The plains are soaked with red.
Ten thousand slaughtered fools, out there,
Clutch at their wounds and taint the air,
And…here is an excellent cartoon
On what the Kaiser said.

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John Dos Passos: They were going to kill everybody who spoke that language

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

American writers on peace and against war

John Dos Passos: Selection on war

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John Dos Passos
From Three Soldiers (1921)

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He went on working through the endless afternoon, climbing up and down his ladder, smearing the barrack windows with a soapy rag. A silly phrase took the place of the welling of music in his mind: “Arbeit und Rhythmus.” He kept saying it over and over to himself: “Arbeit und Rhythmus.” He tried to drive the phrase out of his mind, to bury his mind in the music of the rhythm that had come to him, that expressed the dusty boredom, the harsh constriction of warm bodies full of gestures and attitudes and aspirations into moulds, like the moulds toy soldiers are cast in. The phrase became someone shouting raucously in his ears: “Arbeit und Rhythmus,” – drowning everything else, beating his mind hard again, parching it.

But suddenly he laughed aloud. Why, it was in German. He was being got ready to kill men who said that. If anyone said that, he was going to kill him. They were going to kill everybody who spoke that language, he and all the men whose feet he could hear tramping on the drill field, whose legs were all being made the same length on the drill field.

***

[T]he movie had begun again, unfolding scenes of soldiers in spiked helmets marching into Belgian cities full of little milk carts drawn by dogs and old women in peasant costume. There were hisses and catcalls when a German flag was seen, and as the troops were pictured advancing, bayonetting the civilians in wide Dutch pants, the old women with starched caps, the soldiers packed into the stuffy Y. M. C. A. hut shouted oaths at them. Andrews felt blind hatred stirring like something that had a life of its own in the young men about him. He was lost in it, carried away in it, as in a stampede of wild cattle. The terror of it was like ferocious hands clutching his throat. He glanced at the faces round him. They were all intent and flushed, glinting with sweat in the heat of the room.

As he was leaving the hut, pressed in a tight stream of soldiers moving towards the door, Andrews heard a man say:

“I never raped a woman in my life, but by God, I’m going to. I’d give a lot to rape some of those goddam German women.”

“I hate ’em too,” came another voice, “men, women, children and unborn children. They’re either jackasses or full of the lust for power like their rulers are, to let themselves be governed by a bunch of warlords like that.”

“Ah’d lahk te cepture a German officer an’ make him shine ma boots an’ then shoot him dead,” said Chris to Andrews as they walked down the long row towards their barracks.

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Stephen Spender: Lecture on Hell: battle against totalitarian war

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

Stephen Spender: Automata controlled by the mechanism of war, meaningless struggle between potential ashes to gain a world of ashes

Stephen Spender: Ultima Ratio Regum

Stephen Spender: The Woolfs in the 1930s: War the inevitable result of an arms race.

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Stephen Spender
From World Within World (1948)

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Our indignation at the death of a child killed in an air raid was deeply suspect unless we were opposed to all air raids.

***

The sense of political doom, pending in unemployment, Fascism, and the overwhelming threat of war, was by now so universal that even to ignore these things was in itself a political attitude. Just as the pacifist is political in refusing to participate in war, so the writer who refuses to recognize the political nature of our age must to some extent be refusing to deal with an experience in which he himself is involved…

***

With the fall of the Spanish Republic, followed quickly by Munich, this phase ended…

After this the emotions and the arguments used by the anti-Fascists were taken over by the democratic governments in their war against Hitler. Journalists sometime complained in the Press that the anti-Fascist writers who had shown such zeal in 1936 and 1937 seemed perversely uninterested, now that the action against Hitlerism for which they had been clamoring, was really taking place. But the fact was that the anti-Fascist battle had been lost. For it was a battle against totalitarian war, which could have made the war unnecessary…

***

To me, the idea of air raids and destruction were never quite real. The lectures at the Training Center on different types of bombs were like lecture on Hell, or on the perversion of the human will. At the end of a lecture on the effects of gases (for we had to distinguish between those that smelt like pear-drops, carnations and sickly-sweet hay), I hid for half an hour in a telephone box, overwhelmed by the vision of human beings asphyxiating one another in poisonous over-sweet scents…

***

Michael saw beyond the waste and incompetence of administration to the folly of bombing which became progressively more and more a destruction of the basis of the post-war world. Bending over his photographs which showed the immense damage done to Europe by the policy called “saturation bombing,” he saw that the methods of war could lead to the end of European civilization. “The bombing of Hamburg,” he said in his embarrassed, stifled voice, “cannot be justified as necessary to the victory. It’s the destruction, not just of Germany, but of an essential part of Europe.”

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D. H. Lawrence: Selections on war

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Émile Zola: To what field of disaster would it be taken to kill men? what harvest of human lives would it reap?

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

Émile Zola: Selections on war

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Émile Zola
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified

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The great forge was there, with its monstrous tools, its press with a power of two thousand tons, but all these were now quiet; even the smaller hammers were quiet, which in the dim light showed their dark, dumpy profiles, looking like barbarous gods. Here Luc found shells – shells that had that day been forged by the smallest of the steam-hammers, after coming out of the moulds in which they had been annealed. What also interested him greatly was an enormous naval cannon, nine teen feet in length, which was still warm, after having passed through the press where pieces of steel weighing 4400 pounds were pressed out like soft pastry; and the great cannon stood there chained, ready to be carried off and lifted by great cranes to the lathe-house, which was some way off beyond the hall of the Martin furnace and the building where steel was cast.

****

They were about to make small shells of one hundred and thirty pounds each. The ingot moulds, shaped like bottles, were standing in two rows. Then when the helpers had raked the scorise from the crucibles by means of an iron rod, which came out smoking, with little purple dribbles, the master-smelter seized the crucibles in the jaws of his great tongs, emptied two of them into each mould, and the metal, which ran first like a jet of white lava, cooled to pink, with small blue sparks as delicate as flowers. One might have thought that liqueurs were being decanted, liqueurs sparkling like gold, and, all was done without noise, with quick and certain motions, with simple beauty in the glare and heat of the fire, which made the whole hall seem a mighty brazier. Luc, who was not accustomed to the heat, felt stifled and could stay no longer. When he stood within four or five yards of the furnaces his face seemed to be scorched, a boiling sweat burst out upon his body. The shells had interested him, he looked at them as they cooled, and asked himself who were the men that they were destined to kill. Then he went into the next building and found himself in the hall of steam-hammers. There a cannon had been fixed upon a lathe to form the proper calibre for others. It was revolving with prodigious swiftness, and chips of steel were flying about under the sharp blade that itself was motionless; the chips looked like bits of silver. Nothing more would be needed than to bore the interior of this gun, to temper it, and to finish it, and where were the men it would kill when it should be fired? Luc, as he gazed on this heroic result of human labor, saw fire subdued and made serviceable to man – man who was king and conqueror among all the forces of nature – could not help seeing before him a vision of massacre, and all the red folly of a battle-field. He walked away and soon came to another lathe, upon which another cannon was revolving just like the one he had previously seen; but this one was already polished on the outside until it shone like new money. It was in charge of a young man hard ly more than a child, who was leaning attentively over the machinery, just as a watchmaker does over that of a watch. It revolved incessantly, with a slight noise, while the tool in the interior was boring it with such precision that the deviation was not the tenth part of a millimetre. And when this cannon should have been tempered – that is, should have been dropped from the top of the tower into a bath of petroleum, to what field of disaster would it be taken to kill men? what harvest of human lives would it reap? – forged out of that steel which men and brothers ought only to use to make ploughs and rails.

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Ellen Glasgow: Then the rows of dead men stared at him through the falling rain in the deserted field

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ellen Glasgow: Selections on war

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Ellen Glasgow
From The Battle Ground (1902)

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Dan lay down upon the blanket, and, with his hand upon his knapsack, gazed at the small red ember burning amid the ashes. When the last spark faded into blackness it was as if his thoughts went groping for a light. Sleep came fitfully in flights and pauses, in broken dreams and brief awakenings. Losing himself at last it was only to return to the woods at Chericoke and to see Betty coming to him among the dim blue bodies of the trees. He saw the faint sunshine falling upon her head and the stir of the young leaves above her as a light wind passed. Under her feet the grass was studded with violets, and the bonnet swinging from her arm was filled with purple blossoms. She came on steadily over the path of grass and violets, but when he reached out to touch her a great shame fell over him for there was blood upon his hand.

There was something cold in his face, and he emerged slowly from his sleep into the consciousness of dawn and a heavy rain. The swollen clouds hung close above the hills, and the distance was obscured by the gray sheets of water which fell like a curtain from heaven to earth. Near by a wagon had drawn up in the night, and he saw that a group of half-drenched privates had already taken shelter between the wheels. Gathering up his oilcloth, he hastily formed a tent with the aid of a deep fence corner, and, when he had drawn his blanket across the opening, sat partly protected from the shower. As the damp air blew into his face, he became quickly and clearly awake, and it was with the glimmer of a smile that he looked over the wet meadow and the sleeping regiments. Then a shudder followed, for he saw in the lines of gray men stretched beneath the rain some likeness to that other field beyond the hill where the dead were still lying, row on row. He saw them stark and cold on the scorched grass beside the guns, or in the thin ridges of trampled corn, where the gay young tassels were now storm-beaten upon the ripped-up earth. He saw them as he had seen them the evening before – not in the glow of battle, but with the acuteness of a brooding sympathy – saw them frowning, smiling, and with features which death had twisted into a ghastly grin. They were all there – each man with open eyes and stiff hands grasping the clothes above his wound.

But to Dan, sitting in the gray dawn in the fence corner, the first horror faded quickly into an emotion almost triumphant. The great field was silent, reproachful, filled with accusing eyes – but was it not filled with glory, too? He was young, and his weakened pulses quickened at the thought. Since men must die, where was a brighter death than to fall beneath the flutter of the colours, with the thunder of the cannon in one’s ears? He knew now why his fathers had loved a fight, had loved the glitter of the bayonets and the savage smell of the discoloured earth.

Since men must die, where was a brighter death than to fall beneath the flutter of the colours, with the thunder of the cannon in one’s ears? He knew now why his fathers had loved a fight, had loved the glitter of the bayonets and the savage smell of the discoloured earth.

For a moment the old racial spirit flashed above the peculiar sensitiveness which had come to him from his childhood and his suffering mother; then the flame went out and the rows of dead men stared at him through the falling rain in the deserted field.

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Alfred Noyes: The Dawn of Peace

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

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war

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Alfred Noyes
From The Dawn Of Peace

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Yes – “on our brows we feel the breath
Of dawn,” though in the night we wait!
An arrow is in the heart of Death,
A God is at the doors of Fate!
The spirit that moved upon the Deep
Is moving through the minds of men:
The nations feel it in their sleep,
A change has touched their dreams again.

Voices, confused, and faint, arise,
Troubling their hearts from East and West.
A doubtful light is in their skies,
A gleam that will not let them rest:
The dawn, the dawn is on the wing,
The stir of change on every side,
Unsignalled as the approach of Spring,
Invincible as the hawthorn-tide.

***

Dreams are they? But ye cannot stay them,
Or thrust the dawn back for one hour!
Truth, Love, and Justice, if ye slay them,
Return with more than earthly power:
Strive, if ye will, to seal the fountains
That send the Spring thro’ leaf and spray:
Drive back the sun from the Eastern mountains,
Then – bid this mightier movement stay.

It is the Dawn of Peace! The nations
From East to West have heard a cry, –
“Through all earth’s blood-red generations
By hate and slaughter climbed thus high,
Here – on this height – still to aspire,
One only path remains untrod,
One path of love and peace climbs higher!
Make straight that highway for our God.”

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Sidney Lanier: Blood-red flower of war, whose odors strangle a people, whose roots are in hell

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

American writers on peace and against war

Sidney Lanier: Selections on war

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Sidney Lanier
From Tiger-Lilies (1867)

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The early spring of 1861 brought to bloom, besides innumerable violets and jessamines, a strange, enormous, and terrible flower.

This was the blood-red flower of war, which grows amid thunders; a flower whose freshening dews are blood and hot tears, whose shadow chills a land, whose odors strangle a people, whose giant petals droop downward, and whose roots are in hell.

It is a species of the great genus, sin-flower, which is so conspicuous in the flora of all ages and all countries, and whose multifarious leafage and fruitage so far overgrow a land that the violet, or love-genus, has often small chance to show its quiet blue.

The cultivation of this plant is an expensive business, and it is a wonder, from this fact alone, that there should be so many fanciers of it. A most profuse and perpetual manuring with human bones is absolutely necessary to keep it alive, and it is well to have these powdered, which can be easily done by hoofs of cavalry-horses and artillery-wheels, not to speak of the usual method of mashing with cannon-balls. It will not grow, either, except in some wet place near a stream of human blood; and you must be active in collecting your widows’ tears and orphans’ tears and mothers’ tears to freshen the petals with in the mornings.

It requires assiduous working; and your labor-hire will be a large item in the expense, not to speak of the amount disbursed in preserving the human bones alive until such time as they may be needed, for, I forgot to mention, they must be fresh, and young, and newly-killed.

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Émile Zola: Vulcan in service to Mars

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

Émile Zola: Selections on war

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Émile Zola
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified

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Under the moonlike rays of the electric lights, through the shadows thrown by the sheds, the tower for tempering newly forged cannon, the cementation kilns, and all kinds of other conical constructions devoted to this barbarous worship of the god of gain, a little locomotive was slowly moving, uttering shrill whistles, that it might not run over any one…

Men were loading a car with a great piece of machinery, something to be used by a torpedo-boat destroyer, which had been finished that very morning, and which the little locomotive was to carry away. And as it steamed up whistling, Luc had to dodge it, and by following a path that seemed to lead between the rails and the smelting-furnaces, he found himself at last in a building where there were many furnaces, many puddlers, and many men to run off the molten metal. This building, one of the largest in the place, was never silent; by day it had a fearful hum of working machinery. But at this time of the night the machinery was silent. More than half the great place was in utter darkness; and, out of ten puddling furnaces, four only were lighted. These were provided with two hammers of less power.

Here and there feeble gas-jets wavered in the wind, the light of which was just enough to show great shadows in the place, and, overhead, immense smoke-stained beams that sustained the roof could be indistinctly made out. A noise of splashing water could be heard in the darkness; the earth floor, with cracks and lumps in it, was in some places a sodden mass of fetid mud, in others it was all coal-dust, and everywhere it was covered with rubbish. The whole place was an example of the filth and disorder induced by grinding labor, labor without care, with out mirth – labor hated and execrated by those engaged in it, carried on in a den full of smoke, black smuts flying about in the air, in a place filthy and dilapidated.

In some little sheds made of rough planks the out door clothes of the workmen were hung up on nails, and with them were thick cloth jackets and leathern aprons. This miserable, dark place was never lighted unless a master-puddler opened the door of his furnace and sent forth a blinding rush of flame, which illumined the whole dark building for a moment like a ray of light from some planet in the heavens.

****

Then would come the work of taking the crucibles out of the fire and emptying them, the most murderous work of all. And as he walked up to another furnace, where the men who tended it, armed with long iron rods, had just found the fusion to be complete, he recognized Fauchard in the man whose business it was to draw out the crucibles. He was pallid and withered, with a face like leather; but he had preserved his legs and arms, which were those of a Hercules. He was physically deformed by his terrible work, which was always monotonous, and in which he had been employed for fourteen years; but he suffered more from the consciousness that he was losing his intelligence, that he had become a mere machine, doing eternally the same thing – that he was a veritable automaton – a human element struggling for supremacy with fire. It was not merely that he felt what he had physically lost – his bent back, the impaired action of his lower limbs, his eyes burned out of his head, their color grown pale from gazing into the flames – he was conscious that he had deteriorated intellectually, that his intelligence was trembling in the balance, and was now nearly extinct, trodden under the terrible hoof which turned him into a blind beast, crushing him under work that first had poisoned, and then would destroy him.

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Francisco de Quevedo: Metal against metal: Learning causes peace to be sought after

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

Francisco de Quevedo: The soldierly virtues of ardor, candor, honor and valor

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Francisco de Quevedo
From La hora de todos y la Fortuna con seso (1635)
Translated by Roger L’Estrange

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Monarchies are upheld by the same arts that erect them. They have always been raised by soldiers…Kings hold their dominions by the sword; not by their books…The ignorance of the people is the great security of princes. Learning, which instructs, makes them mutinous. Learned subjects rather conspire than obey; rather examine their sovereign than respect him. No sooner do they understand, than they despise him. No sooner can they know what liberty is, than they desire it. They can judge whether he that reigns is worthy to rule…Learning causes peace to be sought after, because it stand in need of it. When a nation affects scholars and writers, goose quills take the place of swords and muskets. Ink in writing is more meritorious than blood spilt.

***

Artillery was not long since invented (to take off lives before secured by distance, to overthrow the strongest walls, and to bestow victories by aim, not by true courage) but presently was printing invented in opposition to cannon: it is metal against metal, ink against powder, and letters against bullets.

***

“You must observe that America is a rich beautiful harlot, and since she was false to her husbands, she will never be true to her bullies. Christians say that heaven punished the Indies, because they adored idols: and we Indians say that heaven will punish the Christians because they adore the Indies. You think you carry gold and silver, and you only carry well-coloured envy and precious misery. You take from us that you may for have for others to take from you. That which makes you our enemies, makes you enemies to one another.”

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William Blake: Selections on war and peace

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Juan Valera: Thou art the God of peace

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

Juan Valera
From Pepita Jiménez (1874)
Translator unidentified

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“It was anger – the terrible counselor – that at times persuaded them that it was necessary for the people to shed blood at the Divine command, and that brought before their sanguinary eyes the vision of Isaiah; they have then seen, and caused their fanatic followers to see, the meek Lamb converted into an inexorable avenger, descending from the summit of Edom, proud in the multitude of his strength, trampling the nations under foot, as the treader tramples the grapes in the wine-press, their garments raised, and covered with blood to the thighs. Ah, no. My God! I am about to become Thy minister. Thou art the God of peace, and my first duty should be meekness. Thou makest the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, and pourest down upon all alike the fertilizing rain of inexhaustible goodness. Thou art our Father, who dwellest in the heavens, and we should be perfect, even as Thou art perfect, pardoning those who have offended us, and asking Thee to pardon them, because they know not what they do. I should recall to mind the beatitudes of the Scripture: Blessed are ye when they revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil things against you. The minister of God, or he who is about to become His minister, must be humble, peaceable, lowly of heart; not like the oak that lifts itself up proudly until the thunderbolt strike it, but like the fragrant herbs of the woods and the modest flowers of the fields, that give sweeter and more graceful perfume after the rustic has trodden them under foot.”

***

Men, as a rule, allow themselves to be the playthings of circumstances; they let themselves be carried along by the current of events, instead of devoting all their energies to one single aim. We do not choose our part in life, but accept and play the part allotted us, that which blind fortune assigns to us. The profession, the political faith, the entire life of many men, depend on chance circumstances, on what is fortuitous, on the caprice and the unexpected turns of fate.

Against all this the pride of Don Luis vigorously rebelled. What would be thought of him, and, above all, what would he think of himself, if the ideal of his life, the new man that he had created in his soul, if all his plans of virtue, of honor, and even of holy ambition, should vanish in an instant…?

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: I saw a dove fear-daunted

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

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: All labor’s dread of war’s mad waste and murder

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
From Halte Hulda (1869)
Translated by Arthur Hubbell Palmer

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The Dove

I saw a dove fear-daunted,
By howling storm-blast driven;
Where waves their power vaunted,
From land it had been riven.
No cry nor moan it uttered,
I heard no plaint repeated;
In vain its pinions fluttered –
It had to sink, defeated.

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Ellen Glasgow: The Reign of the Brute

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ellen Glasgow: Selections on war

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Ellen Glasgow
From The Battle Ground (1902)

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The Reign of the Brute

The sight of the soaked shirt and the smell of blood turned Dan faint. He felt a sudden tremor in his limbs, and his arteries throbbed dully in his ears. “I didn’t know it was like this,” he muttered thickly. “Why, they’re no better than mangled rabbits – I didn’t know it was like this.”

They wound through the little ravine, climbed a hillside planted in thin corn, and were ordered to “load and lie down” in a strip of woodland. Dan tore at his cartridge with set teeth; then as he drove his ramrod home, a shell, thrown from a distant gun, burst in the trees above him, and a red flame ran, for an instant, along the barrel of his musket. He dodged quickly, and a rain of young pine needles fell in scattered showers from the smoked boughs overhead. Somewhere beside him a man was groaning in terror or in pain. “I’m hit, boys, by God, I’m hit this time.” The groans changed promptly into a laugh. “Bless my soul! the plagued thing went right into the earth beneath me.”

“Damn you, it went into my leg,” retorted a hoarse voice that fell suddenly silent.

***

As he bent to fire, the fury of the game swept over him and aroused the sleeping brute within him. All the primeval instincts, throttled by the restraint of centuries – the instincts of bloodguiltiness, of hot pursuit, of the fierce exhilaration of the chase, of the death grapple with a resisting foe – these awoke suddenly to life and turned the battle scarlet to his eyes.

***

Two hours later, when the heavy clouds were smothering the sunset, he came slowly back across the field. A gripping nausea had seized upon him – a nausea such as he had known before after that merry night at college. His head throbbed, and as he walked he staggered like a drunken man. The revulsion of his overwrought emotions had thrown him into a state of sensibility almost hysterical.

The battle-field stretched grimly round him, and as the sunset was blotted out, a gray mist crept slowly from the west. Here and there he saw men looking for the wounded, and he heard one utter an impatient “Pshaw!” as he lifted a half-cold body and let it fall. Rude stretchers went by him on either side, and still the field seemed as thickly sown as before; on the left, where a regiment of Zouaves had been cut down, there was a flash of white and scarlet, as if the loose grass was strewn with great tropical flowers. Among them he saw the reproachful eyes of dead and dying horses.

Before him, on the gradual slope of the hill, stood a group of abandoned guns, and there was something almost human in the pathos of their utter isolation. Around them the ground was scorched and blackened, and scattered over the broken trails lay the men who had fallen at their post. He saw them lying there in the fading daylight, with the sponges and the rammers still in their hands, and he saw upon each man’s face the look with which he had met and recognized the end. Some were smiling, some staring, and one lay grinning as if at a ghastly joke. Near him a boy, with the hair still damp on his forehead, had fallen upon an uprooted blackberry vine, and the purple stain of the berries was on his mouth. As Dan looked down upon him, the smell of powder and burned grass came to him with a wave of sickness, and turning he stumbled on across the field. At the first step his foot struck upon something hard, and, picking it up, he saw that it was a Minie ball, which, in passing through a man’s spine, had been transformed into a mass of mingled bone and lead. With a gesture of disgust he dropped it and went on rapidly. A stretcher moved beside him, and the man on it, shot through the waist, was saying in a whisper, “It is cold – cold – so cold.”

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Upton Sinclair: Gigantic stir of war preparation for global territorial aggrandizement

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

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war

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Upton Sinclair
From Boston (1928)

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The fall of 1917. All about Cornelia a gigantic stir of war preparation, but very little intellectual preparation to match it. She did not have to go far in her studies to learn that the various peoples of Europe had been fighting among themselves for centuries, and in this fighting had frequently shifted partners. Whatever enemy they had at the time, they hated that enemy just as heartily, and accused him of atrocities, and did not hesitate to have priests and bishops invoke the aid of God to overcome him. Always the real cause of war was a desire to take land from the other nation; plus the fear that the other nation would reverse the procedure – as indeed it would.

Could the same situation exist in this greatest and most cruel of all conflicts?

***

Quincy went everywhere, and met everybody. He could tell you what the British ambassador had said to Major Higginson last week. The evening before he had dined at Fenway Court, the palace of the eccentric but brilliant Mrs. “Jack” Gardner, and had there met Sir Leslie Buttock, the latest of the procession of British propagandists who were coming to fascinate and thrill the American plutocracy. Sir Leslie was making the transcontinental tour, and after he praised the champagne of a Minnesota banker, or the cigars of a Seattle ship-builder, each of these provincials was an insider and social equal for the rest of his life, and the price was five – ten – twenty billions – to be used in doubling the area of the British empire.

A British diplomat once gave the official definition of a lie – a falsehood told to a person who has a right to the truth. All diplomats and propagandists who came to Boston did “Mrs. Jack” the honor of admitting her into the inner circle. At her dinner-parties you took off your propaganda-coat, so to speak, and lounged in your military shirt-sleeves. So Quincy Thornwell could tell his aunt exactly why the war was lasting so long. The price of Italy repudiating her alliance with Austria and Germany had been the Trentino and Trieste, which meant the mastery of the Adriatic. Japan’s price was Shantung from China. Russia was to have Constantinople. France was to have Alsace-Lorraine, and if possible the Rhine. Britain was to have all the German colonies, an empire in themselves. When you talked to Quincy about any of these powers giving up their spoils because of the beautiful speeches of Woodrow Wilson, he showed his good manners by pretending it was your idea of being humorous.

And yet there were a hundred million or so good Americans who really believed that their President was somehow going to achieve that miracle!…If you mentioned the secret treaties, they would say that these matters were too delicate for public discussion; the President of course had sources of information that were not open to us.

“But why not?” cried Cornelia, and could get no convincing answer. Either the allies were going to give up their predatory aims or they were not. If they were, why not publish the fact? Such declaration would save millions of lives and billions of treasure – for manifestly, one reason for enemy resistance was the fear of consequences of defeat. But if you tried to point this out, you were called pro-German, and people turned their backs on you. They had adopted a slogan, “Win the war!” – which meant that they found it easier to fight than to think…

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Mór Jókai: War’s patriotic pelf: a slaughtered army tells no tales

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

Mór Jókai: In the soldier’s march to glory each step is a human corpse

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Mór Jókai
From God is One (1876)
Translated by Percy Favor Bicknell

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The mysterious workings of the commissary department are beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals. Therefore let it suffice us to take only a passing glance at those mysteries.

Benjamin Vajdar was enjoying a tête-à-tête with the Marchioness Caldariva after the theatre.

“Well, what has my cripple to report of his day’s doings?” asked Rozina. “Is all going well in Italy?”

“We signed a contract to-day for supplying our army there with forty thousand cattle,” was Vajdar’s reply.

“Ah, that will make about two hundredweight of beef to a man,” returned the other, reckoning on her fingers.

“Not an ounce of which will ever reach them,” said the secretary, with a smile; “but we shall make a couple of millions out of the transaction, – a mere bagatelle for Papa Cagliari, however; not enough to keep him in champagne.”

“A very clever stroke of yours,” commented the marchioness, with approval; “and I can tell you of another little operation the prince has in hand just now. Bring me the morocco pocketbook out of my writing-desk, please.”

Vajdar limped across the room and brought the pocketbook. Rozina opened it and drew forth an official-looking document.

“Here is a contract for so and so many bushels of grain to be furnished to the army. You see it foots up a large sum, but the profits won’t be so very great, after all, owing to the recent rise in prices on the corn exchange.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” interposed Benjamin, with a knowing smile. “Who will ever know the difference if a quarter part of the total weight is chaff and clay? It will all grind up into excellent flour, and when the soldier eats his barley bread or his rye loaf it will taste all the better to him. There is nearly half a million florins’ clear profit in the transaction, at a moderate estimate.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed the beautiful Cyrene. “So the soldiers must eat half a million florins’ worth of chaff and clay to enable Papa Cagliari to take his morning bath in champagne.”

“Well, what of that? It makes, at most, only two florins’ worth to a man, and the soldier who loves his country ought to be glad to eat two florins’ worth of her soil. Has the prince any other contract under consideration?”

“Yes, a very important one. He has procured an order that the troops in Italy shall wear for their summer uniform cotton blouses instead of linen, and he has the contract for furnishing the material.”

“But the prices named here are very low,” objected Vajdar, reading from the paper Rozina had handed him.

“Ah, but let me explain. The cotton is to be thirty inches wide, with so and so many threads to the warp – according to the specifications. But what soldier will ever think of counting the threads in his blouse, or know whether it was cut from goods thirty inches wide or twenty-eight? So, you see, with a little trimming here and a little paring there we can make a good hundred thousand florins out of the job.”

“But are our tracks well covered? Is there no risk in all this?”

“Fear nothing. There are eyeglasses that blind the sharpest of eyes.”

“How if there are some eyes that will not be fitted with these glasses?”

“Again I say, never fear. A victorious campaign covers a multitude of sins.”

“And a lost one brings everything to light.”

“Not at all. A slaughtered army tells no tales…”

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Oliver Goldsmith: Selections on war

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Mark Twain: The basest type of patriotism: support for war and imperialism

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

American writers on peace and against war

Mark Twain: Selections on war

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Mark Twain
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League
As Regards Patriotism (1901)

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It is agreed, in this country, that if a man can arrange his religion so that it perfectly satisfies his conscience, it is not incumbent upon him to care whether the arrangement is satisfactory to any one else or not.

In Austria and some other countries this is not the case. There the State arranges a man’s religion for him, he has no voice in it himself.

Patriotism is merely a religion – love of country, worship of country, devotion to the country’s flag and honor and welfare.

In absolute monarchies it is furnished from the throne, cut and dried, to the subject; in England and America it is furnished, cut and dried, to the citizen by the politician and the newspaper.

The newspaper-and-politician-manufactured Patriot often gags in private over his dose; but he takes it, and keeps it on his stomach the best he can. Blessed are the meek.

Sometimes, in the beginning of an insane and shabby political upheaval, he is strongly moved to revolt, but he doesn’t do it – he knows better. He knows that his maker would find it out – the maker of his Patriotism, the windy and incoherent six-dollar sub-editor of his village newspaper – and would bray out in print and call him a traitor. And how dreadful that would be. It makes him tuck his tail between his legs and shiver. We all know – the reader knows it quite well – that two or three years ago nine-tenths of the human tails in England and America performed just that act. Which is to say, nine-tenths of the Patriots in England and America turned traitor to keep from being called traitor. Isn’t it true? You know it to be true. Isn’t it curious?

Yet it was not a thing to be very seriously ashamed of. A man can seldom – very, very seldom – fight a winning fight against his training; the odds are too heavy. For many a year – perhaps always – the training of the two nations had been dead against independence in political thought, persistently inhospitable toward Patriotism manufactured on a man’s own premises, Patriotism reasoned out in the man’s own head and fire-assayed and tested and proved in his own conscience. The resulting Patriotism was a shop-worn product procured at second hand. The Patriot did not know just how or when or where he got his opinions, neither did he care, so long as he was with what seemed the majority – which was the main thing, the safe thing, the comfortable thing. Does the reader believe he knows three men who have actual reasons for their pattern of Patriotism – and can furnish them? Let him not examine, unless he wants to be disappointed. He will be likely to find that his men got their Patriotism at the public trough, and had no hand in their preparation themselves.

Training does wonderful things. It moved the people of this country to oppose the Mexican war; then moved them to fall in with what they supposed was the opinion of the majority – majority-Patriotism is the customary Patriotism – and go down there and fight. Before the Civil War it made the North indifferent to slavery and friendly to the slave interest; in that interest it made Massachusetts hostile to the American flag, and she would not allow it to be hoisted on her State House – in her eyes it was the flag of a faction. Then by and by, training swung Massachusetts the other way, and she went raging South to fight under that very flag and against that foretime protected-interest of hers.

Training made us nobly anxious to free Cuba; training made us give her a noble promise; training has enabled us to take it back. Long training made us revolt at the idea of wantonly taking any weak nation’s country and liberties away from it, a short training has made us glad to do it, and proud of having done it. Training made us loathe Weyler’s cruel concentration camps, training has persuaded us to prefer them to any other device for winning the love of our “wards.”

There is nothing that training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach or below it. It can turn bad morals to good, good morals to bad; it can destroy principles, it can re-create them; it can debase angels to men and lift men to angelship. And it can do any one of these miracles in a year – even in six months.

Then men can be trained to manufacture their own Patriotism. They can be trained to labor it out in their own heads and hearts, and in the privacy and independence of their own premises. It can train them to stop taking it by command, as the Austrian takes his religion.

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H.G. Wells: None so detestable as the god of war

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

H.G. Wells: Selections on war

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H.G. Wells
From Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916)

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“But he must let these things happen. Or why do they happen?”

“No,” said Mr. Britling. “It is the theologians who must answer that. They have been extravagant about God. They have had silly absolute ideas – that He is all powerful. That He’s omni-everything. But the common sense of men knows better. Every real religious thought denies it. After all, the real God of the Christians is Christ, not God Almighty; a poor mocked and wounded God nailed on a cross of matter…Some day He will triumph…But it is not fair to say that He causes all things now. It is not fair to make out a case against him. You have been misled. It is a theologian’s folly. God is not absolute; God is finite…A finite God who struggles in his great and comprehensive way as we struggle in our weak and silly way – who is with us – that is the essence of all real religion…I agree with you so – Why! if I thought there was an omnipotent God who looked down on battles and deaths and all the waste and horror of this war – able to prevent these things – doing them to amuse Himself – would spit in his empty face…”

***

Another son had gone – all the world was losing its sons…

He found himself thinking of young Heinrich in the very manner, if with a lesser intensity, in which he thought about his own son, as of hopes senselessly destroyed. His mind took no note of the fact that Heinrich was an enemy, that by the reckoning of a “war of attrition” his death was balance and compensation for the death of Hugh. He went straight to the root fact that they had been gallant and kindly beings, and that the same thing had killed them both…

By no conceivable mental gymnastics could he think of the two as antagonists. Between them there was no imaginable issue. They had both very much the same scientific disposition; with perhaps more dash and inspiration in the quality of Hugh; more docility and method in the case of Karl. Until war had smashed them one against the other…

***

The letters reinforced the photographs in their reminder how kind and pleasant a race mankind can be. Until the wild asses of nationalism came kicking and slaying amidst them, until suspicion and jostling greed and malignity poison their minds, until the fools with the high explosives blow that elemental goodness into shrieks of hate and splashes of blood. How kindly men are – up to the very instant of their cruelties! His mind teemed suddenly with little anecdotes and histories of the goodwill of men breaking through the ill-will of war, of the mutual help of sorely wounded Germans and English lying together in the mud and darkness between the trenches, of the fellowship of captors and prisoners, of the Saxons at Christmas fraternising with the English…Of that he had seen photographs in one of the daily papers…

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William Dean Howells: If we have war, every good cause will be set back

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

American writers on peace and against war

William Dean Howells: Selections on war

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William Dean Howells
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League

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Letter to his sister Aurela H. Howells
April 3, 1898

Of course we are deafened by the war-talk here. I hope you will not be surprised to hear that I think we are wickedly wrong. We have no right to interfere in Cuba, and we have no cause of quarrel with Spain. At the very best we propose to do evil that good may come. If we have war it will be at the cause of a thousand times more suffering than Spain has inflicted or could inflict on Cuba. After war will come the piling up of big fortunes again; the craze for wealth will fill all brains, and every good cause will be set back. We shall have an era of blood-thirsty prosperity, and the chains of capitalism will be welded on the nation more fiercely than ever.

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Leonid Leonov: All the blood that has been shed has turned the air bad

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

Russian writers on war

Leonid Leonov: Tell me, is it right to kill – in war or anyhow?

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Leonid Leonov
From The Thief (1927)
Translated by Hubert Butler

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“…Things are going badly with everyone nowadays. You’d think that all the blood that has been shed has turned the air bad. And you’ll have to go on breathing it a long time yet, till a breeze comes. The armies were too keen by half…”

“The sun is passing through a terrible phase. Mitka is plague and anarchy and ignorance and even ruin. He is the lump of wood from which the progenitors of the future man will be carved. But humanity will not go to the dogs all the same. I’m a melancholy fellow, but I maintain that the organ of laughter, the spleen, will scent the danger in time and save the world. If I skip the last few years, I’m forced to admit that man is somehow beautiful and his creation somewhat wise. Himself warm and living, he seeks out and creates each moment new idols for himself, and cannot realize that he himself is better than all his creations. Man is alive, but an idol is dead, even when it is obeyed.”

In a cage in the right-hand corner lay a bear. His great head rested on one of his paws, for he had made his peace with the iron bars. Mitka stepped closer, and though someone was walking behind him, he did not turn around. In the dark eye of the beast there was indulgence, and even forgiveness toward men, who from time immemorial have robbed the weakest of their freedom. We can all of us read our own sufferings in a beast’s eye.

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D.H. Lawrence: War adds horror to horror, becomes horrible piratic affair, dirty sort of freebooting

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

D. H. Lawrence: Selections on war

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D.H. Lawrence
From Kangaroo (1923)

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If men had kept their souls firm and integral through the years, the war would never have come on…

And now, if circumstances had roped nearly all men into the horror, and it was a case of adding horror to horror, or dying well, on the other hand, the irremediable circumstance of his own separate soul made Richard Lovat’s inevitable standing out. If there is an outward, circumstantial unreason and fatality, there is an inward unreason and inward fate. He would have to dare to follow his inward fate. He must remain alone, outside of everything, everything, conscious of what was going on, conscious of what he was doing and not doing. Conscious he must be and consciously he must stick to it. To be forced into nothing.

For, above all things, man is a land animal and a thought-adventurer. Once the human consciousness really sinks and is swamped under the tide of events – as the best English consciousness was swamped, pacifist and patriotic alike – then the adventure is doomed. The English soul went under in the war, and, as a conscious, proud, adventurous, self-responsible soul, it was lost. We all lost the war: perhaps Germany least. Lost all the lot. The adventure is always lost when the human conscious soul gives way under the stress, fails to keep control, and is submerged. Then out swam the rats and the Bottomleys and crew, and the ship of human adventure is a horrible piratic affair, a dirty sort of freebooting.

***

Mrs. Redburn was frightened, receiving the tainted Mr. Somers. But she had pluck. Everybody in London was frightened at this time, everybody who was not a rabid and disgusting so-called patriot. It was a reign of terror…

***

So then, why will men not forgive the war, and their humiliation at the hands of those war-like authorities? Because men were compelled into the service of a dead ideal. And perhaps nothing but this compulsion made them realise it was a dead ideal. But all those filthy stay-at-home officers and coast-watchers and dirty-minded doctors who tortured men during the first stages of the torture, did these men in their souls believe in what they were doing? They didn’t. They had no souls. They had only their beastly little wills, which they used to bully all men with. With their wills they determined to fight for a dead ideal, and to bully every other man into compliance. The inspiring motive was the bullying. And every other man complied. Or else, by admitting a conscientious objection to war, he admitted the dead ideal, but took refuge in one of its side-tracks.

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Oliver Goldsmith: To make one man happy is more truly great than having ten thousand captives groaning at the wheels of his chariot

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

Oliver Goldsmith: Selections on war

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Oliver Goldsmith
From Citizen of the World (1762)

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The English and French have not only political reasons to induce them to mutual hatred but often the more prevailing motive of private interest to widen the breach; a war between other countries is carried on collectively, army fights against army, and a man’s own private resentment is lost in that of the community; but in England and France the individuals of each country plunder each other at sea without redress, and consequently feel that animosity against each other which passengers do at a robber. They have for some time carried on an expensive war; and several captives have been taken on both sides. Those made prisoners by the French have been used with cruelty, and guarded with unnecessary caution. Those taken by the English, being much more numerous, were confined in the ordinary manner; and, not being released by their countrymen, began to feel all the inconveniencies which arise from want of covering and long confinement.

***

To rejoice at the destruction of our enemies, is a foible grafted upon human nature, and we must be permitted to indulge it: the true way of atoning for such an ill founded pleasure, is thus to turn our triumph into an act of benevolence, and to testify our own joy by endeavouring to banish anxiety from others.

Hamti, the best and wisest emperor that ever filled the throne, after having gained three signal victories over the Tartars, who had invaded his dominions, returned to Nankin in order to enjoy the glory of his conquest. After he had rested for some days, the people who are naturally fond of processions, impatiently expected the triumphal entry, which emperors upon such occasions were accustomed to make. Their murmurs came to the emperor’s ear. He loved his people, and was willing to do all in his power to satisfy their just desires. He therefore assured them, that he intended, upon the next feast of the Lanthorns, to exhibit one of the most glorious triumphs that had ever been seen in China.

The people were in raptures at his condescension; and, on the appointed day, assembled at the gates of the palace with the most eager expectations. Here they waited for some time without seeing any of those preparations which usually precede a pageant. The lanthorn, with ten thousand tapers, was not yet brought forth; the fire-works, which usually covered the city walls, were not yet lighted; the people once more began to murmur at this delay; when in the midst of their impatience, the palace gates flew open, and the emperor himself appeared, not in splendor or magnificence, but in an ordinary habit, followed by the blind, the maimed, and the strangers of the city, all in new clothes, and each carrying in his hand money enough to supply his necessities for the year. The people were at first amazed, but soon perceived the wisdom of their king, who taught them, that to make one man happy was more truly great than having ten thousand captives groaning at the wheels of his chariot.

***

Some time since I sent thee, oh holy disciple of Confucius, an account of the grand abbey or mausoleum of the kings and heroes of this nation. I have since been introduced to a temple not so ancient, but far superior in beauty and magnificence. In this, which is the most considerable of the empire, there are no pompous inscriptions, no flattery paid the dead, but all is elegant and awfully simple. There are however a few rags hung round the walls, which have at a vast expense been taken from the enemy in the present war. The silk of which they are composed when new, might be valued at half a string of copper money in China; yet this wise people fitted out a fleet and an army in order to seize them; though now grown old, and scarce capable of being patched up into a handkerchief. By this conquest the English are said to have gained, and the French to have lost much honour. Is the honour of European nations placed only in tattered silk?

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Oliver Wendell Holmes: Not so enamored of the drum and trumpet

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

American writers on peace and against war

Oliver Wendell Holmes: Hymn to Peace

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Oliver Wendell Holmes
From The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1859)

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They are playing with toys we have done with for whole generations. That silly little drum they are always beating on, and the trumpet and the feather they make so much noise and cut such a figure with, we have not quite outgrown, but play with much less seriously and constantly as they do.

***

A man whose opinions are not attacked is beneath contempt.

***

Justice! A good man respects the rights even of brute matter and arbitrary symbols.

***

It is in the hearts of many men and women – let me add children – that there is a Great Secret waiting for them, – a secret of which they get hints now and then, perhaps oftener in early than in later years. These hints come sometimes in dreams, sometimes in sudden startling flashes, – second wakings, as it were, – a waking out of the waking state, which last is very apt to be a half-sleep. I have many times stopped short and held my breath, and felt the blood leaving my cheeks, in one of these sudden clairvoyant flashes. Of course I cannot tell what kind of a secret this is, but I think of it as a disclosure of certain relations of our personal being to time and space, to other intelligences, to the procession of events, and to their First Great Cause. This secret seems to be broken up, as it were, into fragments, so that we find here a word and there a syllable, and then again only a letter of it; but it never is written out for most of us as a complete sentence, in this life. I do not think it could be; for I am disposed to consider our beliefs about such a possible disclosure rather as a kind of premonition of an enlargement of our faculties in some future state than as an expectation to be fulfilled for most of us in this life…

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Sinclair Lewis: The disguised increase, false economizing of war budgets

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

American writers on peace and against war

Sinclair Lewis: Selections on war

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Sinclair Lewis
From It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

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America followed, too, the same ingenious finances as Europe. Windrip had promised to make everybody richer, and had contrived to make everybody, except for a few hundred bankers and industrialists and soldiers, much poorer. He needed no higher mathematicians to produce his financial statements: any ordinary press agent could do them. To show a 100 per cent economy in military expenditures, while increasing the establishment 700 per cent, it had been necessary only to charge up all expenditures for the Minute Men to non-military departments, so that their training in the art of bayonet-sticking was debited to the Department of Education. To show an increase in average wages one did tricks with “categories of labor” and “required minimum wages,” and forgot to state how many workers ever did become entitled to the “minimum,” and how much was charged as wages, on the books, for food and shelter for the millions in the labor camps.

It all made dazzling reading. There had never been more elegant and romantic fiction.

Even loyal Corpos began to wonder why the armed forces, army and M.M.’s together, were being so increased. Was a frightened Windrip getting ready to defend himself against a rising of the whole nation? Did he plan to attack all of North and South America and make himself an emperor? Or both? In any case, the forces were so swollen that even with its despotic power of taxation, the Corpo government never had enough. They began to force exports, to practice the “dumping” of wheat, corn, timber, copper, oil, machinery. They increased production, forced it by fines and threats, then stripped the farmer of all he had, for export at depreciated prices. But at home the prices were not depreciated but increased, so that the more we exported, the less the industrial worker in America had to eat. And really zealous County Commissioners took from the farmer (after the patriotic manner of many Mid-Western counties in 1918) even his seed grain, so that he could grow no more, and on the very acres where once he had raised superfluous wheat he now starved for bread. And while he was starving, the Commissioners continued to try to make him pay for the Corpo bonds which he had been made to buy on the instalment plan.

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Stephen Spender: The Woolfs in the 1930s: War the inevitable result of an arms race.

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

Stephen Spender: Automata controlled by the mechanism of war, meaningless struggle between potential ashes to gain a world of ashes

Stephen Spender: Lecture on Hell: battle against totalitarian war

Stephen Spender: Ultima Ratio Regum

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Stephen Spender
From World Within World (1948)

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There would be talk of politics, that is to say, of war. For Leonard and Virginia were among the very few people in England who had a profound understanding of the state of the world in the 1930s; Leonard, because he was a political thinker and historian with an almost fatalistic understanding of the consequences of actions. So that when, in 1934, I asked him whether he thought there would be a war he replied: “Yes, of course. Because when the nations enter into an armaments race, as they are doing at present, no other end is possible. The arms have to be used before they become completely out of date.”

***

Perhaps the worst of the 1930s was not that politicians attempted to compromise with Hitler: but that they did Hitler’s work by blinding themselves, and others, to the forces with which they were compromising. Hitler did more than gain political victories in Europe. He also demoralized international politics. There came a day when the democratic statesmen who played politics with him, were forced to accept elections in Austria and the Saar, directed by Hitler, as expressions of the will of the people; to recognize the Anschluss and the seizure of Czechoslovakia as voluntary corrections of European frontiers; and to deny, during the Spanish Civil War, that British ships were sunk by Italian submarines in the Mediterranean. There statesmen came to represent a cynicism which lacked the courage of Hitler’s blackguardism. If it is pointed out that after all the democracies overthrew Hitler, I must reply that this was not until they had inherited and taken to themselves the worst of his plans – total war followed by a dictated peace.

***

The intelligentsia also had more sinister reasons for understanding Hitler. These were the elements of pure destructiveness, of attraction to evil for its own sake, and of a search for spiritual damnation, which had been present in some European literature for the past century, and which were fulfilled in Nazi politics. European literature had diagnosed, without purging itself of, the evil of nihilism. In Hitlerism the nightmares of Dostoevsky’s The Possessed, of Nietzsche and of Wagner, were made real. The cultured Europeans recognized in this political movement some of their own most hidden fantasies. Hatred of it was deeply involved with a sense of their own guilt. And as though to demonstrate this to the utmost, certain writers in the occupied countries were actually to welcome Hitler as a destructive force which their art had prophesied.

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Thomas Mann: By nature evil and harmful, war is destructive even to the victor

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

Thomas Mann: Selections on war

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Thomas Mann
From letter to Agnes E. Meyer
December 1, 1946

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America as a whole is not in the happiest state – morally damaged by a war that was a necessity, but simply as a war was evil and harmful. Those are the antinomies in this vale of tears. Now we are experiencing a great lowering of morale, raw avarice, political reaction, race hatred, and all the signs of spiritual depression…As a German I am naturally inclined toward pessimism, and occasionally I fear having to go through the whole disaster, somewhat modified, once again. And then there would be no further exile – for where would I go?

From letter to Mr. Gray [unidentified)
October 12, 1947

At one time my faith in America’s humanitarian mission was very strong. In the last years it has been exposed to slight strains. Instead of leading the world, America appears to be resolved to buy it – which is also a very grandiose thing after its fashion, but does inspire less enthusiasm, you know. But even under these circumstances I still remain an American patriot, a fact which is confirmed to me by the grief I feel as I observe the growing unpopularity of America in the rest of the world. The American people are not responsible for this development and do not comprehend it. Those who try to explain the reasons for it are more and more reduced to silence. We can already see the first signs of terrorism, talebearing, political inquisition, and suspension of law, all of which are excused by an alleged state of emergency. As a German I can only say: That is the way it began among us, too.

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Charles Yale Harrison: War’s snarling, savage beasts

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

American writers on peace and against war

Charles Yale Harrison: Selections on war

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Charles Yale Harrison
From Generals Die In Bed (1928)

There is a movement in one of the trees which has remained standing. Broadbent raises his rifle to his shoulder and shoots into the shattered branches.

A rifle drops – and then the man. He holds his shoulder from whence comes a trickle of blood. The rifle is fitted with telescopic sights.

A sniper!

Some of our boys rush to him and cover him with their rifles. The wounded sniper crawls on his knees towards us. He is middle-aged and has a gray walrus mustache – fatherly-looking. His hands are folded in the gesture which pleads for pity.

Drei Kinder – three children,” he shrieks.

We are on top of him.

Broadbent runs his bayonet into the kneeling one’s throat. The body collapses.

Some of us kick at the prostrate body as we pass it. It quivers a little with each kick.

***

I see their ranks waver for a moment and then they start to run slowly towards us. Our line is a line of flame. Every gun is in action.

The singing is quite distinct now.

I can see faces clearly.

Each burst of Broadbent’s gun cuts a swath in the front ranks of the attacking troops.

They are close to our trenches. Their singing has become a shriek which we hear above the hammering of our rifles and guns.

I am filled with frenzied hatred for these men. They want to kill me but I will stay here and shoot at them until I am either shot or stabbed down. I grit my teeth. We are snarling, savage beasts.

Their dead and wound are piled about four deep.

They climb over them as they advance.

Suddently they break and retreat.

We have repulsed them again. Their wounded crawl toward our trenches. We shoot at them.

The shrieking and howling out in front of us sounds like a madhouse in turmoil.

We sink down to the bottom of our trenches exhausted.

It is quiet once more.

Out in front wounded men still howl. One of them crawls into our trench and falls near us. Half of his face is shot away.

His breath smells of ether! No wonder they attacked like madmen!

It is nearly dusk.

They begin to shell our trench. They have not got the correct range and the shells fall short in No Man’s Land. The shells leap among the bodies of the wounded and the dead. The lashing of the bombardment starts them shrieking again. It hurls torn limbs and entrails into our trench.

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Alfred Neumann: War, the Great Incendiary, the everlasting prototype of annihilation

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

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war

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Alfred Neumann
From Empire (1936)
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

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Since when has Rochefort been in favour of chivalry in the attack upon a regime of stock-exchange speculators, upon a policy which aims at making money out of the sacrifice of soldiers, the policy of those who exploit national sentiments for the sordid end of business?…

Let us continue, my friends, to heap up debts, to play the political game, to make coups d’etats,; to wage war for the sake of speculators; to transform spurious counts into genuine dukes; to make a few princes and a great many commoners unhappy; to break our oaths and to keep our words as little as possible – doing all these things in a such a way that to make man happy shall cost us very little but bring us pots of money.

***

The old and terrible thought, dredged from the profound by this young and terrible man with his stark candour, now emerged. Not petty forces, not revolution in masquerade staged by the counterfeit Second Empire (travesty of the First), would bring about the desired change. This will be the work of the Great Incendiary, the everlasting prototype of annihilation. – This would be the work of War.

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Estonia’s (American) President Wants Permanent NATO Combat Forces

UNIAN
April 12, 2015

Estonian president calls on NATO to permanently station combat units in Baltic states

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U.S. Consolidates New Military Outposts In Eastern Europe

Stop NATO
September 23, 2010

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Estonia is “arguably the most exposed country in Europe,” according to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves‘ interview with Britain’s The Telegraph.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves believes that the time has come for NATO to deter Russia by permanently stationing combat units in the Baltic states, according to his interview to The Telegraph, published on April 11.

The Telegraph writes that like the other Baltic states, Estonia does not possess any jet fighters, so it relies entirely on NATO to guard its airspace. Last year, the alliance quadrupled the strength of its Baltic Air Policing Mission – but only [sic] from four to 16 warplanes…
Estonia remains “arguably the most exposed country in Europe.”

In the event of an invasion, Ilves believes that Russia would try to seal off the Baltic states before NATO’s “very high readiness” force had a chance to arrive. “It’s a great idea but it probably is, in terms of the realities, just too late,” the Estonian president told The Telegraph.

“Hence the importance of NATO stationing at least a brigade now, as well as pre-positioning equipment and headquarters staff,” The Telegraph wrote.

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Flaming Thunder: NATO Begins Multinational Artillery Exercise In Lithuania

UNIAN
April 13, 2015

NATO starts international artillery exercises in Lithuania

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M109 Paladin Integrated Management

International exercises involving troops from Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and the United States have started in the Baltic country Lithuania, Russian news agency TASS has reported, referring to a source in Lithuania’s Defense Ministry.

The exercises, entitled Flaming Thunder, will involve live firing with U.S. Paladin 155 mm self-propelled howitzers at Lithuania’s Klaipeda and Pabradė firing ranges.

Around 450 troops from the four countries will take part.

This is the third time the Flaming Thunder exercises have been held, and each year they involve more NATO allies, the source at the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said.

Four Paladin self-propelled guns were sent to Lithuania for the exercises. The guns, which have a range of up to 30 kilometers, each have a crew of six men – a commander, gunner, assistant gunner, driver, and two loaders.

The Flaming Thunder exercises are scheduled to last until April 24.

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Convoy Brings U.S. Paratroopers To Ukraine For Training

U.S. Army Europe
April 11, 2015

Fearless Guardian ground convoy arrives in Ukraine
By Maj. Michael J Weisman (The 173rd Airborne Brigade)

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VICENZA, Italy: Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Support Battalion arrived in Yavoriv, Ukraine April 10 via a ground convoy from here to deliver the brigade’s training equipment for Operation Fearless Guardian.

Fearless Guardian is the name for the training of Ukraine’s newly-formed National Guard under the Congress-approved Global Contingency Security Fund. Under the program, the United States will begin training three battalions of Ukrainian troops over a six-month period beginning later this month.

“Ukraine is a strong partner that has participated in exercises and operations with us around the world,” said Capt. Ashish Patel, a planning officer with the brigade. “They’ve asked the U.S. for assistance in providing this capability, and this training will help them defend their borders and their sovereignty.”

Approximately 1850 kilometers separate Vicenza from Yavoriv, and took the convoy of approximately 50 paratroopers and 25 vehicles through Austria as well as NATO allies Germany and Poland. Planning and conducting such a movement provided training of its own.

“This movement challenged leaders at all levels in the complexities of tactical convoy operations through several countries in Europe,” said Capt. Kris Toman, commander of the battalion’s Company A and the convoy…

Starting with the brigade’s host nation and NATO ally Italy, every piece of the convoy required close coordination with American embassies in each country as well as NATO allies and partners, from submitting diplomatic clearances to coordinating police escorts.

“Planning a convoy like this teaches our leaders to think strategically,” said Maj. Antonio Pineda. “Conducting convoy movements from country to country, making contact with allied units to plan the route and escorts, it’s not something you can experience back in the U.S.”

In addition to escorts, allied units in Germany and Poland also hosted the convoy during overnight stops.

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“We couldn’t put this together without our allies,” said Hartman. “The first night we were hosted by German Air Force at Wilhlem-Frankle Kasserne near Neuberg an der Donau, where the German forces facilitated our rest and refit, and we got to meet and exchange with an allied unit.”

Similar to Dragoon Ride in March, where Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment conducted a ground movement from the Baltic States to Germany, the ground convoy to Fearless Guardian highlights the ability of NATO units to move internally within the Alliance’s borders.

“This convoy is a demonstration of sustainment interoperability among our allies and partners,” said Pineda. “When we call the 6th Polish Airborne Brigade to discuss movement through Poland, that’s a unit we’ve worked with countless times through Atlantic Resolve in the last year. That makes everything easier.”

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Alexander Herzen: Six hundred thousand animated machines with bayonets. Military caste divides the people into two nations

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

Russian writers on war

Alexander Herzen: Selections on the military and war

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Alexander Herzen
From My Past and Thoughts
Translated by Constance Garnett

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We were kept in ignorance by the knout and the Tatars: we were civilized by the axe and the Germans: and in both cases our nostrils were slit and we were branded with irons. Peter the Great drove civilisation into us with such a wedge that Russia could not stand the shock and split into two layers. We are only just beginning now, after a hundred and fifty years, to understand how this split was made: there was nothing in common between the two parts; on the one hand, robbery and contempt; on the other, suffering and mistrust: on the one hand, the liveried lackey, proud of his social position and haughtily displaying it; on the other hand, the plundered peasant, hating him and concealing his hatred. Never did Turk, slaughtering men and carrying off women to his harem, oppress so systematically, nor disdain the Frank and Greek so insolently, as did Russia of the privileged class despise the Russia of the peasant. There is no instance in history of a caste of the same race getting the upper hand so thoroughly and becoming so completely alien as our military nobility.

***

Europe is approaching a terrible cataclysm. The mediaeval world is falling into ruins. The feudal world is drawing to a close. Political and religious revolutions are flagging under the burden of their impotence; they have accomplished great things, but have not carried out their tasks. They have destroyed faith in the Throne and the Altar, but have not established freedom; they have kindled in men’s hearts desires which they are incapable of satisfying. Parliamentarianism, Protestantism, are only stop-gaps, temporary havens, weak bulwarks against death and resurrection. Their day is over. Since 1849 it has grasped that petrified Roman law, subtle casuistry, thin philosophic deism, and barren religious rationalism are all equally powerless to hold back the workings of destiny…Europe is plunged in dim, stifling gloom, on the even of the momentous conflict. It is not life, but an oppressive, agitating suspense. There is no regard for law, no justice, no personal freedom even; everywhere the sway of the secular inquisition is supreme; instead of order upheld by law, there is a state of siege, all are governed by a single feeling – fear, and there is plenty of it…

***

There are peoples living a prehistoric life, others living a life outside history; but once they move into the broad stream of history, one and indivisible, they belong to humanity, and, on the other hand, all the past of humanity belongs to them. In history – that is, in the life of the active and progressive part of humanity – the aristocracy of facial angle, of complexion, and other distinctions is gradually effaced…

***

This living pyramid of crimes, abuses, and bribery, built up of policemen, scoundrels, heartless German officials everlastingly greedy, ignorant judges everlastingly drunk, aristocrats everlastingly base: all this is held together by a community of interest in plunder and gain, and supported on six hundred thousand animated machines with bayonets…

***

Science even more than the Gospel teaches us humility. She cannot look down on anything, she does not know what superiority means, she despises nothing, is never false for the sake of a pose, and conceals nothing to produce an effect. She stops short at the facts to investigate, sometimes to heal, never to punish, still less with hostility and irony.

Science – I anyway am not compelled to keep some words hidden in the silence of the spirit – science is love, as Spinoza said of thought and vision.

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Strongest Military Alliance In History Of The World: U.S. Abrams Tanks Fire Live Rounds In Lithuania

U.S. Army Europe
April 10, 2015

TF 2-7 IN demonstrate Abrams power in Lithuania
By Sgt. Uriah Walker

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PABRADE TRAINING AREA, Lithuania: Four M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks conducted a live-fire demonstration for the Lithuanian Minister of Defense, members of the Lithuanian army and civilians showcasing the 120mm main gun, 240B 7.62mm and M2A1 .50 caliber machine guns April 9.

This was the first time U.S. Army tanks fired in Lithuania. The historic event demonstrated the United States’ commitment to maintain a strong Europe and highlighted ongoing training with NATO allies during Atlantic Resolve.

“At some point you have to be on the ground to dominate the terrain,” said Col. Robert P. Ashe, commander, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “You can’t do that in any other way besides having soldiers and tanks on the ground.”

Ashe explained the commitment to Atlantic Resolve is about the U.S. being in Europe to support allies and partners, and demonstrate the U.S. ability to move equipment and personnel anywhere they are needed.

Atlantic Resolve allows members of various military elements, U.S. and European, to work together to improve joint movements and training.

“NATO is the strongest alliance in the history of the world,” Ashe said. “We all understand the importance of a strong NATO and we understand the importance of a strong Europe and we’re absolutely committed to that.”

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Scotland: NATO War Games With 13,000 Troops, 54 Warships, 70 Planes, Submarines

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
April 11, 2015

NATO Standing Naval Forces arrive in Scotland for Exercise Joint Warrior

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SCOTLAND: Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) and Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Groups ONE and TWO (SNMCMG1, SNMCMG2) ships arrived in Scotland the past two days for a port visit and to prepare for the UK-led Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 15-1.

SNMG2, led by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Brad Williamson, arrived in Faslane comprised of the flagship USS VICKSBURG, HMCS FREDERICTON, TCG GOKSU, and FGS SPESSART.

SNMCMG2, led by Italian Navy Captain Giovanni Piegaja, arrived in Glasgow comprised of the flagship ITS EURO, TCG ANAMUR, and FGS BAD BEVENSEN.

SNMCMG1, led by Dutch Navy Commander Peter Bergen-Henegouwen, arrived in Glasgow comprised of flagship FGS DONAU, BNS LOBELIA, FGS AUERBACH, HMS PEMBROKE, ORP MEWA, HNLMS WILLEMSTAD, and HNOMS RAUMA.

“This exercise is a unique opportunity for us to work with our Allied shipmates,” said Lieutenant Commander Matthew Hamm, USS VICKSBURG’s operations officer…

Exercise JOINT WARRIOR will run from 11-24 April. NATO’s three SNFs consisting of 14 ships will join more than 40 additional warships and submarines and 70 aircraft. In total, around 13,000 personnel from 14 countries are participating in the exercise.

The exercise provides complex coordinated training at the joint level, increasing interoperability between Allied forces and providing valuable experience integrating land, air, and maritime forces. NATO’s Standing Naval Forces will test their anti-air and anti-submarine warfare skillsets, as well as conducting mine counter-measures training in advance of amphibious landings.

“Joint Warrior is a very good opportunity to showcase the interoperability skills we as an Alliance maritime force are always perfecting,” said Captain Gennaro Carola, SNMG2 Chief of Staff. “With this exercise we have a chance to work together on a large scale and to implement all of the lessons learned from our previous exercises. It will be an exciting and busy time at sea.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Humphrey Cobb: Selections on war

Categories: Uncategorized

Czech Republic: U.S. Warplanes Drill For Conflict To The East

Czech News Agency
April 8, 2015

Forward air control exercise starts at Czech army base

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Namest nad Oslavou: An exercise of Czech forward air controllers started at the helicopter base in Namest today by the arrival of four A-10 Thunderbolt planes from the U.S. air forces´ 354th fighter squadron seated in Germany, base spokeswoman Jana Skrivankova has told CTK.

The POP UP A-10 CAS military exercise, which runs through April 17, will take place without live ammunition in the area normally used for the training of air support in the vicinity of Trebic.

The U.S. planes landed in Namest at round 14:00.

Training flights should start as of Thursday.

“They will be on workdays from 09:00 until 23:00. Night flights will be limited to the necessary minimum,” said Skrivankova.

The Czech air force have long been developing cooperation with the United States in this field, she added.

The participation of the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft during the training should extend the Czech forward air controllers´ (FAC) skills in the operation of state-of-the-art equipment for the identification and surveillance of targets.

Soldiers will also train in the night using night-vision devices and develop communication skills in English, Skrivankova said.

In addition, the exercise should focus on the development of skills of the 22nd helicopter base in the provision of logistic support for the 65-member U.S. unit, including catering, accommodation, fuel and communication and information connection.

The Ample Strike 2015 national exercise will also train the harmonisation of forward air controllers with the crews of tactic planes and helicopters during operations. It will be held in cooperation with NATO member states on August 31-September 22. Sixteen NATO members confirmed their participation at the beginning of the year.

Last year, the Ample Strike exercise took place at the Namest base and at the 21st tactic air force base in Caslav, central Bohemia, as well as in the Boletice and Libava grounds, south Bohemia. Almost 1300 soldiers from 12 NATO member states, including the Czech Republic, participated in it.

It followed up the previous Flying Rhino and Ramstein Rover exercises in the Czech Republic in the past years.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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