Jean Paul Richter: The arch of peace

February 26, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Jean Paul Richter: The fathers of war

Jean Paul Richter: The Goddess of Peace

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Jean Paul Richter
From The Titan
Translated by Charles T. Brooks

“How will it be with us all,” said Linda, “when we meet again, and seek again the lovely soil?” Just then they espied a high-arched rainbow; that stood half on the island and half on the waves, which seemed to fling it out as a gay, arching water-column upon the shore. “We are going,” said Julienne, delighted, “to pass under the arch of peace.” At this word the rain and the wreath of colours disappeared, and the sun shone behind them.

***

“So,” said Albano to himself, as they passed through the long corso to the Tenth Ward, “thou art veritably in the camp of the god of war; here, where he grasped the hilt of the monstrous war-sword, and with the point made the three wounds in three quarters of the world.”

***

The Princess answered, that twelve thousand prisoners built this theatre, and a great many more had bled in it. “O, we too have building prisoners,” said he, “but for fortifications; and blood, too, still flows…”

***

“One learns to estimate military courage very moderately, when one sees that the Roman Legions, precisely when they were mercenary, bad, slavish, and half-freedmen, namely, under the Triumvirate, fought more courageously than ever. The citizens fought and died to the very last man for that insignificant incendiary, Cataline, and only slaves were made prisoners.”

***

[He] threw his iron body into the jaws of death, who could not immediately destroy it, – and intoxicated himself with the sorrow of a savage over his murdered life and hopes in the funeral bowl of debauchery; a league which sensuality and despair have often struck with each other on earth, on theatres of war, and in great cities.

***

Suddenly the flutes in the dell began, which the pious father caused to play at his evening devotions. Like tones of music on the battle-field, they called down murder…

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George Sterling: War past, present, future

February 25, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

George Sterling: To the War-Lords

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George Sterling
War

The Past

In that abyss what monsters greet the sight!
Then were the fertile leisures of the sage,
And stony Art saw then her Golden Age;
But nation upon nation in that night,

With flame to blast and savage steel to smite,
Fell fiendlike, drunken with the battle-rage,
And Time’s red arm upholds a bloody page
Before the revelation of the light.

The dreadful heritage is on us yet:
Rapine and tears and torment and despair –
The murder-stains wherewith our hands are wet.
Still round us rise the dungeons of the Past,
The crypt abominable whence we fare
Slowly, ah! slowly to the light at last.

The Present

They will not pause for counsel. Deadly wings
Take now the skies, and the horizons slay
With hands invisible, and warships sway
To billows broken by their thunderings.

So wrought the lands where now the desert flings
A pall of sand on columns that decay;
And whose the realm none knows unto this day,
Nor knows the Wrath that smote its cruel kings.

Is this the wholesome blue, the heavens of night
Whose eastern star the wise men had for guide?
Found they the Prince of Peace below its light?
That orb hath set. Swift from its holy place
With level wings the pampered vultures slide,
As morning glimmers on a dead man’s face.

The Future

Be beautiful, O morning’s feet of gold,
Upon the mountains of that time to be!
Be swift, O dayspring that shall set us free
From all the blinding tyrannies of old!

Thine are the years by seer and bard foretold,
And thine the judgment driven as a sea
On man’s high-treason to humanity.
Thine is the sun their armies shall behold.

O ranks that serve the future and the Right,
How fair your conquests and how high your wars,
When, bathed in that deliverance of light,
Your swords are lifted against pain and wrong,
And, ere man’s House be builded toward the stars,
Ye lay its deep foundations with a song!

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Jean Paul Richter: The fathers of war

February 19, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Jean Paul Richter: The arch of peace

Jean Paul Richter: The Goddess of Peace

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Jean Paul Richter
From The Titan (1800-1803)
Translated by Charles T. Brooks

Only those hard stormers of heaven and earth before whose triumphal chariots there starts up beforehand a wagon-rampart full of wounds and corpses, – that is, the fathers of war, which, in the long course of history, ministers have oftener been than princes, – only these can calmly kindle all the volcanoes of earth, and let all their lava-torrents stream down, merely that they may have fair prospects. They manure Elysian fields into a battle-field, in order therein to raise a redder rose-bush for a mistress.

***

Schoppe read aloud…two extensive battles, wherein, as by an earthquake, lands instead of houses were buried, and whose wounds and years only the evil genius of the earth could be willing to know; thereupon he read, – after the death-marches of whole generations, and the rending open of the craters of humanity, – with uninterrupted seriousness, the notices, under the head of Intelligence, where one solitary individual mounts upon an unknown little grave…

***

[It must] pain Immortals when they behold us under the violent tempests of life arrayed against each other on the battle-field of enmity, under double blows, and so mortally smitten at once by remote destiny and by that nearer hand which should bind up our wounds!

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William Herbert Carruth: When the Cannon Booms

February 18, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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William Herbert Carruth
When the Cannon Booms

When the cannon booms,
When the war-drums rattle fiercely
And the feet of men in khaki hammer time out on the pave,
It is easy to be brave;
It is easy to believe that God is angry with the other Man, our brother,
And has left the sword of Gideon in our wayward human hand,
When the cannon booms.

When the cannon booms,
When the primal love of fighting stirs the tiger in our blood,
And the fascinating smell
Of the sulphur-fumes of hell
Rouses memories of the pit from which our human nature rose,

It is easy to forget
God was not found in the earthquake, in the strong wind or the fire;
It is easy to forget how at last the prophet heard Him
As a still, small voice,
When the cannon booms.

When the cannon booms,
When the war-lords strut and swagger
And the battle-ships are plowing for the bitter crop of death,
While the shouting rends the ear,
Echoing from the empyrean,
It is difficult to hear
Through the din the Galilean
With his calm voice preaching peace on earth to men;
‘Twill be easier to claim,
If we will, the Christian name,
To become as little children and be men of gentle will,
When the cannon booms – the cannon booms – no more.

 

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Witter Bynner: War

February 17, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Witter Bynner
War

Fools, fools, fools,
Your blood is hot to-day.
It cools
When you are clay.
It joins the very clod
Wherein you look at God,
Wherein at last you see
The living God
The loving God,
Which was your enemy.

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Clinton Scollard: The Vale of Shadows

February 16, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
The Vale of Shadows

There is a vale in the Flemish land,
A vale once fair to see,
Where under the sweep of the sky’s wide arch,
Though winter freeze or summer parch,
The stately poplars march and march,
Remembering Lombardy.

Here are men of the Saxon eyes,
Men of the Saxon heart,
Men of the fens and men of the Peak,
Men of the Kentish meadows sleek,
Men of the Cornwall cove and creek,
Men of the Dove and Dart.

Here are men of the kilted clans
From the heathery slopes that lie
Where the mists hang gray and the mists hang white,
And the deep lochs brood ‘neath the craggy height,
And the curlews scream in the moonless night
Over the hills of the Skye.

Here are men of the Celtic breed,
Lads of the smile and tear,
From where the loops of the Shannon flow,
And the crosses gleam in the even-glow,
And the halls of Tara now are low,
And Donegal cliffs are sheer.

And never a word does one man speak,
Each in his narrow bed,
For this is the Vale of Long Release,
This is the Vale of the Lasting Peace,
Where wars, and the rumors of wars, shall cease,
The valley of the dead.

No more are they than the scattered scud,
No more than broken reeds,
No more than shards or shattered glass,
Than dust blown down the winds that pass,
Than trampled wefts of pampas-grass
When the wild herd stampedes.

In the dusk of death they laid them down
With naught of murmuring,
And laughter rings through the House of Mirth
To hear the vaunt of the high of birth,
For what are all the kings of earth
Before the one great King!

And what shall these proud war-lords say
At foot of His mighty throne?
For there shall dawn a reckoning day,
Or soon or late, come as it may,
When those who gave the sign to slay
Shall meet His face alone.

What, think ye, will their penance be
Who have wrought this monstrous crime?
What shall whiten their blood-red hands
Of the stains of riven and ravished lands?
How shall they answer God’s stern commands
At the last assize of Time?

For though we worship no vengeance-god
Of madness and of ire,
No Presence grim, with a heart of stone,
Shall they not somehow yet atone?
Shall they not reap as they have sown
Of fury and of fire?

There is a vale in the Flemish land
Where the lengthening shadows spread
When day, with crimson sandals shod,
Goes home athwart the mounds of sod
That cry in silence up to God
From the valley of the dead!

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Rossiter Johnson: Where swell the songs thou shouldst have sung by peaceful rivers yet to flow?

February 15, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Rossiter Johnson: Infinitely better to learn how to avert war

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Rossiter Johnson
A Soldier Poet

Where swell the songs thou shouldst have sung
By peaceful rivers yet to flow?
Where bloom the smiles thy ready tongue
Would call to lips that loved thee so?
On what far shore of being tossed,
Dost thou resume the genial stave,
And strike again the lyre we lost
By Rappahannock’s troubled wave?

If that new world hath hill and stream,
And breezy bank, and quiet dell,
If forests murmur, waters gleam,
And wayside flowers their story tell,
Thy hand ere this has plucked the reed
That wavered by the wooded shore;
Its prisoned soul thy fingers freed,
To float melodious evermore.

So seems it to my musing mood,
So runs it in my surer thought,
That much of beauty, more of good,
For thee the rounded years have wrought;
That life will live, however blown
Like vapor on the summer air;
That power perpetuates its own;
That silence here is music there.

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D. A. Wilson: Who Won the War?

February 14, 2020 Leave a comment

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

D. A. Wilson
Who Won the War?

Who won the war?
“I,” muttered Foch,
“For I hammered the Boche,
I won the war, I won the war!”

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
“We,” say the Yanks,
“With machine guns and tanks,
We won the war, we won the war!”

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
Silent the dead,
By them naught is said,
They won the war, they won the war!

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

Who won the war?
Nothing was won,
Yet the world was undone,
Damned is the war, damned is the war!

All the women of the world, tho forever they were weeping
Could never waken one of the dead men sleeping.

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William Shakespeare: Contumelious, beastly, mad-brained war

February 13, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Timon of Athens

Follow thy drum;
With man’s blood paint the ground, gules, gules:
Religious canons, civil laws are cruel;
Then what should war be?

But if he sack fair Athens,
And take our goodly agèd men by th’beards,
Giving our holy virgins to the stain
Of contumelious, beastly, mad-brained war.

ALCIBIADES
…Dead
Is noble Timon: of whose memory
Hereafter more. Bring me into your city,
And I will use the olive with my sword,
Make war breed peace, make peace stint war, make each
Prescribe to other as each other’s leech.
Let our drums strike.

****
From The Tempest

GONZALO
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavor.
Treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine,
Would I not have.
But nature should bring forth
Of its own kind all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.

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George Sterling: To the War-Lords

February 12, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

George Sterling: War past, present, future

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George Sterling
To the War-Lords

Be yours the doom Isaiah’s voice foretold,
Lifted on Babylon, O ye whose hands
Cast the sword’s shadow upon weaker lands,
And for whose pride a million hearths grow cold!
Ye reap but with the cannon, and do hold
Your plowing to the murder-god’s commands;
And at your altars Desolation stands,
And in your hearts is conquest, as of old.

The legions perish and the warships drown;
The fish and vulture batten on the slain;
And it is ye whose word hath shaken down
The dykes that hold the chartless sea of pain.
Your prayers deceive not men, nor shall a crown
Hide on the brow the murder-mark of Cain.

II

Now glut yourselves with conflict, nor refrain,
But let your famished provinces be fed
From bursting granaries of steel and lead!
Decree the sowing of that deadly grain
Where the great war-horse, maddened with his pain,
Stamps on the mangled living and the dead,
And from the entreated heavens overhead
Falls from a brother’s hand a fiery rain.

Lift not your voices to the gentle Christ:
Your god is of the shambles! Let the moan
Of nations be your psalter, and their youth
To Moloch and to Bel be sacrificed!
A world to which ye proffered lies alone
Learns now from Death the horror of your truth.

III

How have you fed your people upon lies,
And cried “Peace! peace!” and knew it would not be!
For now the iron dragons take the sea.
And in the new-found fortress of the skies,
Alert and fierce a deadly eagle flies.
Ten thousand cannon echo your decree,
To whose profound refrain ye bend the knee
And lift unto the Lord of Love your eyes.

This is Hell’s work: why raise your hands to Him,
And those hands mailed, and holding up the sword?
There stands another altar, stained with red,
At whose basalt the infernal seraphim
Uplift to Satan, your conspirant lord,
The blood of nations, at your mandate shed.

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Josephine Preston Peabody: Harvest Moon

February 11, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Josephine Preston Peabody
Harvest Moon

Over the twilight field,
Over the glimmering field
And bleeding furrows, with their sodden yield
Of sheaves that still did writhe,
After the scythe;
The teeming field, and darkly overstrewn
With all the garnered fullness of that noon –
Two looked upon each other.
One was a Woman, men had called their mother:
And one the Harvest Moon.

And one the Harvest Moon
Who stood, who gazed
On those unquiet gleanings, where they bled;
Till the lone Woman said:

“But we were crazed…
We should laugh now together, I and you;
We two.
You, for your ever dreaming it was worth
A star’s while to look on, and light the earth;
And I, for ever telling to my mind
Glory it was and gladness, to give birth
To human kind.
I gave the breath, – and thought it not amiss,
I gave the breath to men,
For men to slay again;
Lording it over anguish, all to give
My life, that men might live,
For this.

“You will be laughing now, remembering
We called you once Dead World, and barren thing.
Yes, so we called you then,
You, far more wise
Than to give life to men.”

Over the field that there
Gave back the skies
A scattered upward stare
From sightless eyes,
The furrowed field that lay
Striving awhile, through many a bleeding dune
Of throbbing clay, – but dumb and quiet soon,
She looked; and went her way,
The Harvest Moon.

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William Norman Ewer: Five Souls

February 10, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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William Norman Ewer
Five Souls

First Soul

I was a peasant of the Polish plain;
I left my plough because the message ran:-
Russia, in danger, needed every man
To save her from the Teuton; and was slain.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Second Soul

I was a Tyrolese, a mountaineer;
I gladly left my mountain home to fight
Against the brutal treacherous Muscovite;
And died in Poland on a Cossack spear.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Third Soul

I worked in Lyons at my weaver’s loom,
When suddenly the Prussian despot hurled
His felon blow at France and at the world;
Then I went forth to Belgium and my doom.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Fourth Soul

I owned a vineyard by the wooded Main,
Until the Fatherland, begirt by foes
Lusting her downfall, called me, and I rose
Swift to the call – and died in far Lorraine.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

Fifth Soul

I worked in a great shipyard by the Clyde;
There came a sudden word of wars declared,
Of Belgium, peaceful, helpless, unprepared,
Asking our aid: I joined the ranks, and died.
I gave my life for freedom – This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

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James Beattie: Ode to Peace

February 9, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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James Beattie
Ode To Peace

I. 1.
Peace, heaven-descended maid! whose powerful voice
From ancient darkness call’d the morn;
And hush’d of jarring elements the noise,
When Chaos, from his old dominion torn,
With all his bellowing throng,
Far, far was hurl’d the void abyss along;
And all the bright angelic choir,
Striking, through all their ranks, the eternal lyre,
Pour’d, in loud symphony, the impetuous strain;
And every fiery orb and planet sung,
And wide, through Night’s dark solitary reign,
Rebounding long and deep, the lays triumphant rung!

I. 2.
Oh, whither art thou fled, Saturnian Age!
Roll round again, majestic years!
To break the sceptre of tyrannic rage;
From Woe’s wan cheek to wipe the bitter tears;
Ye years, again roll round!
Hark! from afar what desolating sound,
While echoes load the sighing gales,
With dire presage the throbbing heart assails!
Murder, deep-roused, with all the whirl wind’s haste,
And roar of tempest, from her cavern springs,
Her tangled serpents girds around her waist,
Smiles ghastly fierce, and shakes her gore-distilling wings.

I. 3.
The shouts, redoubling, rise
In thunder to the skies;
The nymphs disordered, dart along,
Sweet powers of solitude and song,
Stunn’d with the horrors of discordant sound;
And all is listening, trembling round.
Torrents, far heard amid the waste of night,
That oft have led the wanderer right,
Are silent at the noise.
The mighty Ocean’s more majestic voice,
Drown’d in superior din, is heard no more;
The surge in silence seems to sweep the foamy shore.

II. 1.
The bloody banner, streaming in the air,
Seen on yon sky-mix’d mountain’s brow,
The mingling multitudes, the madding car,
Driven in confusion to the plain below,
War’s dreadful Lord proclaim.
Bursts out, by frequent fits, the expansive flame;
Snatch’d in tempestuous eddies, flies
The surging smoke o’er all the darken’d skies;
The cheerful face of heaven no more is seen;
The bloom of morning of morning fades to deadly pale;
The bat flies transient o’er the dusky green,
And Night’s foul birds along the sullen twilight sail.

II. 2.
Involved in fire-streak’d gloom, the car comes on,
The rushing steeds grim Terror guides,
His forehead writhed to a relentless frown,
Aloft the angry Power of Battles rides.
Grasped in his mighty hand
A mace tremendous desolates the land;
The tower rolls headlong down the steep,
The mountain shrinks before its wasteful sweep,
Chill horror the dissolving limbs invades,
Smit by the blasting lightning of his eyes;
A deeper gloom invests the howling shades;
Stripp’d is the shatter’d grove, and every verdure dies.

II. 3.
How startled Phrenzy stares,
Bristling her ragged hairs!
Revenge the gory fragment gnaws;
See, with her griping vulture claws
Imprinted deep, she rends the mangled wound!
Hate whirls her torch sulphureous round.
The shrieks of agony, and clang of arms,
Re-echo to the hoarse alarms,
Her trump terrific blows.
Disparting from behind, the clouds disclose,
Of kingly gesture, a gigantic form,
That with his scourge sublime rules the careering storm.

III. 1.
Ambition, outside fair! within as foul
As fiends of fiercest heart below,
Who rides the hurricanes of fire, that roll
Their thundering vortex o’er the realms of wo,
Yon naked waste survey;
Where late was heard the flute’s mellifluous lay;
Where late the rosy-bosom’d hours,
In loose array, danced lightly o’er the flowers;
Where late the shepherd told his tender tale;
And, waken’d by the murmuring breeze of morn,
The voice of cheerful Labour fill’d the dale;
And dove-eyed Plenty smiled, and waved her liberal horn.

III. 2.
Yon ruins, sable from the wasting flame,
But mark the once resplendent dome;
The frequent corse obstructs the sullen stream
And ghosts glare horrid from the sylvan gloom.
How sadly silent all!
Save where, outstretch’d beneath yon hanging wall
Pale Famine moans with feeble breath,
And Anguish yells, and grinds his bloody teeth.
Though vain the muse, and every melting lay
To touch thy heart, unconscious of remorse!
Know, monster, know, thy hour is on the way;
I see, I see the years begin their mighty course.

III. 3.
What scenes of glory rise
Before my dazzled eyes!
Young zephyrs wave their wanton wings
And melody celestial rings.
All blooming on the lawn the nymphs advance,
And touch the lute, and range the dance:
And the blithe shepherds, on the mountain’s side,
Array’d in all their rural pride,
Exalt the festive note,
Inviting Echo from her inmost grot –
But ah! the landscape glows with fainter light;
It darkens, swims and flies for ever from my sight.

IV. 1.
Illusions vain! Can sacred Peace reside
Where sordid gold the breast alarms,
Where Cruelty inflames the eye of Pride,
And Grandeur wantons in soft Pleasure’s arms!
Ambition, these are thine!
These from the soul erase the form divine;
And quench the animating fire,
That warms the bosom with sublime desire.
Thence the relentless heart forgets to feel,
And Hatred triumphs on the o’erwhelming brow,
And midnight Rancour grasps the cruel steel;
Blaze the blue flames of death, and sound the shrieks of wo.

IV. 2.
From Albion fled, thy once beloved retreat,
What regions brighten in thy smile,
Creative Peace! and underneath thy feet
See sudden flowers adorn the rugged soil?
In bleak Siberia blows,
Waked by the genial breath, the balmy rose?
Waved over by the magic wand,
Does life inform fell Lybia’s burning sand?
O does some isle thy parting flight detain,
Where roves the Indian through primaeval shades
Haunts the pure pleasures of the sylvan reign,
And, led by Reason’s light, the path of Nature treads?

IV. 3.
On Cuba’s utmost steep,
Far leaning o’er the deep,
The Goddess’ pensive form was seen;
Her robe, of Nature’s varied green,
Waved on the gale; grief dimm’d her radiant eyes;
Her bosom heaved with boding sighs;
She eyed the main, where, gaining on the view,
Emerging from the ethereal blue,
‘Midst the dread of pomp of war,
Blazed the Iberian streamer from afar.
She saw; and, on refulgent pinions borne
Slow wing’d her way sublime, and mingled with the morn.

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Isabella Valancy Crawford: Peace

February 8, 2020 Leave a comment

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

Women writers on peace and war

Isabella Valancy Crawford: The Forging of the Sword

Isabella Valancy Crawford: War

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Isabella Valancy Crawford
Peace

Peace stands within the city wall;
Most like a god she towers tall,
And bugle-like she cries to all.

In place of sounds of nether hell,
In place of serpent hiss of shell,
Sounds sweet her powerful “All’s well!”

Is she a willow by a stream?
The spirit of a dreamer’s dream?
The pale moon’s meek and phantom beam?

The mere desire of panting soul?
Water, not wine, within the bowl?
Rides she, a ghost, upon the roll

Of spectral seas? Nay, see her rise,
Strong flesh against the flushing skies,
Large calm within her watchful eyes.

The olive darkling o’er her face,
Like one of Caryæ’s sculptured race,
Her arms uphold the nation’s place.

Like ivory beams, her strong white feet
Span over all the busy street;
Beneath their arch the merchants meet.

Her eyes are terrible and pure
As the stern, steadfast cynosure;
Before them bow and bend the poor.

Their thrilling pæans rise to her;
She mothers all the healthy stir
That beats the air with bruit and birr.

Below her feet War’s banners furl,
The bounteous palms about her curl,
Above her head her strong doves whirl.

Her vesture, with giant lilies bound,
Falls like a slant of snow, and round
It whitens all the quiet ground.

Its cloven fringes are of gold;
By her vast calm made brave and bold,
Babes by their summer lightnings hold.

A helmet binds her lofty crest;
Strong scales of steel flash on her vest,
A strong shield on her ample breast.

Armed, armed she stands, from head to heel;
Afar strange navies meet and reel;
Far sounds the furious clash of steel.

Around her sounds the reaper’s song,
Below her moves the busy throng;
So stands she – terrible and strong.

Ardent and awfully, afar
Blazes the blood-red wand’ring star
That rolls before the feet of war;

But wheels not nigh her sentried gate,
Her sinewed battlements that wait
Panting to guard her lofty state.

Her song is mild, but thro’ it still
The blast of bugles, stern and shrill
The calms about her pierce and thrill.

Armed, armed her head, her foot, her breast,
A spear defends her white dove’s nest;
As Peace is strong so is she blest.

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William Shakespeare: Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace

February 7, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Richard II

For that our kingdom’s earth should not be soil’d
With that dear blood which it hath fostered;
And for our eyes do hate the dire aspect
Of civil wounds plough’d up with neighbours’ sword;
And for we think the eagle-winged pride
Of sky-aspiring and ambitious thoughts,
With rival-hating envy, set on you
To wake our peace, which in our country’s cradle
Draws the sweet infant breath of gentle sleep;
Which so roused up with boisterous untuned drums,
With harsh resounding trumpets’ dreadful bray,
And grating shock of wrathful iron arms,
Might from our quiet confines fright fair peace
And make us wade even in our kindred’s blood…

****

From Richard III

England hath long been mad, and scarr’d herself;
The brother blindly shed the brother’s blood,
The father rashly slaughter’d his own son,
The son, compell’d, been butcher to the sire…

Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!
Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord,
That would reduce these bloody days again,
And make poor England weep in streams of blood!
Let them not live to taste this land’s increase
That would with treason wound this fair land’s peace!
Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God say amen!

Categories: Uncategorized

Maurice Hewlett: O, this war, what a glorious game!

February 6, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Maurice Hewlett: In the Trenches

Maurice Hewlett: Who prayeth peace?

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Maurice Hewlett
A Song for Two Voices

O mother, mother, isn’t it fun,
The soldiers marching past in the sun?
Child, child, what are you saying?
Come to church. We should be praying.

Look, mother, at their bright spears!
The leaves are falling like women’s tears.
You are not looking at what I see.
Nay, but I look at what must be.

Hark to the pipes! See the flag flying!
I hear the sound of a girl crying.
How many hundreds before they are done!
How many mothers wanting a son!

Here rides the general, pacing slow!
Well he may, if he knows what I know!
O, this war, what a glorious game!
Sin and shame, sin and shame.

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Carl John Bostelmann: Hate, still thy drums! War, make thy trumpets mute!

February 5, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Carl John Bostelmann
The Call to Arms

Drums of doom are marching to the battle.
The bugle calls of death are crying, crying.
Come, Youth, the gods of hate demand your chattel!
Men, many men are needed for the dying!

The martial music of the regiments
Blare their insistent summons. From a hill
Bold banners float above ten thousand tents
Where multitudes are learning to kill.

Hate, still thy drums! War, make thy trumpets mute!
Earth, stay vain sacrifice of singing sons
Gone forth to massacre! Love, give salute!
God! Save young laughter from the lust of guns!

Categories: Uncategorized

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Study and let war alone

February 4, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Soldiers and peasants

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: The war-god Mars sat over all Europe

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
From Simplicius Simplicissimus

Our provost kept pretty far behind the line of battle with his helpers and his prisoners, yet were we so close to our brigade that we could tell each man by his clothing from behind; and when a Swedish squadron attacked ours we were in danger of our lives as much as the fighters, for in a moment the air was so full of singing bullets that it seemed a volley had been fired in our honour. At that the timid ducked their heads, as they would have crept into themselves: but they that had courage and had been present at such sport before let the balls pass over their heads quite unconcerned. In the fighting itself every man sought to prevent his own death with the cutting down of the nearest that encountered him: and the terrible noise of the guns, the rattle of the harness, the crash of the pikes, and the cries both of the wounded and the attackers made up, together with the trumpets, drums and fifes, a horrible music. There could one see nought but thick smoke and dust, which seemed as it would conceal the fearful sight of the wounded and dead…The earth, whose custom it is to cover the dead was there itself covered with them, and those variously distinguished: for here lay heads that had lost their natural owners, and there bodies that lacked their heads: some had their bowels hanging out in most ghastly and pitiful fashion, and others had their heads cleft and their brains scattered: there one could see how lifeless bodies were deprived of their blood while the living were covered with the blood of others; here lay arms shot off, on which the fingers still moved, as if they would yet be fighting; and elsewhere rascals were in full flight that had shed no drop of blood: there lay severed legs, which though delivered from the burden of the body, yet were far heavier than they had been before: there could one see crippled soldiers begging for death, and on the contrary others beseeching quarter and the sparing of their lives. In a word, ’twas naught but a miserable and pitiful sight…

My faithful and fatherly advice would be, ye should employ your youth and your means, which ye now do waste in such purposeless wise, to study, that some day ye may be helpful to God and man and yourself; and let war alone, in which, as I do hear, ye have so great a delight; and before ye get a shrewd knock and find the truth of that saying, ‘Young soldiers make old beggars.'”

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Jessie Pope: Black, solemn peace is brooding low; peace, still unbroken

February 3, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Jessie Pope
The Silent Camp

(The writer at her most reflective – RR)

In heaven, a pale uncertain star,
Through sullen vapour peeps,
On earth, extended wide and far,
In all the symmetry of war,
A weary army sleeps.

The heavy-hearted pall of night
Obliterates the lines,
Save where a dying camp-fire’s light
Leaps up and flares, a moment bright,
Then once again declines.

Black, solemn peace is brooding low,
Peace, still unbroken, when
There comes a sound, an ebb and flow –
The steady breathing, deep and slow,
Of half-a-million men.

The pregnant dawn is drawing nigh,
The dawn of power or pain;
But now, beneath the mournful sky,
In sleep’s maternal arms they lie
Like children once again.

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William Shakespeare: Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields, bruise her flowerets

February 2, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry IV, Part 1

So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children’s blood;
Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flowerets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery
Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way and be no more opposed
Against acquaintance, kindred and allies:
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
No more shall cut his master.

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Struthers Burt: To a Friend Wanting War

February 1, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Struthers Burt
To a Friend Wanting War

I trust that when the bugles blow,
And the little drums beat, the little drums beat,
You’ll hear no single sound of them,
Nor any sound of marching feet;
The pulsing drums and the bugles shrill
Stir a heart against its will.

There should not be a flag for you,
When the little drums beat, the little drums beat,
But you should find a murdered man
With his blood all black about his feet;
And though you’d never heard his name,
They’d hold you screaming out with shame.

There would not be another sound,
No little drum’s beat, no little drum’s beat,
Till silence like a rising hell
Had cut your voice at your feet,
Leaving you dumb eternally
To think on death’s monotony.

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Berthold Auerbach: Practicing for mutual manslaughter

January 31, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

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Berthold Auerbach
From On the Heights
Translated by Simon Adler Stern

“What do we really do in the world? The trees would grow without us, the animals in the field, and in the air, and in the water would live without us. Everything has of itself something to do in the world; man alone must make himself something to do. And so we paint, and we build, and plough, and study, and practice for mutual manslaughter, and the only difference between man and beast is that men bury their dead.”

***

“You cannot imagine what it is for a favorite and a respected officer to venture upon philosophy – how opposed it is to the military service, appearing unsuitable to your superiors and laughable to your comrades.”

***

Men destroy and kill each other, but they don’t eat each other, that alone distinguishes them from beasts. And one thing besides – yes, one thing besides! that is it! Man alone can kill himself.

***

Man alone sends forth the fatal bullet, and produces an effect where only his eye can reach.

***

Frau Gunther looked at her husband with a beaming expression. “I find that Bronnen has converted you from your aversion to the military profession,” she said, softly.

“In no wise,” replied Gunther, “only Bronnen has not been affected by it. He unites with resolute courage and easy acknowledgement of the power of others a profound and serious mind…”

***

Miscellaneous excerpts

They are not all gods who allow themselves to be worshipped.

***

“Most people are the changelings of themselves; they were changed in the cradle of education.”

***

He sat down by Irma, and pointing to the works of Spinoza and Shakespeare, which always lay on his work-table, he said, –

“To these two men the whole world is open. They lived centuries ago, and I have them on my quiet mountains always with me. I shall pass away, and leave no trace of my thoughts behind me; but I have lived the enduring life with the highest minds. The tree, the beast, they only live for themselves, and only for the space of time allotted to them. We receive with our life the mind of centuries; and he who in truth becomes a human being is the whole humanity in himself. So you, too, go on living with your father, and with all that is genuine and beautiful in the history of the human race.”

***

“You have wrestled honorably with yourself and the highest ideas.”

***

“I know every art wishes now to isolate itself and be independent, and not to be subject to others. A drama without music is a repast without wine. When men see a great drama without having passed beforehand through the initiatory undulations of music, they appear to me as if unconsecrated, unpurified; music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life, and says to each one, ‘Thou art now no longer in thine office, or in the barracks, or in thy workshop.’…”

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E. Merrill Root: Military drill. Murder’s witless marionettes.

January 30, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

E. Merrill Root: Drill, like sheep with wolves’ fangs, meek to kill

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E. Merrill Root
Military Drill

While the clouds float calm and free
Over mountain forests, see
Murder in its infancy! –
There they drill and drill again
Into soldiers – who were men.
In the antique Roman way,
Hypnotized toward murder, they
For – and by – whom Jesus died
Learn technique of homicide.

See the human clock-work wheel –
Not conscious men, but cogs of steel.
Theirs a cog-wheel cruelty:
They see, and know not what they see.
Trim, metallic, like cold wasps –
Or a wheel that never rasps –
Mechanism grown pedantic –
Through their homicidal antic
Without reason, without will,
Theirs but to do…and kill.

Every soul becomes a fraction
Of a schooled mob’s reflex action –
Move these living bayonets,
Murder’s witless marionettes.

Like vast scissor-blades of snow,
Snip-snap, snip-snap, see them go
Through their trim maneuvers’ mesh –
A Cubist painting come to flesh!
Legs of a whole rank flip and flirt
As though they wore a single skirt.

So trim and fine! Why think of war?
The hypnotists discreetly pour
For each soldier’s infancy
The milk of human cruelty!

Few see, upon their spotless white,
Gouts of blood burn ghastly bright!

Categories: Uncategorized

William Shakespeare: Take heed how you awake our sleeping sword of war

January 29, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry V

For God doth know how many now in health
Shall drop their blood in approbation
Of what your reverence shall incite us to.
Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,
How you awake our sleeping sword of war:
We charge you, in the name of God, take heed;
For never two such kingdoms did contend
Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops
Are every one a woe, a sore complaint
‘Gainst him whose wrong gives edge unto the swords
That make such waste in brief mortality.

****

Therefore in fierce tempest is he coming,
In thunder and in earthquake like a Jove,
That, if requiring fail, he will compel,
And bids you, in the bowels of the Lord,
Deliver up the crown and to take mercy
On the poor souls for whom this hungry war
Opens his vasty jaws, and on your head
Turning the widows’ tears, the orphans’ cries,
The dead men’s blood, the pining maidens’ groans,
For husbands, fathers, and betrothèd lovers,
That shall be swallowed in this controversy.
This is his claim, his threat’ning, and my message –

****

PISTOL
The plain-song is most just: for humours do abound:
Knocks go and come; God’s vassals drop and die;
And sword and shield,
In bloody field,
Doth win immortal fame.
BOY
Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.

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Katharine Lee Bates: Fodder for Cannon

January 28, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Katharine Lee Bates: Selections on war and peace

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Katharine Lee Bates
Fodder for Cannon

Bodies glad, erect,
Beautiful with youth,
Life’s elect,
Nature’s truth,
Marching host on host,
Those bright, unblemished ones,
Manhood’s boast,
Feed them to the guns.

Hearts and brains that teem
With blessing for the race,
Thought and dream,
Vision, grace,
Oh, love’s best and most,
Bridegrooms, brothers, sons,
Host on host
Feed them to the guns.

Categories: Uncategorized

Lillian Rozell Messenger: Seeking a new world of peace

January 27, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Lillian Rozell Messenger
Columbus
Or “Was It Morning?” (1893)

Since man first left his Eden vales, his step
Hath wander’d to the West, his morning land.
The East but holds his life’s embalmed past,
The West, the glory of his dream-ideal.
Soon trackless waves come tumbling out of space,

Like oceans fresh from Chaos, on before
The vessels three; when raged the deep and all
Mad demons of the winds howl’d forth in glee,
Columbus sent his prayer across the storm
On wings of faith, and touch’d the realm of Peace –
Deep call’d to deep, alluring him still on.

***

“Now doth there pass before my prophet soul,
Some vision swift, prefigured as a dream,
Soft glowing on the rose-gray mists of sleep.
Of this New World’s fair future! blest of peace,
Blest of all nations’ praise – of Liberty,
Whose flag shall take the azure dome and stars;
Whose mighty mountains, streams and forests grand
Shall move to Freedom’s hymn, and ope new gates
To larger life, to highest truth for men?”
Saw he the mighty ships? Heard he the roar
Of vasty cities, labor’s thunders loud;
As Toil and Art wore garments radiant
In Time’s fresh loom for this fair virgin world
That, like a star, should light the voyageur
From stormy Wrong to God’s wide seas of Peace?

Categories: Uncategorized

William Shakespeare: Naked, poor, mangled peace, dear nurse of arts, plenties, joyful births

January 26, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry V

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at such a place;’ some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

****

What rub or what impediment there is
Why that the naked, poor, and mangled peace,
Dear nurse of arts, plenties, and joyful births,
Should not in this best garden of the world,
Our fertile France, put up her lovely visage?
Alas, she hath from France too long been chased,
And all her husbandry doth lie on heaps,
Corrupting in its own fertility.
Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,
Unprunèd, dies. Her hedges, even-pleached,
Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair,
Put forth disorder’d twigs…

Even so our houses and ourselves and children
Have lost, or do not learn for want of time,
The sciences that should become our country;
But grow like savages, – as soldiers will
That nothing do but meditate on blood, –
To swearing and stern looks, diffused attire
And every thing that seems unnatural.
Which to reduce into our former favour
You are assembled: and my speech entreats
That I may know the let, why gentle Peace
Should not expel these inconveniences
And bless us with her former qualities.

***

What is it then to me if impious war,
Arrayed in flames like to the prince of fiends,
Do with his smirched complexion all fell feats
Enlinked to waste and desolation?
What is ’t to me, when you yourselves are cause,
If your pure maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation?
What rein can hold licentious wickedness
When down the hill he holds his fierce career?
We may as bootless spend our vain command
Upon th’ enragèd soldiers in their spoil
As send precepts to the Leviathan
To come ashore.

Categories: Uncategorized

Clinton Scollard: Can mankind win to heights of peace and perfect amity?

January 25, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Clinton Scollard: Selections on war and peace

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Clinton Scollard
Can It Be?

Down my mind’s corridors
Go murmuring the memories of old wars;
By day and night they haunt me, anguished cries
From fields whence only the lark’s song should rise,
Or the blithe reaper’s shout amidst the grain.
And now there comes a grimmer, greater pain
Voicing its suffering. O God, what gain
In all this woe of nations? Can it be
Through the dark valley that mankind shall win
From lust of power and jealousy and sin
To heights of peace and perfect amity?

Categories: Uncategorized

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: The war-god Mars sat over all Europe

January 24, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Soldiers and peasants

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Study and let war alone

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
From Simplicius Simplicissimus

I turned again to the trees whereof the whole land was full and saw how they swayed and smote against each other: and the fellows tumbled off them in batches. Now a crack; now a fall. One moment quick, the next dead. In a moment one lost an arm, another a leg, the third his head. And as I looked methought all trees I saw were but one tree, at whose top sat the war-god Mars, and which covered with its branches all Europe. It seemed to me this tree could have overshadowed the whole world: but because it was blown about by envy and hate, by suspicion and unfairness, by pride and haughtiness and avarice, and other such fair virtues, as by bitter north winds, therefore it seemed thin and transparent: for which reason one had writ on its trunk these rhymes:

“The holmoak by the wind beset and brought to ruin,
Breaks its own branches down and proves its own undoing.
By civil war within and brothers’ deadly feud
Alls topsy-turvy turned and misery hath ensued.”

****

I did hear and see sins done in God’s name, which are much to be grieved for. Such wickedness was specially practised by the soldiers, when they would say, “Now in God’s name let us forth on a foray,” viz., to plunder, kidnap, shoot down, cut down, assault, capture and burn, and all the rest of their horrible works and practices. Just as the usurers ever invoke God with their hypocritical “In God’s name”: and therewithal let their devilish avarice loose to flay and to strip honest folk.

Categories: Uncategorized

Francis Saltus Saltus: The wind favors poets over conquerors

January 23, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Francis Saltus Saltus
Graves

The sad night-wind, sighing o’er sea and strand,
Haunts the cold marble where Napoleon sleeps;
O’er Charlemagne’s grave, far in the northern land,
A vigil through the centuries it keeps.
O’er Grecian kings its plaintive music sweeps;
Proud Philip’s tomb is by its dark wings fanned,
And round old Pharaohs, deep in desert sand,
Where the grim Sphinx leers to the stars, it creeps.
Yet weary it is of this chill, spectral gloom,
For mouldering grandeur it can have no care,
Rich mausoleums in their granite doom
It fain would leave, to wander on elsewhere,
To cool the violets upon Gautier’s tomb,
And lull the long grass over Baudelaire.

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William Shakespeare: War’s exactions

January 22, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry VIII

In her days every man shall eat in safety,
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours:
God shall be truly known…

****

QUEEN KATHERINE
I am solicited, not by a few,
And those of true condition, that your subjects
Are in great grievance: there have been commissions
Sent down among ’em, which hath flaw’d the heart
Of all their loyalties: wherein, although,
My good lord cardinal, they vent reproaches
Most bitterly on you, as putter on
Of these exactions, yet the king our master –
Whose honour heaven shield from soil! – even he escapes not
Language unmannerly, yea, such which breaks
The sides of loyalty, and almost appears
In loud rebellion.

DUKE OF NORFOLK
Not almost appears,
It doth appear; for, upon these taxations,
The clothiers all, not able to maintain
The many to them longing, have put off
The spinsters, carders, fullers, weavers, who,
Unfit for other life, compell’d by hunger
And lack of other means, in desperate manner
Daring the event to the teeth, are all in uproar,
And danger serves among then!

HENRY VIII
Taxation!
Wherein? and what taxation? My lord cardinal,
You that are blamed for it alike with us,
Know you of this taxation?

CARDINAL WOLSEY
Please you, sir,
I know but of a single part, in aught
Pertains to the state; and front but in that file
Where others tell steps with me.

QUEEN KATHERINE
No, my lord,
You know no more than others; but you frame
Things that are known alike; which are not wholesome
To those which would not know them, and yet must
Perforce be their acquaintance. These exactions,
Whereof my sovereign would have note, they are
Most pestilent to the bearing; and, to bear ’em,
The back is sacrifice to the load. They say
They are devised by you; or else you suffer
Too hard an exclamation.

HENRY VIII
Still exaction!
The nature of it? in what kind, let’s know,
Is this exaction?

QUEEN KATHERINE
Queen Katharine. I am much too venturous
In tempting of your patience; but am bolden’d
Under your promised pardon. The subjects’ grief
Comes through commissions, which compel from each
The sixth part of his substance, to be levied
Without delay; and the pretence for this
Is named, your wars in France: this makes bold mouths:
Tongues spit their duties out, and cold hearts freeze
Allegiance in them; their curses now
Live where their prayers did: and it’s come to pass,
This tractable obedience is a slave
To each incensed will. I would your highness
Would give it quick consideration, for
There is no primer business.

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Music to soothe all sorrow till war and crime shall cease

January 21, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Do Not Cheer, Men Are Dying

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Songs for the People

Let me make the songs for the people,
Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
Wherever they are sung.

Not for the clashing of sabres,
For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
With more abundant life.

Let me make the songs for the weary,
Amid life’s fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.

Let me sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o’er life’s highway.

I would sing for the poor and aged,
When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
Where there shall be no night.

Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Music to soothe all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.

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Henry Ward: Ode to Peace

January 20, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Henry Ward
Ode to Peace (1857)

Oh! gentle peace! thou of the dove-like eye,
Who dwelleth with the Seraphim on high,
Why, with a tearful, and averted glance,
When war, grin, frowning, shakes his glittering lance,
Dost thou, affrighted, turn from earth away,
And cease to hold thy mild, benignant sway
O’er mortals toss’d on passion’s raging tide,
Ambitious fools, the dupes of worldly pride?
It is not strange! with such thou canst not dwell,
Though cloister’d like a hermit in his cell,
Or seated on a tyrant monarch’s throne,
Whose nod is power, whose will is law alone,
Or striding in the gorgeous halls of State
Arouses kindred souls to fierce debate,
Or ‘mid the battering ranks of gleaming steel
Braves death, where lightnings flash, and thunders peel;
Thou canst not dwell with him whose restless soul
Will brook no moderation nor control,
But like the foaming billow of the sea,
Is ever chafing, yet is never free
From wild, tumultuous strife, and storm, and ire,
The victim of ambition’s scathing fire.

But with the pure in heart, the meek, and kind,
Thou lov’st to dwell; and thou for them wilt bind
Thine olive chaplet with unfading flowers,
And through the calm, delightful sunny hours
With fan them with thy downy rainbow wings,
And lead them where contentment ever springs,
And tranquil joy, and smiling bliss preside,
Where heavenly wisdom’s footsteps ever guide!
It is the will of Heaven that thou shouldst reign,
And claim the earth as thine – thy just domain;
For when the angel herald of the sky
Announced Messiah’s glorious reign as nigh,
The sweetest notes that Seraph ever sang
O’er yon celestial spheres melodious rang,
“Peace! peace on earth; good will to erring man!”
O’er all the stars the joyful tidings ran;
The countless planets heard the rapturous sound,
And moved in harmony; bright glory crowned
The universe, with light, and life, and love,
Like one vast ocean flowing from above.
Then come, oh! dove-like Peace! and here remain,
Till all mankind shall own thy gentle reign!

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François Rabelais: The magnanimity of peace

January 19, 2020 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

François Rabelais: Born for peace, not war

François Rabelais: Strictures against war

François Rabelais: Waging war in good earnest

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François Rabelais
Gargantua and Pantagruel
Translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty

From Gargantua’s speech to the vanquished

Our forefathers and ancestors of all times have been of this nature and disposition, that, upon the winning of a battle, they have chosen rather, for a sign and memorial of their triumphs and victories, to erect trophies and monuments in the hearts of the vanquished by clemency than by architecture in the lands which they had conquered. For they did hold in greater estimation the lively remembrance of men purchased by liberality than the dumb inscription of arches, pillars, and pyramids, subject to the injury of storms and tempests, and to the envy of everyone. You may very well remember of the courtesy which by them was used towards the Bretons in the battle of St. Aubin of Cormier and at the demolishing of Partenay. You have heard, and hearing admire, their gentle comportment towards those at the barriers (the barbarians) of Spaniola, who had plundered, wasted, and ransacked the maritime borders of Olone and Thalmondois. All this hemisphere of the world was filled with the praises and congratulations which yourselves and your fathers made, when Alpharbal, King of Canarre, not satisfied with his own fortunes, did most furiously invade the land of Onyx, and with cruel piracies molest all the Armoric Islands and confine regions of Britany. Yet was he in a set naval fight justly taken and vanquished by my father, whom God preserve and protect. But what? Whereas other kings and emperors, yea, those who entitle themselves Catholics, would have dealt roughly with him, kept him a close prisoner, and put him to an extreme high ransom, he entreated him very courteously, lodged him kindly with himself in his own palace, and out of his incredible mildness and gentle disposition sent him back with a safe conduct, laden with gifts, laden with favours, laden with all offices of friendship. What fell out upon it? Being returned into his country, he called a parliament, where all the princes and states of his kingdom being assembled, he showed them the humanity which he had found in us, and therefore wished them to take such course by way of compensation therein as that the whole world might be edified by the example, as well of their honest graciousness to us as of our gracious honesty towards them. The result hereof was, that it was voted and decreed by an unanimous consent, that they should offer up entirely their lands, dominions, and kingdoms, to be disposed of by us according to our pleasure.

Alpharbal in his own person presently returned with nine thousand and thirty-eight great ships of burden, bringing with him the treasures, not only of his house and royal lineage, but almost of all the country besides. For he embarking himself, to set sail with a west-north-east wind, everyone in heaps did cast into the ship gold, silver, rings, jewels, spices, drugs, and aromatical perfumes, parrots, pelicans, monkeys, civet-cats, black-spotted weasels, porcupines, &c. He was accounted no good mother’s son that did not cast in all the rare and precious things he had.

Being safely arrived, he came to my said father, and would have kissed his feet. That action was found too submissively low, and therefore was not permitted, but in exchange he was most cordially embraced. He offered his presents; they were not received, because they were too excessive: he yielded himself voluntarily a servant and vassal, and was content his whole posterity should be liable to the same bondage; this was not accepted of, because it seemed not equitable: he surrendered, by virtue of the decree of his great parliamentary council, his whole countries and kingdoms to him, offering the deed and conveyance, signed, sealed, and ratified by all those that were concerned in it; this was altogether refused, and the parchments cast into the fire. In end, this free goodwill and simple meaning of the Canarians wrought such tenderness in my father’s heart that he could not abstain from shedding tears, and wept most profusely; then, by choice words very congruously adapted, strove in what he could to diminish the estimation of the good offices which he had done them, saying, that any courtesy he had conferred upon them was not worth a rush, and what favour soever he had showed them he was bound to do it. But so much the more did Alpharbal augment the repute thereof. What was the issue? Whereas for his ransom, in the greatest extremity of rigour and most tyrannical dealing, could not have been exacted above twenty times a hundred thousand crowns, and his eldest sons detained as hostages till that sum had been paid, they made themselves perpetual tributaries, and obliged to give us every year two millions of gold at four-and-twenty carats fine. The first year we received the whole sum of two millions; the second year of their own accord they paid freely to us three-and-twenty hundred thousand crowns; the third year, six-and-twenty hundred thousand; the fourth year, three millions, and do so increase it always out of their own goodwill that we shall be constrained to forbid them to bring us any more. This is the nature of gratitude and true thankfulness. For time, which gnaws and diminisheth all things else, augments and increaseth benefits; because a noble action of liberality, done to a man of reason, doth grow continually by his generous thinking of it and remembering it.

Being unwilling therefore any way to degenerate from the hereditary mildness and clemency of my parents, I do now forgive you, deliver you from all fines and imprisonments, fully release you, set you at liberty, and every way make you as frank and free as ever you were before. Moreover, at your going out of the gate, you shall have every one of you three months’ pay to bring you home into your houses and families, and shall have a safe convoy of six hundred cuirassiers and eight thousand foot under the conduct of Alexander, esquire of my body, that the clubmen of the country may not do you any injury. God be with you! I am sorry from my heart that Picrochole is not here; for I would have given him to understand that this war was undertaken against my will and without any hope to increase either my goods or renown. But seeing he is lost, and that no man can tell where nor how he went away, it is my will that his kingdom remain entire to his son; who, because he is too young, he not being yet full five years old, shall be brought up and instructed by the ancient princes and learned men of the kingdom. And because a realm thus desolate may easily come to ruin, if the covetousness and avarice of those who by their places are obliged to administer justice in it be not curbed and restrained, I ordain and will have it so, that Ponocrates be overseer and superintendent above all his governors, with whatever power and authority is requisite thereto, and that he be continually with the child until he find him able and capable to rule and govern by himself.

****

For even as arms are weak abroad, if there be not counsel at home, so is that study vain and counsel unprofitable which in a due and convenient time is not by virtue executed and put in effect. My deliberation is not to provoke, but to appease – not to assault, but to defend – not to conquer, but to preserve my faithful subjects and hereditary dominions, into which Picrochole is entered in a hostile manner without any ground or cause, and from day to day pursueth his furious enterprise with that height of insolence that is intolerable to freeborn spirits. I have endeavoured to moderate his tyrannical choler, offering him all that which I thought might give him satisfaction; and oftentimes have I sent lovingly unto him to understand wherein, by whom, and how he found himself to be wronged. But of him could I obtain no other answer but a mere defiance, and that in my lands he did pretend only to the right of a civil correspondency and good behaviour, whereby I knew that the eternal God hath left him to the disposure of his own free will and sensual appetite – which cannot choose but be wicked, if by divine grace it be not continually guided – and to contain him within his duty, and bring him to know himself, hath sent him hither to me by a grievous token. Therefore, my beloved son, as soon as thou canst, upon sight of these letters, repair hither with all diligence, to succour not me so much, which nevertheless by natural piety thou oughtest to do, as thine own people, which by reason thou mayest save and preserve. The exploit shall be done with as little effusion of blood as may be. And, if possible, by means far more expedient, such as military policy, devices, and stratagems of war, we shall save all the souls, and send them home as merry as crickets unto their own houses. My dearest son, the peace of Jesus Christ our Redeemer be with thee. Salute from me Ponocrates, Gymnastes, and Eudemon. The twentieth of September. Thy Father Grangousier.

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Ann Batten Cristall: Relief for nature, man at war with themselves

January 18, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Ann Batten Cristall
From An Ode

What dire disorder ravages the world!
Beasts, birds, fish, insects, war with cruel strife!
Created matter in contention whirl’d
Spreads desolation as it bursts to life!
And men, who mental light from heaven enjoy,
Pierce the fraternal breast, and impiously destroy.

Unknown, and nothing in the scale of things,
Yet would I wisdom’s ways aloud rehearse,
Touch’d by humanity, strike loud the strings,
And pour a strain of more inspired verse;
But reason, truth, and harmony are vain,
No power man’s boundless passions can restrain.

Stupendous Nature! rugged, beauteous, wild!
Impress’d with awe, thy wondrous book I read:
Beyond this stormy tract, some realm more mild,
My spirit tells me, is for man decreed;
Where, unallay’d, bliss reigns without excess:
Thus hope excentric points to happiness!

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William Shakespeare: Out of speech of peace into harsh tongue of war

January 17, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry IV, Part 2

LANCASTER
The word of peace is rendered. Hark how they shout.

MOWBRAY
This had been cheerful after victory.

ARCHBISHOP
A peace is of the nature of a conquest,
For then both parties nobly are subdued,
And neither party loser.

****

You, lord archbishop,
Whose see is by a civil peace maintained,
Whose beard the silver hand of peace hath touch’d,
Whose learning and good letters peace hath tutor’d,
Whose white investments figure innocence,
The dove and very blessed spirit of peace,
Wherefore do you so ill translate ourself
Out of the speech of peace that bears such grace,
Into the harsh and boisterous tongue of war;
Turning your books to graves, your ink to blood,
Your pens to lances and your tongue divine
To a trumpet and a point of war?

****

My Lord of York, it better showed with you
When that your flock, assembled by the bell,
Encircled you to hear with reverence
Your exposition on the holy text
Than now to see you here, an iron man talking,
Cheering a rout of rebels with your drum,
Turning the word to sword, and life to death.

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Robert Underwood Johnson: The fairest of daughters, heavenly Peace

January 16, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Robert Underwood Johnson
To the Peace Palace at the Hague

Builded of Love and Joy and Faith and Hope,
Thou standest firm beyond the tides of war
That dash in gloom and fear and tempest-roar,
Beacon of Europe! – though wise pilots grope
Where trusted lights are lost; though the dread scope
Of storm is wider, deadlier than before;
Ay, though the very floods that strew the shore
Seem to obey some power turned misanthrope.

For though art witness to a world’s desire,
And when – oh. happiest of days! – shall cease
The throes by which our Age doth bring to birth
The fairest of her daughters, heavenly Peace,
When man’s red folly has been purged in fire,
Though shalt be Capitol of all the Earth.

September 19, 1914

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William Shakespeare: O war, thou son of hell

January 15, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry IV Part 2

O wondrous him!
O miracle of men! – him did you leave –
Second to none, unseconded by you –
To look upon the hideous god of war
In disadvantage…

O yet, for God’s sake, go not to these wars!

From Henry VI Part 2

Shame and confusion! All is on the rout,
Fear frames disorder, and disorder wounds
Where it should guard. O war, thou son of hell,
Whom angry heavens do make their minister,
Throw in the frozen bosoms of our part
Hot coals of vengeance!

****

From Pericles

What would you have me do? go to the wars, would you? where a man may serve seven years for the loss of a leg, and have not money enough in the end to buy him a wooden one?

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Soldiers and peasants

January 14, 2020 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: Study and let war alone

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen: The war-god Mars sat over all Europe

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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
From Simplicius Simplicissimus

Now when I came home I found that my fireplace and all my poor furniture, together with my store of provisions, which I had grown during the summer in my garden and had kept for the coming winter, were all gone. “And whither now?” thought I. And then first did need teach me heartily to pray: and I must summon all my small wits together, to devise what I should do. But as my knowledge of the world was both small and evil, I could come to no proper conclusion, only that ’twas best to commend myself to God and to put my whole confidence in Him: for otherwise I must perish. And besides all this those things which I had heard and seen that day lay heavy on my mind: and I pondered not so much upon my food and my sustenance as upon the enmity which there is ever between soldiers and peasants. Yet could my foolish mind come to no other conclusion than this – that there must of a surety be two races of men in the world, and not one only, descended from Adam, but two, wild and tame, like other unreasoning beasts, and therefore pursuing one another so cruelly.

With such thoughts I fell asleep, for mere misery and cold, with a hungry stomach. Then it seemed to me, as if in a dream, that all the trees which stood round my dwelling suddenly changed and took on another appearance: for on every tree-top sat a trooper, and the trunks were garnished, in place of leaves, with all manner of folk. Of these, some had long lances, others musquets, hangers, halberts, flags, and some drums and fifes. Now this was merry to see, for all was neatly distributed and each according to his rank. The roots, moreover, were made up of folk of little worth, as mechanics and labourers, mostly, however, peasants and the like; and these nevertheless gave its strength to the tree and renewed the same when it was lost: yea more, they repaired the loss of any fallen leaves from among themselves to their own great damage: and all the time they lamented over them that sat on the tree, and that with good reason, for the whole weight of the tree lay upon them and pressed them so that all the money was squeezed out of their pockets, yea, though it was behind seven locks and keys: but if the money would not out, then did the commissaries so handle them with rods (which thing they call military execution) that sighs came from their heart, tears from their eyes, blood from their nails, and the marrow from their bones. Yet among these were some whom men call light o’ heart; and these made but little ado, took all with a shrug, and in the midst of their torment had, in place of comfort, mockery for every turn.

So must the roots of these trees suffer and endure toil and misery in the midst of trouble and complaint, and those upon the lower boughs in yet greater hardship: yet were these last mostly merrier than the first named, yea and moreover, insolent and swaggering, and for the most part godless folk, and for the roots a heavy unbearable burden at all times. And this was the rhyme upon them:

“Hunger and thirst, and cold and heat, and work and woe, and all we meet;
And deeds of blood and deeds of shame, all may ye put to the landsknecht’s name.”

Which rhymes were the less like to be lyingly invented in that they answered to the facts. For gluttony and drunkenness, hunger and thirst, wenching and dicing and playing, riot and roaring, murdering and being murdered, slaying and being slain, torturing and being tortured, hunting and being hunted, harrying and being harried, robbing and being robbed, frighting and being frighted, causing trouble and suffering trouble, beating and being beaten: in a word, hurting and harming, and in turn being hurt and harmed – this was their whole life. And in this career they let nothing hinder them: neither winter nor summer, snow nor ice, heat nor cold, rain nor wind, hill nor dale, wet nor dry; ditches, mountain-passes, ramparts and walls, fire and water, were all the same to them. Father nor mother, sister nor brother, no, nor the danger to their own bodies, souls, and consciences, nor even loss of life and of heaven itself, or aught else that can be named, will ever stand in their way, for ever they toil and moil at their own strange work, till at last, little by little, in battles, sieges, attacks, campaigns, yea, and in their winter quarters too (which are the soldiers’ earthly paradise, if they can but happen upon fat peasants) they perish, they die, they rot and consume away, save but a few, who in their old age, unless they have been right thrifty reivers and robbers, do furnish us with the best of all beggars and vagabonds.

Next above these hard-worked folk sat old henroost-robbers, who, after some years and much peril of their lives, had climbed up the lowest branches and clung to them, and so far had had the luck to escape death. Now these looked more serious, and somewhat more dignified than the lowest, in that they were a degree higher ascended: yet above them were some yet higher, who had yet loftier imaginings because they had to command the very lowest. And these people did call coat-beaters, because they were wont to dust the jackets of the poor pikemen, and to give the musqueteers oil enough to grease their barrels with.

Just above these the trunk of the tree had an interval or stop, which was a smooth place without branches, greased with all manner of ointments and curious soap of disfavour, so that no man save of noble birth could scale it, in spite of courage and skill and knowledge, God knows how clever he might be. For ’twas polished as smooth as a marble pillar or a steel mirror. Just over that smooth spot sat they with the flags: and of these some were young, some pretty well in years: the young folk their kinsmen had raised so far: the older people had either mounted on a silver ladder which is called the Bribery Backstairs or else on a step which Fortune, for want of a better client, had left for them. A little further up sat higher folk, and these had also their toil and care and annoyance: yet had they this advantage, that they could fill their pokes with the fattest slices which they could cut out of the roots, and that with a knife which they called “War-contribution.” And these were at their best and happiest when there came a commissary-bird flying overhead, and shook out a whole panfull of gold over the tree to cheer them: for of that they caught as much as they could, and let but little or nothing at all fall to the lowest branches: and so of these last more died of hunger than of the enemy’s attacks, from which danger those placed above seemed to be free. Therefore was there a perpetual climbing and swarming going on on those trees; for each would needs sit in those highest and happiest places: yet were there some idle, worthless rascals, not worth their commissariat-bread, who troubled themselves little about higher places, and only did their duty. So the lowest, being ambitious, hoped for the fall of the highest, that they might sit in their place, and if it happened to one among ten thousand of them that he got so far, yet would such good luck come to him only in his miserable old age when he was more fit to sit in the chimney-corner and roast apples than to meet the foe in the field. And if any man dealt honestly and carried himself well, yet was he ever envied by others, and perchance by reason of some unlucky chance of war deprived both of office and of life. And nowhere was this more grievous than at the before-mentioned smooth place on the tree: for there an officer who had had a good sergeant or corporal under him must lose him, however unwillingly, because he was now made an ensign. And for that reason they would take, in place of old soldiers, inkslingers, footmen, overgrown pages, poor noblemen, and at times poor relations, tramps and vagabonds. And these took the very bread out of the mouths of those that had deserved it, and forthwith were made Ensigns.

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Margaret Postgate Cole: They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon

January 13, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Margaret Postgate Cole
The Veteran

We came upon him sitting in the sun
Blinded by war, and left. And past the fence
There came young soldiers from the Hand and Flower,
Asking advice of his experience.
And he said this, and that, and told them tales,
And all the nightmares of each empty head
Blew into air; then, hearing us beside,
“Poor chaps, how’d they know what it’s like?” he said.
And we stood there, and watched him as he sat,
Turning his sockets where they went away,
Until it came to one of us to ask “And you’re – how old?”
“Nineteen, the third of May.”

****

The Falling Leaves

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish clay.

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William Shakespeare: O bloody times. When lions war, sons kill fathers, fathers sons

January 12, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Henry VI Part Three

Alarum. Enter a Son that has killed his father, dragging in the dead body

Son
Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.
This man, whom hand to hand I slew in fight,
May be possessed with some store of crowns;
And I, that haply take them from him now,
May yet ere night yield both my life and them
To some man else, as this dead man doth me.
Who’s this? O God! it is my father’s face,
Whom in this conflict I unwares have kill’d.
O heavy times, begetting such events!
From London by the king was I press’d forth;
My father, being the Earl of Warwick’s man,
Came on the part of York, press’d by his master;
And I, who at his hands received my life, him
Have by my hands of life bereaved him.
Pardon me, God, I knew not what I did!
And pardon, father, for I knew not thee!
My tears shall wipe away these bloody marks;
And no more words till they have flow’d their fill.

KING HENRY VI
O piteous spectacle! O bloody times!
Whiles lions war and battle for their dens,
Poor harmless lambs abide their enmity.
Weep, wretched man, I’ll aid thee tear for tear;
And let our hearts and eyes, like civil war,
Be blind with tears, and break o’ercharged with grief.

Enter a Father that has killed his son, bringing in the body

Father
Thou that so stoutly hast resisted me,
Give me thy gold, if thou hast any gold:
For I have bought it with an hundred blows.
But let me see: is this our foeman’s face?
Ah, no, no, no, it is mine only son!
Ah, boy, if any life be left in thee,
Throw up thine eye! see, see what showers arise,
Blown with the windy tempest of my heart,
Upon thy words, that kill mine eye and heart!
O, pity, God, this miserable age!
What stratagems, how fell, how butcherly,
Erroneous, mutinous and unnatural,
This deadly quarrel daily doth beget!
O boy, thy father gave thee life too soon,
And hath bereft thee of thy life too late!

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Lucia Trent: Breed, little mothers, breed for the war lords who slaughter your sons

January 11, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

Lucia Trent: Women of War

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Lucia Trent
Breed, Women, Breed

Breed, little mothers,
With tired backs and tired hands,
Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines,
Breed a race of danger-haunted men,
A race of toiling, sweating, miserable men,
Breed, little mothers,
Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines,
Breed, breed, breed!

Breed, little mothers,
With the sunken eyes and the sagging cheeks,
Breed for the bankers, the crafty and terrible masters of men,
Breed a race of machines,
A race of aenemic, round-shouldered, subway-herded machines!

Breed, little mothers,
With a faith patient and stupid as cattle.
Breed for the war lords,
Offer your woman flesh for incredible torment,
Wrack your frail bodies with the pangs of birth
For the war lords who slaughter your sons!

Breed, little mothers,
Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines,
Breed for the bankers, the crafty and terrible masters of men,
Breed for the war lords, the devouring war lords,
Breed, women, breed!

Breed, little mothers
With the tired backs and the tired hands,
Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines!
Breed a race of danger-haunted men,
A race of toiling, straining, miserable men,
Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines.
Breed, breed, breed!

Breed, little mothers
With the sunken eyes and the sagging cheeks,
Breed for the bankers, the crafty and terrible masters of men!
Breed a race of machines,

A race of anemic, round-shouldered, subway herded machines.
Breed, little mothers,
With a faith patient and stupid as cattle,
Breed for the war-lords!
Offer your woman-flesh for incredible torment,
Rack your frail bodies with the pangs of birth
For the war-lords who strangle your sons!
Breed, little mothers,
Breed for the owners of mills and the owners of mines,
Breed for the bankers, the crafty and terrible masters of men,
Breed for the war-lords, the devouring war-lords,
Breed, women breed!

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William Shakespeare: Soldier, a creature that I teach to fight

January 10, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Julius Caesar

OCTAVIUS
You may do your will;
But he’s a tried and valiant soldier.

ANTONY
So is my horse, Octavius; and for that
I do appoint him store of provender:
It is a creature that I teach to fight,
To wind, to stop, to run directly on,
His corporal motion govern’d by my spirit.
And, in some taste, is Lepidus but so;
He must be taught and train’d and bid go forth;
A barren-spirited fellow; one that feeds
On abjects, orts and imitations,
Which, out of use and staled by other men,
Begin his fashion: do not talk of him,
But as a property.

****

From Measure for Measure

First Gentleman
There’s not a soldier of us all, that, in the thanksgiving before meat, do relish the petition well that prays for peace.

Second Gentleman
I never heard any soldier dislike it.

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Jean Lewis Morris: A Patriot I!

January 9, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Jean Lewis Morris
A Patriot I!

A patriot I! This is my cry:
Build large each battleship!
Arm a million men! The world defy!
Let darting planes fill the sky
And lesser people feel our grip.

My country has right, by warlike might
The nations of the world
To plunge in nervous fright,
Preparing for the fight
Before war’s declaration’s hurled.

I’m a red-blooded American
Who never from battle ran,
Not a pacifist or saintly faker.

You’ve guessed me right,
I’m in every fight!…
I’m a munition maker.

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François Rabelais: Strictures against war

January 8, 2020 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

François Rabelais: Born for peace, not warFrançois Rabelais: The magnanimity of peace

François Rabelais: The magnanimity of peace

François Rabelais: Waging war in good earnest

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François Rabelais
From Gargantua and Pantagruel
Translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty

What rage and madness, therefore, doth now incite thee, all old alliance infringed, all amity trod under foot, and all right violated, thus in a hostile manner to invade his country, without having been by him or his in anything prejudiced, wronged, or provoked? Where is faith? Where is law? Where is reason? Where is humanity? Where is the fear of God? Dost thou think that these atrocious abuses are hidden from the eternal spirit and the supreme God who is the just rewarder of all our undertakings? If thou so think, thou deceivest thyself; for all things shall come to pass as in his incomprehensible judgment he hath appointed. Is it thy fatal destiny, or influences of the stars, that would put an end to thy so long enjoyed ease and rest? For that all things have their end and period, so as that, when they are come to the superlative point of their greatest height, they are in a trice tumbled down again, as not being able to abide long in that state. This is the conclusion and end of those who cannot by reason and temperance moderate their fortunes and prosperities…The matter is so unreasonable, and so dissonant from common sense, that hardly can it be conceived by human understanding, and altogether incredible unto strangers, till by the certain and undoubted effects thereof it be made apparent that nothing is either sacred or holy to those who, having emancipated themselves from God and reason, do merely follow the perverse affections of their own depraved nature. If any wrong had been done by us to thy subjects and dominions – if we had favoured thy ill-willers – if we had not assisted thee in thy need – if thy name and reputation had been wounded by us – or, to speak more truly, if the calumniating spirit, tempting to induce thee to evil, had, by false illusions and deceitful fantasies, put into thy conceit the impression of a thought that we had done unto thee anything unworthy of our ancient correspondence and friendship, thou oughtest first to have inquired out the truth, and afterwards by a seasonable warning to admonish us thereof; and we should have so satisfied thee, according to thine own heart’s desire, that thou shouldst have had occasion to be contented. But, O eternal God, what is thy enterprise? Wouldst thou, like a perfidious tyrant, thus spoil and lay waste my master’s kingdom? Hast thou found him so silly and blockish, that he would not – or so destitute of men and money, of counsel and skill in military discipline, that he cannot withstand thy unjust invasion? March hence presently, and to-morrow, some time of the day, retreat unto thine own country, without doing any kind of violence or disorderly act by the way

***
There was there present at that time an old gentleman well experienced in the wars, a stern soldier, and who had been in many great hazards, named Echephron, who, hearing this discourse, said, I do greatly doubt that all this enterprise will be like the tale or interlude of the pitcher full of milk wherewith a shoemaker made himself rich in conceit; but, when the pitcher was broken, he had not whereupon to dine. What do you pretend by these large conquests? What shall be the end of so many labours and crosses? Thus it shall be, said Picrochole, that when we are returned we shall sit down, rest, and be merry. But, said Echephron, if by chance you should never come back, for the voyage is long and dangerous, were it not better for us to take our rest now, than unnecessarily to expose ourselves to so many dangers?

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Margaret Sackville: Who shall deliver us from the memory of these dead?

January 7, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Margaret Sackville
A Memory

There was no sound at all, no crying in the village,
Nothing you would count as sound, that is, after the shells;
Only behind a wall the low sobbing of women,
The creaking of a door, a lost dog – nothing else.

Silence which might be felt, no pity in the silence,
Horrible, soft like blood, down all the blood-stained ways;
In the middle of the street two corpses lie unburied,
And a bayoneted woman stares in the market-place.

Humble and ruined folk – for these no pride of conquest,
Their only prayer: “O! Lord, give us our daily bread!”
Not by the battle fires, the shrapnel are we haunted;
Who shall deliver us from the memory of these dead?

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William Shakespeare: Tame the savage spirit of wild war

January 6, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From King John

Now for the bare-pick’d bone of majesty
Doth dogged war bristle his angry crest
And snarleth in the gentle eyes of peace:
Now powers from home and discontents at home
Meet in one line; and vast confusion waits,
As doth a raven on a sick-fall’n beast,
The imminent decay of wrested pomp.

****

O, it grieves my soul,
That I must draw this metal from my side
To be a widow-maker!

****

Therefore thy threat’ning colours now wind up,
And tame the savage spirit of wild war;
That, like a lion foster’d up at hand,
It may lie gently at the foot of peace,
And be no further harmful than in show.

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Angela Morgan: In Spite of War

January 5, 2020 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Angela Morgan
In Spite Of War

In spite of war, in spite of death,
In spite of all man’s sufferings,
Something within me laughs and sings
And I must praise with all my breath.
In spite of war, in spite of hate
Lilacs are blooming at my gate,
Tulips are tripping down the path
In spite of war, in spite of wrath.
“Courage!” the morning-glory saith;
“Rejoice!” the daisy murmureth,
And just to live is so divine
When pansies lift their eyes to mine.

The clouds are romping with the sea,
And flashing waves call back to me
That naught is real but what is fair,
That everywhere and everywhere
A glory liveth through despair.
Though guns may roar and cannon boom,
Roses are born and gardens bloom;
My spirit still may light its flame
At that same torch whence poppies came.
Where morning’s altar whitely burns
Lilies may lift their silver urns
In spite of war, in spite of shame.

And in my ear a whispering breath,
“Wake from the nightmare! Look and see
That life is naught but ecstasy
In spite of war, in spite of death!”

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Adam Lindsay Gordon: Bellona

January 4, 2020 Leave a comment

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

 

Adam Lindsay Gordon
Bellona

Thou art moulded in marble impassive,
False goddess, fair statue of strife,
Yet standest on pedestal massive,
A symbol and token of life.
Thou art still, not with stillness of languor,
And calm, not with calm boding rest;
For thine is all wrath and all anger
That throbs far and near in the breast
Of man, by thy presence possess’d.

With the brow of a fallen archangel,
The lips of a beautiful fiend,
And locks that are snake-like to strangle,
And eyes from whose depths may be glean’d
The presence of passions, that tremble
Unbidden, yet shine as they may
Through features too proud to dissemble,
Too cold and too calm to betray
Their secrets to creatures of clay.

Thy breath stirreth faction and party,
Men rise, and no voice can avail
To stay them – rose-tinted Astarte
Herself at thy presence turns pale.
For deeper and richer the crimson
That gathers behind thee throws forth
A halo thy raiment and limbs on,
And leaves a red track in the path
That flows from thy wine-press of wrath.

For behind thee red rivulets trickle,
Men fall by thy hands swift and lithe,
As corn falleth down to the sickle,
As grass falleth down to the scythe,
Thine arm, strong and cruel, and shapely,
Lifts high the sharp, pitiless lance,
And rapine and ruin and rape lie
Around thee. The Furies advance,
And Ares awakes from his trance.

We, too, with our bodies thus weakly,
With hearts hard and dangerous, thus
We owe thee the saints suffered meekly
Their wrongs it is not so with us.
Some share of thy strength thou hast given

To mortals refusing in vain
Thine aid. We have suffered and striven
Till we have grown reckless of pain,
Though feeble of heart and of brain.

Fair spirit, alluring if wicked,
False deity, terribly real,
Our senses are trapp’d, our souls tricked
By thee and thy hollow ideal.
The soldier who falls in his harness,
And strikes his last stroke with slack hand,
On his dead face thy wrath and thy scorn is
Imprinted. Oh! seeks he a land
Where he shall escape thy command?

When the blood of thy victims lies red on
That stricken field, fiercest and last,
In the sunset that gilds Armageddon
With battle-drift still overcast –
When the smoke of thy hot conflagrations
O’ershadows the earth as with wings,
Where nations have fought against nations,
And kings have encounter’d with kings,
When cometh the end of all things –

Then those who have patiently waited,
And borne, unresisting, the pain
Of thy vengeance unglutted, unsated,
Shall they be rewarded again?
Then those who, enticed by thy laurels,
Or urged by thy promptings unblest,
Have striven and stricken in quarrels,
Shall they, too, find pardon and rest?
We know not, yet hope for the best.

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William Shakespeare: Death of twenty thousand men for fantasy and fame

January 3, 2020 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Shakespeare: Selections on war and peace

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William Shakespeare
From Hamlet

HAMLET
Good sir, whose powers are these?

Captain
They are of Norway, sir.

HAMLET
How purposed, sir, I pray you?

Captain
Against some part of Poland.

HAMLET
Who commands them, sir?

Captain
The nephews to old Norway, Fortinbras.

HAMLET
Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
Or for some frontier?

Captain
Truly to speak, and with no addition,
We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.

HAMLET
Why, then the Polack never will defend it.

Captain
Yes, it is already garrison’d.

HAMLET
Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
Will not debate the question of this straw…

****

HAMLET
Witness this army of such mass and charge,
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit, with divine ambition puff’d,
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell…

I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain?

****

HAMLET
Dost thou think Alexander looked o’ this fashion i’ the earth?

HORATIO
E’en so.

HAMLET
And smelt so? pah!

Puts down the skull

HORATIO
E’en so, my lord.

HAMLET
To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander,
till he find it stopping a bung-hole?

HORATIO
‘Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.

HAMLET
No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as
thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:
O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!

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