Octave Mirbeau: It was not enough that war should glut itself with human flesh, it was necessary that it should also devour beasts, the earth itself, everything that lived in the calm and peace of labor and love
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich
Our regiment was what is called a march regiment, that is, one formed while on the march. It had been made up at Mans, after much trouble, of all the remains of a corps of dissimilar fighting units which encumbered the city. Zuaves, mobilized soldiers, of franc-tireurs, forestry guards, dismounted cavalrymen, including gendarmes, Spaniards and Wallachians – there were troops of every kind and description, and they were all under the command of an old captain quickly promoted for the occasion to the rank of lieutenant colonel. At that time, such promotions were not infrequent. The gaps of human flesh wrought in the ranks of the French by the cannons of Wissembourg and Sedan had to be filled. Several companies lacked officers.
For twelve days since we had been incorporated into a brigade of recent formation, we were tramping across the fields like madmen and to no purpose, as it were. Today marching to the right, tomorrow to the left, one day covering a stretch of forty kilometers, the next day going back an equal distance, we were moving in the same circle; like a scattered herd of cattle which has lost its shepherd. Our enthusiasm diminished appreciably. Three weeks of suffering were enough for that. Before we could ever hear the roar of cannon and the whiz of bullets, our forward march resembled a retreat of a conquered army, cut to pieces by cavalry charges and precipitated into wild confusion. It was like a panicky flight in which each one was allowed to shift for himself. How often did I see soldiers getting rid of their cartridges by scattering them along the roads?
“What good will they do me?” one of them said. “I don’t need them at all except one to crack the jaw of our captain, the first chance we get to fight.”
In the evening, in camp, squatted around the porridge pot or stretched out on the cold furze, with heads resting on their knapsacks, they were thinking of the homes from which they had been taken by force. All the young men, strong and healthy, had come from the villages. Many of them were already sleeping in the ground way yonder, disembowelled by shells; others with shattered backs, like shadows, were straggling in the fields and in the woods awaiting death. In the small country places, left to sorrow, there were only old men, more stooped than ever, and women who wept. The barn-floors where they thrashed corn were mute and closed, in the deserted fields where weeds sprouted, one no longer saw against the purple background of the sunset the silhouette of the laborer returning home, keeping step with his tired horses. And men with long sabres would come and in the name of the law take away the horses one day and empty the cowshed the next; for it was not enough that war should glut itself with human flesh, it was necessary that it should also devour beasts, the earth itself, everything that lived in the calm and peace of labor and love…And at the bottom of the hearts of all these miserable soldiers whose emaciated frames and flagged limbs were lit up by the sinister glare of camp fires—there was one hope, the hope of the coming battle, that is to say, the hope of flight, of butt turned upwards, and of the German fortress.
Nevertheless we were preparing for the defence of the country which we traversed and which was no longer threatened. To accomplish that we thought it would be best to fell trees and scatter them on the roads; we blew up bridges and desecrated cemeteries at the entrance to villages under the pretext of barricading them, and we compelled the inhabitants at the point of the bayonet to help us in the destruction of their property. Then we would depart, leaving behind us nothing but ruin and hatred. I remember one time we had to raze a very beautiful park to the last staddling, in order to build barracks which we never used at all. Our manner of doing things was not at all such as to reassure the people. And so at our approach the houses were shut, the peasants hid their provisions; everywhere we were met by hostile faces, surly mouths and empty hands. There were bloody scuffles over some potted pork discovered in a cupboard, and the general ordered an old and kindly man shot for hiding a few kilograms of salted pork under a heap of manure.
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John Dos Passos
From Three Soldiers (1921)
“Home…I won’t never go home,” said the undertaker when the noise had subsided a little. “D’you know what I wish? I wish the war’d gone on and on until everyone of them bastards had been killed in it.”
“The men who got us fellers over here.”
He wondered if he would ever be free again to walk at random through city streets. He stretched his legs out across the floor in front of him; strange, stiff, tremulous legs they were, but it was not the wounds that gave them their leaden weight. It was the stagnation of the life about him that he felt sinking into every crevice of his spirit, so that he could never shake it off, the stagnation of dusty ruined automatons that had lost all life of their own, whose limbs had practised the drill manual so long that they had no movements of their own left, who sat limply, sunk in boredom, waiting for orders.
His life would continue to be this slavery of unclean bodies packed together in places where the air had been breathed over and over, cogs in the great slow-moving Juggernaut of armies. What did it matter if the fighting had stopped? The armies would go on grinding out lives with lives, crushing flesh with flesh. Would he ever again stand free and solitary to live out joyous hours which would make up for all the boredom of the treadmill? He had no hope. His life would continue like this dingy, ill-smelling waiting room where men in uniform slept in the fetid air until they should be ordered-out to march or to stand in motionless rows, endlessly, futilely, like toy soldiers a child has forgotten in an attic.
Andrews was telling himself that the war was over, and that in a few months he would be free in any case. What did a few months more or less matter? But the same thoughts were swept recklessly away in the blind panic that was like a stampede of wild steers within him. There was no arguing. His spirit was contorted with revolt so that his flesh twitched and dark splotches danced before his eyes. He wondered vaguely whether he had gone mad. Enormous plans kept rising up out of the tumult of his mind and dissolving suddenly like smoke in a high wind. He would run away and if they caught him, kill himself. He would start a mutiny in his company, he would lash all these men to frenzy by his words, so that they too should refuse to form into Guns, so that they should laugh when the officers got red in the face shouting orders at them, so that the whole division should march off over the frosty hills, without arms, without flags, calling all the men of all the armies to join them, to march on singing, to laugh the nightmare out of their blood. Would not some lightning flash of vision sear people’s consciousness into life again? What was the good of stopping the war if the armies continued?
He thought of the swell undertaking establishment, of the black gloves and long faces and soft tactful voices. That man and his father before him lived by pretending things they didn’t feel, by swathing reality with all manner of crepe and trumpery. For those people, no one ever died, they passed away, they deceased. Still, there had to be undertakers. There was no more stain about that than about any other trade. And it was so as not to spoil his trade that the undertaker had enlisted, and to make the world safe for democracy, too. The phrase came to Andrews’s mind amid an avalanche of popular tunes; of visions of patriotic numbers on the vaudeville stage. He remembered the great flags waving triumphantly over Fifth Avenue, and the crowds dutifully cheering. But those were valid reasons for the undertaker; but for him, John Andrews, were they valid reasons? No. He had no trade, he had not been driven into the army by the force of public opinion, he had not been carried away by any wave of blind confidence in the phrases of bought propagandists. He had not had the strength to live. The thought came to him of all those who, down the long tragedy of history, had given themselves smilingly for the integrity of their thoughts. He had not had the courage to move a muscle for his freedom, but he had been fairly cheerful about risking his life as a soldier, in a cause he believed useless. What right had a man to exist who was too cowardly to stand up for what he thought and felt, for his whole makeup, for everything that made him an individual apart from his fellows, and not a slave to stand cap in hand waiting for someone of stronger will to tell him to act?
H.G. Wells: No more talk of honour and annexations, hegemonies and trade routes, but only Europe lamenting for her dead
From Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916)
If you think that these two boys have both perished, not in some noble common cause but one against the other in a struggle of dynasties and boundaries and trade routes and tyrannous ascendancies, then it seems to me that you must feel as I feel that this war is the most tragic and dreadful thing that has ever happened to mankind.
He sat thinking for some minutes after he had written that, and when presently he resumed his writing, a fresh strain of thought was traceable even in his opening sentence.
If you count dead and wounds this is the most dreadful war in history; for you as for me, it has been almost the extremity of personal tragedy…Black sorrow…
He was no longer writing to the particular parents of one particular boy, but to all that mass of suffering, regret, bitterness and fatigue that lay behind the veil of the “front.” Slowly, steadily, the manhood of Germany was being wiped out. As he sat there in the stillness he could think that at least two million men of the Central Powers were dead, and an equal number maimed and disabled. Compared with that our British losses, immense and universal as they were by the standard of any previous experience, were still slight; our larger armies had still to suffer, and we had lost irrevocably not very much more than a quarter of a million. But the tragedy gathered against us. We knew enough already to know what must be the reality of the German homes to which those dead men would nevermore return…
If England had still the longer account to pay, the French had paid already nearly to the limits of endurance. They must have lost well over a million of their mankind, and still they bled and bled. Russia too in the East had paid far more than man for man in this vast swapping off of lives. In a little while no Censorship would hold the voice of the peoples. There would be no more talk of honour and annexations, hegemonies and trade routes, but only Europe lamenting for her dead…
The Germany to which he wrote would be a nation of widows and children, rather pinched boys and girls, crippled men, old men, deprived men, men who had lost brothers and cousins and friends and ambitions. No triumph now on land or sea could save Germany from becoming that. France too would be that, Russia, and lastly Britain, each in their degree…
Our boys, he wrote, have died, fighting one against the other. They have been fighting upon an issue so obscure that your German press is still busy discussing what it was. For us it was that Belgium was invaded and France in danger of destruction. Nothing else could have brought the English into the field against you. But why you invaded Belgium and France and whether that might have been averted we do not know to this day. And still this war goes on and still more boys die, and these men who do not fight, these men in the newspaper offices and in the ministries plan campaigns and strokes and counter-strokes that belong to no conceivable plan at all. Except that now for them there is something more terrible than war. And that is the day of reckoning with their own people.
What have we been fighting for? What are we fighting for? Do you know? Does any one know? Why am I spending what is left of my substance and you what is left of yours to keep on this war against each other? What have we to gain from hurting one another still further? Why should we be puppets any longer in the hands of crowned fools and witless diplomatists? Even if we were dumb and acquiescent before, does not the blood of our sons now cry out to us that this foolery should cease? We have let these people send our sons to death.
It is you and I who must stop these wars, these massacres of boys.
Massacres of boys! That indeed is the essence of modern war. The killing off of the young. It is the destruction of the human inheritance, it is the spending of all the life and material of the future upon present-day hate and greed. Fools and knaves, politicians, tricksters, and those who trade on the suspicions and thoughtless, generous angers of men, make wars; the indolence and modesty of the mass of men permit them. Are you and I to suffer such things until the whole fabric of our civilisation, that has been so slowly and so laboriously built up, is altogether destroyed?
When I sat down to write to you I had meant only to write to you of your son and mine. But I feel that what can be said in particular of our loss, need not be said; it can be understood without saying. What needs to be said and written about is this, that war must be put an end to and that nobody else but you and me and all of us can do it. We have to do that for the love of our sons and our race and all that is human. War is no longer human; the chemist and the metallurgist have changed all that. My boy was shot through the eye; his brain was blown to pieces by some man who never knew what he had done. Think what that means!… It is plain to me, surely it is plain to you and all the world, that war is now a mere putting of the torch to explosives that flare out to universal ruin. There is nothing for one sane man to write to another about in these days but the salvation of mankind from war.
Now I want you to be patient with me and hear me out. There was a time in the earlier part of this war when it was hard to be patient because there hung over us the dread of losses and disaster. Now we need dread no longer. The dreaded thing has happened. Sitting together as we do in spirit beside the mangled bodies of our dead, surely we can be as patient as the hills.
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)
They were cleanly groomed. They were
not to be bought.
And their cigars were good.
But they had pulled so many strings
In the tinselled puppet-show of kings
That, when they talked of war, they thought
Of sawdust, not of blood;
Not of the crimson tempest
Where the shattered city falls:
They thought, behind their varnished doors,
Of diplomats, ambassadors,
Budgets, and loans and boundary-lines,
Coercions and re-calls;
Forces and Balances of Power;
Shadows and dreams and dust;
And how to set their bond aside
And prove they lied not when they lied,
And which was weak, and which was strong,
But – never which was just.
Yet they were honest, honest men.
Justice could take no wrong.
The blind arbitrament of steel,
The mailed hand, the armoured heel,
Could only prove that Justice reigned
And that her hands were strong.
For they were strong. So might is right,
And reason wins the day.
And, if at a touch on a silver bell
They plunged three nations into hell,
The blood of peasants is not red
A hundred miles away.
Give Us Love And Give Us Peace
One morning, oh! so early, my beloved, my beloved,
All the birds were singing blithely, as if never they would cease;
‘Twas a thrush sang in my garden, “Hear the story, hear the story!”
And the lark sang, “Give us glory!”
And the dove said, “Give us peace!”
Then I listened, oh! so early, my beloved, my beloved,
To that murmur from the woodland of the dove, my dear, the dove;
When the nightingale came after, “Give us fame to sweeten duty!”
When the wren sang, “Give us beauty!”
She made answer, “Give us love!”
Sweet is spring, and sweet the morning, my beloved, my beloved;
Now for us doth spring, doth morning, wait upon the year’s increase,
And my prayer goes up, “Oh, give us, crowned in youth with marriage glory,
Give for all our life’s dear story,
Give us love, and give us peace!”
William Black: Better small farms, thriving and prosperous, than splendid ruins that tell of the fierceness of war
From Sunrise (1881)
“Well, at all events, you don’t find it very picturesque as compared with other countries. Evelyn tells me you have travelled a great deal.”
“Perhaps I am not very fond of picturesqueness,” Natalie said, modestly. “When I am travelling through a country I would rather see plenty of small farms, thriving and prosperous, than splendid ruins that tell only of oppression and extravagance, and the fierceness of war.”
No one spoke; so she made bold to continue – but she addressed Lady Evelyn only.
“No doubt it is very picturesque, as you go up the Rhine, or across the See Kreis, or through the Lombard plains, to see every height crowned with its castle. Yes, one cannot help admiring. They are like beautiful flowers that have blossomed up from the valleys and the plains below. But who tilled the land, that these should grow there on every height? Are you not forced to think of the toiling wretches who labored and labored to carry stone by stone up the crest of the hill? They did not get much enjoyment out of the grandeur and picturesqueness of the castles.”
“But they gave that labor for their own protection,” Lady Evelyn said, with a smile. “The great lords and barons were their protectors.”
“The great lords and barons said so, at least,” said the girl, without any smile at all, “and I suppose the peasantry believed them; and were quite willing to leave their vineyards and go and shed their blood whenever the great lords and barons quarrelled among themselves.”
From American Notes (1842)
The upholders of slavery in America – of the atrocities of which system, I shall not write one word for which I have not had ample proof and warrant – may be divided into three great classes…
The second, consists of all those owners, breeders, users, buyers and sellers of slaves, who will, until the bloody chapter has a bloody end, own, breed, use, buy, and sell them at all hazards: who doggedly deny the horrors of the system in the teeth of such a mass of evidence as never was brought to bear on any other subject, and to which the experience of every day contributes its immense amount; who would at this or any other moment, gladly involve America in a war, civil or foreign, provided that it had for its sole end and object the assertion of their right to perpetuate slavery, and to whip and work and torture slaves, unquestioned by any human authority, and unassailed by any human power; who, when they speak of Freedom, mean the Freedom to oppress their kind, and to be savage, merciless, and cruel; and of whom every man on his own ground, in republican America, is a more exacting, and a sterner, and a less responsible despot than the Caliph Haroun Alraschid in his angry robe of scarlet.
When we were seated in the little ferry-boat, and were crossing the swollen river immediately before both cataracts, I began to feel what it was: but I was in a manner stunned, and unable to comprehend the vastness of the scene. It was not until I came on Table Rock, and looked – Great Heaven, on what a fall of bright-green water! – that it came upon me in its full might and majesty.
Then, when I felt how near to my Creator I was standing, the first effect, and the enduring one – instant and lasting – of the tremendous spectacle, was Peace. Peace of Mind, tranquillity, calm recollections of the Dead, great thoughts of Eternal Rest and Happiness: nothing of gloom or terror. Niagara was at once stamped upon my heart, an Image of Beauty; to remain there, changeless and indelible, until its pulses cease to beat, for ever.
Oh, how the strife and trouble of daily life receded from my view, and lessened in the distance, during the ten memorable days we passed on that Enchanted Ground! What voices spoke from out the thundering water; what faces, faded from the earth, looked out upon me from its gleaming depths; what Heavenly promise glistened in those angels’ tears, the drops of many hues, that showered around, and twined themselves about the gorgeous arches which the changing rainbows made!
Shall we cry shame on the brutality of those who hamstring cattle: and spare the lights of Freedom upon earth who notch the ears of men and women, cut pleasant posies in the shrinking flesh, learn to write with pens of red-hot iron on the human face, rack their poetic fancies for liveries of mutilation which their slaves shall wear for life and carry to the grave, breaking living limbs as did the soldiery who mocked and slew the Saviour of the world, and set defenceless creatures up for targets! Shall we whimper over legends of the tortures practised on each other by the Pagan Indians, and smile upon the cruelties of Christian men! Shall we, so long as these things last, exult above the scattered remnants of that race, and triumph in the white enjoyment of their possessions? Rather, for me, restore the forest and the Indian village; in lieu of stars and stripes, let some poor feather flutter in the breeze; replace the streets and squares by wigwams; and though the death-song of a hundred haughty warriors fill the air, it will be music to the shriek of one unhappy slave.
Émile Zola: Bloody pages of history, the wars, the conquests, the names of the captains who had butchered their fellow-beings.
From Truth (1902)
Translated by Ernest A. Vizetelly
From the very outset Marc combated the system by which violence, terror, and folly were inculcated in so many children. The right of the stronger, massacre, carnage, the devastation and razing of cities – all those things were set before the young, glorified in books, pictures, and constant, almost hourly, lessons. Great was the display of the bloody pages of history, the wars, the conquests, the names of the captains who had butchered their fellow-beings. The minds of children were enfevered by the crash of arms, by nightmares of slaughter steeping the plains in blood. In the prize books given to them, in the little papers published for their perusal, on the very covers of their copy-books, their eyes encountered the savagery of armies, the burning of fleets, the everlasting calamity of man sinking to the level of a wolf…In that manner one fashioned only slaves, flesh flt to serve the master’s capricious purposes. And indeed that education of blind faith and perpetual extermination was based on the necessity of ever having soldiers ready to defend the established and iniquitous order of things.
Yet what an antiquated idea it was to cultivate human energy by lessons of warfare! It corresponded with the times when the sword alone decided questions between nation and nation, and between kings and their subjects. But nowadays, if nations still guard themselves – as they do, in formidable fashion, full of anxious dread lest everything should collapse – who will dare to say that victory will rest with the warlike nations? Who, on the contrary, cannot see that the triumphant nation of to-morrow will be that which defeats the others on the economic fleld, by reorganising the conditions of human toil, and by bringing more justice and happiness to mankind?
The narrow doctrine that one’s sole purpose should be to make soldiers of Frenchmen filled him with grief and anger. On the morrow of the disasters of 1870 such a programme may have had its excuse; and yet all the unrest of years and years, the whole abominable crisis of the present times has proceeded from that programme, from having placed one’s supreme hope in the army, from having abandoned the democracy to military leaders. If it be still necessary to guard oneself, surrounded as one is by neighbours in arms, it is yet more necessary to become workers, free and just citizens, such as those to whom to-morrow will belong. On the day when France knows it and wills it, on the day when she becomes a nation freed from error, the armour-plated empires around her will crumble beneath the breath of truth and justice emanating from her lips – a breath which will achieve that which can never be accomplished by all her armies and her guns. Nations awaken nations, and on the day when, one by one, the nations rise, enlightened, instructed by example, the world will witness the victory of peace, the end of war. Marc could imagine for his country no more splendid role than that of hastening the day when all countries would mingle in one. Thus he kept a strict watch over his pupils’ books, replacing as far as possible all pictures and descriptions of spurious miracles and bloody battles by others which dealt with the truths of science and the fruitful labours of mankind.
Stephen Spender: Automata controlled by the mechanism of war, meaningless struggle between potential ashes to gain a world of ashes
From World Within World (1948)
Although the air raids stopped, or happened only at rare intervals, this picture of the aeroplane over the huge plain with the people concealed in crevices, can be enlarged to a vision of the new phase of the domination and threat by machine-power politics, which the world had now entered and which did not end with the peace. The aeroplane filled ever widening circles in the minds of people beneath it; but the pilot and even the officers who commanded him at bases, their masters in governments and the vanquished and victors of the war, were diminished, until it seemed that they no longer had wills of their own, but were automata controlled by the mechanism of war.
From now on, the fate of individuals was more and more controlled by a public fate which itself seemed beyond control. For control implies not only merely putting a machine into motion, but also being able to make it stop: modern war is a machine easy to make start, but it can only be stopped at the moment when it has destroyed or been destroyed by another war machine. Control means being able to relate a program of action to the results of that action. Now we had arrived at a stage when a large part of the resources of great nations were poured into programs of which no one could foresee the results. All this was only leading to subsequent plans for making atomic and hydrogen bombs to defend East against West or West against East in a meaningless struggle between potential ashes to gain a world of ashes…
Lying awake during air raids I would think of the young pilots trained by both sides to believe that the destruction of a city was an abstract task or “precision bombing” without consideration of the people whose homes were being destroyed; of the young men being trained to the brutal enterprises of Commandos and Paratroopers; and of the children, either at the mercy of the bombers in the cities, or torn away and evacuated into the houses of strangers in the country. It seemed clear that – whatever the plans of governments – the peace would be a period of struggling to impose a pattern of reasonable behavior on a population that had been systematically demoralized…
How could the war result in anything but more bitterness and hatred, and a general acceptance of further wars, which would destroy all plans?
From Under Western Eyes (1911)
There must be a wonderful soothing power in mere words since so many men have used them for self-communion. Being myself a quiet individual I take it that what all men are really after is some form or perhaps only some formula of peace. Certainly they are crying loud enough for it at the present day.
“I must own to you that I shall never give up looking forward to the day when all discord shall be silenced. Try to imagine its dawn! The tempest of blows and of execrations is over; all is still; the new sun is rising, and the weary men united at last, taking count in their conscience of the ended contest, feel saddened by their victory, because so many ideas have perished for the triumph of one, so many beliefs have abandoned them without support. They feel alone on the earth and gather close together. Yes, there must be many bitter hours! But at last the anguish of hearts shall be extinguished in love.”
And on this last word of her wisdom, a word so sweet, so bitter, so cruel sometimes, I said good-bye to Natalia Haldin. It is hard to think I shall never look any more into the trustful eyes of that girl – wedded to an invincible belief in the advent of loving concord springing like a heavenly flower from the soil of men’s earth, soaked in blood, torn by struggles, watered with tears.
From The Duel (1905)
“Yes, they are all alike, even the best and most tender-hearted among them. At home they are splendid fathers of families and excellent husbands; but as soon as they approach the barracks they become low-minded, cowardly, and idiotic barbarians. You ask me why this is, and I answer: Because nobody can find a grain of sense in what is called military service. You know how all children like to play at war. Well, the human race has had its childhood – a time of incessant and bloody war; but war was not then one of the scourges of mankind, but a continued, savage, exultant national feast to which daring bands of youths marched forth, meeting victory or death with joy and pleasure. The bravest, strongest, and most cunning was chosen as leader, and so long as success attended his banner, he was almost accorded divine worship, until at last he was killed by his subjects, in order to make room for a luckier and more powerful rival. Mankind, however, grew in age and wisdom; people got weary of the former rowdy, bloody games, and became more serious, thoughtful, and cautious. The old Vikings of song and saga were designated and treated as pirates. The soldier no longer regarded war as a bloody but enjoyable occupation, and he had often to be dragged to the enemy with a noose round his neck.
“But other times are coming, indeed have come. Yes, tremendous surprises and changes are about to take place. You remember my saying on one occasion that for a thousand years there has existed a genius of humanity that seldom reveals itself, but whose laws are as inexorable as they are ruthless; but the wiser men become, so much more deeply do they penetrate the spirit of those laws. And I am convinced that, sooner or later, everything in this world must be brought into equilibrium in accordance with these immutable laws. Justice will then be dispensed. The longer and more cruel the slavery has been, so much more terrible will be the day of reckoning for tyrants. The greater the violence, injustice, and brutality, so much more bloody will be the retribution. Oh, I am firmly convinced that the day will dawn when we ‘superior officers,’ we ‘almighty swells,’ darlings of the women, drones and brainless swaggerers, will have our ears boxed with impunity in streets and lanes, in vestibules and corridors, when women will turn their backs on us in contempt, and when our own affectionate soldiers will cease to obey us. And all this will happen, not because we have brutally ill-treated men deprived of every possibility of self-defence; not because we have, for the ‘honour’ of the uniform, insulted women; not because we have committed, when in a state of intoxication, scandalous acts in public-houses and public places; and not even because we, the privileged lick-spittles of the State, have, in innumerable battlefields and in pretty nearly every country, covered our standards with shame, and been driven by our own soldiers out of the maize-fields in which we had taken shelter…”
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)
They had broken their hearts on the cold machines;
And – they had not seen their foe;
And the reason of this butcher’s work
It was not theirs to know;
For these tall young men were children
Five short years ago.
Headlong, headlong, down the hill,
They leapt across their dead.
Like madmen, wrapt in sheets of flame,
Yelling out of their hell they came,
And, in among their plunging hordes,
The shrapnel burst and spread.
The shrapnel severed the leaping limbs
And shrieked above their flight.
They rolled and plunged and writhed like snakes
In the red hill-brooks and the black thorn brakes.
Their mangled bodies tumbled like elves
In a wild Walpurgis night.
Slaughter! Slaughter! Slaughter!
The cold machines whirred on.
And strange things crawled amongst the wheat
With entrails dragging round their feet,
And over the foul red shambles
A fearful sunlight shone.
Down, into the valley of wheat,
And the warm dead that lay at their feet,
The men they had slaughtered, slaughtered, slaughtered,
Grinned up at their flight.
The black earth yawned like a crimson mouth,
And slaughter, slaughter, slaughter, slaughter,
The trenches belched their flame.
The maxims cracked like cattle-whips
Above the struggling hordes.
They rolled and plunged and writhed like snakes
In the trampled wheat and the black thorn brakes,
And the lightnings leapt among them
Like clashing crimson swords.
From Truth (1902)
Translated by Ernest A. Vizetelly
The army became merely the emblem of brute force upholding the thefts of ages, an impregnable wall of bayonets within whose shelter property and capital, duly gorged, might digest in security. The nation, the country, was the ensemble of abuses and iniquities which it was criminal to touch, the monstrous social edifice, not one beam of which must be changed for dread lest all should fall…
“The eight years I spent in the university penitentiary, where a man who believes in truth is allowed neither freedom of speech nor freedom of action, were not enough for them! They insist on robbing me of two more years, on shutting me up in their gaol of blood and iron, and reducing me to that life of passive obedience which is the necessary apprenticeship for devastation and massacre, the mere thought of which exasperates me!”
As a first step, he again got rid of all…books in which the supernatural was shown triumphant, and in which war, massacre, and rapine appeared as ideals of power and beauty. He considered that it was a crime to poison a lad’s brain with a belief in miracles, and to set brute force, assassination, and theft in the front rank as manly and patriotic duties. Such teaching could only produce imbecile inertia, sudden criminal frenzy, iniquity, and wretchedness. Marc’s dream, on the contrary, was to set pictures of work and peace before his pupils, to show sovereign reason ruling the world, justice establishing brotherliness among men, the ancient violence of warlike ages being condemned, and giving place to agreement among all nations, in order that they might arrive at the greatest possible happiness. And having rid his class of the poisonous ferments of the past, Marc particularly instructed his pupils in civic morality, striving to make each a citizen well informed about his country, and able to serve and love it, without setting it apart from the rest of mankind. Marc held that France ought no longer to dream of conquering the world by arms, but rather by the irresistible force of ideas, and by setting an example of so much freedom, truth, and equity, that she would deliver all other countries and enjoy the glory of founding with them the great confederation of free and brotherly nations.
Women writers on peace and war
Alfred Neumann: Debunking the glory of twenty murderous years, the greatest mass-murderer in history
From Empire (1936)
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul
Critical historiographers of a new school are appearing on the scene, thrusting aside eagles, battles, Grand’ Armée and gloire, limning the portrait of the political dictator. Since this portraiture is effected in the name of political liberty, it is a most disagreeable picture, surrounded by all the victims the hungry idol demanded, by the hecatombs of twenty murderous years – for the Consulate and the First Empire, taken together, last well-nigh twenty years. In the wake of this illuminating new science came popular pamphlets, not talking this time of murderous years, but of the greatest mass-murderer in history. Since, however, the web of which legend is woven is at once as tough as bunting and as tenuous as a fairy-tale, and so abundant that it waves wide and high above the realm of history, extending into the realm of fable and unreason, into the land of dreams – it is appropriate that poets of the new liberty should now appear upon the stage. They do not elucidate, do not criticise, do not revile, but paint a new picture of the legend, showing the reverse of the shield. No longer do they describe the War God and his archangels, but speak of the sacrificed masses, of the sorrows and the greatness of the common man, of the spurious enthusiasm and the real despair of the conscripts, of bivouacs, the horrors of the battlefield, burning sunshine, dist-storms, and ice cold. Closely associated with these, caressing them, come idylls, tales of the sweetness of life; of husband, wife, and children in their homes; of wheat waving in the wind before the little cottage – the joys of a quiet, untroubled, free and inconspicuous life, the joys of peace. –
From Monsieur Sylvestre (1866)
Translated by Francis George Shaw
“Sir,” said I, indignant, “did you buy these blacks on the coast of Guinea? ”
“You think, perhaps,” he replied, “that I have been in the trade? Well, why not? I have done everything, as I told you; and there is nothing wrong in it when you buy of people who sell their children, their servants, and their wives. If you pay, they are well satisfied; and I always did pay. There were some shabby fellows who traded with the blacks, and killed the sellers while they carried off the merchandize. But that was in old times; in my time the trade was fair…”
I reminded my uncle that he had not blamed me much for refusing as father-in-law a man who had traded in blacks, and that, consistently, he must excuse me for declining as mother-in-law a woman who had made such an extended traffic with whites. In reply to this judicious observation, my uncle wanted to kill me…
But this is quite another part of speech! My uncle, also, had traded in human flesh! Did you know it? I never knew anything about it, and I believe that, as he put nothing but his money into that kind of business, he may never have spoken of it to any one. How do you suppose I found it out here, after living with him twenty years, and never imagining anything of the kind? I brought with me some boxes, into which I had thrown my papers and letters when I left the house. In overhauling them I found an open letter which I suppose must have been lost by my uncle, picked up by a servant, and put among mine, on my table; I don’t know how else it could have got there. I looked it over without remarking the address, and was quite astonished at reading that there was a balance to my credit with the house of M. & Co. I was asking myself how this good luck could have befallen me, when I saw that the letter had reference to conscripts and substitutes, and that my uncle’s profits from the partnership had been so large as to constitute a great portion of the fortune he intended to leave to me…The source of my uncle’s fortune is, therefore, in some degree, subject to the same odium as M. Aubry’s and Mlle Irene’s…
Yes, my dear boy, I did know it, and thought that you knew it too; therefore I never mentioned it. Your uncle gained some hundreds of thousands of francs by becoming bondsman for a dealer in men. He did it without scruple, because he does not reflect, and is therefore liable unwittingly to commit a social crime, while intrenching himself behind his individual uprightness. He has been educated in the religion of self, and, provided he does honor to his signature and his word, he cares little whether his money goes to injure or to help humanity. This was why I was sorry when you deserted the wholesome ways of spiritual philosophy, which we were so pleasantly following together, to enter upon those of materialism, which is so closely allied nowadays, in many young minds, with absolute individualism. I was rather afraid, I confess, lest, even while protesting against the gross application which M. Pierinont openly makes of the principle of each for himself, you might allow yourself to become accustomed to look upon general evils with indifference. Assuredly, I am happy at finding my fears groundless, and, if my anxiety be not wholly dissipated, it is because I would like to see in you, in every respect, that intellectual antithesis which your protest ought to represent. You need to be this complete contrast to your uncle, in order not only to preserve your self-respect, but to produce something young and living. What can proceed from the negation of collective life? An apology for self? This does not interest others, and yet you must invite the public to become interested in your thought.
From Marius the Epicurean (1881-1884)
(Translation of Marcus Aurelius by Pater)
“…Ah! from this higher place, look we down upon the ship-wrecks and the calm! Consider, for example, how the world went, under the emperor Vespasian. They are married and given in marriage, they breed children; love hath its way with them; they heap up riches for others or for themselves; they are murmuring at things as then they are; they are seeking for great place; crafty, flattering, suspicious, waiting upon the death of others: – festivals, business, war, sickness, dissolution: and now their whole life is no longer anywhere at all. Pass on to the reign of Trajan: all things continue the same: and that life also is no longer anywhere at all. Ah! but look again, and consider, one after another, as it were the sepulchral inscriptions of all peoples and times, according to one pattern. – What multitudes, after their utmost striving – a little afterwards! were dissolved again into their dust.”
“Bethink thee often, in all contentions public and private, of those whom men have remembered by reason of their anger and vehement spirit – those famous rages, and the occasions of them – the great fortunes, and misfortunes, of men’s strife of old. What are they all now, and the dust of their battles? Dust and ashes indeed; a fable, a mythus, or not so much as that. Yes! keep those before thine eyes who took this or that, the like of which happeneth to thee, so hardly; were so querulous, so agitated. And where again are they? Wouldst thou have it not otherwise with thee?
“Consider how quickly all things vanish away – their bodily structure into the general substance; the very memory of them into that great gulf and abysm of past thoughts…”
“When thou lookest upon a wise man, a lawyer, a captain of war, think upon another gone. When thou seest thine own face in the glass, call up there before thee one of thine ancestors – one of those old Caesars. Lo! everywhere, thy double before thee! Thereon, let the thought occur to thee: And where are they? anywhere at all, for ever?…
“As words once in use are antiquated to us, so is it with the names that were once on all men’s lips: Camillus, Volesus, Leonnatus: then, in a little while, Scipio and Cato, and then Augustus, and then Hadrian, and then Antoninus Pius…”
The arena, decked and in order for the first scene, looked delightfully fresh, re-inforcing on the spirits of the audience the actual freshness of the morning, which at this season still brought the dew. Along the subterranean ways that led up to it, the sound of an advancing chorus was heard at last, chanting the words of a sacred song, or hymn to Diana; for the spectacle of the amphitheatre was, after all, a religious occasion. To its grim acts of blood-shedding a kind of sacrificial character still belonged in the view of certain religious casuists, tending conveniently to soothe the humane sensibilities of so pious an emperor as Aurelius, who, in his fraternal complacency, had consented to preside over the shows.
Artemis or Diana, as she may be understood in the actual development of her worship, was, indeed, the symbolical expression of two allied yet contrasted elements of human temper and experience – man’s amity, and also his enmity, towards the wild creatures, when they were still, in a certain sense, his brothers. She is the complete, and therefore highly complex, representative of a state, in which man was still much occupied with animals, not as his flock, or as his servants after the pastoral relationship of our later, orderly world, but rather as his equals, on friendly terms or the reverse, – a state full of primeval sympathies and antipathies, of rivalries and common wants – while he watched, and could enter into, the humours of those “younger brothers,” with an intimacy, the “survivals” of which in a later age seem often to have had a kind of madness about them. Diana represents alike the bright and the dark side of such relationship. But the humanities of that relationship were all forgotten to-day in the excitement of a show, in which mere cruelty to animals, their useless suffering and death, formed the main point of interest. People watched their destruction, batch after batch, in a not particularly inventive fashion; though it was expected that the animals themselves, as living creatures are apt to do when hard put to it, would become inventive, and make up, by the fantastic accidents of their agony, for the deficiencies of an age fallen behind in this matter of manly amusement. It was as a Deity of Slaughter – the Taurian goddess who demands the sacrifice of the shipwrecked sailors thrown on her coasts – the cruel, moonstruck huntress, who brings not only sudden death, but rabies, among the wild creatures that Diana was to be presented, in the person of a famous courtesan. The aim at an actual theatrical illusion, after the first introductory scene, was frankly surrendered to the display of the animals, artificially stimulated and maddened to attack each other. And as Diana was also a special protectress of new-born creatures, there would be a certain curious interest in the dexterously contrived escape of the young from their mother’s torn bosoms; as many pregnant animals as possible being carefully selected for the purpose.
The time had been, and was to come again, when the pleasures of the amphitheatre centered in a similar practical joking upon human beings. What more ingenious diversion had stage manager ever contrived than that incident, itself a practical epigram never to be forgottten, when a criminal, who, like slaves and animals, had no rights, was compelled to present the part of Icarus; and, the wings failing him in due course, had fallen into a pack of hungry bears? For the long shows of the amphitheatre were, so to speak, the novel-reading of that age – a current help provided for sluggish imaginations, in regard, for instance, to grisly accidents, such as might happen to one’s self; but with every facility for comfortable inspection. Scaevola might watch his own hand, consuming, crackling, in the fire, in the person of a culprit, willing to redeem his life by an act so delightful to the eyes, the very ears, of a curious public. If the part of Marsyas was called for, there was a criminal condemned to lose his skin. It might be almost edifying to study minutely the expression of his face, while the assistants corded and pegged him to the bench, cunningly; the servant of the law waiting by, who, after one short cut with his knife, would slip the man’s leg from his skin, as neatly as if it were a stocking – a finesse in providing the due amount of suffering for wrong-doers only brought to its height in Nero’s living bonfires. But then, by making his suffering ridiculous, you enlist against the sufferer, some real, and all would-be manliness, and do much to stifle any false sentiment of compassion. The philosophic emperor, having no great taste for sport, and asserting here a personal scruple, had greatly changed all that; had provided that nets should be spread under the dancers on the tight-rope, and buttons for the swords of the gladiators. But the gladiators were still there. Their bloody contests had, under the form of a popular amusement, the efficacy of a human sacrifice; as, indeed, the whole system of the public shows was understood to possess a religious import. Just at this point, certainly, the judgment of Lucretius on pagan religion is without reproach –
Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.
And Marius, weary and indignant, feeling isolated in the great slaughter-house, could not but observe that, in his habitual complaisance to Lucius Verus, who, with loud shouts of applause from time to time, lounged beside him, Aurelius had sat impassibly through all the hours Marius himself had remained there. For the most part indeed, the emperor had actually averted his eyes from the show, reading, or writing on matters of public business, but had seemed, after all, indifferent. He was revolving, perhaps, that old Stoic paradox of the Imperceptibility of pain; which might serve as an excuse, should those savage popular humours ever again turn against men and women. Marius remembered well his very attitude and expression on this day, when, a few years later, certain things came to pass in Gaul, under his full authority; and that attitude and expression defined already, even thus early in their so friendly intercourse, and though he was still full of gratitude for his interest, a permanent point of difference between the emperor and himself – between himself, with all the convictions of his life taking centre to-day in his merciful, angry heart, and Aurelius, as representing all the light, all the apprehensive power there might be in pagan intellect. There was something in a tolerance such as this, in the bare fact that he could sit patiently through a scene like this, which seemed to Marius to mark Aurelius as his inferior now and for ever on the question of righteousness; to set them on opposite sides, in some great conflict, of which that difference was but a single presentment. Due, in whatever proportions, to the abstract principles he had formulated for himself, or in spite of them, there was the loyal conscience within him, deciding, judging himself and every one else, with a wonderful sort of authority: – You ought, methinks, to be something quite different from what you are; here! and here! Surely Aurelius must be lacking in that decisive conscience at first sight, of the intimations of which Marius could entertain no doubt – which he looked for in others. He at least, the humble follower of the bodily eye, was aware of a crisis in life, in this brief, obscure existence, a fierce opposition of real good and real evil around him, the issues of which he must by no means compromise or confuse; of the antagonisms of which the “wise” Marcus Aurelius was unaware.
That long chapter of the cruelty of the Roman public shows may, perhaps, leave with the children of the modern world a feeling of self-complacency. Yet it might seem well to ask ourselves – it is always well to do so, when we read of the slave-trade, for instance, or of great religious persecutions on this side or on that, or of anything else which raises in us the question, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?” – not merely, what germs of feeling we may entertain which, under fitting circumstances, would induce us to the like; but, even more practically, what thoughts, what sort of considerations, may be actually present to our minds such as might have furnished us, living in another age, and in the midst of those legal crimes, with plausible excuses for them: each age in turn, perhaps, having its own peculiar point of blindness, with its consequent peculiar sin – the touch-stone of an unfailing conscience in the select few.
Those cruel amusements were, certainly, the sin of blindness, of deadness and stupidity, in the age of Marius; and his light had not failed him regarding it. Yes! what was needed was the heart that would make it impossible to witness all this; and the future would be with the forces that could beget a heart like that. His chosen philosophy had said, – Trust the eye: Strive to be right always in regard to the concrete experience: Beware of falsifying your impressions. And its sanction had at least been effective here, in protesting -“This, and this, is what you may not look upon!” Surely evil was a real thing, and the wise man wanting in the sense of it, where, not to have been, by instinctive election, on the right side, was to have failed in life.
Peace! Pax! Pax tecum! – the word, the thought – was put forth everywhere, with images of hope, snatched sometimes from that jaded pagan world which had really afforded men so little of it from first to last; the various consoling images it had thrown off, of succour, of regeneration, of escape from the grave…
“At all events, the actual conditions of our life being as they are, and the capacity for suffering so large a principle in things – since the only principle, perhaps, to which we may always safely trust is a ready sympathy with the pain one actually sees – it follows that the practical and effective difference between men will lie in their power of insight into those conditions, their power of sympathy. The future will be with those who have most of it; while for the present, as I persuade myself, those who have much of it, have something to hold by, even in the dissolution of a world, or in that dissolution of self, which is, for every one, no less than the dissolution of the world it represents for him. Nearly all of us, I suppose, have had our moments, in which any effective sympathy for us on the part of others has seemed impossible; in which our pain has seemed a stupid outrage upon us, like some overwhelming physical violence, from which we could take refuge, at best, only in some mere general sense of goodwill – somewhere in the world perhaps. And then, to one’s surprise, the discovery of that goodwill, if it were only in a not unfriendly animal, may seem to have explained, to have actually justified to us, the fact of our pain. There have been occasions, certainly, when I have felt that if others cared for me as I cared for them, it would be, not so much a consolation, as an equivalent, for what one has lost or suffered: a realised profit on the summing up of one’s accounts: a touching of that absolute ground amid all the changes of phenomena, such as our philosophers have of late confessed themselves quite unable to discover. In the mere clinging of human creatures to each other, nay! in one’s own solitary self-pity, amid the effects even of what might appear irredeemable loss, I seem to touch the eternal. Something in that pitiful contact, something new and true, fact or apprehension of fact, is educed, which, on a review of all the perplexities of life, satisfies our moral sense, and removes that appearance of unkindness in the soul of things themselves, and assures us that not everything has been in vain.
He saw its legitimate place in the world given at last to the bare capacity for suffering in any creature, however feeble or apparently useless. In this chivalry, seeming to leave the world’s heroism a mere property of the stage, in this so scrupulous fidelity to what could not help itself, could scarcely claim not to be forgotten, what a contrast to the hard contempt of one’s own or other’s pain, of death, of glory even, in those discourses of Aurelius!
Not many months after the date of that epistle, Marius, then expecting to leave Rome for a long time, and in fact about to leave it for ever, stood to witness the triumphal entry of Marcus Aurelius…His triumph was now a “full” one – Justus Triumphus justified…Among the captives, amid the laughter of the crowds at his blowsy upper garment, his trousered legs and conical wolf-skin cap, walked our own ancestor, representative of subject Germany…
The world, certainly, had been holding on its old way, and was all its old self, as it thus passed by dramatically, accentuating, in this favourite spectacle, its mode of viewing things. And even apart from the contrast of a very different scene, he would have found it, just now, a somewhat vulgar spectacle. The temples, wide open, with their ropes of roses flapping in the wind against the rich, reflecting marble, their startling draperies and heavy cloud of incense, were but the centres of a great banquet spread through all the gaudily coloured streets of Rome, for which the carnivorous appetite of those who thronged them in the glare of the mid-day sun was frankly enough asserted. At best, they were but calling their gods to share with them the cooked, sacrificial, and other meats, reeking to the sky. The child, who was concerned for the sorrows of one of  those Northern captives as he passed by, and explained to his comrade—”There’s feeling in that hand, you know!” benumbed and lifeless as it looked in the chain, seemed, in a moment, to transform the entire show into its own proper tinsel. Yes! these Romans were a coarse, a vulgar people; and their vulgarities of soul in full evidence here…
John Dos Passos
From Three Soldiers (1921)
Andrews was brushing the soft silk of a poppy petal against his face.
“I wonder if it’ld have any effect if I ate some of these,” he said.
“They say you go to sleep if you lie down in a poppy-field. Wouldn’t you like to do that, Chris, an’ not wake up till the war was over and you could be a human being again.”
There were tiny green frogs in one of the putty-colored puddles by the roadside. John Andrews fell out of the slowly advancing column a moment to look at them. The frogs’ triangular heads stuck out of the water in the middle of the puddle. He leaned over, his hands on his knees, easing the weight of the equipment on his back. That way he could see their tiny jewelled eyes, topaz-colored. His eyes felt as if tears were coming to them with tenderness towards the minute lithe bodies of the frogs. Something was telling him that he must run forward and fall into line again, that he must shamble on through the mud, but he remained staring at the puddle, watching the frogs. Then he noticed his reflection in the puddle. He looked at it curiously. He could barely see the outlines of a stained grimacing mask, and the silhouette of the gun barrel slanting behind it. So this was what they had made of him. He fixed his eyes again on the frogs that swam with elastic, leisurely leg strokes in the putty-colored water.
Absently, as if he had no connection with all that went on about him, he heard the twang of bursting shrapnel down the road. He had straightened himself wearily and taken a step forward, when he found himself sinking into the puddle. A feeling of relief came over him. His legs sunk in the puddle; he lay without moving against the muddy bank. The frogs had gone, but from somewhere a little stream of red was creeping out slowly into the putty-colored water. He watched the irregular files of men in olive-drab shambling by. Their footsteps drummed in his ears. He felt triumphantly separated from them, as if he were in a window somewhere watching soldiers pass, or in a box of a theater watching some dreary monotonous play. He drew farther and farther away from them until they had become very small, like toy soldiers forgotten among the dust in a garret. The light was so dim he couldn’t see, he could only hear their feet tramping interminably through the mud.
Andrews lay, comfortable in his cot, looking into the ward out of another world. He felt no connection with the talk about him, with the men who lay silent or tossed about groaning in the rows of narrow cots that filled the Renaissance hall. In the yellow glow of the electric lights, looking beyond the orderly’s twisted face and narrow head, he could see very faintly, where the beams of the ceiling sprung from the wall, a row of half-obliterated shields supported by figures carved out of the grey stone of the wall, handed satyrs with horns and goats’ beards and deep-set eyes, little squat figures of warriors and townsmen in square hats with swords between their bent knees, naked limbs twined in scrolls of spiked acanthus leaves, all seen very faintly, so that when the electric lights swung back and forth in the wind made by the orderly’s hurried passing, they all seemed to wink and wriggle in shadowy mockery of the rows of prostrate bodies in the room beneath them. Yet they were familiar, friendly to Andrews. He kept feeling a half-formulated desire to be up there too, crowded under a beam, grimacing through heavy wreaths of pomegranates and acanthus leaves, the incarnation of old rich lusts, of clear fires that had sunk to dust ages since. He felt at home in that spacious hall, built for wide gestures and stately steps, in which all the little routine of the army seemed unreal, and the wounded men discarded automatons, broken toys laid away in rows.
Alexander Kuprin: What is war after all? Perhaps it is nothing more than a mistake made by all, a universal error, a madness.
From The Duel (1905)
Translator not identified
“What is war after all?” said Romashov sadly, “and why – ? Perhaps it is nothing more than a mistake made by all, a universal error, a madness. Do you mean to tell me that it is natural to kill?”
And all the arts of war – the skilful evolutions, the cleverness of the rifle exercise, and all those tactics and fortifications on which he had wasted nine of the best years of his life, which would fill the rest of his life, and which not so very long ago had seemed to him important and so full of wisdom – all had suddenly become deadly dull, unnatural, inventions without value, a universal self-deceit resembling an absurd dream.
Everything outside the company, service, and drill-book, and which he was accustomed to call “rot” or “rubbish,” had no existence so far as he was concerned. After having borne for nearly all his life the heavy burden of military service, he had arrived at such a state of savagery that he never opened a book, and, as far as newspapers were concerned, he only looked at the official and military notices in the Invalid. He despised with all his innate cynicism the meetings and amusements of society, and there were no oaths, no insulting terms too gross and crude for him to incorporate in his “Soldier’s Lexicon.”
From The Battle Ground (1902)
In the adjoining room she saw her mother sitting in a square of sunlight with her open Bible on her knees.
“Oh, speak, mamma!” she called half angrily. “Move, do anything but sit so still. I can’t bear it!” She caught her breath sharply, for with her words a low sound like distant thunder filled the room and the little street outside. As she clung with both hands to the window it seemed to her that a gray haze had fallen over the sunny valley. “Some one is dead,” she said almost calmly, “that killed how many?”
The room stifled her and she ran hurriedly down into the street, where a few startled women and old men had rushed at the first roll of the cannon. As she stood among them, straining her eyes from end to end of the little village, her heart beat in her throat and she could only quaver out an appeal for news.
“Where is it? Doesn’t any one know anything? What does it mean?”
“It means a battle, Miss, that’s one thing,” remarked an obliging by-stander who leaned heavily upon a wooden leg…
He rambled on excitedly, but Betty, frowning with impatience, turned from him and walked rapidly up and down the single street, where the voices of the guns growled through the muffling distance. “That killed how many? how many?” she would say at each long roll, and again, “How many died that moment, and was one Dan?”
As he tossed a last armful on the fire, his eyes roamed over the long mounds of snow that filled the clearing, and he caught his breath as a man might who had waked suddenly among the dead. In the beginning of dawn, with the glimmer of smouldering fires reddening the snow, there was something almost ghastly in the sloping field filled with white graves and surrounded by white mountains. Even the wintry sky borrowed, for an hour, the spectral aspect of the earth, and the familiar shapes of cloud, as of hill, stood out with all the majesty of uncovered laws – stripped of the mere frivolous effect of light or shade. It was like the first day – or the last.
“I thought you were my husband,” said the woman, blushing at her mistake. “If you want food you are welcome to the little that I have – it is very little.” She led the way into the house, and motioned, with a pitiable gesture, to a table that was spread in the centre of the sitting room.
“Will you sit down?” she asked, and at the words, a child in the corner of the room set up a frightened cry.
“It’s my supper – I want my supper,” wailed the child.
“Hush, dear,” said the woman, “they are our soldiers.”
“Our soldiers,” repeated the child, staring, with its thumb in its mouth and the tear-drops on its cheeks.
For an instant Dan looked at them as they stood there, the woman holding the child in her arms, and biting her thin lips from which hunger had drained all the red. There was scant food on the table, and as his gaze went back to it, it seemed to him that, for the first time, he grasped the full meaning of a war for the people of the soil. This was the real thing – not the waving banners, not the bayonets, not the fighting in the ranks.
From Sunrise (1881)
“…What would you think, now, if it were possible to construct a common platform, where certain aims at least could be accepted by all, and become bonds to unite those who are hoping for better things all over the earth? That did not occur to you as a possible thing, perhaps? You have only studied the ways of kings and governments – each one for itself. ‘Come over my boundary, and I will cleave your head; or, rather, I will send my common people to do it, for a little blood-letting from time to time is good for that vile and ignorant body.’ But the vile and ignorant body may begin to tire of that recurrent blood-letting, and might perhaps even say, ‘Brother across the boundary, I have no quarrel with you. You are poor and ignorant like myself; the travail of the earth lies hard on you; I would rather give you my hand. If I have any quarrel, surely it is with the tyrants of the earth, who have kept both you and me enslaved; who have taken away our children from us; who have left us scarcely bread. How long, O Lord, how long? We are tired of the reign of Caesar; we are beaten down with it; who will help us now to establish the reign of Christ?”
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified
He liked to be in this hall among the rolling-mills; to watch the making of the rails and of the structural steel always pleased him. “Ours is the good forge of peace,” he used to say; and he contrasted it with the forge of war – the evil forge – at the Pit, where with so much care and at such great expense men were busy making shells and guns. Works of wonderful perfection, metal delicately manipulated, what for? – to produce monstrous engines of destruction, which cost nations millions of dollars, and ruin them that they may be prepared for war, even when war is not coming to exterminate them! Ah! let structural steel be multiplied, let useful edifices and happy cities be built, and bridges span the streams and valleys, and let rails drop ceaselessly from rolling-mills and elongate railroads endlessly, abolish frontiers, draw nations together, and conquer the whole earth, for the fraternal civilization of to-morrow!
“…I have heard he did not care a rap for your works and your competition. He says, as to that, that he will always have shells and guns to make, because men are such fools that they will always be killing one another.”
“Hermeline then burst out laughing. Well, and do you know what you are doing? You are preparing revolts by doing away with class distinctions. There is only one means of giving citizens to the State, and that is to manufacture them expressly for her, such as she needs them, so that they may be strong and glorious. Hence arises the necessity of instruction, systematized, disciplined, and calculated to serve the country, carried on according to the best recognized methods, in order to furnish the working-men, the professional men, and the public functionaries of whom she has need. In the absence of authority, there is no security for all this. I have proved it; I am a republican of the old school, a free thinker, and an atheist. No one, I hope, could imagine that he detected in me a retrograde mind, but, nevertheless, what I have heard of your instruction, your elective system of education, drives me beside myself, because, under its action, before half a century is gone, there will be no more citizens, no more soldiers, no more national defenders. Yes, I defy you to produce any soldiers under your system of free choice; and, in case of war, how will the country be defended?”
“No doubt, in case of war, defence would be necessary,” said Luc, without any emotion. “But what will be the use of soldiers on the day when there is no more war?…”
Then again, there was a great democratic impetus, which multiplied ways of communication, an endless extension of railroads, and a tenfold increase in the construction of bridges, buildings, and entire cities, in which iron and steel were employed in large and constantly increasing quantities. From the time that Vulcan’s descendants first melted iron in a hole in order to forge weapons therefrom to defend themselves and to conquer both the animate and inanimate world, the uses of iron have steadily increased in extent; and in the future, when science shall have provided means for its production at a nominal cost, and for its adaptation to all purposes, iron will prove to be the source of justice and of peace.
The most immediate effect of the success of La Crecherie was to show the small manufactories in the vicinity the advantage that they would receive from following its example, and associating themselves with their larger neighbor. The Chodorge establishment, a nail manufactory, which bought all of its raw material from its powerful sister, set the example by allowing itself to be definitely absorbed in a community of interest. The Hausser establishment, which had formerly forged sabres and was now making a specialty of pruning-knives and scythes, next entered the association, and became, as it were, a natural extension of the great neighboring forge.
He could no longer compete with the iron and steel of commerce, and he even found himself affected in his manufacture of guns and shells. Orders for these had been diminishing ever since the money of France had been directed especially towards constructions of a peaceful character and of interest to the community at large, such as railroads, bridges, and buildings of all kinds in which iron and steel were triumphing.
From Peter and Alexis (1904)
Translated by Bernard Guilbert Guerney
He, of course, believes in God, – as he puts it himself, he “places his trust in Him Who is strong in battles. – the Lord.” But at times it seems that his God is not at all the God of the Christians, but the ancient, pagan Mars, – or Fate itself: Nemesis. If ever there has been a man who least of all resembled a Christian, that man is Peter. What concern has he with Christ? What connection is there between the iron of Mars and the lilies of the Evangel?
Never have I beheld such even-glows as here. To-day’s sunset was especially peculiar. The whole sky was in blood. The incarnadined clouds were scattered about, like tatters of bloodied garments, just as though a murder had been comsummated in heaven, or some sort of fearful sacrifice. And blood was dripping from heaven upon the earth. Among the sharp bristles, as black as embers, of the fir-forest, the blotches of red clay seemed like blotches of blood.
“Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh!”
Abandoned of all, Alësha is alone with Christ in the midst of the maddened rabble. And the wild procession is moving directly upon them, with shouting and yelling, with darkness and stench, which tarnish the gold of the regal vestments and the very sun of Christ’s Visage. Lo, they will rush upon him, crush him, trample him, sweeping everything along, – and there will spring up in the holy place the abomination that maketh desolate.
Suddenly everything vanished. He is standing upon the shore of a broad, desolate river, – apparently on the high road from Poland to Ukraine. It is late evening in late autumn. Wet snow, – black mire. The wind is tearing off the last leaves from the trembling aspens. A beggar in tatters, chilled and grown blue from the cold, is piteously begging alms: “Give, if but a kopeck, for Christ’s sake!” – “See, he is a branded man,” reflects Alësha, looking upon the beggar’s arms and legs, with their bloody sores, “probably a runaway recruit.” And he feels so sorry for the “frozen lad” that he wants to give him not merely a kopeck but seven gulden. He recalls in his dream the entry he made in his travel diary, among other expenses: “22nd of November, for ferrying across the river, three gulden: for lodgings in a Jew’s inn, five gulden; – for the frozen lad, seven gulden.” He is just about to extend his hand to the beggar, when suddenly somebody’s rough hand is placed upon upon Alësha’s shoulder, and a rough voice, – probably that of the soldier on sentry duty near the barrier, – says to him:
“For giving alms, there’s a fine of five rubles; while beggars, after being beaten with cudgels and having their nostrils torn out, shall be exiled to Rogerwick.”
“Have pity,” implored Alësha. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man have not where to lay his head…’
And, looking more closely at the frozen lad, he sees that his face is like to the sun, – that this is Christ Himself.
Alfred Noyes: The men he must kill for a little pay. And once he had sickened to watch them slaughter an ox.
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)
The rifles flogged their wallowing herds,
Flogged them down to die.
Down on their slain the slayers lay,
And the shrapnel thrashed them into the clay,
And tossed their limbs like tattered birds
Thro’ a red volcanic sky.
Then, hard behind the thunder, swept
Long ranks of arrowy gleams;
Out of the trenches, down the hill
The level bayonets charged to kill,
And the massed terror that took the shock
Screamed as a woman screams.
Before Johann a young face rose
Like a remembered prayer:
He could not halt or swerve aside
In the onrush of that murderous tide,
He jerked his bayonet out of the body
And swung his butt in the air.
He yelled like a wolf to drown the cry
Of his own soul in pain.
To stifle the God in his own breast,
He yelled and cursed and struck with the rest,
And the blood bubbled over his boots
And greased his hands again.
Faces like drowned things underfoot
Slipped as he swung round:
A red mouth crackled beneath his boot
Like thorns in spongy ground.
Slaughter? Slaughter? So easy it seemed
This work that, he thought so hard!
His eyes lit with a flicker of hell,
He licked his lips, and it tasted well;
And – once – he had sickened to watch them slaughter
An ox in the cattle-yard.
For lust of blood, for lust of blood,
His greasy bludgeon swung:
His rifle-butt sang in the air,
And the things that crashed beneath it there
Were a cluster of grapes in the wine press,
A savour of wine on his tongue.
The men he must kill for a little pay
Had marched beside him, yesterday!
Brothers in blood! By what foul lips
Was this war-trumpet blown?
Back from the heights they had stormed together,
The gulfs that had gorged their dead,
Back, by the rotting, shot-ripped plain,
Where the black wings fluttered and perched again,
John Dos Passos
From Three Soldiers (1921)
Fuselli looked about him. He was sitting in one of the lowest of three tiers of bunks roughly built of new pine boards. Electric lights placed here and there gave a faint reddish tone to the gloom, except at the ladders, where high-power lamps made a white glare. The place was full of tramping of feet and the sound of packs being thrown on bunks as endless files of soldiers poured in down every ladder. Somewhere down the alley an officer with a shrill voice was shouting to his men: “Speed it up there; speed it up there.” Fuselli sat on his bunk looking at the terrifying confusion all about, feeling bewildered and humiliated. For how many days would they be in that dark pit? He suddenly felt angry. They had no right to treat a feller like that. He was a man, not a bale of hay to be bundled about as anybody liked.
“An’ if we’re torpedoed a fat chance we’ll have down here,” he said aloud.
“They got sentries posted to keep us from goin up on deck,” said someone.
“God damn them. They treat you like you was a steer being taken over for meat.”
“Well, you’re not a damn sight more. Meat for the guns.”
“He always did talk queer.”
“I always thought,” said Fuselli, “he’d get into trouble talking the way he did.”
“How’d he talk?” asked Daniels.
“Oh, he said that war was wrong and all that goddamed pro-German stuff.”
“D’ye know what they did out at the front?” said Daniels. “In the second division they made two fellers dig their own graves and then shot ’em for sayin’ the war was wrong.”
“Hell, they did?”
“You’re goddam right, they did. I tell you, fellers, it don’t do to monkey with the buzz-saw in this army.”
Fuselli noticed, at the other end of the row of bunks, a group of men who all seemed to be looking at the same thing. Rolling down his sleeves, with his tunic hitched over one arm, he walked down to see what was the matter. Through the patter of the rain, he heard a thin voice say:
“It ain’t no use, sergeant, I’m sick. I ain’t a’ goin’ to get up.”
“The kid’s crazy,” someone beside Fuselli said, turning away.
“You get up this minute,” roared the sergeant. He was a big man with black hair who looked like a lumberman. He stood over the bunk. In the bunk at the end of a bundle of blankets was the chalk-white face of Stockton. The boy’s teeth were clenched, and his eyes were round and protruding, it seemed from terror.
“You get out o’ bed this minute,” roared the sergeant again.
The boy; was silent; his white cheeks quivered.
“What the hell’s the matter with him?”
“Why don’t you yank him out yourself, Sarge?”
“You get out of bed this minute,” shouted the sergeant again, paying no attention.
The men gathered about walked away. Fuselli watched fascinated from a little distance.
“All right, then, I’ll get the lieutenant. This is a court-martial offence. Here, Morton and Morrison, you’re guards over this man.”
The boy lay still in his blankets. He closed his eyes. By the way the blanket rose and fell over his chest, they could see that he was breathing heavily.
“Say, Stockton, why don’t you get up, you fool?”‘ said Fuselli. “You can’t buck the whole army.”
The boy didn’t answer.
Fuselli walked away.
“He’s crazy,” he muttered.
The lieutenant was a stoutish red-faced man who came in puffing followed by the tall sergeant. He stopped and shook the water off his Campaign hat. The rain kept up its deafening patter on the roof.
“Look here, are you sick? If you are, report sick call at once,” said the lieutenant in an elaborately kind voice.
The boy looked at him dully and did not answer.
“You should get up and stand at attention when an officer speaks to you.
“I ain’t goin’ to get up,” came the thin voice.
The officer’s red face became crimson.
“Sergeant, what’s the matter with the man?” he asked in a furious tone.
“I can’t do anything with him, lieutenant. I think he’s gone crazy.”
“Rubbish…Mere insubordination…You’re under arrest, d’ye hear?” he shouted towards the bed.
There was no answer. The rain pattered hard on the roof.
“Have him brought down to the guardhouse, by force if necessary,” snapped the lieutenant. He strode towards the door. “And sergeant, start drawing up court-martial papers at once.” The door slammed behind him.
“Now you’ve got to get him up,” said the sergeant to the two guards.
Fuselli walked away.
“Ain’t some people damn fools?” he said to a man at the other end of the barracks. He stood looking out of the window at the bright sheets of the rain.
“Well, get him up,” shouted the sergeant.
The boy lay with his eyes closed, his chalk-white face half-hidden by the blankets; he was very still.
“Well, will you get up and go to the guardhouse, or have we to carry you there?” shouted the sergeant.
The guards laid hold of him gingerly and pulled him up to a sitting posture.
“All right, yank him out of bed.”
The frail form in khaki shirt and whitish drawers was held up for a moment between the two men. Then it fell a limp heap on the floor.
“Say, Sarge, he’s fainted.”
“The hell he has…Say, Morrison, ask one of the orderlies to come up from the Infirmary.”
“He ain’t fainted…The kid’s dead,” said the other man.
“Give me a hand.”
The sergeant helped lift the body on the bed again. “Well, I’ll be goddamned,” said the sergeant.
The eyes had opened. They covered the head with a blanket.
From Tiger-Lilies (1867)
An afflatus of war was breathed upon us. Like a great wind, it drew on and blew upon men, women, and children. Its sound mingled with the solemnity of the church-organs and arose with the earnest words of preachers praying for guidance in the matter. It sighed in the half-breathed words of sweethearts conditioning impatient lovers with war-services. It thundered splendidly in the impassioned appeals of orators to the people. It whistled through the streets, it stole in to the firesides, it clinked glasses in bar-rooms, it lifted the gray hairs of our wise men in conventions, it thrilled through the lectures in college halls, it rustled the thumbed book-leaves of the school-rooms.
This wind blew upon all the vanes of all the churches of the country, and turned them one way – toward war. It blew, and shook out, as if by magic, a flag whose device was unknown to soldier or sailor before, but whose every flap and flutter made the blood bound in our veins.
Who could have resisted the fair anticipations which the new war-idea brought? It arrayed the sanctity of a righteous cause in the brilliant trappings of military display; pleasing, so, the devout and the flippant which in various proportions are mixed elements in all men. It challenged the patriotism of the sober citizen, while it inflamed the dream of the statesman, ambitious for his country or for himself. It offered test to all allegiances and loyalties; of church, of state; of private loves, of public devotion; of personal consanguinity; of social ties. To obscurity it held out eminence; to poverty, wealth; to greed, a gorged maw; to speculation, legalized gambling; to patriotism, a country; to statesmanship, a government; to virtue, purity; and to love, what all love most desires – a field wherein to assert itself by action.
In a battle, as far as concerns the individual combatants, the laws and observances of civilization are abandoned, and primitive barbarism is king pro tem. To kill as many as possible; – this, at the actual shock of arms, is the whole duty of man. If indeed there be generals of genius managing the thing behind the lines, it is not less barbarism, but only more powerful barbarism; it is genius manœuvring the interests of brute strength; it is Apollo tending swine.
When the battle is over, to emerge from this temporary barbarism is difficult and requires a little time. Kind Heaven! To see a beautiful woman, to hear her soft tones of voice, to say pleasant things to her, seems so strange, just after you have uttered those strange, hoarse cries that men do utter, not knowing why, in battle; – just after you have killed a man, and perhaps felt the sickening warmth of his blood, and turned away from the terrible odor that rises like a curse from the wound…
He fell asleep, and dreamed that he saw big wars standing up in ranks, like men, and fighting with thunders and wild-fires. On the flanks hovered airy pestilences skirmishing, and anon loud worldcalamities exploded, jarring all space. Which dissolved; and he was walking upon an immeasurable plain where lay old dead universes, like skulls whitening on a deserted battle-field…
Richard Aldington: It was a war of missiles, murderous and soul-shaking explosives, like living in the graveyard of the world
From Death of a Hero (1929)
He found that the real soldiers, the front-line troops, had had no more delusions about the War than he had. They hadn’t his feelings of protest and agony over it all, they hadn’t tried to think it out. They went on with the business, hating it, because they had been told it had to be done and believed what they had been told. They wanted the War to end, they wanted to get away from it, and they had no feeling of hatred for their enemies on the other side of No Man’s Land. In fact, they were almost sympathetic to them. They also were soldiers, men segregated from the world in this immense barbaric tumult. The fighting was so impersonal as a rule that it seemed rather a conflict with dreadful hostile forces of Nature than with other men. You did not see the men who fired the ceaseless hail of shells on you, nor the machine-gunners who swept away twenty men to death in one zip of their murderous bullets, nor the hands which projected trench-mortars that shook the earth with awful detonations, nor even the invisible sniper who picked you off mysteriously with the sudden impersonal “ping!” of his bullet. Even in the perpetual trench raids, you only caught a glimpse of a few differently-shaped helmets a couple of traverses away; and either their bombs got you, or yours got them. Actual hand-to-hand fighting occurred, but it was comparatively rare. It was a war of missiles, murderous and soul-shaking explosives, not a war of hand-weapons.
But what were they really against? who were their real enemies? He saw the answer with a flood of bitterness and clarity. Their enemies – the enemies of German and English alike – were the fools who sent them to kill each other instead of help each other. Their enemies were the sneaks and the unscrupulous; the false ideals, the unintelligent ideas imposed on them, the humbug, the hypocrisy, the stupidity…Maybe he was all wrong, maybe it was “right” for men to be begotten only to murder each other in huge, senseless combats. He wondered if he were not getting a little insane through this persistent brooding over the murders, by striving so desperately and earnestly to find out why it had happened, by agonising over it all, by trying to think how it could be prevented from occurring again. After all, did it matter so much? Yes, did it matter? What were a few million human animals more or less? Why agonise about it? The most he could do was die. Well, die, then. But O God! O God! is that all? To be born against your will, to feel that life might in its passing be so lovely and so divine, and yet to have nothing but opposition and betrayal and hatred and death forced on you! To be born for the slaughter like a calf or a pig! To be violently cast back into nothing – for what? My God! for what? Is there nothing but despair and death? Is life vain, beauty vain, love vain, hope vain? “The war to end all wars!” Is anyone so asinine as to believe that? A war to breed wars, rather…
The company were billeted in the ruins of a village behind the reserve trenches, over a mile from the front line. The landscape was flat, almost treeless except for a few shell-blasted stumps, and covered with snow frozen hard. Every building in sight had been smashed, in many cases almost level with the ground. It was a mining country with great queer hills of slag and strange pit-head machinery in steel, reduced by shell-fire to huge masses of twisting rusting metal. They were in a salient, with the half-destroyed, evacuated town of M- in the elbow-crook on the extreme right. The village churchyard was filled with graves of French soldiers; there were graves inside any of the houses which had no cellars, and graves flourished over the bare landscape. In all directions were crosses, little wooden crosses, in ones and twos and threes, emerging blackly from the frozen snow. Some were already askew; one just outside the ruined village had been snapped short by a shell-burst. The dead men’s caps, mouldering and falling to pieces, were hooked on to the tops of the crosses – the German grey round cap, the French blue-and-red kepi, the English khaki. There were also two large British cemeteries in sight – rectangular plantations of wooden crosses. It was like living in the graveyard of the world – dead trees, dead houses, dead mines, dead villages, dead men…
Alexander Kuprin: The whole science of war exists only because humanity will not, or cannot, or dare not, say, ‘I won’t.’
From The Duel (1905)
Translator not identified
Romashov sat down by the table, put his elbows on it, and leaned his head on his hands. It was hard work for him to keep in check these wild thoughts which raced through his mind.
“H’m! – my friend Romashov, what a lot you have forgotten – your fatherland, the ashes of your sire, the altar of honour, the warrior’s oath and discipline. Who shall preserve the land of your sires when the foe rushes over its boundaries? Ah! when I am dead there will be no more fatherland, no enemy, no honour. They will disappear at the same time as my consciousness. But if all this be buried and brought to naught – country, enemies, honour, and all the other big words – what has all this to do with my Ego? I am more important than all these phrases about duty, honour, love, etc. Assume that I am a soldier and my Ego suddenly says, ‘I won’t fight,’ and not only my own Ego, but millions of other Egos that constitute the whole of the army, the whole of Russia, the entire world; all these say, ‘We won’t!’ Then it will be all over so far as war is concerned, and never again will any one have to hear such absurdities as ‘Open order,’ ‘Shoulder arms,’ and all the rest of that nonsense.
“Well, well, well. It must be so some day,” shouted an exultant voice in Romashov. “All that talk about ‘warlike deeds,’ ‘discipline,’ ‘honour of the uniform,’ ‘respect for superiors,’ and, first and last, the whole science of war exists only because humanity will not, or cannot, or dare not, say, ‘I won’t.’”
“What do you suppose all this cunningly reared edifice that is called the profession of arms really is? Nothing, humbug, a house hanging in midair, which will tumble down directly mankind pronounces three short words: ‘I will not.’ My Ego will never say, ‘I will not eat,’ ‘I will not breathe,’ ‘I will not see,’ But if any one proposes to my Ego that it shall die, it infallibly replies: ‘I will not.’ What, then, is war with all its hecatombs of dead and the science of war, which teaches us the best methods of murdering? Why, a universal madness, an illusion. But wait. Perhaps I am mistaken. No, I cannot be mistaken, for this ‘I will not’ is so simple, so natural, that everybody must, in the end, say it. Let us, however, examine the matter more closely. Let us suppose that this thought is pronounced this very moment by all Russians, Germans, Englishmen, and Japanese. Ah, well, what would be the consequence? Why, that war would cease for ever, and the officers and soldiers would go, every man, to his home. And what would happen after that? I know: Shulgovich would answer; Shulgovich would immediately get querulous and say: ‘Now we are done for; they can attack us now whenever they please, take away our hearths and homes, trample down our fields, and carry off our wives and sisters.’ And what about rioters, socialists, revolutionaries? But when the whole of mankind without exception has shouted: ‘We will no longer tolerate bloodshed,’ who will then dare to assail us? No one! All enemies would be reconciled, submit to each other, forgive everything, and justly divide among themselves the abundance of the earth. Gracious God, when shall this dream be fulfilled?”
From Tiger-Lilies (1867)
This was the blood-red flower of war, which grows amid thunders; a flower whose freshening dews are blood and hot tears, whose shadow chills a land, whose odors strangle a people, whose giant petals droop downward, and whose roots are in hell.
It is a spreading plant, like the banyan, and continues to insert new branch-roots into the ground, so as sometimes to overspread a whole continent. Its black-shadowed jungles afford fine cover for such wild beasts as frauds and corruptions and thefts to make their lair in; from which, often, these issue with ravening teeth and prey upon the very folk that have planted and tended and raised their flowery homes!
Now, from time to time, there have appeared certain individuals (wishing, it may be, to disseminate and make profit upon other descriptions of plants) who have protested against the use of this war-flower.
Its users, many of whom are surely excellent men, contend that they grow it to protect themselves from oppressive hailstorms, which destroy their houses and crops.
But some say the plant itself is worse than any hailstorm; that its shades are damp and its odors unhealthy, and that it spreads so rapidly as to kill out and uproot all corn and wheat and cotton crops. Which the plant-users admit; but rejoin that it is cowardly to allow hailstorms to fall with impunity, and that manhood demands a struggle against them of some sort.
But the others reply, fortitude is more manly than bravery, for noble and long endurance wins the shining love of God; whereas brilliant bravery is momentary, is easy to the enthusiastic, and only dazzles the admiration of the weak-eyed since it is as often shown on one side as the other.
But then, lastly, the good war-flower cultivators say, our preachers recommend the use of this plant, and help us mightily to raise it in resistance to the hailstorms.
And reply, lastly, the interested other-flower men, that the preachers should preach Christ; that Christ was worse hailed upon than anybody, before or since; that he always refused to protect himself, though fully able to do it, by any war-banyan; and that he did, upon all occasions, not only discourage the resort to this measure, but did inveigh against it more earnestly than any thing else, as the highest and heaviest crime against Love — the Father of Adam, Christ, and all of us.
Friends and horticulturists, cry these men, stickling for the last word, if war was ever right, then Christ was always wrong; and war-flowers and the vine of Christ grow different ways, insomuch that no man may grow with both!
From The Battle Ground (1902)
Dan, fevered, pallid, leaning heavily upon Big Abel, passed unnoticed amid a throng which was, for the most part, worse off than himself. Men with old wounds breaking out afresh, or new ones staining red the cloths they wore, pushed wildly by him, making, as all made, for the country roads that led from war to peace. It was as if the hospitals of the world had disgorged themselves in the sunshine on the bright September fields.
Once, as Dan moved slowly on, he came upon a soldier, with a bandage at his throat sitting motionless upon a rock beside a clump of thistles, and moved by the expression of supreme terror on the man’s face, he stopped and laid a hand upon his shoulder.
“What’s the trouble, friend – given up?” he asked, and then drew back quickly for the man was dead. After this they went on more rapidly, flying from the horrors along the road as from the screaming shells and the dread of capture.
Gradually the stars went out above the dim woods, and the dawn whitened along the eastern sky. With the first light Dan went to the open door and drew a deep breath of the refreshing air. A new day was coming, but he met it with dulled eyes and a crippled will. The tragedy of life seemed to overhang the pleasant prospect upon which he looked, and, as he stood there, he saw in his vision of the future only an endless warfare and a wasted land.
Farther away three hoarse voices, the remnant of a once famous glee club, were singing in the endeavour to scare off sleep: –
“Rally round the flag, boys, rally once again!”
And suddenly he was fighting in the tangles of the wilderness, crouching behind a charred oak stump, while he loaded and fired at the little puffs of smoke that rose from the undergrowth beyond. He saw the low marshland, the stunted oaks and pines, and the heavy creepers that were pushed aside and trampled underfoot, and at his feet he saw a company officer with a bullet hole through his forehead and a covering of pine needles upon his face. About him the small twigs fell, as if a storm swept the forest, and as he dodged, like a sharpshooter from tree to tree, he saw a rush of flame and smoke in the distance where the woods were burning. Above the noise of the battle, he heard the shrieks of the wounded men in the track of the fire; and once he met a Union and a Confederate soldier, each shot through the leg, drawing each other back from the approaching flames. Then, as he passed on, tearing at the cartridges with his teeth, he came upon a sergeant in Union clothes, sitting against a pine stump with his cocked rifle in his hand, and his eyes on the wind-blown smoke. A moment before the man may have gone down at his shot, he knew – and yet, as he looked, an instinct stronger than the instinct to kill was alive within him, and he rushed on, dragging his enemy with him from the terrible woods. “I hope you are not much hurt,” he said, as he placed him on the ground and ran back to where the line was charging. “One life has been paid for,” he thought, as he rushed on to kill – and fell face downward on the wheel-ruts of the old road.
“Rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,” sang the three hoarse voices, straining against the wind.
Moonlight and dew-drenched blossom, and the scent
Of summer gardens; these can bring you all
Those dreams that in the starlit silence fall:
Sweet songs are full of odours.
While I went
Last night in drizzling dusk along a lane,
I passed a squalid farm; from byre and midden
Came the rank smell that brought me once again
A dream of war that in the past was hidden.
Up a disconsolate straggling village street
I saw the tired troops trudge: I heard their feet.
The cheery Q.M.S. was there to meet
And guide our Company in…
I watched them stumble
Into some crazy hovel, too beat to grumble;
Saw them file inward, slipping from their backs
Rifles, equipment, packs.
On filthy straw they sit in the gloom, each face
Bowed to patched, sodden boots they must unlace,
While the wind chills their sweat through chinks and cracks.
I’m looking at their blistered feet; young Jones
Stares up at me, mud-splashed and white and jaded;
Out of his eyes the morning light has faded.
Old soldiers with three winters in their bones
Puff their damp Woodbines, whistle, stretch their toes:
They can still grin at me, for each of ’em knows
That I’m as tired as they are…
Can they guess
The secret burden that is always mine? —
Pride in their courage; pity for their distress;
And burning bitterness
That I must take them to the accursèd Line.
I cannot hear their voices, but I see
Dim candles in the barn: they gulp their tea,
And soon they’ll sleep like logs. Ten miles away
The battle winks and thuds in blundering strife.
And I must lead them nearer, day by day,
To the foul beast of war that bludgeons life.
From Writers and Readers
Consult a library catalogue and you will find that more books have been written on the career of Napoleon than on any other single subject. This fact casts a strange and rather terrifying light on the mentality of modern European writers and readers. How are we to get rid of war, so long as people find their keenest bovaristic satisfaction in the story of the world’s most spectacular militarist?
There are plenty of pious churchmen who consider that God approves of men killing their fellows in war, but who would be horrified at the suggestion that fornication and adultery can ever be anything but detestable in His eyes.
From The Olive Tree
I like them [trees] all, but especially the olive. For what it symbolizes, first of all – peace with its leaves and joy with its olive oil. True, the crown of olive was originally worn by Roman conquerors at ovation; the peace it proclaimed was the peace of victory, the peace which is too often only the tranquillity of exhaustion or complete annihilation. Rome and its customs have passed, and we remember of the olive tree only the fact that it stood for peace, not the circumstances in which it did so.
Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age. (Shakespeare)
From Truth (1902)
Translated by Ernest A. Vizetelly
Doloir, who had been for several years in the employment of Darras, the mayor and building contractor, was a fairly good workman – one who occasionally drank a drop too much…But above everything else three years of barrack life had left an ineffaceable mark on Doloir. He had quitted the army in a transport of delight at his deliverance, freely cursing the disgusting and hateful calling in which one ceased to be a man. But ever since that time he had been continually living his three years’ service afresh; not a day passed but some recollection of it came to him. With his hand spoilt as it were by the rifle he had carried, he had found his trowel heavy, and returned to work in a spiritless fashion, like one who was no longer accustomed to toil, but whose will was broken and whose body had become used to long spells of idleness, such as those which intervened between the hours of military exercise. To become once again the excellent workman that he had been previously was quite impossible.
Besides, he was haunted by military matters, to which he was always referring apropos of any subject that presented itself.
At that time considerations of patriotism influenced the whole of our education system in France. The country asked us merely for soldiers, the army was like a temple, a sanctuary, that army which had remained waiting with arms grounded for thirty years, and which had devoured thousands of millions of francs! And thus we have been turned into a warrior France instead of becoming a France of progress, truth, justice, and peace, such as alone could have helped us to save the world…
The highest role and the noblest in a nascent democracy is that of the poor and scorned elementary schoolmaster, appointed to teach the humble, to train them to be happy citizens, the builders of the future City of Justice and Peace. Marc felt it was so, and he suddenly realised the exact sense of his mission, his apostleship of Truth, that fervent passion to acquire Truth, certain and positive, then cry it aloud and teach it to all, which had ever possessed him.
There was no possibility of real amelioration, liberation, and happiness otherwise than by truth – that is, by knowledge of the conditions in which mankind exists and progresses. All the craving for knowledge as a means for rapid attainment to health and peace bore within itself its method of free expansion, science ceasing to be a dead letter, and becoming a source of life, an excitant of temperament and character…
And yes, so long as the passion for knowledge merely for its own sake should become keener and keener in a social system which was all falsehood and injustice, it would only add to existing ruins. It was necessary that science should tend towards justice, and bring to the future city of fraternity a moral system of liberty and peace.
Alfred Neumann: This is how it happens in history. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers.
From The Mirror of Fools (1933)
Translated by Trevor and Phyllis Brewitt
“This is how it happens in history,” said he musingly, and as if to himself. “Here is little Liegnitz, suddently becoming the open wound or the sore place on the great body of the Empire, or, rather, a blunderbuss that goes off of its own accord and precipitates the great disaster. The Emperor intervenes, and eighteen princes of the Empire engage against him and thus become rebels against His Holy Roman Majesty; the Poles are not slow to come forward, and of a sudden the world is split asunder into two parties, Lutherans and Catholics. The Spaniard joins the fray, and the Swede enters the field against him; the Frenchman preys upon the West and the Turk upon the East. The Bavarian sinks his teeth into the Frank, the Branderburger into the Saxon, and the Landgrave of Hesse into the Bishop of Mainz; and so it goes on. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers, the peasant arises once more and strikes the nobleman dead, the starving burgher devours rats; the red death is there, white death follows in the winter, and then comes the black death, the black plague, dysentery. The years pile up the deaths, and the deaths the years; war, rebellion, hunger, pestilence, calamity upon calamity, war, rebellion, hunger, pestilence, layer upon layer…”
To the war…War is destruction. The business of sword, lance, and bullet is to hit. If their aim is bad or indifferent, they hit a greater or smaller part of of one’s body, causing nothing more than pain. If their aim is good, they kill. Then there is no more jesting, no more laughter, but blood, suffering, and death. Schweinichen was afraid of the life that might end thus. Was the end of the fool’s journey a bitter, cutting, stabbing, conclusive death? There were stories enough that began with laughter and ended with a rattle in the throat…
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)
We must not think. We must not tell
The truth for which men die.
To watch the mouth of a harlot foam
For the blood of Baptist John
Is a fine thing while the fiddles play;
For blood and lust are the mode to-day,
And lust and blood were the mode of Rome,
And we go where Rome has gone.
But that fate deftly swings the net
And blood is best unseen.
God shields our eyes from too much light,
Clothes the fine brain with clay;
He wraps mankind in swaddling bands
Till the trumpet ring across all lands.
“The time is come to stand upright,
And flood the world with day.”
Not yet, O God, not yet the gleam
When all the world shall wake!
Grey and immense comes up the dawn
And yet the blinds are not withdrawn,
And, in the dusk, one hideous dream
Forbids the day to break!
Around a shining table sat
Five men in black tail-coats:
And, what their sin was, none could say;
For each was honest, after his way,
(Tho’ there are sheep, and armament
With all that this “connotes.”)
One was the friend of a merchant prince,
One was the foe of a priest,
One had a brother whose heart was set
On a gold star and an epaulette,
And – where the rotten carcass lies,
The vultures flock to feast.
But – each was honest after his way,
Lukewarm in faith, and old;
And blood, to them, was only a word,
And the point of a phrase their only sword,
And the cost of war, they reckoned it
In little disks of gold.
Play up, then, fiddles! Play, bassoon!
The plains are soaked with red.
Ten thousand slaughtered fools, out there,
Clutch at their wounds and taint the air,
And…here is an excellent cartoon
On what the Kaiser said.
John Dos Passos
From Three Soldiers (1921)
He went on working through the endless afternoon, climbing up and down his ladder, smearing the barrack windows with a soapy rag. A silly phrase took the place of the welling of music in his mind: “Arbeit und Rhythmus.” He kept saying it over and over to himself: “Arbeit und Rhythmus.” He tried to drive the phrase out of his mind, to bury his mind in the music of the rhythm that had come to him, that expressed the dusty boredom, the harsh constriction of warm bodies full of gestures and attitudes and aspirations into moulds, like the moulds toy soldiers are cast in. The phrase became someone shouting raucously in his ears: “Arbeit und Rhythmus,” – drowning everything else, beating his mind hard again, parching it.
But suddenly he laughed aloud. Why, it was in German. He was being got ready to kill men who said that. If anyone said that, he was going to kill him. They were going to kill everybody who spoke that language, he and all the men whose feet he could hear tramping on the drill field, whose legs were all being made the same length on the drill field.
[T]he movie had begun again, unfolding scenes of soldiers in spiked helmets marching into Belgian cities full of little milk carts drawn by dogs and old women in peasant costume. There were hisses and catcalls when a German flag was seen, and as the troops were pictured advancing, bayonetting the civilians in wide Dutch pants, the old women with starched caps, the soldiers packed into the stuffy Y. M. C. A. hut shouted oaths at them. Andrews felt blind hatred stirring like something that had a life of its own in the young men about him. He was lost in it, carried away in it, as in a stampede of wild cattle. The terror of it was like ferocious hands clutching his throat. He glanced at the faces round him. They were all intent and flushed, glinting with sweat in the heat of the room.
As he was leaving the hut, pressed in a tight stream of soldiers moving towards the door, Andrews heard a man say:
“I never raped a woman in my life, but by God, I’m going to. I’d give a lot to rape some of those goddam German women.”
“I hate ’em too,” came another voice, “men, women, children and unborn children. They’re either jackasses or full of the lust for power like their rulers are, to let themselves be governed by a bunch of warlords like that.”
“Ah’d lahk te cepture a German officer an’ make him shine ma boots an’ then shoot him dead,” said Chris to Andrews as they walked down the long row towards their barracks.
From World Within World (1948)
Our indignation at the death of a child killed in an air raid was deeply suspect unless we were opposed to all air raids.
The sense of political doom, pending in unemployment, Fascism, and the overwhelming threat of war, was by now so universal that even to ignore these things was in itself a political attitude. Just as the pacifist is political in refusing to participate in war, so the writer who refuses to recognize the political nature of our age must to some extent be refusing to deal with an experience in which he himself is involved…
With the fall of the Spanish Republic, followed quickly by Munich, this phase ended…
After this the emotions and the arguments used by the anti-Fascists were taken over by the democratic governments in their war against Hitler. Journalists sometime complained in the Press that the anti-Fascist writers who had shown such zeal in 1936 and 1937 seemed perversely uninterested, now that the action against Hitlerism for which they had been clamoring, was really taking place. But the fact was that the anti-Fascist battle had been lost. For it was a battle against totalitarian war, which could have made the war unnecessary…
To me, the idea of air raids and destruction were never quite real. The lectures at the Training Center on different types of bombs were like lecture on Hell, or on the perversion of the human will. At the end of a lecture on the effects of gases (for we had to distinguish between those that smelt like pear-drops, carnations and sickly-sweet hay), I hid for half an hour in a telephone box, overwhelmed by the vision of human beings asphyxiating one another in poisonous over-sweet scents…
Michael saw beyond the waste and incompetence of administration to the folly of bombing which became progressively more and more a destruction of the basis of the post-war world. Bending over his photographs which showed the immense damage done to Europe by the policy called “saturation bombing,” he saw that the methods of war could lead to the end of European civilization. “The bombing of Hamburg,” he said in his embarrassed, stifled voice, “cannot be justified as necessary to the victory. It’s the destruction, not just of Germany, but of an essential part of Europe.”
Émile Zola: To what field of disaster would it be taken to kill men? what harvest of human lives would it reap?
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified
The great forge was there, with its monstrous tools, its press with a power of two thousand tons, but all these were now quiet; even the smaller hammers were quiet, which in the dim light showed their dark, dumpy profiles, looking like barbarous gods. Here Luc found shells – shells that had that day been forged by the smallest of the steam-hammers, after coming out of the moulds in which they had been annealed. What also interested him greatly was an enormous naval cannon, nine teen feet in length, which was still warm, after having passed through the press where pieces of steel weighing 4400 pounds were pressed out like soft pastry; and the great cannon stood there chained, ready to be carried off and lifted by great cranes to the lathe-house, which was some way off beyond the hall of the Martin furnace and the building where steel was cast.
They were about to make small shells of one hundred and thirty pounds each. The ingot moulds, shaped like bottles, were standing in two rows. Then when the helpers had raked the scorise from the crucibles by means of an iron rod, which came out smoking, with little purple dribbles, the master-smelter seized the crucibles in the jaws of his great tongs, emptied two of them into each mould, and the metal, which ran first like a jet of white lava, cooled to pink, with small blue sparks as delicate as flowers. One might have thought that liqueurs were being decanted, liqueurs sparkling like gold, and, all was done without noise, with quick and certain motions, with simple beauty in the glare and heat of the fire, which made the whole hall seem a mighty brazier. Luc, who was not accustomed to the heat, felt stifled and could stay no longer. When he stood within four or five yards of the furnaces his face seemed to be scorched, a boiling sweat burst out upon his body. The shells had interested him, he looked at them as they cooled, and asked himself who were the men that they were destined to kill. Then he went into the next building and found himself in the hall of steam-hammers. There a cannon had been fixed upon a lathe to form the proper calibre for others. It was revolving with prodigious swiftness, and chips of steel were flying about under the sharp blade that itself was motionless; the chips looked like bits of silver. Nothing more would be needed than to bore the interior of this gun, to temper it, and to finish it, and where were the men it would kill when it should be fired? Luc, as he gazed on this heroic result of human labor, saw fire subdued and made serviceable to man – man who was king and conqueror among all the forces of nature – could not help seeing before him a vision of massacre, and all the red folly of a battle-field. He walked away and soon came to another lathe, upon which another cannon was revolving just like the one he had previously seen; but this one was already polished on the outside until it shone like new money. It was in charge of a young man hard ly more than a child, who was leaning attentively over the machinery, just as a watchmaker does over that of a watch. It revolved incessantly, with a slight noise, while the tool in the interior was boring it with such precision that the deviation was not the tenth part of a millimetre. And when this cannon should have been tempered – that is, should have been dropped from the top of the tower into a bath of petroleum, to what field of disaster would it be taken to kill men? what harvest of human lives would it reap? – forged out of that steel which men and brothers ought only to use to make ploughs and rails.
Ellen Glasgow: Then the rows of dead men stared at him through the falling rain in the deserted field
From The Battle Ground (1902)
Dan lay down upon the blanket, and, with his hand upon his knapsack, gazed at the small red ember burning amid the ashes. When the last spark faded into blackness it was as if his thoughts went groping for a light. Sleep came fitfully in flights and pauses, in broken dreams and brief awakenings. Losing himself at last it was only to return to the woods at Chericoke and to see Betty coming to him among the dim blue bodies of the trees. He saw the faint sunshine falling upon her head and the stir of the young leaves above her as a light wind passed. Under her feet the grass was studded with violets, and the bonnet swinging from her arm was filled with purple blossoms. She came on steadily over the path of grass and violets, but when he reached out to touch her a great shame fell over him for there was blood upon his hand.
There was something cold in his face, and he emerged slowly from his sleep into the consciousness of dawn and a heavy rain. The swollen clouds hung close above the hills, and the distance was obscured by the gray sheets of water which fell like a curtain from heaven to earth. Near by a wagon had drawn up in the night, and he saw that a group of half-drenched privates had already taken shelter between the wheels. Gathering up his oilcloth, he hastily formed a tent with the aid of a deep fence corner, and, when he had drawn his blanket across the opening, sat partly protected from the shower. As the damp air blew into his face, he became quickly and clearly awake, and it was with the glimmer of a smile that he looked over the wet meadow and the sleeping regiments. Then a shudder followed, for he saw in the lines of gray men stretched beneath the rain some likeness to that other field beyond the hill where the dead were still lying, row on row. He saw them stark and cold on the scorched grass beside the guns, or in the thin ridges of trampled corn, where the gay young tassels were now storm-beaten upon the ripped-up earth. He saw them as he had seen them the evening before – not in the glow of battle, but with the acuteness of a brooding sympathy – saw them frowning, smiling, and with features which death had twisted into a ghastly grin. They were all there – each man with open eyes and stiff hands grasping the clothes above his wound.
But to Dan, sitting in the gray dawn in the fence corner, the first horror faded quickly into an emotion almost triumphant. The great field was silent, reproachful, filled with accusing eyes – but was it not filled with glory, too? He was young, and his weakened pulses quickened at the thought. Since men must die, where was a brighter death than to fall beneath the flutter of the colours, with the thunder of the cannon in one’s ears? He knew now why his fathers had loved a fight, had loved the glitter of the bayonets and the savage smell of the discoloured earth.
Since men must die, where was a brighter death than to fall beneath the flutter of the colours, with the thunder of the cannon in one’s ears? He knew now why his fathers had loved a fight, had loved the glitter of the bayonets and the savage smell of the discoloured earth.
For a moment the old racial spirit flashed above the peculiar sensitiveness which had come to him from his childhood and his suffering mother; then the flame went out and the rows of dead men stared at him through the falling rain in the deserted field.
From The Dawn Of Peace
Yes – “on our brows we feel the breath
Of dawn,” though in the night we wait!
An arrow is in the heart of Death,
A God is at the doors of Fate!
The spirit that moved upon the Deep
Is moving through the minds of men:
The nations feel it in their sleep,
A change has touched their dreams again.
Voices, confused, and faint, arise,
Troubling their hearts from East and West.
A doubtful light is in their skies,
A gleam that will not let them rest:
The dawn, the dawn is on the wing,
The stir of change on every side,
Unsignalled as the approach of Spring,
Invincible as the hawthorn-tide.
Dreams are they? But ye cannot stay them,
Or thrust the dawn back for one hour!
Truth, Love, and Justice, if ye slay them,
Return with more than earthly power:
Strive, if ye will, to seal the fountains
That send the Spring thro’ leaf and spray:
Drive back the sun from the Eastern mountains,
Then – bid this mightier movement stay.
It is the Dawn of Peace! The nations
From East to West have heard a cry, –
“Through all earth’s blood-red generations
By hate and slaughter climbed thus high,
Here – on this height – still to aspire,
One only path remains untrod,
One path of love and peace climbs higher!
Make straight that highway for our God.”
From Tiger-Lilies (1867)
The early spring of 1861 brought to bloom, besides innumerable violets and jessamines, a strange, enormous, and terrible flower.
This was the blood-red flower of war, which grows amid thunders; a flower whose freshening dews are blood and hot tears, whose shadow chills a land, whose odors strangle a people, whose giant petals droop downward, and whose roots are in hell.
It is a species of the great genus, sin-flower, which is so conspicuous in the flora of all ages and all countries, and whose multifarious leafage and fruitage so far overgrow a land that the violet, or love-genus, has often small chance to show its quiet blue.
The cultivation of this plant is an expensive business, and it is a wonder, from this fact alone, that there should be so many fanciers of it. A most profuse and perpetual manuring with human bones is absolutely necessary to keep it alive, and it is well to have these powdered, which can be easily done by hoofs of cavalry-horses and artillery-wheels, not to speak of the usual method of mashing with cannon-balls. It will not grow, either, except in some wet place near a stream of human blood; and you must be active in collecting your widows’ tears and orphans’ tears and mothers’ tears to freshen the petals with in the mornings.
It requires assiduous working; and your labor-hire will be a large item in the expense, not to speak of the amount disbursed in preserving the human bones alive until such time as they may be needed, for, I forgot to mention, they must be fresh, and young, and newly-killed.
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified
Under the moonlike rays of the electric lights, through the shadows thrown by the sheds, the tower for tempering newly forged cannon, the cementation kilns, and all kinds of other conical constructions devoted to this barbarous worship of the god of gain, a little locomotive was slowly moving, uttering shrill whistles, that it might not run over any one…
Men were loading a car with a great piece of machinery, something to be used by a torpedo-boat destroyer, which had been finished that very morning, and which the little locomotive was to carry away. And as it steamed up whistling, Luc had to dodge it, and by following a path that seemed to lead between the rails and the smelting-furnaces, he found himself at last in a building where there were many furnaces, many puddlers, and many men to run off the molten metal. This building, one of the largest in the place, was never silent; by day it had a fearful hum of working machinery. But at this time of the night the machinery was silent. More than half the great place was in utter darkness; and, out of ten puddling furnaces, four only were lighted. These were provided with two hammers of less power.
Here and there feeble gas-jets wavered in the wind, the light of which was just enough to show great shadows in the place, and, overhead, immense smoke-stained beams that sustained the roof could be indistinctly made out. A noise of splashing water could be heard in the darkness; the earth floor, with cracks and lumps in it, was in some places a sodden mass of fetid mud, in others it was all coal-dust, and everywhere it was covered with rubbish. The whole place was an example of the filth and disorder induced by grinding labor, labor without care, with out mirth – labor hated and execrated by those engaged in it, carried on in a den full of smoke, black smuts flying about in the air, in a place filthy and dilapidated.
In some little sheds made of rough planks the out door clothes of the workmen were hung up on nails, and with them were thick cloth jackets and leathern aprons. This miserable, dark place was never lighted unless a master-puddler opened the door of his furnace and sent forth a blinding rush of flame, which illumined the whole dark building for a moment like a ray of light from some planet in the heavens.
Then would come the work of taking the crucibles out of the fire and emptying them, the most murderous work of all. And as he walked up to another furnace, where the men who tended it, armed with long iron rods, had just found the fusion to be complete, he recognized Fauchard in the man whose business it was to draw out the crucibles. He was pallid and withered, with a face like leather; but he had preserved his legs and arms, which were those of a Hercules. He was physically deformed by his terrible work, which was always monotonous, and in which he had been employed for fourteen years; but he suffered more from the consciousness that he was losing his intelligence, that he had become a mere machine, doing eternally the same thing – that he was a veritable automaton – a human element struggling for supremacy with fire. It was not merely that he felt what he had physically lost – his bent back, the impaired action of his lower limbs, his eyes burned out of his head, their color grown pale from gazing into the flames – he was conscious that he had deteriorated intellectually, that his intelligence was trembling in the balance, and was now nearly extinct, trodden under the terrible hoof which turned him into a blind beast, crushing him under work that first had poisoned, and then would destroy him.