Joanna Baillie: Do children return from rude jarring war?

February 28, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Joanna Baillie: And shall we think of war? 

Joanna Baillie: Thy native land, freed from the ills of war, a land of peace!

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Joanna Baillie

From Ethwald: A Tragedy

What! shall I in their low destructive strife
Put forth my strength, and earn with valiant deeds
The fair renown of mighty Woggarwolfe,
The flower of all those heroes? Hateful ruffian!
He drinks men’s blood and human flesh devours!
For scarce a heifer on his pasture feeds
Which hath not cost a gallant warrior’s life.

Our gen’rous Ethwald
Contemns not his domestic station here,
Tho’ little willing to enrich your walls
With spoils of petty war.

The native children of rude jarring war.
Full oft returning from the field, become
Beneath their shading helmets aged men:
But ah, the kind, the playful, and the gay;
They who have gladden’d their domestic board,
And cheer’d the winter fire, do they return?

***

From Basil: A Tragedy

Upon my simple word, I’d rather see
A score of friendly fellows shaking hands,
Than all the world in arms.

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D. H. Lawrence: No romance of war. The soul did not heal.

February 24, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

D. H. Lawrence: Selections on war

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D. H. Lawrence
From Aaron’s Rod

It was the same thing here in this officer as it was with the privates, and the same with this Englishman as with a Frenchman or a German or an Italian. Lilly had sat in a cowshed listening to a youth in the north country: he had sat on the corn-straw that the oxen had been treading out, in Calabria, under the moon: he had sat in a farm-kitchen with a German prisoner: and every time it was the same thing, the same hot, blind, anguished voice of a man who has seen too much, experienced too much, and doesn’t know where to turn. None of the glamour of returned heroes, none of the romance of war: only a hot, blind, mesmerised voice, going on and on, mesmerised by a vision that the soul cannot bear.

In this officer, of course, there was a lightness and an appearance of bright diffidence and humour. But underneath it all was the same as in the common men of all the combatant nations: the hot, seared burn of unbearable experience, which did not heal nor cool, and whose irritation was not to be relieved. The experience gradually cooled on top: but only with a surface crust. The soul did not heal, did not recover.

***

“No man who was awake and in possession of himself would use poison gases: no man. His own awake self would scorn such a thing. It’s only when the ghastly mob-sleep, the dream helplessness of the mass-psyche overcomes him, that he becomes completely base and obscene.”

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld: The storm of horrid war rolls dreadful on

February 20, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Peace and Shepherd

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: War’s least horror is th’ ensanguined field

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld

From The Caterpillar

A single wretch, escaped the general doom,
Making me feel and clearly recognise
Thine individual existence, life,
And fellowship of sense with all that breathes,
Present’st thyself before me, I relent,
And cannot hurt thy weakness. So the storm
Of horrid war, overwhelming cities, fields,
And peaceful villages, rolls dreadful on:
The victor shouts triumphant; he enjoys
The roar of cannon and the clang of arms,
And urges, by no soft relentings stopped,
The work of death and carnage. Yet should one,
A single sufferer from the field escaped,
Panting and pale, and bleeding at his feet,
Lift his imploring eyes, the hero weeps;
He is grown human, and capricious Pity,
Which would not stir for thousands, melts for one
With sympathy spontaneous: T’is not Virtue,
Yet ’tis the weakness of a virtuous mind.

***

To Mrs. Marissal

Whither whither, wearied dove,
Wilt thou fly to seek thy rest?
Beat with many a heavy storm,
Where repose thy tender breast?

Hither, hither, gentle dove,
Bend thy flight and build thy home
Here repose thy tender breast,
Fix thy foot, and never roam.

Welcome, welcome, soft-eyed dove,
To the sheltering low-roofed cot,
Leave the splendid city’s throng,
Meekly kiss thy quiet lot.

Low-roofed cots and whispering groves
Suit thy pensive sweetness best;
Health shall bloom, and Peace shall smile
Round thy small but downy nest.

Try thy thrilling notes once more,
Plume again thy ruffled wing;
With thy sister turtles coo,
Drink at Pleasure’s native spring.

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld: War’s least horror is th’ ensanguined field

February 19, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Peace and Shepherd

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: The storm of horrid war rolls dreadful on

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld

From Eighteen Hundred and Eleven

In vain with orange-blossoms scents the gale,
The hills with olives clothes, with corn the vale;
Man calls to Famine, nor invokes in vain,
Disease and Rapine follow in her train;
The tramp of marching hosts disturbs the plough,
The sword, not sickle, reaps the harvest now,
And where the soldier gleans the scant supply,
The helpless peasant but retires to die;
No laws his hut from licensed outrage shield,
And war’s least horror is th’ ensanguined field.
Fruitful in vain, the matron counts with pride
The blooming youths that grace her honoured side;
No son returns to press her widowed hand,
Her fallen blossoms strew a foreign strand.
Fruitful in vain, she boasts her virgin race,
Whom cultured arts adorn and gentlest grace;
Defrauded of its homage, Beauty mourns,
And the rose withers on its virgin thorns.
Frequent, some stream obscure, some uncouth name,
By deeds of blood is lifted into fame;
Oft o’er the daily page some soft one bends
To learn the fate of husband, brothers, friends,
Or the spread map with anxious eye explores,
Its dotted boundaries and penciled shores,
Asks where the spot that wrecked her bliss is found,
And learns its name but to detest the sound.

***

From The Invitation

While others, consecrate to higher aims.
Whose hallowed bosoms glow with purer flames,
Love in their heart, persuasion in their tongue,
With words of peace shall charm the listening throng,
Draw the dread veil that wraps the’ eternal throne,
And launch our souls into the bright unknown.

***

From Ovid to His Wife

No steadfast faith is here, no sure repose;
An armed truce is all this nation knows:
The rage of battle works, when battles cease;
And wars are brooding in the lap of peace.

***

From The Epiphany

No more the fond complaint renew,
Of human guilt and mortal woe,
Of knowledge checked by doubt, and hope with fear:
What angels wished to see, ye view;
What angels wished to learn, ye know;
Peace is proclaimed to man, and heaven begun below.

***

Written on a Marble

The world’s something bigger,
But just of this figure
And speckled with mountains and seas ;
Your heroes are overgrown schoolboys
Who scuffle for empires and toys,
And kick the poor ball as they please.
Now Caesar, now Pompey, gives law;
And Pharsalia’s plain,
Though heaped with the slain,
Was only a game at taw.

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John Galsworthy: Air war leads to reverse evolution

February 18, 2018 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy, 1911: Air war last and worst hideous development of the black arts of warfare

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From Maid in Waiting

“I sometimes wonder,” continued Hallorsen, as they reached the ducks, “whether we get our money’s worth out of speed. What do you say, Captain?”

Hubert shrugged. “The hours lost in going by car instead of by train are just about as many as the hours saved, anyway.”

“That is so,” said Hallorsen. “But flying’s a real saver of time.”

“Better wait for the full bill before we boast about flying.”

“You’re right, Captain. We’re surely headed for hell. The next war will mean a pretty thin time for those who take part in it. Suppose France and Italy came to blows, there’d be no Rome, no Paris, no Florence, no Venice, no Lyons, no Milan, no Marseilles within a fortnight. They’d just be poisoned deserts. And the ships and armies maybe wouldn’t have fired a shot.”

“Yes. And all governments know it. I’m a soldier, but I can’t see why they go on spending hundreds of millions on soldiers and sailors who’ll probably never be used. You can’t run armies and navies when the nerve centres have been destroyed. How long could France and Italy function if their big towns were gassed? England or Germany certainly couldn’t function a week.”

“Your Uncle the Curator was saying to me that at the rate Man was going he would soon be back in the fish state.”

“How?”

“Why! Surely! Reversing the process of evolution – fishes, reptiles, birds, mammals. We’re becoming birds again, and the result of that will soon be that we shall creep and crawl, and end up in the sea when land’s uninhabitable.”

“Why can’t we all bar the air for war?”

“How can we bar the air?” said Jean. “Countries never trust each other. Besides, America and Russia are outside the League of Nations.”

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Peace and Shepherd

February 15, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: The storm of horrid war rolls dreadful on

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: War’s least horror is th’ ensanguined field

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Anna Laetitia Barbauld
Peace and Shepherd

Low in a deep sequestered vale,
Whence Alpine heights ascend,
A beauteous nymph, in pilgrim garb,
Is seen her steps to bend.

Her olive garland drops with gore;
Her scattered tresses torn,
Her bleeding breast, her bruised feet,
Bespeak a maid forlorn.

From bower, and hall, and palace driven,
To these lone wilds I flee;
My name is Peace, I love the cot;
O Shepherd, shelter me!”

“O beauteous pilgrim, why dost thou
From bower and palace flee?
So soft thy voice, so sweet thy look,
Sure all would shelter thee.”

“Like Noah’s dove, no rest I find;
The din of battle roars
Where once my steps I loved to print
Along the myrtle shores:

“For ever in my frighted ears
The savage war-whoop sounds;
And, like a panting hare, I fly
Before the opening hounds.”

“Pilgrim, those spiry groves among,
The mansions thou mayst see,
Where cloistered saints chaunt holy hymns,
Sure such would shelter thee!”

“Those roofs with trophied banners stream,
There martial hymns resound;
And, shepherd, oft from crosiered hands
This breast has felt a wound.”

“Ah! gentle pilgrim, glad would I
Those tones for ever hear!
With thee to share my scanty lot,
That lot to me were dear.

“But lo, along the vine-clad steep,
The gleam of armour shines;
His scattered flock, his straw-roofed hut,
The helpless swain resigns.

“And now the smouldering flames aspire;
Their lurid light I see;
I hear the human wolves approach:
I cannot shelter thee.”

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Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

February 12, 2018 Leave a comment
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William Makepeace Thackeray: “Pax in bello.” The death of a single soldier.

February 9, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Makepeace Thackeray: Millions of innocent hearts wounded horribly

William Makepeace Thackeray: War taxes men and women alike

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William Makepeace Thackeray
From Vanity Fair

No more firing was heard at Brussels – the pursuit rolled miles away. Darkness came down on the field and city: and Amelia was praying for George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart.

***

The news of the great fights of Quatre Bras and Waterloo reached England at the same time. The Gazette first published the result of the two battles; at which glorious intelligence all England thrilled with triumph and fear. Particulars then followed; and after the announcement of the victories came the list of the wounded and the slain. Who can tell the dread with which that catalogue was opened and read! Fancy, at every village and homestead almost through the three kingdoms, the great news coming of the battles in Flanders, and the feelings of exultation and gratitude, bereavement and sickening dismay, when the lists of the regimental losses were gone through, and it became known whether the dear friend and relative had escaped or fallen. Anybody who will take the trouble of looking back to a file of the newspapers of the time, must, even now, feel at second-hand this breathless pause of expectation. The lists of casualties are carried on from day to day: you stop in the midst as in a story which is to be continued in our next. Think what the feelings must have been as those papers followed each other fresh from the press; and if such an interest could be felt in our country, and about a battle where but twenty thousand of our people were engaged, think of the condition of Europe for twenty years before, where people were fighting, not by thousands, but by millions; each one of whom as he struck his enemy wounded horribly some other innocent heart far away.

The news which that famous Gazette brought to the Osbornes gave a dreadful shock to the family and its chief. The girls indulged unrestrained in their grief. The gloom-stricken old father was still more borne down by his fate and sorrow. He strove to think that a judgment was on the boy for his disobedience. He dared not own that the severity of the sentence frightened him, and that its fulfilment had come too soon upon his curses. Sometimes a shuddering terror struck him, as if he had been the author of the doom which he had called down on his son. There was a chance before of reconciliation. The boy’s wife might have died; or he might have come back and said, Father I have sinned. But there was no hope now. He stood on the other side of the gulf impassable, haunting his parent with sad eyes. He remembered them once before so in a fever, when every one thought the lad was dying, and he lay on his bed speechless, and gazing with a dreadful gloom. Good God! how the father clung to the doctor then, and with what a sickening anxiety he followed him: what a weight of grief was off his mind when, after the crisis of the fever, the lad recovered, and looked at his father once more with eyes that recognised him. But now there was no help or cure, or chance of reconcilement: above all, there were no humble words to soothe vanity outraged and furious, or bring to its natural flow the poisoned, angry blood. And it is hard to say which pang it was that tore the proud father’s heart most keenly – that his son should have gone out of the reach of his forgiveness, or that the apology which his own pride expected should have escaped him.

Whatever his sensations might have been, however, the stern old man would have no confidant. He never mentioned his son’s name to his daughters; but ordered the elder to place all the females of the establishment in mourning; and desired that the male servants should be similarly attired in deep black. All parties and entertainments, of course, were to be put off. No communications were made to his future son-in-law, whose marriage-day had been fixed: but there was enough in Mr. Osborne’s appearance to prevent Mr. Bullock from making any inquiries, or in any way pressing forward that ceremony. He and the ladies whispered about it under their voices in the drawing-room sometimes, whither the father never came. He remained constantly in his own study; the whole front part of the house being closed until some time after the completion of the general mourning.

About three weeks after the 18th of June, Mr. Osborne’s acquaintance, Sir William Dobbin, called at Mr. Osborne’s house in Russell Square, with a very pale and agitated face, and insisted upon seeing that gentleman. Ushered into his room, and after a few words, which neither the speaker nor the host understood, the former produced from an inclosure a letter sealed with a large red seal. “My son, Major Dobbin,” the Alderman said, with some hesitation, “despatched me a letter by an officer of the —th, who arrived in town to-day. My son’s letter contains one for you, Osborne.” The Alderman placed the letter on the table, and Osborne stared at him for a moment or two in silence. His looks frightened the ambassador, who after looking guiltily for a little time at the grief-stricken man, hurried away without another word.

The letter was in George’s well-known bold handwriting. It was that one which he had written before daybreak on the 16th of June, and just before he took leave of Amelia. The great red seal was emblazoned with the sham coat of arms which Osborne had assumed from the Peerage, with “Pax in bello” for a motto; that of the ducal house with which the vain old man tried to fancy himself connected. The hand that signed it would never hold pen or sword more. The very seal that sealed it had been robbed from George’s dead body as it lay on the field of battle. The father knew nothing of this, but sat and looked at the letter in terrified vacancy. He almost fell when he went to open it.

Have you ever had a difference with a dear friend? How his letters, written in the period of love and confidence, sicken and rebuke you! What a dreary mourning it is to dwell upon those vehement protests of dead affection! What lying epitaphs they make over the corpse of love! What dark, cruel comments upon Life and Vanities! Most of us have got or written drawers full of them. They are closet-skeletons which we keep and shun. Osborne trembled long before the letter from his dead son.

The poor boy’s letter did not say much. He had been too proud to acknowledge the tenderness which his heart felt. He only said, that on the eve of a great battle, he wished to bid his father farewell, and solemnly to implore his good offices for the wife – it might be for the child – whom he left behind him. He owned with contrition that his irregularities and his extravagance had already wasted a large part of his mother’s little fortune. He thanked his father for his former generous conduct; and he promised him that if he fell on the field or survived it, he would act in a manner worthy of the name of George Osborne.

His English habit, pride, awkwardness perhaps, had prevented him from saying more. His father could not see the kiss George had placed on the superscription of his letter. Mr. Osborne dropped it with the bitterest, deadliest pang of balked affection and revenge. His son was still beloved and unforgiven.

About two months afterwards, however, as the young ladies of the family went to church with their father, they remarked how he took a different seat from that which he usually occupied when he chose to attend divine worship; and that from his cushion opposite, he looked up at the wall over their heads. This caused the young women likewise to gaze in the direction towards which their father’s gloomy eyes pointed: and they saw an elaborate monument upon the wall, where Britannia was represented weeping over an urn, and a broken sword and a couchant lion indicated that the piece of sculpture had been erected in honour of a deceased warrior. The sculptors of those days had stocks of such funereal emblems in hand; as you may see still on the walls of St. Paul’s, which are covered with hundreds of these braggart heathen allegories. There was a constant demand for them during the first fifteen years of the present century.

Under the memorial in question were emblazoned the well-known and pompous Osborne arms; and the inscription said, that the monument was “Sacred to the memory of George Osborne, Junior, Esq., late a Captain in his Majesty’s —th regiment of foot, who fell on the 18th of June, 1815, aged 28 years, while fighting for his king and country in the glorious victory of Waterloo. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”

The sight of that stone agitated the nerves of the sisters so much, that Miss Maria was compelled to leave the church. The congregation made way respectfully for those sobbing girls clothed in deep black, and pitied the stern old father seated opposite the memorial of the dead soldier…

 

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Felicia Hemans: A thousand voices echo “Peace!”

February 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans

From Modern Greece

How oft hath war his host of spoilers poured,
Fair Elis! o’er thy consecrated vales?
There have the sunbeams glanced on spear and sword.
And banners floated on the balmy gales.

***

From Night-Scene in Genoa
From Sismondi’s “Republiques Italiennes”

Once uttered, and for ever sealed –
I summon thee, O child of clay!
To cast thy darker thoughts away,
And meet thy foes in peace and love,
As thou wouldst join the blest above.”

Still as he speaks, unwonted feeling
Is o’er the chieftain’s bosom stealing;
Oh I not in vain the pleading cries
Of anxious thousands round him rise ;
He yields –  devotion’s mingled sense
Of faith and fear, and penitence.
Pervading all his soul, he bows
To offer on the cross his vows,
And that best incense to the skies,
Each evil passion’s sacrifice.

Then tears from warriors’ eyes were flowing.
High hearts with soft emotions glowing;
Stern foes as long-loved brothers greeting,
And ardent throngs in transport meeting;
And eager footsteps forward pressing,
And accents loud in joyous blessing;
And when their first wild tumults cease,
A thousand voices echo “Peace!”

***

From The Sceptic

When from Thy justice to Thy love we fly,
On Nature’s conflict look with pitying eye,
Bid the strong wind, the fire, the earthquake cease,
Come in the small still voice, and whisper – Peace !

***

From Dartmouth

Shall the free soul of song bow down to pay
The earthquake homage on its baleful way?
Shall the glad harp send up exulting strains
O’er burning cities and forsaken plains?
And shall no harmony of softer close.
Attend the stream of mercy as it flows,
And, mingling with the murmur of its wave,
Bless the green shores its gentle currents lave?

Oh! there are loftier themes, for him, whose eyes
Have searched the depths of life’s realities,
Than the red battle, or the trophied car.
Wheeling the monarch-victor fast and far;
There are more noble strains than those which swell
The triumphs Ruin may suffice to tell!

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William Makepeace Thackeray: Millions of innocent hearts wounded horribly

February 2, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Makepeace Thackeray: “Pax in bello.” The death of a single soldier.

William Makepeace Thackeray: War taxes men and women alike

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William Makepeace Thackeray
From Vanity Fair

All that day from morning until past sunset, the cannon never ceased to roar. It was dark when the cannonading stopped all of a sudden.

All of us have read of what occurred during that interval. The tale is in every Englishman’s mouth; and you and I, who were children when the great battle was won and lost, are never tired of hearing and recounting the history of that famous action. Its remembrance rankles still in the bosoms of millions of the countrymen of those brave men who lost the day. They pant for an opportunity of revenging that humiliation; and if a contest, ending in a victory on their part, should ensue, elating them in their turn, and leaving its cursed legacy of hatred and rage behind to us, there is no end to the so-called glory and shame, and to the alternations of successful and unsuccessful murder, in which two high-spirited nations might engage. Centuries hence, we Frenchmen and Englishmen might be boasting and killing each other still, carrying out bravely the Devil’s code of honour.

***

The news of the great fights of Quatre Bras and Waterloo reached England at the same time. The Gazette first published the result of the two battles; at which glorious intelligence all England thrilled with triumph and fear. Particulars then followed; and after the announcement of the victories came the list of the wounded and the slain. Who can tell the dread with which that catalogue was opened and read! Fancy, at every village and homestead almost through the three kingdoms, the great news coming of the battles in Flanders, and the feelings of exultation and gratitude, bereavement and sickening dismay, when the lists of the regimental losses were gone through, and it became known whether the dear friend and relative had escaped or fallen. Anybody who will take the trouble of looking back to a file of the newspapers of the time, must, even now, feel at second-hand this breathless pause of expectation. The lists of casualties are carried on from day to day: you stop in the midst as in a story which is to be continued in our next. Think what the feelings must have been as those papers followed each other fresh from the press; and if such an interest could be felt in our country, and about a battle where but twenty thousand of our people were engaged, think of the condition of Europe for twenty years before, where people were fighting, not by thousands, but by millions; each one of whom as he struck his enemy wounded horribly some other innocent heart far away.

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William Makepeace Thackeray: War taxes men and women alike

February 1, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Makepeace Thackeray: Millions of innocent hearts wounded horribly

William Makepeace Thackeray: “Pax in bello.” The death of a single soldier.

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William Makepeace Thackeray
From Vanity Fair

So it is in the world. Jack or Donald marches away to glory with his knapsack on his shoulder, stepping out briskly to the tune of “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” It is she who remains and suffers – and has the leisure to think, and brood, and remember.

***

How long had that poor girl been on her knees! what hours of speechless prayer and bitter prostration had she passed there! The war-chroniclers who write brilliant stories of fight and triumph scarcely tell us of these. These are too mean parts of the pageant: and you don’t hear widows’ cries or mothers’ sobs in the midst of the shouts and jubilation in the great Chorus of Victory. And yet when was the time that such have not cried out: heart-broken, humble protestants, unheard in the uproar of the triumph!

***

Dreadful doubt and anguish – prayers and fears and griefs unspeakable – followed the regiment. It was the women’s tribute to the war. It taxes both alike, and takes the blood of the men, and the tears of the women.

 

 

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Felicia Hemans: War has still ravaged o’er the blasted plain

January 26, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

Lost are those accents of melodious charms,
‘Midst the loud clangour of surrounding arms;
Thy heart of adamant repels the strain.
Mercy! thy prayer, thy tear, thy hope, is vain.

***

Here oft has War each blooming charm effaced,
And left the glowing vale a bleak, deserted waste.
Is there a land, where halcyon peace has reigned,
From age to age, in glory unprofaned?
Has dwelt serenely in perpetual rest,
“Heaven in her eye,” and mercy in her breast,
Ah, no! from clime to clime, with ruthless train
Has War still ravaged o’er the blasted plain!
His lofty banner to the winds unfurled.
And swept the storm of vengeance o’er the world.

***

Each distant isle and lonely coast explore,
And bear the olive-branch to every shore.

From The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy

Oh! ne’er again may War, with lightning stroke,
Rend its last honours from the shattered oak!
Long be those works, revered by ages, thine,
To lend one triumph to thy dim decline.

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Felicia Hemans: Thousands doomed to moan, condemned by war to hopeless grief unknown

January 25, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

Till stern Ambition falls, in mid career!
Then let the falchion sleep, the combat cease,
The sun of conquest light the path of peace.
Let the green laurel with tlie palm entwine,
And rear on trophies bright, her firm, eternal shrine.
Dawn, age of bliss! the wounds of discord close,
Furl the red standard, bid the sword repose…

But, ah! bold Victory! can thy festal train,
Thy purple streamers, or thy choral strain;
Can thy proud spear, in wreaths immortal drest.
Thy radiant panoply, thy wavy crest;
Can these one grief, one bosom pang beguile.
Or teach despair one heart reviving smile?
Tint the pale cheek with pleasure’s mantling hue.
Light the dim eye with joy and lustre new?
Or check one sigh, one sad, yet fruitless tear,
Fond love devotes to martyred valour’s bier,
Lo! where, with pallid look and suppliant hands,
Near the cold urn th’ imploring mother stands;
Fixed is her eye, her anguish cannot weep,
There all her hopes with youth, all virtue sleep!
There sleeps the son, whose opening years displayed
Each flattering promise, doomed so soon to fade.

***

Ah, who can tell the thousands doomed to moan,
Condemned by war, to hopeless grief unknown?

***

Power of the ruthless arm, the deathful spear,
Unmoved, unpitying, in thy dread career;
Whom no sad cries, no mournful scenes impede.
Melt thy proud heart, and curb thy lightning speed;
Around whose throne malignant spirits wait.
Whose path is ruin, and whose arm is fate!

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Felicia Hemans: Say to the hurricane of war – “Be still”

January 24, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

Now, while the sounds of martial wrath assail,
While the red banner floats upon the gale;
While dark destruction, with his legion-bands
Waves the bright sabre o’er devoted lands;
While War’s dread comet flashes through the air
And fainting nations tremble at the glare;
To thee Futurity from scenes like these
Pale fancy turns, for heaven-imparted ease;
Turns to behold, in thy unclouded skies
The orb of peace in bright perspective rise;
And pour around, with joy-diffusing ray.
Life, light, and glory, in a flood of day.

***

Compose each passion to th’ eternal will.
Say to the hurricane of war, – “Be still,”
” Vengeance, expire; thy reign, ambition, cease;
Beam, light of heaven, triumphant star of peace.”
Is this the muse’s wild, illusive dream,
An airy picture, an ideal theme?
Shall death still ride victorious o’er the slain,
And his “pale charger” desolate the plain?
Ne’er shall revenge her vulture-pinion fold,
Close her dark eye, her lightning-arm withhold?
Still must oppression cause th’ eternal strife.
And breathe dire mildew o’er the blooms of life?
Must war still ravage with his car of fire,
And victim myriads in the blaze expire?

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Hilaire Belloc: After the tempest and destruction of universal war, permanence

January 23, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Hilaire Belloc
From Permanence

In times of grave public anxiety, after the tempest and destruction of universal war, after the expectation of further destruction and tempest, it is of high value to consider permanence, or what may be called the “Permanency of Impermanence”. It is not only a consolation but a strength; a strength through the contemplation of a great reality and a steadfast truth.  For though you may not affirm of any one thing in the mortal world that it is permanent, yet you may affirm of Permanency itself that it is permanent. You may repeat to yourself with confidence that the principle of permanence underlies all vicissitude.

***

[The] recurrent ritual of man and the earth will go its way at last, after we know not what aeons of time. Yet there is about the aspect of such things, the fields and their fruits, the procession of the hours and the seasons, of the days and the works of the days, something that makes them not so much an example of mortality as a mirror of permanence; and I would have any man whom our times have overwrought seek his nourishment again among those peasants who have thus, since men first dwelt together under laws and worshipped the divine, formed one with the land they till. To such a scene would I come back when the return of peace itself permits the journey…

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Mary Robinson: Anticipate the day when ruthless war shall cease to desolate

January 20, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Stanzas on May 1799

War teaches the bosom of Nature to sigh,
While she gazes with anguish around,
While the tear of Religion falls fast from her eye,
And each morn blushes deep on her wound.

From The Maniac

Or say, does flush’d Ambition’s wing
Around thy feverish temples fling
Dire incense, smoking from th’ ensanguined plain,
That, drain’d from bleeding warriors’ hearts,
Swift to thy shatter’d sense imparts
The victor’s savage joy, that thrills through every vein ?

From The Progress of Liberty

Pale Nature trembled: for infuriate man,
Wild with the fateful plenitude of power,
Warr’d ‘gainst his desperate fellow. Not alone
O’er proud oppression flew the bolts of fate;
But all around, as the swift summer storm
Tears from the mountain’s brow the sturdy oak,
While the small floweret and the poisonous weed
Alike are levell’d, so the vengeful shaft
Bore down the breathing race: the clang of arms
Deafen’d the ear of reason: the loud shout
Of uproar, frantic, now was heard to ring
The vanity arch of heaven, while mingling groans
Drown’d the deep sighs of nature!

Such was the mendicant that haunts thy gate!
So were his useful hours consumed for thee;
When o’er the rocking deck the sulphur’d flash
Of desolating war its terrors threw
Midst dying groans: while thundering peal on peal
The brazen tongue of slaughter roar’d revenge,
Making heaven’s concave tremble!

***

How glows the patriot soul, while fancy’s dream
Anticipates the day when ruthless war
Shall cease to desolate!

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

January 19, 2018 Leave a comment
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Vernon Lee: Satan’s rules of war

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Vernon Lee (Violet Paget)
From The Ballet of the Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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Mary Robinson: Impetuous War, the lord of slaughter

January 17, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From Lines to the Rev. J. Whitehouse

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

***

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

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William Watson: Dream of perfect peace

January 16, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

William Watson: Curse my country for its military victory

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William Watson
From Peace and War

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

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

January 14, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From The Foster-Child

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

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

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

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Mary Robinson: Spread once more the fostering rays of Peace

January 11, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson
From Ode to the 19th of January 1794

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

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

***

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

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From Lines to the Rev. J. Whitehouse

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

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Mary Robinson: Dread-destructive power of war

January 10, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Ode to Vanity

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

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

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From Ode to Humanity

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

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

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

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

***

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

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Helen Maria Williams: Now burns the savage soul of war

January 9, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Helen Maria Williams: Heaven-born peace

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Helen Maria Williams
From An Ode on the Peace

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

 

 

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

January 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Mary Robinson: Selections on war

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Mary Robinson

From Monody

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

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

***

From Solitude

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

****

From The Progress of Melancholy

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

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William J. Locke: Following war

January 6, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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William J. Locke
From The Lengthened Shadow

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

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

***

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

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

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Charlotte Dacre: Peace

January 5, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Charlotte Dacre: War

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Charlotte Dacre
Peace

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

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

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

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

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Felicia Hemans: War and Peace

January 4, 2018 Leave a comment

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Felicia Hemans: Selections on peace and war

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Felicia Hemans
From War and Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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Charlotte Dacre: War

January 3, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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Charlotte Dacre: Peace

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Charlotte Dacre
War

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 30, 2017 Leave a comment

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

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

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

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Isabella Banks

From The Minstrel’s Meed

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

***

From Thanksgiving at Sea

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

***

From The Creaking Door

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

***

From The Owl’s Flight

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

 

 

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

December 29, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

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Isabella Banks
The Bugle Call

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

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

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

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Harriet King: Life is Peace

December 28, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Harriet King

From A Canticle of Pentecost

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

====

From Execution of Felice Orsini

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

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Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

December 27, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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

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

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Isabella Banks
A Christmas Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 26, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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

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

Isabella Banks: Lay down weapons, war should cease

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Caroline Clive: The bloody words of ruffian war

December 25, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Caroline Clive

From Beaten to Death

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

***

The First Morning of 1860

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

From The Grave

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

***

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

====

From I Watched the Skies

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

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

December 24, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From Soames and the Flag

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

***

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

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

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

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Eleanor Farjeon: Now that you too join the vanishing armies

December 23, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Eleanor Farjeon: Peace Poem

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Eleanor Farjeon
Now That You Too

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

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

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

December 22, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From On Forsyte ‘Change

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

***

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

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

Soames drew up the corner of his lip.

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

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

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

George grinned.

“Too squeamish?”

“If you like.”

“What’s your general game, then?”

“Minding my own business,” said Soames.

“Making the wills, eh?”

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

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

Soames shrugged.

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

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

Soames nodded, and went out.

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

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

December 21, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Charles Hamilton Sorley: The blind fight the blind

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Charles Hamilton Sorley
When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead

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

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Alice Meynell: The true slayers are those who sire soldiers

December 20, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Alice Meynell
Parentage

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

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

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

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

December 19, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

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Menella Bute Smedley
From Cyril: Four Scenes From a Life

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

***

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

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

December 18, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Pringle: After the slaughter, the feast

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From The Autumnal Excursion

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

***

From A Dream of Fairyland

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

***

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

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

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Thomas Hardy: The battle-god is god no more

December 17, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Hardy: Selections on war

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Thomas Hardy
The Sick God

I

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

II

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

III

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

IV

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

V

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

VI

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

VII

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

VIII

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

IX

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

X

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

XI

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

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Richard Furness: Selections on war

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

December 15, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Vera Mary Brittain
August, 1914

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

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

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

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Charles Hamilton Sorley: The blind fight the blind

December 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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

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Charles Hamilton Sorley
To Germany

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

December 13, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Adela Florence Nicolson (Laurence Hope)
From Yasmini

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

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

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

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

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

****

From Song of the Colours

Scarlet

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

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

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Sarah Williams: Groaning for him they slew

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Sarah Williams

From “Honorably Discharged”

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

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

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

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From Snowdon to Vesuvius

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

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John Galsworthy: The war brought in ugliness

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

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John Galsworthy
From Swan Song

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

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

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

****

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

***

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

***

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

“It wasn’t the war.”

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

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Margaret L. Woods: The forgotten slain

December 10, 2017 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Margaret L. Woods
From The Lost Comrades

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

Categories: Uncategorized