"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." John Stuart Mill
'We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?'"
- John Page writing to Thomas Jefferson after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
THERE WILL BE NO PEACE
Though mild clear weather
Smile again on the shire of your esteem
And its colors come back, the storm has changed you:
You will not forget, ever,
The darkness blotting out hope, the gale
Prophesying your downfall.
You must live with your knowledge.
Way back, beyond, outside of you are others,
In moonless absences you never heard of,
Who have certainly heard of you,
Beings of unknown number and gender:
And they do not like you.
What have you done to them?
Nothing? Nothing is not an answer;
You will come to believe - how can you help it? -
That you did, you did do something;
You will find yourself wishing you could make them laugh,
You will long for their friendship.
There will be no peace.
Fight back, then, with such courage as you have
And every unchivalrous dodge you know of,
Clear in your conscience on this:
Their cause, if they had one, is nothing to them now;
They hate for hate's sake.
- by W. H. Auden, 1956
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade;
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night
- W. H. Auden, from "September 1, 1939"
"There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand;
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand."
- Herman Melville, from "The Martyr"
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall ,pnot sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- John McCrae
- Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
- Who never to himself hath said,
- This is my own, my native land!
- Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
- As home his footsteps he hath turn'd,
- From wandering on a foreign strand!
- If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
- For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
- High though his titles, proud his name,
- Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
- Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
- The wretch, concentred all in self,
- Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
- And, doubly dying, shall go down
- To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
- Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung.
- Sir Walter Scott from "The Lay of the Last Minstrel"
by Edwin Muir (1887-1959)
It was not meant for human eyes,
That combat on the shabby patch
Of clods and trampled turf that lies
Somewhere beneath the sodden skies
For eye of toad or adder to catch.
And having seen it I accuse
The crested animal in his pride,
Arrayed in all the royal hues
Which hide the claws he well can use
To tear the heart out of the side.
Body of leopard, eagle's head
And whetted beak, and lion's mane,
And frost-grey hedge of feathers spread
Behind -- he seemed of all things bred.
I shall not see his like again.
As for his enemy, there came in
A soft round beast as brown as clay;
All rent and patched his wretched skin;
A battered bag he might have been,
Some old used thing to throw away.
Yet he awaited face to face
The furious beast and the swift attack.
Soon over and done. That was no place
Or time for chivalry or for grace.
The fury had him on his back.
And two small paws like hands flew out
To right and left as the trees stood by.
One would have said beyond a doubt
This was the very end of the bout,
But that the creature would not die.
For ere the death-stroke he was gone,
Writhed, whirled, huddled into his den
Safe somehow there. The fight was done,
And he had lost who had all but won.
But oh his deadly fury then.
A while the place lay blank, forlorn,
Drowsing as in relief from pain.
The cricket chirped, the grating thorn
Stirred, and a little sound was born.
The champions took their posts again.
And all began. The stealthy paw
Slashed out and in. Could nothing save
These rags and tatters from the claw?
Nothing. And yet I never saw
A beast so helpless and so brave.
And now, while the trees stand watching, still
The unequal battle rages there.
The killing beast that cannot kill
Swells and swells in his fury till
You'd almost think it was despair.