Charles Peguy



Charles Peguy, 1873-1914. Socialist, and later Catholic. Writer of some of the most powerful poetry and prose of his day. ďA Curse on WarĒ, shown below, is from his much longer Mystere de la charitie de Jeaqnne díArc, published in 1910. Peguy was killed in action while leading his men in a charge at Villeroy, September 1914, on the opening day of the First Battle of the Marne.


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A CURSE ON WAR

JEANNE DíARC SPEAKS:

~What avail our efforts of a day? What avail our charities? I really canít give all the time. I canít give all. I canít give to every one. I really canít give the passers-by all my fatherís bread. And even if I did, would it make any difference? In the mass of the famished. (She stops spinning by imperceptible degrees). For every wounded man we happen to look after, for every child we feed, indefatigable war makes hundreds of wounded, of sick and homeless people, every day. All our efforts are vain. War has more power than anything when it comes to making people suffer. Ah, a curse on war! And a curse on those who brought it to the land of France.

Try as we may, try as we may, they will always go faster than we, they will always do more than we, a deal more than we. All that is needed to set a farm ablaze is a flint. It takes, it took years to build it. It isnít difficult. One doesnít have to be so clever. It takes months and months, it took work and more work to make the crop grow. And all that is needed to set a crop ablaze is a flint. It takes years and years to mak a man grow, it took bread and more bread to feed him, and work and more work, and all kinds of work. And all that is needed to kill him is one blow. One swordthrust and itís done. To make a good Christian, the ploough has to work twenty years. To kill a good Christian, the sword has to work one minute. Itís always that way. Itís like the plough to work twenty years and itís like the sword to work one minute. Itís always that way. Itís like the plough to work twenty years and itís like the sword to work one minute, and to do more, to be stronger, to make an end of things. So we people will always be the weaker ones. We will always go more slowly, we will always do less. We are the party of those who build up. They are the party of those who pull down. We are the party of the plough. They are the party of the sword. We will always be beaten. They will always get the better of us, on top of us. ~ No matter what we say.

For one wounded man dragging himself along the roads, for one man we pick up on the roads, for one child dragging himself along the roadsides, how many people are wounded, and sick, and forsaken, how many women are made unhappy and children forsaken because of the war, and how many are killed, and how many unfortunates lose their souls. Those who kill lose their souls because they kill. And those who are killed lose their souls because they are killed. Those who are strongest, those who kill lose their souls through the murder which they commit. And those who are killed, the man who is weaker, lose their souls through the murder which they suffer, for, seeing how weak they are and how bruised, always the same being weak, and the same unhappy, and the same beaten, and the same killed, then, unhappy ones, they despair of their salvation, because they despair of the goodness of God. Thus, no matter where one may turn, on both sides, it is a game in which, no matter how one plays or what one plays for, salvation is always bound to lose and perdition always bound to win. There is nothing but ingratitude, nothing but despair and perdition.

And bread everlasting. He who is too much in lack of daily bread no longer has any desire for bread everlasting, the bread of Jesus Christ.

Cursed be war, cursed of God.

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Source: Charles Peguy, Men and Saints: Prose and Poetry, Rendered into English by Anne and Julian Green. (New York, Pantheon Books, 1944).