War, by Thomas Carlyle

What, speaking in quite unofficial language, is the net purpose and upshot of war? To my own knowledge, for example, there dwell and toil in the British village of Dumdrudge [Footnote: Dumdrudge: a fictitious name.] usually some five hundred souls. From these there are successfully selected, during the French war, say thirty able-bodied men. Dumdrudge, at her own expense, has suckled and nursed them. She has, not without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood, and even trained them to crafts, so that one can weave, another build, another hammer, and the weakest can stand under thirty stone avoirdupois. Nevertheless, amid much weeping and swearing, they are selected; all dressed in red; and shipped away at the public charges some two thousand miles, or say only to the south of Spain; and fed there until wanted. And now to that same spot in the south of Spain, are thirty similar French artisans, from a French Dumdrudge, in like manner wending. At length, after infinite effort, the two parties come into actual juxtaposition; and thirty stands fronting thirty, each with a gun in his hand. Straightway the word "Fire!" is given, and they blow the souls out of one another. And in place of sixty brisk useful craftsmen, the world has sixty dead carcasses, which it must bury and anew shed tears for. Had these men any quarrel? Busy as the Devil is, not the smallest! They lived far enough apart, were the entirest strangers, nay, in so wide a universe, there was even unconsciously, by commerce, some mutual helpfulness between them. How then? Simpleton' their Governors had fallen out, and instead of shooting one another, had the cunning to make these poor blockheads shoot.


[Footnote: Does Carlyle write from the usual military standpoint? Does war seem glorious or heroic from this point of view? Is ridicule an effective weapon against wrongs? Do you know of any abuses or wrongs that have been abolished by being shown up as ridiculous? Do you think it likely that the militaristic type of mind can have much sense of humor?]

Louise de la Ramee