Literary Quotations
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No battle is ever won.... They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.

WILLIAM FAULKNER, The Sound and the Fury

The God of War will see fair play--he's often slain that wants to slay!

HOMER, The Iliad

There is a great inertia about all military operations of any size. But once this inertia has been overcome and underway they are almost as hard to arrest as to initiate.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, For Whom the Bell Tolls

War ... a reversal of the rules where a man is permitted to kill all the humans he can.


Zeus it seems has given us from youth to old age a nice ball of wool to wind-nothing but wars upon wars until we shall perish every one.

HOMER, The Iliad

A mind at peace does not engender wars.

SOPHOCLES, Oedipus Rex

Says a writer whom few know, "Forty years after a battle it is easy for a non-combatant to reason about how it ought to have been fought. It is another thing personally and under fire to direct the fighting while involved in the obscuring smoke of it. Much so with respect to other emergencies involving considerations both practical and moral, and when it is imperative promptly to act."


It doesn't make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead.


In war, one cannot say what one feels.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, For Whom the Bell Tolls

War ... it paid well and liberated children from the pernicious influence of their parents.


Is Man any the less destroying himself for all this boasted brain of his? Have you walked up and down upon the earth lately? I have; and I have examined Man's wonderful inventions. And I tell you that in the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine. The peasant I tempt to-day eats and drinks what was eaten and drunk by the peasants of ten thousand years ago; and the house he lives in has not altered as much in a thousand centuries as the fashion of a lady's bonnet in a score of weeks. But when he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanism that lets loose at the touch of his finger all the hidden molecular energies, and leaves the javelin, the arrow, the blowpipe of his fathers far behind.


One believes war is inevitable, if one does not loathe it sufficiently.

THOMAS MANN, The Magic Mountain

Clanless, lawless, homeless is he who is in love with civil war, that brutal ferocious thing.

HOMER, The Iliad

There is a destiny in war, to which a brave man knows how to submit with the same courage that he faces his foes.

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, The Last of the Mohicans

War, my dear sir, has on occasion been forced to serve progress.

THOMAS MANN, The Magic Mountain

Men soon grow sick of battle; when Zeus the steward of warfare tilts the scales, and cold steel reaps the fields, the grain is very little but the straw is very much. The belly is a bad mourner, and fasting will not bury the dead. Too many are falling, man after man and day after day; how could one ever have a moment's rest from privations? No, we must harden our hearts, and bury the man who dies and shed our tears that day. But those who survive the horrors of war should not forget to eat and drink, and then we shall be better able to wear our armour, which never grows weary, and to fight our enemies for ever and ever.

HOMER, The Iliad

How many wars have been put to rest in a prince's bed? Few. A bride can bring a little peace, make spears silent for a time, but not long.

A soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can.

JONATHAN SWIFT, Gulliver's Travels

War is like a game of chess ... but with this little difference, that in chess you may think over each move as long as you please and are not limited for time, and with this difference too, that a knight is always stronger than a pawn, and two pawns are always stronger than one, while in war a battalion is sometimes stronger than a division and sometimes weaker than a company. The relative strength of bodies of troops can never be known to anyone.... Success never depends, and never will depend, on position, or equipment, or even on numbers, and least of all on position.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

Alas!... what is it, valiant knight, save an offering of sacrifice to a demon of vain glory, and a passing through the fire of Moloch? What remains to you as a prize of all the blood you have spilled, of all the travail and pain you have endured, of all the tears which your deeds have caused, when death hath broken the strong man's spear, and overtaken the speed of his war-horse?


War is not a polite recreation but the vilest thing in life, and we ought to understand that and not play at war. We ought to accept it sternly and solemnly as a fearful necessity.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long continuance as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.

JONATHAN SWIFT, Gulliver's Travels

Heaven, the seat of bliss,
Brooks not the works of violence and war.

JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

I can't see no great difference atween givin' up territory afore a war, out of a dread of war, and givin' it up after a war, because we can't help it--unless it be that the last is the most manful and honourable.


Do men regret when they kill in war? Does the personality of a soldier coming at you over the top of a trench matter?


Men ... must have corrupted nature a little, for they were not born wolves, and they have become wolves. God did not give them twenty-four-pounder cannons or bayonets, and they have made bayonets and cannons to destroy each other.


It makes no difference what men think of war.... War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.


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