Monday, February 21, 2011

The War Prayer

Excerpted from Twain's prose poem of the same name, this is the most devastating anti-war statement I've ever read.

The War Prayer
By Mark Twain

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;

help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;

help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;

help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;

help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it –

for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask of one who is the Spirit of love and who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset, and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.

Grant our prayer, O Lord, and Thine shall be the praise and honor and glory now and ever.


"The War Prayer" was not published during Twain's lifetime. "I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world," Twain said. Quoted in Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, A Biography, by Justin Kaplan, p. 367, citing Albert Bigelow Paine, "Mark Twain, A Biography," 3 vols. New York: Harper Brothers, 1912.

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