Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quotation: Mark Twain's "The War Prayer"

I got the Babylon 5 series over the holidays, all five seasons plus Crusade and some movies. Yeah, I'm a geek. Anyway, we were watching the episode The War Prayer and noted, after it was over, that the War Prayer itself was never directly invoked in the show. It's there by implication, but not more. In the course of the discussion, I realized that my spouse, who's usually much better read than I, especially on anti-war stuff, didn't know the source of the reference, Mark Twain's very short story "The War Prayer." It's worth noting that the link to the story, the first link in the google search, is to a B5 fan site. I found it, and read it aloud, which was surprisingly hard.

It seems appropriate, in these days of struggle, passion, and overweening faith, to quote the core of it, the usually unspoken prayer behind a prayer for God's aid in victory:
"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 drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; 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 little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports 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 it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source 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. Amen."

Read the whole thing. Even having read it before, even knowing this core bit, the whole thing has a great power. We must be careful when we pray.

Picture: Radiator Web