War and its Victims.
[Translated for The Tribune from the French of Madame De Stael.]
Many years since, I read of a warlike monarch who, after a brilliant victory, wept most bitterly, when he beheld a multitude of men deprived of their lives by a premeditated design—by his studied will—by HIS express command.
Historians have learned, with admiration, that there once existed a prince so sensitive and so humane. He wept, instead of rejoicing, at the sight of a hostile army entirely destroyed—at viewing half of his own more numerous followers slain; for such matters are always the necessary consequences which pay for brilliant victories, merit crowns of laurel, and deserve the ecstatic eulogies of poets. It is well known, that the tear of a prince, shed at the appropriate time, is sufficient to repair all ravages and atone for all the murders of a campaign, or, even of his whole dynasty.
Nevertheless, an old Captain, of a character rarely found near the courts of conquering heroes, approached his monarch, and, with stern seriousness, thus addressed him:
“One shudders when he beholds the bloody corpses—the conquerors, disarmed by death, fallen upon the bosoms of those whom they themselves have slain. But the sequel of a field of battle will exhibit scenes a thousand times more sad than this before us.”
“At least, these brave warriors, lying confusedly in the dust, will suffer no more; they have quitted the honors and the tyranny of sanguinary ambition. But, who can tell, or even imagine, the wailings and grief of those who loved, and still survive them? What would become of you, sire, if that innumerable host of desolated beings should suddenly appear before you? If the fathers, the mothers of these unfortunates—if their widows and children, overwhelming by their cries and maledictions, the triumphal songs of victory, should flock together, surround you, and press about you with their horrible tumult of reproach and lamentation—should they demand of you a reckoning for all the blood you have spilled? In what manner could you shun, or stay their rage? Upon your ears of triumph? You would recognize them no more—despair has broken them down.”
We are ignorant of the answer of the monarch, but it is most probable that he sent the old philosopher-captain to moralize at his lecture upon some desolate island far away from courts, from kings and heroes.
“Translations for the New-York Tribune.” New-York Daily Tribune, 13 May 1845, p. 1.