Suddenness of war

"There comes a terrible moment to many souls, when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their lives.

George Eliot


"The tumult of galloping hoofs resound in the forum. The palace of the emperors is invaded. The doors of convents and dwellings are broken open. The unloosing of barbaric rage on the city of the Caesars causes terrible panics, in which children are crushed to death and women trampled underfoot…..Excited by the guttural cries of their chiefs the Goths gallop through he vast empty squares….smashing precious mosaics, shivering to pieces portals carved in wood, tearing down silken curtains, and lashing beautiful marble effigies with their whips. Some among them hold a disheveled woman….on the pommels of their saddles, and snatch up in passing any object that appeals to their greed, a golden vase, an ivory statuette, some precious weapons dedicated to the gods or yore, or the humble family treasure a trembling your girl hugs to her breast. Trampling the corpses dispatching the wounded, flinging themselves with savage howls on the bodies of the women who resist and shriek, the Goths pass through the appalled city like a horde of demons."

Marcel Brion

Alaric the Goth


"I had just shut the golden-cage after giving a lesson to

my parrot,

And was looking sidelong in my phoenix mirror as I lazily

Combed my hair,

Idly leaning the while on the carved balustrade in silent thought,

When suddenly I beheld a cloud of red dust rising outside

The gates

And men appeared in the streets beating metal drums.

The citizens rush out of doors half-dazed with terror,

Meanwhile government troops are entering the city from the west,

And propose to meet the emergency by marching to the

T’ung pass…..

Yet a little while, and my husband gallops up on horseback

Dismounting, he enters the gate; stupefied he stands, like

A drunken man.

Even now he had met the Purple canopy departing into exile,

And he had seen white banners advancing from all parts of

The country….

Supporting the infirm and leading children by the hand,

Fugitives are calling to

One another in the turmoil;

Some clamber on to roofs, others scale walls, and all is in disorder.

Neighbors in the south run into hiding with neighbors in

The north,

And those in the east make for shelter with those in the west….

Boom,boom!-Heaven and earth shake with the rumbling of chariot wheels,

And the thunder of ten thousand horses’ hoofs re-echoes

From the ground

Fires burst out, sending golden sparks high up into the


And the twelve official thoroughfares are soon seething with

Smoke and flame

The Sun’s orb sinks in the west, giving place to the cold pale

Light of the moon…..

Every home now runs with bubbling fountains of blood,

Every place rings with a victim’s shrieks, shrieks that cause

The very Earth to quake.

Dancing and singing girls must all undergo secret outrage;

Infants and tender maidens are torn living from their parent’s arms.

Our eastern neighbor had a daughter, whose eyebrows were but

Newly painted;

A beauty above all price, to overthrow a city or a state;

Between tall spears she is escorted into a warrior’s chariot,

Turning to gaze back at her fragrant boudoir, while her

Handkerchief is soaked

With tears……

(A poets description of the destruction of the great city of Changan 841-845 A.D.)

Cities of Destiny


"Once when the picture (Guernica) was nearly finished I called Henry Moore. The discussion between us turned on the old problem of how to link reality with the fiction of the painting. Picasso silently disappeared and returned with a long piece of toilet paper, which he pinned to the hand of the woman on the right of the composition, who runs into the scene terrified and yet curious to know what is happening. As though she had been disturbed at a critical moment her bottom is bare and her alarm too great to sense it."

Roland Penrose

Picasso and His Life Work



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