“The War Prayer” of Mark Twain


Here’s Twain’s stuff.

It’s largely forgotten now, especially in history texts in high schools.  After the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. wrested several territories from Spain, including Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the U.S. quickly got mired in one of the original guerrilla wars in the Philippines.  It took 15 years, but the U.S. finally put down the rebellion — 15 brutal, bloody years.  The conduct of that war shocked many people, including Mark Twain.

This piece was written partly in response to that war.

Many Americans, like Twain, who questioned the war, in turn had their patriotism questioned.  Why wouldn’t they get on board with the war, and kill off those Filipino rebels? the critics asked.

Here’s a film in two parts, a stunning production, perhaps by Markos Kounalakis (who uploaded the thing); go to the film’s website for a copy of the text.

Part I:

Part II:




4 Responses to “The War Prayer” of Mark Twain

  1. Onkel Bob says:

    Darn dinky fonts in the comments and no preview function. I must have a missing close tag in the comment above.



  2. Onkel Bob says:

    IIRC, it was not released during Twain’s lifetime, rather published posthumously, and indeed it am correct.

    That said, the site you direct the reader’s to has another lesson, albeit probably unintended. If you want to produce an all but unreadable text based web page, use the techniques they employed. Dark background with light text while seems to be a good idea, is shown in psychometric studies to be among the least legible. Use a small sans serif font with tight kerning. (Kerning is distance between letters) Then have that text merge into a low/no contrast zone with a background image. Compare it to the link I provided, which isn’t the best either, and tell me which you can read.

    If I were to judge the graphic designer of this work, they would not be happy with the grade. If they wanted to use the image (and I agree it is an effective and emotional one) they need to use Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) and have the text slide over the image rather than have it welded to the background. The constant use of -strong- tags is responsible for tight kerning. Once more, they would have been better served using CSS with letter spacing and perhaps a small capitals to achieve their effect.
    Here’s are good sites if you’re writing web pages and want to use CSS: Eric Meyer CSS Edge and W3C.org Tutorials
    BTW – CSS is especially good for including maps into your web site! Don’t be intimidated by the technical nature – it’s easier than you think and the results can be very impressive.


  3. Barbara Paul says:

    It has been about 46 years since I heard this poem. Forty-six years ago we were at war in Viet Nam. I daresay there is only one candidate for President that understands this prayer………..and it’s not the one who went to war.


  4. opit says:

    http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/flanders.htm was taught in Canadian schools when I was a boy : I think it still is.
    Then again, there’s this
    and http://warwithoutcomment.blogspot.com/
    The Spanish-American War was triumphal journalism’s moment
    Today they ’embed’ journalists, restrict and vet content, and have a larger supply of lawless ‘mercs’ than enlisted deployed. Can’t figure why peace hasn’t broken out spontaneously. Snort !
    Think the Iraqis will manage to keep the ‘mandate’ from being extended against their wishes this time ?


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