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Victory for the Slain

21 pages19 minutes


Victory for the Slain is an anti-war poem written by children’s author Hugh Lofting of Dr. Dolittle fame.

This seven part poem is based on Lofting’s experiences during World War I when he fought in Flanders.

A pacifist, Lofting was frustrated at the need by which Governments, usually of Empires, quickly resorted to force rather than diplomacy to protect or expand their interests. It was always a mentality of war as a clean and effective solution to protect World Order or, in this case, heightened as a grand concept as the war to end all wars.

Victory for the Slain is Lofting’s only work for adults and is a grim and determined look at the horror and slaughter, the meaningless march of the soldier to what was, more often than not, his final act.

While fighting in WWI in 1918 Lofting was wounded by shrapnel from a hand grenade that lodged in his upper thigh. This injury that would plague him the rest of his life because of the doctor’s inability to remove the metal fragments.

After his recovery he left active service and moved to the United States. It was here that he the Doctor Dolittle series; the adventures of a country physician who learned to talk with animals.

As early as 1924, Lofting was writing articles about the negative and damaging effects of war on children. In The Nation, Lofting spoke out forcefully against the “tin-soldierism,” a state of mind that glorified war and “heroic deaths”. For him children’s classics about spoke only of heroes fighting on battlefields filled with carnage. He wrote “That kind of battlefield has gone for good, it is still bloody, but you don’t gallop. And since that kind of battlefield has gone, that kind of book—for children—should go too.”

Lofting would become an internationalist as a result of his War time experiences and advocated “Peace Preparedness” between nations. This heart-felt call fell, both intellectual and emotional, on the deaf ears of all Nations as they toiled with the economic instability that followed World War I, which led to the Great Depression, and out of which would rise the evil of Nazism. Lofting fell into a state of despair at the rise of militarism on the European continent. Feeling like a modern Cassandra, Lofting began work on his seventeenth book, Dr. Dolittle and the Secret Lake. In the summer of 1941, however, he stopped work on the book to write Victory for the Slain.

Written just after the major part of Germany’s bombing blitz on London, the poem’s eventual publication in 1942 was met with little regard. Coming on the heels of England’s near eradication, and written from his safe confines of California, it was not well received and was a commercial failure. However, it does bring into sharp focus Lofting’s powerful pacifist beliefs as well as his writing prowess.

Index of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Hugh Lofting – A Short Biography

Hugh Lofting – A Concise Bibliography

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