Having served as an older man in Flanders during the First World War, Hugh Lofting, famed author of the Doctor Dolittle series, was pacifist by leaning. He knew intimately the horror of human killing human in what seemed an endless litany of the worst of us.
Then in 1942, in the midst of the unbelievable recurrence of war once again, and nearing the end of his life, the need to commit his feelings to paper became overwhelming. His passions and fears overflowed into a long poem, his only work for adults.
Victory for the Slain begins with him encountering and helping a soldier who is struggling to light a cigarette, having lost a hand. He walks on, musing on the maiming cost of martial conflict. His path takes him to a church, where, alone, and surrounded by the sense of the past, the terrible present with its constant aerial bombing, and apprehension for the future at this uncertain and perilous stage of the war, he registers quaveringly and with great emotion both how fearful he is and how appallingly foolish are the paths down which humankind's belligerence can take us.
Reflecting on history, philosophy, violence, nationalism, death, and what seems like madness, as he wanders through the quiet of the church he gravely sounds every vibration and implication of the horror which surrounds him in the world's current chaos. For him, there reverberates one heartrending refrain: in war, the only victors are the slain.