But By The Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons
Lylea Creative Resources
Reviewed by Sandra Shwayder Sanchez U.S. Review of Books
“Through fear of you Lord, the sun shines, winds blow From you Lord, life comes and fates are bestowed.”
But By The Chance of War examines mankind’s impulse to make war in the context of four plays that are composed entirely of verse. Readers who enjoyed The Illiad and The Odyssey will find this an interesting experience. Each of the four verse plays takes place on a different battleground in a different historic period. The first of the four plays,Mathura, begins with the joining of two great armies of India, in the year 515 C.E, to fight the Ephthalite Huns. The second play, Niagara, involves the French, the English, and the Seneca in the year 1759 at Fort Niagra between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The Seneca remain loyal to the French but that loyalty is not reciprocated. Amiens, the third play, is set in France in 1918 and features soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, and South Africa battling the Germans in the last major offensive of World War I. Moriah, the last and shortest is set in Jerusaleum in modern times. The United States comes to the aid of Israel when an accidental nuclear blast goes off. The plays can be read at different times in any order.
At nearly 500 pages of verse covering four different historic periods, this book is not one the average reader could expect to simply read cover to cover in a few days. The stories are developed slowly, and the person who reads solely for entertainment will be disappointed, but the reader who happens to appreciate this particular classical style will find it rewarding and perhaps discover the insights the back cover promises. The more sensible approach to this opus is to be patient, exploring each within the context of a series of book club discussions or even an entire course offered to students of poetics, classical literature, history, or philosophy. An epic work of this magnitude deserves that kind of time, attention, and scholarship.
RECOMMENDED by the USR
Clarion Review (5 Stars)
Review: But By the Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons by Joe Taylor July 3, 2013
Heroic couplet-form dialogue brings an epic feel to this survey of war and human nature’s destiny.
No one is more aware of the paradoxes inherent in war than its principals. In this epic survey, Richard Lyons takes to battlefields and staging areas to dramatize the tragic ironies and conflicting truths in human warfare.
But by the Chance of War is a stirring tetralogy of separate but thematically linked parts. The first three of these works are based on pivotal historical events: the invasion of the Gupta (India) Empire by the Huns (515 CE), the French and Indian surrender of Fort Niagara to the British (1759), and a German advance on British troops near the city of Amiens, France (1918). Part four is purely fictional, taking place in Jerusalem at a time very much like the present.
The dialogue is in heroic couplet, a format that, Lyons explains in his foreword, attempts “the reconciliation of two physically opposed lines.” Though the poetry may seem daunting to some readers, it lends gravitas to the dialogue and smacks of classic epic works.
Each part, a play in itself, features some new advance in the technology of war, but the human element is oddly consistent. Near the end of the final cataclysmic scene in part four, nuclear warfare having decimated half the planet, a Franciscan Brother cries, “Twas for us the beast in Nature to subdue, / But it’s the beast in us that subdues the world!” The lament is nearly an echo of the observation made by a Hindu priest to his Hun captors in part one: “Who would conquer all things must conquer one thing / Those desires of his soul which are limiting!”
Lyons also looks at the circumstances of war—that which is fought for and that which is defended. The Huns are “wonders of an hour” who are disrupting centuries of peace to invade the Gupta Empire. They fling “spears and stones, fire and arrows” to destroy a diverse, sophisticated culture. In Europe many centuries later, an assassination has set ten million men, most of them bound by alliances designed to keep the peace, to the trenches of World War I. The heroic sacrifice of life and limb is contrasted to betrayals of trust by nations as well as individuals. And the rage to avenge a wrong often results in the occurrence of more wrongs.
At times, Lyons’s warriors argue the folly of ignoring the “gathering evil” that is the enemy.At other times, characters see that “we are all prisoners here, of our ill ambition!” His men are honorable and principled as often as they reek of excessive desire and pride.During the French and Indian Wars, the British bought newly invented howitzers from a Frenchman. Many British officers deplore the moral lapse of the traitor even though they will benefit from it; one general considers not using a cannon bought from the enemy. His argument: “This victory ought not to be merely over foes / But a victory over our lesser selves.”
Richard Lyons’s work is a profound examination of the phenomenon of war. It is also a proposal that men should not despair in the struggle over their “lesser selves.”
Go to the ForeWord Reviews website to read the original review.
Review: But By the Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons
Reviewed by Michelle Robertson for Readers’ Favorite January15, 2014
But By The Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons is a poetic novel written in theatrical form, introducing readers to the concepts of poetic writing, war, and human nature.But By The Chance Of War consists of four chapters written as pieces in a play, each presenting a different era of war. This introduces readers to the impulses human nature brings when conflicted with the experiences of war or just the mere thought of it. Each chapter or play piece provides references such as a map, details on the location, and who is going to be present and, of course, an overview of the scene for readers to vividly
create their own scenery.
The first piece begins in the year of 515 C.E. when two armies fight in India. The second piece begins in 1759 at Fort Niagara involving the French and English armies. The third piece begins in 1918 France, during World War 1 but features soldiers of many countries such as Germany, Ireland, South Africa, and Australia. The fourth piece begins in present
day Jerusalem when the United States and Israel together face a nuclear blast.
But By The Chance Of War is a book that will cause readers to reflect upon emotions and expectations of how they ultimately see the world. The author offers a in-depth look into human nature and its connection to and hunger for war over time. The book is over 480 pages long, thus making it a read that cannot be rushed or skimmed due to its size and also its uniquely written style. A reader that is not interested in the theater or not familiar with poetry perhaps will not find this book for them. Readers who have studied or are interested in military history, psychology, and theatrical poetry will enjoy
But By The Chance Of War immensely. Bravo, Richard C. Lyons.
Go to the Readers’ Favorite Reviews website to read the original review.