If swords can be beaten into ploughshares, the reverse is also true, and church bells can be melted down as iron fodder for cannon. Here, a historical novel concerned with the 19th century Austro-Hungarian empire reminds us of this miserable transmogrification.
A colleague once asked me to guess the business of a company which had been going for four hundred years but was struggling to find new products and markets. He described them as having one process alternating between two products. Some sixth sense got it immediately and answered: ‘metal, casting, war and peace: cannon and church bells’.
‘And the seventy-seven cannons – all of them cast of melted bells from small village churches, the enchanted bells of peaceful noons and sweet Christmas evenings.’
Source: Lajos Zilahy, Century in Scarlet (London: Prion, 2001), p. 287-88
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