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Edward Young: Draw the murd’ring sword to give mankind a single lord


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Edward Young: Selections on peace and war


Edward Young
From The Love of Fame, the Universal Passion (1728)
Satire VII

While I survey the blessings of our isle,
Her arts triumphant in the royal smile,
Her public wounds bound up, her credit high,
Her commerce spreading sails in ev’ry sky,
The pleasing scene recals my theme again,
And shews the madness of ambitious men,
Who, fond of bloodshed, draw the murd’ring sword,
And burn to give mankind a single lord.
The follies past are of a private kind;
Their sphere is small, their mischief is confin’d;
But daring men there are (awake, my Muse!
And raise thy verse!) who bolder frenzy chuse;
Who, stung by glory, rave, and bound away,
The world their field, and humankind their prey.

The Grecian chief, th’ enthusiast of his pride,
With Rage and Terror stalking by his side,
Raves round the globe; he soars into a god!
Stand fast, Olympus! and sustain his nod.
The pest divine in horrid grandeur reigns,
And thrives on mankind’s miseries and pains.
What slaughter’d hosts! what cities in a blaze!
What wasted countries! and what crimson seas!
With orphans’ tears his impious bowl o’erflows,
And cries of kingdoms lull him to repose.

And cannot thrice ten hundred years unpraise
The boist’rous boy, and blast his guilty bays?
Why want we then encomiums on the storm,
Or famine or volcano? they perform
Their mighty deeds; they hero-like, can slay,
And spread their ample deserts in a day.
O great alliance! O divine renown!
With dearth and pestilence to share the crown.
When men extol a wild destroyer’s name,
Earth’s Builder and Preserver they blaspheme.

One to destroy is murder by the law,
And gibbets keep the lifted hand in awe;
To murder thousands takes a specious name,
War’s glorious art, and gives immortal fame.

When after battle I the field have seen
Spread o’er with ghastly shapes which once were men,
A nation crush’d, a nation of the brave!
A realm of death! and on this side the grave!
Are there, said I, who from this sad survey,
This human chaos, carry smiles away?
How did my heart with indignation rise!
How honest Nature swell’d into my eyes!
How was I shock’d to think the hero’s trade
Of such materials, fame and triumph, made!

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