Home > Uncategorized > John Greenleaf Whittier: If this be Peace, pray what is War?

John Greenleaf Whittier: If this be Peace, pray what is War?


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

American writers on peace and against war

John Greenleaf Whittier: Selections on peace and war


John Greenleaf Whittier
The Peace Of Europe (1852)

“Great peace in Europe! Order reigns
From Tiber’s hills to Danube’s plains!”
So say her kings and priests; so say
The lying prophets of our day.

Go lay to earth a listening ear;
The tramp of measured marches hear;
The rolling of the cannon’s wheel,
The shotted musket’s murderous peal,
The night alarm, the sentry’s call,
The quick-eared spy in hut and hall!
From Polar sea and tropic fen
The dying-groans of exiled men!
The bolted cell, the galley’s chains,
The scaffold smoking with its stains!
Order, the hush of brooding slaves
Peace, in the dungeon-vaults and graves!

O Fisher! of the world-wide net,
With meshes in all waters set,
Whose fabled keys of heaven and hell
Bolt hard the patriot’s prison-cell,
And open wide the banquet-hall,
Where kings and priests hold carnival!
Weak vassal tricked in royal guise,
Boy Kaiser with thy lip of lies;
Base gambler for Napoleon’s crown,
Barnacle on his dead renown!
Thou, Bourbon Neapolitan,
Crowned scandal, loathed of God and man
And thou, fell Spider of the North!
Stretching thy giant feelers forth,
Within whose web the freedom dies
Of nations eaten up like flies!
Speak, Prince and Kaiser, Priest and Czar
If this be Peace, pray what is War?

White Angel of the Lord! unmeet
That soil accursed for thy pure feet.
Never in Slavery’s desert flows
The fountain of thy charmed repose;
No tyrant’s hand thy chaplet weaves
Of lilies and of olive-leaves;
Not with the wicked shalt thou dwell,
Thus saith the Eternal Oracle;
Thy home is with the pure and free!
Stern herald of thy better day,
Before thee, to prepare thy way,
The Baptist Shade of Liberty,
Gray, scarred and hairy-robed, must press
With bleeding feet the wilderness!
Oh that its voice might pierce the ear
Of princes, trembling while they hear
A cry as of the Hebrew seer
Repent! God’s kingdom draweth near!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. December 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    The names may be different but there is no altering of the sense that WE know who in todays world wants to seize what doesn’t belong to them nor the breaking down of countries etc.

    • richardrozoff
      December 21, 2011 at 10:53 pm

      Agreed. The place names and assorted other minor details have changed, but nothing else has except the titles of the perpetrators; formerly kaisers, kings and czars, now prime ministers, presidents, secretary generals and commissioners. Modern monarchs in all but the regal trappings.

  2. Ray Finch
    December 29, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I could make a strong argument that if it wasn’t for NATO, the countries of Europe would again today be again at each others’ throats. The fat spider that Whittier refers to is Russia, where one could also argue that its deadly autocratic poison would have spread throughout all of Europe had it not been for NATO.

    • richardrozoff
      December 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm

      Whittier was obliging enough to mention the word czar as one – one – of the threats confronting Europe, among assorted kings and the kaiser.
      The contention that NATO protected Europe against Russia’s “deadly autocratic poison” is a specimen of acute Russophobic delusions of persecution; can anyone in his right mind claim that fragmented, debilitated, all but moribund Russia under Boris Yeltsin presented a threat to Europe, much less “all of Europe”? One that justified expanding NATO membership starting in 1999 from 16 to 28 members moreover?
      Russo-/Slavophobia is the most extreme, evidently most ineradicable version of national and racial hatred extant. No matter how otherwise “civilized” its proponents may appear.

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