Byron: War cuts up not only branch, but root
George Gordon Byron
From Don Juan
“Let there be Light! said God, and there was Light!”
“Let there be Blood!” says man, and there’s a sea!
The fiat of this spoiled child of the Night
(For Day ne’er saw his merits) could decree
More evil in an hour, than thirty bright
Summers could renovate, though they should be
Lovely as those which ripened Eden’s fruit;
For War cuts up not only branch, but root.
O’er the promoted couple of brave men
Who were thus honoured by the greatest Chief
That ever peopled Hell with heroes slain,
Or plunged a province or a realm in grief.
Oh, foolish mortals! Always taught in vain!
Oh, glorious Laurel! since for one sole leaf
Of thine imaginary deathless tree,
Of blood and tears must flow the unebbing sea.
When I call “fading” martial immortality,
I mean, that every age and every year,
And almost every day, in sad reality,
Some sucking hero is compelled to rear,
Who, when we come to sum up the totality
Of deeds to human happiness most dear,
Turns out to be a butcher in great business,
Afflicting young folks with a sort of dizziness.
Hark! through the silence of the cold, dull night,
The hum of armies gathering rank on rank!
Lo! dusky masses steal in dubious sight
Along the leaguered wall and bristling bank
Of the armed river, while with straggling light
The stars peep through the vapours dim and dank,
Which curl in various wreaths: – how soon the smoke
Of Hell shall pall them in a deeper cloak!