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Byron: War, banquet for wolf and worm


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

Byron: Selections on war


George Gordon Byron
From The Devil’s Drive


[F]irst as he flew, I forgot to say,
That he hovered a moment upon his way
To look upon Leipsic plain;
And so sweet to his eye was its sulphury glare,
And so soft to his ear was the cry of despair,
That he perched on a Mountain of Slain;
Then he gazed with delight from its growing height,
Nor seldom on earth had he seen such a sight,
Nor his work done half as well:
For the field ran so red with the blood of the dead,
That it blushed like the waves of Hell!
Then loudly and wildly and long laughed he:
‘Methinks they have little need here of me.’

Long he looked down on the hosts of each clime,
While the warriors hand to hand were –
Gaul, Austrian and Muscovite heroes sublime,
And (Muse of Fitzgerald arise with a rhyme!)
A quantity of Landwehr!
Gladness was there,
For the men of all might and the monarchs of earth,
Were met for the wolf and the worm to make mirth,
And a feast for the fowls of the Air!

But the softest note that soothed his ear
Was the sound of a widow’s sighing;
And the sweetest sight was the icy tear,
Which Horror froze in the blue eye clear
Of a maid by her lover lying –
As round her fell her long fair hair,
And she looked to Heaven with that frenzied air
Which seemed to ask if a God were there!
And stretched by the wall of a ruined hut,
With its hollow cheek, and eyes half shut,
A child of Famine dying:
And the carnage begun, when resistance is done,
And the fall of the vainly flying!

Then he gazed on a town by besiegers taken,
Nor cared he who were winning;
But he saw an old maid, for years forsaken,
Get up and leave her spinning;
And she looked in her glass, and to one that did pass,
She said – ‘pray are the rapes beginning?’

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