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John Greenleaf Whittier: Disarmament

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

American writers on peace and against war

John Greenleaf Whittier: Selections on peace and war

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John Greenleaf Whittier
Disarmament (1871)

32222_Whittier-John-Greenleaf

“Put up the sword!” The voice of Christ once more
Speaks, in the pauses of the cannon’s roar,
O’er fields of corn by fiery sickles reaped
And left dry ashes; over trenches heaped
With nameless dead; o’er cities starving slow
Under a rain of fire; through wards of woe
Down which a groaning diapason runs
From tortured brothers, husbands, lovers, sons
Of desolate women in their far-off homes,
Waiting to hear the step that never comes!
O men and brothers! let that voice be heard.
War fails, try peace; put up the useless sword!

Fear not the end. There is a story told
In Eastern tents, when autumn nights grow cold,
And round the fire the Mongol shepherds sit
With grave responses listening unto it
Once, on the errands of his mercy bent,
Buddha, the holy and benevolent,
Met a fell monster, huge and fierce of look,
Whose awful voice the hills and forests shook.
“O son of peace!” the giant cried, “thy fate
Is sealed at last, and love shall yield to hate.”
The unarmed Buddha looking, with no trace
Of fear or anger, in the monster’s face,
In pity said: “Poor fiend, even thee I love.”
Lo! as he spake the sky-tall terror sank
To hand-breadth size; the huge abhorrence shrank
Into the form and fashion of a dove;
And where the thunder of its rage was heard,
Circling above him sweetly sang the bird
“Hate hath no harm for love,” so ran the song;
“And peace unweaponed conquers every wrong!”

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