Home > Uncategorized > Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Exalt the name of Peace and leave those rusty wars that eat the soul

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Exalt the name of Peace and leave those rusty wars that eat the soul

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

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
From Casa Guidi Windows (1851)

Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning

Announce law
By freedom; exalt chivalry by peace;
Instruct how clear, calm eyes can overawe.
And how pure hands, stretched simply to release
A bond-slave, will not need a sword to draw
To be held dreadful. O my England, crease
Thy purple with no alien agonies,
No struggles toward encroachment, no vile war!
Disband thy captains, change thy victories;
Be henceforth prosperous, as the angels are,
Helping, not humbling.
Drums and battle-cries
Go out in music of the morning-star;
And soon we shall have thinkers in the place
Of fighters, each found able as a man
To strike electric influence through a race,
Unstayed by city-wall and barbican.
The poet shall look grander in the face
Than even of old (when he of Greece began
To sing “that Achillean wrath which slew
So many heroes”), seeing he shall treat
The deeds of souls heroic toward the true.

***

A cry is up in England, which doth ring
The hollow world through, that for ends of trade
And virtue, and God’s better worshipping.
We henceforth should exalt the name of Peace,
And leave those rusty wars that eat the soul, –
Besides their clippings at our golden fleece.
I, too, have loved peace, and from bole to bole
Of immemorial undeciduous trees
Would write, as lovers use upon a scroll.
The holy name of Peace, and set it high
Where none could pluck it down. On trees, I say,
Not upon gibbets! – With the greenery
Of dewy branches and the flowery May,
Sweet mediation betwixt earth and sky
Providing, for the shepherd’s holiday.

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