Home > Uncategorized > Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas: Breaking oaths of peace, cover the fields with bloody carcasses

Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas: Breaking oaths of peace, cover the fields with bloody carcasses

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

Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas
From The Week, or, Creation of the World (1578)
Translated by Joshua Sylvester

Sallusti_deu_Bartàs

O princes, subjects unto pride and pleasure,
Who to enlarge but a hair’s breadth the measure
Of your dominions, breaking oaths of peace,
Cover the fields with bloody carcasses;
O magistrates, who to content the great,
Make sale of justice on your sacred seat,
And breaking laws for bribes, profane your place,
To leave a leek to your unthankful race;
You strict extorters that the poor oppress,
And wrong the widow and the fatherless,
To leave your offspring rich, of others’ good,
In houses built of rapine and of blood;
You city vipers, that, incestuous, join
Use upon use, begetting coin of coin;
You merchant mercers and monopolies,
Gain-greedy chapmen, perjured hypocrites,
Dissembling brokers, made of all deceits,
Who falsify your measures and your Weights
T’ enrich yourselves, and your unthrifty sons
To gentilize with proud possessions;
You that for gain betray your gracious prince,
Your native country, or your dearest friends;
You that to get you but an inch of ground,
With cursed hands remove your neighbor’s bound,
(The ancient bounds your ancestors have set,)
What gain you all? Alas, what do you get?

Yea, though a king by wile or war had won
All the round earth to his subjection,
Lo, here the guerdon of his glorious pains;
A needle’s point, a mote, a mite, he gains,
A nit, a nothing, did he all possess,
Or if than nothing anything be less.

***

Oh night, thou pullest the proud mask away
Wherewith proud actors in this world’s great play
By day disguise them; for no difference
Night makes between the peasant and the prince,
The poor and rich, the prisoner and the judge,
The foul and fair, the master and the drudge,
The fool and wise, barbarian and the Greek;
For night’s black mantle covers all alike.

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