Home > Uncategorized > Thomas Moore: Famine comes to glean all that the sword had left unreap’d. A banquet, yet alive, for ravening vultures.

Thomas Moore: Famine comes to glean all that the sword had left unreap’d. A banquet, yet alive, for ravening vultures.

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

Thomas Moore
From Lalla Rookh (1817)

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…all eyes still bent
Upon that glittering Veil, where’er it went,
That beacon through the battle’s stormy floor,
That rainbow of the field, whose showers were blood.

****

In vain he struggles ‘mid the wedg’d array
Of flying thousands – he is borne away;
And the sole joy his baffl’d spirit knows,
In this forc’d flight, is – murdering as he goes
As a grim tiger, whom the torrent’s might
Surprises in some parch’d ravine at night,
Turns, even in drowning, on the wretched flocks,
Swept with him in that snow-flood from the rocks,
And, to the last, devouring on his way,
Bloodies the stream he hath not power to stay.

***

Though half the wretches, whom at night he led
To thrones and victory, lie disgrac’d and dead,
Yet morning hears him, with unshrinking crest,
Still vaunt of thrones and victory to the rest…

***

Amid that gazing crowd, the fiend would tell
His credulous slaves it was some charm or spell…

But vain at length his arts – despair is seen
Gathering around; and famine comes to glean
All that the sword had left unreap’d…

Deluded victims! – never hath this earth
Seen mourning half so mournful as their mirth.
Here, to the few, whose iron frames had stood
This racking waste of famine and of blood,
Faint, dying wretches clung, from whom the shout
Of triumph like a maniac’s laugh broke out: –
There, others, lighted by the smould-ring fire,
Danc’d like wan ghosts around a funeral pyre,
Among the dead and dying, strew’d around; –
While some pale wretch look’d on, and from his wound
Plucking the fiery dart by which he bled,
In ghastly transport wav’d it o’er his head!

***

And, as they tumble, trunk on trunk,
Beneath the gory waters sunk,
Still o’er their drowning bodies press
New victims quick and numberless…

So fierce their toil, hath power to stir,
But listless from each crimson hand
The sword hangs, clogg’d with massacre…

All up the dreary, long ravine,
By the red, murky glimmer seen
Of half-quench’d brands that o’er the flood
Lie scatter’d round and burn in blood,
What ruin glares! what carnage swims!
Heads, blazing turbans, quivering limbs,
Lost swords that, dropp’d from many a hand,
In that thick pool of slaughter stand; –
Wretches who wading, half on fire
From the toss’d brands that round them fly,
‘Twixt flood and flame in shrieks expire;
And some who, grasp’d by those that die,
Sink woundless with them, smother’d o’er
In their dead brethren’s gushing gore!

***

They rush, more desperate as more wrong;
Till, wilder’d by the far-off lights,
Yet glittering up those gloomy heights,
Their footing, maz’d and lost, they miss,
And down the darkling precipice
Are dashed into the deep abyss;
Or midway hang, impal’d on rocks,
A banquet, yet alive, for flocks
Of ravening vultures, – while the dell
Re-echoes with each horrible yell.

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