Home > Uncategorized > Alfred Noyes: And the cost of war, they reckoned it in little disks of gold

Alfred Noyes: And the cost of war, they reckoned it in little disks of gold


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

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war


Alfred Noyes
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)


We must not think. We must not tell
The truth for which men die.

To watch the mouth of a harlot foam
For the blood of Baptist John
Is a fine thing while the fiddles play;
For blood and lust are the mode to-day,
And lust and blood were the mode of Rome,
And we go where Rome has gone.


But that fate deftly swings the net
And blood is best unseen.

God shields our eyes from too much light,
Clothes the fine brain with clay;
He wraps mankind in swaddling bands
Till the trumpet ring across all lands.


“The time is come to stand upright,
And flood the world with day.”
Not yet, O God, not yet the gleam
When all the world shall wake!
Grey and immense comes up the dawn
And yet the blinds are not withdrawn,
And, in the dusk, one hideous dream
Forbids the day to break!

Around a shining table sat
Five men in black tail-coats:
And, what their sin was, none could say;
For each was honest, after his way,
(Tho’ there are sheep, and armament
With all that this “connotes.”)

One was the friend of a merchant prince,
One was the foe of a priest,
One had a brother whose heart was set
On a gold star and an epaulette,
And – where the rotten carcass lies,
The vultures flock to feast.

But – each was honest after his way,
Lukewarm in faith, and old;
And blood, to them, was only a word,
And the point of a phrase their only sword,
And the cost of war, they reckoned it
In little disks of gold.


Play up, then, fiddles! Play, bassoon!
The plains are soaked with red.
Ten thousand slaughtered fools, out there,
Clutch at their wounds and taint the air,
And…here is an excellent cartoon
On what the Kaiser said.

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