Home > Uncategorized > Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Fire, Famine, And Slaughter: A War Eclogue

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Fire, Famine, And Slaughter: A War Eclogue

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

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: All our dainty terms for fratricide

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: War and all its dread vicissitudes pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Fire, Famine, And Slaughter: A War Eclogue (1813)

 

SCENE — A DESOLATED TRACK IN LA VENDEE. — FAMINE IS DISCOVERED STRETCHED ON THE GROUND: TO HER ENTER FIRE AND SLAUGHTER.

FAMINE.
Sisters! Sisters! who sent you here?

SLAUGHTER.
I will name him in your ear.

FIRE.
No! no! no!
Spirits hear what spirits tell:
‘Twill make a holiday in hell.
No! no! no!
Myself I nam’d him once below,
And all the souls, that damned be,
Leap’d up at once in anarchy;
Clapp’d their hands and danc’d for glee;
They no longer heeded me;
But laugh’d to hear Hell’s burning rafters
Unwillingly re-echo laughters.
No! no! no!
Spirits hear what spirits tell,
‘Twill make a holiday in hell.

FAMINE.
Then sound it not, yet let me know;
Darkly hint it — soft and low!

SLAUGHTER.
Four letters form his name. [Pitt]
And who sent you?

FAMINE.
The same! the same!

SLAUGHTER.
He came by stealth and unlock’d my den,
And I have drank the blood since then
Of thrice ten hundred thousand men.

FIRE AND FAMINE.
Who bade you do’t?

SLAUGHTER.
The same! the same!
Four letters form his name.
He let me loose, and cry’d Halloo!
To him alone the praise is due.

FAMINE.
Thanks, Sisters, thanks! the men have bled,
Their wives and their children faint for bread;
I stood in a swampy field of battle,
With bones and sculls I made a rattle,
To frighten the wolf and the carrion crow,
And the homeless dog – but they would not go.
So off I flew; for how could I bear
To see them gorge their dainty fare.
I heard a groan, and a peevish squall,
And thro’ the chink of a cottage wall,
Can you guess what I saw there?

SLAUGHTER AND FIRE.
Whisper it, Sister! in our ear!

FAMINE.
A baby beat its dying mother –
I had starv’d the one, and was starving the other!

SLAUGHTER AND FIRE.
Who bad you do’t?

FAMINE.
The same! the same!
Four letters form his name.
He let me loose, and cry’d Halloo!
To him alone the praise is due.

FIRE.
Sisters! I from Ireland came –
Hedge and corn-fields all on flame,
I triumph’d o’er the setting Sun;
And all the while the work was done.
And on as I strode with monst’rous strides,
I flung back my head, and held my sides;
It was so rare a piece of fun,
To see the swelter’d cattle run,
With uncouth gallop, all the night,
Scar’d by the red and noisy light!
By the light of his own blazing Cot
Was many a naked Rebel shot:
The house-stream met the flames, and hiss’d
While crash! fell in the roof, I wist
On some of those old bed-rid nurses,
That deal in discontent and curses!

SLAUGHTER AND FAMINE.
Who bade you do’t?

FIRE.
The same! the same!
Four letters form his name.
He let me loose, and cry’d Halloo!
How shall I give him honour due?

ALL.
He let us loose, and cry’d halloo!
How shall we give him honour due?

FAMINE.
Wisdom comes with lack of food,
I’ll gnaw, I’ll gnaw the multitude,
Till the cup of rage o’er brim,
They shall seize him and his brood.

SLAUGHTER.
They shall tear him limb from limb!

FIRE.
O thankless Beldames, and untrue,
And is this all that you can do
For him who did so much for you?

TO SLAUGHTER.
For you he turn’d the dust to mud,
With his fellow creatures’ blood!

TO FAMINE.
And hunger scorch’d as many more,
To make your cup of joy run o’er.

TO BOTH.
Full ninety moons, he by my troth,
Hath richly cater’d for you both;
And in an hour would you repay,
An eight years debt, away! away!
I alone am faithful, I
Cling to him everlastingly!

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