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Robert Southey: Year follows year, and still we madly prosecute the war


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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Southey: Selections on peace and war


Robert Southey
From Wat Tyler (1794)

Curse on these taxes – one succeeds another –
Our ministers – panders of a king’s will –
Drain all our wealth away – waste it in revels –
And lure, or force away our boys, who should be
The props of our old age! – to fill their armies
And feed the crows of France! year follows year,
And still we madly prosecute the war; –
Draining our wealth-distressing our poor peasants –
Slaughtering our youths – and all to crown our chiefs
With Glory! – I detest the hell-sprung name.


Think ye, my friend,
That I – a humble blacksmith, here at Deptford,
Would part with these six groats – earn’d by hard toil,
All that I have! To massacre the Frenchmen,
Murder as enemies men I never saw!
Did not the state compel me?
(Tax gatherers pass by)
There they go, privileg’d r———s! –


Enter Tax-gatherers.

COLLECTOR. Three groats a head for all your family.

PIERS. Why is this money gathered? – ’tis a hard tax
On the poor labourer! – it can never be
That government should thus distress the people. Go to the rich for money – honest labour
Ought to enjoy its fruits.

COLLECTOR. The state wants money.
War is expensive – ’tis a glorious war,
A war of honour, and must be supported. –
Three groats a head.

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