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Edmund Spenser: The first to attack the world with sword and fire


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

British writers on peace and war

Edmund Spenser: Wars can nought but sorrows yield


Edmund Spenser
From The Faerie Queene

The cruel steel so greedily doth bite
In tender flesh, that streams of blood down flow,
With which the arms that earst so bright did show,
Into a pure vermillion now are dy’d.
Great ruth in all the gazers hearts did grow,
Seeing the gored wounds to gape so wipe,
That victory they dare not wish to either side.


Where in a dungeon deep huge numbers lay,
Of caytive wretched thralls, that wailed night and day.
…great Nimrod was,
That first the world with sword and fire warrayd;
And after him, old Ninus far did pass
In princely pomp, of all the world obey’d…
All these together in one heap were thrown,
Like carcases of beasts in butcher’s stall.
And in another corner wide were strown
The antique ruins of the Romans fall:
Great Romulus the grandsire of them all,
Proud Tarquin, and too lordly Lentulus,
Stout Scipio, and stubborn Hannibal,
Ambitious Sylla, and stern Marius,
High Caesar, great Pompey, and fierce Antonius
A dunghill of dead carcases he spy’d,
The dreadful spectacle of that sad house of Pride.

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