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James Thomson: Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war


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

British writers on peace and war

James Thomson: Peace is the natural state of man; war his corruption, his disgrace

James Thomson: Philosophy’s plans of policy and peace


James Thomson
From The Seasons

Let such as deem it glory to destroy
Rush into blood, the sack of cities seek;
Unpierced, exulting in the widow’s wail,
The virgin’s shriek, and infant’s trembling cry.
Let some, far distant from their native soil,
Urged or by want or harden’d avarice,
Find other lands beneath another sun.
Let this through cities work his eager way,
By legal outrage and establish’d guile,
The social sense extinct; and that ferment
Mad into tumult the seditious herd,
Or melt them down to slavery. Let these
Insnare the wretched in the toils of law,
Fomenting discord, and perplexing right,
An iron race! and those of fairer front.
But equal inhumanity, in courts,
Delusive pomp and dark cabals, delight;
Wreathe the deep bow, diffuse the lying smile.
And tread the weary labyrinth of state.
While he, from all the stormy passions free
That restless men involve, hears, and but hears,
At distance safe, the human tempest roar,
Wrapp’d close in conscious peace. The fall of kings,
The rage of nations, and the crush of states
Move not the man, who, from the world escaped,
In still retreats and flowery solitudes.


Not such the sons of Lapland: wisely they
Despise the insensate barbarous trade of war;
They ask no more than simple Nature gives.
They love their mountains, and enjoy their storms.
No false desires, no pride-created wants.
Disturb the peaceful current of their time.


These are not subjects for the peaceful Muse,
Nor will she stain with such her spotless song ;
Then most delighted, when she social sees
The whole mix’d animal-creation round
Alive and happy. ‘Tis not joy to her,
The falsely cheerful barbarous game of death.
This rage of pleasure, which the restless youth
Awakes, impatient, with the gleaming morn:
When beasts of prey retire, that all night long,
Urged by necessity, had ranged the dark,
As if their conscious ravage shunn’d the light,
Ashamed. Not so the steady tyrant Man,
Who with the thoughtless insolence of power
Inflamed, beyond the most infuriate wrath
Of the worst monster that e’er roam’d the waste,
For sport alone pursues the cruel chase.
Amid the beamings of the gentle days.


O Man! tyrannic lord! how long, how long
Shall prostrate Nature groan beneath your rage,
Awaiting renovation? when obliged.
Must you destroy?

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