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Robert Burns: Wars, the plagues of human life


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

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burns: I hate murder by flood or field

Robert Burns: Peace, thy olive wand extend and bid wild War his ravage end


Robert Burns
From Nature’s Law – A Poem

Let other heroes boast their scars,
The marks of sturt and strife:
And other poets sing of wars,
The plagues of human life:

Shame fa’ the fun, wi’ sword and gun
To slap mankind like lumber!
I sing his name, and nobler fame,
Wha multiplies our number.

Ye Powers of peace, and peaceful song,
Look down with gracious eyes;
And bless auld Coila, large and long,
With multiplying joys;
Lang may she stand to prop the land,
The flow’r of ancient nations;
And Burnses spring, her fame to sing,
To endless generations!


From A Winter Night

“Blow, blow, ye winds, with heavier gust!
And freeze, thou bitter-biting frost!
Descend, ye chilly, smothering snows!
Not all your rage, as now united, shows
More hard unkindness unrelenting,
Vengeful malice unrepenting.
Than heaven-illumin’d Man on brother Man bestows!

“See stern Oppression’s iron grip,
Or mad Ambition’s gory hand,
Sending, like blood-hounds from the slip,
Woe, Want, and Murder o’er a land!
Ev’n in the peaceful rural vale,
Truth, weeping, tells the mournful tale,
How pamper’d Luxury, Flatt’ry by her side,
The parasite empoisoning her ear,
With all the servile wretches in the rear,
Looks o’er proud Property, extended wide;
And eyes the simple, rustic hind,
Whose toil upholds the glitt’ring show-
A creature of another kind,
Some coarser substance, unrefin’d –
Plac’d for her lordly use thus far, thus vile, below!


From Castle Gordon

Spicy forests, ever gray,
Shading from the burning ray
Hapless wretches sold to toil;
Or the ruthless native’s way,
Bent on slaughter, blood, and spoil:
Woods that ever verdant wave,
I leave the tyrant and the slave;
Give me the groves that lofty brave
The storms by Castle Gordon.


From On Scaring Some Water-Fowl In Loch-Turit

Conscious, blushing for our race,
Soon, too soon, your fears I trace,
Man, your proud, usurping foe,
Would be lord of all below:
Plumes himself in freedom’s pride,
Tyrant stern to all beside.

The eagle, from the cliffy brow,
Marking you his prey below,
In his breast no pity dwells,
Strong necessity compels:
But Man, to whom alone is giv’n
A ray direct from pitying Heav’n,
Glories in his heart humane-
And creatures for his pleasure slain!

In these savage, liquid plains,
Only known to wand’ring swains,
Where the mossy riv’let strays,
Far from human haunts and ways;
All on Nature you depend,
And life’s poor season peaceful spend.

Or, if man’s superior might
Dare invade your native right,
On the lofty ether borne,
Man with all his pow’rs you scorn;
Swiftly seek, on clanging wings,
Other lakes and other springs;
And the foe you cannot brave,
Scorn at least to be his slave.

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